One of those subjects to which folks refer in private is to chide me for being sceptical about how well-informed the not at all celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges really is. Hodges, I am constantly informed, has excellent contacts within the Labour Party, and indeed across the political spectrum. Well, if he has such excellent contacts, at least one of them must have had a seriously bad day recently.
He's Desperate, Dan
Because in his generously remunerated Mail On Sunday column yesterday, Desperate Dan told readers of “Sexting Simon's ultimatum”, all about Rochdale’s still nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk. Dan starts reliably enough, telling “It’s now ten months since Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk was suspended from the Labour Party after becoming embroiled in a ‘sexting’ scandal”. But then his desire to kick Jezza takes over.
“And I’m told he is preparing to issue an ultimatum to Jeremy Corbyn to finally get his case resolved … According to a colleague: ‘Simon’s had enough. He said he’s going to write to Corbyn telling him either he restores the whip or he’s going to resign, force a by-election and run as an independent.’” That might not be such a good idea. But do go on.
“Though a controversial figure, the maverick MP is said to enjoy significant personal support in his constituency, and Ukip posted a strong showing in 2015. Corbyn could soon be facing his first important by-election test”. And to that I call bullshit.
Let me put Dan Hodges straight, not that he’s for listening to inconvenient facts.
During the recent round of local elections, the subject of Danczuk and his antics came up repeatedly on the doorstep. The expenses cheating, his self-promoting ex-wife, the string of grim tabloid exposés, his drunkenness, all featured. Had Hodges spoken to any local activists, he would find they consider themselves lucky not to have lost seats as a result.
Neighbouring Heywood and Middleton CLP recently made a complaint about Danczuk’s behaviour; subsequently there was a confrontation between him and the constituency’s MP Liz McInnes. It is believed that Danczuk was in a drunken state at the time.
Having failed to show up for the by-election that delivered Ms McInnes to Parliament, Danczuk decided to make an effort for the contest in nearly Oldham West and Royton. The problem was, as one local campaigner told me, “He went to the campaign office yesterday [Friday last] and the locals wouldn’t go out with him. Hence no pictures of him campaigning … no-one wanted to go out with him or be in a photo with him”.
And when Danczuk tried, with the assistance of his pal Richard Farnell, leader of Rochdale Council, to prevent Andy Burnham from addressing the CLP in the run-up to the vote on Labour’s nomination for Greater Manchester Mayor, he failed. Moreover, the CLP ended up endorsing Burnham, who, to Danczuk’s dismay, won the nomination easily.
If Simon Danczuk were to force a by-election in Rochdale and run as an independent, he would be humiliated. Labour would retain the seat in a landslide. Spanker Si would be fortunate to keep his deposit. Dan Hodges really ought to get out of the Westminster bubble a little more often - but at least we now know just how good his sources are.