Esther Rantzen fails to win seat in Luton South

That’s life (sorry, sorry, terrible joke) -- but what does Rantzen’s loss tell us about the rest of

Oh dear, poor Esther Rantzen.

Suffice it to say, she hasn't won in Luton South on her anti-politics ticket. (Was anyone ever quite sure what that meant? I mean, surely when you're sitting in the House of Commons, you'd have to come round to the whole politics thing a bit?) She polled fourth, behind Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems (which might, to some, look like the people of Luton have opted resoundingly for politics).

Reportedly, some in the Conservative camp believe that Esther's modest 4.4 per cent share of the vote may have eaten into their support (it was a close race, the Tories gaining 29.4 per cent to Labour's 34.9 per cent). This is interesting, as Luton South is a bellwether seat -- in every election since 1951, the MP elected in Luton South has gone on to become part of the government of the UK.

Should the Tories be quaking in their boots at the Labour government this portends? Well . . . probably not, particularly as those close results could have been closer still, or even a Tory win (though there's no solid evidence for it), were it not for that dastardly Rantzen. But wouldn't it have been fun if she'd won and we could have looked forward to the People's Government of Esther!

On a serious note -- Nick Robinson pointed out on the BBC that the televised debates drew attention away from all the other races in the election, focusing everything on the three men at the top. This means that Rantzen didn't get much media attention, unlike other notable independent candidates such as Martin Bell.

It's also a sign that expenses tainted individual MPs rather than parties. Margaret Moran stood down in the constituency and the electorate did not penalise her party.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.