Labour regained one seat, helped by ‘pact’ with LibDems, but Wakefield result showed no signs of enthusiasm for Keir Starmer in a usually-Labour seat while LibDems again achieved massive swing in always-Tory Tiverton and Honiton
Supporters of Keir Starmer are rather desperately crowing that last night’s result in the Wakefield by-election was a validation of their idol’s electability and a sign that Nu-Labour is on its way to forming the next government. But a proper look at that result and the Tiverton and Honiton result on the same night suggests not.
Labour managed to get across the line in Wakefield, but with a drastically-reduced vote tally even compared to when it lost the seat in 2019: 13,166 vs 17,925 – in a contest triggered by the previous MP being convicted as a sex offender and despite the massive and ongoing scandals surrounding the Johnson government.
Even allowing for lower turnout in a by-election, it was a drab, damp performance in a seat Labour had held for a lifetime before the Brexit-driven loss of 2019, limping over the line rather than surging – despite the party’s informal ‘pact’ with the LibDems that saw the yellow party effectively stand aside to give Labour a clear run and picking up less than a third of the votes it took in 2019 – and demonstrating that voter apathy drove the Wakefield result rather than any enthusiasm for Keir Starmer or his ‘mini-me’ candidate.
But the real awfulness of the performance is seen when comparing it to Tiverton and Honiton, where the LibDems – in a seat that had previously only ever voted Tory since its creation – achieved a 30-point swing in a seat where they weren’t even in second place in 2019, drawing out voters in a far higher turnout than Wakefield and almost tripling the number of votes they managed at the last general election, despite lower by-election voter numbers.
The LibDems are unspeakable Tory-enablers, but Tiverton and Honiton is what a by-election surge looks like against politically and morally disgraced opponents, despite the LibDems’ uninspiring and Tory-tainted leader – not Wakefield.
Keir Starmer, by contrast, has the electoral appeal of a limp dishrag and still isn’t ahead of Boris Johnson in popularity despite Johnson’s endless lies and scandals – and Starmer doesn’t even bear comparison with the LibDems’ bland Ed Davey. Starmer is essentially Johnson without the personality, as his betrayal of all his leadership campaign promises shows – and if the hollow shell that used to be the Labour party wants to occupy Downing Street after the next general election, it can’t afford to fool itself that Wakefield was any more than the dampest of squibs.
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