Crewe and Nantwich

Only one day to go till London and the local elections, but let’s have a quick break to discuss Crewe and Nantwich, the by-election for which is to be called on the 22nd May.

On paper Crewe and Nantwich is quite a distant target for the Conservatives. On its existing boundaries it requires a swing of just over 8% for the Conservatives to gain it, that’s the equivalent of a thirteen point lead in the national polls, so around the level some of the pollsters are indeed showing the Tories at in recent polls.

Historically we’ve seen bigger swings in by-elections than one sees at general elections – governments normally do badly in by-elections and pull back when it gets to actual elections. On paper, therefore, this should be a Conservative gain, no problem. In practice there are a couple of hurdles in the way of that.

While the regional breaks in individual polls aren’t reliable enough to tell whether a party is doing better or worse in a particular region, pollsters do occassionally publish aggregated results which give us a firmer picture of how the parties are performing in different regions and they’ve consistently shown the Conservatives performingly most strongly in the South and somewhat less so in the North. The pattern is similar to some degree in local elections – though there is it Yorkshire where the Conservatives are manifestly not performing as well as elsewhere, there are plenty of places in the North-west where they have produced some strong showings. Either way, if the Conservative’s aren’t doing as well in the North as in the South Crewe and Nantwich looks a somewhat harder task. On the other hand, Gwyneth Dunwoody was a particularly respected MP, so past elections probably include a strong personal vote for her which will now be up for grabs.

Secondly there is the strong Conservative track record at being hopeless at by-elections. To some degree that is because they haven’t had many good opportunities, very few by-elections have occured in seats where the Conservatives have a realistic chance of winning, but even in by-elections in their own seats they have shown themselves inept (Bromley and Chislehurst anyone?). In contrast the Liberal Democrat machine is finely honed. In by-elections in government held seats where the electorate wants to give the government a kicking the campaign is often about the parties positioning themselves as the best party to deliver it. Since the Lib Dems have a reputation for pulling off spectacular by-election gains, and the Conservatives – to put it kindly – don’t, this is somewhat easier for the Lib Dems.

In this case the Liberal Democrats are in a distant third place and while the Conservatives look almost certain to keep their existing candidate Ed Timpson, the Lib Dems previously selected candidate has stood down (as I understand is the norm for Lib Dem candidates in seats where a by-election occurs) and – since he lived in Derbyshire giving opponents an open goal to shoot at – I expect they’ll pick someone new to carry the flag. This time the Conservatives do at least have a head start in making sure they are recipients of anti-government votes, but we shouldn’t underestimate the Liberal Democrat’s skill at by-elections and the Conservatives’ weakness.

Who does win this by-election is important. One party or the other will already have their tails up from taking or retaining the London mayoralty. If the Conservatives win it will be a huge boost to them, give them great momentum and will be painted as a groundbreaking achievement after 26 years without a by-election gain. If they lose their opponents will say that it proves they aren’t doing well enough to win a majority at the next election, they aren’t doing well enough outside the south and their support in the polls fades away when people get to the ballot box. This one will undoubtedly be built up as a big test for Cameron, so it he fails it it will dent his momentum.

For Labour, if they hold the London mayoralty and then hold Crewe and Nantwich it will be building into a nice perception of fighting back. If they loose both they are going to really look as though they are on the ropes. Finally for the Lib Dems, unless they chose to build them up themselves there shouldn’t be any expectations for them to live up to – they are in a distant third place and needn’t risk their reputation on this one. The problem is that by-elections are the life blood of the Liberal Democrats, the elixir that gives them publicity, momentum and show that Lib Dems can indeed “win here”. Everyone that they don’t win is a missed opportunity.

UPDATE: The Lib Dems have announced their candidate, she (and other candidates as they turn up) is on the Crewe and Nantwich page here. Another thought, the writ for the by-election was issued on Wednesday and, 15 days afterwards ignoring bank holidays and weekends, polling day on the 22nd May is the earlier day possible to hold it. What this means is practice is that the Conservatives won’t be able to call the Henley by-election on the same day – the soonest it could be done is the following week.

45 Responses to “Crewe and Nantwich”

  1. Good piece.

    PoliticalBetting seems to be calling it as an easy Tory win but I think you’re right that it’s more complex than that, however even if Labour do hold it I suspect the press story will be about the slashed majority rather than the Conservatives failing to take the seat (which given the political climate and polls I’d have thought should be).

  2. Alot will depend on how previous Labour voters give the Govt a kicking (if they want to). Will it be to stay at home or vote LibDem?

  3. I understand there is a fair amount of anger at the local council being abolished, so this may skew the election slightly against Labour but somehow I think will hold it, just.

  4. I would imagine that Crewe itself will continue to turn in a Labour majority but Nantwich and the rest of the seat will be heavily Tory and should be able to narrowly give the seat to the Tories.

  5. Even if Lib Dems do do well, I think they will take the votes form Labour tbh. Conservative voters here will know that their best chance of unseating Labour will be to vote Tory, not Lib Dem, as it is in some other places.

  6. Lukw,

    But a move from Lab to Lib closes the gap by one (it’s essentially a lost Labour vote), a move from Lab to Con closes the gap by two (the lost labour vote and the gained Tory vote).

    Conservative voters will know to vote Tory, that’s not in doubt, what’s in doubt is where do the disenfrancised Labour voters go.

    Remember there are people across the labour voting spectrum who are ****ed off with the party at the moment and if you’re annoyed about the 10p rate of tax, ID cards and 42 day detention, the chances are that (while Cameron has opposed serveral of these positions) you’re not a natural Tory.

    These people can vote Tory, vote LibDem or stay at home. How they split will be key

    Oh, and there’s a UKIP candidate who could syphon Tory support (though I’d imagine given the high the Tories are on right now that will be minimal).

  7. Cheshire has not been too bad for the Tories, compared to some other parts of the “North”. They had a very good result in the City of Chester constituency in 2005 and won a potentially tricky by-election in Eddisbury during Hague’s tenure. But the ability of the LibDems to surprise should not be overlooked: Bromley & Chislehurst and Dunfermline West showed what they can do.

  8. Jon H

    if you’re annoyed about the 10p rate of tax, ID cards and 42 day detention, the chances are that (while Cameron has opposed serveral of these positions) you’re not a natural Tory.

    I’m not so sure about that. A natural Tory surely doesn’t support increasing taxes for the lowest paid, and ID cards and 42 day detention can be attacked from various positions – including libertarian and a straightforward “conservative” attachment to traditional liberties.

  9. Phil C,

    You may have a point.

    Where I was coming from was that in the cases of 42 day detention and ID Cards that while the Conservative party presently opposes these (which I’d mark down in part as political opportunism but then as far as I’m concerned that’s the only reason David Cameron does anything :wink:), they’re things which could be seen as law and order positions which would have been the mainstay of the Conservatives in days gone past.

    I’m sure that you’d agree that there are as many “disciplinarian” Conservatives as libertarians?

    The point I was trying to make is that there are a bunch of people who voted Labour who are actually pissed off with them because they’ve abandoned their principals and moved too far right. Those people are unlikely to rebel by voting Conservative.

  10. John H-your last paragraph is interesting.

    You are talking about proper Socialists, or “Old” Labour I think.

    Surely those people knew when they bought into Blair’s post Clause4, Third Way, Triangulation weeze , that what they thought of as Socialism had been abandoned by the New Labour Party?

    This whole New Labour debacle is very interesting. What is the so-called Labour “core” vote we hear so much about in today’s context-or should I say who is it?
    Is there really a “core vote” for that most esoteric of concepts , The Third Way?
    It can’t be the people you are talking about-unless they simply grit their teeth & vote Labour come what may.Yes there must be many of those-and they will have to go on doing it for they have no other home.

    ….Unless a post Brown Labour Party in opposition goes back to it’s Socialist roots-then they would have someone to vote for.

    If Cameron’s Conservatives can gain power, and govern successfully as One Nation Tories, then he can do to the Labour Party what Blair so nearly did to the Conservative Party.

    Clearly though we will need to find out if David Cameron -in power-is the vacuous political poser which you consider him to be.
    I think you’re wrong about him-and sincerely hope that you are because I voted for one of those in 1997-& look where that got me!

  11. Colin,

    They knew what Blair was doing but they had no choice, he was the lesser of two evils.

    You move to the centre ground and win that – even if you screw your core support it doesn’t matter because they have no choice but to support you. If you’re the labour party and you piss off a socialist you don’t care, he’s never going to vote Tory and while he might stay at home enough of them will grit their teeth and vote for you anyway because you don’t like Blair but at least he’s not a Tory.

    Similarly Cameron is moving back to the centre, doing all sorts of things the blue rinse brigade don’t much care for because he knows that they aren’t going to vote for anyone else anyway however much they moan. Sure a few of them will go to UKIP (and the BNP) but few enough of them will be in marginal seats that the benefit outweighs the damage.

    Clinton did it, the guy down in Australia did it pre-Blair (name escapes me). Shaft your own guys because they don’t have a choice.

    Cameron won’t destroy the Labour party in the same way that Blair could never destroy the Conservative party. There are enough people who believe in left or centre left ideals that the labour party will never die and there are enough people who believe in centre right / right ideals that the Tories will never die. The parliamentary party might be in disarray for a while but that’s a very different thing.

    A few Conservatives are getting very over excited at the moment about ruling for decades but I don’t understand why

    The lead right now is more about people being bored with a tired goverment that has lost it’s way and is interested in a charismatic young opposition leader.

    It’s not idiological (hell, with Cameron it can’t be idiological) – maybe for you and a few others on here it is but the population aren’t thinking like that.

    Think honestly about how Cameron is going to look in 10 years time when he’s no longer got the novelty factor, where he’s got a few hard but necessary decisions hung round his neck from a couple of terms in office (and a few mistakes because he’s human), when the opposition have stopped bickering and regrouped, when the general public have stopped looking at the fact they’ve basically had it OK for a few years and are thinking “what have you done for me lately” (which the press pick up on because, hey, it shifts papers). How invulnerable you think they’ll really look.

    Thatcher fell, Blair fell, Cameron will fall but they don’t take their parties with them.

  12. I just typed a big post and it’s gone… I’ll see if it appears when I get home, if not I’ll redo it.

    Incidentally, I know someone who worked with Cameron when he was working in TV. They swear that what you see now – great presentation, poor substance – is him through and through. And this person is a tory voter, centre right – the sort of person who basically should be lapping him up.

    I don’t think he’ll be a disaster incidentally, I just think he’ll be Blair – doesn’t really do much but talks about it a lot.

  13. Colin
    “Unless a post Brown Labour Party in opposition goes back to it’s Socialist roots-then they would have someone to vote for.”

    I agree they would have someone to vote for but would a leftist socialist party ever be electable in 21st century Britain? – I doubt it.

    “I don’t think he’ll be a disaster incidentally, I just think he’ll be Blair – doesn’t really do much but talks about it a lot.”

    I dissagree with you about DC but even if you’re right if he wins 3 GEs like Blair then he will be doing something right.

  14. Is there not another by-election factor that works strongly in the Conservatives’ favour?

    The death of an incumbent, especially a longstanding one, means the loss of a sizeable personal vote. Seats with longstanding MPs are often to some extent “apolitical” (outside of landslide territory) because they will attract so many votes from people who wouldn’t normally give their party a second look.

  15. The BEST and most accurate comment on here is from LUKEW – He said :- “Even if Lib Dems do do well, I think they will take the votes form Labour tbh. Conservative voters here will know that their best chance of unseating Labour will be to vote Tory, not Lib Dem, as it is in some other places”

    [edited out partisan stuff – AW]

    I reckon that Crewe & Nantwich may well go down as the first Tory bi-election win for decades – because the Liberals will be fighting for themselves and not telling people to vote tactically.

    For others above who commented on the UKIP party getting some Labour votes – don’t forget that there are other bi-election candidates too that will syphon off the Labour vote like the BNP.

    [Mike – you know you’ve been cut some slack as a “local character”, that brings with it a resonsibility not to cross the line, so tone it down – AW]

  16. Anthony,

    It may be just me but given yet another of Mike’s “Labour Eat Babies” rants, I think you’ve maybe cut him about all the slack he’s entitled too.

    I can take the predictions and the general responses but the block capital kicks at anything bad in the world being down to labour are getting a bit of an embarrassment for the site.


  17. Evening All

    Only found this site the other day; the day before it changed, when I came back the next day I had to work out what the hell was going on. All good fun. Anyways great site lots of useful info.

    1 point & 1 question

    Point ~ there could be an election in Henley soon, which would the GB woes!


    I have often wondered what happened to the MP’s that have crossed the House ie changed parties mid term? There have been some notable (so notable I can’t remember there names!!) ones since the last election. But what are there chances of being (re)selected by their new party & what of their chances with the electorate (sp)?

    Mike S

  18. Here here. Perhaps the ‘Orifice’ needs blocking, until its language tones down…

  19. It’s hard to say whether the Tories will gain this, as the national polls can’t always run along the lines with the low turnout at by-elections, however, a decent increase in votes i’m sure. And can we please keep the Oracle a little more until after the local elections? I’d love to hear his reaction no matter how well or bad the Tories have done!

  20. This by-election should be Conservative. The Nantwich area and the national polls should deliver it for them by around 5-7%. They will struggle to hold the seat in a General Election though – even if they poll strongly, Labour is fairly likely to reverse the result by around 2,000.

  21. Mike, there’s no such thing as “FREE SPEECH” on a private site. If you want to rant and rave all you like, create your own blog, that is your right to free speech, not a blanket right to shout on Anthony’s site.

  22. Jon H

    Thanks for your response.
    The proper Labour Party needs people like you-stay with it.

    Re. DC-we will have to wait & see how he shapes up in power( if indeed he achieves it).
    I think he will govern as a Conservative-and that’s all I need.
    If he can address the dire problems of social schism in all it’s guises & consequences,as Thatcher addressed Union stranglehold on Industry, that will be more than enough for any PM.

    Maybe ten years is the limit, after which all new brooms need a replacement head?

  23. Re the above. I do not have a lot of time for any aspect of American politics but I do approve of the idea that the Head of Government gets two terms and that’s it. I would heartily approve if the law/ (constitution, if we had one) of the UK said a Prime Minister gets two terms of Parliament and then must resign from being an MP and not be shifted into the House of Lords. Two terms is enough for anyone–if they want more they haven’t worked hard enough before and so should be removed anyway! And it would reinvigorate the governing party. They can then go away and make a fortune giving speeches.

  24. I do wish that people would stop using this phrase about how the electorate might ‘give the government a kicking’. With people being kicked to death in the streets every other week, it seems, this is in poor taste. No civilised person would think of giving anyone or anything ‘a kicking’. My plea is that any self-respecting journalist or commentator should desist.

  25. DC as Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus? I like the idea but is there anyone so noble today?

  26. D. Denver:

    Should we not refer to candidates being ‘beaten’ or to election ‘battles’ either? We may risk offending victims of domestic violence or war widows.

  27. Good post, as usual.

    Crewe and Nantwich is being ramped up as an easy Tory win possibly by over eager Tories or by Brownies trying to create a trap for the Tories.

    Richard – Personal vote is often replaced by a sympathy vote though calling the by election before GD is in the ground may negate that.

  28. Indeed. I wouldn’t want to assume an easy win here for the Tories. Labour may be trying to set a trap for us if we find it’s still very marginal – even at the moment. But, actually, I think it is.

  29. Colin,

    While I disagree with term limits per se, I think you’re right, 10 years is about all one person can contribute before becoming stale. Sensible parties looking at recent politics should think when they’re planning about the third term (not necessarily before the first one) and how do they keep it fresh.

    Curiously I’m not strictly Labour. I’d class myself centre left and have voted at assorted times Labour, Lib Dem and Green, but I think the principals apply. Right now I think I just have the slightly irrational distrust of David Cameron Tories had of Tony Blair. Possibly I should learn from history and ignore it, after all, Blair was never what the skeptics feared. In another life he’d have been a conservative.

  30. Freedom of Speech may have disappeared from this pro Labour site –
    but the majority have spoken in the UK last night – 44% Tory / 24% Labour – maybe the “Oracle” should have been listened to – instead of being GAGGED apparently !!

  31. Jon H

    Well I think Blair did have a touch of the “shallow salesman” -even according to Lord Cashpoint it seems.

    If DC turns out to be of the same ilk at least you can say we were warned-& so can GB!

  32. Results for new Cheshire East Unitary are now up on their site. These indicate that Labour have six Councillors (all in Crewe itself) as against 15 Con, 2 LD and 1 independant in the wards that make up Crewe & Nantwich. Labour only won Crewe East outright (by an average of 450)with the other wards split (2 Lab/C, 1 Lab/LD with Con about 700 behind.) All the outer wards show Con majorities of >1000. In other wards, had the by-election been held on Thursday it would have been a convincing Tory gain.

    Of course things may change in the next three weeks, but if Tories fail to win this by-election that could raise some questions.

  33. Paul H-J
    Yes Crewe & Nantwich looks promising for the Tories but you are making a big mistake by saying had the by-election been held on Thursday it would “have been a convincing gain”. Had the parties fought a by-election
    the parties would have put a lot more effort into the constituency and probably turn-out would have been a lot higher and the result “may” have been a lot different!

  34. I think you can pretty much count on the fact that Gordy will try and pull something out of the bag with regards to 10p tax within the next couple of weeks. He is on the ropes big style with this at the moment. If not he is possibly facing a commons defeat on the budget courtesy of Mr Field and his friends.
    Whether this will be enough to negate the anti – government vote in C & N I am not sure.
    I think the Labour spinners will set this up as an easy Tory gain with a 3-5 K majority, so when it isnt that they can call it as a failure for DC !! Mind you these were the same people that were saying the Tories must gain 200 seats in the locals, believing they would achieve no where near that!!! And what did it turn out to be in the end – 257 or something like that !!
    I am interested to hear anyones thoughts on the difference to the likely resul Tamsin Dunwoody could make, should she win the Labour nomination.

  35. Dunwoody belonged in the 70s I have been waiting since 1983 for a real chance to make a change in Crewe and Nantwich to vote tory.We have moved on from the stereo-typed view of this area i.e. working class railway town. Thats all history we need some one proud of the area to move us on why for example is there never any mention of the lagest employer in the area Bentley motors?

  36. Edward Timpson, was selected as the Conservative candidate by winning an open primary, will that work in his favour?

  37. Labour picking a Welsh Authority reject doesn’t sound like a smart decision to me given the drubbing Labour got there.

  38. I think Brown is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

    If he tries to tough it out over 10p then he is arrogant and doesn’t listen. If he changes course he’s weak and buckles under pressure.

    For Cameron who has used both attacks to his advantage against Brown in the past it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.


  39. Peter,

    I don’t think it matters what GB does now because he has no room for manoeuvre either politically or economically.

    He is clearly seen as “damaged goods” by the elctororate now. Labour don’t have any chance in the next GE with him in charge no matter what happens to economy.

    The Labour party lack the political will to replace GB and seem to be sleepwalking to a big election defeat at the next GE.

    I can’t believe the polls can get much worse for Labour but then I can’t see them getting much better either.

  40. This is an interesting comment.

    Firstly, a housekeeping request, Tony. I am glad you have posted this separate comment. There is a problem with the constituency section entries for Crewe and Nantwich simply because there are now so many comments, and presumably will be more until, and just after, the bye-election. Is it possible to have a separate bye-election section, and then start afresh after the bye-election for any comments relating to prospects in Crewe and Nantwich for 2010?

    Turning to substance. Firstly, it is an issue that this bye-election has been called so quickly. There is a problem with the convention that people don’t start campaigning until after a dead MPs funeral becuase these days, in society generally and not becuase of the political world, there is often, perhaps usually, a longer interval between the death and the funeral than in the past (in part because of the general practice of embalming). My personal view is that this social change is undesirable, but given it is the case there is a need for a convention as to a minimum period before a bye-election is called, just as there is a convention that such elections will be called within a reasonable period – a generation ago there were some excessive delays.

    Secondly, Tony’s comments about the Lib Dems efficiency compared to Tory inefficiency at bye-elections is interesting, but I am not sure how relevant they are in connection with Crewe. The recent local election results nationally, and in Cheshire, show that all the momentum is with the Tories. This bye-election looks like a two horse race.

    Thirdly, I agree with other comments here and for Crewe and Nanatwich in the constituency section that Labour’s selection of Mrs. Dunwoody’s daughter may backfire. Labour’s parade of leading figures, including Hilary Benn, the Millibands and (a few years ago) Mandelson nationally, as well as the candidate in this seat, whose parents were prominent figures in the labour movement begins to suggest that they are becoming a hereditary clique, which for a once egalitarain idealistic party helps emphasise how Labour has lost its way. Which is no recommendation to voters.

    Fourthly, it would be a major recovery for Labour now just to hold this seat. If I bet on politics, which I do not, I would want very good odds to make even a modest bet on a Labour win. But conversely, the Tories will be somewhat damaged now if they do not meet the expectation that they will win easily a seat which, until the Labour rout last Thursday, was very much a borderline marginal according to the April polls.

    The Tories will have to expend a lot of shoe leather canvassing.

  41. Hi All

    According to the local paper ~ Crewe & Nantwich Guardian there may not be a Conservative candidate!!!



  42. May I congratulate my party for (eventually) making the right decision on the 10p tax thing. If only they’s done that sooner.

    Could this possibly make a difference to the Crewe and Nantwich vote? It would be a shame if naked electioneering didn’t work. :)

    Mike S, the link’s been changed now, for 1 second you had me really excited.

  43. Crewe & Nantwich will be a very tight election even though the news is still not good for Brown – all 3 parties will be out in force pounding the streets – if Labour get their vote out , they may scrape through – but it will be a tight one !

  44. Not to do with Crewe and Nantwich, but my reaction on hearing about the income tax changes was to wonder why, if he could conjure over £2 billion out of a hat (or rather by increased borrowing), Brown does not choose to afford support care for the elderly in England comparable to that in Scotland. Not to speak of why the day before he was talking about the unaffordability of future needs for the elderly.

    Turning this to Crewe and Nantwich, my guess is that the U-turn on the 10% business will get a few votes back, but not enough from a Labour point of view. Once things have gone sour for a Party people look at the negative side of things, as my attitude exemplifies, rather than change their minds back in respnse to favours.

    I agree with Mike Robertson, but I think after recent local elections and polls Labour will have done well from their point of view if they manange to retain Crewe and Nantwich.

  45. Mike “the oracle” Richardson wrote
    “Crewe & Nantwich will be a very tight election even though the news is still not good for Brown – all 3 parties will be out in force pounding the streets – if Labour get their vote out , they may scrape through – but it will be a tight one !”

    I’m sure that’s one prediction you don’t mind being wrong about!