Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining Even in #Heywood #Middleton #Clacton #ClactonByElection


Despite Labour gaining a smidgeon of extra support in Heywood and Middleton (http://wp.me/p4nKAS-na) to hold the seat and Ed Miliband standing up to ukip in his conference speech (http://wp.me/p4nKAS-my), there are still people saying Labour should change its stance to fend off ukip. What would that really mean?

“that Labour should tell women, you will have to wait a bit longer, luv, for equal pay; LGBT communities, you left the closet a bit too early for the likes of ukip’s dwindling band of social Luddites; Black and Ethnic Minorities, be content with what you have already got, Rome was not built in a day, you know; those with infirmities and illnesses, some from birth, be thankful for what you get, given you contribute so little to our society and so on.” And how could a party of the working class roll back Health and Safety legislation and weaken the Social Chapter and Working Time Directive?

Some in the Tory Party, those I style Conservatives, have said that they will leave if their party tacks any more towards ukip. I think the same applies to many of us in Labour. Hard though it may be for some to accept, many of us in political parties do have a set of principles, a code of ethics and a sense of morality.

There is, therefore, actually quite a bit of camaraderie between parties, particularly when the polls have closed and the ballots are being counted. The process is amateurish, but very British and it works. It is self policed. However, there is no sense of camaraderie with parties of the right, whose members are either bemused, usually ex military types in blazers with regimental badges on their handkerchief pockets, or visibly hostile towards everyone else involved in the process. Some of the latter have organised mini demonstrations outside of the places where the counts are going on. Moreover, their bafflement in government is increased by the sight of cross party co-operation and consensus building. Not all politics has to be or is confontational. It is not all PMQs!

No party of the centre right, centre and centre left can seriously flirt with ukip and not engage in a Faustian pact with Mephistopheles. How though do we engage with people like the 10% or so of those who voted ukip yesterday in Heywood and Middleton?  Voters who lied to pollsters at least twice about their intention to vote Labour not ukip. Tories, perhaps understandably, switched to ukip, but what was the motivation of the Liberal Democrat switchers?

A small crumb of comfort from Heywood and Middleton is that, despite doing their damnedest to label Labour as in some way condoning, if not promoting sexual abuse, ukip still did not manage to win the seat. In Clacton, the Tory Party vote can only have been, at least in part, made up of tactical voters. There was tactical voting in Newark too. How do I know? There were bemused ukipers on Twitter asking why voters had voted Tory in Newark against their natural inclinations.

As an aside, I was in Birmingham city centre earlier today.  Four young men walked past in a group, two of Asian descent, one of Afro-Caribbean descent and the fourth was white.  Well dressed and polite Britons.  On the way home on the bus, a young lad asked his mother why there were so many police in town (we call it town, despite Birmingham being a city) and mom, without a qualm, said it was because of a racist demonstration.  Actually, it was not just the threatened English Defence League rally that was the explanation.  An NHS helicopter ambulance was landing on the road we had to travel along so we had to wait as it landed, the patient was taken off to the adjacent NHS hospital and then took off again.  Mom and her son were, incidentally, white British and the NHS, free at the point of delivery is British too.

Polly Toynbee’s famous nose pegs are going to see a lot of use in the months to come. And seemingly no one had to ask the voters to wear them at the three by elections. Sometimes clouds do have silver linings? May be we are remembering what unites us, what makes us what we feel defines us as British and what made us help draft and then sign the European Convention on Human Rights.  May be the voters of Rochester and Strood will take part in that process?

Finally, “These are the times that try men’s” (and women’s) “souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he” (or she) “that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” (Thomas Paine).

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