Westminster bubble? An entertaining soap

Thursday's election results offer a fascinating mixed bag for fans of that long-running and reliably bizarre soap opera we call British politics.

Monday, 9th May 2016, 7:07 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2016, 9:10 am
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman

Putting aside the Scottish and Welsh outcomes for a moment, you’d have to suspect that Labour – sections of the Parliamentary Party aside – breathed the deepest sigh of relief.

Given the lengthy and spectacularly vicious national campaign fought against them and their leader (by aforementioned members of their own party), to improve their share of the English vote on the General Election is a miracle.

Team this with their success in London and one wonders how they might have fared at the polls as a unified party rather than one riven daily, publicly, by the machinations of a small few driven men and women.

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Even arch-plotter MP John Mann agreed this was an ‘okay’ result, although he did insist they should have done better against a ‘feuding and weakened’ Tory party.

And I’ll pause there for fellow soap fans, aware of Mann’s pivotal role in fuelling Labour’s most weakening feuds, to guffaw and/or rub their eyes in disbelief.

Scotland, of course, painted a different picture, and it seems the decision to share a platform with the Tories at the Independence Referendum continues to ravage Labour.

For my money the most brutal and disingenuous political campaign in living memory, Thursday’s tanking is just the latest instalment on an open-ended price they must pay for taking such odd bedfellows in their historic heartlands.

Not, it should be stressed, that we should believe much, if any, Labour support switched to the Tories, who had a good night, although the Lib Dems did probably bag the odd disaffected Blairite.

The SNP has long had a hefty right wing, which in 1979 helped bring down the then Labour government in a confidence vote, and you’d imagine the party’s deepening centre left slant has finally pushed a few blue.

Labour’s losses will have been mainly to the Lib Dems and the SNP, and nothing short of a formal apology for their 2014 error of judgement is likely to stop the rot.

Still, who knows? Keep watching. The next episode of this soap opera – the EU referendum – will be like something directed by Hitchcock.