Not good news for Cameron as the Tory vote collapsed, despite some effort from the party and a high-profile visit by the leader to show that there were no 'no-go areas' for the New Tories. They were never likely to get close to winning, but that isn't a great result - their vote share dropped by 2%, which actually equates to a swing away of about a quarter. The SNP did a good job in getting their vote out, but made no ground on the May election. Labour just didn't get their vote out and suffered accordingly.In most of these things, turnout's the thing. Another one to retake when the general election rolls around again.
[FRIDAY am EDIT] Not being an expert on Scottish local politics (and everything IS local in politics), I'm indebted to Aiden Brack for pointing out that there are local issues aside from pure turnout and third-term anti-government blues that may have affected the Labour vote and given the LDs the seat. Add in the usual LibDem by-election concentration and you see why they won.
From the Scotsman:
However, Labour's campaign started badly and went downhill rapidly. The party's launch was overshadowed just 24 hours later by the loss of 700 jobs at Lexmark, an inkjet cartridge manufacturer in Rosyth. Then the party became embroiled in a series of controversies over the Forth Road Bridge, with Mr Brown appearing to dictate devolved policy to the Scottish Executive. The Chancellor, who is in Moscow at a meeting of finance ministers today, was criticised for trying to interfere in Executive business, and Labour appeared divided and fractious from the start.
And John? Not Brent, but Leicester East, which your lot gained at the same time we held Birmingham Hodge Hill and which returned to Labour last May. I agree that there is a long time to wait for the next parliamentary, which will give the LDs an advantage in the seat, but the natural Labour vote should be sufficient to return the seat to Labour under a higher turnout. Funny thing is that you whinge about low overall percentage votes when Labour win, but not when you do... Just 17% of the constituency voted for the winning candidate, but that's FPTP for you.
What about the wider impact? Difficult to calculate, but I'm not certain that it will affect Gordon's chances of winning the leadership when Tony throws in the towel. It may remind him that he isn't invulnerable, but he's still the front runner by a country mile and one election result does not make for a Liberal Democrat landslide in 2009. Tony's still got an interesting few weeks ahead with the ID cards bill coming back for a second bite and the education bill returning as well. The recent changes may make both a little more palatable, but I don't think either will have an easy ride.
For Cameron, this is a minor embarrassment. Nothing huge - it is only a by-election in a no-hope Tory seat - but despite throwing some resources into it, the Tories slumped further. They need to work on their activist base to support by-election campaigns, but this also indicates the problems that they continue to have in Scotland. His big test will be on May 4 when the local elections roll around again - will the core Tory vote revive then?