It would take all the propagandizing efforts by the mainstream media to portray the Hougang by-election as anything less than a bloody nose for the People’s Action Party (PAP).
None of the factors that conventional wisdom would expect to favour the PAP helped them in the least: a very public resignation by the WP incumbent (Yaw Shin Leong), the last minute possibility that a WP veteran might split the vote (Dr Poh Lee Guan), and rumours of internal party fractures over race (Sajeev Kamalasanan).
On the PAP’s side, no effort was spared in the attempt to take Hougang back: free porridge, free legal clinics, free hearing aids and loving mainstream media coverage portraying Desmond Choo as every Hougang mother’s favourite son and an untiringly youthful sportsman.
After all of the above, plus overwhelmingly favourable coverage in the mainstream press, all the PAP won was an additional 145 votes.
As we predicted, NCMPgate made hardly a dent in the Workers’ Party (WP) winning margin in Hougang.
In fact, the opposite is probably true. One can only surmise that the headlines alleging dishonesty might very well have put voters off the PAP’s negative campaigning.
What probably rankled most was the hypocrisy: Desmond Choo’s promise to wage a gentlemanly campaign was hijacked midstream by a sledgehammer attack from Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean.
For middle-ground voters who could have been persuaded that Desmond Choo would be an “independent” voice in Parliament, all doubts of independence were put to rest by DPM Teo’s intervention.
As many Singaporeans asked, if Desmond can’t stand up to his party bosses in the campaign, how is he going to stand up to them in Parliament?
To give credit where it is due, Mr Choo has run an impressive campaign for Hougang.
At a youthful 33 years of age, Mr Choo unflinchingly took on decades of Hougang history where even more seasoned politicians would have blanched. The energetic Mr Choo has certainly been an improvement from the forgettable (indeed, now very much forgotten) Eric Low.
Mr Choo’s campaign had much to commend it, but he must surely be rueing the day his party bosses put their foot in it.
The message Hougang voters have sent out loud and clear is this: voters of today don’t appreciate the bullying, lecturing, and phoney moralizing of the old PAP.
Pritam Singh probably nailed it when he warned the PAP: “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. The PAP would do well to bear this in mind for 2016.
For now, TOC would like to convey our best wishes to the Member of Parliament elect for Hougang SMC, Mr Png Eng Huat.