Friday, June 30, 2006

Hurrah for Blaenau Gwent!!

Fantastic news from Blaenau Gwent. At the last election the Blairites, treating the constituency as a feudal fiefdom, “parachuted-in” Maggie Jones (described as “a friend of Tony and Cherie”) on a “women-only short-list”. Long-standing Labour activist Peter Law stood as an Independent (refusing to be bribed by Peter Hain, who offered a peerage if Law stood down). The voters of Blaenau Gwent showed they wouldn’t be shat on and Law took the seat on a 49% swing. Sadly, Peter Law recently died after a long illness. Labour put everything into winning the seat back (deploying everyone from Gordon Brown to Dennis Skinner), but Dai Davies has held the seat; admittedly on a much-reduced majority, but it is still a cheering victory for David over an arrogant Goliath. Trish Law (Peter’s widow) also won election to the Welsh Assembly (her husband had been both an MWA and MP). Altogether it was a good night for the “little people” against the machine-politicians. In his acceptance speech Dai Davies warned: “Political parties take note, you take people for granted at your peril”. Owen Smith (the Labour candidate) gave a speech which was part contrite (acknowledging “mistakes” had been made) and part swagger (paraphrase: Labour will win the seat back eventually, so fuck you). This morning the robotic Hazel Blears was on Radio 4 mouthing platitudes with all the flair of a Lancashire “speak-your-weight” machine, also taking comfort in Davies reduced majority. It was good news in the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election also: the Conservative vote was slashed, suggesting the “Cameron magic” may not be as spellbinding as had been thought. Labour was pushed into fourth place behind UKIP. Turnout was down by 24% (from 64.8% to 40.5%) and the Conservative share of the vote fell from 51% to 40%. Labour’s share fell from 22% to 6.6%. The Liberal-Democrats were in second place (only 633 votes behind the Conservatives) but the number of Liberal-Democrat votes was not that much greater than in the General Election (10,988 as compared to 10,241). It looks like there was some tactical voting for the Liberal-Democrats and that both Conservative and Labour voters stayed away in large numbers, in each case, I guess, because of disillusionment with the party leadership. Cameron’s opinion poll ratings are good, but this result suggests disquiet at the Conservative grassroots. For Labour to be pushed from second into fourth place is pretty poor.


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