How are they doing?
Just in case you hadn't noticed it's been two years since Gordon Brown became PM. Perhaps you also missed the fact that the Tories won another by election recently, it was held in the Norwich North constituency. It's now clear that these two are events are related but that Nulabour would rather you avert your gaze and look away!
When campaigning to be Mayor of New York for the first time in 1977 Ed Koch would go on a 'walkabout' and greet people with his catch phrase, "How'm I doing?". It is said that Brown did not go to Norwich to help the Nulabour campaign. Perhaps he felt he knew how he and his party was doing, so did not need to ask! So, time to examine the by election trends and patterns under Brown's leadership.
The first constituencies to vote were Ealing, Southall and Sedgefield in July, just a month after Brown became PM. The former was due to the death of the sitting candidate and the latter because God decided he'd got better things for such a gifted man as to do (and better paid) rather than be Prime Minister. The result in Ealing, Southall was predictable, a win for Nulabour. The campaign and result are worth a second look.
There were 12 candidates on the ballot, only 2 without Asian names, make of that what you will in this age of diversity. So the only non-Asian names, Sarah Edwards of the Green Party, John Cartwright of the Loony Party, either set out with the unfair advantage of being different or were horribly disadvantaged in this age of exclusivity. Between them, Edwards and Cartwright, got just 3.6% of the vote, the Greens lost about half of their support.
The Tories made the mistake of choosing a fool for a candidate, despite this they gained almost an extra one percent of the vote but were expected to do better. The wining Nulabour candidate, Virendra Sharma, got 41.48% of the vote overall, this was down 7.3%.
The contest at Sedgefield was bound to be a very different affair. The last time Tony Blair stood, in 2005, he got 58.9% of the vote. That sounds good but was down 6% from the previous result; in fact Blair's share of the vote had been falling for a long time, in 1997 he got 71.%. In the July 2007 by election the winner for Nulabour was Phil Wilson with 44.% of the vote, down over 14%. The LibDems and the Tories swapped places for second and third.
Both these results happened on Brown's watch (just) but he was only in part responsible for the outcome. The outgoing Saint and PM, Blair, had set the tone, manner of speaking, and his own decline in the share of the vote is not to be over-looked. So we wait for almost a year to see the 'Brown Benefit'. This came in the form of the Crewe and Nantwich by election following the death of a sitting MP.
The Tories win here shook the political elite, the rest of the UK was relaxed about the whole thing. Proof of this was the 17.% swing to the Tories, that was no accident. The Tories went up by more than Nulabour went down and the LibDem share went down. The Green Party got less than 1%.
Then a month later, June 26, was the Henley by election caused by Boris Johnson taking up the role of Mayor of London. Nulabour was never going to win this one! But what, in detail, happened? The Tories won and increased their share of the vote by 3.5%, the LibDems came second which was a 2% increase. The Greens stayed roughly the same but the big news was Nulabour, they got just over 3% of the votes falling almost 12%, they even finished behind the BNP.
Another month on was the odd one, Haltemprice and Howden, caused by the sitting MP, David Davis, resigning the seat on a point of principle. Davis objected to a key Nulabour policy and decided to make an issue of it. There were 26 names on the ballot, a record. The previous high was held by Tony Blair in Sedgefield following his invasion of Iraq. Davis got over 71% of the vote, an increase of over 24%.
Tradition, such as it is, says that not standing in this type of election is a general rule. This line was taken by Nulabour, so avoiding defeat ,and the Libdems, who agreed with Davis on the point of principle. The Greens, always entertaining, and always keen for you to think they are the fount of all things principled, did stand! So by a fluke got their best ever UK election result, they came second with 7% of the vote.
Just weeks later it was the turn of Glasgow East. A traditional Nulabour 'safe seat' the SNP won with 45% of the vote and a swing to them of 22%, Nulabour got 44% of the vote, a fall of 58% and the Tories polled 6%, a fall of 76%. Was there a crumb of comfort here, and if so for whom? Well the Tories had long ago found Scotland a political desert, but for Nulabour the defeat was a catastrophe, to say the SNP won by just 365 votes was arithmetically true, but that's all. This was Nulabour crushed.
Nulabour re-built its confidence over the summer in time for the November 2008 by election at Glenrothes. The media also had all summer to watch this and report to a depth not normally seen. Despite this extra opportunity to focus on the detail the result, a win for Nulabour, was regarded as a bit of a shock.
Nulabour increased its share of the vote by 3% but the dramatic rise, 13%, in support went to the SNP. There was much speculation based on what if the SNP had seen a faster rate of acceleration to them, would they have beaten Nulabour ? All other parties lost support, the LibDems went down over 10%. This result was portrayed as good for Nulabour, it was a win, but with conditions attached.
Eight months on, July 2009, it was Norwich North. The Tories did very well to win, so did UKIP to come fourth, all other parties, including the BNP, got a result that should make them reflect on their position. But I think you know they won't.
The fact is voting is some kind of a habit. The results above can be made to show what ever you like. But the public is showing a willingness to break old habits. Ignoring Haltemprice and Howden as Nulabour did not contest here, also ignoring the LibDems as only the Tories and Nulabour have any chance of forming the next government the results show:
The Nulabour share of the vote has gone down in all bar one of the above elections. By contrast the Tories have gone up in all bar two elections. Furthermore when Nulabour go down it's a long way, this in direct contrast to the Tories who do the opposite, they go right up. The smaller parties will continue to both excite and annoy, but that's all. Roll on the General Election.