Will the Conservatives win the Old Bexley & Sidcup by-election?

The Conservative Party apparatus has consolidated around its candidate in the December 2 by-election in Old Bexley & Sidcup, the constituency of the late James Brokenshire MP. Brokenshire’s name has become synonymous with politics in this secure Conservative seat; but despite its respected record, the way Cabinet and donors descended on Bexley demonstrates the government’s declining confidence in its ability to hold seats, even among their most loyal supporters.

Conservative candidate Louie French – adviser to Falconwood and Welling – is the most recognizable face of the race. Images in campaign leaflets of the French planting trees and preventing development on Falconwood Green are ironic, given the 2 million sheets of paper posted in doorways in recent days. The Prime Minister, Chancellor and Home Secretary have all called for “local Louie” as if it were a general election.

Equally enthusiastic has been the response from the grassroots. Priti Patel was escorted home early on November 20, too crowded with requests for photos to step out the door. Boris Johnson was also surrounded by supporters, spectators and seditionists during his visit to Aspire Pharmacy in Sidcup. Schoolchildren pressed phones to the windows to take selfies with the Prime Minister, before he charged from the counter in the back of his blackened jeep. But it remains to be seen whether the celebrity status of our politicians among the non-voters will help or hinder French, given the Prime Minister’s unfavorable polls of party members and the public.

French’s platform pretends to talk about local and national issues, but neglects to confront controversial topics. He opposed the extension of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s “ultra low emission zone” and “London external tax“, but he did not speak about the costs that hit households due to the government energy policies and the gasoline car. and bans on gas boilers. He has ruled out taking a second job, but he has not responded to accusations of “sleazy Tory” leveled against colleagues Owen Paterson, Sir Geoffrey Cox and Nadim Zahawi. He opposed the police policy cuts in Khan’s three wards and worked with mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey on city-wide security campaigns. But he hasn’t said whether he wants the unpopular Met Commissioner Cressida Dick to step down, and he neglects to blame Theresa May, who – as Home Secretary – slashed police budgets by 18 %.

French’s flyers carry testimonials from small business owners grateful for the financial help he received during the pandemic. But French has yet to be asked whether or not he supports government-imposed lockdowns, which shut down these businesses and pushed GDP beyond debt in 2020. His alignment with the establishment could alienate them. disgruntled former backers of Boris, who hope vacant seats will be provided with tax credits. conservatives and lockdown skeptics (like Steve Baker and Sir Desmond Swayne).

Richard Tice, head of Reform UK and regular at talkRadio, seeks to capitalize on center-right opposition to government policies on the environment, immigration and pandemic. Tice’s double-decker campaign bus travels through the borough to deliver political brochures promising low taxes, eliminating NHS waiting lists and a pledge to prevent vaccine passports. Pledges to raise minimum income and capital gains tax thresholds to £ 20,000 a year, reduce stamp duty and abolish inheritance tax on properties under $ 2million British pounds could do wonders for the social mobility of low-income families.

But Tice’s commitment to nationalize energy utilities won’t float with free markets, and this contradicts his accusation that the government is “consocialist conservatives.” What could be more socialist than the State seizing the monopoly of the means of energy production? Even if polls show Reform is set to eclipse Lib Dems nationwide, they are unlikely to make enough headway among disgruntled Tories to prevent the Frenchman from becoming the new MP, let alone send Tice in Parliament.

On the left, the Labor candidate – Belvedere adviser Daniel Francis – is leading a campaign like Sir Keir Starmer’s, focused on economic policies and projecting a respectable temper. François opposes the cancellation of triple lock-in pensions, the increase in local taxes and the increase in national insurance contributions. But his plans to invest in transport infrastructure, tackle anti-social behavior and improve Bexley’s garbage collections are without details of where the money is coming from.

Like Sir Keir’s separation from the Labor base, Francis’s leaflets take a different approach. With Starmer silent so far and Ed Milliband and Angela Rayner returning home disheartened from Sidcup last Wednesday, activists have instead decided to piggyback on the Prime Minister’s appearances. A woman blocked traffic in the main streets alongside the Prime Minister’s police entourage, throwing leaflets from car windows at crowds of schoolchildren. But other than Sidcup’s Subway staff who came out to boo Boris during their break, locals seemed unresponsive to opposition tactics.

If this by-election is a referendum on parties in general, then Starmer’s inconsistent leadership and the socialist base of Labor opposing his pro-business vision for Britain is unlikely to make Bexley blush. French hit Francis on exactly that: denouncing his party for opposing investment in Sidcup’s new library, cinema and apartments.

With the Liberal Democrats barely starting their leaflet campaign, with the Greens completely silent and Ukip’s funding (judging by their graphic design budget) having piloted the co-op with Nigel Farage, it is unlikely that anyone could. derail the French route to Westminster. Even Labor’s argument relies on bar charts showing their 2019 election defeat as proof that they are the Conservatives’ closest competition. But isn’t democracy by default – voting for “the other guy” in a desert of eligible eligibility – not doing voters a disservice? A plurality of eligible candidates would be preferable: allowing voters to vote on principle rather than by probability.

Voting tactically will not reform our one-party rule by conservatives who do not govern conservatively. The outcome of this Old Bexley & Sidcup election could send a message to the government that – if it wants to keep the votes that earned it its 2019 term – it had better keep its promises of low taxation and no- intervention.

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