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Howarth Watch

Election 2001

Fear And Loathing in South Aldershot

The C Foundation’s plans for vigorous Anti-Howarth insurgency during the 2001 election campaign were put on hold when it transpired that the local Lib Dems were doing a damn fine job on similar lines, and had even unearthed further dubious quotations by Howarth, criticising Comic Relief for donating funds to immigrants. The arithmetic of the Aldershot constituency makes interesting reading, with the combined Lib Dem and Labour totals from 1997 exceeding Howarth’s vote. Howarth has already run down the Tory majority from 18,000 in 1992 to 6,000 in 97 and though a further swing, backed by massive tactical voting, looks unlikely the local agenda has been set by vehement personal attacks on Howarth. Howarth’s own leafleting was characterised by the bigoted racist, xenophobic approach we have come to expect of the man.

My own involvement in the campaign was limited by intolerable workload in the day job, continual interruptions by Eldritch and Merciful Release operatives and a personal life spiralling down into late nights and drunken madness. But what did filter through seemed - counter to the received wisdom and the usual poor quality of debate - to herald a decisive shift in UK politics. The Tories, dominant throughout the 80s and early 90s, are in total retreat with a hardline right wing approach coupled with a front bench line-up that would curdle milk cutting them off from all but the most rabid of the electorate. The Labour party, with policies to introduce private funding into the NHS, have now moved decisively to the centre-right. Tomorrow’s Labour victory will be on the back of their traditional left-wing vote, but this vote is becoming softer and increasingly detached from Party leadership. What is becoming clear is that the Liberal Democrat party is now the foremost UK party of the left, at least policy-wise. Unfortunately the party still seems to attract personalities of the SDP, David Steel type. The wimp factor is high, too high. Charles Kennedy still hasn’t had the foresight to adopt the nickname Chuck. However, we envisage this changing in the next decade as the party’s politics begin to attract radical, young left-wing theorists. The time is ripe for a dramatic takeover by the kind of people who turn central London onto a colourful riot every May Day: Naomi Klein reading techno freaks, culture-jamming anarchists dressed in womble suits, earnest C-Foundation activists wearing pepper-gas masks and hiding lead piping underneath lime-green cycling tops.

The 2001 Aldershot campaign probably won’t be heralded as a paradigm shift in British politics. For one the tactical vote was firmly anti-Tory rather than anti-Blair, and action at street level was minimal. However, the marginalisation of the Labour party was painless and Lib Dem policies supported with a clear conscience.

CS, 6/6/01

Postscript 8/6/01

For frig’s sake what went wrong?

 Name  Party  Votes  %  +/- %
 Gerald Howarth  Conservative  19,106  42.2   -0.5
 Adrian Collett  Liberal Democrat  12,512  27.6  -2.9
 Luke Akehurst  Labour  11,394  25.2  +1.1
 Derek Rumsey  UK Independence  797  1.8  +0.3
 Adam Stacey  Green  630  1.4  
 King Arthur Pendragon  Independent  459  1.0  
 Alan “Howling Lord” Hope Hope  Raving Loony  390  0.9  

Where, you might well ask, was the tactical vote? Where the covert switch of Labour vote to Lib Dem? Where the clued-up, politically literate electorate marching towards the polling stations with swingometer and calculator in hand? I’m moving to Farnham - Virginia Bottomley’s majority’s down to 800 there.

Back to offtopic. For background, see Howarth.