Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Isaby on the Ealing Southall by-election

I very rarely re-post somebody else's stuff on here, but then I very rarely find something so interesting on the DT Blogs site. Here their correspondant Jonathon Isaby fisks the LibDems who fisked his original article linking LibDem success (or failure) in the Ealing Southall by-election to Sir Ming's political survival. I have no idea about the result tomorrow, other than what a relative who works in Southall told me about the campaign and the tales of another Norwich Conservative who made it down to help. But whatever the result, the LibDems have not come out of this well.

I want to respond to the comments to my blog posting of last Friday, in which I suggested that it would be a very bad result for the Lib Dems (and for the prospects of Sir Menzies Campbell's continued leadership) if they fail to win the Ealing Southall by-election on Thursday.

Sir Menzies Campbell's leadership will be tested by by-election
The comments would appear to come from Lib Dem sympathisers trying to downplay expectations, which is to be expected - but nevertheless worthy of further scrutiny.

Firstly, Martin Lowe reminded us that "Ealing Southall is a strong Labour seat (the previous MP had a 11,400 majority), with the Tories and LibDems more or less in joint second place. I don't think it can fairly be said to be a crushing blow for the LibDems should they not gain this seat."

True, the result in 2005 was a large Labour majority with the second and third-placed parties close together. Indeed the figures were thus:

Labour - 22,937 (48.8%)Lib Dem - 11,497 (24.4%)Conservative - 10,147 (21.6%)
Labour majority - 11,440 (24.3%) ie, Lib Dems need a swing of a little over 12% from Labour to win the by-election.

But now compare the Ealing Southall result with that of Dunferline and West Fife in 2005:
Labour - 20,111 (47.4%)Lib Dem - 8,549 (20.2%)Scot Nat - 8,026 (18.9%) Labour majority - 11,562 (27.3%) ie, Lib Dems needed a swing of just under 14% to win the seat.

In the by-election in Gordon Brown's back yard of Dunfermline and West Fife in February 2006, just five weeks after the death of the previous Labour MP, the Lib Dems did indeed gain that seat - from virtually the same position as they start in Ealing Southall - on a swing of a tad over 16%. Why shouldn't observers of this election cite that as a comparable situation? And lest we forget, that Lib Dem by-election triumph was attained when the party didn't even have a leader!

The second criticism of my analysis was from Olly Kendall, who said that it was "inflated media expectation" to suggest that the Lib Dems could and should be winning this kind of by-election.

Well all I can do is to ask readers to consider what I read in the clutch of Liberal Democrat leaflets I picked up I went to the constituency on Saturday:

"This time [Lib Dem candidate] Nigel can beat Labour... The Conservatives are out of the race here""He [Nigel Bakhai] looks set to pull off a stunning victory""He [Bakhai] is set to be our next local MP"

If those are the messages the Lib Dems are putting out on their literature, surely it's fair for the media to judge them by their own publicly-stated expectations?

From the few hours I spent in the constituency on Saturday, it seemed to me that it is the Conservatives who are making the serious challenge to Labour on this occasion - running the kind of effective local campaign, using tactics more usually associated with the Liberal Democrats.

We obviously wait with interest to see the real result on Thursday night, but based on what the Lib Dem literature is saying, the party is setting itself up for a fall if its candidate comes in trailing.


Anonymous said...

If one looks seriously at both results the Tories made no impact on the last results, with less than a 1% rise in vote in both Ealing and Sedgefild. They must be really disappointed to see the Cameron factor not cause a 5-10% bounce for them in both results. Lib Dems and other parties made ground in both Ealing and Sedgefield, taking voting share off Labour.

So the result shows Labour win, but down, Tories going nowhere fast, with gains for Lib Dems and other parties. My take on it is because people simply do not understand Tory policy or think the Tories have no firm policies or substance yet.

Its like do Tories have a Housing policy, especially affordable housing. Where will future housing go? Green field, no, no, no. Up? Don't know! In Tory coreconstituencies? definately not!

Gavin Ayling said...

But what of democracy? What do you think of this: