Friday, July 24, 2009

Labour and Greens hit (in the UK)

The Norwich North by-election occurred because former MP Ian Gibson (Labour) had been pilloried as part of the Parliamentary expenses scandal. He resigned in protest, after allegations that he had let his daughter live in his taxpayer funded flat rent free (taxpayer funding the mortgage), and then sold it to her at half market price - in essence, the taxpayer subsidised a gift to his daughter. So quite rightly he resigned.

Gibson won the seat at the last election with 44.9% of the vote, against Conservative candidate James Turnbridge with 33.2% of the vote. A healthy majority, given he had held the seat since 1997.

However, this time Labour has been hammered into second place. The Times reports Chloe Smith, 27 year old Conservative candidate has won with 39.5% of the vote, against Labour's Chris Ostrowski getting only 18.2% of the vote. The Conservatives picked up votes nicely, but Labour has lost more than a quarter of the total vote in Norwich North.

Now Labour will be slightly relieved by this, as there had been expectation it may be battered into third or fourth place, like the earlier European elections had done, but no. Labour has held onto second. The Liberal Democrats will be very disappointed that their share of the vote has dropped also from 16.2% in 2005 to just under 14% this time. Hardly a ringing endorsement for a party that sees this part of the country as ripe for the picking.

The bigger surprise was UKIP, which did stunningly well to come fourth with 11.8% of the vote, clearly picking up much of the former Labour vote. This has to disappoint the Greens which came fifth with only 9.7% of the vote. While the Greens will say this is a great result, up from 2.7%, the truth is that the Greens hoped this would be their breakthrough to rival the big three parties. The Greens are second on Norwich City Council with more seats than the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats combined. Many Norwich residents trust the Greens with their rubbish, roads and council housing, but not in the House of Commons. For UKIP to pip them in this by-election (as happened at the European elections), demonstrates the limited appeal of the brand.

Of course a wit would notice there was a UK Libertarian Party candidate who did far far worse, but given that party has existed for two years and put up an unknown but keen 18yo as the candidate, it isn't surprising.

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