Friday, 24 June 2022
By The Byes
Oliver Dowden is a real loss to Boris Johnson, of whom he had hitherto been one of the strongest supporters. But along the Red Wall, Keir Starmer's Labour has so far managed only a score draw, losing Hartlepool while winning back Wakefield.
Labour barely has won back Wakefield, a seat that in any case it had held until two and a half years ago, meaning that there should be no chicken-counting up here. Labour has just taken eight thousand fewer votes at Wakefield than it did in 2019, and its lowest number of votes there since 1931, because there is no policy reason to vote Labour rather than Conservative, or indeed vice versa. It is purely a matter of whether or not you like or respect Johnson, and even that advantage for Labour, insofar as it is one, is one fixed penalty notice away from being blown to smithereens.
By the starkest of contrasts, the result at Tiverton and Honiton is the most sensational since North Shropshire, which was the most sensational since Chesham and Amersham. Thatcherism at the time was a force both of and for social liberalism, and it was ferociously Eurofederalist, with any opposition to that project derided as "Loony Left". The Thatcherite heartlands became the backbone of the Coalition, and they expressed their approval of its record by giving its Prime Minister an overall majority in 2015.
The South then largely voted Remain, in accordance with Conservative Party policy at the time. That party installed a Thames Valley Remainer as Leader and Prime Minister without any sort of election, but it replaced her with Johnson, so that if the 2015 Parliament had run its course, then scores of seats would have turned from Blue to Yellow in 2020. It is no surprise that they are now preparing to do so in 2024.
Imagine the Conservatives as the third party in a hung Parliament, having to chose between a Labour and a Lib Dem Leader as Prime Minister. That will not happen next time, or the time after that, but it could happen. There was wishful talk of their coming third in the Blair years, but they never lost Chesham and Amersham, or North Shropshire, or Tiverton and Honiton, in the Blair years.
Then again, coalitions between the CDU and the SPD are normal in Germany, while Blue-Red and Red-Blue arrangements, often to keep out the Lib Dems, have existed in local government forever. It was a coalition with the Conservative Party that gave the Leadership of Derby City Council to Chris Williamson.
And why not? We who seek to strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, could and should hold the balance of power after the next two General Elections, before winning a third outright. We would be more than capable of cutting a deal with a clique that believed only in its own birthright to rule. That would be preferable to trying to deal with a faction that believed, as first principles, in permanent austerity at home and in forever war abroad.
The former runs the Conservative Party at the moment, while the latter is trying to take it over while already controlling the Labour Party, the Lib Dems, and the SNP. After these by-elections, then the coup is no doubt back on to restore to hegemony the economic and social liberalism that the use of soft power where possible but hard power where necessary had made unquestionable at home, so that the use of soft power where possible but very hard power where necessary could spread it across the whole wide earth by means of an unquestionable alliance between the European Union and the United States, an alliance with Britain at both its cultural and its military heart.
This coup offers us nothing, and we must do nothing to cheer it on. On the contrary, after everything that will have happened by the end of this Parliament, then it is by Johnson that the Labour Right must be defeated. It would never be able to recover from that humiliation. I am not advocating a vote for the Conservatives. We need to get enough of our people elected to create a hung Parliament either next time or the time after that. Then we could tell the smug and entitled Labour Party to get lost. Who is to say that we would get less out of the other side? Less than the nothing that we had always got out of Labour? How? Just so long as the other side had never again been led by those who were planning their return at the moment. This coup is against our interest.