Insights from the UK and beyond
As voters drifted towards polling stations on a damp winter’s night in Oldham East and Saddleworth, it was hard to find anyone bursting with good things to say about Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
Even some Lib Dems, who came so close to beating Labour in this marginal seat in May, seemed to be voting out of a sense of duty rather than conviction, hoping to limit the shame of defeat to a Labour party still struggling to assert itself in opposition.
“I did vote for them, but I’m not happy with them,” said 59-year-old Lib Dem supporter Lorraine Marner.
The Lib Dems are in danger of losing their way — and perhaps chunks of their core support — in government.
Newspapers are crediting Gordon Brown with Labour’s surprise win in the Glenrothes by-election and says it has ended any talk of a cabinet coup.
They say his gamble to break with the convention that a prime minister does not campaign in by-election polls succeeded. Brown visited the seat twice, while his wife Sarah was on the local trail at least half a dozen times.
Gordon Brown has woken to some unhappy headlines during his year as prime minister but the verdicts on newspaper websites following Labour’s shock defeat in the Glasgow East by-election were probably the worst he has faced.
“Disaster” was the description of the Daily Mail and The Independent after one of Labour’s safest seats fell to the Scottish National Party. The Daily Telegraph called it “Humiliation for Brown” while “Catastrophe for Labour” was The Guardian’s verdict.
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One of Gordon Brown’s favourite speech writers is leaving Number 10 to return to the Treasury. That gives Brown the perfect opportunity to draft in someone who has the ability to coin the kind of phrases that chime with the electorate and stick in people’s minds.
To date, that is something Brown, whose dismal year in office was underlined on Friday with a humiliating fifth place by-election finish for Labour, has signally failed to do. Sure, Brown wanted to move away from the accusations of endless spin that soured the public mood towards his slick predecessor Tony Blair.
With the LibDems already having said they will not field a candidate on July 10 and Labour still mulling the options, the papers raised the spectre of Davis campaigning alone against fringe parties like the Monster Raving Loonies and a motley crew of publicity-seekers.
“Courageous” is how Conservative Leader David Cameron described the decision by his shadow home secretary, David Davis, to quit his parliamentary seat and force a by-election over the issue of pre-charge detention.
Davis says he will contest the seat to take a stand on the erosion of civil liberties caused by the proposal to extend to 42 days the time police can hold terrorism suspects without charge.
Ed Balls had intended, by briefing political journalists on Monday, to take the media focus off personality and put it back on policy. Instead, he turned up the heat on an internal row with a bit ofÂ character assassination of his own.
In retaliation for Frank Field’s attack on Gordon Brown’s personality, Balls effectively accused him of acting dishonourably in his fight for compensation for those who have lost out from the abolition of the 10-pence tax band.