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Could the by elections halt the Brown honeymoon?

June 30th, 2007

Lib Dems in July.JPG

    Is July a good by election month for the LDs?

One of the big bets of the Gordon Brown era has been that “Labour losing a by election” might be the first to happen from a range of options listed by William Hill. Given that almost all the other items in the market – “Raith Rovers winning promotion”, “A full UK withdrawal from Iraq”, “Gordon and Sarah having another child” etc – seem far more remote the 10/1 that was available on Wednesday looked great value.

This was one of those bets you just had to go for quickly and punters stormed in. Within hours the price tightened to 5/1. It’s now at 3/1. What makes it attractive is that even if the party holds Southall and Sedgefield on July 19th the bets will still be valid until one of the other options comes about.

    So could those who got money on, including me, be looking forward to a nice profit in less than three weeks? How vulnerable is Labour in Sedgefield and Southall?

A site regular, pobedonoscev, has sent me the above table showing how the support for the main parties changed, compared with the previous general election, in all the by elections that have been held in July over the past quarter of a century.

So of the 13 seats that have had July by elections the Lib Dems have picked up four and safely defended another one. The chart also shows how even in those places that it failed to win the party saw biggish increases in its vote share.

Quite why July is special is hard to explain – but the hours of daylight are much longer, the summer holidays are starting, and many more volunteers are available to flood into the constituencies.

    Where the Lib Dems out-gun the other parties is in the literature that they produce and the ability to deliver it, sometimes almost daily, to nearly every household. They have also got great expertise in knowing what messages to put over when.

On June 29th last year, almost in July, the party nearly pulled off a sensational result in Bromley even though the national polls were all going for Cameron’s Tories. From third place at the general election they overtook Labour and got to within 633 votes of victory.

A challenge for Labour is that it finds it harder to get its vote out when the government of the country is not at stake.

On a personal note I was due to host a Lib Dem quiz night in Bedford this weekend. It got cancelled on Friday because all the key players are off in Southall 70 miles away.

Mike Smithson






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