As voters go to the polls in today’s Batley and Spen by-election, here our political writer The Rebel looks at the extraordinary change in the political landscape, and how Wales stands out as somewhere which could alter next.
We are living in astonishing political times.
The Tories are the most successful political party in world history, and part of that success is that they have no ideology.
Of course there are woolly commitments to a free market, a strong economy, patriotism, and robust national defence.
But broadly speaking they have been so successful BECAUSE they have always adapted to what is seen as the prevailing mood of the time, and not permanently opposed it.
Now they have turned themselves into the party of Brexit, when before they supported membership of the EU.
The political landscape has changed completely.
However, in embracing working class north of England families who voted to come out of the EU (to the chagrin of Labour), and with the Scottish National Party (SNP) totally destroying a traditional Labour stronghold, what is noticeable is that Wales remains basically the same as it ever was.
Could that country be next on Boris Johnson’s list to ‘level up’?!
The by-election result in Chesham and Amersham (caused by the death of Cheryl Gillan who was Secretary of State for Wales from 2010 to 2012) will not unduly worry him, because it will have emphasised his policy, as well as the political re-alignment which is underway.
It could even confirm in the minds of traditional Labour voters that he means what he says, and that The Conservatives are now the party for them.
The result (which Boris called “disappointing) may even bolster his party’s chances of taking Batley and Spen (B and S) in the by-election there today, and if that happens the Labour leader Keir Starmer will be under intense pressure.
Polls and betting odds, indicate that we could see it. One betting company yesterday had the odds on Labour winning B and S at four to one.
A poll of 510 voters undertaken by Survation for the Daily Mail found in favour of the Conservatives with 47 percent of the vote.
Second was Labour with 41 percent, followed by the Workers Party with six percent, Lib Dems with three and other parties at two percent.
“It is going to be awful if we lose this”, said one senior Labour source. “There are people who want us to go back to the bad old days of Jeremy Corbyn and stoke …antisemitism.
“That is exactly the opposite direction to what we need to go in – and it is not consistent with our values.”
For Boris, the by-election in Hartlepool was far more important than the one in Chesham and Amersham (as well as perhaps today’s), because it provided confirmation that voters like the Tories.
Wales, however, stands out.
It has been, generally, the same for donkeys years – red in the South Wales valleys, yellow in Mid Wales, green in the West and North West, with growing splodges of blue here and there.
The main headline for elections to the Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament (SC/WP) last month SHOULD have been that almost nothing happened!
OK, there was the ‘shock’ of the former leader of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC) Leanne Wood losing her Rhondda seat which was played up in the mainstream media, but, actually, who really cared?!
Apart from PC’s misfortune, it was virtually exactly the same – only one ‘red wall’ seat (the Vale of Clwyd) fell to the Tories.
Wrexham, Clwyd South and Delyn, were all held by Labour despite being targeted by the Conservatives, after they were flipped from red to blue in the 2019 General Election.
The whole business made a nonsense of the acres of traditional media coverage devoted to the election, and it became extremely difficult for political observers on air because they had precisely nothing to talk about for hours!
“No change in Wales. Absolutely fascinating”, as a BBC Parliament figure once summed up an interview with a BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) reporter in years gone by.
The same utterance could be made in 2021. So WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW?! – that’s the fascinating thing to watch.
It may be that Wales becomes too tempting a target for Bojo to pass up (despite him not remembering that their football team was playing in the Euros).
Or it could be a case of a political reporter saying again how fascinating it was that nothing had changed!
One or the other is likely, and it really will then be ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING…
Tomorrow – we examine the by-election result, and what it might mean for Wales.
The memories of our Editor Phil Parry’s remarkable decades long award-winning career in journalism (including some of the political stories he has covered) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!