When Parliament is in recess any offensive or foolish comments made by politicians cannot be challenged or held to account in Westminster and so we need to find mechanisms for doing so outside of the London Parliamentary capital. The stupid and democratically perverse comment by James Cleverly on BBC yesterday is a classic example of something that needs to be severely challenged. It is very evident to anyone who has ever attempted to take part in political life that the rules and criteria are almost exclusively supporting political parties and that the largest of the political parties (Labour and Tories) are dominating the rules and arrangements to the disadvantage of smaller parties. However there are very clear occasions when even these large parties will choose to step away from elections to either honour their own tradition or to respect society as a whole.
The commitment by the two main parties and the Liberal Democrats (whose foundations used to be one of the main parties) not to compete against the speaker of the house is very clear. In 2005 when John Bercow last competed against Labour and the Liberal Democrats he won 57.4% of the votes also against UKIP but no other candidates. However he was appointed as speaker in 2009 and then at the next election in 2010 Labour and the Lib Dems did not compete for the seat and that year Nigel Farage obtained 17.4% for UKIP and John only got 47.3% where he was up against 4 Independents, 4 small parties including BNP and Monster Raving Loony and also an angry ex Tory MEP called John Stevens who stood for the Buckinghamshire Campaign for Democracy. However in the two subsequent elections Bercow has got 65% of his voters support and on both occasions he has stood against UKIP and Green and in 2017 one Independent, but that has been the sum total. Michael Martin his predecessor being a Labour MP was never faced with competition from either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats but he did face the SNP and a string of other candidates from a range of settings throughout his period as speaker.
Another example is Tatton where the corrupt Neil Hamilton was challenged by Martin Bell in 1997 and both Labour and the Liberal Democrats chose not to stand and another 8 Independents stood against Martin and Neil.
A third example is Batley and Spen where following the death of Jo Cox, the Tories and Liberal Democrats along with the Greens and even UKIP chose not to stand against Tracy Brabin although she did have to compete against 9 other candidates who were a mix of Independents and BNP, National Front and English Democrats.
Another example which many people have concerns about is when a political party lacks the number of MPs or Councillors to control their area of governance. The coalition between 2010 and 2015 raised a number of concerns, but the primary reason for this was that the Lib Dems and Tories did not share many common views. By the same token the very similar views between the Tories and the DUP would not lead to as many concerns but the decision by the Tories to make an additional payment to the Irish economy of £1bn while society was facing many cuts raised a different set of concerns.
As I have written over the last couple of days I fully endorse the very positive decision by the Greens and Plaid Cymru along with a number of other small parties to support Jane Dodds and improve the prospects of the Liberal Democrats winning the Brecon contest. Such an approach helps to set the large parties and small parties on a slightly more level playing field. However I personally oppose the idea of the DUP demanding so much money for their constituencies simply to justify their support for a party that they have often supported without such a demand. This seems very corrupt and that the Tories agreed to it places them as being part of the corrupt practice. To then hear that their Chairman claims that “The Lib Dems with their dirty, backroom deal with Plaid and the greens and others” led to the result raises big concerns. It is clear that the Tory Party which along with Labour sets the rules for the games all parties have to play is much more dirty than anything that happened in Brecon and Radonshire over the last few days!