Friday, September 23, 2016

A message to anyone in any party who thinks the next election is in the bag ...

It isn't.

And the voters in local by-elections proved the point yesterday.

However much Jeremy Corbyn appears to be doing his best to make it as hard as possible for Labour to win an election the electorate should never be taken for granted and nobody should ever assume that their opponent's incompetence will allow them to waltz into a parliamentary or council seat without doing the work of trying to communicate with voters both to listen to their concerns and to make sure that you are offering something they want and tell them about it.

It is often said that "All politics is local" and it is a mistake to extrapolate too many national inferences from a handful of local by-elections.

It's also a mistake to ignore them.

In general the Conservatives have done reasonably in local by-elections since GE2015, the Lib/Dems very well, and UKIP and Labour mostly badly.

Yesterday, however, was a particularly excellent night for the Lib/Dems, a rare good one for Labour, and a disappointing night for the Conservatives.

I was particularly disappointed that our excellent candidate Simon Nicholson was not successful in Christchurch ward Cockermouth.

There's no point being mean spirited about this, congratulations to the newly elected Labour councillor Joan Ellis who increased her share of the vote to 40% and gained the seat, and to the Lib Dem candidate who dramatically increased her share of the vote and gained a parish council seat in the same area on the same day.

What appears to have happened is that the Labour vote increased by 5.8% but the main reason the Conservatives lost it to Labour is that nearly half our vote went Lib/Dem.

Conservatives are reviewing our organisation within the county in order to up our game and we will need to look at this result and see what we can learn from it.

Lib/Dems like Mark Pack are understandably delighted with their results yesterday and in their place I would be pleased.

However, these were local results driven by local factors and on a much lower turnout than you get at a general election - the Cockermouth turnout was 36%, for instance.

The good results for the Lib/Dems in council by-elections are an indication of an opportunity to reconnect with the electorate, not a guarantee of a Lib/Dem renaissance. Conservative, Labour and Lib/Dem activists of long standing and good memories can all tell you of occasions when our parties did very well indeed in council elections and still got absolutely flattened not long after at the following General Election.

What we as Conservatives need to take away from this is that we cannot afford to get complacent or forget that no candidate or party has a divine right to get elected. Labour incompetence even on the massive scale exhibited by Jeremy Corbyn does not give us an absolute guarantee of re-election.


Jim said...

The next election is in the bag for the Labour party.

Bit of a pity its the dustbin bag, but still.

Chris Whiteside said...

They seem to be doing their best to ensure that result. UKIP seem to have been competing with Labour to commit political suicide.

The Conservatives would be wise not to assume that gives us a free pass, however.

Who knows - perhaps you and your friends could set up a party on a manifesto of putting through the Harrogate agenda and then disbanding. You'd deserve to get more votes than Labour, UKIP and the SNP put together.