Corby & East Northants – Coalition Shudders and Quakes?
The by- election result in Corby and East Northants, (and how annoying it must have been to the people who live in East Northants that the national media continue to refer to it as the Corby by-election) will have sent a shudder down the collective spines of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition MP’s.
Not because of the result which I’ve added for no good reason than it is great to see it written down,
Andy Sawford, Labour 17,267
Christine Emmett, Conservative 9,476
Margot Parker UKIP, 5,180
Jill Hope, Liberal Democrat, 1,770
or because Andy Sawford, MP will unquestionably be a great servant to all of the people in Corby and East Northants, but by what was revealed about the Conservatives in particular to the people of Northamptonshire and the UK during the campaign.
It got off to a bad start for the Conservatives with their candidate not knowing that the seat was in Northamptonshire and not North Hampshire, which no doubt would have been an easier seat for them to contest, except of course there isn’t one, but that’s another story.
What really must have set the alarm bells ringing for the Conservatives was the way and speed at which Andy Sawford and the Labour party got the election campaign up and running concentrating not only on the national issues but importantly on the impact of the failing economy and divisive decisions on ordinary hard-working people.
There is no doubt that the way in which the previous Conservative MP neglected the constituency preferring to go for self-promotion and then the decision to leave will have had some influence on the way people in Corby and East Northants voted but to put the defeat solely down to that or even as the major factor would be wrong.
It wouldn’t explain the number of people who voted for UKIP, pushing the Liberal Democrats into 4th place and to try to portray the UKIP vote as Conservative defectors would also be wrong especially when you look at the results which show that even if all of the people who voted UKIP and Liberal Democrat had voted Conservatives, Andy would still have won.
What Andy concentrated on was the economic and social issues of what is becoming increasingly clear to many of the failing economic policies and level of concern about a coalition who are ‘out of touch’ with people, and in doing so released the full range tactics the Conservatives were prepared to use too to try to hold on to the seat.
They started of course by appointing Chris Heaton-Harris MP for Daventry as the Conservative campaign manager, forgetting presumably that he had been a Member of the European Parliament and as such was a sitting target for UKIP who could claim that it was hypocrisy to have accepted the lifestyle and financial gains of being a MEP whilst now saying he disagrees with European membership.
What was perhaps most damaging was the revelation that even while being the Conservatives campaign manager he was actually promoting and supporting another candidate in the lead up to the declarations of candidates for the seat.
I can’t recall another incident where the campaign manager of one of the main political parties is actually on record of supporting another candidate, but what is even more serious was the support from of all people Theresa May MP the Home Secretary when she downplayed the Chris Heaton-Harris MP statement as, “he was only bragging and had been silly”.
But what if it wasn’t only bragging (putting aside what was he bragging about anyway) and it was a serious attempt to destabilise the election?
Is that how the Conservative hierarchy now see the way future elections are going to be managed and if so what an utter contempt it shows for people and electorate and who an earth was advising their campaign manager on what tactics to use?
As we now know there has already been calls from other parties for Chris Heaton – Harris to resign and given his record in the past of talking about political opponents doing the ‘honourable’ thing they may well have a point.
What will be interesting is to see how the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister react in the wake of what can only be seen as a totally mismanaged campaign and disastrous outcome for the coalition partners.
There was of course lest we forget also the ludicrous intervention by Peter Bone, MP the Conservative MP for Wellingborough and the Prime Minister when they tried to scare the people of East Northants by saying that it was Labour in Northamptonshire who were objecting to the Rushden Lakes development which would cost jobs in the area.
A strange alliance considering it is the Conservatives who have closed HMP Wellingborough in Mr Bone’s constituency costing people their jobs without apparently telling him, something that our newest Northamptonshire MP might consider reminding the Prime Minister of at some time in the next couple of years?
It was a statement that was not only patently untrue but actually hid the fact that it was the Conservative led County Council, Northampton Borough Council along with other Conservative Councillors who were objecting to the development and had called for the secretary of state to overturn it.
Fortunately the local media not only knew the truth but also were prepared to print and broadcast it which if nothing else proves the real worth of local newspapers and BBC local radio and why any restrictions that may result from the Levenson enquiry need to be very carefully thought through before being implemented.
Of course we now know the result and a 12.6% swing to Labour really has pressed the alarm bells especially in the apparently safe and comfortable constituencies of Northampton North and South where only a similar vote shift of over 8,000 votes would unseat both Conservative MP’s and a swing of the magnitude of that in Corby and East Northants and a 48% share of the vote would see other seats in Northamptonshire change including some considered by the Conservatives as being safe.
From Labour’s perspective it wouldn’t be sensible to assume that dissatisfaction with the coalition will be enough and they will have to continue to work hard to build on the ‘One Nation’ approach that Ed Milliband spoke about earlier in the year, supporting communities and not as we are seeing deserting them.
What all of the rhetoric and excuse from the opposition shouldn’t overshadow is the brilliant and well thought out campaign fought by Andy Sawford, who rose above the dirty and nasty tactics employed by the opposition and stuck firmly to the issues that matter to hard-working people.
It is a model Labour may choose to follow across Northamptonshire safe in the knowledge that the Conservatives seem unwilling and in fact are not prepared when under pressure to discard their nasty party approach which it is hoped people will, as those in Corby and East Northants have been rejected in favour of an honest and open approach working to solve the issue facing people and not the divisive and demonization approach favoured by the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition.
It only goes to say, good luck to Andy Sawford MP in Westminster, congratulations to the people of Corby and East Northants for having the good senses in electing him and bring on the elections.