2021 – the year in review: November

Normally, reports of the Commons Select Committee on Standards are approved without much drama but, in what turned out to be a catastrophic misjudgement, Conservative MPs were whipped on an amendment to a report which would, effectively, let Owen Paterson off the hook for breaching Parliamentary rules forbidding paid advocacy. He was as guilty as all hell in the eyes of many, despite his aggressive campaign to prove otherwise. Instructions had come from the very top, with suggestions that the Prime Minister was attempting to nobble the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

It worked, sort of, with the vote won. But, with thirteen Conservative MPs voting against, and nearly another one hundred either absent or abstaining, it looked pretty awful. As Andy Boddington put it, the Commons had lost its moral compass. Amidst widespread public and media outrage, Boris did what he so often has done, sacrificing a colleague to save his skin with a screeching, tyre shredding u-turn. Paterson almost immediately resigned his safe North Shropshire seat, creating an unexpected opportunity. Recent election results suggested that Labour might be the credible contender. Andy disagreed… vehemently.

In a stunning effort, the campaign team hit the ground running, establishing themselves as the obvious choice for those wanting to see the Conservatives beaten. But, coming from a distant third and needing a swing even bigger than that achieved in Chesham and Amersham?…

Sleaze at Westminster, sewage in our rivers, and the Conservatives were on the wrong side of both, attempting to pass legislation which did as little as possible to punish water companies for polluting our rivers and streams. It began to look as though their populist appeal was beginning to wane. Given that we were hosting the COP26 summit, it seemed like a clumsy own goal.

Social care, and how it was to be paid for was another self-induced wound, with Government proposals hugely in favour of the well-heeled. Chris Perry, who rather knows what he’s talking about, pointed out some of the flaws and offered his own priorities.

And there was a long-running debate on inflation and tax policy which, having started early in the month, was still rumbling on a month later. I’m not actually convinced that any minds were changed…

On the by-election front, the month began with two really good gains from the Conservatives in West Sussex and Gloucester, plus a strong hold in Huntingdonshire, and ended with a hold in the Wirral with 68% of the vote.

The Conservative lead in the polls virtually disappeared;

Conservatives 36%, Labour 35%, Liberal Democrats 8%, Greens 10%

but we weren’t benefiting – indeed, we seems to be going backwards. An awful lot was riding on North Shropshire…

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

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  • Alex Macfie 5th Jan '22 - 12:46pm

    john Hall: Nice rant, but what does it have to do with Mark’s post?

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