A ghastly Crewe

Whatever happens in Crewe & Nantwich this evening (and the prevailing media-driven narrative seems to require a Conservative victory, so I suppose the voters will oblige) it has been a strange campaign. The Labour party high command might have been better advised to stay out of it entirely, keep their heads down, and stick up lots of pictures of Tamsin Dunwoody (-Kneafey) standing next to her much-missed mum. It works in India, it sometimes even works in the US (my money's on Chelsea Clinton-Mezvinsky in 2028) and it used to work here. Even Winston Churchill got his big break by being Lord Randolf's son.

Instead of which, they ran one what was even by New Labour standards an extraordinarily cynical, ugly, mendacious, even racist campaign, which looks set to turn a narrow defeat, or even a narrow victory, into something of a rout. Somehow, the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Labour attack in Crewe sums up everything that is most vomit-inducing about a party that once posed - what a joke - as an antidote to sleaze. Gwnyeth Dunwoody deserved better. So, I dare say, does Tamsin.

Labour's disastrous "anti-toff" campaign might well have been an amateurish attempt to deflect attention from the obvious nepotism of Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafey's selection for the seat. While Gwyneth Dunwoody was well-loved, feisty and independent-minded, and Tamsin may well herself be all of these things, a political succession of this nature has about it the air of an 18th century rotten borough. Edward Timpson may come from a prosperous background (but in trade - real toffs are landed), but it is, of course, Ms Dunwoody who is a scion of the political aristocracy. She is a Labour dynast as red-blooded (to mix a sanguineous metaphor) as a Benn, a Mandelson or a Miliband. Not her fault, of course. But nor is it the fault of the voters of Crewe and Nantwich, who may today be feeling a small twinge of guilt as they place their cross next to the Tory name.

While the younger Dunwoody's own political pedigree goes back to the Suffragette movement, and she herself has plenty of experience (her selection is far less objectionable than the stunt-casting of the teenage Emily Benn in Shoreham), her candidacy raises the question of whether politics, like journalism, has now become an hereditary profession. This current cabinet is the most inbred and intermarried since Harold MacMillan's fifty years ago. Everyone seems to be someone else's brother, sister, grandchild, spouse, ex-flatmate or one-time drunken shag. Gordon Brown is an exception, perhaps: having been Ed Balls's patron and Douglas Alexander's surrogate father doesn't really count. He had to make his own alliances, fight his own early battles largely alone. It has given him, perhaps, something of the hard-boiled exterior of a parvenu. He lacks the ease that comes from hereditary privilege. Like the King of the Woods, he knows that while many are out to get him, he is basically on his own.

Not that it matters that much who leads Labour to defeat in 2009 or 2010.


Olive said…
I've not paid much attention to the Crewe by-election, in fact this is the first that I've read about it since Dunwoody's death. I didn't think I could be surprised by anything that newLabour pulled- but they really ran the former MP's daughter as a candidate? Seriously? That actually happened in this country? The painting of the tory candidate as being some sort of moneyed toff was a neat touch too. Reminicent of Bush, scion of an eye-wateringly wealthy dynasty describing his opponent as 'elitist'.
Anonymous said…
Running the daughter was a mark of stupidity. I think Orwell remarked somewhere that ruling classes retreat into stupidity as a way of avoiding difficult questions. 'Why are we so crap?' might be a good one for Noo Labour. They (like the Tories post-Thatch) have shed their traditional supporters and failed to keep their new ones. Classic idiocy. But Labour does have that stonking majority - much bigger than Major's. If Cameron can overturn that and get a real, working majority he'll be a very lucky man, regardles of his personal abilities.
Anonymous said…
If Cameron wins the next General Election, the Crewe result will be seen as a warning that everthing must change so things can remain as they are.
WeepingCross said…
I shall only note that I'm sure I recall some rather favourable observations on the 18th-century electoral system coming from the Heresiarchal direction in the past. And in fact I am more and more driven to concur with them. Repealing the 1832 Reform Act will be a useful trailblazer for rolling back Catholic Emancipation. You can boil a pot in your front room? Huzzah!
Heresiarch said…
Fr WC, you fill me with inspiration. I may come back to this at some stage in the future. For the meantime, I shall simply note that the 18th century system represented merely the decay of a system that had, once, been remarkably progressive and in some places democratic. There was even a constituency, I forget which, where to exercise the franchise you simply had to be there at election time. No nonsense about the secret ballot either, of course; whereas today you have envelopes stuffed with postal ballots which could have been filled out at gunpoint for all the returning officers know.

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