That there is going to be a Parliamentary by-election in the Northamptonshire constituency of Corby in November is not in doubt. Nor, barring any last minute intervention of cataclysmic proportions, is the result much in doubt: the Tories are set to lose the seat and Labour to win it back. The only real interest is in the lengths to which the spin merchants are prepared to go to pretend otherwise.
And the first slice of rank idiocy among the right is to assert that Labour are trying to suggest that they might not win the contest, then say that this is (a) jolly rotten of them, (b) all to do with the recent contest in Bradford which they not only lost, but lost to George Galloway, and (c) that Mil The Younger is daft to think that Corby could ever be as significant as Crewe and Nantwich.
Let’s take those one at a time. Lowering expectations is not illegal, or even unheard of: Fat Eric did exactly the same thing in Crewe. The only difference between that and what Respect did in Bradford – where they knew they were going to at least run Labour close – is that in the latter case, there was no ostentatious lowering of expectations. The Respect team just kept schtum and kept working.
The Bradford result had to do with many factors, not least of which was that Respect had secured the services of the man who had been election agent for the retiring Labour MP. So they instantly had the knowledge and community contacts. It was also to do with younger members of the Asian community making their own minds up about where they placed their cross on the ballot paper.
And Corby could easily be as significant as Crewe and Nantwich: the Tories would have known that in 1992, when they last managed a Parliamentary majority, Gwyneth Dunwoody took the seat by little more than 2,600 votes. By 2008, Labour was unpopular nationally, and the idea that the constituency was made up of working class folks and terrace houses was a media fallacy.
Corby has none of the kind of politics of Bradford’s Asian community. So the idea that the Labour leadership is haunted by the result is total crap. But it does have a significant working class community and enough disenchanted swing voters to leave the Tories hoping that fate will intervene on their behalf – or at least that UKIP will either put up James Delingpole, or even not bother.
So take any daft stories about Tom Watson and put them in the nearest e-dustbin: Labour may be getting properly organised – after Crewe and Nantwich that might not be such a difficult thing – but the idea they are doing anything out of the ordinary, or that contingency plans are being made in case of defeat, or that their leader (or anyone else) is losing sleep over the prospect, is fatuous.
That’s why the Silly Season is thus named. No change there, then.