i Editor's Letter: In politics, be careful what you wish for


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The Independent Online

Did you see the results of Thursday’s by-elections? Didn’t think so. Lost in omni-coverage of the Leveson Report and David Cameron’s rejection of its findings, Labour won three by-elections, notable for Ukip’s showing in each count, and the Lib Dems losing their deposits.

Even more telling were the shocking – if not surprising – turnouts: 33 per cent in Rotherham, 26 per cent in Croydon North and Middlesbrough. I know they’re “only” by-elections, and it was cold, and voters were glued to live coverage of Leveson (ok, perhaps not so much), but still.

In i’s brief history, the cumulative weight of your anecdotal feedback about politics tells us you are heartily sick of the lack of conviction in politics and the inexorable triumph of expedience. The historic function of by-elections has been to register protest votes, usually against the government of the day. That Ukip managed to achieve two seconds and a third with so little of the vote speaks volumes about who we think we can turn to. It’s clearly not the Lib Dems, whose expedient deal with the Conservatives to share power is looking scary for them at the polls.

You tell us constantly that you seek politicians, even lay people, to believe in. It’s why in the past two weeks’ BBC Question Time (yes, I still watch), the star performers were those who articulate with their heads what they feel in their hearts. That one was our own Owen Jones is no surprise. That the other was singer Charlotte Church was an eye-opener to many, including me.

But be careful what you wish for. Many of the very same people damning Mr Cameron would regard as their bogey figure the modern era’s icon of towering conviction, many people’s heroine: Margaret Thatcher, the most divisive figure of our age.