Weather's miserable. So time to read the Sunday newspapers - time to read the interpretations of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election result. Because this blog is usually written late in the evening rather than at dawn, it tends towards considered reflection on events, rather than the first reaction, which makes many other bloggers compulsive reading. My posts are often influenced by the early reaction of others.
The by-election result should not be looked at in isolation. It follows Labour's disastrous council election results, victory for Boris Johnson in London, and consistently poor opinion polls. The result was undoubtedly made worse by the ridiculous 'class war' campaign fought by Labour, a tactic which regrettably has caused great damage to the reputation of their candidate, Tamsin Dunwoody. Even if she is retained for the General Election, her crass tribal campaign has transformed her into badly damaged goods. So its not a one-off. It was part of a trend. Question now is whether the Labour 'movement' is just going to carry on driving down what looks like a downward spiral to defeat, or is there going to be some attempt to take control of the steering wheel. In particular, will there be a change of driver.
There's lots of discussion in today's papers about replacing Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, but at present, I just don't believe it. Of course, if things have not improved for Labour by October, it could well be a different story altogether. Today, most Labour MPs and activists still believe that the Party can recover in time to win a General Election. As time goes on, without improvement in Labour's prospects, this belief will gradually evaporate. The biggest impact of the by-election on Labour was that it accelerated the undermining of this belief in the prospect for recovery.
The result also had a big impact on my Party. It gave us confidence that we can win the next election. We've watched the opinion polls and the local elections over recent weeks, but this was a real Parliamentary by-election. Crewe and Nantwich was thought to be a rock solid Labour seat. And the Liberal Democrats, specialist by-election scavengers par excellence just sunk without trace. If Crewe and Nantwich is ready to vote for David Cameron as our Prime Minister, then most of Britain is. The result has created belief. Of course, there remains a huge amount of work and preparation ahead of us, but the by-election was an important milestone in belief-creation.
Now what does it mean for Wales? Devolution means that no longer can we accept 'For England, read Wales.' But there are important similarities. Rhodri Morgan's style is as tribal as Labour's by-election campaign. His whole demeanor in the National Assembly is similarly dismissive of opponents as that of Gordon Brown. And Labour is treating the First Minister role, as almost nothing to do with the voters. The First Minister is deciding on a retirement date that suits his own personal convenience, and his potential successors are just playing along with his personal wishes (except Huw Lewis that is). Voters didn't like the way Gordon Brown is orchastrating this, and they won't like the way Welsh Labour is treating the Welsh 'premiership' as their own fiefdom either. What we could really do with is a by-election in Wales to expose all this. All in all, its been a very good month for us, as long as we don't take anything for granted.