The Henley result was poor, but not as bad as Winchester, in 1997, where our vote fell to 1.7%, as Mike Smithson points out. It is also exactly the same share of vote as we got in Romsey in 2000 so some perspective is required. Luke is right when he says when you start froma poor third place in a by-election, don’t put national resources in place and are having a tough time nationally, these kind results are not unexpected.
The big change between Romsey and Henley is the differing performance of the Tories and the Lib Dems. It’s clear that Conservative supporters are motivated and keen to vote and the Lib Dems are not able to mine the rich seam of dissatisfaction with the Conservatives that existed in much of middle england over the last decade. The Lib Dems can still squeeze the Labour vote in such seats, but that’s not enough to win. If I were a rural Lib-Dem MP I’d be pretty nervous today.
The same process has implications for Labour too, of course. Those implications are the same as Crewe’s.
It makes it ever clearer whose preferences will decide the battles of the next election – the aspirational, working family, probably home owners on a salary, trying to cope with both one or two children and a tight budget and looking to build some assets to secure their future.
What we offer to them, how we improve or impact their lives and reduce their burdens and how we communicate to them is all important.
Which is why having the funding and resources to campaign matters. I’m sure one of the reasons the party spent so little on the Henley by-election was simply that with very limited resources decisions about prioirites have to be made, and while a bad headline (or ten) today is painful, it’s as nothing to the salary of a party organiser for a year.
So if you’re a Labour supporter, do what I’m doing today and take this chance to donate to the party. Whether it’s five pounds or fifty pounds, know that every penny will make a huge difference to the result of the next election.
and If any of you are slightly higher on the financial food chain, why not bid for a lot at the Labour Sports auction?
It’s easy to be sarcastic about fundraising like this, but this event will help candidates in marginal seats in the next election. And besides, I think Newmania would be a rather fine character name in Alistair Campbell’s novel.
(Actually that’s not a bad I dea. When I next do fundraising I’ll promise to include an option to be a character in my first novel for the top sponsor. Naturally I don’t have a plot, a publishig contract or anything as mundane as that, but the principles the same.)