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Is Crewe the answer to Maguire and Kellner?

September 10th, 2008


    Does Brown really have a chance of saving the day?

There’s an interesting piece by Kevin Maguire of the Mirror quoting an as yet to be published article by Peter Kellner of YouGov suggesting that Labour might still have a chance.

The arguments are ones we have seen before – governments, it is said recover from mid-term lows and we all know that the Tories need a vote margin of 6% just to be equal on seats and a 10% gap for a majority.

Where I take issue with the two of them is on the lesson from the Tory victory in Crewe and Nantwich last May. Kellner points to the massive loss of Tory votes at Dudley West in 1994 which was on a far bigger scale than Labour’s loss in Crewe.

But where they are all making a huge mistake is judging by elections by percentage movements which can be distorted by very low turnouts. That happened in the 1994 case and Labour won its great victory even though it lost actual votes on its general election total two years earlier.

What was dramatic about Crewe was that turnout was nearly at general election levels and that the Tory vote in actual numbers rose from 14,162 in 2005 to 20,539. There has been no real precedent for this.

At Glasgow East in July the same thing happened to the SNP vote. It rose from 5,268 at the general election to 11,277 in the by election. Like Crewe turnout was not too far off the general election level.

These two results very much support the huge swing in the polling that we have seen since the March budget.

Yes Labour can recover and if they can get to 30% or more then it could be really interesting. But we are, I believe, heading for a general election where turnout is considerably up and based on the by elections the “new” voters will be coming out to oppose Labour.

Mike Smithson






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