Extract from an 1787 map of Worcestershire by John Cary.
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The Returning Officer: Trouble in Worcester

In 1892, George Allsopp was re-elected as Worcester’s Tory MP, with J T Rushton coming third.

In 1892, George Allsopp was re-elected as Worcester’s Tory MP, with J T Rushton coming third. Rushton had been a Conservative councillor but was disqualified in 1881 for bribery relating to a local election; he later got back in. An election petition was raised against Allsopp but it failed and Rushton was burned in effigy while a band played “Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-De-Ay”.

In December 1892, Henry Dovey sued Seth Robinson for assault when he visited the (Tory) Constitutional Club. The assault was allegedly linked to Dovey’s support for Rushton. When he was told that Rushton had stood as an independent, the judge said that if someone was ejected from a political club after changing his views, “They could not be surprised.” 

This article first appeared in the 11 June 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Who owns the future?

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.