Eventful start to GE2019

November 6, 2019

by Martin Odoni

Well, that was a dramatic day. One minute after the end of the 5th of November, Parliament was officially dissolved. Not in a gunpowder blast of smoke and flame, but for a General Election. And yet a fuse was lit, it seems, for an explosion of events followed.

By the end of the day, Labour’s Deputy Leader, the odious Tom Watson, had stepped down, three Labour MPs were barred from standing in the party’s name (entirely wrongly in Chris Williamson’s case*), the Liberal Democrats’ literature campaign was exposed as a catalogue of fiction, the Conservative Party were caught red-handed handling vast sums of Russian money, a Conservative Minister had to resign due to lies he allegedly told relating to a rape trial, and the LibDem leader thought it was a strategically sound idea to boast that she was willing to destroy the world.

Consistency? Jo Swinson? Nah.

Swinson reversals

Jo Swinson’s policy record is very Torified and full of u-turns.

And that was all on day one of a five-week-plus Election campaign? Wow, this is going to be an eventful month.

Remember, remember, The Sixth of November? It seems we shall.

Watson’s little gambit is what I wish to look at for the moment. I am fairly sure he suddenly announced his departure from Parliament for entirely cynical reasons. The great majority of the Labour Party membership have wanted him gone for a long time, so he might have gone any time in the last eighteen months. His decision instead to resign on the day a General Election campaign begins, and especially after the aforementioned Chris Williamson was blocked from standing as a Labour candidate in the Election by the party’s National Executive Committee (of which Watson was a member prior to this evening), stinks of attempted campaign sabotage.

However, not for the first time in the last three years of bumbling centrist ‘chicken coups‘, I think Watson has fouled up. This is partly due to him misjudging how deeply he is hated in the party, but also partly due to his timing.

The hatred in which he is held by most of the party membership means they are happy to see the back of him whenever it happens. It could have been on Election day itself, they would still celebrate. He might have imagined a large minority begging him to change his mind, allowing him to portray himself as a martyred victim, and the party as being divided in chaos. So far, there is little evidence of that.

Anti-semitism in Labour

The outgoing Deputy Leader thinks his gambit will damage Labour’s campaign, but he’s wrong.

As for the timing, today was the day that the Tories officially launched their Election campaign. By pulling this rather narcissistic stunt today, Watson has done Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign an inadvertent favour, as he has drawn attention away from the Tories’ big launch event, which had been causing few enough waves to start with; –

Tiny crowd at Tory launch event 2019

Look familiar? David Cameron pulled the same trick in 2015.

I believe the word you are looking for, Watson, is Oops.

This trick was already employed only last week, when Owen Smith (remember him? No? I needed reminding too) tried to draw attention away from the vote in the House of Commons for a General Election by resigning from Parliament as well.

And yes, there will probably be more right wing departures from the Shadow Cabinet or the Labour Party over the course of the campaign. Look out for Margaret Hodge probably resigning the whip on the day Labour launches its manifesto, and maybe Wes Streeting or Jess Phillips following suit on the eve of the Election.

The Labour Right can never grasp that their timing is always too blatant, and their theatrics too obviously over-orchestrated, to be convincing. That, they may one day realise, is precisely why Jeremy Corbyn, in all his relaxed humour and earthiness, has far more appeal than they have.

Anyway, the Sixth of November is more or less done. What we need to remember, remember now is the Twelfth of December.

Remember Remember the 12th of December

Guy Fawkes had to blow up Parliament to get rid of an unwanted Government. You have the option to vote one out. So do so.


* Chris has sadly, but perfectly understandably, resigned from the Labour Party this evening.