A new poll from Unherd Britain (a pro-Conservative website) backs almost exactly a previous study a couple of weeks ago, in showing that those who think Brexit was a mistake now outnumber its supporters by two to one.
This poll is so interesting because, like Electoral Calculus, they use ‘multilevel regression and post-stratification’, or MRP, which allows a highly detailed seat-by-seat calculation.
So for example, the research shows that five of the top 10 seats still with strongest support for Brexit are in East Anglia: South West Norfolk, Clacton, North East Cambs, Gt Yarmouth and North West Norfolk. But even here, in SW Norfolk for example, those who see Brexit as a mistake nevertheless outnumber its remaining supporters by 42% to 38%. In fact, only in the seat still most strongly supporting Brexit anywhere in the country, Boston and Skegness, is there still a majority for Brexit: by 41% to 37%.
Pecksniff’s gallant yet discreet retinue of espions politiques presently paint a persuasive picture of the public mood. Tory voters are deeply unhappy with their government – according to canvassers from all parties – and that includes the diminishing number still determined to vote for them.
A great many former Tory voters swear they won’t vote for them again, though for many in this group the idea of voting Labour would be going too far. The polls suggest a Labour tsunami, even in this region, though as polling day approaches, some of those exasperated Tories may be scared into recanting their heresy. And we can expect other voters to become more canny and begin to think tactically.
At bottom, the problem for the Tories is still Boris Johnson. For every still-infatuated supporter, there is another who is sickened and disgusted. Partygate still casts its shadow and is likely to do so for years to come.
Everybody recalls a personal tragedy brought about by the lockdown which they dutifully followed. A parent who was left to die alone and feeling abandoned. A daughter whose special day was missed. And all the while, Boris Johnson partied.
Feelings are still raw, especially of guilt. “If he could, then so should I have.” And the guilt will never go away.
Still on the question of Covid, with some distaste we turn again to the odious Matt Hancock, still reputedly MP for West Suffolk. Whilst pimping himself on telly in the hope of a presenter’s job, he turned up on Good Morning Britain to declare that black was white and his notorious shenanigans off piste were not a breach of the law – a law he introduced, but was keen to deny even existed at the time he was breaking it. No amount of chapter-and-verse from the interviewer would shake him.
There was a time long ago, dear reader, when some among the public were prepared to sympathise with the wretched Hancock. Pecksniff was never one of them and has been after him with a sharp stick from the outset. His guilt, of anything you care to mention, was never in doubt. As your correspondent observed in October 2021, after little Matt had been dumped from a UN role he had been soliciting:
“Mr Hancock is probably not cognisant of the usual checks for handing out jobs and contracts, having conducted his tenure as health secretary without apparently having recourse to them once.”
Two weeks ago Pecksniff wrote of attempts by Liz Truss (SW Norfolk) to relaunch herself that, though she has the apparent support of an outlandish group of MPs who call themselves the Conservative Growth Group, her much vaunted ambition to become a good constituency MP seems to have stalled. Still nobody there has seen hide nor hair of her. There are whispers that her parliamentary followers may be growing in number, but those among them not inclined towards a parliamentary version of Jonestown are, not surprisingly, alarmed by her manoeuvres. They fear for party unity. Oh really? Installing Ms Truss in any position of authority is rather like going to see The Duchess of Malfi and hoping for a happy ending.
There will be blood everywhere.
Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) is reminiscent both in attitude and in shape to those Punch cartoons, featuring a pompous and mystified buffoon of rotund proportions. Mr Bacon showed off his impressively complacent views on Boris Johnson – he was doing a good job, apparently, and anyway while he was partying, NHS staff all over the country were letting their hair down too – just before “the fat ponce” was defenestrated.
Now he has given similar reassurances on Nadhim Zahawi: “I have an old-fashioned view (of the) affairs of all individuals… It is a private matter between revenue and customs and the individual. He has put a huge amount into this country and we should be very grateful to him.”
The next day Mr Zahawi was sacked.
As Punch would have said: “Collapse of stout party”.
This week environment secretary Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) was entrusted with launching the government’s ambitious new Environment Improvement Plan.
Pecksniff had been dutifully noting Dr Coffey’s every point, fighting off the profanities, then contrived to spill the ink well over those carefully burnished mots justes. So, sitting here at the escritoire, one must be frank. Your correspondent simply can’t be arsed to go through all those platitudes again. (Be kind: there is still to describe this week’s doings by Tom Hunt.)
Suffice to say that, in her foreword to the plan, Dr Coffey explains: “We have cleaner bathing waters (sic), because we have put a spotlight on water quality and rivers and we are forcing industry to clean up its act.” There is no mention of sewage, or the Conservative’s role in allowing it to be discharged there for at least another 15 years.
Should any reader be tempted to respond, they may find it a problem. Dr Coffey’s pronouncements on social media do not allow replies, she does not talk to her constituents and is at daggers drawn with the local hacks, refusing where possible to have anything to do with them.
Really my dears, the impercipience of these people. “All of the civil servants who are attempting to block the democratically elected government should either be fired or named,” asserts the tediously omnipresent Tom Hunt (Ipswich). “Named”? Does he really imagine that exposing them to the public is going to draw angry mobs to their decorously shrubbed semis? Neighbours bearing bouquets of flowers and heroic pictures on the front page of the local rag seem much more likely.
He goes on: “If they want to engage in politics and be a political actor [sic] they should either leave their profession and stand for office or get the scrutiny that comes with it.” Mr Hunt appears not to know that the job of a civil servant is precisely to advise. They are not members of the domestic staff.
But Mr Hunt is an arriviste and would not know these things. He is an embarrassment to fellow Tories. Suffolk is an awfully county county, and he is generally regarded by Tories beyond the purlieus of the somewhat more working-class Ipswich as “a bit of an oik” – a term used to Pecksniff this week – and well below the salt.
Still on Tom Hunt, the young scallywag has published another ‘survey’, in an attempt to give the impression he is listening to his voters.
To be fair, he may be – but he is being noticeably scrupulous in those whose opinions he courts. Social media has been full of complaints from those who had tried to fill in the questionnaire but failed. The form would not submit. It seems their failing may have been in disclosing that they intend to vote Labour.
A hint to Mr Hunt. If you only contact those who are going to vote for you anyway, yet the polls presently show a lead of 26% for Labour’s Jack Abbott, it is possible you may need to revise your strategy.
We have wondered before, you and I, about what precisely is the purpose of Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden).
Of all the embarrassments on the Tory benches, he must surely be the most buttock-clenching. Next to him, Tom Hunt appears a positive Plato de nos jours. Here is Mr Afolami being picked off in a TV studio rather in the manner of swotting a fly.
Readers may have heard of a distasteful problem known as SLAPP, which means ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’. Wealthy individuals under scrutiny by journalists use their financial muscle to issue writs in the hope of making them too expensive to fight, even though they may have a sound basis in fact. So the story has to be dropped. It is mentioned here merely in passing, just on the off chance that any future stories here at EAB may seem to have something missing. On those occasions, dear reader, it is hoped you may recall this modest entry and draw your own conclusions…
There are further developments in the ongoing attempts at lebensraum by Andrew Proctor, the Tory leader of Norfolk County Council. Like many of his party colleagues, he suffers from a priapic ego, which he shamelessly brings out and waves about in front of swooning councillors when the question of Norfolk devolution springs up.
Until now there were threats of legal action against the council by other local authorities in Norfolk. But this week, animosities spilled out into the open. Council officers and opposition councillors alike were astonished at a meeting to discuss the question when Mr Proctor became the subject of an unbridled attack by his rival, John Fuller, who leads South Norfolk Council. (They are one of the proposed litigants.)
Mr Fuller brought in the names of Messrs Sunak and Gove in apparent support of his case against Mr Fuller’s plans, though given the party’s feelings about Mr Sunak – they see him as a necessary but indisputably temporary evil – that may not have been wise. South Norfolk’s chief executive Trevor Holden tried to call the combatants to order but was trampled underfoot.
The splendid John Elworthy until recently edited a swathe of local newspapers across Cambridgeshire. He is a proper local hack. He knows every blade of grass on his patch, and he knows – in a phrase Pecksniff seems continually to be using these days – where all the bodies are buried.
When Newsquest took over those publications from Archant they decided that making waves did not in any way represent their business model – to the great relief of many local politicians on whom the estimable Mr Elworthy has what is known as ‘the skinny’. Sadly however, both for Newsquest and those politicians, Mr Elworthy has not gone away. Instead, he has set up CambsNews, where he picks up where he left off.
So this week he highlights quite how slavishly one of those newspapers, the Wisbech Standard, follows their masters’ perceived need to stay close to the status quo. They appear to have published a press release from Fenland District Council whole and were even careless enough also to publish the council’s instructions.
We see all too clearly that the old news model is broken. Readers who would prefer not to be patronised and to read what their politicians are really getting up to may wish instead to invest their interest in the CambsNews or, of course, East Anglia Bylines.
Special thanks this week go to The Tom Hunt Fan Club.
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