Here’s an election that will tell misleading tales.
Conservative Louie French has been elected to take over the Parliamentary seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup from his late Tory colleague James Brokenshire – so the Tories will claim a huge victory and that confidence in Boris Johnson has not been shaken by recent scandals.
But the low turnout suggests otherwise. Fewer than half of the voters who turned out for the general election bothered this time (70 per cent of the local electorate in 2019 v 33.5 per cent this time around). That’s a drop from 46,145 votes to 21,733.
And most of those who didn’t bother coming seem to have been Tories. Brokenshire’s vote in 2019 was more than the total number of votes cast this time around, at 29,786 (45 per cent of the local electorate). French managed to scrape up 11,189 votes (just 17 per cent of voters in the constituency).
That’s a massive drop – and I don’t think we can attribute it solely to the normal fall in turnout for a by-election. French received only 37 per cent of the number of votes Brokenshire had. I think it’s fair to say that thinking Conservative voters didn’t bother coming to this party because they don’t want anything to do with Boris Johnson any more.
More importantly, the fact is that 83 per cent of people in this constituency didn’t want the Conservative, but he is still going to occupy their Parliamentary seat. If ever there was an argument for proportional representation, this is it.
But of course the corrupt Tories won’t ever accept the argument for change because the current situation benefits them.
And then there’s Labour. Keir Starmer will undoubtedly crow about his candidate, Daniel Francis, increasing that party’s vote share by 7.4 per cent. But it’s only a relative increase – that is to say, Francis received a higher share of a lower number of votes.
In fact, Labour lost 4,123 votes in comparison with the party’s performance in 2019. Candidate Daniel Francis’s share of the local electorate was just 10 per cent – a drop of six per cent from Dave Tingle’s share of the constituency’s available vote in 2019 (16 per cent). That’s how 6,711 votes compares with 10,834 votes when the total local electorate is taken into account, rather than those who bothered to vote.
Starmer might be happy that his candidate lost fewer votes than the Tory – but when the best you can do is discuss relative falls in the number of votes you’ve received, you’re on shaky ground.
Looking at the other parties, the Liberal Democrats continued their decline. In 2019, Simone Reynolds received 3,822 votes (5.8 per cent of the local electorate). This year the same candidate scraped up only 647 votes (less than one per cent of the local electorate – a 4.81 per cent drop).
Perhaps the big shock of the by-election was the fact that the Green Party’s Jonathan Rooks didn’t scoop up support from disillusioned Labour voters, as the party has in local government by-elections since Starmer became party leader.
He picked up 830 votes – down from Matt Browne’s 1,477 in 2019 (1.27 per cent of the local electorate v 2,23 per cent). Again, the relative figures show a swing of 0.6 per cent upwards for this party when in fact its support has fallen.
Finally, we should discuss the popularity of Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party) and its candidate Richard Tice.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown demanded an investigation into this party’s finances in May 2019, after concerns were raised that it was receiving foreign money, possibly from hostile governments that were trying to destabilise the UK’s political system – like that of Russia.
Tice had insisted that all donations to his party were in Sterling but this referred to its PayPal account and was therefore unpersuasive; if a person or organisation opens a PayPal account in the UK then payments into it will be in UK pounds.
The party’s website had no safeguards to ensure that donors were eligible to support UK political parties and a Mirror investigation found that it was possible to sign up as a Brexit Party supporter under the name of Vladimir Putin, giving the address of the Kremlin.
Well, if foreign countries have been bankrolling Reform UK, it hasn’t worked – although Tice did make a big splash for a small party candidate, with 1,432 votes, equivalent to 2.2 per cent of the local electorate.
None of the other candidates had more than 300 votes.
Incidentally, a quick poll by This Site after the vote was closed showed that Vox Political readers correctly predicted a Conservative victory, but the comments suggested they agreed with This Writer about the reasons for it – that only the most tribal Conservatives would pay this by-election much interest.
“If Boris Johnson had s**t on the paper and shoved the pencil up his bleached anus Tories would have politely pinched their noses, licked the pencil tip and put an ‘x’ in their box cos they think someone else’s ballot was accidentally s**t on and not theirs,” tweeted one person.
Looking at the result, who can argue with that?
AFTERWORD: the following tweet is satirical, but maybe it should be shown to all the voters in Old Bexley and Sidcup who didn’t bother to vote in yesterday’s by-election, as it tars them with the same brush as all those who voted for the new blue suit:
Huge thankyou to the people of Old Bexley and Sidcup for voting in favour of higher prices, empty shelves, turds in our rivers, corruption and sleaze, higher taxes, suppression of protest and privatisation of the NHS.
— Parody Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson_MP) December 3, 2021
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