Let me begin by saying that joining one of Britain’s established political parties is unequivocally anathema to offering something new – kwilson has obviously engaged in something fishy. So while under the rules of our electoral system he owns the seat and may do what he pleases with it, at the very least he has completely failed to inform voters in Kent and the South East that this was an option he was open to. And this humble writer believes that the decent thing now would be to offer the people of the South East a chance to now that he has switched parties to pass their verdict on that.
However Mr Wilson’s actions are far from the only fishy part to this tail, the guts of the story are the strange decision by all three TLC parties to fail to stand in Kent and endorse instead a former LPUK and short-lived Tory. This curious decision, that they now reject, deserves attention in its own right. The petition that is going around casts Something New!’s Manifesto as centre-left and and appears to be trying to establish a narrative where by Mr Wilson was feigning left of centre credentials obtained endorsements and quickly went back in his word.
A number of points in response to this: firstly, even if it did happen as is suggested in this narrative those responsible for deciding to endorse Something New! clearly did a poor job by failing to take into account Mr Wilson’s wider record and failed to anticipate how that might lead to a defection to a right of centre party. His diverse political history should have been enough to raise some question and indeed in his very first tweet since returning to politics Mr Wilson states that he wanted to rebuild bridges with the LPUK and followed this up by announcing his decision to run in Hampshire – which is a Green-Tory marginal.
Further the strange decision to attempt to cast the Something New! manifesto as centre left is bizarre and, for self proclaimed leftists, reflects a worrying lack of knowledge of their own ideology. An honest assessment is that Mr Wilson is libertarian and anti authoritarian. Where there is overlap with the progressive left, it is because the left embraces anti authoritarianism. But there is explicit disagreement with the left on a range of subjects from tax to foreign policy. In summation I wouldn’t ascribe leftness or rightness to the document, it is at its core anti authority.
So if the TLC is not guilty of gross incompetence in endorsing Mr Wilson then what might have happened? Indeed, knowing many of the members of the TLC leadership to not be complete incompetents (only partial), can we explain firstly why Something New! very quickly decided to not run in Hampshire South, as initially stated, and instead in Kent and secondly what the TLC’s wider goals in this were in this.
Anonymous sources within the TLC and published in The Daily Telegraph (10th Feb) reported a conversation on a similar topic where the TLC was deciding to endorse DF44 in Lancashire South and where the former PM Wagbo is reported to have said, “We probably don’t have a better candidate” and that “it will tie up Tory resources”. With Kent being a much safer Tory seat than Lanc South – indeed the safest in the nation if constituency polls are accurate – then it is even less likely that the TLC would be able to field a strong candidate there, but nevertheless hoping to gain electoral advantage from the return to politics of Mr Wilson. The TLC concluded by a similar logic that they could gain national advantage for the TLC by tying up a Tory Deputy Leader in a local fight instead of campaigning nationally.
By offering Mr Wilson endorsements in Kent but not in Hampshire South (a Green Tory marginal) to induce him to run there instead of Hampshire South with LPUK support as I theorise he initially planned to from his tweets. Where in a calculated move he publicly declares he is running, offers an olive branch to the LPUK and has chosen a seat where no LPUK candidate is likely to stand. I theorise his plans only subsequently changed once he failed to receive an endorsement from the LPUK (who had already come to an arrangement with the Tories) and was instead offered the opportunity of TLC endorsements in Kent.
There was certainly some political advantage to be gained by the TLC whether or not Something New! won as I have already discussed. So it appears that they are not the entirely naive and innocent bystanders who have been taken advantage of as they might wish you to believe. And further to this line of thought a Something New! Victory on the list may well have come at the expense of an LPUK or Tory seat, and surely this is the political calculation that high ranking members of the TLC anticipated would result by endorsing him, anything less would simply be incompetence.
If the TLC are unhappy with the decision of Kwilson to change parties they should reject any benefit that they derived from the tying down a senior Tory. Thus if they are purely motivated by a non partisan desire for fairness then they should also put to a by-election any seat where a visit by a less busy Tory DL might have tipped the balance. I eagerly await yet another by-election bonanza.
But all of this is simply conjecture based on a limited snapshot of incentives, public statements and private conservations reported on by The Telegraph. All we can say for sure is that there was Something very Fishy went on…
LeChevalierMal-Fait is the Conservative MP for Essex and is writing in a personal capacity.
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