The era of Accident MPs
>ANY end of the cosy polarisation of British politics between the Labour and Conservative parties is likely to throw up some unpredictable and possibly unbelievable results at the next election.
ANY end of the cosy polarisation of British politics between the Labour and Conservative parties is likely to throw up some unpredictable and possibly unbelievable results at the next election.
The era of the Accidental MP is upon us. There are candidates from three parties who could gain seats totally out of the blue. A three way battle in some seats could see a deeply split electorate and a totally unexpected party snatching victory.
What is certain is that if the surge of the Lib Dems, currently shown in the polls, is more than a passing mid-term fad, the number of MPs returned with more than 50% of the vote in a constituency is unlikely to be an all-time low.
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Throw into the pot the impact on the Tory vote in some areas from the UK Independence Party and the actual result on polling day could be nothing like what the opinion polls are showing.
Take North Essex, where Tory Bernard Jenkin has a seemingly safe 7,186 majority. However against the odds it may seem, circumstances could conspire to make him the victim of a classic squeeze – University of Essex students voting for the Lib Dems rather than Labour because of tuition fees and Iraq, and Eurosceptics in the leafy parts of Colchester borough and Tendring
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district waving goodbye to the Conservatives to back UKIP.
The result: Labour pushed into a poor third place and Mr Jenkin and his yet unnamed Lib Dem opponent scrapping it out for top spot.
CARELESS talk cost lives in the war, but it comes to something when a private conversation over a cup of coffee in Bournemouth can cause uproar a few minutes later 150 miles away in Essex.
At the Lib Dem conference last week, I was discussing rumours that a certain well known former sportsman may be asked by UKIP to stand in the Labour marginal of Harwich. The seat will be one of perhaps just half a dozen which will be ruthlessly targeted by the anti-EU party.
Our musings were overheard by UKIP's spy at the Lib Dem conference, who immediately called the party's Chelmsford office to report I was going to write the story up. A frantic phone call came back to me within a couple of hours denying the reports - a denial which, so soon, gave the whole rumour massive credibility.
While the Lib Dems went out to hunt the UKIP spy - assumed to be one of the many trade exhibitors - the story went all around the Bournemouth conference hall as if it was fact.
I suppose I ought to be flattered that UKIP's man, or woman, in the Lib Dem sanctum recognised me as someone who spoke with some credibility. Incidentally, I'm not going to share with you the name of possible candidate, but here's two clues – he has a healthy heart and performed heroics in Manchester and Leeds in the summer of 1981.
However, if he stood, and was elected, his victory ought not to be classified as accidental.