A consoling thought for Ian Gibson

A number of well meaning comments made on BBC’s Question Time is a testament to the fact that Dr. Ian Gibson is a well loved man in Norwich. You wouldn’t imagine that only a couple of months ago, about the time of the European elections, voters were beside themselves with anti-political sentiment. The teary-eyed electorate giving up on both parties rimming the trough were not to be found among the audience last Thursday. One member even saying that Gibson was regrettably dropped without the opinion of his constituents. And now there is talk that he should be candidate for Norwich at the time of the General Election.

How many politicians around the country can claim to arouse support even after being involved in a little bit of naughtiness concerning a London flat and an in-family half price sale. Geoff Hoon was surely not spared that night.

Of course, the notion that Gibson was fodder for Brown, at the time appearing to fail where his shadow was standing strong on tackling untoward behaviour and expenses fiddles. And who is to know whether the decision to select Gibson of all people had political motives, given his leftist credentials and opposition to the Brown/Mandelson strategy. John McDonnell is surely correct to call the affair a self inflicted political disaster.

Proof that this was an own goal by Brown – if proof were needed – needn’t look any further at the differences in turnout for this byelection and the election of 2005. With a 61.1% turnout Gibson’s majority was 5,459. The byelection was won by Chloe Smith with a majority of 7,348 only with a 45.9% turnout. What seems to be clear is that Gibson’s voters didn’t turn up, but also the message was aimed at the Labour party in general (it was quite obvious the effect this would have on the structure of the leadership). There were plenty of smaller parties used for protest votes this time around compared with 2005. Its not for us to speculate on what could’ve happened if Norwich North were given the opportunity to reinstate Gibson, but what is clear is that many of those loyal to him abstained or sent a damning message to Westminster.

The mystery of it all found wise words from a less than palatable source recently, also, as Bob Piper noticed, on Question Times‘ sister programme Any Questions on Radio 4, on which Peter Hitchens noted;

“Very rich people, I name no names but you can guess, getting taxpayers to finance their mortgages on large country homes that they didn’t need. That’s OK, that’s fine. But whereas someone like Ian Gibson in Norwich is punished, for reasons I cannot fully understand, in some entirely selective way in which some people are punished and some are not, then people say they want change. And then they vote in Norwich, not in very large numbers, but in distressingly large numbers for me, for a party which plainly offers no change at all. Which constantly tells us that it will govern as New Labour, and will govern as New Labour if it is allowed to become the government.”

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