30 June, 2006

Checks, balances

More electoral evisceration for Labour.

I have to admit being cheered by both sets of results, less so for the Government's defeat (hardly unexpected) than the spectacular collapse of the Tory party's majority in Bromley & Chislehurst, where the Liberal Democrats confounded probably almost everyone's expectations and came within an inch of snatching the seat outright. So much for David Cameron's revolution. Indeed, so much for Menzies Campbell's ostensibly botched helmsmanship of the Liberals.

It was another one of those occasions where the very first thing I heard on the radio upon waking up was news of a shock and exciting election outcome. It was followed, as ever, by various politicians offering claim and counter-claim, though at least Francis Maude on behalf of the Tories admitted it was a disappointing result and the Liberal Democrats were relatively humble in victory. No, it was Labour who yet again came over the worst, purporting the familiar it-doesn't-mean-anything-really line alternating with the contradictory we-are-listening-and-we-are-changing hokum.

If you looked up coverage of how old Tory governments used to respond the morning after by-election defeats, you'd probably find them mouthing almost precisely the same sentiments and using invariably the same words in virtually the same order.

And that's where the root of the problem lies. Never mind the policies; the electorate thought Labour would bring to office a new approach to the practice of politics. In reality they have ended up resorting to the same cliches and weasle words and transparent flanneling as their predecessors.

Best line of the night came from the new independent MP for Blaenau Gwent, Dai Davies: "You take people for granted at your peril. It's the people that matter, not the political parties. The dinosaurs thought they would live for ever - they died out. Political parties take note and listen to the people or you're in trouble." Aye to that.


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