This is the last full day of having Anna Soubry as our MP. Well, as we’ve had an hour nicked from us by British Summer Time, it’s not actually a full day. I digress.
Tomorrow, Parliament will be dissolved and MPs will no longer have a P to be a M of. They become normal human beings, stripped of all the privilege of office and instead become full-time candidates, thrown into the bear-pit of what looks like the bloodiest election campaign in living memory.
Soubry ceasing to be our representative is cause for much celebration for many people, myself included. I often get readers tell me that I’ll miss her when she’s gone, that I’ll have nothing to write about, that I must actually love having such a fascinating politician to write about.
They’re wrong. Well, mostly. I never intended to write about politics, especially the local party type. However, five years ago I started dabbling merely because it was election time. The context of this blog was Beeston, as it was set up to be, but as the campaign got weirder the politics became the focus. Over the past half-decade, politics, especially Soubz, has become the thing most people know this blog for. This is purely accidental. Whimsy went out the window, unintentionally.
I’ll be glad to change that if she fails to get reelected. It hasn’t been fun, or edifying, writing about the appalling way she has represented us. Lying about the Royal Mail. Being incredibly rude to constituents. Failing to succeed in any of her spurious ‘greenbelt’ campaigns. Laughing about how she is only in politics to ‘fight lefties’, rather than serve a constituency regardless of the political stripe of its make-up. Chucking egregious legal threats around to anyone who dared stand up to her. Having so little care for her constituency it ended up getting the worst local government settlement in the whole of the UK.
But more than anything, I’ll be glad to be rid of the division, the negativity, the snarling nastiness of her attitude to issues. Beeston – Broxtowe – deserves better.
Yet who will that be? Let’s have a look at the state of play:
They pretty much dominated the political scene in England last year ( the SNP took that accolade North of the border), with a huge surge in popularity, two seats won from Tories who found themselves too right-wing for the Conservatives, and Farage seemingly cloned and scattered around the entire countries pubs, to be photographed holding aloft a pint and fag and pretending he isn’t actually a public-school educated former City of London broker. How will they fair here? Better than last time, but not well.
They won the European Election in Broxtowe, yet that very single-issue vote, at a time when they were cruising in the polls is not transferable at a General Election, where their batshit policies (or more accurately, vociferously announced, then swiftly withdrawn policy ideas) fall on less sympathetic ears. Chris Cobb, their candidate for next year, has been replaced by Frank Dunne, who I don’t know a great deal about, besides the fact he has no megaphone technique (and not much in the way of an audience, either. Save your batteries Frank!).
Farage hates Soubry. I mean really hates. She took him on, and won, in a now infamous Question Time battle. She then said something daft about how he liked having fingers stuffed up his arse, or suchlike, which slightly ruined her stance on the moral high-ground. While there was once talk of UKIP planning a huge campaign here, one that would not replace Soubry with a UKIPper but split the vote and thus decapitate her, it looks like they’ve lost heart as they start to slump in the polls, and need all the cash and energy to shore up their potential winnable seats, not least Thanet South, a must win for Farage. A loss, and the potential resignation of Farage, will be an existential nightmare for UKIP.
My prediction: return of their deposit, which is better than last time. Fourth place.
Who’d be a Lib Dem right now? An ever diminishing amount of people, seemingly. The last five years have seen them take a real kicking:
sometimes deservingly so, sometimes rather harshly. While two local notable party members have declared an intention to run elsewhere (Stapleford’s Matthew Holden is running in Sleaford; Bramcote’s David Watts in Skeggy) they have yet to announce a candidate here, instead choosing to do so in some rather bizarre official unveiling ceremony at Bramcote Memorial Hall on the 31st. I do hope they’ve hired Davina Mccall to do the honours. Tenterhooks, sheer tenterhooks.
Or not. It’s been bandied around Broxtowe for a couple of months that it will be Stan Heptinstall. This rumour really came alive when he was listed as the candidate on the YourNextMP website, and in a few other corners of the internet. While it was widely assumed that Stan would be enjoying retirement once he stepped down from a very successful year as Broxtowe Mayor, it does make a certain sense. He’ll still be retiring in May, after all.
He might be the best chance they have to get into third place, and to retain their deposit. A pugnacious campaign in 2010 by the aforementioned David Watts, where he claimed that there was a serious chance of winning due to the Clegg bounce following the debates (Lib Dems hearts must feel heavy when they recall such heady days, days when the polls gave them double digits…), saw them get just shy of 17%. Without Stan, who is a much-loved character and a genuinely nice bloke, they could kiss goodbye to their £500. With him, he might just see them through, and possibly try and articulate the Lib Dem message at hustings with people listening.
Things are in turmoil in neighbouring Ashfield. Jason Zadrozny, their candidate who was in the rare position of having a chance of a Lib
Dem gain, has had to stand down after being arrested for alleged child sex offences. Anyone knock on effect, particularly in the north of Broxtowe where he has a strong profile, is not good news. Though their local website has a nice surprise when you check out the page that formally held his profile.
My Prediction: 3rd. But only if Davina says ‘IT’S STAN!’.
The Greens have also, like UKIP, had a surge in the UK over the past few months. While that seems to have petered out a bit, the added media attention they’ll receive in the next few weeks might see them gain a few more supporters, as long as Natalie Bennett doesn’t have another brain fart live on air. Now, a disclaimer. Their erstwhile PPC, David Mitchell, has become a friend since 2010. But his attitude at hustings back then were admirable not for his polish, rather the lack of it. He admitted that he stood no chance of winning, but wanted to use the time as a candidate pushing out the green message. He was honest in a way that is disarming when you’ve watched as many politicians speak as I have: admitting on issues that he didn’t have a strong opinion on ‘I don’t have a strong opinion on this’. He lost his deposit.
I met their candidate this time round, Kimberley’s David Kirwan, a few weeks ago. We had a drink in the Crown and a chat. An articulate,
professional candidate, I enjoyed his company.
The HUGE dilemma is, for many left of centre voters, should they vote for him? My personal ideology and political philosophy probably matches the Greens best: an end to austerity; standing up to corporate greed and a focus on environmental issues that goes a bit further than hugging a husky every decade.
Yet in such a marginal seat, will voters effectively use their vote for a party that can’t win? Kirwan assured me that a Green victory was by no means an impossible feat, especially with the craziness of this election, where the two party system seems to have collapsed. I can’t accept that, however. Unless all the other candidates go the same way as the unfortunate incident in Ashfield, the Greens will hope to retain their deposit at best.
Labour will take a hit, no doubt, but I feel that it is the Lib Dems who will see their voters shift to the Greens to a greater extent. The Lib Dems have always been the leftist protest vote; the ethically sound choice when sick of the red-blue hegemony. That was until they actually had a dabble with power: yellow mixing with blue has indeed made Green.
They might also find on issues such as animal welfare and the environment,that the idiosyncrasies of the Labour candidate, Nick Palmer, will outflank them: he has a strong record here, spending the last few years working as Director of Policy for Cruelty Free International. Whatever, I am still pleased that they are throwing themselves into the campaign with such spirit: they should liven things up and stop hustings being dragged rightwards by UKIP distraction bollocks.
My Prediction: 5th, borderline on deposit retention.
The Big Beasts
This is the main event, the top of the card bout. Soubry vs Palmer, Round 2.
Soubry has 389 votes in her favour: will she increase her share? This is highly doubtful right now. Ashcroft polling (where marginals get a level of scrutiny, rather than merely extrapolating national vote share) was just under a year ago, and showed Soubry trailing by 14 points. Her personal approval has massively under-performed the national mood, where the polls are pretty much neck and neck. Even if we take Soubry out of the equation, and pretend the Conservative challenger took the Tory national share into Broxtowe, they would still be defeated.
There will be many scalps taken in May: even Clegg is under serious threat in Sheffield Hallam. A minister losing office will therefore not be as big a story as it would have been in past elections, but still a significant blow. We have a swathe of key marginals here: Ashfield, Loughborough, Erewash, Sherwood; and Tory psephologists and strategists know that the East Midlands is the most vital place to hold seats if they stand any chance of becoming the largest party, let alone a majority.
Thus,up the M1 comes oodles of cash, raised from getting Russian oligarchs to play tennis with Cameron; and from a gaggle of hedge fund managers, tax-dodger and other circumspect areas of the establishment. Soubry has a team of eleven to fight the seat, but there has been a fair few problems already. Her campaign manager has stepped down, and many prospective and current Broxtowe councillors who will be fighting their own battles for seats with the concurrent Borough elections aren’t exactly enthusiastic at having to endorse Soubry, who plays badly on the doorstep.
My prediction: Labour first, Tories second: but five weeks is a massssssive amount of time in politics, especially during elections. Expect more twists than the knife Boris will be plunging into Cameron’s back if he doesn’t grab a majority….
I will be writing throughout the campaign, when I can. I am hugely busy right now, which explains why I’m typing this at nine pm on a Saturday night rather than being like any other sensible human and making progress on my sixth pint down The Crown. I’ll post when I can, and will post from my Twitter feed ( @beeestonia ) to get out info in 140 characters rather than a couple of thousand words. There are a few hustings being lined up: they should prove fascinating. After the election, I’ll be stopping writing about politics here for the foreseeable future, but for now, bring it on. It’s going to get messy…