Saturday, June 28, 2008

When grandstanding goes wrong

I admit it - back when the Conservatives were electing a new leader, I was hoping David Davis would get the job. He's older than me - I still can't really take seriously a politician who isn't - and less, well, rah-rah-rah than the bloke who got the job. Not that I especially wanted either of them as Prime Minister, I should add - I just wanted a decent Opposition party headed by a decent leader. There's a parallel world where William Hague stuck to his guns after the 2001 election and it's a lot nicer than this one.

Now I'm not so sure. Mr Davis, of course, recently resigned so as to force a by-election to be fought on the issue of Gordon's continued erosion of our liberties. A fine stance to take - but the sad fact is the Commons voted for it and that's where to fight it. Parliamentary democracy isn't perfect; you take the good with the bad, the smooth with the rough, and if everyone started resigning just because a vote (albeit a very important vote) has gone against them, the system would break down. It comes across a little - just a little - as a hissy fit. I'm very glad that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is not led by a man who throws hissy fits.

But there is a light side, as shown in a story in today's Times. Mr Davis seems to be the only one taking his election seriously. He wants a debate but no one worth debating with is standing against him: no Labour, no Lib Dems, not even the BNP or UKIP. The best he can do is lock intellectual horns with the Miss Great Britain Party. Candidate: Gemma Garrett, a.k.a. Miss Great Britain. Manifesto: compulsory health and beauty education.

The Times reminds us: "Mr Davis lies in the bed he made." I smile.

Which brings me onto this week's Henley by-election. No surprise, in the seat that gave us first Heseltine and then Boris, the Conservative guy won. The Labour guy lost. In fact the Labour guy came behind the BNP but ahead of UKIP. I stop smiling.

Henley is one of the most English places in England and the BNP and UKIP are both vehemently patriotic. Yet if the voters of Henley just wanted vehement patriotism then it would have been a split vote. We can only conclude the voters were swayed by the BNP's distinguishing feature, which is rabid xenophobia. For all Labour's faults, a protest vote that puts them behind the BNP is ... worrying.

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