UK North Shropshire by-election minus two days

Conservatives slumping in polls over sleaze scandals. Also: coverage of developments in the US, France, Germany and New Zealand.

Live Commentary

3:55pm The Lib Dems have GAINED North Shropshire by more than a 15% margin over the Conservatives. This will be very bad for Johnson’s standing among Conservative MPs, but it was hardly a good result for Labour; their vote was down over 12% from 2019.

1:28pm Friday: Turnout in North Shropshire is 46.3%, down 21.6% on the 2019 general election. A Lib Dem source is claiming they will win by at least 1,000 votes.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

A UK parliamentary by-election will occur in Conservative-held North Shropshire, with polls closing at 9am AEDT Friday. This seat has voted Conservative at every election since the 1830s, and voted Leave at the 2016 Brexit referendum by 60-40. In 2019, the Conservatives won by 63-22 over Labour with 10% for the Liberal Democrats. Despite finishing third, the Lib Dems are seen as bigger threats in the by-election.

Local MP Owen Paterson resigned in early November after it was found he breached paid advocacy rules by working for two companies. The Conservative government initially protected him by overruling the independent commission, but was forced into a u-turn by a public backlash. The initial protection was a blunder as it drew attention to other shady practices by Conservative MPs.

The 2020 Downing Street Christmas party, held during lockdown, has further damaged the Conservatives. Even normally pro-Conservative newspapers savaged Boris Johnson. An Opinium poll had Johnson’s net approval crashing 14 points to -35, from what was already a record low approval in late November, and 57% said he should resign.

From January, the Conservatives held a significant lead, but fell into a tie with Labour after the Paterson fiasco. The Christmas party scandal has given Labour a high single-digit lead, with ten polls in the last week having Labour ahead by 4-9 points. Nigel Farage’s Reform UK is up to 7% in two polls owing to opposition to vaccine mandates.

A by-election was held in Old Bexley last fortnight, with the Conservatives retaining by a 51.5-30.9 margin over Labour, down from 64.5-23.5 in 2019. 99 Conservative MPs rebelled against vaccine mandates for entry to large venues in a Commons vote Tuesday, and it was only carried with Labour support. Left-wing Labour MPs and the Lib Dems were also opposed.

US: Democrats make legislative progress, but Biden’s ratings still poor

Shortly after Democrats’ dire performance in the November 2 Virginia and New Jersey elections, the US House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIB) by 228-206, with 13 Republicans supporting while six left-wing Democrats were opposed owing to decoupling from the Democratic infrastructure bill (DIB). The BIB had already passed the Senate, so it became law with Joe Biden’s signature.

Later in November, the House passed the DIB, and this can pass the Senate with a simple majority using “reconciliation”. While Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are concerns for their party in a 50-50 Senate, it’s likely the DIB will pass by early next year. Congress has also averted an early December government shutdown and a mid-December debt limit default.

Biden’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate have improved slightly in the last fortnight to 50.7% disapprove, 43.3% approve (net -7.4). His ratings are poor owing to US inflation, which was up 0.8% in November for a 12-month rate of 6.8%, the highest since 1982. As a result, real wages were down 1.9% over the last 12 months.

French, German and New Zealand developments

The first round of the French presidential election will be held April 10 with a runoff between the top two candidates on April 24 in the likely event nobody wins a first round majority. After winning the nomination for the conservative Les Republicains on December 4, Valérie Pécresse has surged in the polls to be just ahead of the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, behind incumbent Emmanuel Macron. In runoff match-ups, Macron easily leads Le Pen, but is barely ahead of Pécresse.

On December 8, more than two months after the September 26 German election, a new government was formed. The government will be a coalition of the centre-left SPD, the Greens and the pro-business FDP, and will have a combined 416 of the 736 parliamentary seats. The conservative CDU/CSU had been a party of government for the previous 16 years under former chancellor Angela Merkel.

A New Zealand Morgan poll, conducted during November, had Labour and the Greens trailing National, ACT and Maori by a combined 47-46.5, the first time Labour plus Greens have trailed since before COVID hit. The right-wing ACT won just 0.5% of the party vote at the 2017 election, but surged to 7.6% in 2020, and was up to a record 17.5% in this poll.

24 comments on “UK North Shropshire by-election minus two days”

  1. North Shropshire is going to be very funny no matter what happens. If Lib Dems win it’ll only happen with a massive swing of former Labour voters, and further prove the utter redundancy if not complete vacuousness of the entire Starmer project. If Labour wins (most unlikely outcome) it’ll prove the Lib Dems were once again lying about internal polls to voters worried about vote splitting, just like they did in Kensington and other constituencies in the 2019 GE. If the Conservatives win it’ll prove the UK as perhaps the single most servile and politically cucked constituency on the planet.

    Labour’s choice of candidate is very interesting. He might actually be worse than the guy they ran in Hartlepool. A 20-something Oxbridgian, quintessential briefcase-Labour, who seems to have never had a real job outside of staffing for politicians- and in fact interned for Owen Patterson himself. Really speaks to the quality of candidates that Labour’s new, totally-not-completely-factional selection process has curated.

    I’m tipping the Lib Dems for the win. For whatever reason, they absolutely love pouring party resources into largely meaningless by elections, and Tory polls are in the doldrums. Props to them though: compared to Labour, who’ve been butchering their volunteer base with gleeful abandon for factional reasons, the Lib Dems have managed to maintain very high enthusiasm among their membership, and you can see on twitter that their people are driving hundreds of kilometres to knock on doors in N Shropshire. That’s how I knew they were in for a real chance in Chesham and Amersham, and the same seems to be happening here.

    The best outcome would be Johnson’s enemies in the Conservative Party using this as the final pretext for a spill. Their outriders in the media have been laying the groundwork for weeks now. The only thing is I doubt any of them are willing to be saddled with the blame now that Omicron is completely out of control, and besides, if it’s a choice between taking flak for righting the ship during a political storm OOH, and jumping on a lifeboat and living to mutiny another day, a Tory will always choose what’s best for themselves. But the second Johnson’s gone, the media will immediately return to heel and the Tories’ polling will rebound like a slingshot.

  2. The first past the post voting system is undemocratic and should have no place in 21st century democracies such as the UK, USA or anywhere else. The best option: one that gives a good and fair representation to the whole voting community is a preferential combination of electorates plus a “party list” representation based on the % of first preference votes received by the contesting political parties. Such an approach is used to good advantage in New Zealand, Germany, Scotland’s national Assembly.

  3. Robert says:
    Thursday, December 16, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    “The first past the post voting system is undemocratic and should have no place in 21st century democracies such as the UK, USA or anywhere else.”

    Absolutely right.
    It encourages a vote against your least favourite option rather than one for your favourite.

    An anachronism.

  4. It’s no coincidence that two of the most flawed democracies in the Western World – the UK and the US – are also some of the oldest. Both are in desperate need of being reformed to 21st century standards.

  5. @ Furtive

    No mention that the Tory candidate isn’t a local and is apparently so bad they have stopped him doing media appearances and isn’t getting a good reception on the doorsteps?

    The situation is so dire that even Tory MPs have said that they wrote off winning weeks ago even before all the stuff about last years christmas parties came to prominence.

    I do agree though that this is a seat the Lib Dems can win but more because the Tories lost it through Tory voters sitting on their hands and simply not going out to vote than a huge upsurge in their support.

  6. Given Labour’s track record of coming second here it is strange that if the Tories do lose it it will almost certainly be to the LibDem but this has happened before I’m sure

    By way of a contrast, the current Nowcast (a Nate Silver type model) run by predicts that in a GE today the result would be 47%/31%/8% Con/Lab/LibDem and a majority of 9000 compared to the 2019 GE result of 63%/22%/10% and majority of 23000

  7. LibDems released internal polling showing Con 40%, LDem 39%, Lab 12% on December 11th

    Labour released internal polling showing Con 40%, Lab 33%, LDem 11% on December 15th

    We’ll have the real numbers soon so we can adjudicate on the huge twitter fight between Lab and LDem supporters about splitting the vote 🙂

    ETA : Leaked to twitter rather than released would be more correct

  8. It’s a big rural seat this one

    2 hours 29 minutes after polls closed and the local council has just announced that all ballot boxes have been received at the counting centre

  9. 46.3% turnout. Down over 21% from the 2019 General Election.

    IMHO that would be bad for the Tories – their voters staying at home.

    Lib Dems claiming a 4 figure majority

    Bad for Boris.

  10. Lib Dem gain from Con

    Majority of 5,925

    Vote share 47.2% Lib Dem (+ 37.2% over 2019)

    Tory 31.6% (down 31.1% over 2019)

    34.2% swing to Lib Dem’s from Tory.

  11. Huge win for the Lib Dems, huge loss for Johnson and nearly as big a loss for Starmer.

    Probably the best result that could have been hoped for but still remains to be seen if Truss/Sunak/whoever else actually nuts up and challenges him (not that I expect them to be any less disastrous in the premiership). They might just end up wringing their hands for a few months as Johnson’s polls recover naturally, as the Times and the tv networks get bored and realise that even just pretending to be journalists is a lot harder than being handfed ‘scoops’ and column pitches from No.10.

    Looking forward to the results of the May local elections. All signs point to more Lib Dem gains and probably Green gains as well. It’s mostly a question of whether they’re at the expense of the Conservatives, Labour, or both.

  12. No loss for Starmer and Labour at all. Clearly they ran dead. Only a person with a severe mental deficit would think that Labour could win this Welsh seat. It is Tory deepest blue and has been for over 200 hundred years. Labour voters have voted tactically to give the blonde buffoon a black eye.

  13. @ Clem – It’s NOT a Welsh seat. It’s in England.

    @ Furtive – Labout were never going to win this seat. Starmer is not at risk.

    18.5k voters didn’t vote in the by-election that voted in 2019. I’m assuming most of those were turned off Tories. If a 1/3 of them had voted Tory they would have eeked out a win and the headlines this morning would have been very different.

    I think a few more no confidence in Boris letters will be delivered to Sir Graham Brady over the weekend.

  14. Clem, they didn’t run dead. They just ran a bad campaign, like they have in every election Starmer has presided over. If only idiots think that Starmer could win Tories and Liberal Democrats, even in seats where Labour had double the LD’s vote at the last election, then it belies the entire point of Starmer’s leadership is, doesn’t it?

    Chris, if they weren’t going to win then it’s for exactly the same reason.

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