According to Paul Goodman at ConHome we can safely ignore the Feltham and Heston by-election because it was The nothing-in-it-for-anyone by-election.
Since this is ConHome, here are a couple of “truths” they made earlier:
- The Labour vote fell by over a third: just about the perfect Labour result for David Cameron.
- The Conservative vote dropped by well over a half but the Tory vote didn’t collapse.
One might speculate over the nuanced distinction between “dropped” (which implies an accident or a disaster, like an inundation) and “fell” (which hints at something normal, like the gentle rain from heaven).
And, yes, this was a by-election ten days before the mid-winter snooze-fest, on a dank, dark working day. Anybody drawing heavy philosophical conclusions has that in mind. This is a constituency with a low turn-out — only 60% at the 2010 General Election, so down by a half. All the same, this still represents twenty-five times the size of the quota for your average opinion poll — which, too often, is given undue credence. On which note, it’s worth a check on what the opinion polls were predicting:
- [Presumably] Populus for “Lord” Ashcroft: Lab 52%, Tories 30%, LibDems 10%
- Survation for The Mail on Sunday: Lab 53%, Tories 29%, LibDems 7%
- Actual numbers rounded: Lab 54%, Tories 28%, LibDems 6%.
Close, and perhaps worth a cigarillo; but — taken to extremes, and beyond the usual confidence factors — also implying a continuing drift away from the Tories and LibDems.
The traditional view is that Labour votes early and late (which is why in a perfect Tory world, the polls would close at 6 p.m.) and only the dedicated leave centrally-heated evening comfort to head out to vote. But it was going wrong for the Tories long before that. Here’s Goodman again:
So no endorsement for David Cameron, although CCHQ will argue that his veto came too late to affect the postal votes, many of which had already been cast by last Friday. (They constituted over 20 per cent of the vote in 2010.)
Again, the traditional version has it that postal votes favour the Tories, so what happened at Brussels ought to be less material. Clearly neither the Tories nor the LibDems got their postal vote out. Anyway, the great Cameron snit seems to have had no great impact whatsoever.
Now let’s consider the past in Feltham and Heston. When Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp, this was a Tory seat. Here are the numbers since the “three-day week” Heath election:
Let’s graph that:
So we are heading back to 1997 and 2001:
- Only then did the Tory candidate do as badly.
- Only then did the Labour candidate (with an established personal vote, moreover) do better.
- Never has the Liberal/LibDem support been worse — and this constituency is adjacent to (and the Electoral Commission imply bits will be floated off to) Vince Cable’s seat.
Last Tuesday, Sam Coates of The Times penetrated the deepest recesses of national security (as if!) to discover that Ed Miliband was planning to be in the Feltham and Heston constituency today, Friday.
Tory Central’s junkyard whelp, Guido Fawkes was provoked to yelp:
One thing that did amuse was the assumption that Labour will win on Thursday’s Heathrow airport by-election.
and declare this great revelation:
An all round PR disaster.
To all of which Malcolm adds his own personal —