The Plastic Hippo

May 19, 2015


Walsall Arboretum

For many blindingly obvious reasons, it was an absolute joy to spend last week away from the United Kingdom. As the aching disappointment at the outcome of the general election gave way to abject terror at what is likely to happen to this country now that Cameron has an actual mandate, boarding an aircraft and flying away has never been so pleasurable.

Mercifully missing out on endless post mortems, excuses and recriminations; the end of the road for the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party tearing itself apart again and the Farage creature making a complete fool of himself by resigning and then not resigning, the overseas media hardly reported the tawdry UK bun fight. The only evidence I saw was in a crowded bar as the barista flicked through the channels looking for the Real Madrid Juventus game. He paused on a news report that showed smug Tory ministers banging the table as Cameron entered to chair the first meeting of his new cabinet. My heart sank and my flesh crawled. Juventus held on for a draw and I held on to the thought of not coming back.

Pragmatism, however, prevailed and in spite of taking a peek through the windows of real estate agents on our final day, we headed for the airport taking comfort in the fact that we were returning to Walsall; a town that bucked the national trend and did not vote for liars. I don`t think I have ever been prouder of my adopted home than that election night now nearly two weeks ago. The Walsall electorate displayed common sense by the shed load and a political sophistication that gives hope for the future.

We can dismiss the result in Aldridge Brownhills not simply because a corpse with a blue rosette would win a parliamentary seat representing those charming villages but also because many residents of the picturesque Staffordshire hamlets do not consider themselves, with some justification, as belonging to Walsall. Having been represented by a corpse with a blue rosette for many years, the former MP can now hand over his hardly used A to Z to Wendy Morton who just might, if we are lucky, drop in whenever traffic on the A1 between Wensleydale and Westminster is diverted due to a massive and inevitable car crash. Perhaps she will make the occasional visit in the hope of meeting Brian Aldridge or even Lynda Snell.

In 2010, the Labour Party parachuted in Valerie Vaz to replace Bruce George in Walsall South. She turned out to be a reasonably effective constituency MP and seems to have knuckled down to a case load of whining residents and has maintained a dignified profile in the Commons. She easily faced down the challenge of the Conservative candidate, a self-proclaimed “media mogul” who based her campaign on shrieking “I`m a local girl” at every opportunity, hanging airbrushed images of herself on derelict pubs and generally chucking money at a laughably woeful PR charm offensive. Ms Vaz increased her majority.

In Walsall North, users of social media have been treated to a barrage of bizarre musing from a character by the name of Douglas Hanson Luke; a hedge fund manager, supporter of dictators and the Conservative candidate in free fall. This nasty piece of work based his campaign on attacking the sitting MP and linking to stories from the Daily Mail. There was a disturbing narcissism about Douglas that suggests he requires professional help rather than election. Fortunately, the good people of Walsall North saw through this shyster and returned David Winnick to parliament. I know it`s petty, but all the time and money and effort put in by Hanson Luke to persuade voters that he is anything other than a shallow charlatan has been totally wasted. We will not see him again until he turns up as a candidate in a safe seat after a donational financial arrangement some time before 2020. Similarly, Sue Arnold, media mogul and airbrushed icon will return to being local to her gated mansion and her salary as Staffordshire`s deputy police and crime commissioner and her allowances as a Lichfield district councillor. Bye bye Douglas…bye bye Sue…bye bye Wendy.

In the council elections, some Liberal Democrats got dumped, Labour lost control but no further strange kippers were elected. This is very good news for unpleasant bloggers and for Walsall Labour. The prospect of Mike Bird dealing with crazy kippers and weird “independents” will provide comedy gold over the coming 12 months and Labour will avoid being blamed for the convoy of trucks heading up the M1 from Westminster containing tons and tons of misery for local authorities.

It will be difficult to survive in the UK under Cameron, but it`s an honour to live in Walsall. I`m glad to be home.


  1. Don’t be so cynical. With the bantam cock back in the driving seat we can ;look forward to Ofsted failures, Ombudsman finding maladministration and possibly even one or more additional mansions being built on cheaply bought Council land as per the one on Pelsall or as the bantam cock not got any more relations pf friends to put into these mansions.

    Comment by The Twitcher — May 19, 2015 @ 6:45 am | Reply

  2. Like you, I love Walsall. I just despair of the politics.

    Amazingly, however you count the numbers, the Lib Dems will still be involved. They should be called the Limpet Party.

    Despite the electorate having served up a large pair of ‘V’ shaped fingers to this bunch of deluded, self- seeking con-artists, Shires will again be hanging his arse out of the window, hoping for custom. And he will get some offers.

    Ironically for a party that flogs proportional representation to a point beyond death, its leader will not be at all fussed about striking unrepresentative deals with anyone who will pay him. He has form here.

    Then we turn to Peter Smith and the very strange Botts. We all know that the Mayor of Simpleton holds a grudge against Labour. Christ does he hold it! Like a stuck valve, he cannot be turned.

    Except for things like accepting the mayoralty, taking up all of his allowances and tacitly backing Bird over a long period. For an avowed Stalinist, the last few years must have been strange days indeed.

    As for Paul and Christine, they have clearly decided to model themselves on Ken and Deidrie Shires. A Darlaston dynasty, no less.

    I refuse to offer a view on the Kippers, but congratulate the electorate of Walsall for not being entirely taken in by their closet fascism. Of course, they will also be trying to get their snouts into the trough.

    On balance, Kippers will go Tory, the Funboy Three will abstain, Ken will have a Damascene conversion to Labour, but will then switch back to his old pal.

    Bird may well have it again.

    For a few months, he will bask in the work done by Coughlan and Co. Then normal business will be resumed.

    God Bless Walsall and all that sail on the Arboretum Lake.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — May 21, 2015 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  3. Well, there we have it. Bird back in on the back of Peter Smith and his coterie. I had expected all 3 to abstain, but had not figured the full extent of Chris and Pauls lunacy.

    To the last, the now ex-mayor played a blinder. A while back, he intimated that his only objection to supporting Labour took the form of the late and much missed Tim Oliver, against whom he bore an eternal grudge. It now appears that his grudge cup runneth all over Sean Coughlan.

    Instead of unshackling himself from the growing insanity of the Botts or fully joining them in their madness, this most principled and decisive of politicians could not decide what to do. So, he almost places a foot in both camps, but eventually refrains. Truly a man of the people.

    He will no doubt be offered a reward for his dithering. As a matter of principle, he will refuse. We can only hope that the Blakenall residents show the same level of restraint the next time Peter offers himself to the electorate.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — June 4, 2015 @ 10:59 am | Reply

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