Friday, 30 March 2012

Interpreting By-Elections

Much arrant nonsense is always talked about by-elections, both before and after. Today was no exception. So I thought I’d give you…drum roll please…Melvin’s Top 10 By-Election Tips.

Tip 1 - In reality, by-elections are simply a referendum in one constituency on how the punters there are feeling about the Government on that given day. Thus, most by-elections are protest votes.

Tip 2 - By-elections therefore tell you bugger all about (a) the Government’s real (un)popularity, b) the Opposition’s real (un)popularity or (c) public opinion on any one issue.

Tip 3 - Melvin’s ‘rule of thumb’ is that sitting Governments usually get a kicking, the Opposition usually prospers and occasionally a small bunch of one issue loonies surprises everyone.

Tip 4 - If the Government candidate does well, however, then that is probably significant.

Tip 5 - If the Opposition’s candidate doesn’t do well, then this is also probably significant.

Tip 6 - If a loony third candidate does well, this usually means fuck all and normal order is resumed at the next General Election, with said loony disappearing into obscurity.

Tip 7 - If it is a safe seat, then most other main parties don’t spend much time, money or resources on it.

Tip 8 - The party which wins, claims “this is an historic victory which will change the mould of politics for all time”. It doesn’t.

Tip 9 - All parties try to use the result to damage the other parties, even if their own result is woeful eg “Well, David, we didn’t do as well as we had hoped (swing against of 90%, they lost their deposit and their candidate committed suicide at the count) but really the story of the night is that this is a truly terrible result for the x party”.

Tip 10 - Any truly meaningful impact of the result is always completely lost on the media.

So how did last night’s Galloway spectacular measure up, then?

Tories - Did badly, as expected. Not really a shocker for a Government in the middle of an austerity programme.

Lib Dems - Ditto.

Respect - Typical, horrible Galloway campaign playing to the young disaffected Muslim vote. He has one card and he plays it well. He will make some amusing speeches but will be an irrelevance.

Labour - What a shocker. They were either complacent or incompetent or both. Their once brilliant election machine is history. Too much time is being spent right now arguing internally about who should be sitting on which deck chair while the very unhappy good ship Titanic further embeds itself in the iceberg. Bad, bad news for Millipede Minor. If he can’t win a by-election in a half-decent Labour seat right now, after a truly horrible week for the Tories, even loyalists must be wondering when to wield the knife. Expect manoeuvres in this weekend’s press from the Blairites and Millipede Major.

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