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Politics. The Stoke By-Election
2017-02-23 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2017-02-15 13:41:09)
The Stoke By-Election
Elections…aren’t they great these days? Even just a couple of years ago by-elections were largely dreary affairs which nobody paid that much attention too. Yes they were always fertile ground for a ‘protest vote’ against the government of the time before reverting to type in a general election. But that was before the world went mental.
Normal politics have gone out of the window. Statesmen have been replaced by self-serving opportunists; the truth is an abstract concept and any shame or remorse replaced by a sense of hubristic entitlement.
First we had Brexit and the most important vote in the UK’s modern history which was without doubt the most lie filled campaign in living memory. The big red bus with the great big lie emblazoned on its side. Vote Brexit and get £350 million a week extra spent on the NHS. Less than 24 hours after the leave vote came the ‘oh no, we were never going to do that’ but we were still coming out because it was immigration wot won it.
Remarkably those that voted Brexit couldn’t give a tinkers cuss that they had been lied to. They were getting their country back (whatever that actually means). Immigration was going to come to an end and our Parliament was going to make our laws.
So far immigration has gone up and the government fought tooth and nail not to let Parliament have a vote on the matter. We haven’t even really started the great untangling that is leaving the E.U. yet and already fuel prices are shooting up, food prices are up and Inflation is at its highest since 2014. All this was predictable but it seems that the narrow majority that won the Brexit vote really don’t care that their standard of living will be coming down, they have their country back!
Which brings us in a roundabout way to the Stoke by-election on the 23rd February. The driving forces behind the leave campaign in the Brexit vote were UKIP and the right wing of the Conservative party, ably supported by a Labour party that sat on its hands, gazing at its own navel unable to decide what their policy was.
Of course the narcissistic Nigel Farage was first in line to claim the credit and dishing out warnings that despite a Brexit vote rendering UKIP surplus to requirements, they would be there to man the barricades if there was any backtracking or even the hint of a ‘soft Brexit’. This was a political movement without any MP’s but it had managed to take the whole of the UK out of the E.U. Ok they officially have one MP, although many call him half a UKIP MP as he was never elected under that banner. Douglas Carswell took a gamble on his political future and jumped ship from the Tories to UKIP as he could see which way the wind was blowing.
Sadly for him UKIP kept on failing at the ballot box when it came to actually getting MP’s elected. They were seen as a protest party and not a party of government. A referendum was one thing, but why vote for UKIP to sit at Westminster with their one agenda, especially now that they have their wish of a ‘hard Brexit’? No reason at all it would seem.
Now that left the party in a quandary. They had been so successful they were all but irrelevant. They were going to lose their money from the European Parliament and those MEPs were going to be looking for gainful employment and a life away from the spotlight. Narcissists like the spotlight and some of the UKIP star names were left looking for something to keep in that warm glow of public attention.
Nigel Farage thought he could find it somewhere up Donald Trump’s arsehole but he was disappointed to find it already occupied by a reserved for Theresa May sign, who to be fair is at least the Prime Minister, albeit an unelected one. As Nige was off to America (as a job seeking immigrant) there followed a chaotic leadership race to see who would take over the redundant body that was UKIP.
Various figures came and went, some couldn’t stand as the papers were reived to late and we were even treated to the sight of a punch up between two alpha male rivals. Yes, UKIP was never dull but it was never electable.
While all this had been going on the end of politics as we have known it was going on the other side of the pond. Donald Trump, partly inspired by the success of UKIPS successful appeal to the angry classes, huffed, puffed and bluffed his way to becoming President of the United States of America. A campaign of simple slogans, stupid promises and jingoism was enough to get the disaffected voters to actually get out and vote for change…any kind of change, even if that change came in the ridiculous form of Donald J. Trump.
The truth or even a good impression of it was no longer required. Just keep on repeating the same crap and people will eventually believe it as truth. Any criticism was deflected as ‘Fake News’ or unfair journalism. It seems that just as Trump took his cue form UKIP, UKIP started to replay the compliment. Lying was acceptable.
To try and extend his life on the political gravy train, Paul Nuttall, a former Tory wannabe, decided to stand for leadership after all the other had punched each other out, became leader and decided he needed a job as a Westminster MP. Cue the Stoke by-election and Mr. Nuttall’s golden ticket to another cosy job in politics.
Why Stoke? Because it had the highest percentage of leave voters of any constituency in the UK (70%). They had embraced UKIPS values and fell over themselves to get their country back. Surely Nuttall couldn’t miss?
The opposition is pathetically weak. The Conservatives aren’t expect to put up much of a fight and will be fighting for 3rd place at best. The LibDems have done very well in by-elections post Brexit but they have no foothold in Stoke aren’t expected to do more than give the Tories a run for third. Which leaves Labour as the only opposition.
Labour……remember them? They have already forgotten about them in Scotland and England and Wales is going exactly the same way. They have no effective leadership, no apparent policies and no connection to their tradition constituencies. Jeremy Corbyn happily fiddles while his Rome burns, content in the fact that he has the backing of the Labour Party membership, ignoring every poll that shows Labours prospect in the next election right up there with the Titanic’s on its maiden voyage.
In their favour is that this was a Labour seat, with the by-election caused by the sitting MP resigning as he saw no future for Labour under its current (non)leadership. Gareth Snell was selected to stand for labour in his place. As a remainer in the Brexit wars, a non Corbyn voter and a resident of Stoke he doesn’t tick all the right boxes but he is defending a lead of 5179 votes in the 2015 general election. UKIP were a narrow second place ahead of the Conservatives and with the more winnable Copeland by-election being held on the same day, they are targeting resources on that constituency. In any case they would rather Labour held Stoke, which should extend Corbyn’s tenuous grip on leadership of the Labour Party. A weak Labour guarantees a Conservative government….perhaps for a very very long time and Corbyn is best thing they have going for them right now.
So the sitting party have picked a candidate who was not in favour of leaving the E.U. in a constituency which was massively in favour of leaving. That seems an unnecessary risk, I am sure they could have found a pro Brexit candidate but Labour seems to have some kind of death wish nowadays.
Surely that sets it all up for Paul Nuttall to finally have a UKIP MP elected to Westminster? He only has one man to beat and he is in the perfect constituency to rally the disaffected voters. The question is, how disaffected are they now? They have got Brexit, they have got a hard Brexit so that’s that. They can now concentrate on normal politics, things that used to matter like the economy, the NHS, education….and immigration. Ah yes….that old chestnut.
Brexit was all about immigration and immigrants. It was the number one motivational factor for those that voted leave. Since then, since the big vote last summer what has happened to immigration? Not a lot. Yes the government has stopped a few thousand children from Syria being allowed to come to the UK, which has gone down well with the Daily Mail/Express readers and has proven that the fear and hatred of immigrants and immigration is just a strong as ever. Not a single E.U. migrant has been sent back and it isn’t a huge leap of logic to think that Mr. Nuttall will play on this common fear of the foreigner.
The real hard core leavers don’t just want out of the E.U., they want a return to the times when their estate was virtually all white, all English working class. The good old days, the land of nostalgia, a myth. In an economy with virtually full employment, business will need to find staff from somewhere and the best trained (and cheapest) often exist abroad. The immigrants who are here will still be needed and even more will be needed, especially if an independent UK is as big a success as Mr. Farage said to would be.
This gives UKIP a lifeline. There is still hate and fear to feed off. All they need is a Trumpesque brass neck to put it out there. A ‘send’em back’ party will still do very well in a constituency such as Stoke. Sadly for UKIP, but not surprisingly, they seem to be finding ways to fuck it up again. In Paul Nuttall they have picked a Walter Mitty character who has made a fool of himself at every turn.
Firstly he tried to pretend he was a resident of Stoke, entering an address in Stoke in which he had never stayed in on his electoral papers. His humiliation on TV was toe curling embarrassing, he couldn’t just admit he had screwed up and in fact he was an opportunistic Scouser who would be pissing back off to Bootle asap.
He was then dismantled by a radio broadcaster who pointed out that he had claimed to lose close friends in the Hillsbrough disaster. He had to admit he didn’t and there are some doubts as to he was even at the game and no Police statement has come to light to prove that he was (everyone at the game was asked for a statement). A party lacky offered to take the blame but Nuttall had been telling his Hillsbrough story for so long that this wouldn’t wash. Then there was his interview in which he said that he agreed with Waterboarding as a means to torture suspects for information, given the right circumstances. All very Trump like.
His biggest skeleton in the closet however was his call for the NHS to be privatised in previous election literature. That will not go down well in a working class area, nor will his turning up dressed as a country squire in his ridiculous Harris Tweed cap and jacket. He is not one of them, despite his best efforts to appear so. A serial liar and fantasist with dangerous right wing views may well not get the kind of support he would in a simple in-out referendum.
He has an over 5000 majority to overcome and he cannot just assume that every Brexit voter will vote for him. It is likely that some will, especially as Labour are such an electoral basket case, but it must be remembered that UKIP have yet to win a seat at Westminster and the previously great British public has not elected far right MP post second world war. We fought the Nazi’s in that war and have been steadfastly against them ever since. Many right wing parties have tried and failed to make democratic inroads and if Nuttall and UKIP buck that trend we really are at the end of times. The genie will be out of the bottle and what will be next? Forced repatriation, bringing back the death penalty will be a stick on, trade wars, race riots, no NHS, who knows where it will all end but it will be very different to what we have become accustomed to in my life time.
Nuttall’s odds hit a low of 3/4 just a few days ago but the gaff ridden interloper has drifted out to 7/4 and heading rapidly for 2/1 or more. He is becoming backable again in what should be a very close two horse race. It is expected that Jeremy Corbyn will visit the constituency in the final days before the vote and that may be enough to get Nuttall’s odds heading back towards evens, such is the disillusionment with Corbyn and his Labour party, now the third most popular work working class British voters. Third behind the Tories and UKIP, that in an age of austerity, unbelievable.
Nuttall may also be helped by the fact that Stokes large Kashmri population may well get behind the Pakistani LibDem candidate, rather than a labour candidate, splitting the anti Nuttall vote and allowing the UKIP leader to get in. It won’t take much in a close race.
If we have learned anything from Brexit and Donald Trump it should be to expect the unthinkable. We now live in different times; some call it populism, others Nazism but whatever it is, it is not what we were used to. Past form is no longer the best guide. Yes, even a badly dressed Eddie Hitler lookalike can be elected to Westminster these days. This is the post truth era and even Paul Nuttall’s terrible campaign may not count against him. Traditional Labour voters have abandoned the party, many moving to UKIP and with the Tories and LibDems not likely to feature it looks like a very rare win for UKIP and a bad night for Corbyn is very possible. A bet on the exchanges gives the opportunity to take a profit before the votes are counted if, as expected, Nuttall’s odds comeback in again.
4 points Paul Nuttall to win the Stoke by-election @ 2.76 or better with Betfair