Issue 305: 2021 12 16: Diary of a Corbynista

16 December 2021

Diary of a Corbynista

Shy Tories ready to strike

by Don Urquhart

Mug shot of Don Urquhart

On December 16th there is a by election in the North Shropshire constituency triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson, who had won the seat in 2019 with a majority of nearly 23,000.  It has been a Tory seat for 200 years.

The Independent reported on December 11th that the LibDems are the bookies’ favourites.  Improbable you might think considering that they only garnered 10% of the vote at the General Election.

There are 14 candidates and some of these will take more votes from the Tories than the other parties. UKIP, Reform and Reclaim being the main ones.  But much rests on the ability of LibDem candidate Helen Morgan to lure Labour and Green voters to her cause.

The Shropshire Star reports that the Labour candidate Ben Wood is “more confident than ever” of winning.  What does he know that the bookies don’t?

As in any campaign there’s plenty of misdirection.  The Labour Party appears to be saying that their candidate is clearly in second place and he is the chap to get behind to beat the Tories.

Shockingly the LibDems have Helen Morgan as the only candidate who can beat the Tories.

How wonderful it would be if Labour, LibDem and Green leaderships could get together and decide which candidate they support.

Martin Fletcher in the New Statesman put the case:

It is time for Starmer (and the LibDems’ Ed Davey) to accept reality and put the country ahead of narrow party interests. He should do what right-wing parties did in 2017 and 2019. For this election only, he should explore some sort of electoral deal or non-aggression pact with the other opposition parties whereby anti-Johnson voters in marginal Red Wall seats can unite behind Labour candidates, and those in marginal southern Blue Wall seats can unite behind Lib Dem or Green Party candidates. There are few constituencies in which it is not obvious which progressive party is the main challenger to the Tories.

Right now they [the voters] would seize the chance to oust Johnson and his cronies, and reward politicians who promise collaboration in place of tribalism.

And he quotes examples of all opposition parties uniting to oust Tories in council elections.

So I was keen to watch Andrew Marr for a change.  Sir Keir Starmer was on and I hoped to get some insight into Labour Party thinking about the coming by election.  Perhaps there are rules that prevent TV discussion of by elections.  At any event Marr was really only interested in PartyGate and elicited from the former head of the CPS that Johnson had probably broken the law by sitting with 2 colleagues in a festive manner.

So there is some debate about which of the two main opposition candidates, LibDem or Labour has the better shot at winning the by election.  Both seem to have polls supporting their case.

In the run-up to the 1992 General Election the independent polls consistently had the Labour Party ahead so it was a big surprise that John Major beat Neil Kinnock so easily (376 seats to 229).  The polls were misled by “Shy Tories” and it seems that since then pollsters tend to underestimate the Tory vote. 

So now in North Shropshire the bookies have the LibDem Helen Morgan at 1-2 on to win and the Labour candidate Ben Wood is ever more confident of coming out top despite the bookies having him at 40-1…  Were I a betting man I would back the Tory to garner enough votes to win.  The Shy Tories will rally to the cause.

I wonder whether Ben Wood, Helen Morgan and Green candidate Duncan Kerr are conspiring to give the PM a black eye.  It would seem that they should be able to agree which of them has the best chance and that two of them should step down and endorse the third. Surely at a minimum Ben Wood should stand down and advise supporters to back Helen Morgan.  Here’s what I tweeted:

If Ben Wood wins that will be lovely but if his refusal to stand down leaves the Tory as MP will he reveal the nature of the polls and soundings that led him to think he was a sure thing? If not then good luck to the next constituency he is inflicted on.

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