I've been following by-elections since the Leyton by-election when Patrick Gordon Walker got his comeuppance for thinking he could plonk himself there after being beaten at Smethwick in the 1964 general election. By-elections from then have been something of an interesting aspect, more for the sub-text than the headlines.
Rotherham is no exception. Labour think they've done well but in essence they haven't. Ms Champion may have a name to suit a winner but she has really lost. That is because the core Labour vote has shrunk. Most are stay-at-home types now, settling comfortable into armchair theorising. Now I know it was November, a rather cold night and near to Christmas, but the trend is there.
|Sarah Champion leads the smiles of easily pleased supporters|
Neither have the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. There was a time when a seat like Rotherham would be a straight fight, as they used to be called. That last happened in 1970. The Conservatives have won Rotherham before, in 1931, but that was by a slim majority. That is never going to happen again.
When it was either Labour or Conservative, with the possible "intervention" of a Liberal, most people voted tribally and the main parties got their votes in. Any communist, nationalist or independent who contemplated a go was lucky to garner a handful of votes. That all changed in the 1970's when politicians suffered two setbacks. First, they were scrutinised on TV and radio with determined questioning. Second, the public began to question their own loyalty to party in light of disastrous events. In Rotherham yesterday 11,574 people voted for one of the three main parties and 9,876 voted for what used to be called "others". It's when those others get the whip hand that the likes of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband will have to consider their places.
Sarah Champion (Labour) 9,966 46.46%
Jane Collins (UKIP) 4,648 21.67%
Marlene Guest (BNP) 1,804 8.41%
Yvonne Ridley (Respect) 1,778 8.29%
Simon Wilson (Conservative) 1,157 5.39%
(English Democrats) 703 3.28%
Simon Copley (Ind) 582 2.71%
Michael Beckett (Lib Dem) 451 2.10%
Ralph Dyson (Trade Unionists
and Socialists Against Cuts) 281 1.31%
Paul Dickson (Ind) 51 0.24%
Clint Bristow (Ind) 29 0.14%
Labour Majority 5,318
The electorate was 63,420 and 21,496 ballot papers were issued resulting in a turnout of 33.89%