Monday, July 23, 2007


The image above is proof that Simon Heffer is an idiot. It comes from political betting, and it goes to what I have been saying about Ealing and Sedgefield. Heffer said
Frankly, if you can't even come second in by-elections halfway through the third term of another party's time in power, things aren't just wrong. They are catastrophically wrong.
Well, these by-elections came shortly after Black Wednesday, just as the Conservatives were heading towards their nadir of unpopularity. Major was looking ineffectual, the Labour Party, even before Blair, were looking like a plausible alternative government and the tide was with them. 2.0% and 2.7% of the vote. Pathetic isn't it? These clowns thought they could challenge at the next election? Morons. The obvious thing to do would be to return to the sort of core vote strategy that worked so well for Michael Foot.
The Conservatives aren't good at fighting by-elections. Labour's core vote aren't abandoning them and running to the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats look like a more leftist protest vote. Just as during the 1990s the Tories lost to the Liberal Democrats because they looked like a more centrist protest vote. The striking thing about the results of the by-elections last week was that all three parties held their vote - none collapsed. In by-elections where there is a shock, one party usually collapses. In Bromley the Labour Party collapsed to such an extent that they actually finished fourth - behind UKIP - with 6.6% of the vote. In Blaenau Gwent the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru attracted between 3.7 and 6.5% support. At Ealing and Sedgefield the Liberal Democrats and Tories each got between 20-30% of the vote.
So what was the problem then? Ealing in particular was, as I have recognised, a bad night for the party. And the problem was ridiculously poor management of expectations. To suggest that the Tories might win Ealing was crazy. It made any other result look poor, and made the definition of 'disaster' finishing in third place, where the Tories were at the General Election, against the Liberal Democrats who specialise in by-elections. It was deeply unprofessional. But the result itself was not a disaster.

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