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On Monday, August 1, 2022, a hustings took place in Exeter.

The event was two hours long. Sky News filmed it, and the moderator was Sebastian Payne, the Financial Times‘s Whitehall editor:

The sound quality is not the best. There are lots of echoes.

The venue was full. Some supporters made their allegiances known Trump rally style, either by waving ‘Ready for Rishi’ placards or by wearing ‘Liz for Leader’ tee shirts.

The event began with a couple of videos from Conservative MPs.

Then Penny Mordaunt appeared on stage to pledge her support for Liz Truss (video clip here):

Liz took the stage afterwards (17:38 in the video) and introduced her platform.

Afterwards, Liam Fox went on stage (33:34), announcing that he would be backing Rishi Sunak.

Liz’s Q&A came after that (45:00), taking questions from the audience and Sebastian Payne.

She was much more relaxed than she had been at previous events over the past two weeks. She has a sense of humour. She gesticulated in a natural way. She was conversational.

When an audience member asked if she would favour another lockdown, she gave a simple answer — ‘No’. She explained that, during the pandemic, her Cabinet responsibilities lay in areas other than health and that when presented with past measures, she said others told her they were already ‘a fait accompli‘. Liz said she always favours the least amount of intervention:

Liz also lobbed a zinger at Scotland’s First Minister Nicola (Neverendum) Sturgeon (SNP) by saying that she should was an ‘attention seeker’ who should be ignored. She got a huge round of applause.

This raised a stink the next day, including on GB News, but I understood it in the context of having another independence referendum eight years after the first ‘once in a generation’ one:

GB News has the quote (emphases mine):

Liz Truss has claimed it is best to ignore “attention seeker” Nicola Sturgeon.

The Conservative Party leadership candidate criticised Scotland’s First Minister before ruling out a second independence referendum.

Ms Truss, speaking at a hustings event in Exeter, referenced growing up in Paisley before saying: “I feel like I’m a child of the union, I really believe we’re a family and we’re better together and I think the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her.”

Tory members cheered and applauded the comment, with the Foreign Secretary adding: “She’s an attention seeker, that’s what she is.

“What we need to do is show the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales what we’re delivering for them and making sure that all of our Government policies apply right across the United Kingdom.”

She replied “no, no, no” when asked about another independence referendum in Scotland if she becomes prime minister.

SNP MP Chris Law, posting on Twitter with a link to Ms Truss’s remarks, said: “The only reason why Scotland needs independence. Utter contempt from the future PM.”

Rishi Sunak has also ruled out having a second referendum on Scottish independence should be become Prime Minister.

He said: “I am clear that another referendum is the wrong priority at the worst possible moment.

“The SNP are wrong to try and tear the country apart when we should be pulling together. Why aren’t they talking about the drugs crisis in Scotland or how we can get more money into Scottish workers’ pockets?

“Just as I want to be more accountable to people in every corner of the United Kingdom, so too does the SNP need to be more accountable for their responsibilities.”

That night, comedians on GB News’s Headliners joked about the SNP’s utter irresponsibility north of the border. Leo Kearse is Scottish and gives the full story of the disappearing billions. He says that Westminster should audit the Scottish Government:

Earlier, on Dan Wootton’s show, 90% of viewers agreed with Liz on Nicola Sturgeon with regard to a second referendum:

In short, Liz came across as the continuity candidate. People who liked Boris will find an appropriate comfort level with her.

Then it was Rishi’s turn to take questions (1:17:00).

Both candidates received warm applause for their policies, but some applauded only for their preferred candidate.

Rishi left the stage with a clean slate.

However, Liz got into trouble over the next 24 hours for saying that she would reform public sector pay. I took her to mean civil servants, but people got anxious and critical over teachers and NHS staff.

Liz said she would cut public sector pay outside of London, but wouldn’t keeping their pay the same or upping it a pledge to ‘levelling up’?

Years ago, Labour’s Harriet Harman tried the same thing:

The Financial Times article that Guido Fawkes cites explains why what Liz’s proposal is problematic.

Journalist Stephen Bush begins by disingenuously putting on the frighteners …

Liz Truss has promised to save £11bn a year by cutting pay for public sector workersincluding civil servants, teachers and nurses — outside London and the South-East.

… before clarifying that it would take several years for the proposed plan to be rolled out to all public sector workers:

The foreign secretary said she would introduce regional pay boards that would set wages for civil servants working outside London in line with local labour market conditions and living costs. Her campaign said the regional pay would initially be introduced for new civil service recruits, but if successful would be rolled out over a number of years to all public sector workers.

From that, it is obvious that the FT want Rishi Sunak to win.

This is why public sector pay is difficult to reform:

Now, it’s true to say that, in real terms, a secondary school teacher in Torridge in north Devon or Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is paid more in real terms than they are in St Albans or Hackney. And this is true across the public sector. In real terms, a public sector worker would be economically better off working in Don Valley in South Yorkshire than if they were working in the centre of Manchester.

But of course, it is also true to say that we find it easier to recruit secondary schoolteachers, GPs, firefighters and police officers in St Albans, Hackney or Manchester than we do in Don Valley, Cannock Chase or Torridge

The policy suggestion does the rounds every so often and it founders on the same basic problem: you can’t cut salaries in the places you struggle to recruit. Given that the UK state (rather like the UK as a whole) faces considerable difficulties in recruiting enough workers it is highly unlikely that the policy will succeed now.

 … What might matter is if enough Conservative members see this policy as an electorally disastrous idea they need to avoid.

One thing that would be welcome is reforming or getting rid of unnecessary posts in the public sector. Liz favours this, too:

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Polling

Stephen Bush’s article gave more evidence that he and the FT are Ready for Rishi, so to speak.

Based on polling, Bush is worried that Liz might be winning:

Every scrap of data suggests Liz Truss is ahead of Rishi Sunak, and that Sunak failed to really change the dynamic of the race in any of the televised debates.

Although both Ben Wallace and Tom Tugendhat have ideological and policy reasons to endorse Truss over Sunak, it helps, of course, when everything suggests that to help Truss is to help yourself. Unless her campaign finds a way to implode or the polls are wildly out of kilter.

Now, of course, the big known unknown in this leadership election is just how big Liz Truss’s lead actually is. YouGov’s polls have shown the foreign secretary enjoying a 24 point lead over Rishi Sunak (opens a new window) among Tory members. The gap suggested by Opinium has been a narrower one. Its latest snap poll showed (opens a new window) Tory voters thought Truss did better in the television debate last week by 47-38.

Now another pollster, Techne, has tried its hand at a poll of the Conservative supporters (opens a new window), who comprise Tory voters that are also activists. The result is, again, a Truss lead, but not a very large one.

I wouldn’t sweat this too much, frankly. What unites the various polls (Liz Truss is winning all of them) is more important than what divides them (the exact size of Liz Truss’s opinion poll lead). It’s possible that some error or event on the part of Truss’s campaign may hand Sunak a victory, and it’s possible that all the polls are wrong. Given all that, the implied 10 per cent probability of a Sunak victory suggested by the prediction website Metaculus (opens a new window) seems about right to me. But of course, if Truss’s lead is only five points, this “cut public sector pay in places with greater shortages” wheeze may well prove catastrophic for her chances.

Guido has more on the Techne results.

Another interesting poll appeared on August 1. Redfield & Wilton Strategies results show that Liz Truss could just beat Labour’s Keir Starmer in being perceived to be a better potential Prime Minister. Rishi, on the other hand, would lose to Starmer — 40% to 33%:

Why are all the metropolitan elite coming out for Rishi? They know he would lose and put the Conservatives out of office for years!

On Tuesday, August 2, YouGov came out with a poll also showing stonking results for Liz:

Polling took place between July 29 and August 2:

Guido also posted about the polls and another pro-Rishi publication, The Times:

Guido then posted the YouGov poll:

I couldn’t agree more about voting anxiety. This reminds me of the 2019 contest between the totalitarian Jeremy Hunt and Boris ‘Sunlit Uplands’ Johnson.

Guido explained the stark differences between the two polls:

The Times claimed — wrongly — that Liz Truss’s team commissioned the more favourable YouGov poll. Guido notes that the newspaper has since changed its copy. Good:

And someone confirmed the hypothesis that media supporting Rishi want the Conservatives to lose:

On Wednesday, August 3, YouGov published an all-party poll. After months of the Conservatives trailing Labour by a large margin, there is now only one percentage point between the two!

Amazing!

Guido wrote (red emphases his):

The YouGov poll of Tory members showing Liz looking to take two-thirds of the vote for leader was not the only surprising poll result. YouGov’s regular voting intention survey has the Tories on 34% (+2 from 21-22 July), just a point behind Labour on 35% (-4). Is this an outlier?

YouGov themselves say “This shrinking of Labour’s lead from 7 points to 1 point is a sharp move, but changes are either within the margin of error or close to it. It will be worth waiting to see whether further polls replicate the extent of this narrowing of the gap before we can be certain of a Tory recovery.”

Yet, an IPSOS-Mori poll from Monday shows Rishi in the lead.

The Evening Standard reported:

As the 160,000 members of the Tory party prepare to start voting in the Tory leadership contest from Monday, the exclusive survey by Ipsos shows that 49 per cent of Conservative backers said the former Chancellor would make a good premier compared to 40 per cent for rival Liz Truss.

Among Conservative voters in the 2019 general election, Mr Sunak enjoys an even bigger lead over the Foreign Secretary with 49 per cent saying Mr Sunak has what it takes for the top job compared to 35 per cent for Ms Truss.

Among the general public, just over a third of people said Mr Sunak would make a good Prime Minister compared to just 24 per cent for Ms Truss.

Conservative Home‘s poll of its readers did not show Rishi on their chart. This is because he resigned as Chancellor and is no longer in the Cabinet:

The perils of policy on the hoof

Now that we have covered the good news, let us return to Liz’s public sector statement, which is the first real blunder she has made in her campaign.

Not surprisingly, Team Rishi jumped on it.

On Tuesday, August 2, Guido reported that a Red Wall mayor is also unhappy:

Team Rishi has slammed Liz Truss over her policy announcement last night that she can save up to £8.8 billion by replacing National Pay Boards with Regional Pay Boards. This sum immediately raised eyebrows given the total Civil Service salary budget is around £16.5 billion. The footnotes of the press release specified this figure is “the potential savings if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers in the long term,” allowing her opponents to spin the policy as one of cutting nurses’ and teachers’ pay in the Red Wall while improving the pay packets of those in London and the South East. Tees Valley Metro Mayor Ben Houchen is not happy:

There is simply no way you can do this without a massive pay cut for 5.5m people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London.

Liz Truss’s campaign is explicit that their savings target is only possible ‘if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers’.

This is a ticking time bomb set by team Truss that will explode ahead of the next general election.

Just one mistake like this can help Rishi win over Conservative Party members:

Rishi doubles down by calling the policy a gift to the Labour Party and Keir Starmer. Her plan would punish hard working nurses, police officers and soldiers across the country, including in the Red Wall just before a General Election”. Rishi was already reportedly performing better among Southern members – can this latest attack help him claw back up North?

Liz and her team quickly backtracked but said it was a ‘wilful misrepresentation’ of the policy:

UPDATE: Team Truss say

Over the last few hours there has been a wilful misrepresentation of our campaign. Current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained. Anything to suggest otherwise is simply wrong. Our hard-working frontline staff are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal taken forward on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector workers.

Under fire from Rishi she drops the policy. So we now have the status quo of a national pay rate for civil servants.

Another member of Liz’s team told Guido that the policy will not be taken forward. Nonetheless:

Team Rishi are absolutely loving this, joking “The lady is for turning”…

Yes, one can imagine.

On GB News Tuesday afternoon, a number of presenters and pundits, some of whom think Liz either should or could win (there is a difference), thought that she made a terrible mistake with this.

One said that making policy up on the hoof was a ‘dangerous’ thing to do and could turn the contest against her.

However, Team Liz were ready to fire back at Rishi, accusing him of more U-turns during this campaign than at a driving test centre.

Note that only one of Liz’s U-turns happened during the campaign. The other three happened when she was a young adult. The same cannot be said of Rishi:

Guido has the full story, which begins with this:

Hours after a brief campaign blip from Team Liz, which involved a somewhat humiliating climbdown from their regional pay boards policy, they’ve finally pulled their finger out for some return fire on the topic of u-turns. Team Rishi has spent the morning on cloud nine, joking that it turns out “The lady is for turning”, and accusing Liz of having a Mayite ‘Dementia Tax’ moment. In return Liz Truss’s team have compiled a list, which they allege shows Rishi has performed “more u-turns than a DVLA test centre”. A spokesperson for Liz says:

This is all a bit rich coming from Sunak’s backers when they stayed schtum on the steady stream of u-turns from Rishi over the recent weeks. He’s flip-flopped on tax cuts, VAT, grammar schools, China , EU regulations, Northern Ireland protocol and planning to name a few.

Before Monday’s debate, Liz issued a letter to Conservative Party members, which can be read in full here. It has way too many ‘I’s, which someone should have reworded.

An excerpt follows:

If you work hard, do the right thing, save your money, or start your own business, then I am on your side.

And you can trust me to deliver. I have delivered trade deals, faced down Putin’s Russia, and got on with sorting the Northern Ireland Protocol. I am honest and straight talking. I do what I say I will and I know what it takes to get things done. 

We cannot continue to have business-as-usual and I have a bold plan to get our economy back on track.

We must reject orthodoxy, the voices of decline and unleash Britain’s potential in line with Conservative values. 

I will lower taxes to spark economic growth and reward people for working hard. I will seize the full opportunities of Brexit, and level up in a Conservative way. I will defend freedom at home and abroad, and keep Britain safe. 

I will ensure the police do more to crack down on real crimes, and raise defence spending. I will stand up for free speech, and protect single sex spaces for our young women. And I will abolish Soviet top-down housing targets. I know from being a councillor that local people are best-placed to deliver the housing we need. 

To win in 2024, we must work relentlessly to deliver on our promises. 

Now is the time to be bold … 

That is how Liz came across in the debate, so I was happy to see The Telegraph endorse her candidacy that night:

Ballots delayed to next week

The Party members’ ballots were to have arrived this week.

However, a security issue has caused a delay, therefore, they will not be sent until next week.

Nigel Farage tweeted:

The Telegraph‘s Ben Riley-Smith got the scoop on the ballots. Furthermore, members can now vote only once, not twice as planned — excellent:

This might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Liz.

A week is a long time in politics, so by the time the ballots arrive, Liz’s public sector policy blunder is likely to be old news.

Even better, however, is the platform that GB News will give her on Wednesday, August 10, just as the ballots arrive:

I do not have details as to how the event was arranged nor do I know whether Rishi was invited to appear on a separate programme.

The next debate was on Sky News on Thursday, August 4. More about that in a separate post.

My series on Red Wall MP Lee Anderson from Ashfield continues.

Those who missed the previous three instalments of his profile can read them here, here and here.

Lee Anderson nearly always has something useful to contribute to debates in the House of Commons.

He is also no stranger to controversy, either.

Ian Lavery MP

He has a particular dislike for Labour MP Ian Lavery, who used to head the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), of which Anderson was once a member.

In Part 1, I introduced Anderson’s animosity towards Lavery, which has to do with £165,000 that the Labour MP received years ago from the NUM. Anderson, like other NUM members, believes that Lavery should return the money to the miners.

On Wednesday, June 15, Anderson raised the matter of the money again during the debate about the upcoming nationwide rail strike.

Guido Fawkes has the story and the video:

It was Guido’s most read and shared story of June 16:

Guido wrote (emphases in the original):

Another vintage Commons clash last night between Lee Anderson and Ian Lavery, with Anderson once again accusing Lavery of “stealing money” from the miners, and Lavery getting so upset he actually asked Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans to “protect” him from Anderson. Not a demand Evans took to kindly…

Anderson: Does he think that any Opposition Member who has received a donation from the RMT should put that money in a pot to help people who suffer during next week’s rail strike? Does he also think that other MPs who have stolen money from the mineworkers—165 grand in the case of the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) —should pay it back?

After eventually convincing Anderson to withdraw the remark, Evans turned his attention to Lavery:

Lavery: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have been in the Chair three times when the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) has made allegations. He withdraws his ridiculous remark and consistently comes back to say it again. As Deputy Speaker, you are not protecting the likes of myself. I need your protection.

Evans: Order. Do not make allegations against the Chair, ever. You saw how I treated Mr Anderson. You just leave it with me—I don’t need lectures on how to do my job.

All this happening in the mother of all parliaments, rather than the school playground. At least it was entertaining…

Earlier this year, in the February 8 debate, Cost of Living and Food Insecurity, Anderson tried unsuccessfully to intervene in Lavery’s contribution. One wonders if he was going to ask about Lavery’s NUM money:

Lavery: I want to put some human context into this debate. I saw on social media this weekend a comment by a single parent. She said:

“It’s difficult to imagine without experiencing it is how tiring being skint is. How you’re so utterly consumed by financial hardship that it affects every decision you make on a daily basis. It takes up every thought and you can’t escape. No wonder there is a mental health crisis”.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: That comes from a single parent and it sets the tone for this debate. The country is badly fractured and, sadly, broken. Kids cannot eat and pensioners cannot eat, yet sales of luxury yachts have gone through the roof.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: And then we look at the other end of the political spectrum, where we see 14 million people in this country, the sixth richest economy on this planet, living in poverty.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: UK wages are at the lowest they have been and they are a 15-year standstill. Wages are gone and energy bills are going through the roof—I will come on to that. Poverty is a political choice. Hunger is a political choice. I am sick and tired of debates in this place where people from all parts are basically reducing hungry and cold families and individuals to mere balance sheet statistics—count them as human beings. The debate often gets dragged into whether this is absolute poverty or relative poverty.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: That does not matter to people who are suffering greatly in our communities. If they are sitting at the table with nothing to eat in the morning or at teatime at night, they are not aware of whether they are in abject poverty, absolute poverty, relative poverty or overall poverty. They might not even know that they are in poverty, but they know they are hungry. I think we will all probably have experienced being behind the person in the local newsagent who has the key to put £5 on their electricity bill—

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Then things kicked off:

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans: Order. I do not believe Mr Lavery is going to give way, so please save your voice for the rest of the speech. [Interruption.]

Order. What did the Member say?

Other MPs: He said, “Coward.”

Deputy Speaker: Please withdraw that word.

Anderson: Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that the hon. Member is not a coward.

Deputy Speaker: Thank you.

Lavery: Mr Deputy Speaker, that has taken out a minute and a half of my time, but thank you very much for allowing me to continue. I am far from a coward, by the way …

Lavery finished his speech. Later in the debate, however, he raised a point of order about Anderson (emphases mine):

Lavery: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like your advice about the intimidation that I seem to be getting from the Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson). The last couple of times I have been in the Chamber, there have been some absolutely terrible remarks. I am sure you remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, the last time he had to return and apologise. How can this be stopped? How can we tackle it? If Members do not want to give way, they do not have to, but they should not suffer abuse as a result.

Deputy Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I was in the Chair the very last time this happened. That is why I intervened to say that the hon. Gentleman was not giving way. I could not hear what the hon. Member for Ashfield said, because I was talking when he said it, and he then withdrew it. However, Mr Speaker made it absolutely clear at the beginning of today’s sitting, after what happened on the streets of London yesterday, that we must all be temperate in the language we use, not only in the Chamber but outside it. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will take that on board before they stand up, and even when they make sedentary interventions, and that they are very temperate in the language they use.

Anderson then directed his interventions towards other Labour MPs.

One recommended collective bargaining. Anderson, who was a Labour Party member until 2018, intervened:

The hon. Gentleman mentions collective bargaining, but will he say how successful that was in the 1970s, when the lights were out?

True!

Another Labour MP recommended more nuclear power. Anderson said:

My hon. Friend talks about nuclear power. It is quite interesting, actually, because I wonder if he can recall that, in 1997, the Labour manifesto said, “We can see no economic case for the building of any new nuclear power stations.” Does he think now, moving on 20-odd years, that they regret that?

Crime

Lee Anderson is, to paraphrase Tony Blair, ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’.

On June 8, 2021, during the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill debate, he spoke frankly about the travelling community:

We have a big problem in Ashfield with the travelling community. They come two or three times a year. I did my own poll of about 2,000 constituents, and 95% agreed with me that the Travellers were creating a massive problem—crime was going up, pets were going missing, antisocial behaviour was going through the roof and properties were getting broken into. My constituents do not want them in our area anymore. That was a survey of 2,000 people, and that was the response from 95% of them. That evidence from my area is a bit more compelling than the petition the hon. Gentleman mentioned, which has probably been signed by 100,000 Travellers.

A Labour MP, Bambos Charalambous, said the problems in Ashfield arose because of inadequate housing provision.

Later on, Anderson said:

We have already established that in places where Traveller communities set up, such as Ashfield, crime goes up; we know that there is a direct correlation between Travellers being in the area and crime going up. Does the hon. Gentleman think that crime will come down if we have a permanent site in Ashfield?

Undeterred by the throwaway answers he was receiving, Anderson intervened once again in Charalambous’s speech:

At the beginning, the hon. Gentleman made an interesting point about Romani Gypsies coming here more than 500 years ago, but the Gypsy encampments that we are talking about in places such as Ashfield are not the traditional, old-fashioned Gypsies sat there playing the mandolin, flogging lucky heather and telling fortunes. The Travellers I am talking about are more likely to be seen leaving your garden shed at 3 o’clock in the morning, probably with your lawnmower and half of your tools. That happens every single time they come to Ashfield. Does he agree that there is some confusion on the Opposition side as to who these people actually are?

Charalambous replied that there were many misconceptions about the various traveller communities, which were unhelpful.

Anderson made his final intervention a short time afterwards:

About five years ago, we had Travellers come to a car park in my village and they left a load of rubbish there, which cost the council over £1,000 to clean up. A few weeks later, they came back again, left another load of rubbish that cost another £1,000. I got that fed up with the local council that I hired a JCB and put two concrete blocks there, to stop the Travellers coming back and to keep the beauty spot tidy, and I got a £100 fixed penalty notice from my local Labour authority. Does the hon. Gentleman think that that was the right course of action?

Charalambous said that it was the local council’s responsibility to take action, not individuals.

On May 11, 2022, after this year’s Queen’s Speech, MPs discussed the subject again in the Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice debate. The plan to send migrants to Rwanda was also announced that day.

Anderson delivered a speech on public protests, which have gone out of control over the past few years. At times, the police looked as if they are aiding and abetting the protesters:

Nobody should feel unsafe on the streets or in their home, which is why preventing crime is probably the most important part of this Queen’s Speech. Each time we debate the subject in this place, the Labour party seems to side with the criminals. I am not sure why that is, but it seems to happen every single time. The Queen’s Speech serves as a reminder to everyone that the Conservatives are the only party that is serious about law and order in the UK.

The vast majority of decent, hard-working people in this country will welcome the new public order Bill. Every week we see mindless people who have nothing better to do than wreak havoc on our streets, motorways and petrol stations. Frankly, the hard-working people of this country are fed up to the back teeth of these people disrupting lives and destroying property.

When I have been out and about, I have seen people gluing themselves to property, digging up lawns, throwing paint and performing zombie-like dances in the middle of the road with no regard for the decent, hard-working people of this country. [Interruption.] … These people have no regard for the decent, hard-working people of this country, and their guerrilla tactics are disrupting emergency workers and putting lives at risk. The public have had enough.

We were pretty good at handing out fines during lockdown. We dished out big fines, some justified and some not, and I hope the Government will consider handing out bigger fines to these public nuisances who think it is a good idea to damage petrol stations. I suggest a £10,000 fine, going up to 20 grand. That will teach them. Going back to their mum and dad with a 10 grand fine might be the deterrent they need.

Let us remind ourselves of what the Conservative party has been up to in government. We are recruiting 20,000 new police officers, and there are already more than 13,000 new police officers on our streets, making our streets safer. We have enshrined the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 in law, giving the police extra powers to prevent crime and keep dangerous criminals off our streets. The Act stops the automatic early release of dangerous, violent and sexual offenders, widens the scope of police powers such as stop and search, and places a legal duty on local authorities to work together with fire and rescue services, the police and criminal justice agencies. Labour voted against the Act, and I will tell the House what else Labour voted against: everything in the Act.

In Ashfield we are really benefiting from a Conservative Government. We have just had £550,000 from the safer streets fund, with which we are putting up CCTV in some really dodgy areas of my town. This will make women and young girls feel safe. There will be safe hotspots where they can reach out for help. It is wonderful news for one of the most deprived areas of my constituency. We are using the fund to put up new security gates to secure alleyways, which are antisocial behaviour hotspots. The funding is making residents feel safe in their own home. It is real action. On top of that, we have new police officers in the Operation Reacher teams in Eastwood and Ashfield, which are going out to take the most undesirable people off our streets and lock them up.

The police had always been a little frustrated that the sentencing has not been enough for these criminals, but we have sorted that with the 2022 Act. People will be locked up for longer, and so they should be. It makes people in Ashfield and Eastwood feel safer, it makes me feel safer and it makes my family feel safer. When these criminals are arrested and taken through the court system, it is only right that they should be put away for as long as possible to make us all feel safe.

Labour also has no ideas about the illegal crossings by dinghies and boats coming over the channel. Labour Members seem to be confused, as they do not know the difference between an economic migrant and a genuine asylum seeker, which is a shame. My constituents in Ashfield would put them right. If Labour Members come up to my Wetherspoons in Kirkby, my constituents will tell them the difference—they are pretty good at it.

An SNP MP intervened to say that the Home Office considers most of those coming illegally over the Channel as refugees.

Anderson replied:

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention and I think that what she describes is the fault of the old, failing asylum system; when people get here, they know how to fill the forms out and they have these lefty lawyers who say, “Put this, this and this.” So they fill the forms out and, hey presto, about 80% get asylum status, and it is wrong. It is a burden on the taxpayer, these people are abusing the system. It is a bit like some benefit cheats—they do it, don’t they? They abuse the system, saying that they are disabled when they are not. [Interruption.] Yes, they do. Come on, let’s be right about it.

Make no mistake: if that lot on the Opposition Benches got in power, perish the thought, this Rwanda plan would be scrapped within five minutes. They want to see open borders. They want to let anybody in. [Interruption.] However, I welcome the sensible comments on food bank use made by the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), who is not in his place. I would welcome any Opposition Member coming to visit my local food bank in Ashfield, where I help out on a regular basis. We have a great project in place at the moment.

You can read more about Anderson’s food bank controversy in Part 3.

Free speech at universities

Last week, on July 12, Anderson participated in the debate on the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. He rightly took strong exception to the metropolitan elite:

Now then, if we control what students in universities can listen to, we are controlling what they can think and the type of person they will become. That may work in places such as North Korea and, possibly, within the Labour party, but it has no place in our society. The Bill will strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities. It is not the job of the Labour party or anybody else to control who we listen to. The champagne socialists, the Islington elite and the trade unions may agree with the Labour party, but most of the country do not. We fought and won a war to protect our freedoms, and freedom of speech, to my mind, is the most important freedom that we have.

Let us not forget that universities are there to supply our great country with scientists, mathematicians, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, nurses and so on, not to provide us with state-sponsored political activists who have only one opinion or one goal in life. Our young people should be able to flourish at university and be open to all kinds of debate. Let them make their own mistakes, form their own opinions and ask their own questions. We should not dictate who they can and cannot listen to.

By voting against this Bill, Labour is saying that our university students are not capable of making up their own minds. It is a bit like the Brexit debate when it told my residents in Ashfield and Eastwood that they were thick, they were stupid, they were racist and they did not know what they were voting for. Well, that ended well! It ended up with my standing here tonight.

We know that free speech is being shut down in universities in this country. Professor Jo Phoenix was due to give a talk at Essex University about placing transgender women in women’s prisons. Students threatened to barricade the hall. They complained that Ms Phoenix was a transphobe who was likely to engage in hate speech. A flyer with an image of a gun and text reading “Shut the **** up” was circulated. The university told Ms Phoenix and the event was postponed.

What about the human rights lawyer Rosa Freedman, a radical feminist law professor, whose event was cancelled amid allegations of transphobia? She received a passive aggressive email from a University of Reading student who called her views on gender politics “problematic” and warned her to “choose her words carefully”. Selina Todd, an Oxford University professor, had her invitation to a conference celebrating women withdrawn owing to pressure from trans activists who had threatened to disrupt the event.

It is a real shame that we have to legislate to allow free speech, but the biggest shame is that Labour Members will vote against the Bill and subsequently vote against free speech. Perhaps they should all come off Twitter, throw their Guardian newspapers away, leave the Tea Room, and get out there and speak to the millions of voters they lost at the last election. Let us have some free speech on the doorstep and perhaps that lot on the Opposition Benches will finally realise that they have nothing in common with the very people they expect to vote for them. Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker; that is me done.

The next MP to speak was from Labour. That MP disliked being told he was against free speech. He ended by saying:

If this legislation were needed, I would support it, but I do not think that it is needed, because, as has already been said, the legislation is already in place. We know the reason why, because we have had it explained. We just had a great example of it from the hon. Member for Ashfield. This is actually about trying to use the so-called woke agenda in a political manner. It is amplifying the message, so we get a situation where anyone who dares to question what happens or who votes against this Bill tonight is said to be against freedom of speech.

Anderson intervened to say:

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the important points that he is making in the Chamber tonight, but the most important thing I want to thank him for is mentioning the word “Ashfield”. That is the first time ever in this Chamber that a Labour politician has mentioned the word “Ashfield”, so I thank him for that.

Immigration

Lee Anderson likes hard-working immigrants but, along with most other Britons, objects to people coming to the UK illegally then complaining about living in three-star hotels with three square meals a day.

On July 19, 2021, during a Nationality and Borders Bill debate, he related the story of a man he once knew, Janis Bite, who came to the UK from Latvia:

Now then, Janis Bite was 13 years old and living in Latvia at the start of World War Two. Two years later, the Nazis came. Their request was simple: one male member from each family to go and fight the Russians. It was either Janis, his dad or his younger brother, so Janis went to the Russian front and witnessed the horrors of war in temperatures of minus 40.

When the war ended in 1945, Janis was classed as a displaced person—a refugee. Imagine that. He could not go back to Latvia, because he had been sent straight to Siberia and that is where they sent his dad, so Janis was given two more choices: the US or the UK. So he came to the UK to a small village in Derbyshire, where he and other refugees were housed in Nissen huts in army barracks. He did not complain or whinge or moan about the barracks or set fire to the barracks or make TikTok videos. In fact, they were so grateful to the UK that they all volunteered to work in the fields at local farms picking potatoes and other seasonal vegetables for no pay. Janis met a girl in the village, he fell in love and he later married. He worked hard all his life and had three sons, one of them being Alan in Ashfield. Janis loved his football. He became a British citizen and loved this country. He even went on to meet our Queen. Janis is no longer with us, but his story makes me feel incredibly proud of our great country and its willingness to help people from all over the world.

A Conservative MP asked Anderson if Janis Bite would have been affronted by the misguided, generous way the Home Office treats illegal immigrants.

Anderson responded:

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. That is absolutely right. I spoke to Janis’s family last week in Ashfield, and they made exactly that point. I will feed that back to them when I get back to Ashfield this weekend.

We have always been a welcoming and tolerant country that has reached out to genuine refugees from all over the world, but just like Janis’s family in Ashfield, most people in the UK do not accept that people travelling here from France in dinghies are genuine asylum seekers[Interruption.] They are not genuine asylum seekers. We know that many of them have been trafficked with a clear instruction on how to claim asylum once they get here. That is because our asylum system is not fit for purpose, and this Bill stops that.

The Labour party and the Opposition want to bring back free movement. They dislike our points-based immigration system, and now they are going to vote against a Bill that protects our borders and helps us deport foreign murderers and rapists. They will always vote against the British people. This new Bill will ensure that people in genuine need, like Janis all those years ago, get the help they need, and the greedy lawyers and the human traffickers will be told, “No more.” We owe it to people such as Janis who are suffering today to ensure that we have a fairer system that offers genuine refugees a safe haven. This Bill does that.

We have nothing to be ashamed of in this country. We are a kind, tolerant and welcoming country. That is proven by the number of people who risk their lives every single day to get here. If Janis’s family can see that the current situation is unacceptable, surely the Opposition should see that too.

I give a massive thanks to the Home Secretary, who has stuck to her guns. She has listened to the British people and delivered. Opposition MPs want to travel into reality. I will offer this opportunity to all of you now sitting there now with those glazed expressions on your face: come down to Ashfield, come speak to some real people in my towns and villages, and the message you will get will be completely different from the message you are feeding into this House. I am here because of you lot and the attitudes you had in 2019. We are getting tough on crime, we are getting tough on immigration and we are getting tough on law and order.

Well said!

I’m still not finished with Lee Anderson’s policy stances. More to come next week.

Last week, I posted a series on the effect of London’s metropolitan elite on England’s voters in 2015 and 2019.

Those who missed it can read Parts 1, 2 and 3.

On December 12, 2019, a surprising number of staunch Labour voters in the North and the Midlands lent their votes to the Conservatives for the first time.

Those constituencies in England that switched from Labour to Conservative either for the first time or for the first time in decades are known as the Red Wall.

The Conservative MPs who represent them are local people familiar with the issues that concern their constituents.

These MPs are a far cry from the Sir Bufton Tuftons from days of yore.

When the new intake took their seats in the House of Commons, spirits were high on Conservative benches as the UK exited the European Union.

In debates in January 2020, we heard them discuss the hopes they had for Boris Johnson’s levelling up plan concerning rail, roads and industry.

What follows is what is on the minds of Red Wall voters and their MPs.

Tax

Five days before Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his dynamic budget to the House on Wednesday, January 16, 2020, a pollster surveyed Red Wall voters for their views on taxation.

Guido Fawkes has a graph and summary of the poll results: 36% wanted cuts to council tax; 29% wanted cuts to income tax and 22% wanted cuts on fuel duty.

However, Guido found that the voters surveyed contradicted themselves (red emphases in the original):

According to Opinium Research for Lansons, 42% of the famed ‘Red Wall’ new Tory voters state the priority measure they would like to see for this afternoon is a rise in their take-home pay being introduced in the Budget – an income tax cut in other words. That is because 41% of the new Tory voters think taxes are too high and errr, 40% of the same new Tory voters think government spending is too low. Workington, we have a problem….

If the coronavirus is an economic hit on the scale of the credit crisis, a temporary halving of VAT to 10% would incentivise spending, immediately and effectively….

Sadly, because of coronavirus, most of Rishi’s budget had to be binned.

Levelling up

In September 2020, Conservative MPs created a taskforce to level up, i.e. reduce regional inequalities between the North as well as the Midlands versus the South.

The BBC reported that these poorer constituencies now have Conservative MPs:

A report produced for the taskforce says Conservatives now hold more seats in the lowest paid areas than Labour

In the 2019 election the Conservatives won a number of seats across the Midlands and the north of England previously considered to be Labour strongholds, also known as ‘the red wall’

Now this new group, the “levelling up taskforce” – which includes many of the new “red wall” MPs – is urging the government to set itself three key tests as part of its drive to reduce geographical inequality.

It says those areas that have seen the lowest growth in earnings, should see earnings rise faster than they have in recent years; areas with the worst unemployment rate should converge with the national average; and areas with the lowest employment rate should also catch up with the national average.

It also calls on the government to set out geographical analysis of how tax and spending changes impact different areas

Analysis produced by the Onward think tank for the new group found that of the bottom quarter of seats in Britain with the lowest earnings, more are now held by the Conservatives (77) than Labour (74).

The following month, Northern Red Wall MPs formed a new group to ensure that Boris Johnson keeps his campaign promises:

The BBC reported:

… the 35-strong Tory group say they want to ensure the government delivers.

It includes several MPs who won seats in traditional Labour heartlands – the so-called “Red Wall” – at last year’s general election.

Paul Howell, who won Tony Blair’s old seat, in Sedgefield, Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow-in-Furness and Sara Britcliffe, who at 24 became the youngest Conservative MP when she won Hyndburn, in Lancashire, are among those who have signed up to the group provisionally named the Northern Research Group.

Ms Britcliffe said: “I don’t need to join a group to speak up for Hyndburn but I have also the responsibility of making sure that we do deliver on our promise.”

The group’s leader Jake Berry, who has been the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen since 2010, said it was not “about giving government a bad time”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster: “There are arguments that we collectively as northern MPs make together, to create a compelling case for the government to invest in the north”.

These include “making sure that this government delivers on its promise to ‘level up’ the north, deliver that Northern Powerhouse and create wealth across the north of England,” he added.

“We don’t form a government unless we win the north.”

Mr Berry is the former minister for Northern Powerhouse, which was set up by former Chancellor George Osborne to redress the North-South economic imbalance, and to attract investment into northern cities and towns.

The problem with levelling up is that some of the local councils most in need of funds are Labour-run. As I have been writing this post on Friday afternoon, February 25, 2022, I have heard Philip Davies, who represents Shipley, tell his fellow MPs that Bradford Council has not even put together a bid in order to get levelling up funds from the Government. Other Red Wall MPs had similar complaints.

This took place during a Private Members’ Bill debate on the Local Authority Boundaries Bill, urging reviews of local council boundaries and making such changes easier. Kemi Badenoch, the minister representing the Government, said that the bill would need significant rewording in order to be considered. She will work with Robbie Moore, also a Red Wall MP, to revise his proposed legislation.

Bradford Council is not the only Labour council that has been under the spotlight.

In October 2020, another Red Wall MP, Chris Clarkson, made known his concerns about Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester.

That brought about a furious backlash from Angela Rayner on the Labour benches. She allegedly called him ‘scum’ …

… and was given a dressing down by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing.

Paying for coronavirus

In March 2021, a pollster asked Red Wall voters how they wanted the Government to handle the cost of coronavirus.

Most Red Wall voters opposed higher taxes, preferring lower spending instead:

Guido’s accompanying post says:

Research from Public First’s Rachel Wolf has revealed that when asked to choose between higher taxes, borrowing, or spending cuts, a plurality of the public back spending cuts over the other options. Tax rises are most popular with high social status white collar ‘AB’ voters, and least popular with working class ‘DE’ voters, who overwhelmingly back spending cuts. Working class constituents in the red wall aren’t typical Islington socialists…

Also:

The other finding is that people are less opposed to taxes they think they don’t have to pay, and more opposed to taxes they think they do have to pay. In reality this translates to taxes they have to pay directly. Any tax that is indirect on business still has an economic cost that is borne in the end by individuals, for example dividend taxes reduce your pension income, business rates and carbon taxes increase consumer prices. The more taxes are understood, the less popular they become.

True. We have tax rises coming, so there will be dissatisfaction in these constituencies.

Net Zero

Another plan that will not go down well is the drive to reach Net Zero. The cost is upwards of £1.5 trillion:

This tweet from 2021 encapsulates the thinking of Red Wall MPs (ignore Michael Fabricant, who was commenting on the wrong thread). Click on the image to see all the comments, especially from Jackie Doyle-Price, who mentions the metropolitan elite:

Minimum wage

In November 2021, Rishi Sunak presented a more sombre budget as the nation was still grappling with coronavirus.

One of the more positive points was his commitment to raising the national minimum wage.

On the face of it, it would seem to appeal to Red Wall voters. However, The Spectator‘s Patrick O’Flynn was less sure, asking if Sunak understood them properly. Raising the minimum wage does not lift those in more responsible positions. In fact, the latter have been earning less over recent years (emphases in purple mine):

In his recent Budget, the Chancellor committed the government to several eye-catching policies, including a big uplift in the minimum wage, these days rebranded as the ‘national living wage’. But something that went unremarked upon was reaffirmation of a target of raising the minimum wage as a share of average pay.

A 6.6 per cent uplift this year would, said Sunak, keep the government ‘on track for our target of two-thirds of median earnings by 2024.’ Many Tory MPs beamed with happiness, no doubt thinking this would further bolster the working-class parts of their new electoral coalition. But will it?

According to the OECD, the UK minimum wage was worth 34 per cent of mean earnings and 41 per cent of median earnings in the year 2000. It has since risen steadily as a share of these averages, hitting 48 per cent of mean earnings and 58 per cent of median earnings in 2020.

Think about how this must feel to workers on roughly median earnings. Two decades ago they earned two-and-a-half times as much as minimum wage workers. Now they earn less than twice as much. By 2024, Sunak has decreed that minimum wage workers in entry level roles will be earning two-thirds of the amount that median earners do. This will represent a massive compression of wages within a single generation.

For those working people who put in a lot of effort in their schooldays compared to their more idle classmates, or who perhaps underwent apprenticeships on very low earnings at the start of their careers, this is highly unlikely to feel like progress.

When you consider the extra responsibilities higher-earning working class jobs typically entail compared to minimum wage roles – and the fact that various welfare entitlements may further reduce the net advantage – this government policy is coming close to rendering the entire hardworking ethos pointless.

This issue of earnings relativities between different grades of workers has long been a highly sensitive one in industrial relations, often more so than the level of raw pay per se. Indeed, it was the cause of countless strikes in the 1970s.

Instead of anticipating a celebratory mood among new working-class Tory voters, ministers should be on the lookout for restlessness and resentment. Indeed, the former Downing Street pollster James Johnson has already spotted the first stirrings of this in focus groups with participants grumbling that too much help is being directed to those at the very bottom.

Sunak has no parallel policy of ensuring that median earnings catch up as a proportion of the top 10 or 1 per cent of earners. In other words, his approach defies logic. Those in the modest middle of the pay scale have every reason to feel victimised

One can’t help feeling that Margaret Thatcher and her advisers had an altogether better innate understanding of what makes the ambitious working classes and lower middle classes tick than Boris Johnson’s administration. Which is why her flagship policy of bringing in the right-to-buy their council houses at a discount scored an electoral bullseye with aspirational voters

If Tory MPs in red wall seats think this policy is going to delight many of their constituents then I predict that they are about to be disabused of that notion.

It is still too early to tell what most Red Wall voters think of a rise in the minimum wage, but Patrick O’Flynn’s arguments make sense.

Guido Fawkes agrees with O’Flynn and thinks that Red Wall voters would benefit from a reduction in basic income tax rates. Guido took issue with an article in Politico. ‘UC’ stands for Universal Credit:

Sleaze

In November 2021, the then-MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, faced accusations of sleaze via his lobbying. He was forced to resign the seat he had long held. A Liberal Democrat won the by-election.

Some Conservative MPs tried to save Paterson from a 30-day suspension. However, Red Wall MPs were not among them. They objected to having a whipped vote to give Paterson a reprieve. Some voted against the Government, and rightly so.

The rest of the nation also disapproved. This was the beginning of low polling results for Conservatives. It wasn’t long afterwards that Labour began leading in the weekly polls. They still do.

Not only did Red Wall MPs disapprove, so did their voters, as the Daily Mail explained:

Boris Johnson is struggling to contain mounting fury on Tory benches today as a poll laid bare the damage inflicted by his bungled effort to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose. His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House.

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment, many Tories have been pointing the finger at chief whip Mark Spencer, saying he should have realised that the tactic would not ‘fly’. One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly. 

‘If the PM was told about the extent of disatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

Mr Johnson’s media advisers are thought to have warned that the tactics were high-risk, but those pushing the political benefits of shoring up Mr Paterson and reforming the standards regime won the internal argument.  

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour

One Conservative MP who spoke to The Mail said:

‘I had two marginal male MPs from Red Wall seats in tears looking at their social media feed, looking at their emails coming in after the vote, going ‘what the hell have we done?’.’

… ‘The chat on the WhatsApp groups is that the whips can stick their whipping up their a***. It’s now every man for himself,’ they said.

Chief Whip Mark Spencer recently became the new Leader of the House as Jacob Rees-Mogg moved to a new Cabinet position for Brexit opportunities.

Latest news

Many Red Wall MPs were incensed to learn of the Downing Street parties during lockdown.

Some began joining forces on January 18, 2021, when Boris apologised to Parliament:

As someone tweeted, this could have been about damage limitation for themselves:

Boris met with his own MPs that evening:

Lee Anderson is a former Labour councillor. He often confronts Labour benches with their own dismal record in local and national government.

The Red Wall MPs’ plot to write letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady became known as the Pork Pie Plot, because their alleged leader, Alicia Kearns, represents Rutland and Melton. Melton Mowbray is home to England’s famous pork pies.

Steven Swinford, The Times‘s political editor, spoke with a member of Cabinet who found the rebellion a disgrace:

The Red Wall plot to remove Boris Johnson – with Tory MPs meeting to discuss submitting letters – is not going down well in Cabinet

‘It’s pretty sickening. They were only elected because of him. Most of them are a load of —-ing nobodies. It’s nuts’

Hmm:

With the current situation in Ukraine, the Pork Pie Plot seems like a long time ago. Then again, a week is a long time in politics.

The next thing Red Wall residents can look forward to is a Northern branch of Conservative Party Headquarters in Leeds, which is not part of the Red Wall, but it’s close enough. Pictured is Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP:

Guido Fawkes wrote that this had been a promise from Government since 2020:

The Tories look set to imminently boost their red wall presence – and given recent polling, not a moment too soon. A party source tells Guido that their long-awaited Leeds campaign headquarters – first announced by Amanda Milling way back in September 2020 – is set to open in mere weeks …

… staff are already at work following a prolonged recruitment drive and the project will get up to full steam when work-from-home guidance is lifted. Another source suggested given recent events the party will be keen for the moment to be noticed by the media. Guido looks forward to Dowden’s forthcoming ribbon-cutting…

I will have more on the Red Wall coming soon: profiles of those MPs with the most spark.

As I discussed in Parts 1 and 2 last week, it is no accident that the Conservatives won the general elections of 2015 and 2019 thanks to the left-leaning metropolitan elite.

In 2015, this is what people wanted from MPs (emphases mine):

Here’s what we require of our politicians:

(1) honesty
(2) probity
(3) the ability to listen to their constituents
(4) the ability to put the needs of their constituents before the interests of big business, the aristocracy or the establishment.

Tick all four boxes and I don’t care where you were born, where you were schooled or where you live. The problem is finding anybody who’ll tick those boxes.

The comment came from a Guardian article from May 20, 2015 on the metropolitan elite. It was published two weeks after the general election, which David Cameron won comfortably.

In my first two instalments of this series, I posted several comments from the article.

Here is one more of note, remarking that the metropolitan elite are driving Labour supporters into voting Conservative, or Tory:

The left just suffered the biggest defeat in a generation. A left largely run– in fact almost exclusively run- by university educated professional metropolitan people or “metropolitan elites”.

You would have thought this would be a time for humility a moment of reflection on why they lost. Nope, just back to banging the same drum we were right everyone else was wrong. This is the kind of attitude that drives people into the arms of the Tory party, the under current of contempt for the people the left claim to speak out for.

And you call other people narrow minded.

It’s this astonishing hubris which will drive the left into the ground over the coming years. If this election hasn’t taught them a lesson nothing will.

By December 12, 2019, those two comments proved to be prophetic.

Something revolutionary happened: the transformation of the Red Wall (former Labour) seats, or constituencies, in England.

That transformation gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson a most unexpected 80-seat majority in the House of Commons.

It was so stunning that it caught the eye of at least one American commentator:

On Friday, December 13, the day after the election, the Daily Mail reported:

Boris Johnson hailed the political ‘earthquake’ that has given him a ‘mandate to get Brexit done’ today as he marched his new blue-collar Tory army towards a staggering election landslide.

After laying waste to Labour’s ‘red wall’ of Leave-backing strongholds, the PM said he had been given a ‘powerful’ vote of confidence by the British people and vowed to ‘rise to the challenge’ …

In England the Conservatives polled 47.1 per cent to Labour’s 34.3 per cent, and in Wales they were supported by an impressive 36.1 per cent.

By contrast Mr Corbyn [Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader] looks to have stewarded his party to its worst performance since 1935 and plunged it into a seething civil war – despite his allies vainly claiming earlier that high turnout might have helped him pull off a surprise. 

In an address to staff at CCHQ afterwards, Mr Johnson said: ‘We must understand now what an earthquake we have created. 

‘The way in which we have changed the political map in this country

‘We have to grapple with the consequences of that. We have to change our own party. We have to rise to the level of events. We have to rise to the challenge that the British people have given us.’ 

The Conservatives pulled off a massive coup by securing the symbolic swing constituency of Workington, overturning a 3,000 majority to triumph by 4,000 votes with a 10 per cent swing

They also overturned an 8,000 majority to rip the former mining area of Blythe Valley in Northumberland from Labour’s grip for the first time ever. The party’s candidate won by 700 votes after securing an incredible 10.2 per cent swing in what was theoretically only 85th on the target list. 

There were jaw-dropping gains in Bishop Auckland – which had never elected a Conservative MP in 134 years – and Tony Blair’s old stronghold of Sedgefield.

Left-wing ‘Beast of Bolsover’ Dennis Skinner was ejected from the seat he has held since 1970, as Mr Johnson flipped huge swathes of the country from deep red to Tory blue.  

Other fortresses to fall included Leigh, Darlington, Wakefield, Stockton South, Redcar – which saw a 15.5 per cent swing – Peterborough, Wrexham and the Vale of Clywd

As the political map was redrawn in a few tumultuous hours, places like Jarrow, Houghton & Sunderland South, Sunderland Central, and Newcastle Upon-Tyne Central saw enormous movements from Labour to the Conservatives – although the party clung on. 

A pattern was emerging of Brexit Party candidates draining votes from Labour in its northern heartlands, while Tory support held steady

After the Blythe Valley result was declared, flabbergasted ex-chancellor George Osborne said: ‘We never thought we’d get Blythe Valley

‘There’s a Conservative candidate in Hexham who I heard a couple of days ago saying ‘we are going to win Blythe valley’ and I thought he was always a bit optimistic, this guy. But he was right and that is a pretty spectacular win.’ 

Ian Levy, the mental health worker who won the seat for the Tories, said in his victory speech: ‘I would like to thank Boris.’ 

The first big Labour scalp claimed by the Tories was shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman, who lost Workington

Labour’s Gareth Snell predicted his own defeat ahead of the result in another former stronghold, Stoke-on-Trent Central, saying: ‘I’m going to lose badly and this is the start of 20 years of Tory rule.’ 

All the Tory Remainer rebels who stood as independents, including David Gauke and Dominic Grieve, failed to win seats.

And Labour defectors to the Lib Dems Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger fell short. 

Former Labour MP John Mann was correct when he said that his party had lost because they did not listen to their supporters. This is from The Sun:

Mr Mann said the Labour leader had “arrogantly” taken for granted Labour voters in the Red Wall of its traditional strongholds in the North and Midlands

He said what happened in his old seat of Bassetlaw, a Labour seat since 1935 that now has a Tory MP, sums up what he claimed was the “arrogance” of those around Corbyn.

“They didn’t let a local candidate stand, they then removed candidate that was selected, they imposed their own Corbynite candidate and he got humiliated – incredibly predictable.

“That sums up their arrogance – they’ve taken working class voters in the North and Midlands for granted.”

Mr Mann said it was time for Labour to start listening and to elect a leader who understands the party’s traditional voters.

“People have made their mind up and if Labour doesn’t learn their lesson, the Labour party might as well not exist,” he said.

“It’s going to require a leader that understands where people are coming from and understands the issues and then starts talking to those people.

“If that doesn’t go Labour is finished as a political force in this country and it needs a leader who understands that.”

Very true. It is unclear as to whether Sir Keir Starmer is that leader.

Former Labour party member and current Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges — the son of actress and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson — predicted a strong Conservative majority, even though pollsters had not. Hodges said, ‘Labour lost because the Corbynites hated working Britain’:

On Tuesday, December 17, a new electoral map appeared. Its caption says, ‘The “Red Wall” is now a pile of rubble’:

From the start, many of the Red Wall MPs showed how different they are from the conventional Conservative backbenchers. They are feisty, prepared to speak out and have a good memory for Labour disasters — local, regional or national.

Some of these new MPs grew up on council estates. None has an Oxbridge degree. Some were the first in their families to attend university.

Some have prior experience of running a business. Similarly, others worked in the private sector. Unlike the metropolitan elite, they did not go into politics or the civil service straight from university.

One thing has been clear from 2019 onward: they want to help their constituents by responding to their needs and concerns. Furthermore, they are local — not parachuted in from London.

One of the Red Wall MPs, Ben Bradley, who represents Mansfield — and was elected in the 2017 general election — explained why the Conservatives won so handily:

Bradley says that Labour have turned their attention from working for a living to giving handouts to their constituents, something that a lot of Britons don’t want to see happen. Bradley is correct, because this is the line that Labour take in Parliament — nothing about jobs, only money:

Bradley is correct to say that people want hope — and, may I add, the dignity that goes with being self-sufficient in working for a living:

He also points out that Labour criticised Leavers in the Brexit referendum:

Bradley concludes by saying the Conservatives have a lot of work ahead of them to hold onto these votes:

The Red Wall seats defined a new source of Conservative support, more evidence that the English are moving away from Labour. A 2021 Intelligence Squared debate put forward the following proposal (H/T to one of my readers):

‘We’ve lost the trust of working people.’ Those were the words of Labour leader Keir Starmer in early May, neatly summing up the reason his party lost the Hartlepool by-election as well as many of the local elections across the country. Labour MP Khalid Mahmood promptly quit the front bench, complaining that the party has been captured by ’a London-based bourgeoisie’. Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair joined in the chorus of despair, saying that the party is being ‘defined by the ”woke” Left’. Labour, it is clear, is now completely out of touch with its traditional voters – older, working-class people without degrees, who live in small towns and industrial heartlands and want to see a more robust defence of their country, its history and culture. They feel Boris Johnson and the Tories better understand their values and concerns. Without the support of these voters Labour can never win power again.

Although Labour have been more popular in the polls over the past three months with Boris’s lockdown parties at Downing Street, there is still no guarantee that people will actually vote for them in the next general election.

Voters should not forget this photo from June 2, 2020, showing Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner:

Millions of us would do well to remember that photo in future. Bookmark it and save it for the day when the next general election is declared in a couple of years’ time.

Although this series ends here, I will have a separate set of posts on the most dynamic Red Wall MPs.

Stay tuned. They don’t do boredom.

Yesterday’s post examined Britain’s metropolitan elite and the unwitting effect they had on the 2015 general election, handing the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron another term with a clear majority of seats, surpassing the magic number of 326 to end up with 331!

At that point, Cameron no longer needed the Liberal Democrats in coalition. The Conservatives were fully in charge.

David Cameron

Cameron fulfilled two Conservative pledges:

1/ To resolve the 1977 West Lothian Question and EVEL — English Votes for English Laws — the Government made a change to a standing order in Parliament so that:

a new law could no longer be imposed only on England by a majority of all MPs if a majority of English MPs were opposed. However, a proposed new law could still be vetoed by a majority of all MPs even if a majority of English MPs were in favour. 

This was abolished in 2021, a move with which I disagreed and instigated by a Scot, Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove, whom I do not trust at all. His reasoning was that the measures:

had “added complexity and delay to the legislative process” and that their removal would allow all MPs to be represented equally.[9]

I watched that debate. Why should another nation have its MPs ‘represented equally’ where English laws are concerned? English MPs cannot vote on another nation’s laws.

That said, so far, Scotland’s SNP MPs are careful to leave their benches when laws for England and Wales are debated.

2/ A referendum on leaving the European Union was scheduled for June 23, 2016. Fifty-two per cent of British voters opted for Brexit.

Although he said that he would abide by the referendum result, David Cameron resigned on Friday, June 24, that year at 9:30 a.m.

He and his wife Samantha honestly did not think the British would vote to leave. According to some news reports, Samantha spent much of the night in tears while watching the returns come in.

Theresa May

Theresa May became Conservative leader and Prime Minister in the summer of 2016.

Having previously branded the Conservatives ‘the nasty party’ at an annual party conference a few years before, she had big plans to improve opportunities for everyone living in Britain.

Although she was a Remainer, she pledged to abide by the referendum result. She appointed good Conservative MPs to her Brexit team, and Boris Johnson became Foreign Secretary.

The Opposition benches said that she had no mandate, so she held a general election in June 2017. Two trusted aides told her that polling showed that the Conservatives would do well. Furthermore, the controversial Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader. It sounded as if May and her party were shoo-ins. In the end, there was a hung Parliament and May brokered a confidence and supply arrangement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), led by Arlene Foster at the time.

Things began to unravel further in the summer of 2018. May’s Brexit team had come up with a sensible, considered plan to leave the EU. May held a meeting at Chequers, the prime ministerial weekend estate, to discuss the plan. Unbeknownst to her colleagues, she had a compromise plan ready to discuss which superseded the Brexit team’s plan. She told her ministers that if they did not agree to her compromise plan, later rumoured to have been developed with German input from someone working for Angela Merkel, they were free to leave the country estate at their own expense. It was shocking and resulted in several resignations from the Brexit team. Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary.

By January 2019, May could get nowhere in Parliament with Brexit votes, even with her compromise. I began watching BBC Parliament in earnest at that time and haven’t stopped. We really do have a load of virtue-signalling troughers from the metropolitan elite in both Houses. But I digress.

On May 24, 2019, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7. That triggered a leadership election by the party members. May stayed on as PM until July 24, the day after Boris Johnson became the new leader of the Conservatives. Today, May serves on the backbenches, representing the constituency of Maidenhead, a delightful Home Counties town bordering the Thames.

Boris Johnson

Boris gave his first speech at the despatch box, all guns blazing. I watched it on television. He had a go at Labour, alleging that one of their MPs had been involved in corruption while serving on the Greater London Assembly many years before. A PM couldn’t get better than this.

However, Brexit was the major issue, and he was presiding over the hung Parliament from the 2017 election, with Arlene Foster’s DUP providing confidence and supply to Conservative policies. Try as he might, Boris could get nowhere with the Opposition benches.

Brexit negotiations with the EU resumed on August 28, 2019, the same day that Boris attempted to prorogue (adjourn) Parliament from September 10 to October 14. He claimed that the prorogation would cover all the party conferences normally held during that time. However, court cases arose in the Supreme Court in England, presided over by Baroness Hale, she of the spider brooch (Guido’s story involves a later controversy, unrelated to the prorogation):

‘Spiderwoman’ Hale’s decision forced Parliament to reconvene on September 3. It will come as no surprise that attempting to get Brexit votes through the House of Commons became even more difficult. On September 4, the Benn Act, a bill to block a no-deal Brexit passed. At that point, Boris proposed a motion to hold a general election on October 15. It failed to command two-thirds approval from MPs.

In addition, several Remainer Conservative MPs had the party whip removed at that time, which made matters worse. Although some had the whip restored, the Conservatives no longer had a working majority.

As a result, Parliament was dissolved in October 2019, with an election called for December 12 that year.

What voters thought

Whether Leavers or Remainers, more people began paying close attention to the goings-on in Parliament.

Leavers knew that, while Boris was flawed, he was on their side with regard to getting Brexit done. After delay upon delay in Parliament from June 2016 to October 2019, that was all that mattered.

Remainers wanted a second referendum to confirm (ahem) the first vote. In other words, they wanted to overturn the 2016 vote.

Leavers felt increasingly betrayed by Parliamentarians. However, Brexit was also beginning to have an effect on their personal lives: relationships broke down, family feuds began and working life became strained.

England was becoming a highly divided and divisive place, exacerbated by print and broadcast media alike. Leavers felt alienated and betrayed.

The fallout between 2015 and 2019

I’m returning briefly to the comments left on the 2015 Guardian article I cited yesterday: ‘The metropolitan elite: Britain’s new pariah class’, which appeared on May 22, two weeks after the general election.

What people felt about the metropolitan elite did not change in the four years that followed. Voters were disappointed.

One Guardian commenter remembered the unity during the Thatcher era as the Iron Lady began closing mines (emphases mine):

We have a situation amongst the majority of the “lower classes” which is this:
If you dare to offer a “lefty” opinion you are automatically assumed to be a rich metro elite type, with no experience of the real world.
If you dare to offer a “right” opinion you are immediately branded a racist, ignoramus.

Does no one else see the division this has caused?

Remember when the gay rights groups went to help the miners? Can you imagine that happening today?They’d be sniping at each other over these perceived differences, instead of recognising their similarities and fighting together against a common enemy.

We are all exactly where they want us, and until we recognise that- the real elite have won and will carry on winning- regardless of what colour they pin to their (old boys) ties.

Another went back further in time, putting forward post-war Prime Minister Clement Attlee as a man of duty:

the most effective Labour Prime Minister by far was Clement Attlee: the son of a well-off London solicitor, educated at Haileybury and Oxford, served with distinction as a junior officer in WW1 and reached the rank of Major. Though not a patrician, you’d hardly have called him a man of the people, and I suspect that he would have felt under no obligation to put on glottal stops or pretend that he liked football (though he had actually played it in his youth).

The point is that perhaps aided by attending Haileybury – the public school that specialised in training boys up for the Indian Civil Service – he had an intense, deeply ingrained sense of his duty to the nation and particularly to the less well-off part of it, which carried him through all the vicissitudes of setting up the Welfare State in a bankrupt, exhausted country with an empire to get rid of. He knew what had to be done, and he was determined to do it, and what focus groups or the media thought about it was of no consequence to him.

… where there is no vision the people perish. Without a thoroughgoing analysis of the state we’re in and a thought-through programme for putting it right, such as it had in 1945, Labour is simply wasting its own time and everyone else’s and might as well shut up shop now.

People dislike when MPs are not local, especially when a well-heeled Londoner represents a disadvantaged Northern constituency:

It’s ridiculous that these parachuted-in pillocks can hold office in northern constituencies when many of them will secretly smirk about it being “grim up north” every time they’re sat in some trendy London wine-bar.

Someone had a solution to candidate selection:

We need to stop north-London PPE [Philosophy, Politics and Economics] graduates from pretty much automatically getting into Westminster. Anyone who’s interested in being a politician does that PPE degree, then works for a think-tank or as a political advisor then a junior minister and so on.

Candidates should be elected from people who live in individual constituencies, who have done proper jobs and who genuinely wish to fight for their communities. In this system George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband would not be able to stand in northern constituencies; they’d have to run in the cities and towns where they actually lived. Generally speaking, that would mean a borough of LondonOh, wait Chukka Umunna and Ed Miliband live in the same borough? Tough! Only one of them can stand for Labour. What’s that; several of the Tory cabinet live in the same town in rural Oxfordshire? Oh dear, only one of them can stand. And in order to prevent parachuting candidates in, they’d have to live there for at least five years prior to being selected.

The whole political system in this country lacks any legitimacy. The people who are affected the most by politics are the people who are the least engaged in it …

This issue also affects London. One person wrote about Labour’s David Lammy:

Lammy is my MP and I like him, but I do have a slight problem: according to the Tory leaflet through the door pre-election, he doesn’t live in Tottenham, his constituency, he lives in Crouch End, which is rather met-elity itself. Not to mention giving the option of a state secondary school you’d actually want your kids to go to.

If the Tories were lying I apologise.

One reader understood why people resented the metropolitan elite:

I totally get the hatred of the “metropolitan elite”. The assumption that you, as someone who is not a member of that class, will have no idea what they are talking about whether it is art, literature, politics, whatever and, by extension, you are an idiot. It’s bloody infuriating!!

It’s essential for the media not to leave London:

Aside from John Harris I know of no other Guardian columnist that sets foot out of London – or even North London.

Tell a lie – Polly [Toynbee] is in Brighton for her Arts Festival.

That’s the nature of metropolitan elites – write about those less well-off but be sure never to meet any.

Also:

Metropolitan elite means people living in London who are unnatural and out of touch with the rest of the country. This is nothing new. The medieval word for a Londoner was “cock’s egg”‘ (cockney) which also described something unnatural and out of touch.

I did not know that!

Other readers noted the petty, controlling interference that the metropolitan elite display:

Different people will have different reasons for disliking the ME. One of these must surely be the neopuritanism they espouse, which means you’re always looking over your shoulder worrying whether you’ve exhibited the wrong attitude, e.g. insufficient enthusiasm about gay marriage or a penchant for Top Gear.

On that topic:

Metropolitan elite who work in media, government, academia, charities, and NGOs from the National Trust to Oxfam and the Royal Society. These tend to coalesce on gay marriage, “safe” places, “islamophobia” issues, pro-EU sentiment, pro-Obama and catastrophic climate change. Just watch the BBC for any length of time.

Another said:

I personally feel this miring of everything in semantics does little to describe the current rot in UK politics. It would be better to use a historical example – I personally think referring to these people as “The Marie Antoinette Class” is more appropriate. It illustrates just how out of touch they really are with the current reality of life for British working people.

Even worse, they don’t really seem to be British at heart:

What has happened (maybe?) is that the elite in the UK (England specifically) has become more like other countries – urban and bourgeois, rather than rural and aristocratic – and without the aspiration to ennoble themselves that the previous industrial bourgeois had (by marrying their wealth into the old order’s titles). What we have now is a class of educated professional people who share urban liberal-middle-class values that are much more like those of their equivalents in other European countries than they are many of their own compatriots.

Another reader also noticed the lack of Britishness:

One explanation could be that many young educated people in Europe were brought up to feel European (or even global) than from a particular country or region. Programs like ERASMUS and the increasing cheapness and availability of travel have opened up the horizons of many smart and educated individuals. This is definitely causing a class divide with those who remain rooted and patriotic. Combine that with the growing phenomenon of elitism in all societal institutions (you need a degree to do anything these days), then you inevitably get more of group A in all positions of power.

I can’t tell whether this is a good thing (or even inevitable) or not. The “metropolitan elite” would probably find themselves thinking that they are better than group B, who are quagmired in small mindedness and petty issues. Then you have group B, made up largely of working class people, who are feeling disenfranchised and silenced (the elite would probably condescendingly refer to it as “feeling left behind”). It’s like a soft Russian revolution, and look what happened that time when they let their “betters” look after them. I think a healthy society needs to always listen to both sides, whenever you start thinking “you know best” and ignore the plebs who “don’t know any better”, well, then you get the Star Wars prequels.

Globalism alienates:

There is hardly any difference in the political parties communications, only semantics. The nation state is dying and Universalism is taking over through the multinational corporations & global organisations.

One reader gave us the education profiles of the main political players of 2015 and the Labour years:

They are all cut from the same cloth…a ll that differentiates them is how they divvy up and pork barrel the the trolls tax contributions.

Cameron: Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Brasenose College, Oxford

Miliband: Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford, and the London School of Economics

Clegg: University of Cambridge, the University of Minnesota, College of Europe

Farage: Dulwich College, a public school (private), and stockbroker….

Mandelson: Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Catherine’s College, Oxford

Blair: St John’s College, Oxford…and various private schools

Brown: University of Edinburgh, History (as the son of CoS [Church of Scotland] Minister he is definitely middle class)

The list is not exclusive…….but the stench is unmistakable……

At least voters know where they stand with the Conservatives:

This is why the Tories won the election. So the PM is posh and privileged. He knows it and we know it.

Someone complimented Cameron’s approach to EVEL:

What people object to, at a gut level, is getting a clever-dick, hypocritical answer to their concerns.

For example, Labour’s position on EVEL is transparently self-serving and relies on a lot of chin-scratching about complicated constitutional niceties. In contrast Cameron’s proposition, that it is only fair for England to have self-determination on the same issues which Scotland does, is an uncomplicated statement of a simple principle, even if it is of course equally self-serving.

So people see Labour as putting self-interest first and talking down to them about constitutions, on the one hand, and on the other they see Cameron espousing a simple principle which they see as being on their side.

It’s no surprise Labour end up on the wrong side of so many arguments.

Interestingly, someone brought up Boris:

Londoners are not much interested in the politics of power, influence, wealth and class envy. For many, social justice might mean the mortgage paid off so they can fund their care home one day. Love him or hate him, Boris Johnson recognised and tapped into this and that’s why they voted Boris Johnson Mayor. Twice. London actually gave an early indicator for the national mood.

Labour, on the other hand, cannot relate to most people. The second sentence gave me a chuckle:

I am still angry that Ed wasn’t able to put his view across more forcefully.
He is very fond of the third chapter of The Working Classes And Their Struggle For A Cohesive Understanding Of Dialectical Materialism Within A Framework Of Sonambulant Artifice And Prolapsed Thinking and yet people still didn’t think he understood what life is like on a Council estate or in a factory.
It beats me.

Someone else agreed, saying that Labour were interested only in themselves:

Labour’s metropolitan political class – and believe me, they are ABSOLUTELY the worst, an utter ideological and moral vacuum compared to, say, the Lib Dems or the centrist strain of the Tory Party – are utterly without allegiance to anyone but their own caste.

What voters want(ed)

One reader provided a profile of the ideal MP:

Here’s what we require of our politicians:

(1) honesty
(2) probity
(3) the ability to listen to their constituents
(4) the ability to put the needs of their constituents before the interests of big business, the aristocracy or the establishment.

Tick all four boxes and I don’t care where you were born, where you were schooled or where you live. The problem is finding anybody who’ll tick those boxes.

Little did that person know that a bevy of Conservative candidates could tick those boxes in 2019.

To be continued next week.

By chance, last week I read an article from May 20, 2015 in The Guardian about the general election result earlier that month: ‘The metropolitan elite: Britain’s new pariah class’.

Labour lost, leaving the metropolitan elite scratching their heads and wondering why.

Zoe Williams’s article has three pages of comments, which are illuminating. The general public revealed why Conservatives won not only in 2015 but even more convincingly with an 80-seat majority in 2019.

Of course, in between those two elections was the one held in 2017, whereby Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May barely scraped by with a slim majority which caused her major problems in getting Brexit legislation passed in the first half of 2019. She resigned during the summer, and Boris Johnson became party leader, thereby succeeding her as PM. He held an election on December 12 that year, primarily to break the Brexit deadlock. It was one of the best things he ever did.

What is the metropolitan elite?

Zoe Williams, who has been writing for The Guardian for decades, defines the metropolitan elite through interviews with other people which makes up the article.

The characteristics that tie the metropolitan elite together are working in London, living in an upper-middle class bubble, going to a public (private boarding) school; having an Oxford degree (especially in Philosophy, Politics and Economics); making a close network of friends from school and university; finding employment in politics, the civil service, law, the media and academia. They ensure their children follow the same route.

No one’s definition is perfect. Each needs another element added to it.

Williams concludes that an exact definition doesn’t really matter, because it is fluid, but the reality is that this group has caused the ethos of Parliament to change through the years (emphases mine):

The meaning of “metropolitan elite” is not fixed. It will change in the mouth of whoever says it, and it will take on the shape of the person to whom, for whatever combination of reasons, it is thrown at and sticks. But the anger is real: parliament, as the last century understood it, represented the people to the state. Parliament now represents the state to the people. And maybe “metropolitan” is a way to say that, and to give it a face.

Background to the 2015 election

Below is a summary of the highlights of the 2015 election.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

David Cameron was PM at the time, part of a coalition government with the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg was deputy PM.

Clegg ran as the Lib Dem candidate as he was party leader at the time.

Cameron was getting a lot of heat about holding a Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP at the time, piled on the pressure. Referenda are not a British thing and Cameron could have happily ignored it were it not for the fact that a Conservative victory depended upon granting voters a Brexit referendum.

There was also much talk at the time about English Votes for English Laws, or EVEL: the inappropriateness of allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English laws when English MPs have not been able to vote on Scottish laws since devolution in 1999. MPs from Wales and Northern Ireland can also vote on English laws, but the issue mainly concerns Scotland, since many laws apply equally to England and Wales. EVEL — arising from the West Lothian Question of 1977 — was another issue Cameron had to address in the campaign. As such, it became part of the Conservative manifesto that year.

Labour

Ed Miliband was Labour’s leader at the time.

Emily Thornberry

The snobbish aspect of the metropolitan elite, which Labour embodies so well, came to light during the World Cup in 2014. Emily Thornberry MP experienced a combination of bemusement and outrage upon seeing that someone would have the audacity to display St George’s flags, representing England, outside their home. What’s more, there was a white van parked in the driveway. Oh, the horror!

She tweeted a photo of the house and captioned it: ‘Image from #Rochester’

The offending home was in Rochester, Kent, where a by-election was being held in November that year. The owner of the house said that he put three St George’s flags up during the World Cup and decided to leave them flying from an upstairs window.

On November 14, the BBC reported that Thornberry resigned from the shadow front bench as a result of the tweet (bold in the original here):

Emily Thornberry has resigned from Labour’s front bench after sending a tweet during the Rochester and Strood by-election which was branded “snobby”.

The shadow attorney general apologised for the message, which showed a terraced house with three England flags, and a white van parked outside.

UKIP said she had “sneered, and looked down her nose at a white van in Strood with the cross of St George on it”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband was “angry” at her, a senior figure told the BBC.

The resident of the house, Dan Ware, said Ms Thornberry – the MP for Islington South and Finsbury – was a “snob”.

“I’ve not got a clue who she is – but she’s a snob,” he told the Sun. “We put the flags up for the World Cup (in 2014) and will continue to fly them.”

Even today, everyone who loves England remembers Thornberry’s attitude towards our nation’s flag. Ed Miliband was right to have been angry at the time. It must have lost Labour votes in certain constituencies:

The Independent had more:

Three hours later she apologised, after Ed Miliband intervened and the Labour leader made it “very clear” that he believes people should be able to fly the England flag without feeling ashamed.

Following her resignation, Labour has revealed that Thornberry had spoken to Mr Miliband a second time.

“Ed and Emily had a second conversation. She thought the right thing to do was to resign. Ed agreed,” the source said.

Her tweeted apology received strong reactions, among them the following:

Simon Danczuk, who was the Labour MP for Rochdale at the time, could see the elitist London-centric outlook at work:

Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view.

In the end, Mark Reckless won the by-election which was held because he wanted to change party affiliation from Conservative to UKIP. Nigel Farage had told him to do the right thing by asking his constituents. Reckless became the second UKIP MP to serve in the House of Commons when he joined Douglas Carswell that year. Carswell also had to hold a by-election in his constituency before Farage would allow him into UKIP.

Ed Miliband

Returning to Labour, a month before the by-election, Ed Miliband proposed a mansion tax, aimed primarily at Londoners.

However, a Londoner from Dartmouth Park in Kentish Town, Dan Carrier, wrote an article for The Guardian in October 2014, saying that not everyone living in a house in North London was necessarily wealthy: ‘My house in the middle of Ed Miliband’s street’.

It so happens that Ed Miliband and his family moved into the street where Mr Carrier grew up. In 2014, his parents still lived in the same house and he had the good fortune to be able to buy a home just a few doors down.

The Carriers and the Milibands are two very different classes of people:

In many ways our road is a typical London street: a mixture of Victorian terraces, some grand double-fronted villas and a postwar apartment block. More recently, however, it has had national media attention, prompted by the arrival a few years ago of Ed Miliband and his family. When they decamped from Primrose Hill, the move produced a swathe of articles describing my neighbourhood as a place of leafy-lefty-intellectual-middle-class types. The road I grew up on, and moved back to, has become shorthand for the gentrification of north London. The gap between the property haves and have-nots has never been starker, and housing is set to be a defining issue of the next general election. Ours is just one street, but it could be anywhere in the capital.

Carrier described many of his neighbours, who were working- or middle-class, hardly of the metropolitan elite. As such, a mansion tax would have been devastating:

Under the proposed system, many of Ed’s neighbours could face large bills.

The newcomers, however, were flush with cash:

One recently arrived couple, both on six-figure salaries, asked not to be named. Being able to buy a property in this neighbourhood these days, it seems, is enough to single you out for unwanted attention.

They say they moved here because of “the large houses, and the fact it’s not chi-chi like Hampstead or Primrose Hill. You see neighbours at the weekends, they’re not all out at their country homes. You don’t see Fortnum’s vans pull up.” Dartmouth Park is not yet Mayfair, in other words – not a comparison my parents’ generation would have felt compelled to make. “It feels like a real street, with real people.”

In the end, there was no mansion tax because Labour lost the election, thankfully.

By the way, Ed’s house has two kitchens in it. One is for the nanny and the children. The other is for Ed and his wife.

Ed Miliband could have taken some advice on the PR front. The lesser of his campaign sins was jamming a bacon sandwich into his mouth, further proof that no one should be photographed eating. The greater sin, however, was imitating Moses by erecting a stone listing five Labour Party goals, dubbed the Ed Stone. Oh, my, how we laughed at such hubris.

The election was held on Thursday, May 7.

Miliband resigned as Labour Party leader on Friday, May 8, a position he had held since September 2010.

By May 10, the Ed Stone was nowhere to be seen.

That day, The Guardian reported:

A case of champagne is among the rewards being offered by tabloids and rightwing pundits in return for the whereabouts of the so-called “Ed Stone”.

The 10 commandments-style tablet, engraved with five promises and unveiled in the final days before the election, was meant to symbolise how Ed Miliband would keep his pledges and restore trust in politics.

But the gimmick was perhaps the greatest gift Miliband gave to his opponents – and the mockery shows no signs of letting up even after his resignation and the quiet disappearance of the stone.

An 8ft 6in-high, two-ton limestone hulk is not the easiest thing to hide. But the stone, which was rumoured to have cost up to £30,000, is proving remarkably elusive and Labour sources are staying tight-lipped.

The Mail has offered a case of champagne to any reader who has information that “leads to the discovery of the Ed Stone”. The Sun has set up a dedicated “Ed Stone hotline” for tips about the stone’s whereabouts.

But without any apparent success in locating the real thing, the Sun also offered its readers a chance to win a full-size replica of “the Labour loser’s laughable slab”.

It was only on January 16, 2016, that we found out what happened to the slab. The Guardian reported:

The Ed Stone was broken up shortly after the general election, it has been revealed, putting an end to eight months of speculation about its whereabouts.

Two party officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg News that the stone had been destroyed in the weeks following 7 May 2015.

Shortly before the election, David Cameron tweeted that there would be chaos with Ed Miliband (pictured with Ed Balls on the left):

Miliband is still an MP.

The Ed Stone might not have survived, but one of his lasting legacies as Energy Minister from Labour’s time in power has: the green levy on home heating fuel, which is more than the VAT. The Conservatives should scrap the levy. Perhaps they will when the cost of gas for the home reaches breaking point and people get sufficiently irritated with Net Zero.

I wrote two posts about the 2015 election. In the second, I wrote about the ‘historic upset the pollsters missed’:

Even the most accurate poll — the exit poll — slightly underestimated the final total. The Conservatives won a clear majority of seats, surpassing the magic number of 326 to end up with 331!

David Cameron no longer needed a coalition government.

Today, Nick Clegg works in California for Facebook and has just received a huge promotion as president of global affairs for parent company Meta, taking on some of Mark Zuckerberg’s former responsibilities.

What the public thought

In 2015, the public made it abundantly clear that they preferred a Conservative government.

The readers’ responses to Zoe Williams’s article about the metropolitan elite made some excellent points. I read them all.

One person said that the Conservatives’ policies appeal more to the average Briton:

The election was won by the Tories less because they represent the views of more people than any other party than because their policies offended fewer people than those of any other party. The widespread and insidious disenchantment with politicians stems from this disconnect and it just happens that at the moment the Tory message is marginally less unpopular than a whole range of unpopular messages – probably because the Tory demographic is a currently a bit wider than that of Labour.

Another said that Labour had deserted the working class for the middle class:

A large section of the working class of this country still can’t box their way out of this ingrained deference to the ruling class. The existence of the royal family and the institution of the monarchy is the guarantor of that deference. But they do not feel the same deference to the ‘metropolitan elite’ and this fact has been nicely used by right wing media to undermine urban liberalism and split the working class vote. The Labour party will have difficulty fighting its way out of this conundrum so long as they exclude working class representatives in favour of middle-class ones, black or white.

The working class feel ignored:

Labour are more and more removed from working class people … The divide is growing -hence the growth in UKIP in traditional labour areas. The metropolitan elite – useless Ed is one of them – have failed to understand and address the concerns of their traditional voting base in far too many areas.

Someone said that the Labour Party was synonymous with the metropolitan elite:

If the Labour Party (or the metropolitan elite that provides it`s talking heads) thinks that simply stealing the Conservatives`s clothes or repositioning themselves on Europe is going to work – forget it. At the moment the terms “Labour Party” and “metropolitan elite” are interchangeable and are synonymous with what us plebs would call “being out of touch”. Can the Labour Party learn how to talk to us again?….They`d better, and quickly because at present we`re all listening to the Tories and UKIP

Another reader said the same thing:

I say this as a northern working class boy

Until we have a left wing party led and organised by the working class, I’m a Tory. All you people still voting Labour when these people are in charge of the party are fools – they’ve tricked you into believing they represent you, but actually you’re just useful to them to legitimise their marginal differences compared to their blue friends in the next street.

Two people even had a go at Zoe Williams:

Zoe Williams. Godolphin and Latymer School, Oxbridge, lives in Camberwell, brays, wrote a tedious feminist piece about why she married the father of her kids after a decade as if anyone cared, spouts by-numbers liberal-lefty discourse every week in the Graun.

I don’t loathe the metropolitan elite. It’s just a shame there are so many of them clogging up the national media, the political scene, academia, the arts, public policy, etc. when they represent such an infinitesimal cadre of people. So much for the ‘diversity’ they so often chirrup about.

Also:

YOU, Zoe W, are most certainly a member of that elite. How else do you get on What The Papers Say on Sky television?

This comment seemed to unknowingly say the most about what would happen in December 2019. Britain was — and is — becoming more nationalistic, but not as a Union, only as separate parts:

Events in Scotland and the victory of the SNP and the rise of UKIP, particularly in Northern heartlands, have raised questions about the leadership of a working class party by a group of North London academics and politicians. However the real event is the battle of ideas about what a Labour Party should represent as the North London hegemony over policy has dissolved. The Blairites are in the news on the TV every day attempting to solve the problem of hegemony by a return to the centre. Both the SNP and UKIP have shown that there is no way back as both Scotland and large swathes of England are staunch nationalist. The rest of England, with the collapse of Lib Dems, is dark and lite tint blue Tory, and as such a distinct Englishness has temporarily been established. This Englishness is different from that of the UKIP North and certainly different from that of the Scottish nationalism of the SNP. The hegemonic moment of North London has in the words of Tom Nairn come face to face with the break up of Britain. Dr. Eamon O’Doherty

And, lo, it turned out to be …

More to come tomorrow.

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