Thoughts on Barnsley Central: another Lib Dem disaster

March 5, 2011

Before anyone starts designing “Ed Miliband: Prime Minister in 2015″ mugs, let’s remember that this was an average performance for Labour in Barnsley Central. Yes, they won 60.8% of the vote, but that’s almost exactly the same figure they won in 2005 (61.1%).

Even when Eric Illsey had a massive expenses-shaped cloud hanging over his head in May, for which he ended up being imprisoned, Labour won with a majority of 11,000, which is about the same number as Dan Jarvis’s majority now.

So there really isn’t much point in popping champagne corks in Labour HQ just yet. None of this has anything to do with Ed Miliband. He’s the equivalent of a new football manager who has just beaten two teams in the relegation zone in his first two games.

It is interesting that, as with Oldham East, the misdemeanours of the previous Labour MP simply wasn’t an issue. This is hardly surprising, as I remarked in the Old and Sad post-mortem, people care more about the impending spending cuts than who claimed what on an expenses claim form years ago.

In his acceptance speech Dan Jarvis quoted a lifelong Tory voter, a pensioner, who apparently said to him on the doorstep something to the effect of:

This Tory-led government is cutting spending too far and too fast. It’s bad for jobs.

(I honestly cannot remember the exact quote; I can’t find the full speech online and I saw it at 1.20am so my recollection of it is hazy)

I’d be surprised if the pensioner actually referred to a “Tory-led government”, but I am sure she expressed those sentiments about the spending cuts.

For the Lib Dems, this was an almighty kicking. After narrowly finishing second in May, they finished sixth (yes, sixth!) losing 5000 votes in the process. They were beaten into fifth by an independent, who is an unemployed miner with no party machine, and the BNP finished fourth (but lost one-third of their votes from May, which is a reason to be cheerful).

Alarm bells must be ringing in Nick Clegg’s ears, despite his protestations to the contrary. In the long-term, the fate of the Lib Dems depends on the state of the economy in 2015. For now, however, it’s clear that it’s looking disastrous in the short-term for them. Local elections in May could see them completely obliterated.

The big winners of the night were UKIP, who finished second. I don’t know enough about their campaign in Barnsley to comment on why they more than doubled their vote share (4.7% in May to 12.2% now). Judging from this billboard, they went down the “human rights” angle:

It shows that, strategically, David Cameron is falling between two stools. His attempts to “detoxify” the Tory brand didn’t quite work, as seen by the fact he failed to gain a majority against a morally and intellectually bankrupt Labour Party in May last year.

Indeed, one of the most interesting parts of Andrew Neil’s documentary calling for the return of grammar schools was when he discussed polling data which suggested that C1 and C2 types, the “aspirational working and lower-middle-class” that would have voted Thatcher in the ’80s didn’t vote Tory in constituencies like Birmingham Edgbaston because they were perceived as being “too posh”. It’s voters like these that cost Cameron an overall majority.

However, by his attempts to make the Tories appear “fluffy” he has managed to alienate a great portion of the Tory right.

This was well-illustrated by Norman Tebbit, in the most mind-boggling column I’ve ever seen hosted by a national newspaper site.

After explaining that Arabs “don’t do democracy”, defending the poll tax, taking a sideswipe at Chris Patten and referring to the ECHR as “mad judicial imperialists”, Tebbit goes on to say:

I still do not know where, apart from to a Big Society gay wedding in Westminster Abbey, the Prime Minister really wants to go.

Tebbit went within a gnat’s tadger of backing UKIP in Oldham East, and a few more results like that of Barnsley Central could see him fully jump ship, along with, potentially, a few more right-wing Tories.

I’m not sure I can ever fully understand the motives of people who look at this current administration and say, “You know what the problem is with the coalition? They’re just SO left-wing”. But there is definite discontent within the Tory right, and UKIP is picking up on it.

However, one still should not overplay UKIP’s success. They only won 12% of the votes: less than 3000 in total. It hardly sees them becoming, as Nigel Farage put it “the voice of opposition in British politics” – yet. Also, governments always get kickings in by-elections.

Still, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage will be happy, and David Cameron and Nick Clegg will not. For if David Cameron tries to placate the Tory right with some more “centre-right”-type policies, that can only serve to annoy even more the few remaining Lib Dem voters.

Unlike a few partisan Labourites I know, I can’t take much pleasure from the Lib Dem implosion. It’s like watching a friend you thought you used to know go completely off the rails. I can’t see anything other than oblivion happening in May for them now.


Old and Sad: Goodbye to all that

January 14, 2011

This is my final blog on the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. I’m looking forward to moving on from it, and blogging about other topics. In my notebook I have 14 (!) blog posts in various stages of stages of completion, as well as about half a dozen more I want to write and haven’t got round to starting yet. Now When the bloody thesis is written I can finish some of these.

In this post I just want to give a few worthy plugs and say a few quick thank-yous, which I hope will not stray into the self-indulgent territorry.

But first…

My earlier post was long enough without discussing the votes received by the other parties in last night’s result, but I think they merit a quick mention. The BNP lost their deposit, lost 1000 votes from May and came fifth behind UKIP, which can only be A Good Thing. For their part, UKIP gained 300 votes from their May performance, with most disgruntled Tories seemingly voting Lib Dem or staying at home.

In Labour/Lib Dem marginals the votes of the other left-wing parties are always going to be squeezed, and it proved the case yesterday for the Greens and the Pirate Party.

And now…

The first of our thanks and plugs I should give a quick mention to Loz Kaye and the Pirate Party. Loz seems a very decent chap, and the head of a party with an interesting set of issues. I hope we hear more from Loz and the Pirates over the coming years.

Richard Jones at the Saddleworth News deserves a massive pat on the back for his incredible by-election coverage. Anyone he did not interview was probably not worth interviewing, and for a one-man-band his workrate was exceptional. His daughter also become a minor celebrity in the course of the campaign.

Also, thanks to those who wrote the online hustings posts: four candidates, Jonathan Arnott as well as guest-bloggers Paul Cotterill, Simon Turner and Nick Thornsby. They were all interesting and informative, and popular to boot, so thank you all.

As always with political issues, discussions on Twitter are never dull. Andrea, Nick Watts and Ian Barker are three of the many tweeters who made discussing #oes very fun indeed. 

Of course, there is one final goodbye:

 Now that the by-election is over, it’s the official end of the Phil Woolas saga. No more stirring up of racial tensions, no more getting the white vote angry, no more seeing him on TV, no more of, well, all the horrible things he did and said.

Sadly, it won’t be an end to friends mentioning “Phil Woolas” to me merely to provoke a reaction, but I’m learning to cope with that thanks to numerous, extensive sessions with a whole battalion of therapists.

I’m now going to go with the pub, discuss the by-election a bit more, and then never write about Phil Woolas again. And I can’t tell you how good that feels.

Have a good weekend everyone!


Why you should vote UKIP in Oldham East and Saddleworth

January 11, 2011

Our next article in our online hustings puts forward the case for Paul Nuttall and the UK Independence Party. It’s written by Jonathan Arnott, UKIP’s General Secretary.

People in Oldham East & Saddleworth deserve an honest, hard-working MP who will work hard and stand up for local people.  It isn’t easy for the average voter to choose who to vote for in this by-election given that all three of Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives have provable recent track records of lies or broken promises to voters.

As UKIP’s candidate, Paul Nuttall MEP, recently wrote: “Labour’s lies caused this by-election in the first place, the Lib Dems’ recent lies over tuition fees have been all over the news and the Conservatives’ broken promises on the European Union send out a clear message that none of them can be trusted.”

Paul Nuttall is a candidate who takes a different approach.  Representing Oldham in the European Parliament, he doesn’t fear confronting those who, in the name of the ‘European project’, seek to take more and more power away from our elected Westminster Parliament and give it to Brussels bureaucrats.

As your MP, he would be able to stand up for issues that matter to local people.  On the economy, people are rightly terrified of the Coalition’s cuts.  Paul understands that Labour’s overspending couldn’t be allowed to continue forever – but where is the sheer determination to make sure that front-line services are protected?  Where is the genuine commitment to make sure that the most vulnerable people don’t have their support cut?

Paul and UKIP have said for years that as a society we need to reward hard work – and increase the tax threshold so that no-one pays tax on minimum wage.  People must always be better off working than they would be on benefits – how sad it is when someone remains on long-term benefits because society has made it impossible for them to afford to take a job!  We could use the money saved by leaving the European Union, scrapping PFI and slashing quangos to help working people and make our economy competitive enough to recover.

Paul has also been campaigning on immigration and crime.  We have to face up to the fact that the UK is already overcrowded, and pressures on housing and infrastructure can’t allow our population to keep increasing by 400,000 a year.  Again, the ‘traditional’ parties cannot do anything about it because they support membership of the EU – and therefore, giving half a billion people the right to settle in the UK with no questions asked.  For an overcrowded island that’s just not sustainable.

We have to send a message out that crime doesn’t pay to protect the safety of people in Oldham and Saddleworth.  That’s why Paul is passionately opposed to ‘votes for prisoners’ – UKIP are passionately pro-civil liberties but those who commit crime must accept temporary suspension of some of those liberties.

So if the LibLabCon’s track record doesn’t suit you, then please don’t stay at home on Thursday.  It’s clear that Paul Nuttall would make an excellent MP; so if you agree with us please vote for Paul Nuttall and UKIP on Thursday!


Meet the new berk, same as the old berk

August 18, 2010

Lord Pearson, UKIP’s leader, has stood down. Although he only became leader in November, Pearson has quit because he’s “not much good at party politics”.

I don’t much care for the man or his policies, but at least Pearson is being honest. To illustrate his point, and also to have a good laugh, here’s his interview with John Sopel during the last election campaign:

I’m not sure which is the most entertaining part of that: the fact that Lord Pearson has not read his manifesto, the fact that he looks so smug about it, that he feels you can only speak to retired police officers in car parks, or that he infers UKIP’s manifesto is “a small document of no significance”.

The front-runner now must be Nigel Farage, assuming he feels he has recovered sufficiently from his election day plane crash to stand for the leadership. He’s not much good either, but seems to think he’s the poodle’s testicles. Still, we will have to wait and see what happens. For now, just enjoy the interview.


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