2013 elections: the alienation of Freelander man

The local election results in England and Wales (mainly rural England in actual fact) are now in. They are somewhere between a protest vote with little relevance to the next Westminster elections and a complete sea change in British politics. As ever the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. It does, however, illustrate an interesting disconnect between the main parties and significant portions of the electorate.

The first thing to remember is that these elections are not national elections. When one looks at the map of England it looks as though almost the whole country has been voting: that is not in actual fact correct. Whilst the majority of the landmass is affected by these county elections it is a much smaller proportion of the electorate. England has some areas with unitary authorities – mainly the cities which are in general more Labour supporting. Then it has the counties which themselves usually have two tiers of local government. It is the larger of these tiers – the county councils which have been being elected. The county councils are in the main the large rural areas of England. Sometimes we in Northern Ireland forget just how much of the landmass of England is rural (sometimes I think some of the English forget – more on that anon). Yorkshire is about the size of Northern Ireland and although it has large cities (Leeds, Sheffield, Hull etc.) it also has huge areas of rural population. Take the second largest county – Lincolnshire: it has an area of 2687 square miles: almost half that of Northern Ireland (albeit it the council area is slightly smaller 2286 sq. miles).

These huge geographical areas then of countryside and small and medium sized towns (large towns by NI standards) have been what has been voting. Many of these counties are traditionally as Tory as the day is long. Going back to Lincolnshire: prior to this Thursday the Tories had 61 of the 77 seats (they lost 24).

Possibly the easiest way to look at the elections is to look at the four parties and how they did and then think about what these voters of the shires want.

Labour
They did well and in addition to the council elections they held David Milliband’s old seat of South Shields relatively easily along with the mayoral elections in Doncaster and North Tyneside (both times unseating Tories). However, it is highly debatable whether Labour did enough to win in 2015. Whilst their strategists claim they did well enough, the Tories point to Michael Foot making similar gains prior to the 1983 general election. The reality is that it is almost impossible to know. The places up for election were not sufficiently Labour to make a proper assessment. That said Blair in his pomp was able to make inroads even into the shires. It is said that Blair had a sort of epiphany when he saw an upper working class / lower middle class man washing his car and realised that that sort of person – later called Mondeo man- was the sort of person he needed to attract. On Thursday Mondeo man was not voting but his rural cousin Landrover Freelander man was. It seems that Labour and its leadership especially have little understanding of how to attract this specific voting dynamic with which Blair had some modest success. He lost some of that with the fox hunting bill. Not that Freelander man is a horse riding toff but somehow that bill and the Countryside Alliance’s campaign helped make working and lower middle class rural voters feel that Labour was a metropolitan elite with no interest in them. An extremely simplistic analogy might be with the way poor southern state whites who had no slaves opposed the end of slavery in the prelude to the American Civil War / War Between the States / War of Northern Aggression (I know the American Civil War is much more complicated that that but the analogy of an issue of little direct importance but important as a symbol has some similarities).

Liberal Democrats
They did remarkably less dreadfully than they should have done. It needs to be remembered just how badly the Liberal Democrats are doing in the national polls. After the heady days of Clegg mania the junior partners in the coalition have become a laughing stock in by elections. Where once they tended to do well in by elections as part of a protest vote they are now routinely pushed into fourth place sometimes into the levels of support enjoyed by the neo Nazis, independents and Loony candidates. In Eastleigh and to a lesser extent in these county council elections, however, they managed to demonstrate that they, like many unpleasant infections, once in there are difficult to get rid of. What these elections again show though is that trying to keep the sorts of levels of support they had at the 2010 election is a highly, almost impossibly, ambitious goal. That for a party which saw involvement in the coalition as a stepping stone to greater successes is remarkable. That no one in the party seems able to come up with a strategy and that Clegg’s leadership remains relatively secure after the semi success of Eastleigh is even more remarkable.

Possibly the main problem for the Liberal Democrats is that the disconnect between the politics of the leadership of the party and the politics of its activists let alone voters is greater in the Liberal Democrats than for any other party. The median Liberal Democrat voter tends to be much more economically left wing than the party hierarchy. This has been known about for years: the Liberal Democrats under Clegg are actually Liberal in the old fashioned sense of the term – a laissez faire liberalism of the school of Lord John Russell rather than that of David Lloyd George. The Orange Book written by senior LDs could have come from a right wing libertarian think tank and even proposed large scale part privatisation of the NHS. The social liberalism of the Liberal Democrat leadership (and the lust for power) has held the support of some of their activists but it is not especially likely to appeal to the shire counties or even those of the southwest. The fact that in the southwest the yokels drink cider rather than beer does not make them raging social liberals. The tuition fees débâcle may be becoming a bit less of a live issue but the ongoing economic right wing, socially left wing position of the Liberal Democrats and the growing realisation of this by the electorate makes the LDs the most out of touch with their core electorate of any British political party.

Conservatives
The Tories are the big losers in this election. Whichever way one looks at it they have been hit and hit hard in some of their heartlands. There is no doubt that much of this is a protest vote and that much of it will return to them at the next election – most of those shire MPs need not panic. The main problem seems to be what the Tories can do about these results. Their leadership persona is highly problematic. The party leadership is seen in many of the shires as an out of touch socially liberal urban ultra elite: remember this is the poshest cabinet since the Edwardian era. Furthermore Cameron seems endlessly fond of promoting cronies of the same social class as himself. Cameron may claim to have been the heir to Blair but Blair managed, despite his relatively privileged background, to avoid the appearance of an out of touch member of the minor aristocracy who decided to become Prime Minister because he thought he would be good at it. Cameron seems unable to project an understanding of the middle class strivers he claims to want to support.

The solution for the Tories woes has repeatedly been suggested to be to move to the right socially. There is certainly some currency in that suggestion. Those in the shires are probably not especially homophobic but the obsession with gay marriage at a time when there are so many other pressing economic and social issues looks odd. It jars even more because it is obviously part of the project to “detoxify” the Tory brand and “broaden its appeal” which Freelander man sees as simply trying to win plaudits from the urban metropolitan elite and media. Cameron may have a seat in Oxfordshire and a house in Chipping Norton but he is very definitely not of the country squire let alone the rural working class. He may pass Freelander man on the way to Chipping Norton but has no idea of his concerns.

UKIP
UKIP has done spectacularly well. One needs to remember that they took 25% of the vote: an almost unbelievable result. This gives them a bridgehead in all sorts of places. It also, however opens their politicians up to greater scrutiny. UKIP may not be a one man band but few of his underlings could possibly have Nigel Farage’s sureness of touch. From his smoking, beer drinking persona to his refusal to have a standard political image Farage has a persona and an image: that of the antipolitician politician. Many of his acolytes may be exposed to be less sure footed, of mediocre quality as politicians, having unpleasant political views or even simply being mad. This is much more likely now that they have some level of political exposure and even power. A further problem is the relatively uniform spread of UKIP support throughout the UK. In a first past the post system UKIP could end up coming second or third in seat after seat and yet take few or even none.

More than anything this election demonstrates the disconnect between very many of the English electorate and those who wish to govern them. The liberal elites obsession with social liberalism is frequently met with incomprehension from many in the shires. This is not because these people are stupid, bigoted or ill educated. It is because many simply do not see why socially liberal ginger issues are important. When in the depths of a recession / non recovery of greater magnitude than anything since the war, obsessing about the importance of gay marriage just seems madly irrelevant: even madder than the odd behaviour of some UKIPers.

It would be wrong, however, for either the Tories or UKIP to assume, however, that these shire voters all want ultra right policies. Immigration from Eastern Europe is a problem in some parts of the shires especially the east of England where large numbers of immigrants are employed in agriculture. The problem is that these people are often dreadfully paid and housed in awful conditions yet due to the grinding poverty in their home countries they are better off than they would be at home. This then prices local people out of the market as seasonal agricultural labourers. Before there was immigration better wages had to be paid: the turnips did not all rot in the fields of Norfolk in the 1990s. Despite the above much research shows that the English are not especially racist. Hence, the solution is probably far from a simplistic right wing immigration policy. More relevant would be to impose the standards of minimum wages and appropriate accommodation on those running the supply of agricultural manual labour. That would be a mechanism by which mainstream politicians could tackle a major issue for rural working class communities without pandering to racism. It does of course leave unaddressed the problem of absolute freedom of movement and benefit tourism from within the EU.

If some of the solutions sought by those in rural England are socially right wing there are also plenty of left wing populist issues which the mainstream parties especially the coalition and even Labour are unwilling to touch. There remains a considerable constituency of people who regard railway privatisation as having been a disaster. Rail prices have gone up dramatically all in the name of making the railways pay. This at times seem as short sighted as Beeching. One could easily argue the environmental, societal and economic benefits of major public investment in local railways and not just HS2 which again seems to be for the benefit mainly of urban dwellers. Pricing people off the roads is less popular and less effective than attracting and incentivising them onto public transport by making it local, cheap and pleasant.

The environmental issues bring people back to issues like global warming which with successive hard winters and washout summers have lost much of their resonance. Again the urban elite may worry about the Antarctic sea ice and explain that climate change and weather patterns are not related but the simple fact is that most people outside that elite have more pressing concerns. One might even produce a truly radical plan and suggest that energy security leads one to think that we should generate electricity from a major resource present in the UK. Mainland GB is practically made of coal and yet for supposed economic reasons we stopped taking it out of the ground to burn in the power stations of the likes of the Trent Valley leaving us dependent largely on imported gas. Enviromentalism now tells we must not burn coal to make power but as mentioned above fewer people worry about the Greenland icecaps than did a decade ago.

The above are deliberately grossly simplified issues: they illustrate, however, that the political consensus of the current three parties is highly convergent. This is a position Farage has mercilessly exploited. He is handicapped, however, by the fact that he seems personally fairly right wing and his party even further to the right. This along with the amateurism of many of his members may well preclude UKIP making serious inroads at Westminster. These are also issues which the Tories under their current leadership seem unlikely to be able to progress and are the opposite of what the Liberal Democrats want.

There is a party which could exploit an economically left wing and socially more right wing analysis. It is of course Labour. Many in Blue Labour have been advocating this already: It seems unclear if Milliband can or will listen. As has been mentioned before of course there is one area where an economically left wing, socially relatively right wing set of policies have repeatedly triumphed for Labour. If one wants to see a successful political application of the sorts of policies closer to that of the median English shire voter oddly one could do worse than look at the Labour Party of South Wales. The answer to getting Freelander man’s vote may lie in the Welsh valleys.

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  • Framer

    In short, and for the first time in a century, the Conservative/right wing in England is split neatly down the middle.
    London, the metropolitan elite, the public sector aristocracy, the chattering classes (BBC included) and finance in its many forms, not to mention the well-heeled and subsidised Celtic fringes, can no longer corral and subdue the grumbling English foot-soldiers and tax payers.
    It was the Tories under Major who brought EU extension to the communist east and Bliar who used cheap Polish labour to fuel the global boom which Brown said could never end. He then borrowed ever more.
    It’s all over. The ruling class of all three parties in our one-party state has been found out. The world has turned upside down and the consequences will be ever more extreme.

  • Alanbrooke

    “If one wants to see a successful political application of the sorts of policies closer to that of the median English shire voter oddly one could do worse than look at the Labour Party of South Wales.”

    “Oddly” certainly. How a failing education system, a health service with major problems, teenage pregnancy, benefit dependency and public sector porkbarrelling is meant to appeal to mister average englander leaves me scratching my head. Are Wales and NI twinned ?

  • To be honest, I think that even allowing for blue collar support…UKIP is little more than a third generation Monday Cub.
    the 1960s they were imperialists with a Rhodesia fixation.
    By the 1980s it was about Essex men and women and Europe.
    By 2013, it is about Europe and Migration and Libertarianism.
    This time around they are outside the tent and not inside it.

  • Turgon

    Alanbrooke,
    I was talking about electoral success. Labour in South Wales have exactly that. Yours is an irrelevant tangent about the failures / problems in Wales and Labour’s responsibility. The fact that Labour enjoys such electoral success despite such issues simply proves my point about electoral success which was the purpose of the article.

    Your scratching your head simply shows you did not understand the point – or maybe you have head lice – or both.

  • Alanbrooke

    Turgon

    your point appears to be based on mindless tribal voting patterns which is what they have in most of South Wales – so maybe my point on NI and Wales being twinned is more accurate than I realised. But equally there is already mindless tribal voting in England. Try Rotherham where the MP can embezzle cash, the bigwigs will let your daughters get gang-raped and they’ll still vote the same way.

    I just think you’re ujsing the wrong parameter of what electoral success is. success is when you persuade someone to vote differently. There hasn’t really been any electoral change in places like Merthyr or Blaenau for as long as I can remember.

    As for Blue Labour – well not with Miliband running the show.

  • DC

    Unfortunately, Blue Labour is the terrible come down from the New Labour years, like some sort of ecstasy pill come down, it is the realisation that nothing was really changed, it was only a cheap high, a big party, which was to be had on cheap credit, easy money, it intoxicated the body politic. It was really supposed to be the end of boom and bust.

    I shall present Tony Blair’s final speech below, much of which can now be discounted as the things which he bigged up, such as economic growth and public spending achievements, were all as a result of cheap credit, bogus credit, now known as toxic debt, this will all have to be paid back:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_oOtN59_Ft0#t=389s

    All that ‘economic growth in every quarter’ as a result of his New Labour leadership can now be discounted, it was just a credit bubble fuelled economy, which burst.

    Who shall fess up to this? The Tories? Why it would require modifying Thatcherism. Will Labour? Why it would require apologising for its similar ‘hands off’ approach to the running of the economy and apologising for certain aspects of the Blair years, all very very difficult and painful to do, besides who has the balls and stomach in Labour to do that, what a narrative that would have to be written then explained and led on by Miliband. The media would have a field day. He’s not up for that! Sure Balls, Brown and even Cooper are still on the political scene, none will accept fault but in my eyes are culpable.

    No, bluff will have to do by all three main parties, ‘growth strategy’ criticisms will have to do rather than examining structural change across the range, across the economic front: financial markets, banking, tax system etc. Nope, too difficult. Don’t frighten the horses because of capital flight.

    Although Vince Cable a while ago did seem to be voicing some concerns and pushing in the right direction, not sure what happened him on this. I guess power corrupts.

  • Turgon

    Alanbrooke,
    Sorry you are (sort of) wrong on that one. Blaenau Gwent has actually elected independents when Labour tried an all woman short list. You are more accurate on Merthyr. Then again exactly the same could be said of Louth and its sucessor Louth and Horncastle.

    Many seats are stable and I suspect few of the Tory shires will fall to UKIP at the general election. What is relevant, however, is that it is not impossible to have a socially somewhat more right wing, economically more left wing position and gain electoral success. If one looks at the surveys done of opinion in the UK that is not an uncommon view. It is also one which is not being put forward to any great extent by the mainstream parties.

    In actual fact Farage himself seems surprisingly close to such a position on some issues. That may very well be simple populaism though as I said before in a blog (largely from John Harris in the Guardian) there is a lack of understanding of true conservatism in the UK’s political parties.

    I sometimes wonder if this is because of the obsession with new, progressive etc. and concepts such as that. The idea of conserving and modernising the old when it is useful along with ditching the old when appropriate is a difficult concept to get across. Also of course knowing which old things it would be useful to save is difficult. Back to Dr. Beeching. Whilst experts do not have a monopoly of wisdom neither does the market.

    Incidentally (and I am not trying to get at you) talking about “mindless tribal voting” though I understand what you mean is not that good an idea politically.

  • DC

    2007 – Tony Blair: “look at the British economy – at ease with globalisation…”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_oOtN59_Ft0#t=475s

  • Alanbrooke

    Turgon

    I would agree with you reference political positioning but what I think we have in mainland UK atm is a summary seen on another blog ( Political betting ).

    Labour = public sector + dependent industries + immigrants
    Conservatives = international capitalism, big business, globalisation winners
    UKIP = national capitalism, SMEs, WWC, globalisation losers
    LDs = spread a bit all over the place.

    The problem for the UK at present is with the exception of the regional parties and UKIP most of the politcal leaders come from the same background. They have more in common with each other than with their electorate. Whether the current peasants’ revolt can sustain its force remains to be seen, but if it does then there will need to be a substantial rethink as to how to engage with a big chunk of society, particularly those who have come off worse in the new global economic order. And this will be made all the harder when there is no money left and the usual panacea of throwing cash at a problem is no longer available. Interesting times.

  • DC

    And in 2010 and onwards the reality:

  • Turgon

    Alanbrooke,
    “They have more in common with each other than with their electorate.”

    Very true. I think the peasants revolt is an excellent term and one I will steal as I mercilessly stole letsgetalongerists from fitzjameshorse 1745. I think the peasants revolt may well fail as the peasants tend to come from differing viewpoints and are likely to say “a plague on all your houses” without being willing / able to set up an alternative. Still it makes life more interesting.

  • Greenflag

    Excellent post election analysis Turgon

    @ DC ,,

    ‘Don’t frighten the horses because of capital flight.’

    Our Mr Rabbitte is not afraid of Goldman Sachs or so he says anyway

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2013/0504/390367-aib-michael-somers/

  • aquifer

    Big capital needs stooges in government to police property rights to keep their rentals and interest payments coming, and to socialise bank losses, but British workers are surplus to requirements when others are cheaper or have better skills. So more taxes, repossessions of homes, no more jobs for life with high wages for the locals.

    Neo-liberal economic cults have downsized government so that it can no longer bribe the populace into quiescence.

    Lobbyists for business ensure that the last thing to happen will be rational policy interventions that create jobs health and opportunity, and which work to prevent extortion and destruction.

    National governments cannot keep international capital in the one place for long enough to pay its dues. Workers are not paid enough to buy stuff.

    The game is up. This could go anywhere.

    Scapegoating can gather a fearful us against an other them.

    Socialists and trendy revolutionistas cannot be trusted with an economy, so enter the guy next door who is just ‘not going to take it any more’ and needs someone to blame without blaming himself for not knowing what was going on.

    And that was governments bribing us on the never never, and big capital lending to governments because they are licensed to beat the repayments out of us if times get tight.

    Enter UKIP. Prejudice the short cut to wisdom.

    But with first past the post they split the vote and Labour gets in, a middle aged hangover from student politics and Uniondom. Much worse things can happen. MLAs?.

  • The article is misleading in that it did NOT cover the 4 main parties. There are more Green councillors than UKIP councillors, even after these elections. There are Green controlled councils, but not a single UKIP controlled one.

    And in my local area of Oxfordshire, including the seat of David Cameron, UKIP failed everywhere. It was Labour, Lib. Dems., Greens and Independents that took enough seats from the Conservatives to loose them control of Oxfordshire County Council.

    Now the rise of UKIP is unexpected, and therefore news. But they have a way to go before they catch up with the Green Party, let alone the Liberal Democrats.

  • Greenflag

    @ aquifer ,

    Some add ons to your lucid comment above ,

    ‘but British workers are surplus to requirements when others are cheaper or have better skills.’

    Not just British -Spanish , American , Irish , Japanese and I now read South Chinese ( a later comment hereunder).

    ‘Neo-liberal economic cults have downsized government so that it can no longer bribe the populace into quiescence.’

    Not just that but they have made governments hostage to their multinational financial interest above all else . In the USA they have led the downward spiral of State Governments competing with each other to see who can reduce the most number of teachers -pay the lowest State taxes etc etc etc and finally when the lowest cost USA State can no longer offer enough ‘freebies ‘ the corporation will outsource to China etc .

    ‘Lobbyists for business ensure that the last thing to happen will be rational policy interventions that create jobs health and opportunity, and which work to prevent extortion and destruction.’

    Full marks for the obvious .Does anyone still believe that if it weren’t for government regulation and trade union activism that UK and USA and European workers would ever have achieved the incomes they currently earn ?

    ‘National governments cannot keep international capital in the one place for long enough to pay its dues. Workers are not paid enough to buy stuff.’

    It’s actually worse that that . International capital is demanding that incomes be reduced in developed countries so that workers will be paid even less so that they purchase less so that they can be paid even less etc in the downward spiral that leads to eventual blood on the streets .

    ‘The game is up. This could go anywhere.’

    It looks like a slow dying end to ‘democratic capitalism ‘ or whatever is left of it and it’s replacement by authoritarian -top down -non democratic plutocrat rule a.k.a banksters and international financial capital . It could of course tip to extreme left totalitarianism when the western middle class is emisserated to that point when all pretense is finally given up that the system can be fixed /repaired.

    ‘Scapegoating can gather a fearful us against an other them.’

    Indeed it has begun and grows even in developed countries like the UK /USA /Belgium /Spain -North v South -class warfare -worsening race relations -religious sectarianism etc etc. From todays BBC evidence of growing anti semitism in Europe .
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22413301

    ‘Socialists and trendy revolutionistas cannot be trusted with an economy,’

    No more so than the neo con destructionistas.

    And in South China textile factories lie idle as the companies have upped and left for Bangla Desh and Vietnam where wages are lower and safety regulations for workers even less implemented . Meanwhile the Indian Government constructs 1500 mile long border fence to prevent Bangla Desh’s 170 million people from crossing into India in a region which already has been experiencing sectarian conflict between Hindu and Islam .

    The wurrld is in a state of chassis (chaos ) -again – as Captain Boyle remarked in O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock.

    And those in charge of the chaos and responsible for it seem utterly bereft of practical solutions .

  • This discussion looks like an elongated, and less well-composed version of Andrew Rawnsley’s piece in today’s [London edition] Observer.

    I think I even recognise some “borrowings”.

    I’m recollecting the late Julian Critchley, the Tory MP for Rochester between 1959-64, then retreaded for Aldershot for 1970-1997. Critchley was a gad-fly to whom Thatcher never took (and whom he mocked disgracefully — it was he, not as frequently-cited Denis Healey, who stuck on her the moniker, “the Great She-Elephant”). As a result the ministerial team was denied one of the brighter sparks in sight.

    My reason for this memory is that Critchley deplored the dumbing-down of the Tory Party, and the arrival of the “garagistes” (I’ll stand correction on that spelling, though I reckon Critchley would have made it as effete as possible). So, three decades on, and the change of a single initial letter, we are fulfilling his prophecy.

  • Turgon

    malcolm Redfellow,
    “This discussion looks like an elongated, and less well-composed version of Andrew Rawnsley’s piece in today’s [London edition] Observer.

    I think I even recognise some “borrowings”.”

    You may like Rawnsley’s piece better: that is fine. However, I always attribute anything I use of someone else’s. I take an accusation of plagarism very seriously. Now which bits did I plagarise: put up or shut up.

    Incidenally since I posted my blog at 4.20pm BST (16:20) and Andrew Rawnsley posted his at 20:48 on the same day (ie afterwards) you are wrong Malcolm. Your accusation is either a mistake or a defamatory lie.

    I await a full retraction and an apology though you are of course free to say that you prefer Rawnsley’s piece.

  • Oh, Turgon-the-Wise, you are so prickly. And, when I’ve nothing to retract, I cannot do so — fully or not.

    “This discussion” is not the same as “the headline piece”. Glad you seem to be claiming “borrowings” by Rawnsley from your piece, on the basis of post hoc ergo propter hoc. However, his point (and a valid one) is the direct opposite of yours:

    Pending on who has been speaking, the surge to Ukip is either a “sea change” in British politics or it is a “seismic event”.

    To which I say: take a cold shower and calm down. Nigel Farage is understandably elated – and the established parties are naturally stunned – by Ukip’s performance in the county council elections, but it is deserving of neither comparisons with earthquakes nor quotes from Shakespeare. A sea change is what happened when Jim Callaghan was booted out by Margaret Thatcher at the general election of 1979 to usher in 18 years of Conservative rule. A seismic event is what occurred when Tony Blair won the general election of 1997 by the largest parliamentary landslide in modern history. On Thursday, Ukip won just shy of a quarter of the votes in local government elections mainly confined to the shires of England, in which a third of the potential electorate turned out. That is clearly noteworthy, but it is extremely premature to start jabbering that this is a historic turning point.

    Now show me “a defamatory lie”, for “defamation” does not necessarily require a “lie”. So, by the by, here is a plagiary in the form of an unattributed quotation. Your starter for ten, perhaps, to identify the source:

    Whilom ther was dwellynge in my contree
    And erchedeken, a man of heigh degree,
    That boldely dide execucioun
    In punysshynge of fornicacioun,
    Of wicchecraft, and eek of bawderye,
    Of difamacioun, and avowtrye,
    Of chirche reves, and of testamentz,
    Of contractes and of lakke of sacramentz,
    Of usure, and of symonye also.

    And a bonus for explaining avowtrye. Hint: it’s got little directly to do with “avow”.

  • The article is not about the 4 main parties. There are still more Green than UKIP councillors, and there is not a single council run by UKIP. They have a way to go before they catch up with the Greens, let alone the Lib. Dems,

    (I tried to post this last night at 1 a.m., but CloudFlare told me the site was unreachable as soon as I submitted the comment.)

  • Turgon

    Malcolm,
    You accused me of plagarism. I have demonstrated that that is impossible as I posted my article prior to the publication of the article you claim I plagarised.

    I want you to accept that it is impossible for me to have “borrowed” anything from Rawnsley’s piece seeing as it was published after I posted my blog. Claiming that I took from Rawnsley’s article without attribution is defamatory.

    Furthermore I have not now accused Rawnsley of “borrowing” from my piece. That is simply untrue.

    Separately I have not claimed this was a sea change election. I noted at the top that it might be a sea change or irrelevant and the truth was likely to be somewhere in the middle. Please try to stop putting words into my mouth.

  • Turgon @ 7:20 pm:

    In paragraph order:

    I didn’t. By definition, it is impossible to demonstrate an impossible; and I never implied it, anyway.

    Probably so. No, it’s not.

    I didn’t say that: I was using irony: “Glad you seem to be claiming …” Seem, Turgon.

    Fair enough, but it’s still the opposite of Rawnsley. And vice versa.

  • Turgon

    Malcolm,
    I am gald you have accepted that I did not plagarise Rawnsley. I am also gald you accept that I did not accuse him of plagarising me. Thank you

  • Now we’ve got that other business off our backs, is it possible to return to the main issue?

    Even at the expense of referring to another newspaper opinion piece? Dangerous, but …

    There are a handful of decent right-of-centre columnists whom I try not to miss. Obviously the stables at the Torygraph and the Mail exclude themselves.

    One I do rate — not because I agree with him, but because he is human and humane — is Tim Montgomerie, now featured behind the pay-wall at the Times. I’d suggest the opening four paragraphs of Montgomerie’s pice this Monday are as good a check-list as you’ll find:

    Spend most of your time as Tory leader ignoring the issue that matters most to your activist members: Europe. Launch your bid to be leader by promising to introduce a tax allowance for married couples and then, once you’ve won power, fail to deliver that pledge at four successive Budgets. Tell parents that they can set up any school they want as long as it’s not the one they most want, a grammar school.

    Stop Gordon Brown holding a honeymoon election in 2007 by promising to abolish inheritance tax but then put it up in office. Spend the general election campaign talking about an issue that no one understands — the Big Society — and don’t talk about immigration, an issue that three-quarters of voters do care about. Subsidise expensive renewable energies at a time when families are struggling to pay their electricity bills.

    Form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats even though 80 per cent of your members want you to lead a minority government. Promise not to reorganise the NHS, then reorganise it anyway. Oppose press regulation but then embrace it. Keep pledging to tackle European human rights laws but do nothing when Abu Qatada proves again and again that Britain is run by inventive lawyers rather than democratically-drafted laws.

    Insist that you want to reach out to northern and poorer parts of Britain but stuff your Downing Street operation with southern chums who attended the same elite private schools as you. And, just for good measure, insult people who normally vote for your party as clowns, fruitcakes and closet racists.

    There are at least six policy-points there that I find close to abominable; but I’m not a Tory, and not seduced by Farage’s forked tongue to bite his rotten apple.