There is always something rather sad- and laughable- about the ‘spin’ which now follows every major event. Do you remember ‘Comical Ali’ broadcasting to the Iraqi Nation that everything was going brilliantly well for Saddam, at the very moment that the American tanks were entering Baghdad? The same tragi-comedy spirit is shown by Party commentators after by-elections.
Of course the Lib-Dems are pleased that they won back Richmond, and you can’t blame them for crowing about it; for predicting that this is the start of some kind of Lib-Dem claw-back. Do you remember David Steel enjoining the Liberal Conference to “go back to your constituencies and prepare for Government” all those years ago? They had a similar number of MPs then as they do today - up from 8 to 9. The Tories, of course did not contest the by-election; Labour, UKIP and everyone else humiliatingly lost their deposits.
As to Zac Goldsmith? Well he had to do it because he had promised to do so. But his defeat will have no effect whatsoever on the question of the third runway at Heathrow. (The Liberals simply agreed with him on that issue.) He was a passionate Brexiteer in one of the most pro-Remain constituencies in England. So it was a pretty easy task for the Liberals to persuade the Remoaners to support their candidate. And never forget that the Liberals are good at one thing – fighting by-elections. They shipped in 4,000 helpers from all over the country, a feat which they cannot of course replicate at a General Election. So its all a bit of a storm in a teacup, as will be the Lincolnshire by election next week. 75% of the people there voted to leave, and so it will hardly be surprising when a Brexiteer Tory candidate wins it.
The Italian Referendum has worrying implications for Italy, for the Euro, for the EU, and indeed for the International banking community. It is the culmination of a year which saw Brexit, a new Government, Trump and so much else.
There’s a feeling of war-weariness around Parliament- and I think around North Wiltshire too. Its been a stupendously exciting and unpredictable 2016. We have another couple of weeks before the House rises for the Christmas Recess, which Advent Sunday and the first little window on our Advent calendars reminds us is not far away now. It cannot come too soon- I think we all now need a period of quiet reflection, perhaps a break from politics over the Christmas Season. Lets hope we get it.