Friday, July 16, 2004

Running up that Hodge Hill

One all, I think.
So Labour hold Hodge Hill by 460 and lose Leicester South by 1654.
Very tough campaigns and hard fought until the last minute. The LibDems even tried to demand a recount in Birmingham - unheard of on a majority of 500 with a low turnout - but the returning officer only allowed a brief inspection of the piles of ballot papers.
Losing any seat is never a good thing, but we are seven years into government and have had a very rough year as a result of foreign policy decisions. The Tories were haemorrhaging seats from very early on in their government before there was any danger of losing their national majority. This is the second that we've lost and I'd put some money on Labour retaking Brent at the next general.
The Liberal Democrats did well in both seats, but they won't be able to replicate the level of resources deployed into Leicester and Birmingham on a national basis. I have never seen so much yellow and orange and the streets were awash with Liberal Democrat campaigners. Their choice of candidate is really at fault here - her links with the mobile phone companies cost her enough votes in this election. Sadly, we can't rely on that level of inept politics every time. Equally, how long will the LibDems be able to trade on the war to win votes?
The really bad news was for the Tories. They've held both seats within living memory - Leicester was Tory until the late 80s and Hodge Hill went Tory after Roy Jenkins went off to Europe in the late 1970s. Nobody seriously expected them to win either, but their performance was very poor, given that they claim to be ready to form a government.
Still, by-elections are strange creatures and you can't draw an awful lot from them. For a few short weeks, the eyes of the country and all the resources of the political parties are fixed on a few thousand people. Perhaps the real concern for all politicians should be the low turnout - 36% in Birmingham and 42% in Leicester. How do we reconnect with people?

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