A straw in the wind?

An ex-minister faces a legal challenge to his reelection, on grounds of a level of alleged dishonesty in his campaign that not only affected the election outcome, but should disqualify him outright from public office (shouldn’t most of them be thrown out on that basis)?  His winning margin over his libdem rival was ultra-small.

If the challenge is successful, it raises an interesting question.  There will be a by-election in which labour will find a new candidate, and the libdem candidate will presumably stand again, as will a bunch of fringe candidates.  But what about the Tories?  Will they field a candidate in this (presumably unwinnable) seat, or stand aside in favour of their coalition partner?

Fielding a candidate would push the coalition partners into what could become a divisive battle, as even a token candidate will come under intense media scrutiny and they’ll be looking for signs of division.  It will also of course split the pro-government vote, thus gifting the election arithmetic to Labour.  But if they don’t, it’ll set a precedent that some may find very uncomfortable, notably among those who are already less than enthusiastic about the coalition.

For what it’s worth, the proposed Alternative Voting system could alleviate the dilemma, by allowing a token Tory candidate to stand in the expectation of his/her partisan supporters giving their second-preference votes to their libdem coalition partner, and not wasting the vote.

Posted on September 13, 2010, in politics, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. As I understand it, the coalition partners have said that they would continue to oppose one another in future elections. So presumably they have to live up to that promise now. (The alternative would risk all-out revolt from the Tory right.)

    The obvious course would be to field a tame Tory candidate with solid liberal social views, who could play nice and agree with most everything the LD candidate says. But a more likely option, in my view – if Conservative Central Office has any say in candidate selection, which theoretically it doesn’t but in practice who knows – is to put up a serious Jaguar-driving, brandy-swilling, self-made-millionaire, peasant-eating type. Someone who will appeal to the most extreme wing of the Tory party, while really alienating the electors.

    Then all the LibDem candidate has to do is maintain a dignified silence, and let the Tory make a fool of himself; the press can have fun ridiculing the lunatic (or in the case of the Mail, praising him); the Tory can be as divisive as he likes, but all the Tory leadership has to do is smile and shake its head and make it clear that theirs is a broad-church party with room for many shades of opinion…

    Thus the most restive wing of the Tories is appeased, and peace and harmony is preserved within the coalition.

    That’s what they could do, if they really want to preserve the coalition. We’ll see what they really do…

  2. I’m sure they’ll continue to oppose each other in future general elections. But by-elections could be seen as a special case. For instance, if a by-election were to happen due to the death of a sitting MP from one of the coalition parties?

    As for selecting a buffoon for candidate, I’m not sure they’d get away with that either. They’d need to twist the local party’s arm to do the dirty work, ‘cos if central office imposes a candidate the press’ll ridicule it in the light of Cameron’s professed localism agenda.

  3. The trouble with buffoon candidates is they might end up as mayor of London.

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