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?

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“Schadenfreude: dontcha just love it?”


by Paul Walter on July 20, 2007 at 2:28 pm. Reply #

In Ealing Southall, our campaigns teams’ assesment of the state of play over the final weekend was not very far off the result. Of course, we hoped and thought that we could get even closer by polling day.

We published that assessment (inc on Lib Dem Voice). Our figures were Lab 37, LD 31, Con 22. The final result was Lab 41, LD 28 and Con 22.

In the end we won the Ealing end of the seat, but lost in Southall where Labour eventually managed to deliver some of their traditional votes in very large numbers.

“David Cameron’s Conservatives” did no better than “Michael Howard’s Conservatives” and less well than “William Hague’s Conservatives”. They managed to trash their reputation in this by-election.

Some people will be aware of Conservative claims in the last few days that the by-election was running at Lab 33, Con 33, LD 26. This was not generally reported in the press (apart from the Guardian) but some commentators may have been misled by them. BBC Newsnight and others had already wrongly asserted that we were in third place.

Journalists will at least be able in future to know that they can safely ignore Conservative “analysis” or “leaked figures”.

Overall we got two good results in very difficult circumstances and in very short campaigns.

In Sedgefield we pushed the Tories into third – again highlighting the lack of “Cameron’s Conservatives” appeal in the north of England.

In both cases, our campaign teams were brilliant and will be ready for whatever challenges come our way in future. See you there.


by Chris Rennard on July 20, 2007 at 3:17 pm. Reply #

Thanks for that Chris. I was proud to be one of the hundreds of people who went to help in Ealing.

by nigelashton on July 20, 2007 at 3:50 pm. Reply #

I’m a true blue Tory, and all of the Labour and Lib Dem by election analysis demonstrates a complacency I’m pleased to see. Here’s why:

1. The by elections could not have come at a better time for Labour with the Brown bounce etc. However, even with the benefit of the bounce their majorities and vote share were reduced.
2. The by elections could not have come at a worse time for the Tories. Grammergate, Museumgate, Davies defection, poor polls, embarrassing candidate photo etc and yet, the share of the vote stood up. How long is it since the Tory’s could claim that about a by election result?
3. No matter how hard the Lib Dems look they’ve failed to achieve their traditional by-election performance. By recent by election standards these are very ordinary results for the Lib Dems indeed. Some honesty required here guys!

No Tory can claim these are good results, especially given the campaign effort in Ealing, but when you get under the surface I don’t think they are that bad at all. Certainly no disaster.

Curiously, I reckon the by elections signify more longer term problems for Labour and the Lib Dems. As the economic outlook detriorates, and public services worsen in the spending squeeze, the Brown bounce will fade and the public will look for an alternative. On the basis of these results, its the Tories and not the Lib Dems who have most to look forward to in the next general election.

by Steve Garner on July 21, 2007 at 8:18 am. Reply #

I love it: we’re complacent to be quietly pleased about our results (although not ecstatic) from a man who thinks the party who came third had the best result, when its share of the vote stood still. Cameron was in it to win it – and look where he got.

by Grammar Police on July 21, 2007 at 10:27 am. Reply #

Actually I did not say the party that came third had the best result. The fact that you are quietly pleased with the result says it all to me. All the ingredients for the Lib Dems usual storming by election performances were there, but they did not happen. Long live Ming.

by Steve Garner on July 21, 2007 at 1:21 pm. Reply #

P.s By recent Tory by election standards these are ok results. You can’t honestly say the same for the Lib Dems. The fact that this level of by-election performance is being spun as a Tory disaster is in itself a measure of how far the Tories have come in terms of expectations and being listened to.

by Steve Garner on July 21, 2007 at 1:26 pm. Reply #

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