By Simon Basketter
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Tories turn on each other after a bruising by-election

This article is over 10 years, 9 months old
The Tories are arguing among themselves after a bad week.
Issue 2343

The Tories are arguing among themselves after a bad week.

They suffered defeat in the Eastleigh by-election, where the Liberal Democrats and the far right Ukip beat them into third place.

The Lib Dems held the seat with a reduced majority.

The by-election was held after their MP Chris Huhne had to resign and now faces jail.

David Cameron responded to the pressure within his own party.

He said, “The battle for Britain’s future will not be won in lurching to the right, nor by some cynical attempt to calculate the middle distance between your political opponents and then planting yourself somewhere between them.

“That is lowest common denominator politics—and it gets you nowhere.”

Yet within minutes Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, said the Tories would repeal the Human Rights Act if they won the next general election. That’s a pledge designed to win back voters who have defected to Ukip.

Cameron is convening a series of “sandwich lunch” meetings with groups of 20 or so backbenchers to keep them onboard.


A group of Tory MPs are demanding that the government cut taxes.

Odious Tory minister Michael Gove for once noticed something when he said the vote was partly driven by a “distaste for elites”.

Tory candidate Maria Hutchings made a point of telling voters that she was “not a rich Tory toff”.

The Tories poured resources into the campaign.Hundreds of MPs went to Eastleigh to canvass support.

But Tory attempts during the campaign to counter Ukip by echoing their anti-immigration message failed.

At one point they went as far as putting out a leaflet in Ukip colours.

Cameron thought he could pull his party ahead by pandering to the bigots and racists at every opportunity.

His promise of a referendum on being in the European Union and tough talk on immigration only encouraged the bigots.

So ominously the anti-immigration Ukip increased its share of the vote from 3.6 percent in 2010 to 27.8 percent.

This is a dangerous development which may see anti-immigration pushed deep into the heart of the political mainstream.

The Lib Dems won, though their share of the vote dropped by 14 percent—only slightly less than the fall for the Tories.

This doesn’t mean that the Lib Dems are safe.

In the Rotherham by-election just before Christmas they came eighth.

The government wants to push through ever greater cuts and attacks on the welfare state and the living standards of millions of ordinary people.

The problem is there is a nasty consensus breaking out in establishment politics.

They all believe that the “issue” of immigration has to be tackled.

They don’t mean by standing up to racism.

They mean either whipping it up or pandering to it.

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