So as foretold by EAB, Labour wins the Mid Beds by-election on a much-reduced turn-out. Just how reduced can be seen by a closer look at the figures. EAB’s own Stephen ‘Numbers’ McNair points out the peculiarity that Labour won in spite of attracting 156 votes fewer than they achieved in coming a poor and distant second in 2019. The reason is that the Tories polled a bewildering 26,012 fewer.
It is also interesting that the Liberal Democrat vote increased, albeit not by a lot. Presumably because, for those few Tories who were prepared to vote for somebody else instead of staying at home, the LibDems weren’t quite the bogeymen that arch Marxist Keir Starmer represents.
In order to show they are wily and experienced operators, it is fashionable for political commentators to say of any potentially mammoth psephological event: “Of course, this couldn’t happen at a general election”. But oh yes it could. It might be unlikely, but then we live in unlikely times. So why shouldn’t Labour achieve a landslide? Why should more than a handful of tattered Tories be left after the next election? Can you, dear reader, think of a good reason?
So, in the absence of strong drink immediately to hand, let us instead enjoy a map of projected events at the general election if – and let us accept: it seems a bit far fetched – things go as they did in Mid Beds.
Meanwhile, all is not well up at Castle Tory. If they can lose two seats which had majorities of well over 20,000, what hope do any of them have? What could they possibly do to turn things around…?
Yes, my dears, you have guessed it! They can change their leader! So, in the dumbstruck silence after their two electoral eviscerations this week, a Tory backbencher’s thoughts lightly turns to thoughts of a letter to the chair of the 1922 Committee, demanding their usual comfort blanket: a vote of no confidence in their leader.
In that case, who next? It is worth quoting the always excellent Steve Richards on today’s Conservative Party:
“It’s a myth that the Conservative party adapts to changing times… This is a dark story of a party that has failed to move on from the 1980s and has been dominated by the likes of Truss, Johnson, Frost…who should be nowhere near power in any form.”
“Whatever happens, the Liberal Democrats are going to come third and that’s just embarrassing.” So jibes a Labour spokesperson after the Mid Beds count, displaying the graceless hubris we’ve come to expect. Don’t these people ever wake up and wish they were just a little bit more classy?
If enlightened and progressive politics really is more important than the relative size of their political appendage, both Labour and the LibDems would impose on their members the kind of omerta they have ruthlessly applied on any mention of Brexit. They would insist on no slagging off, no triumphalist braying, no attempts at humiliation. They don’t do this because the voters want to hear them showing off, after all. It’s merely a form of political self-abuse.
However, in matters of bad grace, little could be more shocking than the scenes of Tory supporters at the Tamworth count – and even the Tory candidate himself – marching out during the Labour victory speech simply because they lost.
And let us be clear, they are showing disdain not for the winning candidate, but for the voters who made her the winner.
Because they lost. This is as clear a rejection of the democratic process by the Conservative Party as we could ever see, except for Rishi Sunak sending tanks into the streets.
Anyway, in the matter of bees in bonnets, your diarist has one. Our politics has been taken over by lowlifes for long enough, and Pecksniff has had it with their cynicism, from whichever party.
As their usually successful blitzkrieg tactics failed to work in Mid Beds, so the LibDems’ literature became ever more dishonest. ‘Emma edges ahead!’ on no evidence whatever. An unsourced and deliberately misleading bar chart, as usual. And of course, their leader crowing: “Labour know they can’t win!” only a couple of weeks before they, er, won. One can take looking on the bright side only so far, before it becomes something much worse. And if you need a sobering precedent, look at the Tories.
Of course, the Tories are way ahead in the small matter of misleading the public. By now we are used to them shamelessly producing party literature which pretends to be from the Greens. Then last week there was even one pretending to be Labour – that’s just how desperate they have become. But now we have a new low. They are pretending to be the NHS.
So corrupted is the Tory brand that the least trusted organisation in the country dresses up and tried to pass itself off as the most trusted. Under any halfway acceptable political system or culture this wouldn’t be acceptable.
But anything goes with South Cambs Conservatives. It is a wretched, dishonest and contemptible attempt by the Tories to deceive those who may be desperate for NHS help.
After all the elections excitement, it’s easy to forget that we’ve only just seen off the party conferences. The parties always put such faith in them to excite the voting public, whereas (as a YouGov poll last week showed), 30% pay “no attention at all”. Only 3% claim to be gripped, and they are under therapy. But this year Labour had some hopes that, with the government’s unpopularity, the public would be showing more attention than usual. The by-election results seem to confirm that.
The headline figures after the conferences didn’t change much, but the public’s view of Starmer improved satisfactorily in some respects and, no doubt, Labour will be pleased with the outcome. But however one looks at it, all the figures are poor for all the parties. No party can claim to be remotely attuned to the public mood, and while they put their faith in this annual and frankly embarrassing exercise in chest thumping, they don’t deserve any better reception.
Pecksniff particularly takes umbrage with one frankly patronising passage from the Starmer speech. “Never forget that politics should tread lightly on people’s lives,” he claims. So the voters shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about the important stuff then? Apparently not. Labour’s job is to take “care of the big questions so working people have the freedom to enjoy what they love”.
He means bingo, of course.
I wonder what would be the response of all those working class titans of the past, who came home from the factories and the pits, changed and then spent their evenings in the local library to learn what was necessary in order to take control over their own lives.
The problem with the frankly smug and complacent Starmer suggestion is that the country is in the state it is precisely because we’ve left it all to the politicians. We were too lazy or too wilfully stupid to take an interest in what crucially affects all our lives.
A reader whispered in the Pecksniff shell-like this week a fascinating point about the cancellation of HS2 which might help explain the decision, though your diarist has not had time to verify the detail. While we were members of the EU, we would have qualified for 50/50 funding of many capital infrastructure projects, and almost certainly HS2. Which is to say, the EU may well have borne half the capital cost. So no EU membership and, oh whoops, no numerous buckshee billions to spend on a high-speed trainline.
But hardly a reason we could expect the government to admit, after all.
“What has that scamp Liz Truss (SW Norfolk) been up to recently?” I hear you cry. You may or may not be astounded to hear that she is still following the money and the glad sound of ready applause for her crackpot delusions. (She will shortly take up wearing a bicorne hat and riding a white horse called Marengo.)
So where else would she go to find a ready and gullible audience but the US? She is pleased to show us the warm welcome she received from Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a leading whacko even in the land of whackos.
The senator became a staunch Trump supporter and was one of those who objected to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, so giving credence to the false claim that the election was fraudulent…
You don’t suppose, dear reader, that she is getting ideas, do you?
And a snippet Pecksniff had missed regarding our ever-popular environment secretary and MP for Suffolk Coastal, Thérèse Coffey. At the Tory conference she was showing off in her speech to the British Association of Shooting and Conservation. (The conservation bit means every year they re-stock with young pheasants to replace the ones they shot last year.)
She made reference to a mass murder in Plymouth, in which the killer shot five people dead with a legally owned pump action shotgun, then took his own life. The coroner involved had written to the government, recommending they tighten up on gun ownership. Dr Coffey explained to her audience:
“There was a potential reaction which would have made it much harder for you to have shotguns and I stopped it – I stopped that.”
Not unnaturally, the MP for Plymouth Devenport made his objections plain. Dr Coffey’s speech was reported by the East Anglian Daily Times, who had asked Dr Coffey for a response to his criticisms. It will not come as any surprise to anybody who has ever tried to communicate with her that they are still waiting.
Thanks this week goes to James Porter.