New Labour has held Sedgefield in the by-election sparked by Tony Blair’s departure as a Member of Parliament – though the turnout was twenty percent lower than in 2005 and the majority was substantially reduced (by 11,493 votes).
There was never any possibility that they would lose Sedgefield, it is a safe seat, so much so that a corpse in a red rosette would be victorious over all adversaries. (The political corpse of Tony Blair is in Portugal, for a Quartet meeting, by the way.) The candidate, Phil Wilson, was a Blairite candidate, groomed by the Liar to take his place.
The comical fascists of the BNP came fourth, the easy treatment in the media allowing them to pass as a Euro-sceptic “common sense” party and thus gaining a vote that might otherwise go to the Tories. But this is Durham in the north east of England: anti-Tory territory. The fascists used an advertisement that appeared in the local paper to tout their credentials as the party that could offer the electorate a protest vote that would have an impact.
The speech after the results by the BNP candidate, a leader in the fuel protests seven years ago, bigged-up Ukania and ended with a cry of “God Save the Queen!” Wilson and his Tory rival left the stage as the fascist began to speak, which was an odd thing to do considering that his mishmash of British nationalism and closeted racism would not have been out of place in either party.
Cameron’s Conservatives came third behind the Liberals, but as I said, this is the north of England, so they’re not shedding tears about the result. The fight for second place in safe Labour seats is difficult for the Tories as their supporters are apt to vote tactically for the Liberals. This complication is one of the failings of the first-past-the-post system, but the Tories are stubborn defenders of it at a national level.
The real victor of the night was not Phil Wilson of New Labour; it was the Abstention and Apathy Party: two thirds of registered voters in Sedgefield did not participate in the election. Sadly, there is no mechanism for the disinterested and disillusioned to speak, although two-fingers would suffice…
It was a death that triggered the Ealing Southall election, another safe Labour seat, but the election campaign was a little livelier than Sedgefield. A scandal involving the Tory candidate, Tony Lit, made the national press and embarrassed David Cameron.
Lit was pictured with Tony Blair at a fundraiser one week before he joined the Tories at the behest of Cameron. This led the literature to feature the party leader more prominently than the candidate – which means that in comparison with David Cameron, the handsome businessman lacked credibility. That’s really saying something. Cameron’s name was even on the ballot paper at the Tories billed themselves as “David Cameron’s Conservatives”!
In the end, Labour’s Virendra Sharma held the seat, though again with a reduced majority (6,370 votes lost) – the Tories came third, which will leave Cameron humiliated and brings his leadership into question yet again.
Sir Menzies Campbell will suffer similar disgruntlement from within his own party – I expect he was praying that a by-election victory would kill off complaints about his leadership and reduce the number of ageist jibes made by members of the Fourth Estate.
The vote in both by-elections was unaffected by the reputed “Brown bounce”, with Labour’s vote rather drastically reduced in terms of numbers – though this was not because of Blair’s departure, which if anything was the reason that Labour’s poll ratings increased. I wonder though, if the dope had any effect on the electorate, for it has done nothing for the cabinet… Please understand: I am not talking about Gordon Brown.
Interestingly, the Greens came fourth in Ealing, to the chagrin of Respect, who came fifth, winning half as many votes as their leftish environmental rivals. Not good.
The lack of a total disaster for Labour in these by-elections increases the probability of Gordon Brown calling a snap election in coming months. The Tories have been bumped into third place and the Liberals have failed to win a by-election (since 1989 they have won all by-elections in seats in which they were previously second-place).
Any bad news this might be for the parties will be overshadowed by the inevitable result of the cash for honours police investigation – no charges will be pressed against anyone. Hey ho.