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Elections 2021

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suze
1383637.  Mon Jun 21, 2021 12:41 pm Reply with quote

That's not happened since the 1940s. The convention arose during the World Wars, when it was felt improper to contest a by-election if the death had been as a result of enemy action.

The Conservatives did not contest the Hemsworth by-election of 1946. The Labour MP who died had been a miner in a mining town, and had taken 81% of the vote at the general election - and the Conservatives decided not to bother once Labour had put up another miner.

But other than the special case of the Speaker's seat - another convention which seems now to have gone by the wayside - there hasn't been an uncontested by-election in Great Britain since. (Geographical term carefully chosen. There have been a handful in Northern Ireland.)

If we had only two parties, uncontested elections might still happen in seats where one or other just isn't going to win. But in these days when publicity seeking fringe candidates will always stand, there's not much to be gained by the two main parties having such an agreement.

 
dr.bob
1383665.  Tue Jun 22, 2021 6:00 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
If that is indeed what happens, Sir Keir Starmer's P45 may not be long in coming.


I notice Andy Burnham's been making a lot of noise recently. Is he not-so-subtly positioning himself to make a move as soon as Sir Keir's P45 hits the doormat?

 
Brock
1383677.  Tue Jun 22, 2021 11:13 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
That's not happened since the 1940s. The convention arose during the World Wars, when it was felt improper to contest a by-election if the death had been as a result of enemy action.


There really seem to be very few definite conventions. When the Tory MP Ian Gow was assassinated by the IRA in 1990, the ensuing Eastbourne by-election was contested by all the parties, and won by the Liberal Democrats on a 20% swing. I was quite surprised about this at the time.

Yet the major parties, apart from Labour, agreed not to contest the 2016 Batley & Spen by-election arising from the assassination of Jo Cox. (There were nine fringe candidates, none of whom kept their deposits.)

 
suze
1383688.  Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:20 pm Reply with quote

That 1990 by-election was before I came to the UK, so I wasn't aware of it at the time.

But I'm reading that Labour had originally intended to stand aside in a riding where it would never expect to win, but changed its mind once it became clear that the LibDems would be running. The by-election became in effect a referendum on the Community Charge (aka poll tax) which had been introduced in England earlier that year, and the result of the by-election is claimed as one of the factors leading to Margaret Thatcher's resignation four weeks later.

 
CB27
1383704.  Wed Jun 23, 2021 5:18 am Reply with quote

Eastbourne was an anomaly, and I would lay the blame on Thatcher, because apart from the poll tax which ensured they were going to have a low turnout, what possibly swung it for the Lib Dems was that Thatcher decided to publicly mock the party and their supporters.

I think she singlehandedly increased support for the Lib Dems in several areas in her last year of office.

 
Alexander Howard
1383705.  Wed Jun 23, 2021 5:32 am Reply with quote

You have to be careful what you say in Eastbourne or you won't get out of the town alive - in fact, not many do get out of Eastbourne alive.

 
Brock
1383717.  Wed Jun 23, 2021 8:50 am Reply with quote

The thing that surprised me about Eastbourne wasn't that the Lib Dems won it, it was that they decided to contest it at all. It could have set a very dangerous precedent, encouraging the IRA to target other Tory MPs in the hope of destabilizing the Government. I've been generally supportive of the Lib Dems throughout my life but that was one decision of theirs I disagreed with.

 
CB27
1383729.  Wed Jun 23, 2021 12:32 pm Reply with quote

While I wasn't involved at all anywhere near Eastbourne, as someone very much involved with local campaigning in the 90s, I can tell you that I was never surprised by anything the Lib Dems did.

While in many places the contest tends to be between Labour and Conservatives, many campaigners got on and it was a healthy competition based on ideology and policies, but in many places there was a shared hatred of the Lib Dems and their tendency to do anything for a win, and their open animosity to anyone from any other party.

 
Brock
1383734.  Wed Jun 23, 2021 1:27 pm Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
In many places there was a shared hatred of the Lib Dems and their tendency to do anything for a win


Really? Eastbourne was the first by-election ever won by the Liberal Democrats.

 
CB27
1383777.  Thu Jun 24, 2021 7:42 am Reply with quote

And?

My point was about how campaigners on the ground would do go to some questionable lengths during campaigns, for all type of elections, it was not about the ones they won.

 
Brock
1383781.  Thu Jun 24, 2021 9:24 am Reply with quote

But the Liberal Democrats were a total disaster before the Eastbourne by-election. The party was formed in 1988 from a merger of the Liberals and the SDP (those members who didn't form their own breakaway party), and officially named the "Social and Liberal Democrats". They then adopted "Democrats" as a "short name", with the result that no one knew who they were. They lost 190 seats in the 1989 local elections and came fourth behind the Greens in the 1989 European elections. It was only after they voted to restore "Liberal" to the party's name that they started picking up votes again.

Not really a tactic designed to win votes at any cost!

 
PDR
1383783.  Thu Jun 24, 2021 9:56 am Reply with quote

I was a political canvasser/activist in the periods I was in the UK the 80s and 90s, and we always found that the majority of the "dirty tricks" came from the Libs/Lib-Dems. I don't suggest for a moment that it was a National policy, or even that the central party organisation was aware of it, but it happened.

It varied between fake claims on the doorstep (and in leaflets) and even some people misrepresenting themselves as canvassers from other parties in addition to general negative campaigning. I can remember being told on my own doorstep that the Labour Party had a firm plan to pull the UK out of NATO to join the Warsaw Pact, and that the Conservative Party were going to force Councils to sell their housing stocks to private landlords who would evict anyone who wouldn't pay commercial rents.

I think it was just that as they had always been the underdogs they felt entitled to pull these stunts to "redress the balance" - they were rather pompous people who seemed to think it was their right.

PDR

 
suze
1383790.  Thu Jun 24, 2021 11:20 am Reply with quote

I've only ever heard untrue statements of other parties' policies from Conservative canvassers, but that's hardly surprising since no other party even bothers to canvass around here. (Labour used to but no longer, UKIP used to but no longer, while the LibDems never did.)

"People misrepresenting themselves as canvassers from other parties" are committing a criminal offence, so call the police if that should ever be repeated.


But coming back to Eastbourne, I find it difficult to criticise a party for contesting a by-election that it thought - correctly, as it turned out - it could win.

While Conservative and Labour have both in the past claimed the moral high ground by sitting out when a by-election has been held in unfortunate circumstances, all they've really done is saved money by not contesting when they knew they couldn't win.

Neither of the two largest parties would do it if they thought they could win, so we can't really criticise other parties for standing in those circumstances.

 
barbados
1383795.  Thu Jun 24, 2021 11:37 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
I've only ever heard untrue statements of other parties' policies from Conservative canvassers, but that's hardly surprising since no other party even bothers to canvass around here. (Labour used to but no longer, UKIP used to but no longer, while the LibDems never did.)

That certainly suggests that you've only ever listened to the Conservative party.
There is plenty of truth in the saying "how do you tell when a politician is lying? - their lips are moving"

 
Brock
1383796.  Thu Jun 24, 2021 11:46 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:

But coming back to Eastbourne, I find it difficult to criticise a party for contesting a by-election that it thought - correctly, as it turned out - it could win.

While Conservative and Labour have both in the past claimed the moral high ground by sitting out when a by-election has been held in unfortunate circumstances, all they've really done is saved money by not contesting when they knew they couldn't win.

Neither of the two largest parties would do it if they thought they could win, so we can't really criticise other parties for standing in those circumstances.


In that case, why didn't the Tories contest the 2016 Batley & Spen by-election? They're widely tipped to win next week, so they would clearly have been in with a chance of winning five years ago. They would only have needed a 6% swing.

 

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