A brief aside: UK by-elections

I'm preparing a briefing on the battleground states for the US presidential elections for Monday.
Meanwhile in the UK, two by-elections to replace Labour Party MPs have resulted in a win for the third-party Liberal Democrats in Leicester South and a narrow win for Labour in Birmingham Hodge Hill.
A lot of nonsense and spin will be written about these results over the next few days but the picture is very clear.
The Conservative Party has not gained a House of Commons seat from a parliamentary by-election since June 3 1982 (Mitcham and Morden in SW London). From November 1990 until May 1997, the Tories were unable to even hold any of their own seats in by-elections, no matter what the majority.
Quite simply, a party that cannot make even a single by-election gain when in opposition, is not going to win a general election, especially as the timing is decided by the Prime Minister Tony Blair. The power to choose the timing of a general election is arguably the most powerful political weapon in British politics: it can even help to keep rebellious members of the Prime Minister's party in line.
Far from challenging Labour as the party of government, the Conservatives are struggling to establish themselves as even a vehicle for protest votes.

No comments: