Changing alliances
Kung Hei Fat Choi

By-election bores

In the early 1980s, British politics briefly became exciting. There were a series of by-elections in which Social Democrat and Liberal candidates won some stunning victories, most notably Roy Jenkins in the distinctly unpromising Glasgow Hillhead constituency. He had earlier lost in Warrington, and there was certainly no guarantee that he would win at his second attempt - but he was willing to take the risk of suffering another defeat.

One of the many problems with the upcoming by-elections in Hong Kong is that no-one is taking any risks. Five legislators from the League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party have resigned in order to force by-elections - which they know they will win, because in a straight fight the democrats always win.

Just to ensure that this is meaningless, the Liberals (no relation to the British party) have decided not to put up any candidates. This seems like a smart move, because they would certainly lose, but it also highlights the fact that the Liberals are probably the most pointless of all the parties we have in Hong Kong.

Amusingly (but predictably) the Liberal Party claim it is a matter of principle because they can't accept the LSD and Civic Party talking about the by-elections as a de-facto referendum (on democracy) and a "popular uprising". An alternative view is that they are just doing what Beijing told them to do, and somehow that seems a lot more likely than a sudden (and unprecedented) outbreak of principles.

The DAB are likely to do the same thing (for the same reasons), so the five legislators will be back in Legco without even facing any serious opposition.

Actually, it's hard to see how anyone resigning and standing in a by-election is ever going to prove anything. A recent example in the UK was Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis, who resigned as a Tory MP to fight a by-election, which he duly won - but can anyone remember the issue that caused him to resign? Did it make any difference? Obviously not (except that he is no longer in the shadow cabinet).

I think I might even agree with Priscilla Leung Mei-fun (independent pro-Beijing legislator), who proposed changing the rules so that anyone resigning from Legco would not be eligible to stand in any by-election. This would not have prevented the five legislators resigning, but it might have made them think twice about doing so.

And, yes, the Liberals and Social Democrats had some stunning victories in the early 80s, but when it came to the 1983 General Election, the Tories won a huge majority, and these days the Liberal Democrats are still largely irrelevant in the two party system.


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DD resigned in protest over the proposal to extend the length of time a person can be confined without charges, IIRC.

Sword of Truth

On his gravestone: "Here Lies Woy Jenkins. W.I.P."

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