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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Green retreat as Europe burns

Jim looks forward to more difficult by elections for the government and fears for the green agenda after last week's contests.

Politicians have always had to grapple with the fact that the voters want their cake and eat it. Great public services and low tax, low immigration but full staffing of the NHS and care homes and latterly a greener world without the means to get there.

This came out starkly in the Uxbridge by election where opposition to ULEZ lost Labour the seat. It is very likely to have a chilling effect on government (and opposition) policies to achieve net zero by 2050. All the major policies around this, banning petrol cars, installing heat pumps and smart meters in people’s homes, retrofitting houses with better insulation come at huge cost to government and individuals. With the Med recently in flames will people back politicians who have the courage to say it must be done? More likely voters, hard pressed by the cost of living, will let our leaders put the measures in the too difficult tray once again.

With parliament in recess, it is time to reflect on where last weeks by elections have left the parties. It is tempting to conclude that with Labour, the Lib Dems, and the Tories all winning or holding one seat, that there is all to play for going into the next round of by elections.

They are expected to be in two more “safe” Conservative seats and a very interesting contest in Scotland. It is likely a by election will soon be triggered in Tamworth where the disgraced Tory MP Chris Pincher has a 20,000 majority. Nadine Dorries, now known as the Mid Beds Blocker, has a 24,000 lead. She said she would quit with Boris Johnson but is now holding her resignation like a Sword of Damocles over the government because she didn’t get a peerage. Yes, our politics has sunk that low.

The most interesting autumn contest could come in Rutherglen in Scotland where a recall petition is about to close in respect of the former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier who broke Covid rules. The nationalists are only 5,000 votes behind Labour, and if Sir Keir Starmer is going to reap the dividends of the SNPs recent difficulties, it needs to start here. That’s because, despite their fantastic victory in Selby, concern remains that it was due to mass Tory abstention rather than enthusiasm for Labour.

The Prime Minister is planning a Cabinet reshuffle soon, but I wouldn’t count on that to make the difference if the message of the voters is to be counted. Even in Uxbridge there was a 7% swing against them. In the other two it was huge.

The Lib Dems have achieved their fourth spectacular in this parliament in Somerton and Frome. It is interesting that they are now increasingly using the phrase “people leant us their votes”. It is a bit risky as it seems to acknowledge that voters don’t support their policies and are merely using them as a vehicle to beat the Tories. However, the Lib Dems point out that this is a result of the voting system that they want to reform to allow everyone one to vote for their party of first choice.

It promises to be an interesting time as we enter the final year before the election.

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