Huhne’s demise presents Labour with a glorious opportunity for political mischief

4th February, 2013 5:01 pm

Where did it all go wrong? A former journalist, banker and MEP, who only entered the House of Commons in May 2005, within months of his election he was challenging for the Lib Dem leadership on a radical green platform, married with a commitment to economic competence and devolving power to local communities. Unfailingly ambitious, and utterly convinced of his own ability, Chris Huhne emerged as the “dark horse” of the first of two Lib Dem leadership contests in the last parliament. So successful was he that he placed second in that contest, behind party grandee Sir Menzies Campbell. It is alleged he reneged on a deal with the victor, in the first sign of his ability to say one thing and do quite the opposite. However, never one to let failure dent his aspiration, he tried again, in 2007, and was bested by Nick Clegg by the most slender of margins. Upon the formation of the Coalition he joined the Cabinet and his accession, for now, was complete.

Now the furthest Huhne’s lustful eyes can gaze is beyond the walls of whatever institution he may be frequenting at the pleasure of Her Majesty Prison’s Service. Reams of paper will be sacrificed between now and polling as the commentariat read the runes and attempt, mystically, to predict the outcome of admittedly the most noteworthy by-election amongst the many this parliament has had. One thing is clear though, Huhne’s demise presents Labour with a glorious opportunity for political mischief.

Vengeful Tories will have already booked their train tickets down to the south coast to extract their pound of flesh from their supposed colleagues, whom they clearly can no longer abide. The perennial opportunist Nigel Farage will roll his UKIP caravan, supported by swathes of a disillusioned right wing press, into town.  And Lib Dem activists, and their high command, will nervously eye a contest which would in previous guises have been almost too easy to win.

The stakes are far higher for the three parties mentioned above than the official Opposition. David Cameron is under tremendous pressure from a parliamentary party seething with resentment, disappointment and, ever dangerous with the Conservative party, impatience with their leader. Cameron needs to win and be seen to be winning. The argument will go that if he cannot win in a southern marginal, against a party of near-toxic popularity nationally, then all dreams of a majority in 2015 are precisely that. The Lib Dems too desperately need to hold on to a seat that is, at local level at any rate, a one party state. Displaying the ‘pavement politics’ for which they are famed, the local party actually increased its majority on the local Council last May. If they lose the parliamentary seat,– and lose badly – it will be a foretaste of the annihilation that awaits come 2015.

In the shadow should be Ed Miliband’s Labour party. Frankly, let the Coalition parties knock seven shades out of each other. Political parties are well adept at doing this when the time suits, as the Conservatives did in Oldham and Saddleworth, and – when attempting to conjure a similar example – the Labour party did in the Bromley and Chislehurst 2006 by-election, with one Rachel Reeves as the candidate. With the party enjoying, if that is the right word, a base of just 10% at the last election, a surge of unfathomable proportions would be need to be unleashed in this Hampshire town.

Allowing the two Coalition parties, with the added venom of Nigel Farage’s UKIP, to engage in hand-to-hand combat in a southern marginal may well suit the Labour party just fine. Tempers that are currently simmering will boil over between the Coalition partners, and one of their party leaders’ must lose – and as a consequence take a heavy blow. Labour, simply, cannot lose from this situation.

Of course, abandonment is not the strategy. It is One Nation, just not in Eastleigh. But the biggest winner from stoking Coalition woes will be Labour, and as Chris Huhne hits rock bottom, Labour will at last have something to thank him for.

  • NT86

    It sounds like a decent enough “stand back at let them tear chunks out of each other” strategy (as well as added UKIP pressure). But for Labour to do any real damage, they must go into this by-election with more ambition. Selection of a strong candidate is essential, as well as rigorous campaigning. Voters need to get to know a candidate, not the faults of his or her rivals (or parties in Parliament).

    I don’t even think Labour will end up winning, but a solid result, taking 20-25% of the vote would put them in a better position in Eastleigh.

    • rekrab

      Spot on and it’s more than likely that the successful candidate will have a marginal seat, which will see Eastleigh shot up the target rating for 2015.

    • http://twitter.com/youngian67 Ian Young

      With the chance to woo a substantial disgruntled Lib Dem vote and the Tory vote going to UKIP this must be a bye election that Labour should take very seriously.

  • Octavian

    Am I the only person who thinks we should have some actual policies to fight an actual bye-election on?

Latest

  • Featured News Labour would halt NHS privatisation in the first days of government, says Miliband

    Labour would halt NHS privatisation in the first days of government, says Miliband

    Today Ed Miliband will urge the public to “put the NHS first” on Thursday. Miliband will say that the difference between Labour’s and the Tories’ plans for the NHS shows the big choice for people at the election: between protecting and improving the NHS and more privatisation and reorganisation. He will say that David Cameron must admit what his party’s plans are and publish a Government commission, written by a former supermarket executive, which lays out another re-organisation of the […]

    Read more →
  • News Video Watch George Osborne say in 2007 that the Tories would match Labour spending

    Watch George Osborne say in 2007 that the Tories would match Labour spending

    The Conservatives have regularly said that the 2008 financial crash was caused by Labour’s spending – ignoring the facts which say that it was down to lack of regulation of the banks. That’s something Osborne’s own Permanent Secretary now acknowledges. Yet a fact Labour have pointed out time and again – and the Tories have conveniently ignored – is that the Conservatives backed Labour’s spending plans. Here’s proof of George Osborne, then Shadow Chancellor, saying exactly this in 2007: Here’s […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Video Steve Coogan stars in Labour’s final election broadcast

    Steve Coogan stars in Labour’s final election broadcast

    Labour’s last political broadcast before the election will air tomorrow night on BBC One (6.55pm), BBC Two (6pm) and ITV (6.25pm). It stars BAFTA winning actor Steve Coogan, most famous for his portrayal of Alan Partridge, talking about why he will be voting Labour. Speaking directly to camera, Coogan says: “The great thing about the British people is they have a sense of fairness. And when we see the Conservatives helping their rich friends avoid paying taxes, we know that’s […]

    Read more →
  • Video John Smith attacks the Tories, the SNP and The Sun

    John Smith attacks the Tories, the SNP and The Sun

    After the Sun’s recent decision to back the SNP in Scotland and scaremonger against the SNP in the rest of the UK, here’s former Labour leader John Smith tasking the Tories, the SNP and the Sun to task on Question Time in 1992: Some things never change…

    Read more →
  • News Labour criticise Cameron for dropping out of Citizens UK debate last minute

    Labour criticise Cameron for dropping out of Citizens UK debate last minute

    Tomorrow there will be a pre-election event hosted by Citizens UK, which all of the main party leaders – including David Cameron – were set to attend. But Cameron has dropped out last minute. Ed Miliband Nick Clegg, however, are still set to speak. Labour have criticised this move, saying that Cameron is ducking out of this event, just as he did the TV leaders debate. Lucy Powell, Vice Chair of Labour’s Election Campaign, has said: “David Cameron is ducking […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit