Are their lessons from what Labour did after Black Wednesday?
As we’ve discussed on the previous thread things don’t look too good for the Tory leader, David Cameron, this morning. With two new opinion polls showing Labour in the 40s and reports of Tory MPs wanting a confidence vote this is certainly going to be a period that will test him to the hilt.
Much of the current crisis has been driven by Thursday’s by elections in Sedgefield and Ealing Southall. Cameron’s audacious move on the candidate selection in the latter and the repeated suggestions from the Tory camp that they were in with a shout was a huge gamble that went wrong.
An object lesson on how the main opposition party should handle by elections where they do not have a chance is shown in the results of the Newbury and Christchurch contests from the summer of 1993. These were the first electoral tests for the Major government after Black Wednesday and what happened? The Tory vote collapsed and so did Labour’s. The 2% and and 2.7% shares for a party aspiring to government were absolutely pathetic and far far worse than anything that we have seen this week.
Yet there was no crisis for Labour and hardly anybody even mentioned their miserable totals. For Labour did little more than put up candidates and mount a token campaign.
The Labour leadership largely kept away and there was an implicit understanding that the Lib Dems were best placed to damage to the Tories – which they did big time.
Now given the Conservatives’ totally appalling record in this form of election going back over a quarter of a century was it really wise for the leadership to have suggested that a win was even possible on Thursday?
Why didn’t Cameron & Co bite the bite and not put personal reputations on the line. There could have been informal briefings to suggest that the Lib Dems were much better placed to make progress and the Tories could have stood largely aside. This would have helped the Lib Dems and the Labour machine in Ealing Southall would have found it harder to get its vote out when the Tories were not challenging hard.
A Lib Dem victory in these circumstances would have really hurt Labour and impeded Brown’s honeymoon and that could have had a lasting benefit for the Tories.
And whenever there was comment on the Tory performance they could have just pointed to how Labour handled Newbury and Christchurch.
My betting. I’ve closed down at a loss my Labour commons seat sell spread bet that I made at the 290 seats level. I’ve paid for this with profits I’ve taken on Obama and Thompson in the US presidency spread market. I am retaining my “weeks to a general election” spread bet that could provide a great return if Gordon goes early.