Obviously, since I neither went to or did any more than cursory research into the Eastleigh by-election, I am perfectly qualified to comment on the meaning of the result.
Dan Hodges has covered the Tories more than adequately (seriously guys, I’m offended, professionally speaking. This loving embrace of electoral suicide has gone on too long).
So I want to talk about anti-politics, and ask a simple question: if the public mood is understandably disdainful of politics, of politicians, of our competence, expertise and ability to do what we say, so much so that they embrace passing chancers and film flam merchants, there are a few possible responses to choose from:
So which of the following should the political parties pick?
1. The Berlusconi plan: Embrace the flim-flam tendency, and promise people what they want, even if it’s obviously stupid. Worry about sorting it later
(there’s a variant of 1, called the “ruby slippers” tactic, which is less cynical, involving promising big baggy changes you’d really like, but have little idea of how to deliver. If you click your heels three times though, you’ll probably get what you need, right?)
2. The eff Farage plan: work out if voter distrust of politics has negative consequences for your own party. If plausibly not the case, meh, not your problem then, is it?
3. The Johnny Cash plan “Focus on the pain, it’s the only thing that’s real”. If some people are seeking the fantasy of populism because you’re not saying anything meaningful to them, then you need to start standing up for reality, even if that means not promising voters ponies and butterflies.
4. The Day-Lewis approach: there will be blood: if people find a political fantasy appealing, they need to have the ever-living crap scared out of them about the consequences.