Insights from the UK and beyond
Labour: Your time is up. And not just in Crewe
Yes, it was just a by-election. Yes, Labour is suffering from severe mid-term blues. But the swing was a massive 17.6 percent and it wasn’t the Liberal Democrats who gained from Labour’s troubles, as is traditional in by-elections.
From speaking to people on the ground, the Labour vote has collapsed and the Tories are out in force. When pensioners who’ve voted Labour all their lives switch to the Conservatives, it’s time for Labour to worry.
Rising living costs and the perception that Labour has encouraged a benefits culture that is bleeding taxpayers dry were high on voters’ grudge list. Then there was the 10 pence tax ”fiasco” as one called it, or Labour’s “cynical, condescending” campaign against Tory toffs, as another said.
Overwhelmingly, though, there was a sense that people had just had enough. That Labour had had 11 years and what had they done with it?
On top of that, there was a whiff of victory that pervaded the Conservatives’ campaign and got many apathetic Tories or people who had never voted before out in support for Edward Timpson.
David Cameron just needs to maintain the sense that the Conservatives are on track to win and he could see thousands more floating voters jumping on his bandwagon.
Margarete Cernigliaro, 55, said it was the impression that her vote actually counted that prompted her to go to the polling station on Thursday. She is a self-confessed ”lazy voter” who supports the Conservatives but didn’t think it was worth bothering in the last general election.
She told how her six-year-old grandson had met his six-year-old friend on Thursday on route to the polling station with his family. “Let’s vote for the winners,” said one six-year-old to another, referring to Timpson & co.
Even diehard Labour voters think their party has lost the next election. Jeremy Vernon, a 45-year-old teacher, voted Labour as always on Thursday, but rather reluctantly.
“I think it is a national problem. It’s the Gordon Brown problem,” he said and went on to accuse the government of “cooking the books” over inflation, given the huge rises in petrol and basic food items. Asked if Labour could win the next election, he said: ”I think they’ll lose it, definitely.”
David Cameron may find that looking like a winner between now and the next election will be enough to turn him into one.