Saturday, 5 March 2011
Voters Desert Lib Dems in Barnsley Central
Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724 (60.80%, +13.53%)
Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953 (12.19%, +7.53%)
James Hockney (C) 1,999 (8.25%, -9.01%)
Ends Dalton (BNP) 1,463 (6.04%, -2.90%)
Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266 (5.23%, +3.58%)
Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012 (4.18%, -13.10%)
Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544 (2.25%)
Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 198 (0.82%)
Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60 (0.25%)
Lab majority 11,771: Turn out 36.5%
The opinion polls have been foretelling it, but in the Barnsley central by election, we now have solid evidence of the collapse in the Lib Dem vote. Their vote plummeted by over 13% compared to the general election here less than a year ago, finishing in a humiliating sixth place, behind not only Labour and the Tories, but also UKIP, BNP and an independent candidate, and losing their deposit with only 4.18% of the vote.
To set this result in historical context, it was the Lib Dems third worst result in an English by election ever and the worst since 1976, and it was the first time they have sunk to sixth place in a by election anywhere in the UK. Furthermore, I can’t remember a party that is in government ever losing its deposit at any election in this country.
The Lib Dems have tried to make much of the low turn out, and at 36.5% it was low, but not unusually so when set against recent by elections. There is no doubt about it, this was a very bad result for the junior partners in the coalition government, before public spending cuts have even been fully felt by the voters. The portents are not good for the Lib Dems in the English local authority, Scottish and Welsh Assembly elections in May this year, and perhaps the AV referendum too. It does look, in northern England, London, Scotland and Wales that the Lib Dems will incur heavy losses, for propping up a Tory government.
This result was also bad for the Conservatives, falling over 9% from the general election, and the good performance of UKIP claiming second place, may explain the dwindling share of the vote for David Cameron’s party. The BNP, although they saved their deposit, had a poor result, down almost 3% on the general election, and this may be down to the divisions within the party recently.
For us Greens in London, this result is very encouraging (although we didn’t stand a candidate in Barnsley), and indicates that we could gain at the Lib Dems expense in the London Assembly elections in May 2012, and increasing our representation on the Assembly from two to three members is a perfectly realistic goal now.
The only hope for the Lib Dems, is that if they can hang on in the coalition government for a full term, and if the economy has picked up by then, all will be forgotten and they can claim that the austerity policies they helped force on the country, came good in the long term. This is possible, but I have a feeling a lot of Lib Dem voters at the 2010 general election will not support them ever again, because they thought voting Lib Dem would improve a Labour government, not land them with a Tory administration, hell bent on dismantling the welfare state.