Wakefield: Woman shocked as friend says 'I love Boris!'
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When it comes to by-elections, past results are the things that matter least in judging success; it is all about immediate political context and expectation management. In the case of the two by-elections today in Red Wall Wakefield and traditional Tory Tiverton, Labour and the Lib Dems have set expectations for a double humiliating defeat for Mr Johnson and the Conservatives.
And why should the Tories even hope of having the faintest whiff of victory in either of the by-elections even though both seats were won by them in the 2019 election?
Wakefield will be a Labour seat when it is announced some point in the early hours this morning.
It was a Labour seat from 1931 until the blue wave of new Tory MPs engulfed the Red Wall of previously safe heartland seats in 2019.
The Conservative MP elected Imran Khan was convicted for sexually abusing a minor and fighting his case took him out of political action for 18 months.
If you add this to all the controversy over Partygate, the national angst over cost of living with energy prices and food costs souring, wages losing value, strikes and a real period of discontent then the Conservatives have no chance.
It is always worth remembering that midterm blues for Government make any seat difficult to retain let alone win.
But in Wakefield a victory may not be enough for Starmer. He needs a double digit swing at the minimum to allow him to say he can lead his party to winning back the Red Wall and returning to Government.
Key in this vote will be the turnout which could be extraordinarily low and render the result meaningless.
Currently the record for a lowest turnout is held by the Manchester Central by-election in 2012 when Lucy Powell won the seat for Labour on an 18.2 percent turnout.
It would be shocking if that record was beaten but anything below 45 percent will underline that Starmer is failing to galvanise enthusiastic support or even hold on to Wakefield in a general election.
Last week’s Techne/ Express tracker poll showed that a quarter of voters would boycott a general election because the main parties are uninspiring.
Even his own MPs are questioning his leadership and the defiance of many to follow his orders and stay away from the picket lines in the RMT strike shows a loss of authority.
Labour have been helped in the Yorkshire seat by a gaffe ridden Tory candidate who particularly managed to annoy Conservative MPs when the Independent reported that he said Brexit “was built on lies” and he regretted voting Leave.
But Wakefield is not the real battleground. Instead that honour is held by the seat in Devon which the Conservatives are trying to save after Neil Parish stepped down as a Tory MP after being caught watching porn in Parliament.
The Lib Dems have not been shy at making clear they expect to win it despite Parish’s vast majority previously.
No Conservative MP or minister I have spoken to has felt any hope for the seat anyway.
Some have even declined to campaign there because “what’s the point when we are going to get a kicking anyway.”
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But word coming out as people go to the polls is that the Conservatives could be declared the winner tomorrow morning.
It would be astonishing given the relentless negative publicity the Prime Minister has suffered in recent months.
And his visit to the seat could prove to be fortuitous.
Early in the week many Conservative rebels were suggesting that his trip to Rwanda while the by-elections were going on had parallels with Margaret Thatcher’s trip to Paris in 1990 to celebrate the end of the Cold War.
When she came back she found she had been ousted as party leader and Prime Minister.
Bt a Tiverton vitory will put behind the recent vote of confidence in Boris, which he won even though 41 percent of him MPs voted against him.
It will make talk of a new vote of confidence in 12 months or changing the rules to have one earlier look silly.
Most important a victory in Tiverton is a blow to the Rejoiner alliance.
The Lib Dems need to win the seat to prove they can sweep Tory heartland – knock down the Blue Wall.
Labour have an unofficial pact with them to give the Lib Dems a free run there while the Lib Dems did the same for Labour in Wakefield.
One polling expert suggested that a Rejoiner alliance can get an extra 20 percent if Labour and the Lib Dems work together with an aim of being in Government together and returning the UK to the EU in stages.
Winning in Devon shows that Boris Johnson is still the man to beat the Rejoiner Alliance and ensure Brexit is embedded.
Some will try to paint a narrow victory as a defeat still but the truth is that it will be a big win for the embattled Prime Minister.
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