Friday, June 7, 2019

Labour's narrow win in Peterborough doesn't significantly reduce the chances of No Deal - the Tories know they lost the seat because of the Brexit Party

I'm very surprised by the outcome of the Peterborough by-election.  John Curtice suggested during the BBC coverage that it wasn't such a shock, because the difference between the result tonight and what happened in the constituency at the Euro election two weeks ago was bang in line with the differential in the polls between Brexit Party support for Euro elections and for Westminster.  But one of the fundamental truths about parliamentary by-elections is that voting patterns often bear little resemblance to how a general election would play out, because people know that they're not electing a government and have a free opportunity to indulge in a protest vote.  With the momentum the Brexit Party had built up, the timing of this election was tailor-made for them to break through, and I can only assume that the fact they've fallen short means that their local campaign was a bit shambolic.

Another of Curtice's claims that startled me is that Labour are just as keen as the Tories to avoid an early general election.  That seems unlikely to me - in spite of the sudden drift towards multi-party politics, it's still probably the case that in a first-past-the-post election, what is bad for the Tories must be good for Labour.  Jeremy Corbyn would much rather win an election this year with 30% of the vote than wait three years and lose an election with 40% of the vote.  So I presume Labour would still try to trigger a general election if the chance arose to do that - and of course this result makes the parliamentary arithmetic slightly more promising for them.  When it first became clear that this by-election was likely to take place, the Tories were ahead in the national polls, and it seemed obvious that they would gain a seat which they had only narrowly lost in 2017 to a Labour candidate who had since been forced out in disgrace.  That bonus seat would have slightly shored up the government's position, but as it is they remain highly vulnerable to defeat on a motion of no confidence if a small number of Remain-supporting Tory MPs make a last-ditch attempt to stop No Deal.

Tonight's result is slightly reminiscent of the landmark Darlington by-election in 1983, in the sense of the leading opposition party unexpectedly fighting a successful rearguard defence against an insurgent party.  The difference is that the upstart party that fell short in 1983 was a centre-left outfit that was a mortal threat to Labour at a general election, whereas this time the defeated party is more of a threat to the Tories.  There have been some suggestions that Farage's loss relieves the pressure on the Tories to push for No Deal, because they no longer have to be quite so concerned about the Brexit Party threat at the general election...but anything more than a cursory glance at the result tells the opposite tale.  The Tory narrative will now move on from "if we don't go for No Deal, we'll lose most of our seats to the Brexit Party" to "if we don't go for No Deal, we'll lose half of our votes to the Brexit Party, and Labour will win the election by default".  That said, Farage has missed a golden opportunity to build further momentum that could have pushed the Brexit Party into a clearer lead in national polls - and that would have made No Deal even more likely.

Jeremy Corbyn's critics obviously miscalculated yet again by talking up a leadership crisis in expectation that Labour would lose tonight. Instead, the chances that Corbyn will lead Labour into the general election (which were already very high) have strengthened further. Whether that's good news or bad news for the SNP and the Yes movement is almost impossible to tell - it just depends on which Jeremy Corbyn turns up at the election. The Corbyn factor undoubtedly worked in our favour at the Holyrood election in 2016, but against us at the Westminster election a year later.

Peterborough by-election result:

Labour 30.9% (-17.2)
Brexit Party 28.9% (n/a)
Conservatives 21.4% (-25.5)
Liberal Democrats 12.3% (+8.9)
Greens 3.1% (+1.3)
UKIP 1.2% (n/a)
Chirstian Peoples Alliance 0.5% (n/a)
English Democrats 0.5% (n/a)
SDP 0.4% (n/a)
Monster Raving Loony Party 0.3% (n/a)
Independent 0.3% (n/a)
Common Good 0.2% (n/a)
Renew 0.1% (n/a)
UK EU 0.1% (n/a)
Independent 0.0% (n/a)

Swing from Conservatives to Brexit Party: 27.2%
Swing from Labour to Brexit Party: 23.1%

For some reason the BBC reported the Labour-to-Brexit swing as being around 8%, but that figure was miles out.

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  1. I won't say you look foolish, but I will say I look clever :)

  2. "Jeremy Corbyn would much rather win an election this year with 30% of the vote than wait three years and lose an election with 40% of the vote."

    Are you sure of that? He seems to personally be doing rather well as the ineffective leader of the "opposition".

  3. So it looks like UK-wide polling is right; far right on a third of the vote in England.

  4. 30% of the vote for the winning candidate is not much of a "win". If the voting system had been STV it would have been fun to see all the vote transfers between the candidates.

  5. I agree with your penultimate paragraph, and in particular that the Tories are not going to want to face the electorate unless or until they have delivered Brexit, or at least some sort of Brexit. Btw, this was one the things that I heard Curtice say on the BBC News Channel this morning (might have been recorded soon after the declaration).
    However, I am not nearly so certain about Labour wanting a General Election some time soon. You are certainly right that Corbyn would rather win with 30% now than lose with 40% later. But would he win with 30%? The arithmetic of Peterborough suggests that, even if things are not as bad as the EU election might have suggested, this is now a four party game (in England at least). Let's suppose that Labour settle nationally at about the figs in Peterborough (btw, the fact the Tories are in third place is another reason why, even if Corbyn seeks an election he wont get it until those numbers change). Accepting that there will be variation from one area/ constituency to another, it doesnt take much swing for any of the first three parties (and in particular the first two) on last night's showing to succeed in any particular constituency - or even, given the right demographics, the Lib Dems.
    One other thing to watch out for is the Brexit Party starting to put out contracts to secure information/ data on types of voter most likely to support them. The point was made, even before last night, that the Brexit Party's problem (being 6 weeks old) was lack of local organization. This isn't going to change all that much in the short or even medium term. However, I suspect that doesn't matter greatly for the strategy of Farage's party is profoundly centralised and American. Thus, if they can secure data on the types of voter likely to support them, be ready for a centralised and precisely directed telephone blitz on voters with the "right" qualities.

  6. The combined brexshit and Boris Johnson for a hard brexshit party vote was 50.3% That man's not a fool and as long as they can work out how to get the extreme brexiteers back for the GE then labour are toast.

    It would have been better for old corby to have lost and then been forced to admit that his policy of leaving the EU while pretending not to, has failed utterly.

  7. I see all the women who demand that we support them in their battle against the tranny-fannies and assorted wokebeards are doing their bit for recruitment by cheering on the release of a violent murderer just because she's a woman.

    Sally Challenor smashed her husband's skull as he ate breakfast at a table. Not once or twice, but 20 times before suffocating him to make sure he was dead.

    And now she's out of prison thanks to the excuse that, "he made her do it".

    Which is odd, as I've seen the self-same feminazis decrying any man who uses anything close to the same excuse as being stone-cold evil. A misogynist. A member of the patriarchy. "look what you made me do!"

    They may be on the same side in the great TERF War, but they are still the enemy of civilised society.

    1. Why do you keep using the term "tranny-famnies"? Roughly half the transgender population don't even want fannies!

      Do you have some underlying issues you'd like to share with the class?

    2. Robin of LocksleyJune 7, 2019 at 10:38 PM

      Cordelia and purses.

    3. This isn't Cordelia it's another weirdo

    4. I thought Cordelia used GWC, Glesga and Anonymous. Isn't Cordelia the one dribbling on about "tranny fannies" too?

    5. I really got excited watching all those lovely boys doing Trooping the Colour. I would give them all a short arm inspection.

  8. Um...bias against the ELMO party runs so deep even Scot goes Pop joins in!! Free Elmo!!

  9. Why are you not sleeping, at 4am?