Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Modern Times- the Dinosaur column

In Dinosaur on June 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm


So… who’s for a hung Parliament?

It was an odd old election, wasn’t it? Nationally, many of our politicians must have felt they were stuck on a roller coaster. At the start of the campaign Cameron must have felt that the poisoned chalice (not to mention the keys to Number Ten) was well within his grasp. Then along came Clegg, threatening to break the mould of British politics. It never happened, of course. Finally came the count which resulted in no clear majority for anyone. And unless any readers have been hibernating, we all know what happened next.

During the campaign, the Tory press had warned us against voting for a “hung Parliament”. Instead, they declared, we should all vote for that nice Mr. Cameron. who would roll up his shirt sleeves and get things done. But when it came to the crunch, not enough voters fancied Cameron to give him the clear mandate he really really wanted.

I have news for the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the rest of the ratpack. People didn’t vote for a “hung Parliament”. It wasn’t on the ballot paper. Instead they voted for the party or candidate they preferred – and in most cases, that wasn’t the Tories, even though that’s what we got..

But sadly here in Gloucestershire enough of them did vote Conservative to cause us to lose both Stroud and Gloucester. I was particularly sorry to see the defeat of David Drew in Stroud. He had been a good MP, to the left of the party leadership and a friend of the Clarion. But with a wafer thin majority, he was a victim of the national swing.

It was also a disappointing result for Labour in the Forest. . Bruce Hogan, too, was caught in the national trend and saw his vote decline. But here’s to the next time, eh?

For me, after a hard night watching the results roll in, my one real moment of happiness was the election of Caroline Lucas for the Green Party in Brighton Pavilion. This might not break any moulds, but let’s hope it marks a breakthrough.

Relations in Canada?

Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and now part of Cameron’s Tory-Lib cabinet, has a distant relative in Canadian politics, it seems. The Toronto-based Globe and Mail has been looking at his family tree, and has discovered that he is a cousin of Michael Ignatieff – the leader of the Canadian Liberal Party.

Their family tree goes back to Czarist Russia, where a joint grandfather several generations removed was a Minister in the government. But he fell out of favour, the country had a revolution, and the family left its ancestral home to settle elsewhere.

The name Michael Ignatieff may ring a bell or two to some folk in this country. He spent some years in the UK and wrote a weekly column for the Observer newspaper, as well as having his own arts programme on BBC TV. But since returning to his native Canada, he hasn’t been doing so well. The Liberal Party that he leads is currently trailing badly in the opinion polls – and there’s no likelihood of a coalition with the Tories over there!

The spirit of Warren James

June 6 is Warren James’ Day – the day when his spirit of resistance will be remembered up at Hopewell Colliery.

On the day I’ll also be remembering an old friend, Roger Benham, who lived in Yorkley with his wife Gill. Back in 1996, when the rights of Forest folk were last under threat, Roger suggested to me that we should evoke the memory of Warren James in our opposition to the proposed carve-up of the Forest. “Perhaps an advert in his name, in the local papers,” he said.

It was only a casual suggestion, and as it happened, no advert appeared, but thanks to the spirit and determination of local folk, the sell-off of the Forest was abandoned. And Roger was there, on the mass rally at New Fancy and also the demonstration mounted by freeminers and their supporters up at Cannop. I’m sure that the spirit of Warren James was there, too.

Sadly, Roger is no longer with us, but I’m sure many local folk must still remember him with affection. I know that I do.

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