Holes in the Blue Wall

You only understand an election if you talked to voters on their doorstep: distanced punditry is worthless. I was on the doorsteps in Edgbaston during the first Blair election, and was told there was no danger, surely, in true-blue Edgbaston? But it went red, and has stayed red. In Amersham, the party most in favour of HS2 has won on an anti-HS2 vote. Voices on the doorstep could have predicted this.

Voters do not like being taken for granted. They are not owned by any party – we have seen that in the North. Perhaps this time the local Conservative Association was too cocky? There was no frantic campaigning as has been seen elsewhere: the LibDems though were out campaigning months earlier, while the old MP was on her deathbed, which is obscene, but effective. You cannot expect votes just because you have had them before.

It was a by-election. Boris has a stonking majority, and the result was never going to change that, so a voter knew he or she could do anything and it was not going to overthrow the Conservatives in Westminster, so it is time to have a little fun, to shake things up.

There is reason enough and unavoidable wherever you go thereabout: just outside Amersham all along the roads the once-green fields and woods are now acre upon acre of industrial heaps of earth ringed with security fencing and ten-foot signs, filled with monstrous machines grinding the land away. This is the HS2 project. It not just a pair of steel threads across the hills, but needs the hills scraped away forever. In its wake too will come houses; thousands of indistinguishable box-houses and flats destroying what once made Amersham and its villages such a lovely place to live.

The Liberal Democrats support HS2 and support massive house-building, but they got in, convincingly, by claiming to oppose them. That is not so outrageous: it is a Conservative government which is leading the despoliation of the Chilterns.

Loss leads to loss. I knew Edgbaston only too painfully: once a solid Tory seat, now apparently permanently Labour: in the last two elections their candidate won more than 50% of the vote, when it used to be the Conservatives at that level there. Canterbury was a shock loss in 2017: as true a blue constituency as could be imagined; safe and with a big majority, but then Labour’s Rosie Duffield got in, by a tiny margin in 2017, and then two years later stayed there, with almost a 2,000 majority. Can Amersham and Chesham be won back? Once a constituency’s voters find they can vote another way, they think differently about their assumptions, and they can do it again.

This was an unusual one, with weird voting patterns skewed by the circumstances and a low turn-out, but nothing can be taken for granted. Look at Canterbury, and Edgbaston.

Do I want to write about this, and can I? I would rather be writing about the Sausage War. Still, it is the live topic of the day, so you must forgive my indulgence in my observations. Others who knocked on the endless doors of the villages may contradict me, and really I would prefer to hear from them.

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Up the Monkey Hangers!

Never mind if I have sneaked back in round here, up in County Durham, Hartlepool, Peter Mandelson’s old seat, has elected a Conservative MP, Jill Mortimer, from whom I hope we will be hearing a great deal over the next few years. She may be a Yorkshire lass, but they can be forgiving of such faults these days.

The big forgotten middle, the industrial and ex-industrial towns of Durham, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire, now have a visible presence on the government benches of the Commons. I would like to think they were never forgotten places, never abandoned. They were never discarded for their political choices as that would be corrupt. However a psychological block can arise if the only voices heard from those towns is a whine of blame and condemnation and demands for more money, despite the open evidence that it just goes down the drain or makes things worse. It stops any practical engagement.

A string of ex-Red Wall towns with Conservative voices speaking for them can make a difference. MPs are the first to speak for their towns and deserve an open ear, whatever party they are from. What they say though makes a difference in whether they are heard. Socialism has been a disaster for the industrial towns and a voice begging for more socialism or for money to be paid to client groups with no positive outcome has to be dismissed, and then the town has no sensible voice, so it will miss out. When Labour are in power, a socialist MP is still whining for money and then may be heard with more sympathy, but he can still do no good. A town in trouble needs a constructive voice with ideas that work, and Hartlepool’s new voice it that.

The North has the key to the welfare of the whole land. If commercial investment is constrained in the crowded south, the north atrophies, and the whole country has lost half of its wealth-creating potential. More money in the north means more customers.

It could easily be messed up. The southern counties are not rich because the government has done something for them, but because it has left them alone and entrepreneurs have built their empires. Constructive ideas, based on the realities of the towns and their hinterlands, that would allow enterprise to thrive and the towns with them – that is what is expected of the new Blue Wall MPs . If they succeed, maybe their work will not be appreciated, but the big forgotten middle towns, not just those with newly blue MPs but all of them, will blossom.

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The Last Tory Government?

A stonking majority, the authority to get things done, a message to Brussels that they can no longer use back-channels to undermine the British government’s negotiating position. Seats in Conservative hands that have never before welcomed a blue rosette – all is rosy, surely?

However, the seeds of destruction are there.  The two major factors which won a Conservative majority were Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit, in that order. By the next election in four and a half years’ time, both of those factors will be gone. Unless the government and the new cohort of blue-team MPs can prove their value to the man on the street, or the woman in the hospital bed, then that swathe of northern seats will start turn scarlet again.

The red wall fell, and when the BBC ventured into those unfamiliar areas they found many new Conservative voters, but not a great deal of enthusiasm: the vote was anti-Corbyn and for good reason: Corbyn promises nothing that works and he is a declared enemy of everything British, but the honest working man (and even the dishonest one) is a patriot first.

The idea that Labour is for the working man is a hard one to eradicate.  They talk a good fight. They can never achieve what they claim they can, but the identity is embedded, that they represent the working class and the Tories the upper classes, and that is a strong draw.

Away from the northern towns and the gritty estates, the enthusiasm for Corbyn’s Labour went beyond class-based identity prejudice and filled a number of fashionable-thinking middle-class, muddle-class people who should have known better and who have more to lose. Much of London remains a Labour stronghold – and patriotism is rarely considered a virtue in those circles, nor sense and logic when it comes to it. In those circles a different approach is needed.

It is difficult for Conservatives to understand the mindset that accepts Socialism as an attractive prospect or which warms to Corbyn – it is bizarre. Why should a teacher break off an English class to harangue her pupils about how they will all be failures because public schools exist, or a history teacher claim that one of the vilest of Nazi thugs was all right really because he enjoyed debauching teenage boys in his authority: two examples reaching my ears only this week – that is incomprehensible to the Conservative mind. That mindset though must be understood if any inroad is to be made into it.

This needs deeper examination, and longer articles, but the myths, the oversimplifications, the unreasoned prejudices (and we all have those) must not remain unchallenged, for if ever there is to be another Conservative victory like yesterday’s, with no Brexit and no Corbyn, the Conservatives must break the internal ‘red walls’ of the mind.

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Out all day, soaked to the skin, tired, too early to see the results, but all is looking positive. It looks, at the time of posting at least, as if the nation has chosen to Back Boris and send the Marxists scurrying with their tails between their legs.

Too early though to be sure. Whatever was said on the street and the doorstep, however many times the blue rosette has been cheered and cars have honked appreciation as a team walked the road, it all comes down to every voter, individually, stepping into the wooden booth and making his mind up there and then. There is a world of difference between the doorstep and the sudden silence of the booth, the sudden grip of a spontaneous action.

If all has gone well, then Boris Johnson will step back up to the doorstep of Downing Street and start to get things organised so that a new Parliament can assemble, even before Christmas, to make the first steps in catching up after three years’ stagnation. Yes, Get Brexit Done, as soon as possible, but do not forget the promise of the next part of the manifesto slogan – Unleash Britain’s Potential.

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Even Corbyn opposes Corbyn

Is there anyone left supporting Corbyn and McDonnell?

I feel sorry for Jon Ashworth: he is only saying what I have been saying, what many have been saying and hearing on the doorstep, so actually we are at one on this – although obviously for Corbyn’s ally t0 be opposing him is, well, no, it is not unusual.

It should not be controversial to say that most of the general public hate Jeremy Corbyn. It should not be controversial to say that putting state security in the hands of a declared enemy of the nation, a friend of those who try to destroy it, is a fatal mistake, or putting command of the armed forces in the hands of those who have been in the pay of the governments of Russia and Iran is disastrous. It should not be controversial to say that putting the Treasury in the care of one who wants to abolish money is madness. It should not be controversial to remind the public that no Marxist who has obtained power has ever willingly given it up again.

There are gaps in the line-up. Where have some of the big names gone? Where is Emily Thornberry in this campaign, or Keir Starmer? Are they staying back to give them freedom to manoeuvre against the Momentum gang? Or are they being kept away because they are not Momentum? In Starmer’s case it may just be because he is so unpopular with the public. That might be the case with Thornberry too. It is quite a feat to be more unpopular even than Jeremy Corbyn.

A day to go and Labour in meltdown and still the Conservative lead cannot grow to what it should be. From their performance and obvious impracticality, Labour should be declined into minor protest party, but somehow they cling on out of emotion beyond logic. That is a lesson that nothing can be taken for granted, and even if Boris soars to a famous victory, which is not assured, he will have to work like stink and perform like a hero to win next time round.

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