Sunday, 12 October 2014

More notes from a blue corner: Whoops apocalypse!

As the dust settles on Clacton and Heywood and Middleton and attentions turn toward Rochester and Strood, I think it is a good time to reflect on this “earthquake”. Being the sad politico that I am, I have read the contrasting views of the pundits and caught up on the coverage. I must say that the whole thing casts a very dim light on the quality of our politicians from across the party spectrum, including UKIP. 

The nadire of the whole thing came when the lightweight Greg Hands MP and the chippy, cracked-record Michael Dugher MP started slugging it out over the UKIP swings in Heywood and Middleton. It was like watching two adolescents in a ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competition, full of excuses and dominated by Andrew Neil’s loaded questions. If the main parties was to communicate to the country they need to do better than these turkeys. Why are they not putting their most charismatic, eloquent and media-savvy spokespeople in front of the camera to play this down and rubbish the speculation?

For example, if I had been David Cameron, I would have sent my chief whip down to defend his record (this thing after all happened under his watch) and to offer a shot across the bows for any other Conservatives looking to defect. From a Labour perspective? They should have someone who can effectively communicate the party’s policy and stop Tory-bashing with hollow soundbytes rather than concrete reasoning. I want to see some courage and conviction from an authoritative government and a strong, feisty opposition. Sadly I didn’t see this that night. 

Turning to Clacton, the Conservatives seemed lacklustre, with none of the soapbox sparkling of yesteryear. Of course it was un-winnable, Carswell is a highly popular, local MP who has a very convenient, UKIP sympathetic demographic and has invested a huge amount of his personal time building up support for his cause. However, I think it would have set a good example to have fought the election tooth-and-nail despite the pre-destined outcome, rather than simply saying ‘oh, it’s a by-election, the results will be different in 2015’ - maybe, but this kind of complacency is so deeply unattractive and slightly insulting to the people who want to see the party given the respect and recognition it deserves. 

In my last post, I wrote that we needed to take our message to the doorsteps now, wee beed to have a clear, coherent and thoroughly defiant message. If we believe the Conservatives are doing the right thing by the country, let’s enunciate it through actions as well as words. We should have been all over Clacton, making public statements and vilifying a turncoat, showing that the party machine was prepared to mete its full force on Clacton, in a similar vein to Newark. 

Carswell’s defection reflects the feelings of his voters, the result shows it and he is an intelligent fellow. However, when asked to elucidate his view it was something of a car crash (although no-one probably noticed). His interview with Mr. Neil was spent sparring with the deeply unimpressive Hands and then offering vacuous rhetoric filled with platitudes and the word ‘change’, yet I was left wondering ‘what change’. His speech on re-election was even more devoid of content - then again, isn’t that representative of his new party! Anyway, I had better stop before I am accused of ‘negative campaigning’! 

Rochester and Strood will be a tough one for us, but we (The Conservatives) could win! We need to pull our collective fingers out and dominate the area, the media output, everything! The big hitters need to be seen in the town centre, on the doorsteps, in the supermarket and beating UKIP in the battle of both personalities and ideas - we have so much more to offer, let’s get better at selling it! Let’s stop being complacent about these by-elections. In the words of my old chum, Eric Pickles, “Let’s get campaigning and let’s get cracking.”

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