Friday 23 May 2008

What's in a By-Election?

The Crewe and Nantwich By-election;

Ed Timpson (Conservative): 20539 (49.5%) +16.9
Tamsin Dunwoody (Labour): 12679 (30.6%) -18.2
Elizabeth Shenton (Lib Dem): 6040 (14.6%) -4.0
Mike Natrass (UKIP): 922 (2.2%)
Robert Smith (Green): 359 (0.9%)
David Roberts (Eng Dem): 275 (0.7%)
The Flying Brick (Loony): 236 (0.6%)
Mark Walklate (Ind): 217 (0.5%)
Paul Thorogood (Cut Tax): 118 (0.3%)
Gemma Garrett (Ind): 113 (0.3%)
Majority: 7860 (18.9%)

Boring, for those of you outside the UK.

Boring for most of you in it, too.

And, strangely, not interesting really to me, in spite of the fact you might call me a bit of an election result nut.
I enjoy elections. I find them fascinating to watch. I'll always stay up to watch results come in.

But this one was more interesting when I first knew it was going to happen, than it was once the result came in. Why?

Well, because I wasn't shocked. It was in line with what I had guessed.
Of course it's a historic result- it's the symbolism- The Crewe part a Labour seat since 1945, represented for for over thirty years by such a well known Old Labour figure, a seat Labour held even in the 1983 rout, the first seat WON by the Tories from Labour, since 1982.

But you see, as soon as I heard Gwyneth Dunwoody was dead, my first thought was 'Potential morale boost for Cameron there.'

Of course it was. In spite of it's Labour history, demographic changes meant even Gwyneth Dunwoody only scored a 14% majority in the last election. Fact is, Crewe and Nantwich, had now become one of those seats Cameron would HAVE to win in a general election, were he to gain a working majority. And if Gwyneth Dunwoody had lived to retire at the next election, then this is exactly the sort of seat the Tories needed to win.

And in by-election, if they don't romp home in seats like this, than they obviously aren't going to anywhere.

So logical deduction, if Boris Johnson can get elected Mayor of London, then the Tories should consider anything less than a 16% swing, as a setback.

They got 17.6%. So that tells me, Cameron should scrape a majority next time. And hold Crewe and Nantwich, by a thousand votes or so.

Yes, by-elections do tell us things. But we really need to take them with a pinch of salt. People vote against not only THE government, but they also often just vote against government, period. The smaller the party, the less likely it is to ever be in government, the more likely it is to have by-election performances that bear no relevance to how well it would do in a General Election.
We know this- for about forty years, since Orpington in 1962 The Liberals, then the Alliance, now the Lib Dems, have enjoyed amazing by-election results, because they allowed voters to show they didn't like the government, without showing they much cared for the alternative government. They weren't voting for the Lib Dems as a possible government, they were saying 'A plague on both your houses- let's have an MP who has no chance of EVER sitting on the government benches'.

This one is what we would expect. It should come as no shock to anyone. Not really.

Yes, it was historic. Because of the history of the seat and the recent history of the Tories.

But a shock?



Anonymous said...

I'm just glad Goran Persson is out of the local politics... :)

Anonymous said...

It actually scares me that someone like Boris Johnson can be allowed in charge of anything, never mind a whole city.

Anonymous said...

You could say exactly the same about Ken Livingstone, Oestrebunny.

Ingsoc - yes, by-elections are often a kick-back mid-term because the people don't like the government ... but in this case the people really DON'T like the government.

Everyone I know is extremely angry with Nu Labour. Especially the working class.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the country wants a needs a change but there is no viable opposition.

Anonymous said...

Heart- Goran Persson raises an interesting point. It's only really in the last few years that Sweden has been a typical democracy- as in one where governments change. I think I'm right in saying Personwas- excepting an interlude in the seventies the first non Social Democrat Swedish PM since 1932.

I remember reading a book once wriiten in the seventies arguing about the effect that had had on Swedish national life- a government that effectively knew it wouldn't be voted out, and acted accordingly.

Of course, a similar case existed in Northern Ireland, which before 1972 was effectively a one party state by choice. And again, in practice had many of the hallmarks of a totalitarian state.

In fact there are several- Mexico, Singapore- it depends where you draw the line, but it's something worth studying, certainly, the true Elective Dictatorship.

Oestrebunny- My instincts have always been the guy isn't an idiot. I think it's clever camouflage. It's cleverly done though. But notice he makes the soundbytes. He says pithy things in the voice of an Eton sub-prefect, and it disguises just how slick and clever it often is. It also allows him to get away with things others can't. They say 'Oh it's just Boris again'.

Notice that the Tories are latching on to this 'Toff' thing. It's become their marketing logo, I think. It's kind of now the class war is over, it's cool to be a Toff.
Soap powder politics, true, but top hats and tails now look 'cool' to the younger electorate in a way GB just doesn't...

E-K- Well, Yes E-K. I agree. Point is, I expected that.
I've been assuming that the Lab to C swing in the next election will be between 5 and 8 percent now for a while- so I was banking on a 16% swing here. It's what happened, so I wasn't shocked.

By-elections DO Tell you things if you knowhow to read them.

If the Tories had won this by 2,000 votes, then it would tell you, that GB is on course to win again.
The other point to remember, is how third parties do.

THe LD failure here, says a lot.

Look in the mid eighties- in 83-87, the Tories held most of their seats in by elections. They only lost Fulham to Labour. They lost three seats to the Alliance.

In other words, the protest vote wasn't goven to THE alternative government, but to the anti-either of you lot cause.
In fact, Labour lost Greenwich to the SDP.

We know the Tories are back in business, because voters ARE choosing to endorse an alternative government, not just vote AGAINST government.

CherryPie- We have NuLab and BluLab, but this is what it makes it so easy.

The next election won't be fought on policy, but competence.

So you'll get a choice on the brand, but not on how we are governed or we live our lives together in this land.

Anonymous said...

I just lost all respect for you! Persson lied, cheated and stole, ran the economy through the floor and created one of the least stable employment markets in Europe...

Anonymous said...

Hey, I never said he was any good- otherwise they wouldn't have exiled him to the EU Commision, or wherever they sent him to, I was simply observing that it probably wasn't a bad thing that Swedes discovered they could vote governments out of office...

Zimbabweans seem to be discovering that they can't :)

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if the by-influences might have been a reflection on the Labour Party and their role in the rush to war, similar to the US's current rejection of the Republicans in the last US mid-terms. But I would tend to think that had the senior Dunwoody survived, she would have won re-election. I'm thinking that voters might have saw her daughter as a sentimental, but unrealistic choice.

Then again, you're there and I'm not. How much of the vote was really an affirmation of Timpson? How much was it a rejection of the Labourites? How much was it a lack of confidence in the Labourite's replacement candidate?

Anonymous said...

I don't particularly think he's an idiot either. I think he's very good at playing the buffoon. But I don't like the man's politics and I don't like what he stands for. I don't see any good coming of him being in any position of power.