Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Pig, the Coup and the Reality TV Show

Labour has won the last week’s bad PR competition at a time they appeared to be pulling back in the polls. Gordon Brown’s chat with Piers on Sunday has been sufficiently diluted by an old friend announcing he’s standing down and a couple of instances of poor judgement. Geoff Hoon’s decision to stand down is not surprising but wasn’t a particularly welcome reminder of the party’s recent infighting. As for David Wright and Austin Mitchell…well, I guess I expect elected representatives to give a little thought to the situations they willingly put themselves in. Here’s the state of play in their respective constituencies.





Swing Needed


North West


David Wright



Too Close

East Midlands


Geoff Hoon



LAB Hold


Great Grimsby

Austin Mitchell



LAB Hold

Before David Wright, a Government whip, tweeted"you can put lipstick on a scum-sucking pig but it is still a scum-sucking pig" he was hardly guaranteed a seat in the next parliament. This remark appears even more foolish when you consider the fallout in America when Obama made the comment Wright was “echoing”. Telford (and previously The Wrekin) has been held by Labour since 1987 and a 7.4% swing is slightly higher than the Conservatives have been polling recently. But this mishap has left Wright fighting for his political life. Eleven weeks is very a long time in politics so it would be jumping the gun to put this down as a Tory gain today. In order of likeliness; Wright may quit, his account may have actually been hacked or the whole debacle may turn out to be a storm in a tea cup. But the chances of Conservative PCC, Tom Biggins, being elected are significantly higher now than they were last week. Biggins has stood for Parliament twice in the Welsh constituency of Clwyd South. Although he couldn’t increase the Conservative vote total there the local councillor is appears well set to make it third time lucky.

Geoff Hoon is unlikely to win many popularity contests at the moment so his decision to stand down may actually help Labour win Ashfield. The Ashfield CLP had tabled a motion of no confidence against the ex-minister which probably helped him make his decision. They are defending a large majority so providing they find a solid candidate they should hold the seat. Labour has won Ashfield at each General Election since the seat was created in 1955. The Tories briefly took the seat in the 1977 by-election but normality was resumed two years later. The opposition parties have strong candidates in experienced councillor Garry Hickton (CON) and Ashfield Council leader Jason Zadronzy (LD). But this could play into Labour’s hands by splitting the opposition vote. This will be a Labour hold unless one challenger emerges as the clear alternative and ex-Labour councillor Edward Holmes takes votes off Labour for the BNP.

Lastly, Austin Mitchell has been a bit miffed about how he was treated on Channel 4’s reality TV show Tower Block of Commons. But he candidly alluded to his fundamental error when he said "I should have turned them down. All the smarter Labour MPs did". Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Mitchell should have been safe as houses. He won the seat in 1977 in a by-election and Grimsby has not failed to return a Labour MP since World War II. But on top of this PR mishap, Mitchell has also been implicated in the expenses row; his odd claims included biscuits, whisky and a sofa cover. It’ll be a very bad night for Labour if they start losing seats like this but Mitchell needs to be on the ball for the next couple of months to prevent that. Conservative PPC Victoria Ayling probably has a bit too much to do but she could run this one close.


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