Friday, July 20, 2007

Tony Lit, but Dave Fizzled Out

David Cameron’s brand of celebrity-based ‘post-party-politics’ politics took a double kicking last night in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield.

Cameron had thrown everything he had at the Ealing campaign, visiting five times to campaign and aligning himself and his party makeover intimately with his slick, newer-than-new convert of a candidate, Tony Lit.

Third place. Admittedly, the Tory vote was up, by a whopping 0.9 percentage points, but this was a rejection of Cameron’s whole approach to politics. The Tories may whine that they’d been in third place to start with, and so couldn’t be expected to make an advance. But this can’t explain away the vast, failed effort they put in.

And it can’t explain why, in Sedgefield, the Tories fell from second to third place (although to be fair, their vote share did increase – by a magnificent 0.2 percentage points), as the Lib Dems leapfrogged them.

As for Labour’s performance – yes, its vote dropped in both seat. But that usually happens to governing parties in by-elections. A quick historical comparison might give some perspective on this.

John Major’s Tories defended two seats at by-elections in 1991 (Ribble Valley and Monmouth). This was after he had replaced the increasingly loathed Margaret Thatcher and his triumph in the first Iraq war, and before he went on to a general election victory. The Tories lost both seats, with an average fall in their vote share of 17.9 percentage points.

Labour held its two seats last night, with an average fall in their vote share of just 10.7 percentage points

For the mood today among Tory activists, it’s worth a peek at the angry comments on ConservativeHome about “the Ealing gamble” and “the bigger gamble at the heart of Project Cameron”.

For the Labour mood, we may consult the smiles on the faces of Virendra Sharma MP and Phil Wilson MP.

No comments: