Thursday saw the conclusion of the late-autumn by-election campaign in Sparkbrook and a good solid win for Labour's Victoria Quinn and her team. There was a good solid Labour presence on the ground, a stark contrast to the limited Lib Dem presence and the gaggles of Respect members hanging around the polling stations.
The by-election was caused by the resignation of sitting Respect councillor Salma Yaqoub due to ill health and actually called by a couple of Green supporters.
Labour - 3932
Respect - 2301
Lib Dem - 395
Green - 179
Con - 133
Comparing that to the May results, that actually works out to a simple Butler swing of 6.25% from Respect to Labour. The other three parties' vote share has hardly shifted (for the anoraks, the Lib Dems and the Tories dropped by less than a percentage point and the Greens' shifted up by just under half a percentage point. It also gives Victoria a fairly thumping majority of 1631 - actually increasing Tony Kennedy's solid 969 in May. Turnout was - unsurprisingly for a grey, occasionally drizzly day in November - down from the 44% in May, although 33% turnout is quite respectable for a council by-election and higher than some of the turnouts in May.
As always, by-elections are singular beasts and this one can only be used to draw some conclusions about the likely future of Respect as a party grouping on Birmingham City Council and the future isn't a bright one. On this form, Respect will go from having three councillors at the start of May 2011 to having no councillors at all after next May's elections. The loss of Salma from active politics has hurt them badly and not even a flying visit from George Galloway could save them. Out on the ground on Thursday, I even ran into one of their former key workers who had come home to Labour after being disappointed by the failure of Respect to deliver on their grand promises for Sparkbrook.
That leaves Labour with 57 councillors (excluding the Lord Mayor) and one step closer to a majority next May.