Reflections on the ‘revolution’ in Barnsley Central

A message yes, but a “strong” one?

There’s an old saying back up north; you could pin a red rosette on a pig and people would vote for it. At last years general election the voters of Barnsley Central proved this to be almost literally true when they re-elected Eric Illsley, already mired in controversy over his expenses, now jailed over them.

If the judgment of the voters of Barnsley Central is suspect so is that of their new MP Dan Jarvis, elected last night. His acceptance speech, uncertainly delivered, was a carbon copy of that given by Debbie Abrahams when she was elected to another safe Labour seat, Oldham East and Saddleworth, in January. He declared that “The people of Barnsley Central are sending the strongest possible message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Your reckless policies, your broken promises and your unfair cuts are letting our country down”

But it’s difficult to see how Jarivs can come out with this rubbish. This ‘strong message’ took the form of nearly 3,000 fewer people voting for the photogenic ex Para than voted for the decidedly non-photogenic ex NUM employee and fraudster back in May last year.

What appears to have happened is that the Labour vote held up as you’d expect it to in any other year while Lib Dem voters stayed home and Conservatives voted for UKIP. Obviously this is not ideal for the coalition but no one ever thanks the doctor for perfoming neccessary surgery while he is fiddling about in their intestines. Given how doubtful it is that these voters will carry this apathy and protest into a general election where the stakes are higher, the coalition can be fairly happy to have generated nothing more than a bit of grumpiness among its own supporters.

Labour, on the other hand, for all their rhetoric of strong messages from angry voters about unfair cuts have seen their vote flatline in two seats they already held. But then how can a party who’s leader describes its beliefs as “a blank sheet of paper” expect to inspire anything but indifference?

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