Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Lessons from Feltham and Heston

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 16th December, 2011

Labour won the Feltham and Heston parliamentary by-election in Hounslow, Greater London, yesterday, which was hardly a surprise; it would have been astonishing if the result had been anything else than a comfortable hold in a traditionally safe Labour seat 18 months into a Con-LD Coalition government that is pursuing a policy of cuts. But there were some elements worth remarking. The first was the appallingly low turnout — less than 29 per cent — which shows a serious disengagement from politics by much of the electorate. The second notable fact was that the postal vote turnout was more than twice that level. Elections can easily be won or lost on the postal vote, which makes it all the more urgent that measures are implemented to avoid the sort of postal vote fraud that undoubtedly occurs in some parts of Britain. Roger Crouch, the Liberal Democrat candidate, was an excellent choice and would have made a first rate MP, and he did well to hold on to the party’s third place despite a very strong and well-resourced campaign by UKIP at a time when Europhobia is rampant in much of the UK media. I was a little concerned that some of the LibDem literature was banging on too much about Roger’s “local” credentials, when the Tory candidate is a local councillor and the victorious Labour candidate Seema Malhotra spent a lot of her youth in the area, even if she reportedly now lives in Chelsea. The LibDem literature did highlight some important local issues that had been raised by Hounslow residents and party activists. But the campaign probably needed more of a persuasive national LibDem narrative: why should people vote LibDem nationally at the moment?

The standard line is that having LibDems in Cabinet has restrained the Conservatives from bringing in some of their more right-wing policies, which is undoubtedly true. But it was difficult to make that sound convincing at a time when David Cameron had essentially ignored LibDem pressure and advice vis-à-vis the recent Brussels Summit. Another issue which the LibDems have to come to terms with is that despite the austerity measures and a surge in protests from some sections of the British public, the Conservatives are proving resilient. The latest national opinion poll actually puts them just ahead (CON 41%, LAB 40%, LD 10%). That reality was underlined by the double by-election in the Coombe Vale ward in Kingston, which also took place yesterday, and which the Tories held by a clear margin despite a very concerted and well-focussed LibDem campaign.

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9 Responses to “Lessons from Feltham and Heston”

  1. neilcraig said

    Pity Cameron took some of the wind out of UKIP’s sails or we would definitely have placed 3rd. But the trend is clear and fully deserved. If the LibDems were traditional liberals they and more importantly the country would not be in recession.

    I assume this post will, as is normal practice with “Liberal Democrat” blogs, be censored but think about it anyway.

  2. jonathanfryer said

    Why on earth do you think I would censor your comment, Neil? You have often added comments to my blog pieces without being ‘censored’. I only trash people’s comments if they are gratuitously offensive, racist or libelous.

  3. neilcraig said

    Economic liberalism is not just free trade but economic freedom generally. There is no question that Britain could be out of recession within days if those in government wished to allow it – but that would be liberalism.

    I cannot honestly remember whether you have previously censored me on my opposition to war crimes, racial genocide and dissecting living people – your last line suggests you have sought a false justification for doing so – but it is undeniable that LibDem blogs, virtually without any other exception, do regularly censor censor to promote war and race crimes rather than face the issue honestly.

    • Badly regulated banks is exactly why we have problems.
      For them to function well good regulation is needed.
      Who would have thought the day would come when money deposited in
      a British Bank might not be safe.

      • neilcraig said

        Well the founders of liberalism would.

        Banks did occasionally fail in the 18th & 19th Cs and were allowed to even by Conservative governments which were clearly more liberal than the current “Liberal Democrats”.

        However the contention that the bankers caused the recession by stabbing us in the back is clearly as politically useful a lie as the German nationalist one that they had no role in the defeat in WW1 and it was all because of a “stab in the back” by the jews and socialists.

        If you know anything about economics you know perfectly well, as all “LibDem” leaders do, that the recession is entirely the fault of the political leaders and that without your parasitism we would be out of recession in days.

  4. […] For more on the Feltham & Heston by-election, London Liberal Democrat Chair Jonathan Fryer has written this commentary, entitled Lessons from Feltham and Heston […]

  5. Neil Craig
    So it was the political leaders who invented credit default swaps!

  6. […] Lessons from Feltham and Heston on Jonathan Fryer’s blog. “The campaign probably needed more of a persuasive national […]

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