There are more signs in the polls of how far adrift the government is becoming from the voters. It is traditional, of course, for young voters to be of the left, and then move right through the age groups.
So we expect to see a heavy Tory majority among older voters. But so squeezed has the Tory vote become that a YouGov poll last weekend showed only among those over 65 do they hold a majority, of +16 over Labour. Compare. At the 2019 general election, the 50-64 age group preferred the Tories by +23: but now they have gone to Labour by +14, a dramatic (and for the Tories) cataclysmic shift in opinion. The 25-49 group shows for Labour by +42, and the 18-24s by +48.
News from the will-she won’t-she phantom by election in Mid Beds. While Nadine Dorries continues to renege on her resignation and hold out for a peerage, all parties are behaving as though a by election has already been called.
It is usual in the opening salvoes for somebody – usually the Liberal Democrats – to mount a smash-and-grab raid on public opinion, in search of what the Americans call ‘the Big Mo’’: momentum. Declare you’re already winning hands down, and so imply that a vote for any other opposition candidate would be wasted. The LibDems are dab hands at it.
But this is a little different. Bedfordshire has a strong independent presence, and an independent candidate will contest the election, if ever Ms Dorries permits it to take place. He is Gareth Mackey, and this has provided Labour with an opportunity. After all, if you were a disgruntled Tory voter, who could be more convenient than a Conservative-inclined independent? And those votes would otherwise go to the LibDems.
So Labour commissioned a poll by the reputable Opinium, which shows the expected collapse of the Tory vote:
Lady Ms Dorries enjoyed a majority of almost 25,000 last time. (My dears, can you imagine?) Anyway, Mr Mackey is polling at a remarkable 19%. This has meant that the LibDem vote is languishing at 15%, and Labour with 28% is shown as the party which can beat the Tories, who have 24%.
It is tempting to suggest that the LibDems, rarely other than unscrupulous in local by-elections, may be just the teensiest bit hoist with their own petard.
Incidentally, as pointed out by Mark Pack, who is himself a Liberal Democrat, if accurate then those Mid Beds figures are not terribly optimistic for either of the main opposition parties, however they are cut. They show the Tory vote down by 36 points, yet the combined Labour and LibDem share has only increased by eight points. The rest has gone to Mr Mackey, of course.
Will three quarters of the disillusioned Tory vote really go elsewhere than to either Labour or the LibDems? Seen this way, with these voters disinclined to trust their vote to any other party than their Tory home, how soft will Mr Mackey’s 19% turn out to be?
Since at the moment there still isn’t a vacancy and Nadine Dorries seems determined to continue her narcissistic flounce, all this must remain conjecture, of course. But how ironic if the regular collapse of the Tory vote should be bulwarked by Ms Dorries, of all people.
Incidentally, the Mid Beds by election, if ever and whenever it comes, will be the first opportunity to vote for Gina Miller’s new True and Fair party and their candidate Alan Victor.
The other candidates are Alistair Strathern (Labour), Cade Sibley (Green), Emma Holland-Lindsay (LibDem), Dave Holland (Reform) and Festus Akinbusoye (Conservative).
Another poll this week, this time from Gallup, shows how confidence in government in the UK has slumped since 2006, while in EU countries it has increased significantly. So Britain is at the bottom of yet another pile.
It is not difficult to find reasons, of course, and we had another this week. Readers may recall that, shortly after almost bankrupting the country as prime minister, Liz Truss (South West Norfolk) visited Taiwan at a time of heightened tension, being perfectly prepared to blow raspberries at China and so stoke the danger of war as long as somebody paid her enough.
They did. This week we learned it was £80,000, for three hours’ work. This was too much even for many in her own party, judging from the grumbles from backbenchers. That won’t trouble Ms Truss while she has the backing of Republican Party money. But as the sparkle wears off, we must expect her to promote even more dangerous and irresponsible ideas, to keep the spondulicks coming in.
This kind of earning became the subject of conjecture among the wise men at the Muckrakers, and the general agreement was that to make that kind of money one had to be a publican – an observation which naturally put George in one of his moods and as intended made him forget to call last orders.
It may be difficult to believe, but if Tom Hunt (ipswich) fails to get a mention in this diary, Pecksniff gets complaints. Not that this often happens. This week of course Mr Hunt has popped up again with yet another new Tory group. (Perhaps he collects the badges.) This one, New Conservatives, in fact has a very old aim: to send them all home. But the unspeakable foreigners who the NewCons have in their sights this time are care workers. (“Coming over here, looking after our elderly…”)
The new group also includes two other MPs from our region: Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) and ex Ukip (so it’s not surprising), and Paul Bristow (Peterborough).
This group is said to be ‘led’ by Mr Hunt. One can only hope they know what they’re doing. There are already over 200,000 vacancies among care workers at the moment; and our hero is planning to sack tens of thousands more?
As it happens, Care Home Open Week only ended on Monday – the very day the NewCons and their anti-care worker plans were launched. And Mr Hunt had that very week been keen to show himself in the press as a doughty supporter of the care homes sector. Somebody might have a word with Mr Hunt and his colleagues about timing…
Meanwhile the other prominent figure in the organisation, Lee Anderson, called off from the launch of his own group claiming a stomach bug. It is at least as likely that to oppose his own prime minister’s plan so directly would lose him his position as deputy chair of the Tory Party, and with it the lucrative £100,000 deal he has with GBNews.
It is interesting to read the views of other Tory MPs about the NewCons. “They’re dickheads,” says one. “They’re not real Conservatives.” Though these days there are lots of little groups protesting that they alone are the keepers of the sacred flame. That’s what happens when a political party is reduced to a rabble with no idea what it’s for.
But at least the emergence of the NewCons distils to its purest form what Brexit and the whole Tory delusion has been about. They simply hate foreigners. Dear reader, it’s xenophobia, pure and simple. There isn’t even the excuse that the ones they want to send home are sponging off the public purse: they are care assistants, they have jobs and pay taxes.
But no, they look a bit different and sometimes speak in a foreign language. Get rid of them. According to the NewCons, they are a “threat to our cultural security”. So it boils down to this. For years we have allowed ourselves to be governed by a small clique of moral and intellectual pygmies, who are frightened of what they don’t know and of what it might bring – especially if it involves joy or good comradeship. Frightened of difference, or new ideas, of hope, of life itself.
One rather obscure grouping taking place this week may provide a further straw in the wind as to the government’s having second thoughts about Brexit. The EU/UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly took place in Edinburgh. It’s supposed to be a forum for parliamentarians to exchange views on the working of the 2021 Trade and Co-operation Agreement. (Still some good seats left…) Only, last year nobody from the government turned up, thus making clear they didn’t actually care whether it worked or not, with whatever repercussions.
But this year, none other than the foreign secretary, James Cleverly (Braintree) attended. This certainly shows a change of attitude, though we can be sure this was a decision by Mr Cleverly himself, rather than the result of a note from No.10. Mr Cleverly gives the impression of a man who is at least cognisant of how deep in the doo-doo Britain has sunk.
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall is a TV person and food and environment activist. He has been amusing himself by flyposting posters all over Welwyn Hatfield constituency mocking their cheeky chappie MP, Grant Shapps. Mr Shapps is also the Net Zero minister, in more ways than one…. A report this week from the government’s own watchdog points out that the government’s climate policy has made no progress whatsoever.
The culture wars have taken an unexpected turn. Earlier this year, South Cambridgeshire Council introduced a trial four-day week for its staff, to assess whether it might affect both efficiency and finances. According to the council, after three months their efficiency is at least as high as before and, in some cases, improved. And during this period the council had saved £300,000.
This rang alarm bells in the shadowy TaxPayers Alliance, who seem to be behind the move to kill off the trial. They claim the day off amounts to a free holiday and that is “simply unacceptable” in the public sector. (The public sector of course only comprising woke and workshy scroungers whose jobs shouldn’t exist in the first place.)
This is also a government minister’s nightmare. What other terrifying ideas may come next if organisations begin treating their staff as human beings, with families and lives beyond their work? What incentives will there be then to strive for long hours and poor pay?
So it fell to Lee Rowley, parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department of Levelling Up (aka tea boy), to tell the council to stop it at once. He claimed it could be a breach of legal duties, which sounds most unlikely but will do till they (or the TaxPayers Alliance) find a more convincing excuse.
This week the Conservatives actually won a council seat. They gained King’s Hedges in Cambridge from Labour.
It could be argued that Labour would have held onto it had the LibDems not split the vote, but there are special circumstances applying across all of Cambridgeshire at the moment. The various transport schemes introduced by the mish-mash of competing authorities are deeply unpopular, and whatever their intrinsic merits their champions have failed to take public opinion with them. A fatal error and appalling politics, an ineptitude which will haunt them for years to come.
There is alarm in some quarters at plans by several Norfolk councils to borrow £20 million to boost housing development, the money to be re-paid from funds set aside for infrastructure projects such as schools and recreation projects. The reason this is of concern is the recent flurry of alarming tales of local authorities getting out of their financial depth. EAB has frequently reported on the bankruptcy of Thurrock Council, with its catastrophic effects on local people, and our Spotlight investigative team are already investigating alarms at another council in our region.
Rumours of the somewhat feudal culture prevailing at the king’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk have been given greater credibility this week with an investigation by the Guardian into the number of mysterious death of birds of prey over recent years, and other incidents involving the death of wildlife which have not been investigated. The Guardian claims there have been 18 deaths of raptors on the estate, through poisoning or shooting, in the past 20 years. Some incidents have been reported to the police, and it is claimed the estate hindered efforts to investigate.
To their credit the local newspaper, the Lynn News, has approached the estate for comment, though none has been forthcoming so far. A spokesperson for the RSPB claims the known incidents are “just the tip of the iceberg”.
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