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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Election Fever



In July 2022 I was listening to the news, either Radio 4 if it was the morning or Radio 2 if it was after 2pm, that’s how predictable my life was in the Elizabethan age. One piece caught my attention: Sam Tarry MP, junior shadow transport minister had been sacked by Sir Keir Starmer for joining striking rail workers on their picket line at London Euston station. Isn’t that what Labour MPs are supposed to do?


It reminded me of Arsenal manager George Graham who, during his - very successful - tenure at the football club from 1986 to 1995 was routinely criticised for the team wining 1-0. Again, isn’t that what football managers are supposed to do?


Sir Keir’s explanation / defence was that he hadn’t dismissed Tarry for joining the picket line but for giving media interviews and “making up policy on the hoof”. To which I thought, the very least I can do here is join a trade union, and signed up as a member of Unite that day.


***


During the last Conservative leadership election but one (hard to keep track I know) I listed the prime ministers who had held office since I had turned 18 years of age and ranked them. Ranked them, or tried to, without reference to political allegiance but by statesmanship or simply having a scooby about what they were doing. It’s a sorry list and I surprised myself when John Major appeared in the top slot, followed by Blair, then his muse Thatcher. After that it’s merely proof that in retrospect the previous premiership will always feel like a golden age of politics.


At the time I recall saying to anyone who would listen that awful as Boris Johnston was (and still is) his successor - either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak - would turn out to be worse. Even Liz Truss had a plan, it just wasn’t a very good one.


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Alexander Martin is one of the two independent candidates standing for election in my constituency. On his website he says that “polling guru Professor John Curtis, of Strathclyde University, has proclaimed that a hung parliament is the best Labour can hope for.” But Curtis, known for his accurate predictions of election results based on statistical modelling, made that statement two years ago and the country’s mood has since changed. When Rishi Sunak called this election six weeks back, Curtis said that it looked like one for Labour to win and that the task confronting Sunak was as big as that confronting John Major when he went to the polls in 1997. That election saw the end of Thatcherism and ushered in 13 years of Labour government under Tony Blair and, latterly, Gordon Brown.


It is then a near certainty that we will be waking up on Friday to Sir Keir Starmer as prime minister with a substantial parliamentary majority. It will be a task of a few seconds to update my list by adding his name in 10th position. Things will only not get better.


It’s difficult to disagree with any the points contained in Alexander Martin’s manifesto: education should be free for all, rent should not be excessive, an end to generational divisions, a complete overhaul of the electoral system. I suspect none of this is planned in any detail or costed, but while the manifestos of the major parties give the impression of being planned and costed, it’s finger in the air stuff and the only certainty is taxes will rise.


However, a whole page of the manifesto is devoted to his position on the ongoing genocide in Gaza, this an extract:


I do not support the right of the British, through the Balfour declaration, to hand over land which wasn’t theirs to give. I believe this was morally wrong from the outset, and the conflict following this decision has been made inevitable as a result.


The International Court of Justice, the highest court in the world, has now ruled unequivocally that there is a plausible case for genocide in Gaza. It very clearly states in the ruling that all countries which are signatories to the Genocide Convention, must take steps to prevent any ongoing genocide


This means that arms sales to Israel from the United Kingdom must be stopped entirely.


Isn’t that what our prime minister and prospective prime minister are supposed to say?



Image: Craven Arms Community Centre, Shropshire © Elliott Stallion

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