Hart of the Matter
purple tide went out again just as quickly and decisively as it came in – at least
as far as the county council elections were concerned.
have a General Election to withstand, and then, in a couple of years, it will
time to elect borough and town councillors again, and we will see if UKIP can
manage to hold on to any of the ground they gained there in 2015.
has trodden a singular political path over the past 15 years, but one which, as
so often, has been replicated later in the whole country. We’re always ahead of
the game here….
before the turn of the century, you may remember, not only was Haverhill
entirely red, with the town council almost unanimously Labour, a Labour
administration at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, and a Labour leader of
Suffolk County Council, but Haverhill councillors held senior positions in
Ipswich, and a Haverhill councillor was the council leader in Bury.
happened in 1995, and two years later the country turned red. Then, slowly,
everything began to change. We had a Rainbow coalition in Bury, before it
finally turned blue again. The county council hung on in coalition with the Lib
Dems, but eventually went blue.
2010, the country turned to a coalition, before returning to blue, but by then
there was a big purple streak locally. First it was a handful of Haverhill town
councillors, then it was our county councillors and finally the purple surge
enveloped the borough and the town, although not quite enough to take control.
country duly followed suit, climaxing in the Brexit vote. And now, for the
first time in decades we seem to all be in sync. Mrs May’s Tories are flavour
of the month nationally, and Haverhill has returned all Conservative county
councillors, booting out the UKIP members – along with both the county and the
W. S. Gilbert in The Mikado, ‘I never knew such unanimity on a point of
politics in all my life’. But, just a minute, is that the picture we get from
still talking about the ‘populist vote’, and about the ‘anti-establishment’
movement across the world, extrapolating that from Brexit and the election of
think I can recall a more ‘establishment’ figure in British politics than
Theresa May. Even Margaret Thatcher was an outsider to a degree, not just
because she was a woman, but also a grocer’s daughter from Lincolnshire. John Major’s
father was an acrobat.
Theresa May is Middle England personified – a clergyman’s daughter from the
Home Counties. Everything she stands for is ‘establishment’ – monarchy, armed
forces, church, wealth creation. She goes hill-walking, for goodness sake (as
everyone loves her – or nearly everyone. And in France they’ve just elected an
ex-banker. So the next time anyone talks at me through my television screen
about ‘anti-establishment’ movements, I shall probably throw something.
of course, been victims. I carry no torch for UKIP, but I think we should pay
tribute to Julian Flood who, for four years, has worked very hard for the
people of a town with which he had no real connection at all.
back and forth from Coney Weston, he must have wondered sometimes why he
bothered, particularly as he came to discover more and more how difficult it is
to get even the smallest things done in local government.
all that, his track record did him no good in last week’s elections, against
the steamroller that is Theresa May. Voters have never been any good at
gratitude – ask Churchill, or, more pertinently, ask the Labour councillors of
15 years ago, like Gerry Kiernan.
before they were all booted out, Haverhill Town Council had received a 78 per
cent satisfaction rating in a town survey, the highest of any that the
researchers had encountered across the country.
shows that there is very little chance of stopping a bandwagon once it is rolling.
Logic and calm analysis go out of the window as people suddenly find something
they can believe in – for a while.
a glorious morning in May 1997, when Tony Blair’s Labour Party swept to
victory. As Lord Of The Rings nerds might have said: ‘We deemed that evil was
over for ever, and it was not so’.
knows what Brexit holds in store for us. I hear both sides of the argument. But
I cannot abide the certainty with which many are now approaching it. As with
religious fervour, I distrust certainty.
I almost have more sympathy with the out-and-out anti-foreigners faction,
however much I hate what they stand for. At least they believe in something.
They wouldn’t mind being a lot poorer if only they could keep the foreigners
out. Well, it’s unpleasant, it’s offensive, it’s dangerous and it’s terrifying,
but at least it’s honest.
cannot blindly accept a vague prediction, or even expectation, that it will be
alright because we’re British and we voted for it. I can hope for the best, but
no more than that.
that the convinced Brexiteers are still under the illusion that we are leaving
an economic organisation, whereas we are in fact leaving a political
organisation. Just as some wouldn’t mind being worse off to get their political
ends, so the EU countries look to me as if they won’t mind being a lot worse
off just to hold their union together, because the thing they fear above all is
not unemployment, or immigration, or financial crashes, but war.
rather as I did in 2003 when we were being told that Iraq had weapons of mass
destruction. I wish I had a pound for the number of times I said to people then
that just because someone puts a sign up saying beware of the dog, it doesn’t
mean they’ve got a dog. A sign is a lot cheaper.
everyone was so sure, particularly after the famous dossier was issued. What
the experts – weapons experts – said went for nothing. Basically, people wanted
to blame Saddam Hussein, because he had committed such inhuman atrocities, for
all the ills of the Middle East, and plenty of our own. They wanted to do
to be a bogeyman, when things are not great. Now the bogeyman is the EU.