Boris mustn’t underestimate the challenge from Reform UK

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There was no realistic expectation of a Labour victory in the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election, where the Tories had a majority of about 19,000 from the last General Election. Still, the Tory candidate Louie French won well enough on his own merits, earning a majority of almost 4,500 over the Labour candidate. 

As for the also-rans, Richard Tice, who scored 1,432 for Reform UK, was the only one to attract more than a thousand votes. The Liberal Democrats, Greens, English Democrats, UKIP, Rejoin EU, Heritage, Christian People’s Alliance and the Monster Raving Loony Party found fewer than a thousand between them.

The reality is that most electors simply could not be bothered to turn out. Those inclined to the Conservative cause are far from enthusiastic about Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Amongst the Tory grassroots the regard for him has taken a terrible tumble down into negative territory, whilst Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has consolidated her place at the top of the scale. 

The minds of the staff at Conservative headquarters will now have turned to the impending by-election in North Shropshire, brought about by the resignation of Owen Paterson. Despite Paterson’s majority of almost 23,000 it will not be an easy election for the Tories to win, for there are too many things going awry for the Government.

The arrival of the new, seemingly highly infectious variant of Covid cannot be blamed on Johnson. But there is the question of whether the measures he has taken on travel, masks and meetings will have some impact on family plans for Christmas. Moreover, the opposition parties will project Paterson’s conduct into a charge of sleaze against Johnson himself and the Government from top to bottom. 

I doubt that many long-term Conservatives would be tempted to defect to the increasingly green-tinted Liberal Democrats or the sluggish and divided Labour Party of Sir Keir Starmer. However, Richard Tice’s Reform UK is a different matter. It has roots in the Brexit movement and champions anti-statist, neo-Thatcherite economic and social attitudes which could be attractive to Conservative voters harbouring doubts about Boris Johnson. 

My money would be on the Tories to hang on to North Shropshire, but with a very much reduced majority, with a lot of their vote going to Reform UK. That would put Boris Johnson in real danger. 

I have no doubt that the Prime Minister thinks instinctively as a Conservative, but time and again he shows himself as a man of thoughts and words rather than action.


Yet more news of Brexit working out

It seems a long time ago that the opponents of Brexit were warning that should the United Kingdom leave the European Union our banks would need to move to Brussels or lose business. Last week, however, a Telegraph headline read that “European financiers bid for success to the City”, and another headline read: “UK on track for fastest economic growth in G7”. So what happened to the economic disaster that the EU enthusiasts said would follow Brexit?


How do you tame the internet?

As I look towards my ninety-first birthday next spring, it has naturally become more difficult for me to understand the cracks in our society today. I grew up through the Second World War, the privations of food rationing and the real violence of the Blitz. Like others of my time I was called up for my National Service during which I was trained as a fighter pilot before being released to serve in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

Had I been born three quarters of a century later, would I have fallen prey to all the ills of those who now seem to compose a very different society? Many of the good things in our present day society and many of its evils present themselves through the internet, but that cannot be uninvented. Step forward those who can see a way to regulate and reform that device which is almost as powerful as language itself.


Let a thousand geraniums bloom

Here in my part of East Anglia we awoke on a morning last month to find a covering of two inches of snow over roofs, gardens and roads. The birds’ drinking bowl had become an avian skating rink.

Not that that is surprising at this time of year, but what did surprise me was that my geraniums, which I had failed to bring into cover have not merely survived, but are still blooming even as a drizzle of snow has been falling in early December.

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