Friday 17 December 2021

Why the Shropshire North by election matters

 Last night, the Liberal Democrats produced a spectacular result in the Shropshire North by election.

Whilst I am sure many will simply dismiss it as 'mid term blues' an enormous amount of work was put into winning the seat by the Lib Dems. Even more interesting is that the Labour party put a degree of effort into making sure their core vote held up, which meant that there was only a 12.4% decline in share. The Green party actually saw an increase in their share of the vote. Normally in such by elections, everyone gets behind the party most likely to boot out the encumbant and give the Govt a bloody nose. This clearly didn't happen. The scale of the victory, overturning a 21,000 majority and winning by 6,000 is unprecedented, but when the other opposition parties turned in half decent performances, it is even more incredible.

Whilst most Tory commentators will try and dismiss it, this shows the absolute disgust of ordinary Tory voters at the Government of Boris Johnson. If the Lib Dems had scraped in by a couple of hundred votes, it would have been a brilliant result, but a 6,000 majority is something else completely.

We saw a whole raft of new Tory MP's in 2019, swept in as the voters decided to tell Labour that they couldn't stomach Corbynism. Opposition politics has returned to something resembling normal, with a mildly centre left Labour party that many now consider electable and an agile Lib Dem party that is more than capable of deploying it's resources intelligently to build up it's credibility. 

I'm not party to such things, but I anticipate the Lib Dems will see a surge in membership (and associated membership fees) as a result. This will only enhance their ability to turn in such results.  In terms of where we were in the electoral cycle, we are pretty much where we were in 1995 under John Major. The Tories under Major buried their heads in the sand and in 1997 Tony Blair won a 180 seat majority. In 2019, Boris Johnson appeared to do impressive job at the polls. However, if you dig a bit deeper, it is not quite what it seems. Many centre and centre left voters who had supported Blair simply couldn't vote for Corbyn. The Labour party machine was not behind Corbyn and was in a state of disarray. No one knew where Labour stood on the matter of the day - Brexit. It was a shambles. In hindsight, a majority of 80 was actually not an amazing performance. It was nowhere near Blair's 180 majority. 

The Tories have a dilemma. If Boris was replaced now, whoever wins would have a poison chalice, but the longer they leave it, the less trust voters will have. It is clear Boris Hohnson isn't up to the job and leaving him there in a pandemic is almost criminal as far as I am concerned. He's lost moral authority and this will cost lives. What the good people of North Shropshire have shown is that they recognise this. They could not have sent a clearer message to the Tories. It will be interesting to see whether they listen.


1 comment:

Fraser said...

Well, it could be like Orpington and Eric Lubbock when the Liberals trounced the Tories in the 60s, but it didn't do them any good. However, this was 1962, and to be fair, the Conservatives did loet the next general election. So we then got Harold Wilson, the worst prime minister of the 20th century ! (my opinon, anyway)