It is being said that Tory leader David Cameron could be facing rebellious unrest from his backbench MPs next Friday when the Conservatives lose the Rochester & Stroud by-election (as they surely will). It is true that he set his stall out to win this by-election at all costs, so the result will certainly dent his own personal reputation – no less than five visits by himself as Prime Minister to a backwater constituency indeed (when his focus should have been on running the Country, surely?).
At the outset when the incumbent Conservative MP ditched his party on the eve of their annual conference (destroying its message), it ‘looked possible’ that the Conservatives had a good chance of winning so could retain the seat with a new candidate, and beat UKIP in the vote. But they severely underestimated the popularity of the old MP, as well as the groundswell of support for an energised UKIP and its particular appeal to an area like Rochester.
For an experienced major party, the Tories then seem to have made a number of tactical mistakes, including rubbishing their opposition, flooding the place with MPs and personalities (who blatantly had utterly no interest in the area and its problems), throwing money at the election (including an American-style primary – the costs of which are being viewed by others as ‘election expenses’), and the final nail in the coffin perhaps, selecting a non-entity non-winnable candidate?
After the initial furore and Cameron’s pledge to retain the seat, it became increasingly plain from the polls that UKIP was nevertheless going to emerge victorious, no matter what. Under such circumstances the Tories would have done much better to have kept their heads down and slunk off to lick their wounds, don’t you think? A high visibility, high energy, high stake fight, which you lose, does a massive amount of damage to credibility, as well as enhancing here the reputation of Nigel Farage’s UKIP.
But Cameron can sleep easy on Thursday night, don’t you think? None of his so called rebels are brave enough or powerful enough to show their hand are they? Anyway, who could take over from him? NOT: Boris Johnson because he has to wait to become an MP at the next election; nor Theresa May, who has unbelievably survived in the kiss of death job of Home Secretary for so long, but has been on death row for over four years so she is showing the strain and probably would welcome the electric chair; nor even George Osborne who relishes his job as economy hatchet man but knows that he must bide his time to blame his boss for austerity and then seize the crown; don’t even think about phoenix man outsider Jeremy Hunt as he is never yet considered a leader
Cameron might even emerge a bit bruised but certainly not broken (and it doesn’t really matter how bad the battering is in Rochester).
On the other side of the coin we have Labour and its leader Ed Miliband also under the cosh as far as this by-election is concerned, as well as in other matters. You might think that Labour would be able to give it a go in Rochester, particularly as this historically was a socialist area (and they got about thirty percent of the votes last time). But oh no, they are in the mire here with nearly half their support awol (and many heading in the direction of UKIP?). Labour isn’t really even trying hard (and probably haven’t bothered to look-up Rochester on the map).
Miliband won’t lose any sleep either or wait-up for the result – at least he knows how to lose (and that may stand him in good stead don’t you think?).
Not much pleasure here in embarrassing the LibDems by mentioning that they will be lucky to get a tenth of their last General Election vote, and will certainly lose their deposit.
Leader Nick Clegg won’t bother to get out his list of excuses this time, will he?
[The Conservatives are always well organised so will get their vote out, while UKIP may well not – but will still win hands down it seems, and march on towards General Election recognition?]