The Wokingham Paper

NEIL COUPE: Strange days

Ballot box

Politically, we are living through strange times.

We had an election in 2015, which was not supposed to be repeated until 2020.

We then had a referendum in 2016.

As the Government found it difficult to implement the referendum result, and wanted to be able to do it with less effort, they decided to ask The People to have another go at electing the MPs.

The People voted in good faith, choosing MPs who were supposed to be in place until June 2022.

Due to a clear lack of statecraft and an inability to reach out and find a compromise by our leaders, we are being asked to vote yet again, presumably until we come up with the ‘right answer’.

It is confusing that the result of a democratic vote in 2016 (the ‘right result’) seems to be set in stone forever, yet the result of a democratic vote in 2017 (the ‘wrong result’) can be cast aside and dismissed as an inconvenience.

‘The People: The Enemies of The People’ indeed…

One of the few positives is that at election time, we are sometimes reminded of MP’s of slightly lower profile, who suddenly start to appear again in the media.

We can sometimes forget that there are still some MPs who seem to be intellectually curious and able to work with their opponents for the greater good.

Sadly most of the people in that category seem to be stepping down, deciding that oblivion on the backbenches and facing online abuse and physical threats is just not worth it.

It is particularly disappointing to see relatively young MPs, with so much to offer, leaving Parliament. As the main parties move to the extremes, and seek out candidates with a more homogeneous worldview, it is difficult to imagine that these MPs are being replaced by individuals of anything like the same calibre.

To the country’s detriment.

Of course, the risk of losing a sitting MP is not something we need to worry about here.

Since the Wokingham constituency was reintroduced in 1950 we have only ever had three MPs, and only two in the past 60 years.

This means that since the election (not even the assassination) of JFK we have had one change of MP (compared with 12 changes of Prime Minister).

This may indicate that in a turbulent world, we have been an oasis of stability, or may suggest that for generations we have been blessed by having two top-class constituency MPs.

Equally, it could simply be a case that we are typical of many affluent towns in the Home Counties with a similar demographic, and also a consequence of the fact that being the MP for Wokingham is a great job.

This is traditionally a safe seat for the Conservative seat, but I was intrigued to be contacted by a research company, for the first time in my life, who were conducting a polling exercise for the Wokingham constituency.

The questions concerned the likelihood of my voting, who I voted for in the referendum, who I voted for in 2017 and who I was planning to vote for in 2019.

There was then a question which specifically named Mr Redwood and Dr Lee, and sought specific feedback.

Has politics changed so much that for the first time ever there could be a genuinely competitive election in the Wokingham parliamentary constituency?

With due respect to the other parties standing, the tone of the interview I had was that the pollsters see this as a competition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

It will be interesting to see what the results of the polling are, and more specifically if there is any significant movement on election day.

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