So in one of the biggest stunners in recent political history, Labour managed to defy all the odds and re-gain Barnsley Central from an Independent last night. Oh I’m just hearing through the voices in my head that I may have over-egged that opening sentence a wee bit.
Labour winning (oh Charlie Sheen – whenever I see the word winning now I chuckle) in what is about as safe a seat as you get was never going to be the story. If the Lib Dem vote collapsed then it would surely signal panic and the end of the world as we knew it. The coalition would fall and David Cameron would be seeing the Queen today to dissolve parliament and set a General Election that would sweep Ed Miliband into #10 and Labour back into power.
Well the Lib Dem vote collapsed beyond what anyone really thought. It was on the face of it a shockingly awful result for the party and shows clearly that people are not happy with the party. Placing them behind an independent though as well as UKIP and BNP will have created waves that will have rocked the boat internally. However look a bit deeper into the result and the history of by-elections and you’ll see that these are times for the protest vote and the Lib Dems on this occasion were the obvious protest vote party – but not in the right way.
The party were never going to win here and they knew it. The Conservatives knew they weren’t going to win either. So did either party really put up any sort of realistic campaign? No they quite simply left it to Labour and the fringe parties to battle it out on the doorstep and in the local media.
Can you look too deeply into a result where no fight was put up? I’m not sure you can. The result on the face of it is only good for UKIP. They rose from 4.7% and a distant 5th last May to a 12.2% vote share and a pretty solid 2nd place just ten months later. That isn’t too shabby at all.
Yet again though can you really look too deeply at this and extrapolate these results over the country and what might happen in 2015? No you can’t whatever anyone tries to tell you. General Elections are fought on both a national and local level but by-elections are fought solely on the local level. No real TV time is given in a by-election certainly when it happens to be in an extremely safe seat.
In summary this was not a pretty night for the Lib Dems at all. It was about as pretty as a pavement outside a kebab joint in the early hours of a Sunday morning. It will look bad for today but when next week rolls around this result will be forgotten and not brought up by anyone again as it has no relevance (well except for Nigel Farage – he’ll prattle on about it for years but still – he’s an idiot). It must be said that long-term the result in Barnsley Central will have very little to no effect on the future of the party or the coalition government.
To say anything different would be inaccurate and even worse than that – it would be lazy.
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