By-election Mood Music: A Cha Cha Cha or a Quickstep?
So, another by-election loss for the government on a double digit swing, the opposition calling for a general election and the Liberals stating that they are on the increase.
So what? We have heard this story time and time again after Ribble Valley (24.5% swing Con to Lib Dem), after Newbury (28.5% swing Con to Lib Dem) and even after Dudley West (29% swing from Con to Lab), but these recent by-elections aren't following the same tune as previous ones.To show what I mean, let's look at the biggest by-election swings of recent times and look at the change in the votes between the party that won the seat last time and the challenging party.
Take for instance, the daddy of challenging party by-elections, Christchurch in 1993. There the Conservative vote dropped 32.1%, versus the Liberal Democrat vote (as the challengers) which went up 38.6% (in other words 120%, i.e they scooped up every single Con vote and picked up 20% of the Labour drop as well). Dudley West (1994), Con vote fell 30.1%, Lab vote rose 28.1 indicating that Labour had managed to scoop 94% of all the Conservative drop). Other examples include:
Newbury (1993): Con -29.0% Lib Dem +27.8% = 96% scoop Walsall North (1976): Lab -27.9% Con +17.3% = 62% scoop Ashfield (1977): Lab -20.9% Con +20.8% = 99% scoop
All of which as we know led to huge changes in governments at the next election. Now compare that to recent Con gain by-elections
Crewe and Nantwich (2008): Lab -18.3% Con +16.9% = 92% scoop Norwich North (2009): Lab -26.7% Con +6.3% = 24% scoop
In other words, it's pretty clear that as the only difference between Crewe and Norwich is expenses, it is clear that Labour are dancing the cha cha cha out of government, but Cameron's quickstep has come to almost a shuddering halt and is now a slowstep and unless he can stop Lab voters switching to UKIP, Green and BNP his desire to win the next election might result in the first hung parliament for nearly 35 years.