Friday, June 30, 2006


Neither Labour Nor Tories Very Popular Shocker

Back to blogging; funny how difficult it is to get back into the habit after a while. Another startling election result means I’ve decided just to get on and do it, and among all the things to say about Bromley one thing Richard said this morning stands out: we need to state straight out something really positive we campaigned on. It’s clear the Tories are posing as Bambi’s mum with Lib Dems the nasty, blood-soaked hunter, and another stunning ‘Independent’ victory in Blaenau Gwent is a warning that ‘But the others are rubbish!’ is no longer our unique selling point.

Yes, of course it was fair enough to point out the Tory candidate was hanging onto all his well-paid jobs by his fingernails, even if it meant lying on his nomination form, and lives so locally he’s several entire boroughs away and it’ll take him over an hour to get to ‘his’ constituency by public transport (been there, done that…). And of course all Lib Dems can think of far nastier campaigns. There was Labour in Hodge Hill, Hartlepool and the old Littleborough and Saddleworth, or even their now-standard desperate-to-help-the-Tories-win Bromley leaflets telling everyone the Lib Dems love murderers and paedophiles. There were the Tories in Cheadle who attacked the leader of the local council as an ought-to-be-illegal immigrant, or, well, just look at any Tory General Election national campaign you can name. They didn’t call themselves the nasty party for nothing.

It’s not good enough, though. Just last Saturday, I was at a very jolly party where a normally talented and amusing author was in full-on inebriated New Labour apologist mode, and no matter how many times he said, “But we’re not as horrible as the other lot!” I remained strangely unimpressed. Here’s a word of advice for Lib Dem spinners; yes, we love to point out that Tories / Labour / both are no longer trusted… Except that everyone already knows that. Next time there’s a by-election, how about for the morning after picking one, just one, positive Lib Dem policy for every spokesperson to mention incessantly and give people a positive reason to vote for us next time, as well as countering the accusation that we’re just wholly negative and in some way uniquely ‘dirty’, because that mud is sticking.

After all, the ‘Independent’ candidates did even more brilliantly in Blaenau Gwent than Lib Dems did in Bromley, and well done to them (I imagine there are many Lib Dems wishing they’d picked a different day and left the headlines to us, though). So we can’t rely on getting the ‘none of the above’ vote, and quite right, too; we do actually want to do certain positive things, rather than just engender a warm, rosy-tinted feeling of ‘Labour like your mother used to make’.

None of this is to denigrate the achievement of Ben Abbotts and the team. Making the Tories sweat buckets in their 17th safest seat when their new Leader’s supposed to be the most popular thing going? Woo hoo! And, I have to admit, I was of little faith. The Tories got three times as many votes as we did in the seat just last month, and I never thought we’d do it. I was, of course, wrong. Our vote doubled from last year and just 633 votes short?! I’ve not been very well the last few weeks and hardly been getting out, but I do feel even more guilty now at not getting off my bum and will write out one hundred times that, when Chris Rennard says we’re closing the gap, we really are. It is, I think, the third of those nice but eye-watering near misses we’ve chalked up in the last couple of years; by-elections seem both tougher and more possible even in ‘impossible’ areas.

Well, that’s enough on the Lib Dems. What of our opponents? I suppose there are mixed feelings among Tories this morning (a euphemism for rage, relief and a change of pants). It’s Mr Cameron’s worst headlines since he became Leader, and raises a major question over his assumed march back to power; saying ‘Liberals have done well in by-elections since Orpington, and we all know what happened to that’ misses the point – the Tories lost the next two elections, while the last time the Tories actually did win power from Labour it was they who made all the by-election running, and not just in ‘natural Conservative territory’. In fact, during the 1974-79 Parliament, the Tories surged, while the Liberals lost votes in all but two by-elections. They should be doing brilliantly, and they’re suddenly doing almost as badly as John Major again. I bet billionaire media tycoon and Australian / American / patriotic defender of us Brits against those foreigners telling us what to do Roger Stavro Mordick wishes he could retrospectively prevent himself saying he might back Mr Cameron yesterday, given his need to pick the winner.

So where do they go from here? We probably can’t be lucky enough for there to be a burst of savage internecine warfare, but a chap can wish. Smart Tories will spin that this means they need more change, and say it’s all the local party’s fault for picking an angry nasty fat old man against a youngish and nice-looking Lib Dem. I gave an aggressive concession speech in 1997, and subsequently had it quoted back to me by someone 200 miles away; they don’t make a pretty picture, you know, and I imagine a sore winner will come across even more unpleasantly than a sore loser. Others will perfectly reasonably say that Mr Cameron is the Leader and that, if his brand is underperforming, you shouldn’t blame the foot soldiers but the Line of Beauty man at the top that people see every day on TV (by chance, it’s only since seeing that bit of Hampstead in the series that I’ve been nude sunbathing there, but as I’ve still not done cocaine, Dave remains ahead on that score).

Of course, the Tories must also be thanking their lucky stars for the truly appalling kickings the Labour Party received – no excuses, no distractions, no silver lining – but, then, “Tony Blair’s lot horribly mauled by voters as vote totally collapses”… It’s hardly ‘man bites dog’.


Nice to read a full-blooded Wilcockian posting again! I hope you get back to full health soon. Thanks for the link to mine. Interesting comment about aggressive acceptance speeches. It is worth rewatching Bob Neil's acceptance speech after watching a clip of Mussolini in his heyday. The gestures are all there! It's amazing!

I note that Central Tory Spin - Mrs Dale - is having trouble waking up this morning. By this time yesterday he had posted no less than five breathless pieces of prose. But today - nothing so far and visitors to his site are being treated to "Pricks on the Today programme" posted yesterday.
I stand corrected. Mrs Dale was obviously up early this morning writing a Magnum Opus which has now seen the light of day.
Can we give the "Mrs Dale" thing a rest please? I'm sorry if you think I'm being PC and I'm sure you're not homophobic, but it comes across badly.
Thanks, Paul!

And I’ve just popped in another link (though, admittedly, it’s partly to plug something I said. Oh well).

My speech at Stevenage made the mistake of being in the same tone as I’d taken throughout the campaign – hardly blistering, but “Mr Blair is a Tory and when you find you’ve just elected another Tory government, you’ll be sorry.” It was howled down by the Labour millionaires’ crowd there, probably because they feared it was true (as indeed it soon proved to be). I’ll have to ask Richard how crass it actually seemed at the time.

Conceding for Leyton and Wanstead in 2001, while my internal reaction was of the “Bollocks, all that effort and we just failed to get second” variety, I was brief and beaming, pointing out how well we’d done across the country and that we’d gone up locally while the others had gone down, and hitting our key messages. The Tory complained that they worked really hard and they deserved better; his peculiarly graceless contribution vs my on-message one meant that the local papers reported Lib Dem success and Tory disappointment. Hah.

Four Jobs Bob, however wound up he was, did just about the most damage he could do to the Tories while still having won. Pillock.
And on Iain Dale… I admit I wince a bit, like James, but I suspect that (sorry, Paul) it’s just a generational thing – you recognise more immediately that his blog title is a deliberate play on Mrs Dale’s Diary, though it comes across badly to people who don’t get it.

I’d do the same for you, James, if I could think of an unforced way (not ‘James Greenskin’) of suggesting you’re from Betelgeuse.

Don't you remember Mrs Dale's Diary? I do. So that's why I have used the name. No other reason. But as you have asked "we" to give it a rest, I will.
I have now changed my Blogroll to "Iain Dale's Diary" also. A new leaf has been turned over by yours truly, James.
The "ineligible to be an MP" situation definitely deserved all the publicity it got.

But generally, if you are trying to point out the flaws in an opposing candidate isn't it best to take the "more in sorrow than in anger" approach?

It would nice to take a more thoroughly positive approach throughout the year... get our policies better known by the Nail, Telegraph, Sun, Mirror reading public...
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