Lib Dem Sarah Green has won a surprise victory in the ‘Blue Wall’. Chesham and Amersham, a Conservative seat since its creation in 1974, has turned yellow. A by-election yesterday saw the Lib Dems increase their vote share in the Tory heartland constituency by 30 points, securing a majority of 8,028, on a 52% turnout. Commiserations to Labour candidate Natasa Pantelic who took just 1.6% of the result, making it the worst ever by-election result for the party. Rumour is Labour’s vote total is around the same as its number of members in the constituency.
Labour can nevertheless take heart from the Lib Dem steal. A Labour win was never really on the cards, and the party vote will have been driven down in a bid to give the Tories the boot. It is less a comment on the party or the leadership than a reflection of tactical voting. More importantly for the upcoming battle for Batley and Spen next month, the Conservative loss shows that they are beatable – the much touted ‘vaccine bounce’ is not quite the unstoppable force it is sometimes described as. This is good news if Labour is to hold on to its ‘Red Wall’ seat. At the same time, it will be harder for the leadership to chalk up the loss to the Covid jab.
Today marks one year since the publication of the Labour Together 2019 general election review. After disappointing election results across England, Wales and Scotland last month, including the historic Hartlepool defeat, and Labour’s position in the polls, maybe the party should revisit some of its recommendations. Manuel Cortes has this morning written for LabourList on those recommendations. In particular, he urges the party leadership to reinstate the vital work of community organising. The organic connection between Labour and communities is key to the party’s prospects and disbanding the community organising unit last year was a mistake, the TSSA general secretary tells readers: “The challenge to win back voters must come from within communities.”
Ministers have apologised to rape victims following the publication of the rape review last night. Rape prosecutions are at a record low; there are around 128,000 rape victims each year, but fewer than 20% report the crime to the police and just 1.6% result in someone being charged. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said he is “deeply ashamed” and ministers have pledged an overhaul of the system. But Labour’s Ellie Reeves described the review as “not nearly ambitious enough”, highlighting that it includes further pilots and consultations to be held, and measures that will take two years to implement. That’s in addition to the two years we waited for this report.
“This review was a real opportunity to improve the criminal justice system for victims of rape, and it has missed that opportunity,” the Shadow Solicitor General said last night. “The government should urgently introduce Labour’s root and branch reforms to support rape victims, instead of piecemeal pilots and tinkering.” Labour published its own green paper on how to tackle violence against women and girls last month. Proposals included a new survivor support package to improve victims’ experience in the courts, including fast tracking rape and sexual violence cases, legal help for victims and better training for professionals. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.