“An increased Marjorie…”
So said the great Lennon in 1964,and its pleasing to see that the Oldham and Saddleworth by-election result provided a filip to both the Labour party and Ed Miliband, hopefully ending for a while the backstairs carping over the Leadership, and establishing us as the only force to beat the Coalition.
There are a few points to be made about this:
- This wasn’t a win, it was a HOLD. We are no nearer destroying the Coalitions majority, it is still early days.
- Our candidate did well, given that the previous incumbent had been so atrocious in the General Election.
- The Tories effectively gave up on campaigning, giving the Lib Dems a free run at Labour.
- The Lib Dem vote held up, predictably the Tories collapsed.
The most important of these are the last two. According to the New Statesman, Baroness Warsi advocated a policy of non-campaigning by the Tories, which was evidently followed in a kind of “secret” electoral pact. This made the Lib dems the anti-Labour party here, and the Conservative vote decreased by over 13%. This seems to have meant that although Liberal voters were willing to turn out, Conservative ones were not willing to switch allegiance, even for a by-Election. The alternative possibility would be that 13% of Tory voters voted Lib Dem, but that the Lib Dem vote failed.
I think that we will see a period of ad hoc “Coalition” candidates, and that this could make winning much more difficult as time goes on. In this initial stage, with both Conservative and Liberal voters likewarm on the Coalition, we can expect a few victories, if the electoral pact is sealed however, we will find ourselves facing a united challenge from Government candidates – and history suggests that they are much harder to shift.
All the foreseeable by-elections put us in a defensive position, and as they are the result of the expenses scandal, not a good position to be in. We cannot expect the Government to hand us victory on a plate. One long term good will be the expulsion from Labour of the tarnished – I look forward to Tessa Jowell stepping down and the Dulwich and West Norwood by-election (allow me my fantasy, please).
So, One – Nil, but it is still early days…