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Friday 10 October 2014

No Disaster For Flailing Miliband

After two more by-elections, in Heywood and Middleton and Clacton, has come the usual deluge of punditry. And, given the right-leaning bias of the press and its hangers-on, there are plenty out there this morning who have looked at the Tories losing Clacton, and Labour holding Heywood and Middleton, and concluded that the party leader in trouble is Mil The Younger.
It’s true that Labour’s increase in vote share in the Greater Manchester seat was less than 1%, and that Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP came within 600 votes of taking the seat, but in our First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system, the result is no different than at the 2010 General Election: it counts as one Labour seat. End of story.

Moreover, the apparent switching of some who voted Lib Dem in 2010 – the party’s vote collapsed in Heywood and Middleton – to UKIP would be, shall we say, difficult to reproduce next May. The Tories might expect to do better too – their vote share was way down on 2010. The Kippers cannot expect to do nearly as well at a General Election – but that isn’t the case in Clacton.

Here, Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell increased his own vote share and the Lib Dems were all but wiped out (they came fifth and lost their deposit). The Tories will expect to do a lot better next May, but you would not bet against Carswell holding a seat where he has a significant personal vote. The turnout in Clacton – 51% as opposed to a miserable 36% in Heywood and Middleton – was more representative, too.

All of which would still see the Tories losing one and Labour holding one. So, it has to be asked of The Usual Suspects who this morning are trotting out their usual “Disaster For Flailing Miliband” drivel: what part of this electoral arithmetic do you not understand? Turnout is going to be higher next May, UKIP will have to spread its resources more thinly, and we’re still operating under FPTP.

The Farage fringe has not yet secured a significant defection from Labour. It has done so from the Tories. UKIP has now taken a previously safe Tory seat, albeit in contrived circumstances. Should it also take Rochester and Strood, where Mark Reckless has also defected to Mr Thirsty’s party, that will be another Tory seat lost. If the right-leaning vote there splits and Labour gets in, it’s even worse for the Tories.

So far, all the downsides have accrued to the Tories, and none to Labour. Last night’s scenarios played out around the UK would see the Tories lose seats, while Labour would hold those they already have, and pick up yet more from the Lib Dems and where the Tories and UKIP split the right-leaning vote. Miliband would be home and dry – and probably with a Parliamentary majority.

I agree with my good friend John Band – you pundits are looking the wrong way.


Shawlrat said...

Unfortunately this argument doesn't suit most of the media including our national broadcaster.
It's up to the rest of us to keep exposing UKIP for what they are.

Anonymous said...

you're right. Unenthusiastic support from the Labour vote, low turnout, unknown candidate, and still they got a larger proportion of the vote.
The sustained and unfair attacks on Milliband are a worry though, and the Blairites are a 5th column in the party, preventing it from presenting a radical alternative to the Tories.

Anonymous said...

Dan Hodges has already tweeted that "Ed Miliband is in serious, serious trouble now" and "Labour's entire electoral strategy imploded tonight."

Can't wait for his article explaining how yesterday was good for Cameron but a DISASTER for Miliband!

Unknown said...

I'm still not budging from my view that UKIP is definitely an irritation to Labour but a serious threat to the Tories, and roughly take away votes 3:1 in favour of the latter. This explains why Labour aren't on 40% and the Tories aren't on 35%.

The Greens, of course, are also taking votes away from Labour, being a reasonable 7-9% in the polls, but no one writes Telegraph blogs ordering Miliband to be more green. Apart from Brighton and possibly Norwich South anyone who currently polls Green is likely to have a tactical choice between the Labour (or Lib Dem) candidate and a climate change denier, which to an extent counteracts any leakage to UKIP. The Tories would presumably count on people polling UKIP swinging to them in similar circumstances, but that discounts the visceral hatred of Cameron amongst Kippers (and why Shapps keeps barking on about voting UKIP letting in Miliband).

The thing that *would* be dangerous to Labour is a concerted Tory effort to attract back Tory-UKIP switchers while UKIP switch to focus on Labour (or Labour target) areas, splitting the anti-Tory vote and letting the Tories in. However, I don't see what's in it for UKIP - there are so few Labour seats or target seats where they stand a chance that surely they'll focus on the four or five winnable east coast seats, none of which are on Labour's must-win list? Apart from anything else, they'd need a large ground operation in areas they don't currently have one, or for that matter a local council presence.

Switching strategy from that sort of seat just after winning your first and having a fighting chance in a second would be highly odd, but then they are highly odd.

Anonymous said...

There is an issue for Labour: it is perceived as becoming more distant from its working-class constituency. That might lead to some of its supposedly natural constituency voting for UKIP.

However many of those who are shouting "Miliband is in trouble" want Labour to be more distant from Labour's working-class constituency.