DEFENCE BUDGET ‘RISING’ – ELECTION RUMBLINGS?
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
17 Jul 07. This week has produced signs that the Government is already on an election footing, but when? There were clear signs that the economy is slowing by the profit warnings announced by a number of companies, the highest since the dot com crash as shown below. In addition a cloud is descending over Europe which signals a dire 2008 for everyone. But, Gordon Brown is facing a ‘bounce’ in the polls since he came to power and to keep that momentum the Government’s main game is to keep Mr Cameron and the Opposition guessing so that panic may ensue allowing Gordon a clear shot.
But, timing is of the essence and whilst the best time to go may be after the Conference in October, the Labour Party is desperately short of funds. Also there is a question of the pullout from Iraq, the likelihood of a win for Labour will increase if this starts. However, bell warnings should ring for Gordon as retreat does not help Prime Ministers win elections as was shown in 1940 when Neville Chamberlain was removed and replaced by Churchill and his coalition and in 2006 when the Israeli Government collapsed after the west Bank pullout. An Iraqi pullout may look to be the way of placating the public but it has its dangers in that it may import terrorism to the UK in larger numbers if Iraq is no longer a battleground. Voters in the USA, whilst castigating Mr Bush for Iraq seem to forget that there has been no major incident in the USA since 9/11. A stable Iraq, like a stable Vietnam in the 60s, would be the best long-term solution for that Region, which may, sadly, require more sacrifice. But Tony (Tony who?) is on his way to the Middle East to sort this out!
But, Labour won a boost in the polls by winning both Southall and Sedgefield, with a disastrous showing for the Tories. The BBC reported that the party took Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s old constituency, by 6,956 votes – down from 18,449 at the general election. In Ealing Southall, its majority fell from 11,440 to 5,070. The Liberal Democrats were runners-up in both seats – overtaking the
Tories in Sedgefield – after keenly fought contests for second place.
Sedgefield, in County Durham, was made vacant by former prime minister Mr Blair’s resignation as an MP to become a Middle East envoy.
The contest in Ealing Southall, west London, was triggered by the death of the UK’s oldest MP, Piara Khabra, at the age of 82.
Both by-elections were seen as a test of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders, David Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell. In Sedgefield, Labour took 12,528 votes, the Lib Dems 5,572 and the Conservatives 4,082. Turnout was 41.57% – down 20.65 points from 2005.
Amid noisy scenes and slow hand-clapping by supporters of other parties, Labour’s Phil Wilson said: “I want to get to work.” He added: “We have won our victory here tonight because of the success of New Labour under Tony Blair and our renewal with Gordon Brown
“This election has been a disaster for David Cameron. People know he just can’t be trusted when it comes to the big issues.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said of the result: “It is a blow to [Prime Minister Gordon] Brown and a disaster for David Cameron.
“The Conservatives have been pushed into a poor third place and proved once again that they are entirely marginalised in the North of England.”
But Tory candidate Graham Robb said his party’s vote had “held firm” and that it was “in business” in the North East. Mr Blair was Sedgefield’s MP for 24 years. Mr Wilson was one of the so-called “famous five” Labour activists who chose him as the party’s candidate in 1983.
In other news for Labour the BBC reported that No-one is to face charges after the 16-month cash-for-honours investigation, the BBC understands.
Four people were arr