It is nearly four weeks since the London mayoral election – more than enough time to forget about a candidate who secured just 1.9 per cent of the vote. Indeed, the name “Laurence Fox” had barely crossed my mind since 6 May. Was it real? Did he seriously publish a manifesto that promised “to end the divisive and discriminatory wokery that has infected our city?” Or was this all a dream? Had I simply fallen asleep in front of Lewis?
But then on Thursday evening, thud! A news story landed, which confirmed that, yes, it had all been real. Laurence Fox had launched the Reclaim Party; he had stood for London mayor; and he had secured under 2 per cent of the vote. We know this for certain because the Electoral Commission released figures that show Fox and his party received £1,153,300 in donations in the first quarter of 2021. (For context, the Liberal Democrats received £1,278,073.)
It’s a fabulous sum of money – about £24 for each of Fox’s 47,634 votes – and nearly all of it came from one man: fund manager, Crystal Palace shareholder and railway enthusiast Jeremy Hosking.
This was not, I should add, any great surprise, since Hosking is thought to have donated rather a lot more to the Reclaim Party when it was launched last year and was not shy about supporting the Brexit Party, either. But even so, £1,153,300 in the first quarter of 2021! It is, by anyone’s standards, a lot of cash to spaff on a bloke who has the words “freedom” and “space” tattooed on his hands.
Now, Hosking has the “freedom” – and indeed the “space” – to spend his money however he likes. But one can’t help wondering if he feels, deep down, that he got a good return on his investment. Fox’s campaign, it’s fair to say, was a rather muted affair. Not by choice, you understand, but simply by dint of the fact that not enough people ever turned out to, well, unmute it.
There is a wonderful video of Fox launching his campaign in March. There he is, standing in front of a bus, croaking: “We need to police streets, not tweets.” His supporters are seemingly outnumbered by journalists. Watching it now, you just think, “Is this what Jeremy Hosking had in mind when he dropped £1,153,300 into the pot?” And then you laugh and laugh and laugh.
Politics is all about momentum – with a small “m” – and Fox doesn’t have any. The London mayoral election was his best chance to make an impact and he flunked it. No one was expecting him to win, of course, but 47,634 votes, one imagines, fell quite a bit short of expectations.
And so, a month on from this disaster, what exactly is left of Fox’s political ambitions? As far as I can tell, just a series of increasingly irascible tweets. “The time when the Woke inquisition start burning their own can’t come soon enough for me”; “Taking the knee to a Marxist cult that hates everything Britain and England stands for is embarrassing beyond belief”; “The Diversity agenda is racism. Pure and simple.”
Fox is shouting into the void. His boat – in my view – is drifting further and further from reality, his voice becoming dimmer with every passing day. Laurence Fox, you say? Nope, never heard of him. Before long, the only evidence that he ever existed will be a footnote in the political history books – 1.9 per cent – and the memory, whenever you need a laugh, that Hosking donated £1,153,300 to the campaign. For that alone, we should, I suppose, be grateful.