On a night when Paul Nuttall, British politics’ very own Walter Mitty, followed in the illustrious footsteps of his predecessor as UKIP leader by failing to gain entry to Westminster, there were mixed messages again for Jeremy Corbyn. Had Labour failed to retain Stoke-on-Trent Central, a seat they’ve held since its inception in 1950, chances are we may have had to endure yet another leadership election; as it turned out, Labour didn’t lose the by-election triggered by the recent resignation of Tristram Hunt, but it was a different story up in Cumbria.
Until the early hours of this morning, 1982 was the last time a sitting government won a by-election in a constituency held by the opposition; that the Tories took Copeland from a Labour Party that has clung onto the seat since 1935 either suggests Theresa May is the most successful Prime Minister since Mrs T or that the Conservatives are blessed to be up against such weak opposition. I suspect the latter is closer to the truth, though various factors played their part in this upset.
With the Sellafield Nuclear Power Station being a major employer in the constituency, it’s possible Jeremy Corbyn’s famous aversion to nuclear power influenced the 6% swing away from Labour towards the Tories. The Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison overturned a Labour majority of 2,564, which is an achievement not to be sniffed at; the last time a sitting government enjoyed such an impressive by-election victory was in January 1966, a win for Labour in Hull North that filled Harold Wilson with enough confidence to call a General Election that March. Confronted by a Labour Party incapable of holding onto a seat it has owned since the days of Clement Attlee, maybe Theresa May will attempt to strike before 2020 after all.
Had Labour lost Stoke Central, it’d be feasible to claim Corbyn isn’t working beyond his London heartland; as it is, holding at least one traditional Labour seat has given the beleaguered leader a breather, but for how much longer? Yes, he is beloved by the faithful, but half of Corbyn’s own MPs can’t abide him, and his message isn’t exactly sweeping the country when the party in power is hardly the most popular to ever hold office. It seems to be a damning indictment of the dearth of talent Labour can call upon that it has nobody capable of realistically challenging Jezza or of connecting with the electorate outside of metropolitan enclaves. The prospects aren’t great, whenever the next General Election takes place.
Equally, UKIP may have taken the runner-up prize in Stoke, but their hopes were considerably higher in a city that voted overwhelmingly Leave in last year’s EU Referendum; if it can’t win there, where can it win? Answers on a postcard to Bongo-Bongo Land. Being the permanent bridesmaid doesn’t amount to much in an electoral system that continues to adhere to a first-past-the-post policy, and for all their headline-grabbing PR it’s hard to envisage that situation changing – especially when the one thing UKIP formed for in the first place has actually happened now.
So, what do last night’s events tell us about the current political landscape? Well, it confirmed UKIP as the No.1 protest vote party again, an honour once held for decades by the Lib Dems; it confirmed Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to invigorate voters outside of those who see the sun every time he bends over; and it confirmed that even a Government that, in one shape or another, has steered the country through seven bloody awful years can still keep winning when the competition is so piss-poor. The Revolution has been postponed for the moment.
The decision of the Leicester City FC board to dispense with the services of their manager Claudio Ranieri is the latest example of how the cut-and-thrust tactics that were once the hallmark of continental football have infiltrated the Premier League. The man who achieved arguably the most remarkable miracle in English soccer since Brian Clough captured the league championship with newly-promoted Nottingham Forest in 1978 is now out of a job, barely nine months after leading his team to an unimaginable pinnacle.
With last season’s champions now hovering just a point above the bottom three, the Leicester board have panicked and sacked the man whose Midas Touch has deserted the club in a ridiculously short time. But the players deserve to carry the can for the disaster as much as the manager; their performances have been largely lacklustre this season. Perhaps the shock transition from making up the numbers to suddenly being amongst the big-money prima donnas has gone to their heads. Maybe; but there’s precious little other excuses they could come up with to justify their appalling lack of commitment to the cause of defending their title. And now the man who masterminded that title has paid the price for their on-the-pitch indolence.
A sign of how times have changed is that when Leeds United won the league in 1992, they too followed it with an embarrassingly bad defence, finishing the following season in a pathetic 17th position after failing to win a single away game and allowing Eric Cantona to be picked-up by arch-rivals Manchester United for a mere £1 million. Yet manager Howard Wilkinson kept his job for another three years before being shown the door; had today’s rules applied, he’d have bitten the bullet before the end of the 1992/93 season.
Moreover, Alex Ferguson would never have lasted three-and-a-half years at Old Trafford until winning the FA Cup in 1990 were he at the helm for the same period without success today. The great money chasm between the Premier League and the Championship has instilled a fear in the boards of the top division’s clubs that provokes knee-jerk responses when relegation or an empty trophy cabinet stare them in the face. But it negates building the foundations for long-term success when football adopts a quick-fix mentality. That it should happen to a decent man such as Ranieri and at a club all neutrals were delighted to see crowned champions last May says a great deal about the national sport at a domestic level.
© The Editor
11 thoughts on “HELLO GOODBYE”
Both by-election sites were ‘unusual’ but the results still offer messages. Copeland had been losing its Labour vote for many years, the last straw was Corbyn’s anti-nuclear stance, coupled with the Tories’ ‘success’ at pursuing Brexit – add to that the demise of the Lib-Dems as a serious interference-factor and it proved an easy run for the Tories.
Stoke probably indicated that the hard-core Labour vote stayed loyal but the lower turnout suggests that many preferred to stay away, rather than holding their noses to vote for someone else. Here again, the Tory vote was impressive – written off from the start, their man came in only a handful of votes behind Nuttall for UKIP. There’s no doubt that UKIP suffered a smear campaign, but Nuttall did not help himself and he has a lot to learn about putting your head above the election parapet. In his defence, it is likely that many Tory ‘Leavers’ returned to their natural fold, comforted that Mrs May is doing their bidding, hence the strong third place for their man.
Both Labour and UKIP have some thinking to do but I suspect their blinkers will not assist that process for either of them. Mrs May could be well advised to think of a snap election, the runes may never look this good again.
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It would seem an apt moment to call a snap election, for sure; the PM wouldn’t want to look the same gift horse in the mouth as both Callaghan and Brown did before her.
Labour Remainers, a lot of whom are Blairite corporate globalists, despise Corbyn, because they believe – probably correctly – that he voted Leave. Watching him before the referendum wearing a ‘Remain’ badge was like watching him trying to chew on a fillet steak. At his age, people simply don’t change their outlook on life.
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It can’t be said to have been a good day for Corbyn, but both by-elections were triggered by treacherous right wing ‘Labour’ MP’s resigning to take up more lucrative opportunities. The only nice thing one can say about them is that they didn’t defect to the Tories.
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A left wing view might be if the British Labour Party splinters, socialists in Britain can begin the process of building a new anti-austerity and socialist movement. Blair and Mandelson seem to be making noises in the direction that they might give a new right wing Blairite party their support. Such a party arguably could align with the rump of the Lib Dems, thereby creating space on the left. There’d be a media confab over which faction would own the rights to the ‘Labour’ brand. In which case the left view might be that it’s a tarnished brand anyway, so might as well let the Blairites keep what they stole.
I’m sure that’s what Blair is scheming, aiming to be the puppet-master power in the background behind a group which brings together the New Labour types, the ‘wet’ Tory Remainers and the rump of the Lib-Dems – given his proven skill at getting his way by whatever means necessary, it’s not an implausible objective.
My suspicion is that the target leader for this would be David Miliband, who’s been keeping his powder dry and his bank account bolstered in New York since 2010, unsullied by all the recent events over here, either in Labour or Brexit. Should Blair’s plan start to gain traction, keep an eye on what DM’s doing and where – Blair’s deep pockets can easily make up any financial shortfall to him.
If that plan succeeds, then the residual ‘Left’ in Britain will be consigned to being merely a perpetual and impotent protest group, having some wonderful demonstrations against ‘The Evil Right’, but never a sniff of power to do anything about it. I suspect that Mr Corbyn & pals are more comfortable with that anyway.
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Yes, there certainly seems to be a cross-party ‘ideological’ coalition in the centre-ground of British politics post-Brexit that could, in theory, eventually morph into a more intriguing equivalent of the SDP; but who will be the first to make the move? I too think Miliband D has some part to play, so we shall see.
So Mudplugger your sense is that there is no space on the left for a credible new party? If so the British electorate must be more right wing than I had assumed. Of course, the first past the post system militates against smaller parties. Cleggy managed to get Cameron to agree to a referendum but not surprisingly given it had no backing from the two largest parties it failed to pass.
Mr Farage decided he was in favour of reform of the Westminster electoral system after the results of the 2015 election made clear that in spite of attaining 15% of the vote UKIP had actually lost a seat and delivered a petition to number 10 in co-operation with the rump Lib Dems and the Greens. A little bit late, Nige. If one was a conspiracy theorist one might imagine he’d been working for the Tories all along. More likely, he just isn’t very bright.
On the contrary, there certainly is space for a ‘bridge’ between the extremes, which Mr Blair had already proved for a decade and is now aiming to prove again.
What he also knows is that chaotic parties do not win elections, hence Labour and UKIP offer no threat to the Tories now, so Blair is getting his ducks lined up to hit the ground running and provide a credible channel to capture that space, even in a first-past-the-post system. He also knows that he himself is ‘damaged goods’, so needs the operation to be fronted by his puppet.
As if to emphasise the prescience, who should pop up in The Times this morning, opining on the state of leftish British politics, but Miliband Senior – gosh, what a coincidence . . . not.
Watch and learn from the master.
On the Ranieri issue, you seem to be suffering from the delusion that it’s something to do with sport.
Professional football, particularly at Premier League level, is merely an entertainment business where results on the ‘stage’ translate into bottom-line profits, so soon after to be whisked away by its promoters through the creative magic that is tax-planning.
Like Formula One, Grand Slam Tennis, IPL Cricket and Golf Majors before and as even Rugby Union is heading too, top-flight football exists not to stimulate and amuse its fans, nor even to entertain them, but rather to separate the greatest amount of cash from the greatest number of them, directly or indirectly – the issue of 22 blokes kicking a ball around a field, with all its associated soap-opera of pantomime characters, are merely the incidental means to that end.
If you believe ‘poor’ Ranieri’s sacking is in any way important, then you’ve clearly bought the ticket.
I couldn’t afford the ticket, mate!
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