Oh, how the people took their revenge. Among the many MPs booted out at the recent general election was Stephen Lloyd, whose seat the Tories regained from the Lib Dems.
Two years previously, Eastbourne was one of several losses for Theresa May’s mismanaged administration. Having alternated between orange and blue since the IRA assassination of Ian Gow, this Sussex town voted decisively against a MP who epitomised the self-serving political class and its frustration of the will of the people.
A year after being elected, Lloyd took an apparently principled stance against his party’s rejection of the EU referendum result. He gained respect as an independent MP, who had voted for Remain but respected the majority for Leave in his constituency. Yet when the election was called for December 2019, Lloyd had a change of heart. He stood as the Lib Dem candidate after all.
This was difficult for constituents to understand, given the radical position taken by party leader Jo Swinson. Her policy was to revoke Article 50 and to pretend the referendum never happened. Ballot papers gave the option of ‘Liberal Democrats to Stop Brexit’. During the campaign a video was posted on the Guido Fawkes website showing a local man berating Lloyd for his Brexit u-turn. How can he call himself a democrat? Lloyd made some smug remarks but soon got angry, telling this chap to ‘F…. off’.
I was staying in Eastbourne over the new year, around the corner from Lloyd’s constituency office, which was still festooned with electioneering posters: ‘Back Eastbourne, back Lloyd’. However, a notice on the door explained that as Lloyd had not been returned to parliament, any outstanding casework would be completed as soon as possible. A reminder that MPs do more than being whipped through the divisions in Westminster.
Eastbourne retains its Edwardian grandeur, with imposing hotels lining Marine Parade, the pier with gold-domed pavilion and a popular bandstand. The road was closed at the pier entrance, due to a recent fire in the Claremont Hotel, which stands completely gutted with only a blackened façade to salvage.
Beyond the seafront, the town has seen better days. The streets running off the pedestrian precinct are very rundown, mostly occupied by Middle-Eastern takeaways and barbers and East European food stores. That scarcely a word of English can be heard would be expected of the east end of London, but surely not Eastbourne. The coaches continue to bring silver-haired tourists to this quintessential English seaside resort but, but for how much longer?
Overgrown Eastbourne is rapidly becoming Anytown-by-the-Sea. Retiring to the coast no longer brings peace and quiet or cultural security. There is no end to the multitudes arriving from abroad. Even the view out to sea has been tainted: Eastbourne is not far along the English Channel from where flotillas of ‘refugees’ cross from France, to be ’rescued’ and 9 out of 10 settled in the UK with housing and benefits (rather than arrested for illegal entry and swiftly returned).
Much of what goes on in our communities is out of the hands of local politicians: mass immigration and housing targets, for example. But to liberals like Lloyd the demographic change to Eastbourne was progress: cultural enrichment equals electoral enrichment. The voters got rid of him, but will the new Conservative MP conserve anything? There are lies, damned lies, and politicians….