Saturday 2 July 2022

Can Labour Win a Tamworth By-Election?

The Conservative Party just can't catch a break. After the bad by-election results, leadership speculation, and jaw dropping revelations about Boris Johnson getting caught in flagrante at work in the foreign office, exhausted Tories might have hoped for a quiet weekend. The fates had other ideas.

On Thursday evening deputy chief whip Christopher Pincher resigned after he sexually assaulted a couple of men at the Carlton Club. Johnson accepted his resignation and said he considered the matter closed, but then was forced to suspend him after The Sun and The Times dug up stories about past assaults on other men, including MPs. Deliciously, according to Dan Hodges in the Mail, Johnson knew about these incidents when he appointed him - as if his serially poor judgement couldn't be called into question any more than it has. For his part, the appropriately named Pincher has booked himself into a private clinic for "treatment". Surely, that means a by-election can't be far in the offing. So shunting the politics of this latest bout of sleaze aside, what can we say about the chances of another famous Tory loss?

Pincher sits in Tamworth on 66% of the vote, and with a majority of 20,000. At every election since 2010, when the Tories took the seat, it has become progressively safer. Labour, as the second placed party by some distance would be expected to be given the "clear run" via the gentleman's arrangement with the Liberal Democrats, but might overturning the huge majority be beyond Labour's reach? There isn't much of a third party vote for Labour to squeeze, nor given the hopeless state of the extra-Tory right is there any chance Reform UK and the ragbag of fash and near-fash deposit losers will peel right wing votes away. Also, the one recent by-election where the Labour was the main opponent in a Tory defence didn't go too great. In Old Bexley and Sidcup, called after the death of James Brokenshire, saw a modest advance for Labour but the Tories returned a 20 point advantage. A million miles away from the spectacular victories pulled off by the LibDems lately.

Bracketing the politics for a moment, are there signs of a Labour revival in the constituency a campaign could capitalise on? The constituency comprises Tamworth town and a series of rural wards belonging to Lichfield district. Unfortunately for Labour, the latter were - predictably - solidly Tory at the general election and last year's County Council elections. In Tamworth's borough council elections this year, the Tories won 7,945 votes versus Labour's 6,743. It's doable then, by no means a forlorn hope. But could Labour pull it off?

Bearing in mind the Tamworth council results came well after PartyGate, this might suggest the limits of a protest vote. On the other hand, the level of discontent in the Lichfield parts of the constituency are hard to gauge - but aren't likely to be off the scale. However, unlike the LibDem triumphs in North Shropshire, Tiverton, and Chesham and Amersham, the seat has been held by Labour before and a lot of their former voters are knocking about. If they are now minded to give the Tories a by-election thumping, which can't not be exacerbated by the circumstances of Pincher's disgrace, then making the switch back to Labour won't be a massive obstacle when so many have previously supported them. But, of course, it depends on the politics. As I've argued plenty of times, by ignoring the interests of Labour's new core constituency Keir Starmer is alienating our people and that will hurt come the election. But in a by-election, seeing as Wakefield returned and advances were made in the so-called red wall in the local elections, despite having nothing much to offer, popular anti-Tory sentiment might carry Labour over the line in Tamworth.

Should this happen, it would strike fear into the hearts of Tories more so than your routine LibDem by-election win. History shows the Tories tend to win seats back from the LibDems when the general election comes around, so the overturning of huge majorities by the third party don't count for much. Losing heavily to the main opposition party, however, is different. It might suggest Labour are reaching into new parts of the country the Tories hitherto thought safe, and suggests the real number of marginal seats are much higher. Make no bones about it, if there is a Tamworth by-election and Labour win it, the 1922 Committee no confidence rules will be rewritten quicker than it takes for a Johnson cover up to unravel and he'll be out the door. And it would supply the clearest sign yet to Westminster watchers and sundry politicos that Labour's on its way to Number 10.

Image Credit


JN said...

"And it would supply the clearest sign yet to Westminster watchers and sundry politicos that Labour's on its way to Number 10."

Sure, why not? Now that Labour is firmly back under the control of its right-wing, has a leader acceptable to the powers that be, and doesn't represent any hint of a substantive alternative (see Starmer's pronouncements on NATO, the RMT, Scotland, etc...) why not let them have a go in government? It helps to maintain the pretence that Britain is meaningfully democratic.

Old Trot said...

Pincher has a 20,000 majority in Tamworth. my own previous long time MP, Owen Pattison, had a circa 24,000 majority in North Shropshire , and Labour had been the clear runner up for a number of General Elections - but only winning a maximum of 17,000 votes (in 2017 as part of the Corbyn Surge), and back to 10,000 in 2019 with the same Labour candidate. But come the recent by-election and it was the previously very low vote-winning Lib Dems who scooped the win . Labour admittedly had a crap , parachuted-in , right wing, candidate, and most of us local branch activists had left , and few nearby regional members turned up to help, so they had few canvassing resources. But I strongly suspect that the vast majority of Tory voters can stomach voting Lib Dem as a protest (it is after all essentially a slightly more touchy-feely Tory party), but actually crossing the Rubicon to vote Labour - even under its current vapid, Trilateral Commission, war-mongering, Leader, will always be a step too far. So, Phil, I give your "what if" theorising about a possible Labour victory in a possible future Tamworth by-election, no chance whatever of coming to pass. Labour will never win back its 50 lost Scottish seats, and almost certainly very few of the old 'Red Wall' seats. It will never win a majority on its own again. But a coalition lash-up, with Lib Dems, Green/s, and even the SNP, and maybe even a few remaining 'one nation', pro EU, Tories , would be much more to NuLabour2's liking As it was apparently in 1979 to Tony Blair - except he had the 'misfortune' of winning a stonking majority - and so couldn't justify a , policy restricting, coalition with his ideological soul mate Lib Dem buddies !

The utterly corrupt sociopath , Johnson, does look increasing like electoral poison, and so surely will be dumped soon . But replace by whom ? The nutty warmonger, Truss ? Gawd help us !

Old trot said...

Oops, a typo, I of course meant Blair's 1997 Labour victory !

Blissex said...

«suspect that the vast majority of Tory voters can stomach voting Lib Dem as a protest (it is after all essentially a slightly more touchy-feely Tory party), but actually crossing the Rubicon to vote Labour - even under its current vapid, Trilateral Commission, war-mongering, Leader, will always be a step too far.»

But it happened in 1997: the Conservatives lost 4.5 millions votes and New Labour gained 2m votes (and lost more than those in the next election).

There are seem to be two conventions in the media, that all elections are deeply meaningful, and that they are driven by popularity, in particular of personalities.

However not all elections are equal: there are those that are not expected to affect the material interests of voters, and can be driven by popularity of personalities, and those that are expected to affect them, and are driven by those material interests.

One of the elections of the first type was the 2019 EU parliament election, which was won by UKIP with the LibDems, something to which the media ascribed deep significance, but which was just many voters jeering at the elites.

Usually elections that don't matter have even higher level of abstention, and protest votes for parties that don't matter.

But there can be higher levels of abstention or protest votes in elections that matter too, usually when the material interests of voters have *already* been damaged, as in a property price crash, and in that case property owners would vote even for Pol Pot to teach a lesson to those who damaged their interests. Tony Blair in 1997 and George Osborne in 2010 were beneficiaries of this.

As Polly Toynbee has written in "The Guardian" the strategy of Keir Starmer is to wait for a Conservative mistake to collect the votes of disgruntled tory voter. I guess because the elites reckon that "There Is No Alternative" to thatcherite politics, and the only change they contemplate is in the administration of thatcherism from failed thatcherites to unproven thatcherites.

Blissex said...

«The utterly corrupt sociopath , Johnson, does look increasing like electoral poison»

So did Tony Blair, yet because New Labour kept delivering big property profits a lot of voters did not date to switch their vote to the opposition, but "virtue signaled" by going into abstention or voting for protest parties. The New Labour vote fell a lot between 1997 and 2010, but so did that for the Conservatives, which only recovered because New Labour also crashed property prices.

I am astonished that the globalist/"whig" right-wing faction that is running the anti-Johnson campaign seem to think that tory voters will risk their property profits in elections that matter just because of some beers, gropings, wallpapers, sweet deals.

While some tory voters afford themselves some hypocritical moralism in elections that don't matter, most seem to vote their material interests in elections that matter, I think because many are themselves corrupt sociopaths who share with Johnson some important principles:

* "After me the deluge".
* "F*ck you! I got mine".
* "Winners do whatever it takes".
* "There but for the grace of God go I".

I must add that much of that corrupt sociopathy is "understandable" as it arises in many older people because of their fears and anxieties, but then a party of the centre-left would attract their votes by offering them more security not as property and stocks and authoritarianism but as a robust social insurance system and fixing the causes of crime, or containing it otherwise. Unfortunately she commanded that "There Is No Alternative", and the historic mission of New Labour and Starmer is to ensure that.

Rob M said...

Bear in mind that in Tamworth the CLP is essentially moribund. Only one of the five constituent branches still meets and CLP monthly meetings are reduced to a handful of attendees. The large numbers of activists we could field in 2017 and 2019 are long gone.
So, to win in Tamworth it would have to be an outside job, pouring in members and resources from the region and much further afield- not to bolster the local party but essentially to replace it.

Jim Denham said...

Rob: all that is no doubt true: but do you actually want to see a Labour victory?

Rob M said...

Obviously, but no act of will by me, or stepping up to play an active role, locally can substitute for the absolute decline of the party at many levels.
I will do my fair share of leafleting.

Anonymous said...

Given the, you know, actual result in Tamworth at the last GE I am going to call bull***t to the idea there was a huge thriving Labour party there then either.