More extraordinary polls this week – and straight from the land of Mordor where the shadows lie . . . Yes, Conservative Post no less. They polled 2,086 Tory members: nine out of ten of them claim they won’t be campaigning for the party while Rishi Sunak is leader. (They never liked him: first for bringing down Johnson, then for grabbing the crown from Truss.) Just as astonishing: half of the party’s members are thinking of voting for Reform.
There are reports of No 10 being in despair, and accepting (as they must) that the government will be crushed whenever they hold the election. The question is now how to mitigate the fall-out. That would be much easier for Mr Sunak if most of his party didn’t apparently hate him and if there weren’t several splinter groups, each led by an unprincipled egomaniac, all competing against each other.
This week there have apparently been millions of one-off private advertisements by the Conservative Party, via social media, aiming at older voters. There is nothing wrong with this, as far as it goes. It is only what is called in advertising terms ‘market segmentation’. The means used by the party to obtain the online addresses of their target audience may be much more suspect, but that is already under debate.
The timing is interesting, though. Isn’t all this expenditure a little early for an election which Rishi Sunak would have us believe won’t be until the autumn? Might it not be ready for going to the polls in May instead? Perhaps, or perhaps the party is just testing its guns for the big event in a few months’ time.
Whatever the rationale, perceptive readers may have noticed the alacrity with which the Conservative Party is trying to raise money. Short of squatting with a begging bowl on street corners or mugging old ladies for their pension, every avenue is pursued. (They have even tried to touch Pecksniff for a few quid on more than one occasion.)
Now we know the Tories like money, but there is a particular reason for this grab. It is a well-worn maxim in politics that you can’t win without a good ‘ground game’: volunteers out on the streets. But in recent years the Tories have been short of volunteers, a result of both anno domini among their members and the disfavour into which they have fallen – exemplified by the party’s own polling results, discussed above.So they have to hope the maxim is wrong, and that money will talk loudest.
Whenever the election comes, there are claims it will be the dirtiest ever. The government has been shamelessly gerrymandering and stealing votes, and we can expect more dirty tricks leading up to the election and on the day itself. The blatant attempts to stop ‘the wrong people’ voting at last year’s local elections were frequently exacerbated further by the local councils who ran the polling.
East Anglia Bylines exposed what were prima facie improper instructions by officers at East Suffolk Council. Nothing was ever done about it, of course, even though the polling stations were – on our evidence – clearly breaking the Electoral Commission regulations in not recording those voters being turned away.
We at EAB are presently discussing how we can best report on the six counties we cover, but however we do it we are going to need your help, dear reader. It could be reporting for us, or checking the polling stations, or it may just be whispering some juicy bit of gossip. If you are interested in joining our band (and you will stand your round at the Muckrakers), please write to the [email protected]
As Rory Stewart remarks in his book Politics On the Edge, “the party of Churchill is becoming the party of Bertie Wooster”. Nothing could better illustrate that than this week’s spectacle of Liz Truss (SW Norfolk) straining for the Athenian heights of political discourse in the launch of the latest Conservative pressure group, Popular Conservatism. Star speaker was some wife of an Australian property billionaire and former star of ‘Neighbours’, who excoriated “crap lefties” and backed Jacob Rees-Mogg for prime minister (which must have rather dented the amour propre of La Truss, since after all this was her gig and she was paying for the prosecco).
Naturally among the crowd we found Tom Hunt (Ipswich), still wearing that familiar haunted look of a man fearful of being found out – perhaps with good reason – and apparently still searching for a snug little political burrow he can call his own.
The idea of Ms Truss taking upon herself the role of making Conservatism popular again holds a particular irony since, on the very same day, pollsters Savanta published figures showing she is by far the most unpopular politician in the country, scoring -54%. She easily beats Rishi Sunak (-27) and Boris Johnson (-25). Way to go, Liz.
There is nothing like unconditional support for the City of London for giving the Labour Party what might vulgarly be called ‘a boner’. They love it. They believe it shows they can be as wuff and tuff as any Tory, and somehow this act of economic insanity is supposed to show how serious the party is about sound finances. In fact of course it only demonstrates precisely the opposite. It shows they don’t have a clue, but feel a bit of bluffing will do the trick.
Every passing week seems to provide more evidence that Keir Starmer and his team just don’t get it. In the past week we have had “senior Labour sources” suggesting that the Green investment plan of £28 billion is to be dropped; followed a couple of days later by the man himself insisting that the commitment remains; then a couple of days after that telling us the £28 billion is oot the windy and Labour will spend much less. So: it’s to be scrapped; then it’s to be reinstated; then there will be some halfway sort of commitment yet to be decided. But whatever it is, for the moment at least the Starmer team have decided it’s just right. We will presumably describe this as the Goldilocks gambit.
And whilst we are on economic illiteracy, Pecksniff tries to avoid most purely national news, but this one my dears is a doozy. Here is Laura Trott, the chief secretary to the Treasury – to the Treasury yet! – demonstrating in an excruciating interview for the BBC’s PM programme that her understanding of even the basic tenets of economics is molluscular, and being schooled in the detail by Evan Davis.
There is speculation the Liberal Democrats might reconsider their position on Brexit, and apparently with good reason. It seems the party’s policy positions are agreed democratically at conference, and that position is clear: to oppose Brexit. Whereas Ed Davey, as leader, seems as keen on finding preposterous opportunities to support it instead, as Keir Starmer does. His minatory gestures to his members to behave (i.e. join him in wholly contradicting his own party’s policy) seem not to have carried the same weight as Labour’s in persuading members to accept their own leadership’s apostasy. So, what is the LibDem position? Is it the party’s, or their leader’s?
Let us imagine Mr Davey gives up his imposture and his party come out again against Brexit, and in favour of closer ties with Europe. Then what does Labour do? Can we really see this shower upholding what we all assumed were their progressive and internationalist principles?
I would rather be an opportunist and float than go to the bottom with my principles round my neckStanley Baldwin
Any agreement, any contract, even membership of the local fishing club, requires us to give up some freedom and to behave according to the rules. The alternative is the world according to Boris Johnson. But “Britain will never be a rule taker!”, Starmer has already announced, in his weak attempt at shabby nationalism. At least one has to admit that Labour does nationalism badly and with obvious discomfort.
In an attempt to show she is worthy of having Rishi Sunak thrown aside in her favour, it seems Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden) is going through her list of Tory characteristics, and this week she has reached ‘Duplicitous’. During the last election, not only did the Tories deliberately present untrue propaganda as fact, and try to delude the public by pretending it was from an independent source, but they were caught out at it by BBC Newsnight. And who was responsible for what Emily Maitlis in her fury called a “dystopian” act? Our very own James Cleverly (Braintree), who so burnished his own credentials with that scam that he is now promoted to home secretary to mislead the public on Rwanda.
We turn now to Duncan Baker (North Norfolk).
To recap, Mr Baker used to be a member of UKIP and so assumed that would keep his seat safe from the depredations of the Reform Party. But apparently not, and since Reform is presently given 11% of the vote, he finds his previous safe Conservative seat may become a Liberal Democrat victory. (Electoral Calculus gives Steffane Aquarone a 64% chance of success, Mr Baker 33% and the Labour candidate 3%. So at least tactical voting looks straightforward.)
This week Mr Baker arranged a public meeting for the residents of Hickling, who are presently wading through raw sewage. Mr Baker was one of 265 Tory MPs who voted against forcing water companies to show improvements, in favour of paying their shareholders billions of our money, but presumably he assumed his voters wouldn’t know or wouldn’t care.
Taking your voters for mugs is rarely a reliable strategy, though. Adding insult to injury, Mr Baker assumes the good people of Hickling are mentally deficient by having gardens full of sewage but not knowing how it got there. We have to wonder therefore what possessed him to assume he could hold a public meeting – in a village presently ankle deep in sh*t – hand out the microphone to his audience and not see that things were unlikely to turn out well.
Furious constituents demanded their say, and had the mic grabbed from them by Mr Baker’s grim-faced apparatchiks. We await further feedback from what may become an enthralling battle ground.
Sir Oliver Heald has announced that he will not stand again as the MP for North East Herts at the next election. He has seen the writing on the wall. His parliamentary record is unremarkable. Under ‘registered interests’ he records that he employs his wife as office manager, and the only additional moolah received beyond his parliamentary salary is £1000 in September 2023 from the Worshipful Company of Actuaries at Wax Chandlers Hall.
He has represented his seat since 1992 and has not exactly made a name for himself in challenging any of the more ludicrous and callous bills that his government have barged through in the past few years. The whips would never have to worry about Sir Oliver. He did once threaten to rebel over the reform of the House of Lords, though in the end didn’t oppose it.
He did however oppose Brexit and was one of that gallant band of brothers, including Dominic Grieve, who supported parliament’s having a ‘meaningful vote’. But Mr Heald’s seat is an unremarkable example of the kind of avalanche which may await. Under the new boundaries, NE Herts is expected to go to Labour, in spite of Mr Heald having taken 57% of the vote in 2019. Labour received only 24% then, yet are expected to win. (It would only be fair to note that they should receive your tactical vote. The LibDems achieved 9%.)
Thanks this week go to James Porter and Karl Whiteman.