The morning after the night before

by Stephen Tall on July 20, 2007

What to make of last night’s by-elections?

Well, for the Labour Party there is evident relief that they have held on to both Ealing Southall and Sedgefield, albeit with considerably reduced majorities, and swings to the Liberal Democrats of 6% and 11% respectively.

There is probably a nagging sense of disappointment among Lib Dems that our achievements were not more spectacular – but that is at least as much due to the very high expectations we set ourselves. No, neither Ealing Southall nor Sedgefield rank will alongside either Brent East or Dunfermline. But the circumstances were quite different, not least because Labour has learned a tactical lesson – that they fare badly in by-election campaigns where they give their opponents a chance to mobilize.

As it was, both by-elections campaigns were severely truncated, lasting little more than three weeks. Such haste may not be good for democracy, but it has served the Labour Party’s cause well.

The Lib Dems, it seems to me, can be quietly proud of the extremely professional campaigns we ran, the evident enthusiasm of the hundreds of activists who helped, and of results which display steady progress in this age of three-party politics. As the BBC Online report states, “Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who saw his party take second place in both seats, was the main beneficiary.”

And then there’s the Tories…

I suppose I could trawl through their gleeful predictions that they would top the poll, or at least give Labour a run for their money. I could observe that David Cameron’s personal selection of a candidate whose weak Tory credentials severely undermined their campaign has damaged his leadership. I could muse that the defections from Labour they trumpeted during the campaign may well turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth. I could note that the Tories did themselves no favours by allowing their campaign manager to get caught indulging in schoolboy internet pranks. And I could conclude that last night’s by-elections show quite how insipid is the Tory party’s mini-recovery under Mr Cameron.

I could do all that. But actually it’s much more fun to let Tory activists themselves point out these things over at ConservativeHome.

Schadenfreude: dontcha just love it?