How likely are by-election upsets tomorrow?

28th November, 2012 10:40 am

Tomorrow the Labour Party faces its latest electoral challenge with three by-elections taking place simultaneously. All three seats were previously held by Labour, and following the three by-elections two weeks ago, that means Labour will have fought in six seats (five of which were previously Labour) in just 14 days.

As with the by-elections in Corby, Manchester and Cardiff (and the PCC elections on the same day), turnout is likely to be the biggest challenge. Political apathy, “safe” seats (and the relative lack of previous canvassing that often implies), dismal weather and early darkness are likely to combine to produce very low turnouts indeed. The party is certainly focused on turnout, which it believes will be a significant factor in tomorrow’s results. And low turnouts (combined with other local factors) can produce some unusual by-election surprises. So what are the chances of that happening?

Croydon North
Previous MP: Malcolm Wicks (Labour)
Labour candidate: Steve Reed

Highly rated Lambeth Council Leader Steve Reed is Labour’s candidate in Croydon, where the majority at the last election was a comfortable 16,000. Whilst there seems little chance of a surge in support for the Tories (who came second here last time). Former Livingstone adviser Lee Jasper has been making plenty of noise (and music) in his bid to take the seat for George Galloway’s Respect, but it’s unlikely that either they or UKIP can build up sufficient head of steam to take the seat.

Chance of an upset: Small. Expect a Labour majority, albeit a significantly reduced one.

Previous MP: Sir Stuart Bell (Labour)
Candidate: Andy McDonald

The only concern going into this by-election was whether or not local independent mayor (and former policeman) Ray Mallon would stand. When it became clear that he wouldn’t, it also became clear that Labour should hold this seat comfortably.

Chance of an upset: Little to none. Middlesbrough should stay comfortably Labour.

Previous MP: Denis MacShane (Labour)
Candidate: Sarah Champion

A controversial selection (to say the least) and the subsequent disillusionment of the local party would have made this tricky. The manner of the previous MP’s resignation from parliament would have made this tough. But add onto that the sectarian campaigning of Respect in the seat, and then the revelation that a Labour-run council had removed foster children from their UKIP-supporting foster parents, and all of a sudden you have the combustible mix that can produce a by-election upset. Oh – and the BNP are also a significant factor in this seat that has experienced some real racial tension in recent years.

Chance of an upset: Possible, although the fact that the non-Labour vote is split between UKIP, Respect, Tories, Lib Dems, the English Democrats and the BNP probably means that Labour should retain the seat, despite everything – as long as turnout isn’t the major factor. And the party has deployed a significant number of central party staff to ensure that turnout is as high as possible.

In short – Labour should retain what should be three very safe seats. But if you’re able to make it to any of the three seats today, your campaigning time could make a real difference.

And join us tomorrow night for the results – there will be a liveblog…

  • Chilbaldi

    “Chance of an upset: Possible, although the fact that the non-Labour vote is split between UKIP, Respect, Tories, Lib Dems, the English Democrats and the BNP probably means that Labour should retain the seat”
    What makes you think that the NON Labour vote is split between these parties. Surely some of these parties, especially Respect, take a lot of Labour votes?

    • John Ringer

      He’s not saying that Labour voters won’t defect to the ‘other’ parties. He’s saying that the anti-Labour vote (including those who have switched from Labour) will be split, and thus none of them will be able to get more votes than the Labour candidate. Simple electoral calculus, really.

      • Chilbaldi

        Yes, but that attitude smacks of complacency.

        • John Ringer

          It’s not complacency so much as resignation. There was only so much we could do in the time given to reverse the damage done by years of complacency.

  • AlanGiles

    I should think Rotherham is the only one Labour needs to be concerned about – that oh so short short list will probably make a lot of people stay at home – especially if the weather is bad. As for Croydon North – were I Mr Reed I wouldn’t worry too much about Lee Jasper – a yesterdays man if ever was.

    My guess is that there might be some reduced majorities, especially in Rotherham. It is November, after all.

    • Kokopops

      Steve Reed’s record as Lambeth Council Leader became an issue, especially in the hustings and even Michael White in the Guardian has labelled him a ‘risky candidate’ so the “highly rated” in front of Steve Reed in Mark’s article seems a little more dubious not than perhaps before Reed was selected. Furthermore if the Co-operative Council model is so great, why is he jumping ship before he has had time to test his theories out?

      I think another issue with Reed’s selection was that in seat with a Minority as a majority, Labour NEC had a whole panoply of candidates to choose from to shortlist who reflected the seat and had more in common and instead a political insider following the mantra of yesterdays Blairism was shortlisted.

    • Kokopops

      This comment from the Rotherham Politics website I think also applies to Croydon North:

      “for those whom still carry the [membership] card they have to select a
      candidate not of their choosing, award them a safe seat for life and
      tomorrow go out into the cold and rain to deliver election material…

      Mugs every one of them!”

  • David Cameron

    As long as David Cameron is Prime Minister,there is no chance of an upset.He is the worst Prime Minister in living memory and has guaranteed a majority Labour Government in 2015.

    • Gabrielle

      Hi Dave. Such refreshing honesty is very impressive. Now all you need to do is call a General Election and your and our nightmare will finally end.

  • Jonathan Roberts

    Getting the vote out in Rotherham is the most important thing. I did some basic number crunching based on a 30% turnout (the average of recent by-elections), and it could be very close. Normally you’d expect Labour to pick up new votes given the Coalition – but given the grooming scandal, the fostering stuff and MacShane, that may not happen.

    Respect did not stand in 2010 and will take many votes off us, the Trade Unionist Coalition will take a good few hundred off us too.

    UKIP will take votes off the Tories and, if neighbouring Barnsley is anything to go by, the Lib Dems too. There may also be an ‘anyone but Labour’ vote going to UKIP, as they could get a bounce on the fostering story. The 2000 voters that voted Independent in 2010 could go anywhere. BNP had 4000 voters in 2010 and some might vote tactically for UKIP given their immigration/EU policy.

    GOTV is vital here, hence why we’ve got every man and his dog campaigning there. I hope and believe Labour will win and think we have an excellent candidate – but I think it will be very tight.

    • Visual

      Just to remind people that in the PCC election for South Yorkshire, with Rotherham councillor standing for Labour, he gained 52% of vote with English Democract second, and Con, LD and Ukip having around 10% each. Of course the fostering story has been whipped up, but because of privacy issues, we are likely to have heard only one part of the story. Not sure that the people of Rotherham will be much influenced by this scandal-mongering

      • Jonathan Roberts

        Not convinced the PCC election is a good comparison to be honest. And we’ll see about the rest tomorrow! Personally I’m not sure the grooming/fostering/MacShane coverage has been ‘scandal-mongering’, I think they are genuine bona fide scandals that quite understandably will affect how people vote. Let’s wait and see, but fingers crossed.

        • Visual

          I think I was right…..

    • Jon Marsden

      Hi there I`m a newly joined LP member (been a member of local/national Fabians for years. Last Thursday I went to Portcullis House for a Seminar. Cool panel inc a bloke who ran the last 3 US presidential elections, Eva who did Boris Johnsons this year and a bloke who ran Blairs` in `97……one of the things I learned was the Cognitive Aspects……in a nutshell….get the potential voters to visualise their personal voting experience eg after asking `em who they`re voting for ……ask `em where they vote? The route they`ll take and what time they will make the journey…. hope this helps……Jonathan

  • NT86

    The one bank of votes Labour can rely on in all 3 by elections are probably the 2010 Lib Dem votes.

    • AlanGiles

      I am not so sure about that. Some yes, but there will be LIbDems who will vote for Independents or Greens, or might be so disillusioned they won’t bother to turn out at all on a day in late November. I think the only thing you can be sure of is that UKIP won’t benefit from ex LibDem votes

      • Jonathan Roberts

        Hi Alan, I’d usually agree – but remember in neighbouring Barnsley last year many Lib Dem voters ended up turning UKIP.

        • AlanGiles

          Hello Jon. Makes you wonder what they were thinking about, doesn’t it?.

          FWIW (which might not be a lot) my strong and genuine feeling is that there are so many people disillusioned with all three main parties, they are showing their chagrin by voting for smaller parties and Independents. Whether this is sheer contraryiness and frustration, or a genuine desire to experiment I don’t know.

          I have to say that I do not see a great deal of difference between the attitudes of all three main parties now – it is more an emphasis on “presentation” rather than offering genuinely innovative alternative policies.

          • Jonathan Roberts

            all fair points mate. My feeling is that a good percentage of those who have traditionally voted LD in the past have not been true believers in the cause. Instead, they voted Lib Dem as a ‘protest’ against the main two parties. Now the Lib Dems are in Government, those protesters have to find somewhere else to go, and they have chosen UKIP. I think there’s been too much snobbery towards UKIP from the main parties, whatever you think of their views, most people want out of the EU and many people have concerns over immigration controls – so whilst their wider policies may be a little silly, UKIP are actually more in touch with a significant percentage of public sentiment on immigration/Europe than the main parties. I think it’s time the main three parties stopped looking down their nose at those with EU/immigration concerns and actually tackled the issues, either by coming up with different policies, or to better argue their corner and try to convince people.

  • Mike Homfray

    The way the Rotherham selection took place was simply wrong. The candidate may be very good but it wasn’t acceptable and her win will be tainted if she still makes it.

    I’m not impressed with the ideas and policies of Steve Reed : not the way I would want to see Labour go, though at least it means another gay MP in Parliament!

    Middlesbrough doesn’t seem to have hit the headlines at all…..

  • Graeme Hancocks

    Although there are no opinion polls, political betting is indicating no huge last minute surge to either UKIP or Respect (as there was in Bradford West in March). All depends on turnout. GG’s win in Bradford was largely due to his personal – and successful – appeal to the Muslim voters (nearly 28,000 of electorate in Bradford W. Muslim as against 4000 in Rotherham). I do not think Respect has much appeal beyond that group. All depends on turnout. I think Sarah Champion is a good candidate and hope she wins.

  • Josiah Mortimer

    Think you may be rather surprised come tomorrow night. Article reeks of excessive optimism. These are interesting times.

  • markfergusonuk

    How optimistic was I? Not enough, it turns out…

    • Visual



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