The Chesham and Amersham by-election results tempt some to draw the wrong conclusions. One such is that other sham John Bercow, tying his jolly-boat to the sinking ship of Labour; at least he’s finally struck his false colours.
By-elections, with their lower turnout and posing no danger of serious GE upset, offer a chance for protest. The LibDems play on discontent but equivocate and betray, as witness Nick Clegg’s U-turn on tuition fees when deputy PM (now regenerated as senior information-suppressor at Facebook.) We know what we’ve got there, in him and them.
What alternative is there? The Labour vote – less than 20% even in the Great Revolution of 1997 – fell to under 2% on Thursday. I don’t know what that Party can do to save itself; it is neither fish nor flesh these days. Where among their number are characters of the weight and experience of the 1945-ers? Instead of an Ernest Bevin we have an earnest vegetarian nebbish, whose main role is not to be the dim theoretician he helped to defenestrate, while the flibbertigibbet Blair flutters in the wings.
One point not much stressed in coverage of the upset is that C&A is one of the decided minority of Parliamentary seats where the MP usually garners more than half the ballots. This time, Welsh parachutee SarahGreen becomes their representative on the basis of only some 30% of votes cast (or 16% of registered voters.)
Can her victory last? If local resentment at HS2 and planning changes threatening derestricted residential development (I call it ‘flatulence’) turns to a settled hatred of the velociraptories and their developer friends, perhaps it can.
On the other hand, LibDem housing policy calls for 300,000 new homes to be built per year ‘including 100,000 social homes for rent,’ and while the Party in Chesham and Amersham is against HS2, it is for it nationally. This doubletalk is hardly a basis on which to ‘go back to yourconstituencies, and prepare for government!’
I leave it to others to list all the ways that HS2’s £100 billion-plus could be spent better; but I submit there is no housing shortage. According to Action on Empty Homes, while 100,000 families are in temporary accommodation, there is ‘a current total of homes without residents of over 928,000.’
Further, the term ‘affordable’ is potentially misleading: it relates to local average rents and mortgages, so that in well-to-do areas the proletariat has little chance of finding somewhere to live. The citizens who voted in last week’s election dwell in houses that cost far more than the national average (1, 2, 3); what they are likely to see is not an influx of the great unwashed but a rash of executive homettes spoiling their former view across the green fields of England; good for the village shop, perhaps (until the megastores see their chance), but prejudicial to the traditional ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property they bought at such high prices.
Voting in a LibDem MP won’t change a system that is stacked against objectors. According to Chris Kemp in The Conversation website, his research showed that planners, councillors and local communities
‘believed the planning system was set up to override objections. Applications were approved irrespective of local views or the (often negative) impacts development would have on local infrastructure and services,’
and as for affordability:
‘It is estimated that meeting the government’s target to build 300,000 homes a year would reduce prices by around 0.8%: considerably less than rates of increase over recent decades.’
Kemp says that the proposed planning reforms will significantly increase housebuilding, in part by removing local people’s power to obstruct.
Where there’s a ballot there’s a pencil mark; but where there’s a wallet there’s a way.