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Tipsheet

The 'Politics of Poo' Is Another Crisis Facing UK Conservative Party

AP Photo/David Cliff

It’s been more than ten years since the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party booted then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The 2010 general election ended an extended period of government power held by the Labour Party that began with Tony Blair in 1997. It was also the end of the Blair-Brown era in British politics, with the latter serving as the former’s chancellor of the exchequer and the heir apparent when Blair left public life. As with anything in politics, the people get tired of the old order. The calls for change ramp up after a decade, and the UK’s Conservative Party might be in for a drumming in the next election in 2025. 

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Labour’s hard left shift after the Blair-Brown premierships could partially explain why Conservatives were spared more devastating electoral losses. Yet, after two successive defeats with leaders who tried to tilt the party toward its more radical days, the party is pausing a full-blown socialist makeover, at least for now. They might not even need to do much to win the next cycle. 

Conservatives are emerging from leadership instability that claimed Liz Truss the title of the shortest-tenured prime minister in British history. Rishi Sunak is at the helm and faces a growing rebellion along the coasts, where private water companies have been dumping raw sewage into the nation’s rivers. It’s also impacting the beaches, where locals and vacationers alike have been barred from visiting due to health concerns. The unsightly scenes of raw sewage have led to opposition parties making inroads into some of the Conservative Party’s bastions, sparking fears regarding the upcoming elections (via Politico):

British politics has long been seen as a shitshow. It's taken on a more literal meaning of late. 

Rishi Sunak’s government is scrambling to manage rising public anger over the dumping of untreated sewage into Britain’s rivers and oceans by privately-owned water firms. The unpalatable results are often visible to the naked eye, enraging locals and holidaymakers and rendering once-proud British beaches unusable for days at a time.

Under mounting pressure — three separate national newspapers now have "clean water" campaigns running — Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey pushed out a raft of measures Tuesday aimed at improving water quality, including the threat of unlimited fines for water companies that break the rules. 

[…] 

And figures released … by the Environment Agency reiterated the scale of the problem, with an average of 825 sewage spills per day in 2022. This represented a 19 percent fall on the previous year's total, but was still high enough to trigger another wave of bleak headlines for a government that stands accused of failing to regulate a profiteering industry. 

Indeed, Tory MPs have been feeling the heat since a series of widely-shared memes and social media posts first took off in 2021 via an article on left-wing site EvolvePolitics, accusing Conservatives of “voting to allow” water companies to continue dumping sewage in rivers. 

[…] 

The issue has already helped the Green Party make inroads in normally true-blue Home Counties, while the Lib Dems — hammering their own sewage campaign relentlessly — are often the main opposition in such areas. Labour too is making progress in coastal towns such as Worthing, where the local council turned red last year. 

“People are really horrified at the amount of raw sewage that we see dumped in our sea locally,” said Helena Dollimore, Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Conservative-held Hastings and Rye. “It disrupts our community and our way of life as a seaside town.” 

She said the issue was consistently raised on the doorstep, with seafront cafes experiencing a loss of revenue as holidaymakers are put off, and highlighted incidents of people forced to attend hospital after swimming in the sea. 

Jenny Jones, a Green Party peer, said: “When people see it in their everyday lives, and they walk down paths that stink, and they can’t let their dogs paddle — it hits home.” 

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Well, holy crap. And that dog walker is the latest voting demographic every UK political party is trying to nab before 2025.

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