UK and Essex politics from a viewpoint near the bottom
Friday, July 24, 2009
Fantastic win for the Conservatives with a 5000 Labour majority turned into a 7000+ Conservative majority; but what does it mean? The talking heads have been at it all day, with Labour spinning that 'yes it was bad for us but 2000 fewer people voted Tory than in 2005 you know' and the BBC going long on Ian Gibson's treatment by Labour over expenses as an overwhelming local factor. This is an attempt to create the impression that this result doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things and that a general election is a totally different animal. Well, if all of the opinion polls didn't show a substantial Conservative lead then they may have a point, but the polls are consistent and they don't. A lot of the things being dwelled over are irrelevant. Turnout is lower in by-elections so absolute numbers are meaningless. Likewise, local factors only go so far, especially a local MP's or ex-MP's personal popularity, which is always over-estimated by the political professionals. Ian Gibson may have been a fine MP, but that probably equated to no more than 1000 votes maximum when weighed against the main issues that decide the majority of votes. Here it is: people largely vote based on their own world, and that means employment, education, health and other things that directly impinge upon them. Right now the big issue is the recession and the reaction to that. Most people think that the Conservatives are being straight with them and are better qualified to run the economy. That is the key reason for the current Conservative place in the polls and the result in Norwich. So, no comfort for Gordon Brown. Labour lost because of the big picture, not the political microcosm of one constituency and that means that this result is a good indicator for a general election.
I think that Philip Collins in The Times summed up Labour's prospects the best: