This Blog seems to be in dialogue with Mirror reporter Mikey Smith about the Liberal Democrat victory in Mosborough, Sheffield, on Thursday.
My argument was that there were strong reasons for the Labour candidate’s share of the vote being reduced, and equally strong reasons for the Liberal Democrat’s share to be increased.
So Mr Smith has written another article, suggesting eight reasons we should say Labour got “thrashed”. That’s fine, as long as he’s happy for me to have a good, hard look at them.
1. The Labour candidate wasn’t local.
Mr Smith agrees with me that this was a contributing factor.
2. The Labour candidate was anti-Corbyn.
Again, we agree on this. But Mr Smith says it’s a stretch to see Labour voters supporting a Liberal Democrat for any reason because of this. He appears to be mistaken – and in any case it may not matter.
It seems Labour supporters like Keziah Davis-Cottam did vote Liberal Democrat in protest at the Labour candidate’s anti-Corbyn stance. She states as much here.
There is no way of knowing how many Labour supporters did this, however.
Similarly, there is no way of knowing how many Labour supporters simply didn’t vote at all, or how many Liberal Democrat supporters came back after boycotting the last election in protest at the LD/Conservative coalition in Parliament. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
3. Jeremy Corbyn was not going down well during canvassing
This is a claim by Julie Grocutt, the failed Labour candidate. But she is, by her own confession, anti-Corbyn. He attracted thousands to a rally in the town just three weeks ago. How far can we trust the candidate’s claim, in the circumstances? Mr Smith says he has received similar comments from other Labour sources but, again, how sure can we be that they aren’t putting out anti-Corbyn disinformation?
4. People are upset at the actions of the PLP
This is the flipside of the argument at 3, above. Some stayed away because of Corbyn; some stayed away because of his detractors. Mr Smith says it is a stretch to suggest they voted Liberal Democrat because of it, but then, there’s no reason to suggest that this is what they all did, as we will see.
5. Rallies don’t equal votes.
No, they don’t. And Labour has a historical problem with getting its vote out on the day. But all this is really doing is undermining Mr Smith’s own argument in his original article. If rallies don’t equal votes, why was he using the size of the Corbyn rally three weeks ago to suggest the council result is such a calamity?
6. Lib Dem fightback.
Mr Smith says this is an unlikely reason for the Liberal Democrat victory as Sheffield is an unlikely place for them to start regaining seats. Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg did lead the party into coalition with the Tories, after all.
But Mr Clegg is still a sitting MP. And the new councillor, Gail Smith, had served on the council for four years until the 2012 cull that was a response to the Coalition in Parliament. She has been described as popular and capable in the role. These are all possible factors contributing to her return.
7. It was a low turnout.
Mr Smith reckons that the two per cent difference between the 30 per cent turnout in May’s local election, which Labour won, and the 28 per cent turnout on Thursday is not enough to make a material difference to the result, so the turnout can’t be blamed.
But the low turnout means nearly 10,000 people didn’t vote in either election. That’s more than twice the number who did vote, either time.
And we have no way of knowing how many of those people voted both times.
It seems likely that, not only did some Labour voters support the Liberal Democrat candidate in protest against their candidate’s opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, but many more simply stayed away, while Liberal Democrats returned to show support for a candidate they believed had done a good job in the past.
8. Momentum didn’t help.
Why would Momentum help an anti-Corbyn candidate? Momentum is the group set up to support Mr Corbyn and his aims within the Labour Party and in the UK generally. Supporting Ms Grocutt would have contradicted its reason for being.
ADDITIONAL: Momentum Sheffield has contacted me to say the organisation did indeed campaign for the Labour candidate in this election. This is laudable, considering her attitude.
So – at the end of the day, what conclusions can be drawn?
Simply those that I drew in my previous article: The Labour candidate lost because she was not local, did not support Jeremy Corbyn (and therefore supported the divisiveness that has been promoted in the party by his opponents), and did not capitalise on the support he received at his recent rally. By contrast, the Liberal Democrat candidate was known to be local and reliable. So Labour supporters either lent their vote to the Lib Dem or stayed away, while Liberal Democrat supporters who had boycotted the party during the Parliamentary coalition with the Conservatives came back.
In those circumstances, a loss by a mere 432 votes means Labour was neither “crushed” nor “thrashed”. The local party made mistakes, though.
Let us hope it learns from them.
Last night, Labour got a pretty healthy drubbing in a Sheffield City Council by-election.
This has confused many people, because just three weeks ago, on a visit to the city, Jeremy Corbyn attracted a crowd of around 2,500 people to an outdoor rally in the city centre.
The rally was widely hailed as one of the biggest the city had ever seen, so why would the Lib Dems – who many in Sheffield are still angry with over their part in the Coalition – beat them so soundly?
Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
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