Tory predicts yellow revolution

Conservative council hopeful Martine Martin predicts that Hull is set for a yellow (Lib Dem) revolut

'This is a one of those years where it is a bad year to be Labour and it is a good year to be anything else but Labour.'

Or so says Councillor John Fareham, one of the only two Conservative Councillors in Hull City Council. Unsurprisingly, I happen to agree with him. But it seems I am not alone.

To give a little background information on the area, Hull is traditionally a Labour stronghold (it is, after all, the home of John Prescott and Alan Johnson, amongst others). Coincidently, it was also dubbed the "worst council in England" by the CPS both in 2004 and 2005, during the twilight years of Labour's council-level rule there. But let's not dwell.

Last year the council was given over to Liberal Democrat control. They had to form a minority administration and, according to Labour Councillor Gary Wareing, came close to holding a vote of no confidence in themselves last October. Yes, you read that right.

It's a curious state of affairs in Hull. The way things stand, there are 59 council seats, with the Liberal Democrats holding 24 and Labour holding 25.

There are also 2 Conservatives and the rest are made up by independents of varying hue. With the Liberal Democrats set to make a number of gains, possibly even to the point of taking overall control, one might think that life is rosy for the yellow team these days.

Not so. Hull City Council does seem to have a problem with keeping its councillors in their own corners, with Liberal Democrats crossing the floor all over the place. 13 have left the group since 2002, including 2 who have made a break for it since the formation of their minority administration.

They have reputedly overspent to the tune of 5 million already. Council tax is well above inflation. All is not well.

Yet everyone in a position to know seems to be in agreement; they could pledge to make Smurf hats a legal requirement in Hull and they would still be set for an excellent year. While Labour are concentrating on ways to soften the blow caused by national government ineptitude and the Conservatives are fighting to take control of East Riding instead, Hull is wide open for a "yellow revolution", as one enthusiastic Liberal Democrat I know put it.

I would have to agree, so long as they can keep their Councillors on their side of the ring in the future.

Martine Martin, 21, is studying politics at Hull and a well known Tory blogger. She is active in Conservative Future and standing for Hull council
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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