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With The Liberal Democrats In Government, Other By-Election Protest Vehicles Are Required. Hence Galloway’s Election Yesterday

Last Updated: Friday, March 30th, 2012

Bradford West voted for George Galloway because Respect mobilised Muslims to vote on a religious basis.  Bradford West voted for Galloway because white working class voters failed to support Labour.  Bradford West voted for him because of the failures of the local Labour council, and because the party’s candidate was that council’s Deputy Leader.  The Bradford West result is important and alarming, because it demonstrates that confessional politics can work in Britain.  The Bradford West result is a one-off with no significance whatsoever: no Respect candidate other than Galloway would have won, and had the canny eye of the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant not lighted on Bradford, Labour would have won – and the commentators would today be prophesying an Ed Miliband premiership rather than the Labour leader’s demise.

Truth may be found in all these wildly different snap observations or none: since the Westminster Village consensus failed to predict Galloway’s victory, it is too early to jump to conclusions.  But when one places it alongside the long-term political trends – lower turnout, a falling vote share for the three main parties,  declining political party membership, the transformation of MPs from elected spokesmen for labour or capital to professional politicians financed by the taxpayer – the result is extremely suggestive.  This is not so much because of Galloway’s party, Respect, which to date has squeezed Labour less effectively than UKIP is squeezing the Conservatives.  Rather, it is a very clear example of the power of the charismatic independent.

We may hear more of the breed during the coming Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections this year.  It is possible that strong single-issue candidates may pop up during the by-elections that will precede those polls: Labour has the most to lose here, because it is Labour MPs – most recently Colin Byrne, a central figure in Labour’s national operation as their head of policy – who are ready to stand down if elected as commissioners or Mayors, such as Gisela Stuart and Alun Michael.  It’s worth remembering that a group of doctors recently threatened to stand at the next election in relation to the recent health bill.  Voters may be less willing to take a chance on independents or the smaller parties at general elections: after all, Galloway came third in Limehouse in 2010.

But with the Liberal Democrats, those traditional repositories of by election protest, now in Government the baton of protest has been passed elsewhere.  Galloway is the outsider of outsiders – a loner by temperament and character – and the Bradford West result indicates that new forces are taking it up and running with it.

By Paul Goodman

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK FROM CONSERVATIVEHOME

Peter Young: The HMRC’s report into the former 50p rate provides the evidence for substantial tax cuts
“The political objective must now be to secure properly competitive tax rates, and that means not just the abolition of the 45% top rate (actually 47% including NI) but also substantial reductions in the 40% rate, which will soon be paid by an amazing 5 million people. All the international evidence shows that cutting high tax rates boosts both revenue and growth.  We should thank HM Customs and Excise for their excellent report which provides further evidence that this is indeed the case.” Read more: http://is.gd/ASNNwF

Paul Goodman: Cameron and Osborne execute a V-turn on their opposition to a third Heathrow runway
“The paper also quotes Cameron as saying that “Gatwick is emerging as a business airport for London under a new owner, competing with Heathrow. No construction work could start at Gatwick until 2019 but this would not stop officials drawing up plans to establish a framework.” The blue majorities in the Gatwick area tend to be larger than those in West London.  I suspect that Gatwick it will be.  Victoria Borwick has suggested a Heathrow-Gatwick rail link on this site.  I would be curious to see a list of the seats that it would run through.” Read more: http://is.gd/KGxa9C

Matthew Barrett: Where’s the Party Chairman?
“It would be far better to have a full-time attack dog to take the lead on difficult issues for the Conservative Party. That attack dog should be the Chairman of the Party, currently Sayeeda Warsi. Baroness Warsi was nowhere to be seen yesterday. David Cameron needs to appoint a good media handler as Chairman so we can have a very clear message the next time the Party needs some help managing a bad news story. He could appoint Michael Fallon to the full position, or he could, as Tim Montgomerie has suggested, appoint someone with a view to recreating the role in the style of Norman Tebbit or Cecil Parkinson, to help plot victory in 2015.” Read more: http://is.gd/Ugpk4g

Stephan Shakespeare: The logic of the electoral map suggests that Cameron will prioritise a renewed coalition, not a Tory majority
“An overall majority demands as a precondition – by simple maths – that the LibDems be virtually destroyed. The strategy that gets you there also makes future coalition much less likely. Ergo, Conservatives will not attempt a bold-but-risky majority-winning strategy, but will prioritise some kind of continued partnership. This brings its own new issues, which Miliband may yet be able to exploit. And if he should gain a little more credibility – if a few people start to believe he may become PM – might that create its own momentum?” Read more: http://is.gd/JQA8jv

Jill Kirby: George Osborne’s crazy cap on big donors to charities must be reversed
“David Cameron is scheduled to speak at a Giving Summit taking place at the Natural History Museum in May. That leaves him about six weeks in which to persuade George Osborne to reinstate unlimited tax breaks for gifts to charity. If he fails to do so, the boycott of that event, already threatened by some charity leaders, could sink his hopes of a flourishing voluntary sector taking the strain off the state. It is surely better to back down now. Capping donations to the Tory party might force economies but it won’t be a tragedy. Capping tax-free donations to the voluntary sector, however, will have serious and damaging long term consequences.” Read more: http://is.gd/snwy5M

Mark Field MP: The cost of keeping the Liberal Democrats inside the Coalition may undermine Tory candidates’ election prospects
“As the General Election approaches, if such an arrangement were to come to pass, those hapless Tory candidates fighting such Liberal Democrat rebels may find themselves in the bizarre position of defending the government’s record against an incumbent opponent who has licence to distance himself from a coalition of which he is a part, having had licence to ‘vote with my conscience’. When the penny drops that this would undermine Conservative chances in key target seats, and thus the possibility of a Tory majority, coalition tensions will intensify.” Read more: http://is.gd/bKoxN9

Tim Montgomerie: Cameron needs Growth, Grit and Grip
“We chose austerity as our main economic message when we should have chosen growth. William Hague needs to give a landmark, scene-setting speech on the global economic challenges. We need big reports and conferences on the state of the nation and our readiness to compete in the world. If people understand the extent of the economic challenge they’ll buy the party with the remedy. We then need to administer the remedy. The moves on 50p, localised pay bargaining and airport capacity are all welcome but they are happening dangerously late in the political cycle. Too much Government energy has been devoted to what should have been second term projects like NHS and Lords reform.” Read more: http://is.gd/gUb0pQ

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