The 2010 General Election Guide
Village People: Aren't you that woman off the telly?
Tuesday 06 April 2010
It will be an election rich in faces off the television. The title of most glamorous new MP of 2010 will surely go to Labour's Gloria De Piero. She was political editor of GMTV until she surprised colleagues last month by resigning to fight Ashfield, Notts., a safe Labour seat vacated by Geoff Hoon. Tory Esther McVey, also formerly of GMTV, missed becoming MP for Wirral West in 2005 by just 1,097 votes, but is in with a very good chance of success this time. Then there is Esther Rantzen, an authentic household name in her day, running as an independent in Luton South, where the Labour MP, Margaret Moran, was forced out by the expenses scandal. At 69, Rantzen is probably not on the verge of a new career, but it will be fun to see the veteran campaigner back on the stump – with or without vegetables that look like genitalia.
Siblings bid to conquer West Country
There have been brothers, sisters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, but never in the history of the House of Commons have a brother and sister sat side by side as MPs. The voters of Somerset may be about to rectify that omission.
Opinion polls suggest that Annunziata Rees-Mogg, 31-year-old daughter of the stately journalist William Rees-Mogg, will take Somerset and Frome, on the Dorset/Wiltshire border, and her older brother Jacob, will take North East Somerset. Neither result is a given, because each sibling is up against a well-regarded sitting MP: Labour's Dan Norris in her case, and the Lib Dem David Heath in his. Annunziata is famous for having told David Cameron what he could do with his suggestion that she drop her double-barrelled name. And who could forget Jacob's immortal thoughts on the high proportion of public school and Oxbridge graduates who become Tory candidates – "The Tory party, when it's elected, [is] not going to be able to form a government if it has potted plants as candidates simply to make up quotas."
Jake and Nancy Mogg. What a team!
Thirteenth time may be a shoo-in
Which brings us to Sir Peter Tapsell. Aged 80, he is the last person still active in politics who was around when the Suez Canal was British and French, and Elvis Presley was aspiring to be famous. He was personal assistant to the Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, in 1955. Assuming he is elected in May – which is a near-certainty – it will be the 13th time he has successfully fought a general election, the first being in 1959.
He will then have his moment centre stage as Father of the newly elected House.
Thatcherite lays out his stall to tempt Taunton's famously fickle electorate
Still in Somerset, the Taunton constituency is unique in having turfed out its sitting MP in every election in the past 13 years. The locals returned a Conservative in 1992, a Liberal Democrat in 1997, a Tory in 2001, and a Lib Dem in 2005. The incumbent, Jeremy Browne, now hopes they will settle for a bit of continuity, but he has a very energetic Tory candidate snapping at his heels. Mark Formosa has been living in Taunton effectively as a full- time candidate since 2005, which illustrates how much people some people will sacrifice, even now, for the chance to see the initials MP after their names. If he takes the seat, it will count as Tory gain, but not a personal gain for David Cameron. Mr Formosa does not pretend to be a Cameroonian moderniser. He is a Thatcherite who wants to bring back hanging and would have us out of the EU. An interesting contest.
Bercow will be watching his back in Buckingham
Or will he? John Bercow will certainly want to do another stint as Speaker, but first he has to be re-elected as MP for Buckingham. In normal times, that would be a formality, because no candidate from any of the main parties ever stands against the Speaker, but Bercow is facing a spirited challenge from the former leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage. This is Tory country. Farage, whose father was an eminent stockbroker, looks, dresses and sounds much more like a Buckingham Tory than does Bercow, who is son of a minicab driver from Finchley, and whose feisty wife, Sally, is banned from making use of the Speaker's grace and favour house until 6 May because she is a Labour candidate in a local council election. David Cameron has issued a stern warning to Buckingham Tories that on no account are they to aid or abet Farage. Even so, there is sure to be substantial slippage in the Tory vote. And even if Bercow survives that, there is still the distant threat of a Conservative coup to try to get rid of him, because old colleagues on the Tory benches see him as a sell out.
However, Bercow will be protected by the fact that the Prime Minister – be he Cameron or Brown – will not want the distraction of a challenge to the Speaker, and hundreds of newly elected MPs will not know what the fuss is about.
Furniture factor adds up to victory for Conservatives
In old country houses, the most reliable way of finding out what was happening above the stairs was to ask the servants. So here is a tip about the likely outcome of the general election which will cheer David Cameron.
Staff at the House of Commons have to order furniture as an election approaches, for the offices of newly elected MPs. That requires them to estimate how many new MPs to expect.
This year, they have weighed the evidence and settled for a figure of 270. That is startlingly high. Even allowing that there will be several dozen new MPs who have inherited safe seats where the party holding the seat has stayed the same, it still implies that, regardless of what the polls say, the people who work in the Commons are anticipating the sort of electoral landslide that will give David Cameron an outright majority.
For comparison, the number of new MPs arriving in 1997, after the election that swept Tony Blair to power, was just under 250.
How to be heard beyond the grave
We have heard some argument about whether you should be allowed to vote if you are in prison, but what about being allowed to vote after you're dead? Believe it or not, you are able quite legally to cast a posthumous vote if you die between now and 6 May. The way to do it is to cast a postal vote. As long it arrives on time, it is valid – even if you are dead and gone.
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