Friday, July 24, 2009
Random thoughts on the Norwich North result
First of all, the result suggests that the scandal over MPs' expenses is already fading into memory.
The Conservatives, despite being as deeply mired as anyone else, had no difficulty winning the seat. More than that, Ian Gibson (who was deselected over his own claims) emerged as a popular hero amid widespread claims that he would have won if he had stood as an independent. And the most plausible anti-party candidate, Craig Murray, failed to make much of an impact.
The result was a triumph for the Conservatives, but it is hard to be too enthusiastic about their candidate. Chloe Smith, though she did her best to hide it, is a wonk from Conservative head office. She is a female Miliband. She even looks like a female Miliband.
Labour's performance was a disaster, reminding them uncomfortably of the days when they hardly held a seat south and east of that mythical line from the Severn to the Wash. By succumbing to swine flu their candidate made himself the embodiment of this government's decline.
The Liberal Democrats worked incredibly hard and could not quite manage to stand still. No doubt a longer campaign would have suited them and enabled them to overtake Labour, but we still need to have a long, hard think about what we now offer that could possibly excite the voters. A Fresh Start for Britain does not promise to be much help.
It was a good result for UKIP, suggesting that they will now be a presence in elections at all levels. I suspect they are mopping up a lot of disaffected traditional Labour voters at present, but in the long run this may pose a threat to the Conservatives.
The Greens will be disappointed by their showing. Could it be that, though everyone feels warm to them, being presented with Green policies in an election campaign puts people off them? Still they did win an impressive local by-election in Hove yesterday.
And the Libertarian Party put up an 18-year-old and got 36 votes. The revolution may have to be postponed.