The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Boring Norwich North

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 27, 2009 @ 00:33

The depressing image of the future of British Politics. Young. Fashionable. Smooth. Give me old warhorses like Dennis Skinner and Sir Peter Tapsell any day!

The depressing image of the future of British Politics. Young. Fashionable. Smooth. Give me old warhorses like Dennis Skinner and Sir Peter Tapsell any day!

It has taken me some days to find anything interesting to comment on from the Norwich North by-election. But that won’t stop me trying…

The reason being quite simple: it was blindingly obvious that the Tories were going to win. So my right call – and they don’t come along too often so you’ll excuse my celebration – a whole month ago was entirely vindicated.

In many respects, these are the worst by-elections of all. They aren’t exciting or relevant because the result is a certainty – and yet they should be the complete opposite given the fact that the governing party have just lost a key seat on a huge swing. If a by-election were held in a government stronghold, which they win as easily as falling off a log, that would be equally dull. But at least then we’d understand why it got so little attention.

Instead, this one is frustrating. Indeed, in the run up to it there was so little coverage that we might have been forgiven for thinking there was no more need for politics in this country.

It was a simple result with a simple explanation. Tory voters came out to vote; Labour voters all found something else to do in droves.

Now, this has led to much comment. After all, the newly minted Tory MP received less votes as an absolute figure compared with the 2005 General Election. Consequently, elections “expert” Professor John Curtice assures us that the result should give David Cameron “a moment’s pause”.

Here’s my reasoning why it shouldn’t do anything of the sort.

Elections are about winning by any means possible. If you lose votes, but your opposition loses even more, and you come out on top, then you have done what needs to be done.

The argument goes that these Labour voters will return when the General Election comes around. It’s always been the same. For some reason, it is damn near impossible to get Labour voters out of bed when the government of the country is not at stake. We see it every time, local, European and by-elections; they’re just lazy bastards.

If the argument is true, then Labour should reclaim Norwich North at the next General Election. After all, they got 21,097 votes last time, 7,506 more than Chloe Smith received and won.

But I don’t think it is true any more. Some Labour voters will indeed return. The rest are, I believe, lost for good. The middle classes have already moved to the Tories. The working classes will never vote Tory: but they will sit on their hands or vote elsewhere (BNP?) as a protest. They have had it with Labour. They’ve always been prepared to overlook the middle-of-the-road tendencies required to win power, viewing it as a necessary evil to schmooze with the City and big business.

But the recession, the credit crunch, and the MPs expenses scandal have changed all of that. They no longer identify with the Labour Party in the way they did. They have – finally – woken up and realised that, in those immortal words, “they’re all at it”.

In other words, their behaviour has no excuse, and they’ve been caught with their hands on the till – and all these events taken together have been the straw that’s broken the camel’s back.

The absence of Labour voters almost gives Cameron a majority without him even doing anything. When you add in the middle class switchers, the next election is such a shoo-in that we might as well forgo the election process and hand Cameron the keys to Number 10 now.

Norwich North wasn’t particularly groundbreaking. But, in the same way Wirral South was for Tony Blair in February 1997, it was just another sign that the inevitable was drawing ever nearer…

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