And it was not just a few hundred votes that decided the result, but a whopping 8,000. This should not have been such a surprise, given that in nearby St Albans, Daisy Cooper, now the party’s deputy leader, emphatically ousted the sitting Tory MP recently. How would the press report the shock result, which none of them had managed to foresee?
Simples. There are, in this morning’s editions, lashings of hindsight, with a side order of pointless deflection as the collapse in the Labour vote is celebrated: the idea that Labour voters switched to the Lib Dems, along with some Tories, while other backers of The Blue Team declined to turn out, could not be allowed to enter. Meanwhile, over at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, another excuse had been found.
Teased by the front page “By-election backlash” banner, the Tel had lined up has-been Charles Moore, hopelessly over-promoted Camilla Tominey, routinely dishonest Fraser Nelson and plain wacko Tufton Street insider Allister Heath to let readers know that the reasons the Tories lost had to include HS2. It was the railways Wot Done It.
Ms Tominey led off: “HS2 is basically a swear word in that part of leafy Buckinghamshire, having transformed swathes of the beautiful Chilterns into a building site. Residents have become much more opposed during the pandemic, when the shift to home working has made the multi-billion pound rail project seem like even more of a white elephant”.
What say the man from the Spectator? “Voters, it seems, have had enough of … seeing their constituency carved up by an HS2 train line that won’t even stop in their patch”. Nelson’s take was as nothing, though, compared to Heath’s. “The only message you hear from the Government is that it believes in levelling up the North. That sounds sensible, as far as it goes. But you don’t live there”. No shit, Sherlock. But do go on.
“And as you watch your tax bill, and that of your business, shoot up, it feels awfully like the real agenda is to tear down Southern tall poppies: Neil Kinnock-style class warfare, dressed up in Tory garb. Even HS2, which you hate, won’t use and are paying for, is entirely designed to buy votes in the Midlands”. Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Crewe, Chester, Liverpool … Al’s geography is as accurate as his analysis.
Moore concluded that voters in Chesham and Amersham “may not be devoted supporters of the Liberal Democrats, but they know they do not want HS2. Their revolt on Thursday was perfectly rational”. Funny way to make HS2 go away - by voting for a party that backs it. Perhaps the Lib Dem campaign, added to alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson rocking up sans face covering and shaking hands, had more impact.
Rail guru and professional photographer Paul Bigland has come to much the same conclusion: it wasn’t HS2 Wot Won It. Paper that has campaigned unswervingly to bin HS2 now has HS2 hindsight consensus. Reality is that Bozo ain’t as popular as they think.
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