Friday, June 27, 2008

British Labour Party is blitzed in Henley by-election:What are the political implications?

  • John Howell (C) 19,796 (56.95%, +3.46%)

  • Stephen Kearney (Lib Dem) 9,680 (27.85%, +1.84%)

  • Mark Stevenson (Green) 1,321 (3.80%, +0.54%)

  • Timothy Rait (BNP) 1,243 (3.58%)

  • Richard McKenzie (Lab) 1,066 (3.07%, -11.68%)

  • Chris Adams (UKIP) 843 (2.43%, -0.07%)

This Henley by-election result is a further boost for David Cameron and the Conservatives. However too much should not be read into the outcome as this Oxfordshire seat, is natural Conservative territory. The Conservative candidate, John Howell, won with a majority of 10,116, a 3.46% increase on the Tory share of the vote in the 2005 General Election. Also the Tories have managed to get the Liberal Democrat monkey off their backs. Indeed many Liberal Democrat seats could fall to the rejuvenated Conservatives in the next General Election. So the Lib Dems have cause for worry also.

This is a humiliating defeat for the British Labour Party. Richard McKenzie the Labour candidate-who lost his deposit- even finished behind the extreme right British National Party and only just above UKIP. The Labour party vote is down –11.8% on the 2005 General Election.This electoral disaster for Labour comes just weeks after Mr Brown suffered heavy defeats in local elections, the London mayoral race, and the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. There is a danger for Brown that he will be perceived as a loser. However a leadership challenge is unlikely before the next General Election.

Clearly momentum is building up behind the Conservative Party. Gordon Brown has been unlucky since his accession to the leadership of the British Labour Party. His government has been hit by the international downturn, the collapse of the Northern Rock Bank, higher Government borrowing, slackening growth, higher food and oil costs. In addition he comes across as dour in marked contrast to David Cameron-the Tory leader. Also there is probably an element of English unhappiness with the fact that Brown is Scottish. This is generally not expressed publicly but is there in the background. Gordon Brown appears to lack energy and dynamism. It is as if his years as Chancellor and his obsession with securing the leadership of the Labour Party have sapped his vitality.

A Conservative victory is by no means assured in the next General Election. The party will struggle to make seat gains in Wales, Scotland and Northern England. However it is now a strong possibility.

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