When this by-election was called, the conventional wisdom was that Labour would win with around 50% of the vote, the Lib Dems would put their by-election game into a high hear and get second with around 25% of the vote and then the Tories would slip into third. When I woke up this morning and flicked through twitter to find out what had happened overnight, the result wasn’t exactly a shocker.
What it means in the grand scheme of things is very little. Labour won with half the vote. Yes this is slightly down but it was still a comfortable victory and doesn’t send any sort of message to Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit. No doubt some natural Labour voters drifted to the Lib Dems because of this issue but nowhere near enough to get anyone at Labour HQ to consider changing course.
For the Lib Dems it was a solid result that will remind some that the party isn’t comatose. Winning was never a realistic option despite what some members seemed to think. That wasn’t Richmond Park where the party had a network and a very distinctive position compared to who they were up against in the last big by-election victory. With many Labour supporters still believing that a soft Brexit would be provided by Corbyn, that isn’t too far away from the Lib Dems new position of a second vote.
One person who’ll come out of this with an enhanced profile is the Lib Dem candidate Lucy V. Salek. With the party desperate for articulate and impressive younger women, Lucy has clearly shown that she is another one to add to the mix as hopefully a starlet of the future.
I firmly believe that every person who puts themselves forward to stand for parliament deserves all the help and support possible. The party is moving that way and many talented women are coming to the fore. Supporting in a by-election however is much easier than at a General Election and that is where the party let themselves down last year. A lot of fingers have been pointed at certain candidates for under-performing but those doing the pointing should be looking not only at the lacklustre national campaign but also at where resources were being poured into. Targeting has for a long time been a Lib Dem asset but in the past two elections at least, it has been severely lacking.
So many words will be typed out on computers over the next few days with people trying to work out what this result means but the long and short of it is, it means very little. All three of the main English parties did exactly what was expected. No-one can claim to have done staggeringly well but Labour won, the Lib Dems showed they still have something about them to the tune of if a by-election happened in a Tory facing Remain seat, they would be in the game. As for the Tories, they knew they weren’t getting anywhere and pretty much didn’t care.
So when all is said and done, it is pretty much a Status Quo. If I were a betting man and could get odds on a Lib Dem parliamentary gain in a by-election (should the parliament last a full five-year term) I would be all over them at anything longer than Evens. All you hope for is that the people of Lewisham East continue to hear from their local Lib Dem team and this wasn’t a six-week blitz followed by tumbleweed of epic proportions…
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