Archive for the 'By elections' Category


Britain’s brittle stalemate

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Lewisham East reveals the essential weakness of all three national parties

Interpreting by-election results is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some, it’s true, are unambiguous in their outcome for one party or another. Lewisham East is not one such.

Labour can happily chalk up that they got the job done without fuss. They won the seat and no clear challenger arose. However, it was nothing like a ringing endorsement. The turnout was dire (only the 16th occasion since WW2 that the turnout in a by-election was less than half the previous general election, as Matt Singh notes in his excellent summary of the by-election). That alone is good evidence that there was no great enthusiasm for any of the competing parties (nor of any great desire to punish any of them either). With Labour’s vote share slumping by more than 15%, this was no great result to write home about. Much has been written about the gains by the Lib Dems but it should also be noted that the Greens and WEP took about 6% between them. Corbyn’s Labour should not be shipping votes to those sort of parties.

Not that the Tories can celebrate. There was the potential to do reasonably well in Lewisham, where the Party’s vote has been solid over the years. A low turnout combined with a 35% Leave share to go at while Labour and the Lib Dems fought on strongly Remain platforms should have formed the basis for holding more share than they did and for making a better fist of fighting for second place. As it happened, Labour’s troubles meant that there was a nominal Lab-to-Con swing of more than 4% but that’s small comfort (that said, Rod Crosby, once of this parish, would have said that fact pointed to a Con majority next election; I remain of the view that such methodology is overly deterministic). The best that can be said of the Tory performance is that there was no embarrassment, which is a low bar.

And the Lib Dems? Surely they had an outstanding result? Well, it depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, yes, they gained a swing of nearly 20% – the largest for 35 years against a Labour defence while Labour was in opposition – and they quintupled their vote share. However, on the other, these achievements were a consequence of not quite reversing the disasters of 2015 and 2017. Despite throwing the kitchen sink at the campaign, the Lib Dem vote share failed to match their general election share in the seat in 2010. A resurgence, yes, but expensively bought and not one that holds many lessons for broader elections.

The simple truth is that all the parties have serious weaknesses; something which shows up equally well in the opinion polls. There’s surely little doubt that were Labour led by a Blair, not only would the Conservatives not be polling in the forties but they wouldn’t even be in the thirties. Likewise, against a government easily comparable to John Major’s beleaguered administration, Labour doesn’t even have a lead and the Lib Dems are in single figures.

Digging below the voting intention questions gives even better evidence for the general lack of enthusiasm in the options on offer. In the most recent YouGov poll (11-12 June; Con lead +3), some 66% responded that they thought the government’s Brexit negotiations were going badly, including 40% of Tory voters; the net score of -45 for the well/badly balance was the worst yet recorded. Despite that, the Conservatives still had a lead of 10% over Labour as to which party would handle Brexit best.

On the face of it, the impression is of two immutable blocks of voters stuck in mutual hostility: the voting intention figures have barely shifted since the 2017 general election (there was a small swing to Labour immediately after it, which gave Labour a small lead, but that has now dissipated). However, to the extent that that’s true, it’s surely only so because of the number who are locked in because of fear of the other. Were that fear to lessen, not only would some be attracted directly but others, who felt the need to back the Tories out of fear of Corbyn, or Labour out of fear of the Tories and Brexit – for example – could explore other parties or abstaining. The stalemate is hard but brittle.

David Herdson



Local By-Election Review : June 14th 2018

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Town on Doncaster (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 1,084 (47% +8% on last time), Yorkshire 570 (25% -1% on last time), Green 294 (13% -1% on last time), Conservative 260 (11% -11% on last time), Liberal Democrat 66 (3%, no candidate last time), Independent 43 (2%, no candidate last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 514 (22%) on a swing of 4.5% from Yorkshire to Labour

London Bridge and West Bermondsey on Southwark (New wards)
Emboldened denotes elected
Liberal Democrats 1,340, 1,281, 1,270 (44%)
Labour 1,239, 1,215, 1,171 (41%)
Conservatives 221, 219, 205 (7%)
Green Party 215, 191 (7%)
Three Liberal Democrat WINS
Southwark Council: Labour 49, Liberal Democrats 14
Labour HOLD with a majority of 35

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


Lewisham East: Five take aways

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Voters tend to avoid avoidable by-elections

The most striking statistic from the overnight result was the turnout which dropped from 69% at the general election just over a year ago to 33% yesterday. This is one of the biggest falls compared with the previous General Election on record and simply underlines what has been observed before. If a vacancy is avoidable, the incumbent MP has not died or become incapacitated, then voters tend to be less keen to participate and also punish the incumbent party. This effect was exacerbated here because the former LAB MP went less than a year after the general election.

The Tory vote is hard to squeeze
The LDs put a lot of effort into trying to persuade Tory voters to vote for them as the party most likely to beat Labour. Although the blue team saw a decline it was nothing like on the scale LAB in Richmond Park in December 2016 when the total Labour vote was fewer than the number of members in the constituency.

The LD canvas projection yet again proved to be remarkably predictive

When the party first issued one of these, before the Richmond by-election, I thought it would undermine their credibility if the result proved it to be wrong. Well Lewisham East has given further credence to this means of working out how the by-election will go. I put this down to the sheer size of the party’s voter contact effort and their skill at processing it.

Getting 50%+ is not too bad for Corbyn

All the talk beforehand was that Labour voters might wish to punish the leadership for having a broadly different view on Brexit to what most of them feel. Well Corbyn’s party vote went down a fair bit but nothing on the scale of that which was predicted and maybe we are overstating the impact on brexit on party allegiances.

The LDs have got their by-election mojo back
Being 65 percentage points behind Labour at the June 2017 election meant that the task facing the party was pretty massive and the chances of a shock victory were really very remote. But they did well pulling up 21 points on GE2017 most of it at the expense of LAB. The campaign A-team was running this election and this will give them a lot of encouragement.

Mike Smithson


The lastest Lewisham East odds and expectations

Thursday, June 14th, 2018



The LDs to outperform the Tories in Thursday’s by-election is the best bet out there at the moment

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Ignore the GE2017 result & look at what’s happening on the ground

Yesterday on Betfair someone wagered a few pounds on the Tories at 1000/1 to win Thursday’s Lewisham East by-election. This means that if he bet £10 he’ll lose £10 for all the signs are that the blue team is just running a token campaign in the seat where LAB got 67.9% of the vote in June last year. To make things harder the CON candidate is a leaver in a seat that was 65% remain.

The LDs who came second here at GE2010 are throwing everything at getting a good result and expect a big squeeze on Tory voters to tactically vote yellow. I’d expect their message to be something like “If enough CON supporters lend their votes the LDs they could yet defeat LAB and end years of Labour domination in Lewisham. That outcome would shock Corbyn’s Leadership to the core.”

To LAB voters you can envisage a message on the lines of “A good result for their Lewisham-born candidate could force Corbyn to reconsider his support for Brexit – and help turn the tide in favour getting another vote on Brexit

The signs are that Labour is getting a tad concerned. This is from leading party MP, David Lammy, under the heading “Lewisham is not a done deal” on LabourList.

“… there is a real problem with voter fatigue. The people of Lewisham East have had election after election – a general election in 2015, the mayoral and the referendum votes in 2016, another general in 2017, the council and Lewisham mayoral this year, and now this by-election. Voters really like Janet, and why wouldn’t they? She is an amazing candidate – a local who set up a foodbank, a keen campaigner who has already done a lot for the area. But people still need encouragement to go to the polling station. The fatigue goes for Labour members too..”

The info I’m getting from the campaign has been enough for me to gamble every day the maximum amount that Ladbrokes will allow me on the market featured above. I plan to go on betting almost however tight the odds get.

By-elections are one-off events. People aren’t electing a government and as we have seen voting pattern can be very different from normal elections.


Mike Smithson


If LAB gets within 10% of its GE17 Lewisham vote it’ll be a vindication for Corbyn’s Brexit approach

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

A bigger drop would be problematical

At the General Election the strongly anti-Brexit LAB MP, Heidi Alexander, came out with a share of 67.9% and a margin of 44.8% over the second place Conservatives in Lewisham East. The question, on which Ladbrokes have a market, is how the party will do on votes in the by-election two weeks on Thursday.

    The big fear of the Labour hierarchy was that the Lib Dems, who’ve done particularly well in Remain seat by-elections since the Brexit vote, could make this into a referendum on Corbyn’s approach to leaving the EU.

That danger could be partly alleviated by the choice of an anti-Brexit LAB candidate but that has not stopped the LDs making this the key point of their messaging. In the closing 16 days of the campaign the theme of Lewisham “sending a message to Corbyn” will become increasingly intense. The party is running a campaign on the scale of Witney and Richmond Park which means they are throwing everything at it.

It is hard from outside to assess the potency of this approach and what Labour GE voters will actually do on the day. Given that the government of the country is not, as in a general election, at stake could enough of them go with this as a means of influencing party policy?

Certainly I’d expect strongly anti-Brexit LAB MPs, of which there are many, to seize on a poor Lewisham performance to help ratchet up the pressure on the leadership. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are secretly hoping for the party to hold the seat but on a much reduced majority.

With the YouGov tracker regularly showing that 70% of LAB voters think the referendum vote of Brexit was wrong there is a divide between Team Corbyn and party supporters something which Labour’s opponents are seeking to exploit.

A feature of this election is that it is seen as a foregone conclusion and is now getting relatively little media attention. This means that party messaging becomes the prime source of information for voters.

These are the current Ladbrokes LAB vote share odds.

I quite like the 5/1 40-50% band and would be backing it if I wasn’t in Spain where I’m barred from accessing my Ladbrokes account.

Mike Smithson


Local By-Election Review : May 24th / 25th 2018

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Aylsham on Broadland (Con defence)
Result: Lib Dem 1,018 (46% +15% on last time), Con 865 (39% +7% on last time), Lab 328 (15% -7% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -15%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 153 (7%) on a swing of 4% from Con to Lib Dem)

Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead on Horsham (Con defence)
Result: Con 661 (68% -3% on last time), Lab 158 (16%, no candidate last time), Lib Dem 148 (15% -14% on last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 503 (52%) on a notional swing of 9.5% from Con to Lab (5.5% from Lib Dem to Con)

Edgeley and Cheadle Heath on Stockport (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 1,709 (74% +16% on last time), Lib Dem 203 (9% +2% on last time), Con 187 (8% unchanged on last time), Green 144 (6% -3% on last time), UKIP 71 (3% -15% on last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 1,506 (65%) on a swing of 7% from Lib Dem to Lab (15.5% from UKIP to Lab)

Farnham, Castle on Waverley (Residents defence)
Result: Residents 354 (38% +3% on last time), Lib Dem 338 (36% +12% on last time), Con 175 (19% -7% on last time), Lab 42 (4% -11% on last time), Ind 26 (3%, no candidate last time)
Residents HOLD with a majority of 16 (2%) on a swing of 4.5% from Residents to Lib Dem (5% from Con to Residents)

Kirkby de la Thorpe and South Kyme on North Kesteven (Con defence)
Result: Lincolnshire Independents 278 (46% +10% on last time), Con 271 (45% -21% on last time), Lab 30 (5% no candidate last time), Lib Dem 27 (4% no candidate last time)
Lincolnshire Independent GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 7 (1%) on a swing of 15.5% from Con to Lincolnshire Independent

Westbury-on-Tyrm and Henleaze on Bristol (Lib Dem defence)
Result: Con 2,900 (42% +3% on last time), Lib Dem 2,704 (39% +7% on last time), Lab 891 (13% -3% on last time), Green 355 (5% -8% on last time)
Conservative GAIN from Liberal Democrat with a majority of 196 (3%) on a swing of 2% from Con to Lib Dem

Glascote on Tamworth (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 490 (43% -14% on last time), Con 478 (42% -1% on last time), UKIP 124 (11% no candidate last time), Green 55 (5% no candidate last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 12 (1%) on a swing from Lab to Con of 6.5%


By-election punters should check the form before risking their cash

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

There have only been five Westminster by-elections which have been contested by the main parties since the Brexit referendum and the average party changes are shown in the chart above.

As can be seen there have been much bigger movements in constituencies which voted Remain than those which voted Leave. In the former, both in CON held seats seats, the LDs did particularly well picking up one gain with the Tory vote sharply down.

What we haven’t had is a by-election in a LAB seat which voted Remain as is the case in Lewisham East so we are into new territory.

What is important is that Westminster by-elections can develop dynamics which are very different from the overall political picture and comparisons with local results or what happened at the previous general election are not necessarily relevant.

I don’t buy Pulpstar’s analysis of Lewisham because the scale of the LD operation is likely to be at Witney and Richmond levels and will be far greater than that of the Tories.

Mike Smithson