JUST WILLIAM: Old Bexley and Sidcup

It’s the morning after – or the morning of – the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election, which was won – as everyone expected – by the Conservative candidate Louie French, who landed odds of 1/16. You may not have needed a crystal ball to predict that, but as I said yesterday on my constituency visit, the devil was in the detail.

The numbers:

Conservatives: 11,189 (Louie French elected)
Labour: 6,711
Reform: 1,432
Lib Dem: 647
Greens: 830

Conservatives: 51.5% (-13.1)
Labour: 30.9% (+7.4)
Reform: 6.6% (+6.6)
Green: 3.8% (+0.6)
Lib Dem: 3.0% (-5.3)

Conservative HOLD
Turnout: 34%
Majority: 4,478 (20.6%)

The late James Brokenshire had a majority of 18,952 after the 2019 election. His successor Louie French beat Labour by 4,478 votes, so the Tory majority has fallen by 14,474.

Background:

This is not a seat where you’d expect a shock – it’s always voted Tory. Just 22.6% of its electorate are graduates, It voted 62% Leave in the referendum, it has an 89% white population. And to top it off, it has a higher-than-average number of people aged over-65. If you’d asked the Tories to devise a seat purely for them to win.

Apathy and Disengagement in….. Sidcup

There’s nothing much like a good by-election to give a much-needed bit of perspective – namely the reminder that plenty of people don’t follow politics as much as I do.

The people of Sidcup were lovely and very helpful, but none were enthused about the election – indeed quite a few didn’t know it was taking place. A common response was the impression that their votes didn’t count, either in the sense of the safe seat, or indeed a government that will do as it likes anyway (something which felt loosely connected to Lockdown policies, although this is very anecdotal).

The Tory voters I spoke to (there weren’t many from other parties I could get a reading on) seemed lukewarm about the performance of the Government at the moment – and their frustration was mainly centred around Boris Johnson. These people however, didn’t rate Keir Starmer highly and didn’t appear to be set to switch anytime soon.

That’s not a surprise – this is a dyed in the wool seat that has only ever been Tory – but it’s another reminder that Labour cannot succeed only on Tory failure, and setting an agenda over the next year will be crucial. No awards here for guessing why Keir Starmer reshuffled his cabinet, even if I will die on the hill of the timing being awful (it was!)

Much Ado About…. Something

This is a result which is both something and nothing. It’s a bog-standard win for the Tories in a mid-term by-election with low turnout even considering those factors (it was very cold yesterday.

For both the Tories and Labour, there was something to take from the night. The Tories pointed to an easy defence where the swing against them was pretty bog standard for a by-election defence, whilst Labour will point to a nice swing in their favour.

Some commentators have noted the absence of the Lib Dems from campaigning – something which they say may be replicated in North Shropshire down the line. Such an approach could have a big effect in a future General Election, but beware – tactical voting was endorsed in 2019 in many places and did not work out as intended, most memorably in Kensington and Chelsea.

Another note on a future General Election – please, please don’t use yesterday’s results as a guide – and don’t listen to anyone from the Labour Party spinning the 10% swing line. For your own sake.

What’s next?

North Shropshire, a seat which has been well contested by the Libder Demcorat, who are looking for another by-election steal. Expect to see plenty of leaflets, posters, and bar charts over the next couple of weeks.

The Tories are 2/5 to hold the seat formerly held by Owen Paterson, and the Lib Dems are 7/4, a price which has crashed over the last few weeks. This is the one and only poll we’ve seen, which is postal only:

Questions and Answers:

Here’s some questions and answers for all those who got in touch as I was heading to Old Bexley and Sidcup yesterday.

Cracking trio from Chris here, and some testy ones too!

The LD’s have a competitive chance, although I’m not sure I’d want to take just 7/4 now given the demographics of North Shropshire.

The Cheltenham banker is Honeysuckle. A level above anything in her division.

Naughty Boy could be the value here.

Thing that pisses voters in OB&S off most: Boris Johnson. Also mentioned was the Christmas Party story broken by The Mirror, and general Government failures. But Johnson dominated

Things voters in OB&S are proudest of: Local businesses seemed to be a particular point of pride!

Nobody was getting a great response, because everyone was apathetic or frozen (in my experience).

Canterbury.

None discovered yet, but I am open to ideas!

2/5

William


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.


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