It’s been awhile since I looked at the goings on in the UK as it staggers towards yet another Brexit deadline on October 31. The latest wrinkle is that the Labour Party managed to squeak through to a narrow victory in a by-election in Peterborough, just edging out the candidate for the newly-formed Brexit party led by Nigel Farage by a margin of 10,484 to.9,801 votes. The Conservative party trailed in third place with 7,243.
There were several complicating factors which make reading the tea leaves difficult. On the one hand, the seat had been held by the Labour party and so their win should have been no surprise. But its member had been forced to resign after being convicted for ‘perverting the course of justice’ which is not good. Also 60% the voters in the seat had voted Leave in the 2016 referendum which had given the Brexit party, fresh from its good showing in the EU elections, hopes that it could pick up its first seat in the UK parliament. The bookies and polls had also predicted a Brexit party win. Apparently Farage had gone to Peterborough to make a grand victory speech but slunk away silently after the results came in.
There was one small item in the news report that caught my eye.
Although Peterborough voted 60% in favour of leave in the EU referendum, people also cared about local issues such as violent crime, fly-tipping and cuts to services, Sweek said.
Fly-tipping? What the hell is that? My first reaction was that this was similar to cow-tipping, the rumored but unverified act of pranksters tipping over cows in fields. But tipping over a fly seemed much harder. It could hardly be giving a fly a small gratuity for good service either. It turns out that the etymology is quite interesting
Fly-tipping is defined as “the illegal deposit of any waste on to land that does not have a licence to accept it”, according to Keep Britain Tidy.
The OED points to the term “on the fly” being used around 1851 to mean “on the move”.
This saying coupled with the act of tipping something out created fly-tipping.
The fact that the two major parties that have waffled on Brexit had a combined vote much higher than Brexit, and that fly-tipping was viewed as a serious competing concern, may suggest that the Leave sentiment may not be as strong as it once was.
Meanwhile, yesterday saw the last day of Theresa May as leader of the Conservative party, though she will continue as a ‘caretaker’ prime minister (somewhat like what we in the US would call a ‘lame duck’ when it comes to the ability to wield power, though the parallel is not exact) until a new party leader is chosen sometime in July and becomes prime minister. The scramble for the leadership has taken a weird turn with some of the candidates being accused of, and confessing to, having taken recreational drugs in the past, not the best look for a party that takes a hard line on drug use by ordinary people.
The leadership scramble has essentially sidelined any efforts to find a Brexit deal since what avenue is pursued will depend on whether the new party leader is a proponent of a hard no-deal Brexit, a soft Brexit, a second referendum, or Remain.