Friday, 27 June 2008

That thudding noise you can hear... the sound of Gordon Brown beating his head repeatedly against the walls of No 10. You could almost forgive the guy deciding that it's not worth the candle and giving up, going away to do good things at the World Bank.

Coming fifth in the Henley by-election is just the latest in a series of disasters for Brown and the Labour Party. It's utterly unprecedented for any governing party to slip as low as fifth in any parliamentary by-election in Great Britain (the Tories apparently came fifth in North Down in the 1980s, but the special circumstances of Northern Ireland explain that one). We now have the situation where Labour is barely four times as popular as the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Henley was also an exceptional result for the Tories and a mediocre one for my own party. This was a by-election caused by a popular Tory MP going off to do something else, which is usually difficult to defend. The Tories selected a candidate who had some baggage as a result of being part of the ruling group on Oxfordshire County Council. The Lib Dems had, by all accounts, a very strong candidate and the by-election machine cranked into full gear. Yet the Tories managed to increase their share of the vote and the Lib Dems only just went up. This indicates what a strong wave the Tories are running at the moment.

But good though the result was for the Tories, the fact that they held a safe seat is not going to be remembered as long as yet another humiliation for Gordon Brown. There must be dozens of Labour MPs who will be getting very, very nervous.


Stephen B said...

I agree that it was a good Tory result (ones where we don't go backwards usually are but rarer than Hen's teeth these last 20 years) but, despite the furious ramping, I would have been surprised if the Lib Dems had made a dent in this constituency.

I suspect that Rennard's by-election rule book isn't broken either although the political landscape will present it with some new challenges (along with the fact that the Tories seem to copying it wholesale). Winchester would be a fascinating contest to see how far things really have moved...

Bernard Salmon said...

I'm not saying the Lib Dems ought to have won Henley, but we should have done a bit better than we did given the amount of effort there was and the quality of our candidate.
On the Rennard by-election book, it may not be broken, but it is looking decidedly dog-eared. Your mob have caught up with many of our election tactics, so I think we in the Lib Dems need to be doing some serious thinking about how we develop things in the future.

Stephen B said...

I promise you though that any Tory bearing dodgy bar charts, maniacal assertions of 'localness' and intoning the mantra, "Only we can win here/no other result is possible/it's a two horse race" will be treated with the same derision as I have hitherto heaped on Lib Dem efforts in this direction.

Stephen B said...

Incidentally, good luck with this - you'll need it!

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