2021 – the year in review: October

As October opened, the petrol shortages were beginning to recede, but words like cabotage and haulage were reaching public consciousness. A patina of incompetence was beginning to stick to the Government – it turns out that listening to experts, making plans and carrying them out was a better way to run the country than just perpetually reacting to things as if they were a surprise. It also meant that a few people were reminded what those foreigners had been doing all that time.

The Wayne Couzens murder trial had resulted in a whole life sentence at the end of September, but the response of senior policing figures drew much criticism. Miranda Roberts explained some of the more alarming issues and offered some very useful advice, whilst Wendy Chamberlain offered a perspective that, perhaps, only a former police officer could have.

The Prime Minister gave what might charitably have been described as a slightly odd speech to the Conservative Party Conference, rather ignoring what was actually happening and instead focusing on pleasing the people in the room. That is, in fairness, how Alexander de Pfeffel Boris Johnson has always behaved, and people kept falling for it. One could only hope that if you kept pointing out that the Emperor had no clothes, as Ed Davey did, that the public would eventually notice too.

The murder of Sir David Amess, the Conservative MP for Southend West, led to a temporary coming together of politicians from across the spectrum, it being generally agreed that he was a committed public servant, devoted to representing his constituents. Andrew Mackinlay wrote a moving tribute, whilst Andy Boddington wondered if this didn’t offer an opportunity to improve the tenor of political discourse.

The debate over the future of the Party came to the fore again, with Michael Meadowcroft arguing in a powerful piece that what the Party really needed was a strong philosophical foundation from which policies would organically emerge, rather than attempting to do things the other way round. I’m with him on this, which might surprise some. But if your philosophy is clear, the sort of solutions you come up with should be apparent from first principles.

I returned to the office, which led me to wonder if this wasn’t the time to reevaluate the world of work. What I didn’t know at the time was that I, and so many others, were going to be asked to go back to working from home again so soon.

The end of the month saw an inevitably underwhelming Budget speech from Rishi Sunak. Underwhelming because, for the most part, the key announcements had been made well in advance. The Speaker wasn’t impressed, but nobody cared that much. Michael Berwick Gooding offered up an alternative which would have done rather more to address poverty.

On the by-election front, October was mostly a month of solid holds, first in Nottinghamshire, Somerset and Surrey, and then later in the month in Birmingham and West Sussex. Unfortunately, a seat on Surrey Heath Borough Council was lost to the Conservatives, albeit narrowly.

In the polls, the Conservatives continued to defy political logic, even extending their lead slightly;

Conservatives 39%, Labour 32%, Liberal Democrats 9%, Greens 9%

Little did anyone know that one of the more crass misjudgements in recent political history was about to upset the blue applecart…

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

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  • Brad Barrows 3rd Jan '22 - 12:24pm

    “A patina of incompetence…”
    …actually I don’t think the level of incompetence we were witnessing in October was mere surface appearance – the government was incompetent at, and to, its very core.

    By the way, thanks for introducing me to a new word – I managed to earn a degree in economics without ever coming across ‘cabotage’. Keep them coming 🙂

  • Ellen Nicholson 4th Jan '22 - 9:31am

    Enjoying the 2021 review, very helpful as a reminder too, of what has happened as its so easy to forget or lose track of events once past.

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