The electorate in the Witney constituency numbers 78,766, of whom 62 were far-sighted enough to cast their vote yesterday for Colin Bex. For the rest, as our society plunges from bad to worse, it will be a case of ‘we told you so’, and sooner rather than later.
Colin reported a busy day’s campaigning in Burford but clear signs that the turnout for David Cameron was already looking decisive. The Leader of the Opposition, with Sam Cam in tow, wafted around the count, exuding the arrogance of those for whom power is a birthright. The Cameron the media presents is scripted; from the actual man what you get is the sneer of cold command. Colin tackled him on his voting record over Iraq. He dismissed the question. All that was over and done with. History now. Justice could go hang.
The declaration of the result was a chilling reminder of the charade that is now British democracy. Cameron gave his acceptance speech, then he and his minders, along with the other major party candidates, were gone. No handshakes offered to the defeated (Colin would have so relished the opportunity to decline). No waiting to hear what others might have to say in the way of gracious congratulations. In fact, all the manners of a mobster.
It used to be traditional – and in some areas still is – for losing candidates to add their own thoughts about the election, especially to thank the Acting Returning Officer and all those members of staff involved in administering the poll and the count. As Independent candidate Paul Wesson stepped up to the mike, the power was cut off. West Oxfordshire District Council’s patience with democracy had abruptly run out.
Undeterred by discourtesy, he made his statement, condemning the media focus on Cameron that had denied the voters of Witney any chance to come to a balanced judgment on the merits of each candidate. As a long-term observer at elections in other countries struggling to understand democracy, he was now determined to seek international censure for the way British elections are run.
Colin followed, warning of the bleak future ahead, with taxes rising and services vanishing. He ended with the reminder that Cameron is a war conspirator, sharing equal responsibility with Blair and Brown for the vast numbers killed, maimed or displaced in Iraq and Afghanistan. A small band of a dozen or so gathered before the rostrum and applauded both speakers, one of the audience shouting that no-one in politics now represented the working class of the country. A man from Southampton reminded everyone that Winchester had been our capital. It was a more benign thought than anything now likely to come from London.
We posed with the Wyvern standard for press photos and Colin gave yet another interview to BBC Oxford. As we left, Nick Xylas was asked to give an interview to a Japanese radio station. You just couldn’t make it up.
The national results, denying the power of diktat to any one party, are the best any democrat could reasonably have hoped for. All small parties will take comfort from the victory of Caroline Lucas – a one-time resident of the Witney constituency – as Britain’s only Green MP. Her success – coming from far beyond the bounds of possibility not so long ago – was the well-earned result of sustained targeting in her Brighton seat. We shall be studying carefully how it was done.
Judged by our standards, the Greens are a centralist party. We take rather more comfort from the progress of Celtic nationalists, with Alex Salmond hailing the SNP’s results as the best in over 30 years and Dick Cole polling Mebyon Kernow’s highest result, 2,007 votes at St Austell & Newquay, on a swing of 4%.
The lesson is clear. Don’t moan. Organise!