The objection to the latest Labour Party attack ads is not that they are untrue or misleading, but that they choose to fight on the same bitter and mean-spirited territory the Tories have made their own. They are aimed of course at that suspicious and frightened group in the Red Wall that Labour still likes to think of as “our people”.
But is this the inspiration an angry and exhausted nation is looking for? Is this the vision of sunlit uplands? A promise to return to morality and integrity? It is difficult to imagine from quite what strategy the attacks on Rishi Sunak were born. Put simply, a strategy asks: “Is this the way we do things?” And is it…?
For those who would claim that it’s the party showing some steel, I’m afraid it’s not. It’s the party showing it’s still scared of the Tories and it’s not confident that its own ideas can prevail.
Your diarist approaches yet another tale of Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal). Last November she made it clear that, whatever oceans of raw sewage Anglian Water deposit in our rivers, she had no intention of doing anything about it. Preventing it was “not her priority”.
This week however at Conservative Home she declares that “Cleaning up our water is my personal mission”. A conversion not so much on the road to Damascus as on the footpath round Martlesham Creek – or Shit Creek, as the nation has gleefully learned to call it. Sadly, the article says little about what the government will do about it, only that Labour’s plan wouldn’t work and anyway would cost the taxpayers too much.
No mention is made of costing the shareholders anything. They are a consortium of international investment funds, who one assumes don’t put their money where our sewage is out of philanthropy, but because it continues to make them a lot of money.
Perhaps here in sleepy East Anglia we should be proud of giving Liz Truss to the world – or at least those parts of the world who are lunatic enough to want to hear her, and also pay good money for the privilege. She has still not been seen doing the job she’s paid for back in South West Norfolk. And recent efforts by your diarist to contact her or any member of her team came to naught. It is clear her communications are so arranged as to make it deliberately impossible actually to speak to anybody.
Here she is spouting the same amphigory (that’s ‘Nonsensical burlesque verse’ to us lower mortals – Ed.) which almost bankrupted the country, but this time in the US. Those pauses you hear during her talk are caused by her counting up how much she’s made from the speech so far.
But do remember in Thetford, Swaffham and Downham Market that you have an election coming up, when you can vote out of office all those self-serving Tory charlatans who foisted Ms Truss on you in the first place.
Last week East Anglia Bylines spilled a number of beans regarding the refutations by Tom Hunt MP (Ipswich) about the anti-refugee demonstrators at the Novotel. Mr Hunt had considered it unjust that they should be accused of being far right when they were just expressing a perfectly reasonable view.
But East Anglia Bylines’s investigations showed them to be everything they were accused of being, and worse. There were members of the British National Party, the English Defence League, British Resistance and Combat 18 (which takes its name from the first and eighth letter of the alphabet: ‘A’ and ‘H’, the initials of Adolf Hitler). While Mr Hunt insisted the police had not concluded the far right were involved, we learned that one protestor had been raided by “armed” police and thrown in the cells, facing a charge of ‘inciting racial hatred’. And that was a week before Mr Hunt made his statement…
Since our story we have heard no more from Mr Hunt (though my colleagues in the Spotlight investigations team have learned much more, and have spotted him being described as a Nazi apologist). Nor has there been a squeak from the other local media (Hunt’s Twitter team, however, seem to have noticed us, and not in a good way). Dear reader, on this Pecksniff invites you to draw your own conclusions.
Meanwhile in deepest true blue West Suffolk, there are rumours. It is suggested that following Matt Hancock’s having been given the bum’s rush as the MP, one of his possible successors is being manoeuvred into position. Councillor Bobby Bennett was Mr Hancock’s agent and is county councillor for Clare. But she is now announced as the Tory candidate in Kentford and Moulton for next month’s district elections, perhaps to increase her visibility as (in the words of Pecksniff’s observer) the “soft, socially aware Tory woman”.
During an election, we all play the game of spot the party poster, proudly dominating a field with blue, or tucked away in a house window daubed in some other colour.
But there has been a change in recent years, with no more festoons of Tory posters decorating an otherwise innocent countryside. This year though, your diarist has yet to spot one single blue poster. This experience seems shared by spies around the region.
One reason of course is so few Conservatives are prepared to ’fess up. As an example, in North Norfolk only five candidates are confident in using the moniker. The others describe themselves in that fashionable new term as ‘Local Conservatives’, otherwise presumably meaning Tory Lite. Everything you love to hate about the Tories, but even more fact-free.
And speaking of posters, it seems Duncan Baker MP (North Norfolk) has been pressed into service making nuisance calls. Last week Pecksniff revealed that some hapless intern in Mr Baker’s office has been persuaded into standing as a paper candidate, to help cover this year’s alarming shortage of political lemmings in his party.
But now we find Mr Baker is driven to making the kind of calls one usually complains to BT about. Bewildered voters pick up the phone to find someone trying to flog them not cavity wall insulation but another four years of Tory rule. So Mr Baker is keen to persuade them that what their shrubbery really needs to set off the begonias is a dirty great Tory poster board.
But either something has gone wrong with their canvassing or they are becoming desperate indeed, since the fact that these calls are being reported to Pecksniff illustrates the householders approached aren’t even Tory voters.
This belief among beleaguered Tories that describing themselves as ‘Local Conservatives’ gives some kind of cachet of probity and honesty only denotes their lack of self-awareness. Since beginning this diary 18 months ago, your correspondent has learned that most councils in Norfolk are probably at least functionally corrupt, and in the matter of smoke and fire, there are far too many rumours about financial goings-on in Cambridgeshire. Such is the state of local politics across that county it’s as though Anglian Water has co-ordinated all its illegal sewage dumps in one place.
But East Anglia Bylines will be returning to Cambridgeshire in the near future. The Spotlight investigations team are already looking forward to it.
We stay in Cambridgeshire for this week’s report on what the voters are saying on the doorstep. Perhaps the greatest concern expressed, certainly among older voters, is over the NHS. This will exasperate those candidates now calling themselves Local Conservatives, because if the punters concentrate on the NHS in their voting intentions it means the subterfuge isn’t working.
Some elderly people say they hardly dare go out, in case they slip and need an ambulance. The most dreaded words for a Tory are from an elderly couple who said: “We’ll have to vote Labour from now on.” So presumably they were former Tory voters who have reluctantly made the switch but, crucially – “from now on” – don’t seem likely to return.
The voters also seem to have tired of the government’s claims of success over the vaccine roll-out. “It was the NHS who did it, not them!” said one. This gentleman voted for Steve Barclay last time but “never again”.
Now this will make you laugh. The Liberal Democrats have become notorious for the bar charts in their election literature, which purport to show how the only way to get rid of the Tories is to vote for them. The way they are presented is often questionable and sometimes shamelessly dishonest.
Such a leaflet arrived at the portals of Pecksniff House this week. The leaflet claims that the local Framlingham ward, part of East Suffolk, is a close-run thing between the LibDems and the Tories. It shows Labour are nowhere, but they, the triumphant LibDems, are pushing the Tories hard. What it omits completely is to show the Greens, who are also standing and have an even stronger shout. There is no source for the chart either, which of course means they may simply have made it up.
Meanwhile, the Greens have borrowed the LibDem bar chart idea, only you will be amazed to learn theirs features the brave and handsome Greens as the immaculate challengers and makes no mention of the LibDems (except in the small print).
All a bit of fun for some, no doubt, and probably infuriating to others. Be sure however that, whatever elongations of the truth featured here, they will be as nothing compared to what will be in the Tory leaflet when that shows up.
Among the parties standing in Thetford are the Thomas Paine Independents (TPI), representatives it seems of that group who stormed Thetford Town Council recently and as reported in East Anglia Bylines. They accused the rather bemused councillors of being vassals of something called the New World Order. Since this was a wet night in February in a deserted Thetford, and the most exciting thing on the agenda was the minutes and matters arising, one can imagine the councillors’ bafflement.
The TPI is the party for conspiracy junkies. It calls for mass civil disobedience, and warns of organ harvesting, the Crown Prosecution Service kidnapping your children, vaccines as biological weapons, climate concerns as a scam, and how you should never, ever look a policeman in the eye. (Don’t ask.) They have a very long list of things that we should be down with. Revolution is what they want: “Lawful rebellion against tyranny, and as peaceful as the traitors want it to be”.
It is fair to report that some Thetford voters are feeling uneasy at the TPI using their town as a petri dish for their dangerous and deluded fantasies.
One of the candidates standing for the Thomas Paine independents is Mark Fuller (ex Ukip), in Priory ward. Councillor Fuller has an interesting recent history. He was due to stand trial last May at Great Yarmouth magistrates court on four counts of using threatening and insulting words and behaviour to two women during an incident in Thetford. It seems the events took place at a Covid vaccination centre. But the case did not proceed because, according to the Crown Prosecution Service, there was “not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”.
Cllr Fuller was also due to be disqualified from Thetford Town Council for non-attendance over a period of six months, but escaped the censure by turning up at the last moment. Since serving the people of his town doesn’t seem to be his prime motivation for being elected, one wonders what it could possibly be…
Pecksniff has observed before that if revolution ever breaks out in east Anglia it will probably begin not in Thetford, but in Woodbridge in Suffolk. Such a nice place to hold a revolution too, and you know people would bring cake.
It is they who constantly humiliate Thérèse Coffey, their MP, with water testing for E. coli and those brown tourist notices proclaiming ‘Shit Creek’. But they do more than make good jokes. Four years ago, the town council was a Tory fiefdom: they held 12 of the 16 seats. In 2019 they lost eight of them. This year, they field just one candidate.
This has happened because opposition parties put together a formal ‘Rainbow Coalition’ of Greens, LibDems, Labour and independent. As a result, Woodbridge has blossomed, literally and metaphorically. It has become a joyous and forward-looking community. Pecksniff always finds it distasteful to express the bleedin’ obvious, but there is just perhaps a lesson in Woodbridge for parties elsewhere.
There was a furore last weekend over a police raid on an Essex pub which featured a display of golliwogs. The publican was pictured in the press looking outraged at the raid. The home secretary expressed herself also outraged. At first glance it did look a little OTT. Until one reads the email exchanges between the publican and his friends. In joking protest he declares: “They used to hang them in Mississippi years ago”.
Did the home secretary know? Jumping to conclusions is a habit of hers, as is jumping at any chance to rebuke another case of wokism.
It is perhaps the only misgiving your diarist has about working among such a brave, handsome and erudite team here at East Anglia Bylines, but my dears their taste in humour does veer toward the vulgar. So it is that they found amusing the spectacle of some local government person squirming and squatting and gurning badly to what one understands is called ‘rap’.
There is no mention of this procedure in Fowler’s English Usage, but a general definition is ‘a sharp blow’, with which in this context Pecksniff can only concur. But for those whose grasp, like that of my colleagues, is for the transpontine, here is a piece of film…
Voters in Southend will this year have the opportunity to vote for the Confelicity Party, whose vision is to “work backwards from the best possible future”, which seems fair enough; though “empowering only those that experience the environment around us to make decisions” could pose problems.
But Southend also provides one last curiosity this week on the local elections. The independent councillors on the council have formed a group, so effectively forming an independents party. But it seems one of their number does not agree with his colleagues, so he is now standing as an independent independent.
Thanks this week go to James Porter, JJJ, St Neots & Huntingdon for Europe, Janet M and Lucy Shires.