Sunday, May 25, 2008

Refecting on Crewe and Nantwich.

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.


Alwyn ap Huw said...

What we could really do with is a by-election in Wales

You can't say that Glyn - its like wishing one of our elected representatives dead!

Did you have anybody in particular in mind?

Glyn Davies said...

alwyn - Don't want anyone to die. Perhaps decide to emigrate, or spend more time travelling, or take up an alternative career like being Mayor of London - and No, I dont have anyone in mind. On second thoughts, I don't think I do want a by election in Wales.

Activist said...


I have no idea what you are getting at here. Who do you think should determine Rhodri's retirement date? He has set out his stall two years in advance and there will be a competitive process toreplace hom. 18 months after that the voters in Wales will be able to choose between Labour with its new Leader and Nick Bourne and your party of the Conservative right. They will decide who truly has the interests of Wales at heart.

Personally I would be amazed if you get anymore of than the 1/5 to 1/4 of the vote that you ever get and that will be no mandate to govern.

The point is what are you suggesting as an alternative approach? Rhodri has a mandate (significantly bigger than the Tories), remains more popular in the polls than any alternative leader from other parties and has a stable coalition.

Can you set out your alternative stall please?

Glyn Davies said...

activist - I have never thought that leaders should announce their retirement dates without putting in place an immediate leadership election. I thought the Blair handover was a really bad move for Labour, and I think the assumption of office by a Labour AM, two years before the next Assembly election will prove disastrous for Labour in Wales. As soon as a leader starts talking about retirement dates, its time to go. Rhodri Morgan has sacrificed much of his authority. This was my opinion when I talked about it on Call to Order recently, and its my opinion now - but that's all it is.

Anonymous said...

nicely judged post glyn. right level of confidence. always remember that the voters dont like boastfulness and overconfidence. just work hard and listen to the people and youll win

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Does sound like Glyn is putting in 50+ hour working weeks (and for very little, if any, pay). Glyn is someone who clearly by nature is a hard worker. Glyn clearly wants to make a good difference.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - good advice.

Christopher - but where does work end when its your pleasure as well? And its probably the same for many people who catch the politics bug.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn, there's usually some kind of negative feedback mechanism in play!

Frank H Little said...

the Liberal Democrats, specialist by-election scavengers par excellence just sunk without trace.
Squeezed, but not as badly as we might have been. The voters chose the most likely candidate to get rid of Labour, and the personable Mr Timpson was he.

The fact that the Conservatives had no alternative to the Brown/Darling budget to put before the Crewe & Nantwich voters shows that it was an anti-Labour, rather than a pro-Tory, success.

It didn't help that the BBC presented the contest as a two-horse race from the start. The Corporation also took care that there was no Liberal Democrat on the "Question Time" panel, nor on the regular Sunday night political round-up on Radio 4, in the week before the contest.

Anonymous said...

What you do need Glyn is the strong backing of the Welsh Tories. Do they actually realise that this Mont seat is there for the taking? Do they get it as far as LO goes?? Unless they give you full support, you are on a much weaker wicket. You need to impress upon Cardiff/London that this seat is one you could win. The Libido Dems have no credibility in Montgomeryshire anymore.

Glyn Davies said...

Frank - Well I've published your defence. I don't think many people are claiming that there wasn't a big pro-Tory vote here - which is why this by-election was so significant. It hasn't happened for such a long time. But no-one in our party is under the illusion that there isn't still a huge amount of work to be done.

anon - I'm not sure what the Party at a national level thinks about our chances of winning in Montgomeryshire. I think we're in with a good chance, and I'll try my best to win. I believe that we're whats thought of as a 'longshot' target seat. It depends how much notice is taken of our success in the recent local government elections. Anyway, we'll be planning the next phase of the campaign this week, following a bit of a rest after the council election.