The results of yesterday’s two UK byelections were delicious. They saw Blaenau Gwent (a seat formerly rock-solid miners’ Labour) elect its second successive independent MP, and the Lib Dems come precious close to knocking off the Tories in Bromley and Chislehurst. There Labour finished fourth behind UKIP (which was admittedly, I hear, throwing leaflets around by confetti and also likely to be disappointed in its vote).
OK, these are by-elections, but I can’t help wondering what would happen if a political drama that I recently reviewed were to prove prophetic. It had its Tony Blair figure call a snap election in a desperate bid to hang on to power.
Imagine an election in a month’s time. I suspect there is now such a mood in the electorate that it would behave in that mysterious, organic, curiously purposeful manner that electorates sometimes do, and choose, collectively, to end up with a hung parliament. Since none-of-the-above isn’t offered as the option on the ballot-paper, this would be the next closest option.
And were that to happen what it would also get, beyond the pleasure of expressing contempt for the political class, would be — provided the Lib Dems showed some spine — a new system of election, proportional representation. That would give the voters a chance to express a genuine preference beyond the usual current single option of “really hate this lot and only dislike that lot, so I guess I’ll have to vote for them”. It might even help re-engage the public in mainstream politics.
Perhaps I am biased by hope — that system would certainly finally give the Green Party a representation that reflected its level of support. But I don’t think it is entirely pie-in-the-sky.
Unfortunately, however, I reckon that while Blair will not be leaving by choice, and will be forced out by his party, he’s not quite megalomaniac enough to call an election. So we’re probably a long, long time out from a poll. The electorate might not be able to hold a resolution that long. Then again, if Labour keeps running around like a headless chook (to use a good Australian expression) the conviction might grow.