Post-election leadership battles provide the entertainment lacking in UK election campaign

The UK general election was just like the Eurovision song contest. No substance in the songs and great excitement during the vote. There was no substance either during the rather lacklustre campaign and then intense excitement during the vote count. The foregone conclusion of a hung parliament with a possible Labour/SNP “majority” first morphed into possibly another Conservative/Lib Dem majority and then – almost unthinkably – into an outright Conservative win. High drama on election night. I was switching between BBC (TV and radio) and Sky TV´and the BBC tried valiantly to be objective but could not quite hide their Labour bias. (For the education of the judges of the EU General Court, there was absolutely no confusion in my mind between Sky TV and Skype).

But now after the election, the contortions of the Labour party to elect a new leader and the non-election of a UKIP leader after Farage’s non-resignation are providing much of the entertainment that I had hoped for, but did not materialise, during the campaign. The Lib Dems are also choosing a leader after Nick Clegg but there is no excitement here and it is difficult to see that it is of any great relevance.

For the Labour party, battle lines are being drawn up between the New Blairites and the union supported left-wing. It is no longer politically correct to be considered a straight Blairite because Tony Blair has brought himself so much into disrepute with his money-grubbing ways. However, when he was leader, he held the centre ground with his New Labour which addressed all those with aspirations. The New Blairites see that it is necessary to attract more than just those who live on handouts. They have to appeal, they think, to the aspirational centre.  This makes for a rather clear distinction with the left wing who want to increase the number of people getting handouts and thereby increase the number of voters beholden to Labour. The New Blairites want to shift policy to address  the middle-ground, while the unionists want to increase the size of the “left”. If the unions succeed in getting one of their candidates elected as leader, we shall probably not see the Labour party governing in Britain for the next decade.

One of the main New Blairites, Chuka Umunna, threw his hat into the ring and then, 3 days later, withdrew from the fight saying that the pressure and stress of the increased scrutiny was too much. There are hints in some papers that actually there was a fear about the increased scrutiny revealing tax avoidance on the purchase of his house or that his “girl-friend” had been rolled out for PR purposes. Whatever the real reason, Umunna has effectively put paid to his chances of ever becoming the leader of the Labour party. If he could not withstand 3 days of pressure just as candidate for leader, it would be quite irresponsible of the party to ever actually make him leader. And if they made him leader he would never become a Prime Minister who was unable to withstand any pressure.

Within UKIP the entertainment has the character of pure farce. Nigel Farage said he would resign if he failed to win a seat. When he lost, he duly announced that he was going to resign. But he never actually did resign. (Which also emphasises my perception of noise without substance). So then when the UKIP executive committee met they had no decision to take since thay had no resignation to consider. This was then presented as being a unanimous call for Farage to remain leader. He then withdrew the resignation that he had never submitted. Clever Nigel! Tricky Nigel! Douglas Carswell who shifted from the Tories to join UKIP won his seat handily – but he was the only UKIP candidate to do so. His joining UKIP was entirely opportunistic and his decision to shift paid of – at least for himself. But his view of the UKIP is through his blue-tinted glasses and  what he sees – or would like to see – is not quite what UKIP actually is. As the only UKIP MP he “controls” the £650,000 the party is entitled to every year for the number of votes it won. This puts Farage in the frustrating position of not being able to sack Carswell from the party, but also gives Carswell the nuclear deterrent of threatening to leave. I suppose he could sit as an independent but I am not sure what would happen to the money if he did.

Labour and UKIP, at least, are now providing the light entertainment that was so lacking during the campaign.


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