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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For the Ukip press officer I slept with, the European Union was Daddy

My Ukip lover just wanted to kick against authority. I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit.

I was a journalist for a progressive newspaper.

He was the press officer for the UK Independence Party.

He was smoking a cigarette on the pavement outside the Ukip conference in Bristol.

I sat beside him. It was a scene from a terrible film. 

He wore a tweed Sherlock Holmes coat. The general impression was of a seedy-posh bat who had learned to talk like Shere Khan. He was a construct: a press officer so ridiculous that, by comparison, Ukip supporters seemed almost normal. He could have impersonated the Queen Mother, or a morris dancer, or a British bulldog. It was all bravado and I loved him for that.

He slept in my hotel room, and the next day we held hands in the public gallery while people wearing Union Jack badges ranted about the pound. This was before I learned not to choose men with my neurosis alone. If I was literally embedded in Ukip, I was oblivious, and I was no kinder to the party in print than I would have been had I not slept with its bat-like press officer. How could I be? On the last day of the conference, a young, black, female supporter was introduced to the audience with the words – after a white male had rubbed the skin on her hand – “It doesn’t come off.” Another announcement was: “The Ukip Mondeo is about to be towed away.” I didn’t take these people seriously. He laughed at me for that.

After conference, I moved into his seedy-posh 18th-century house in Totnes, which is the counterculture capital of Devon. It was filled with crystal healers and water diviners. I suspect now that his dedication to Ukip was part of his desire to thwart authority, although this may be my denial about lusting after a Brexiteer who dressed like Sherlock Holmes. But I prefer to believe that, for him, the European Union was Daddy, and this compulsion leaked into his work for Ukip – the nearest form of authority and the smaller Daddy.

He used to telephone someone called Roger from in front of a computer with a screen saver of two naked women kissing, lying about what he had done to promote Ukip. He also told me, a journalist, disgusting stories about Nigel Farage that I cannot publish because they are libellous.

When I complained about the pornographic screen saver and said it was damaging to his small son, he apologised with damp eyes and replaced it with a photo of a topless woman with her hand down her pants.

It was sex, not politics, that broke us. I arrived on Christmas Eve to find a photograph of a woman lying on our bed, on sheets I had bought for him. That was my Christmas present. He died last year and I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit, of Daddy dying, too – for what would be left to desire?

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era