For those of you who are politically inclined, it won’t have escaped your notice there have been a couple of recent by-elections. The Conservatives lost two supposedly safe seats, namely Mid-Bedfordshire (Conservative for its entire hundred year history, previous incumbent Nadine Dorries), and Tamworth, formerly held by Chris Pincher (who also held a lot of other things he wasn’t supposed to, at least not without explicit consent).
Pincher by name
Chris Pincher was censured for sexual misconduct, by the Commons select committee on standards, and is a fine example of nominative determinism. He was also Conservative deputy chief whip (now stop that, this is a serious piece). It was his appointment to this position that brought down Boris Johnson who eventually admitted he lied about knowledge of Pincher’s, er, pinching. Anyway, Pincher jumped before he was pushed out by his constituents, with a swing (what did I tell you before?) of 23.9 points to Labour.
Now, some words about Dorries (I’ve got one really good word for her, but this article is only 1,000 words long, and the editor tells me they’ve all got to be different).
Where to start? Go Nads, as she is rather better known, hadn’t held a surgery for three years and employed her daughter as office manager on a salary of up to £45,000, even though said daughter lived 96 miles away, causing some to wonder how she actually managed to get into the office. After being questioned about it by a journalist, Dorries tweeted: “Be seen within a mile of my daughters and I will nail your balls to the floor … using your own front teeth.” The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills was plainly missing a trick without her at the helm.
She was rapped over the knuckles for disappearing into the jungle – the Australian one, not the one in Westminster, although she was pretty invisible there too – without permission, to appear on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, and then failing to register her fee. One of her most memorable appearances (frankly, I’m spoilt for choice) was during a select committee hearing as culture minister, when she demonstrated she had no idea how Channel 4, a TV station she wanted to privatise, was funded. Which was by, er, private enterprise.
You don’t have to spell it out for us, Nads.
As for her (other) works of h̶y̶s̶t̶e̶r̶i̶c̶a̶l̶ historical fiction, for Ms Dorries is a prolific author, Sarah Ditum of the New Statesman wrote that some of her sentences “read like clippings from Wikipedia”, while Christopher Howse critiqued The Four Streets in the Telegraph as being “the worst novel I’ve read in 10 years”.
In the end – or rather, not quite the end, because she continued to (not) do the job for months after she resigned ‘with immediate effect’ – Nadine flounced off in slow motion because she wasn’t made a peer. (There is nothing like a dame, and Dorries is definitely nothing like a dame.)
Anyway, the Conservatives have worked out what happened in these ‘bye’-elections (obvious precursors to the electorate waving farewell to the rest of them in the forthcoming general election), blaming (seriously) people who love Rishi Sunak, people who are happy with the job Rishi Sunak is doing, people who don’t have any enthusiasm for Keir Starmer but who voted for him anyway, Sunak haters, and Tories Retrograde, an astrological aspect which occurs like clockwork every 13 years.
Having consulted an array of psephologists (the cream should start working any day now), I’ve compiled a handy guide on how to lose a by-election when you started off the last parliament with a majority of 80:
- Tank the economy
- Starve essential services of funds
- Steal lots of public money and give it to your local pub landlord
- Buy a yacht instead of PPE
- Privatise the NHS
- Make money from depositing shit into the waterways
- Make money from being a bad prime minister
- Sell HS2!
- Buy helicopters!
- Choose candidates who tell poor people to “fuck off”
- Not require sitting MPs to resign when they’ve actually resigned, or turn up to the job when they haven’t resigned
- Don’t put up a Tory candidate (not applicable)
- Put up a Tory candidate
All of which can neatly be summed up as one simple mathematical formula: