2021 – the year in review: December

The Party was throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the North Shropshire by-election. And, with the gratefully received co-operation of the Conservatives – Non-local candidate? Check. Hapless campaign? Check. – the bookies were suggesting that we were marginal favourites to achieve the 26.4% swing required to snatch the seat. Our campaign team were taking no chances, with “private briefings” somehow reaching the media.

And the wheels were really falling off the Conservative wagon, with defections, endorsement by the Guardian and a visit from the Prime Minister in which he failed to remember his candidate’s name.

Those of us who’ve been around a while though have learned not to raise our hopes too much though, making it all the more pleasurable when we woke up on the Friday morning to find that Helen Morgan had won by the trifling margin of nearly 6,000 votes. We were, it seemed, back in business.

As for the Government, the sense of disarray was heightened by Lord Frost’s resignation as Brexit impresario. Apparently, he wasn’t keen on the tax policy decisions, although his utter failure as our lead negotiator with the European Union probably rankled. Picking a stupid fight with the “800 pound gorilla in the room” is never likely to end well, but to do so having agreed a deal with said gorilla was particularly dense. One really shouldn’t say, “we told you so” but…

It was open season on Boris, with Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss (really?) openly on manoeuvres in the undeclared succession race.

Elsewhere, Priti Patel’s continued efforts to strip away our freedoms piece by piece continued with some truly unpleasant amendments to the Police Bill, as Brian Paddick highlighted. She also wanted to make it easier to strip, potentially, seven million or so people of their British citizenship. It was a truly ghastly piece of authoritarian Conservatism anyway, but in the hands of a Home Office already perfectly capable of institutional sadism, it promised nothing but pain.

In local government, the month started with two disappointments – a seat lost in North Norfolk, and a narrow miss down the road in Breckland. They were balanced by two excellent gains from the Conservatives in Lancaster. They were followed up with gains in Rotherham and Tonbridge and Malling. And, on the same day as North Shropshire, seats were also gained from the Conservatives in Horsham, West Lindsay and Northumberland, the latter denying the Conservatives control of the council.

The opinion polls finally began to reflect the shambles that was the Government;

Conservatives 33%, Labour 37%, Liberal Democrats 10%, Greens 8%

although it couldn’t really be said that voters were being persuaded by the Labour alternative, more repelled by the Government.

In a new year, could the opposition lay some serious blows on the Government? Would Boris be debagged as leader, and by whom? Would that make any difference?

Come back in twelve months and we’ll see…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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