Gwyneth Dunwoody, the Labour member for Crewe and Nantwich died on the 17th April 2008, thereby triggering a by-election to fill the vacancy in the House of Commons. As things turned out, the Labour Party decided to move the writ for the by-election on the 30th April, and picked the earliest possible date of the 22nd May 2008 to hold the by-election, acting it was said, in the belief that this would maximise its chances of holding the seat by allowing its opponents as little time as possible to get themselves organised. Speaking for the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes thought that this was a little disrespectful and issued a statement saying that it would be more seemly not to begin the by-election campaign until after the funeral of the previous member and claiming that a "longer gap between a seat becoming vacant and the election campaign starting would allow more time for candidates to decide to stand and be in place." (Although as far as Labour concerned this was precisely the point.)
The decision was nevertheless defended by Harriet Harman, who claimed that it was "in accordance with the family's wishes to see, as soon as possible, a new member of parliament elected to stand up for the people of Crewe and Nantwich", whilst the 'Dunwoody family' issued a statement which said: "We fully support the decision to begin the process of electing a new MP for Crewe and Nantwich. Our mother proudly represented this constituency for 34 years and would not want to see local people go without an MP". The reason why the Dunwoody family might have well have supported the decision became apparent on the 4th May, when the Labour Party announced that their candidate would be none other than one Tamsin Dunwoody, who was indeed the daughter of the former MP Gwyneth Dunwoody.
Tamsin duly promised to become "a local champion and stand up for the people of Crewe and Nantwich", although it was noted that she was currently a resident of Haverfordwest who had been elected as the Welsh Assembly Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire in 2003 and later served as the Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Transport in the Labour administration until she lost her seat in the 2007 election. For much of this time she had been known by the name of Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey, although she had dropped the Kneafsey by the time she was defeated in 2007.
Naturally the Liberal Democrats already had a candidate in place named Marc Goodwin. However they decided that he wasn't good enough to fight the by-election and dumped him in favour of one Elizabeth Shenton. Although this was apparently perfectly normal procedure for the Liberal Democrats, Marc Godwin wasn't best pleased at this treatment and complained that he'd been removed as a result of "a sham selection process by the party", was a "victim of political correctness", and promptly announced his resignation from the party. He also revealed that within twenty-fours of Mrs Dunwoody's death, Chris Rennard, the Lib Dem by-election organiser, had booked into the Crewe Arms Hotel to discuss tactics with the local party, which rather cast the comments previously made by Simon Hughes in a different light. The official word from the party was that they "did not want to comment" on these developments, although they removed the 'Marc Godwin PPC' page from their website at libdems.org.uk (although of course it remained accessible via the Google cache for some time thereafter) as they rapidly sought to airbrush their former candidate out of the historical record in a way that was oddly reminiscent of Stalinist Russia.
As far as Elizabeth Shenton herself was concerned, she was a former banker who had worked for National Westminster Bank, and was once a director of RBS Group Fund Pension Board, who had been a councillor in neighbouring Newcastle-under-Lyme since 2006. Active in the field of animal welfare she was said to be in possession of ten cats, although she later denied being "a cat person" and insisted that she was simply "a person who has cats", although she did have her own website devoted entirely to the subject of cats. The Conservative Party also had a candidate in place, having already chosen Edward Timpson back on the 1st July 2007. He was a barrister specialising in family law, whose father had made a small fortune from the business of making and mending shoes, although the Timpson business had long since abandoned the shoe business in favour of key-cutting. Since he was a native of Cheshire who lived in the county, he naturally made much of the fact that he hadn't "just arrived for the by-election"
Naturally being a by-election the candidates from the three major parties where joined by all manner of other candidates both serious and not so serious. The Beauties for Britain Party announced the candidacy of Gemma Garrett, the former Miss Belfast and reigning Miss Great Britain who intended campaigning on such issues as making the cost of child care tax deductible, whilst claiming that her objective was "to make Westminster as glamorous as our fellow European legislatures". She was joined by Robert Smith for the Green Party, Mike Nattrass for the United Kingdom Independence Party, David Roberts for the English Democrats and of course 'The Flying Brick', otherwise known as Nick Delves, for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, together with Paul Thorogood standing on a platform of 'Cut Tax on Diesel and Petrol' and an independent named Mark Walklate who it appeared was a disgruntled former Conservative council candidate.
Not so long ago by-elections where a regular feature of the British political landscape. One would appear every month or two, and the results were scrutinised by the media for the clues they provided as to the 'state of the parties', whilst they were often treated as mini-referenda on the government of the day. However this was at a time when Members of Parliament did not receive a pension and so elderly members who were not in possession of a private income tended to hold on to their seats until they literally dropped dead and triggered a by-election. Since the 1980s however, Members of Parliament have become entitled to a fairly generous pension, and therefore it has become far more common for members to retire gracefully at a General Election. (And are frequently under pressure to do just that from party headquarters in order to make way for the 'new blood'.)
As a result the frequency of by-elections dropped to only one or two a year, and certainly in recent years have also tended to be held in seats which were fairly safe for one party or another. However Crewe and Nantwich promised to be different. Although Crewe itself has been regarded as solid Labour territory since World War II, neighbouring Nantwich was similarly a Conservative stronghold. Therefore when the merged constituency of Crewe and Nantwich was created in 1983 it was regarded as more of a marginal seat, although with a marked leaning to Labour. Indeed it was a close call for Gwynneth Dunwoody who had previously held Crewe for Labour, as she won by only 290 votes in 1983 and 1,092 in 1987. That, however, was at the peak of the Conservative tide in the 1980s and the Labour majority increased thereafter. It reached the high point of 15,798 in 1997, and although it had receded somewhat to 7,078 by 2005, the seat was still regarded as being a reasonably safe berth for a Labour candidate.
However that was before Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in June 2007. Despite the early promise of the 'Brown bounce', it seemed as if the wheels came off the bus in the autumn of 2007, when a series of scandals and misjudgements resulted in a steep collapse in support for the Labour Party. Indeed after the Labour Party's poor performance in the Local Elections and the Conservative success in the London Mayoral elections of the 1st May 2008, the Conservative Party might well have dared to believe that they could actually win at Crewe and Nantwich.
Brown's position wasn't helped by the sudden rush of political memoirs that appeared following the May Day debacle. Indeed it was said that the release date of Cherie Blair's memoirs Speaking For Myself had been brought forward from October in order to 'cash in' on the topicality of her observations on Mr Brown, and although she claimed that she had been persuaded to tone down her criticisms in the book, there was nevertheless sufficient to allow the Daily Mirror to run the headline 'Cherie Blair sticks the knife in Gordon Brown with new book' on the 10th May. John Prescott joined in the fun with his Prezza - My Story: Pulling No Punches in which he described Brown as "prickly, annoying and sulky" and provided his own account of the infighting that had occurred between Brown and Blair. This all provided the opportunity for Michael Levy, whose own book A Question of Honour had been out since the 12th May, to try and drum up some more interest in his work by making a few critical remarks of his own. Neither did it help when Frank Field, the leader of Labour's so-called 10p tax rebels, recalled how Brown had thrown "tantrums of an indescribable nature" when he was in government and suggested that Brown wouldn't be in charge for much longer. 'Labour queue to knife Brown' was therefore the headline in The Sun on the 12th May, whilst the fact that certain cabinet members such as Ed Balls and Alan Johnson then weighed in to defend the Prime Minister only led to such headlines as 'Labour's civil war intensifies as Balls lashes out at critics' from The Independent of the 13th May.
It therefore seemed increasingly possible that Crewe and Nantwich might deliver that which no one had seen for a generation, a Conservative by-election gain from the Labour Party; a factor which naturally brought the contest into the media spotlight and it soon became the most widely covered by-election contest in recent years.
The pundits looked to the results of the recent local elections for guidance, unfortunately the local election had been for the new Cheshire East unitary authority, which in any case had different electoral divisions form the previous set up where responsibilities were divided between Cheshire County Council and Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, whilst the boundaries of the old Borough Council had always differed from that of the constituency. Whilst on balance the conclusions reached by such analysis favoured the Conservatives, it would be far simpler to note that the results of an ICM opinion poll published by The Mail on Sunday on the 11th May put the Conservatives on 43%, four points ahead of Labour on 39%, with the Liberal Democrats trailing behind on 16%. Ladbrokes promptly installed Timpson as the odds-on favourite at 4/7.
The Labour fightback
Naturally the Labour government was not going to give up simply because of a few disappointments along the way, and Wednesday, the 14th May 2008 was the day chosen by Gordon Brown for a relaunch of his government with the release of an early draft of November's Queen's Speech outlining his coming legislative programme, whilst the 10p tax row was largely settled with news of a £2.7 billion tax cut. However the programme was described as "stunningly unmemorable" by one Guardian journalist, whilst the tax cut looked was interpreted by many as a straight forward electoral bribe. It was perhaps doubly unfortunate that the 14th May was also the day that the Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King chose to announce that the "nice decade" was over. Although 'nice' stood for non-inflationary continuous expansion in this context, this statement underlined the fact that the economic outlook was far from rosy, particularly as King indicated that there would be no further interest rate cuts, given that inflation was now seen as a looming threat.
Nevertheless, no doubt in order to capitalise on the relaunch, Gordon Brown ordered his entire government to go to Crewe and Nantwich over the weekend of the 17th and 18th May to support a last-minute campaigning "surge". Cabinet ministers were expected to participate in media events, whilst more junior ministers and parliamentary aides were being told to "roll up their sleeves" and go "knocking on doors". However as the Daily Telegraph noted, not every member of the government appeared to be happy with this dictat. They found one minister (who naturally remained anonymous) who complained that "Apparently I'm supposed to give up a chance to see my kids to try to save face for Gordon. It's ridiculous - it's lost and we're not going to change that now", and another similarly un-named minister who complained, "If it's that important, why's he not going himself?", before answering his own question, "Because he knows it's pointless."
As it was Edward Timpson made much of the non-appearance of Gordon Brown, and it was noted by the press that Labour campaign literature at the by-election studiously omitted any reference whatsoever to the name of Gordon Brown. Indeed it must be said that although the Conservatives did also campaign in such local issues such as Post Office closures, and problems at Leighton Hospital, the central plank of their appeal was "Send a message to Gordon Brown", whilst even the Liberal Democrats saw the merit in featuring a photograph of Brown on all their leaflets. This was perhaps understandable as the national opinion polls were showing a rating of minus 63 for Gordon Brown, which was only two points better than John Major managed at the nadir of his fortunes in January 1995, and those journalists who ventured out onto the streets of Crewe to inquire of its citizens their opinion of the Prime Minister were obliged to record that the responses received were unsuitable for reproduction in a family newspaper without the liberal use of asterisks.
Welcome to the new Nasty Party
However whatever the other parties might have said, it was the tone and content of the Labour campaign that became the biggest issue of the by-election and explains why even government ministers thought all was lost by the time their leader was calling on all hands to the pumps.
The Labour Party began by hailing Tamsin Dunwoody as "A fighter, who'll stand up for Crewe and Nantwich, Fiercely independent, She's a Dunwoody." It must be said however, that there was very little evidence from Tamsin's previous political career of any traces of 'fierce independence'; obsequiously loyal might well have been a more accurate description of her politics, but nevertheless the Labour campaign was largely based on the name recognition factor and thus traded heavily on her mother's reputation. Or as Tasmin put it herself "I'm a Dunwoody after all" and "Like my mum, I won't let you down". Indeed the entire Labour campaign appeared to be based on the argument that Tamsin deserved to be elected because of who her mother was, whilst her Conservative opponent didn't because of who his father was.
Tamsin Dunwoody therefore dismissed her Conservative opponent as "some rich Tory kid" and adopted the campaign slogans of "Don't be conned by Tory Boy", (although "Thatcher Boy" gained preference in the latter stages of her campaign) and "One of us" to signal her solidarity with the ordinary people of Crewe; or as Tamsin put it "I don't have a £53m pound fortune supporting me. I don't have a £1.5m mansion. I am just a single, unemployed mother of five fighting hard for a job." In order to emphasise this point, Labour engaged a group of 'activists' who called themselves the 'Tarporley toffs' and dressed up in top hats and tails and began following the Conservative candidate around the constituency. The Labour Party then gleefully drew attention to the presence of "exotic South American llamas" cavorting in a field next to Timpson's house, (although quite what this proved was unclear and in any case the llamas belonged to a local farmer), and were similarly overjoyed to report that some Conservative activists had been seen driving around the constituency in a Bentley. Even the Daily Mirror took offence at this latter jibe as it pointed out that the Bentley Motors factory was actually to be found in Crewe.
Funnily enough one would look in vain within the pages of Burke's for any reference to Edward Timpson, however Burke's Landed Gentry did have an entry for one Moyra Tamsin Dunwoody. Not that this meant that much, as almost everyone who achieves public office or any kind of public recognition will get an entry in Landed Gentry, and therefore this was merely embarrassing rather than fatal. However research soon revealed that Ms Dunwooody's home at Cwarre Dduon just outside Haverfordwest was set in its own 1.5 acres of grounds and was worth £850,000 according to the Sunday Express, whilst she had apparently recently acquired another 4.5 acres with the intention of carrying out some unspecified "redevelopment project" or other. Thanks to the availability of satellite photographs on Google Maps it was possible to compare her home with Edward Timpson's "£1.5m mansion" in Cheshire, and to conclude that the two were both substantial country properties more distinguished by their similarities than their differences.
Whilst here were Labour officials claiming that the 'posh boy' campaign had been successful, there were many in the party who were rather dismayed by their party's decision to 'go negative' in such a fashion. Even The Guardian was forced to admit that it was "becoming clear that the tactics are also grating with grassroots Labours stalwarts and supporters". Maureen Grant, a former Labour councillor who had lost her seat in the May council elections, also seemed to be unhappy with the whole tone of the campaign; "Some voters on the doorstep have played heck about it. They think it's childish. It's very hard work out there." Even poor little Harriet Harman appearing on BBC One's Politics Show on the 18th May was forced to admit that the campaign was "not the most positive", and seemed rather embarrassed about the whole thing, which was understandable given that she was far more posh than Edward Timpson could ever be.
Tamsin's other lines of attack included the claim that Timpson was against "making foreign nationals carry an ID card", which was a trifle unfair given that the Conservative Party was opposed to anyone carrying an ID card irrespective of their nationality, and rather strange since the official line from the Home Office was that it would not be compulsory to actually carry an identity card in any case. What made it even more bizarre was that Gwynneth Dunwoody was one of the rebel Labour MPs who voted against the third reading of the Identity Card Bill, and had spoken out in the Commons in November 2007 against the way in which the government was planning to use ID cards to 'target' foreign workers. Most disturbing of all however was the campaign literature that featured the slogan 'Tories Soft on Yobs' that showed what can only be described as a clunking fist dripping with blood that was oddly reminiscent of the kind of appeal normally made by the British National Party.
For her part Tamsin Dunwoody defended all this as "good visual imagery", whilst (and this information comes courtesy of Ian Dales's Diary) she claimed to be "very proud of my campaign" as it was "bringing back proper fighting the Tories". Others however begged to differ and believed that is was nothing more than "a desperate admission by Labour" that they couldn't compete with the Conservatives on substance. Of course by-elections traditionally feature the kind of knockabout politics that often reflect badly on the parties involved (at least in the cold light of the following day), but the Crewe campaign rapidly gained the reputation of being the nastiest in living memory. Writing in The Guardian, John Harris described the Labour campaign as being a "mixture of the Dunwoody bloodline, utterly witless class warfare, and the politics of fear", whilst Andrew Rawnsley was even more blunt in The Observer of the 18th May when he called the Labour campaign "a disgrace", and accused the party of both "playing the class card in a juvenile way" and of "playing the race card in a poisonous way". When journalists in nice liberal papers such as the Guardian and the Observer start writing such things about Labour, you know they've crossed the line somewhere.
The architect of all this unpleasantness turned out to be one Stephen McCabe, a Government Whip and the member for Birmingham Hall Green, who had been chosen by Labour Party headquarters to run the campaign, although according to The Times of the 19th May "Mr Brown is thought to have personally authorised the use of class as a campaign issue despite the reservations of a number of senior ministers and advisers". However although the Conservative Party felt obliged to describe the Labour campaign as "pathetic" and made the odd reference to Labour dirty tricks, they were largely content that their political opponents had decided to commit electoral suicide in this fashion. As Eric Pickles, who was running the Conservative campaign, explained "When you see your opponents making a dreadful mistake and underestimating the intelligence of the electorate, you should feel some joy. Labour seems to think if they just press a couple of buttons, working class people are going to jump around on a basis of class envy. I think we have moved on. I think Britain is a much more civilised place than that."
Lies, Damned Lies, and Lib Dem Statistics
Whilst the students of South Cheshire College might have well have indicated their intention to vote "massively in favour" of Paul Thorogood and his Cut Tax on Petrol and Diesel platform, and Gemma Garrett appeared to have won the endorsement of The Sun which ran the story 'Vote Gem for Chestminster' on the 17th, a more measured assessment of the voting intentions of the electors of Crewe and Nantwich appeared in the News of the World of the 18th May, when they published the results of another ICM poll. It showed the Conservative Party at 45%, with Labour on 37%, and the Liberal Democrats on 14%, putting the Conservatives eight points ahead, as compared to only four points a week before. Worse news followed for Labour on the 20th May when The Independent published the results of a ComRes poll which had the Conservatives on 48%, Labour on 35% and the Liberal Democrats on 12% putting the Conservatives thirteen points ahead.
However despite the fact that these polls showed that support for the Liberal Democrats was in fact falling away, it appeared as if leader Nick Clegg had not quite given up hope, as he told the BBC that his party could still win the by-election if the Labour vote collapsed and former Labour voters began to question whether the Conservatives had "the substance" to go with "their rhetoric". Indeed this appeared to be the Lib Dem strategy, as on her website Ms Shelton was claiming that the "people I speak to are telling me that Labour is on the way down in our area, and they're switching to the Liberal Democrats as the best chance of sending Gordon Brown a message" and that she had seen her "support rise fast in recent days" and that she was "gaining support from both Labour and Conservative voters".
Indeed on the eve of the election a Liberal Democrat spokesman claimed that the "on-the-ground" data suggested that they were "within a few percentage points" of winning. One must presume that "a few" is Lib Dem speak for "thirty" , however the weight of money was saying something quite different. On the 21st May, Betfair had a Conservative win priced at 1.05, which made them the 20-1 on favourites, whilst Labour where at 16-1 and the Lib Dems at 300-1. On the 22nd itself, the Conservative win was priced at price 1.03 at 9.00 am, 1.02 by mid-day, and 1.01 by 7.00 pm, making them 100-1 on favourites, with the odds on the other two parties lengthening by the minute. In fact more traditional bookmakers such as Ladbrokes had stopped taking bets on the outcome because the result was regarded as such an odds-on certainty, and Paddy Power had made the decision to pay out on the Conservative win on the evening of the 21st before the polls had even opened.
It seemed therefore that the only questions that remained were the size of the Conservative majority and whether Labour could hold on to second place. Indeed on the morning of the 22nd, the Guardian reported that "despondent Labour sources" were now predicting a Conservative majority of 8,000, whilst the Conservatives were talking about a majority of 1,000 or so, and "neutral observers" were predicting a majority above 5,000, whilst as the polls closed the BBC political editor Nick Robinson was saying that Labour officials were "conceding a defeat before a vote has been counted".
For politicians, elections are like a combination of Christmas Day and root canal surgery
After the polls closed at 10.00 pm all the action moved to Nantwich Civil Hall as the count began. As the candidates gathered to await the result, the Flying Brick turned up in top hat to claim that his party represented the "the real toffs" and Miss Great Britain came forward to state that "This election has been a life-changing experience for me". At 00.35 am the Returning Officer confirmed the turnout figure at 58.2%, which was only 2.5% down on the General Election figure and one of the largest turnouts seen at a by-election for decade or more, which was bad news for the losers as it deprived them of the 'our supporters stayed at home' excuse.
The result duly arrived at 2.30 am and turned out to be yet another cause for celebration for the Conservative Party, with the top three polling as follows;
- Edward Timpson (Conservative) 20,539 (49.49%)
- Tamsin Dunwoody (Labour) 12,679 (30.55%)
- Elizabeth Shenton (Liberal Democrat) 6,040 (14.55%)
As far as the rest were concerned, Mike Nattrass (UKIP) did best of all with 922 votes (2.22%), whilst the other six candidates amassed a total of 1,318 votes (3.17%) with Gemma Garrett propping up the poll on 113 votes. The Conservative majority of 7,860 represented a 17.6% swing from Labour to Conservative, and was more or less a complete turnaround from the General Election result back in 2005 when Labour won with 48.8% of the votes cast ahead of the Conservatives on 32.6%. And despite what the Labour pessimists had been saying earlier, this was a much larger majority than had been expected, as most predictions where in the 4,000-6,000 range.
Tamsin Dunwoody described the result as a "mid-term blip" but wouldn't be drawn on the question of whether she would be staying to contest the seat at the next General Election. Elizabeth Shenton blamed her disappointing result on the fact that "three weeks wasn't long enough to get the message across", whilst Edward Timpson made a short victory speech in which he praised his predecessor Gwyneth Dunwoody for the "pride, passion and fortitude" with which she reprsented the interest of the constituency and informed the citizens of Crewe and Nantwich that "I'm on your side and I won't let you down".
There is no way we will take this seat
The national press greeted the news of the Conservative victory with such headlines as; 'Rampant Tories crush Labour in by-election' (Daily Telegraph); 'Brown facing meltdown as Labour crash in Crewe' (The Guardian); 'Disaster for Brown after Tory landslide' (The Times); 'Labour's wipeout: Tories win Crewe and Nantwich by-election' (The Independent); 'Tories win Crewe by a landslide leaving Brown in desperate fight for survival' (Daily Mail); 'Sweeping by-election win for Tories' (Daily Express); 'Crewe cut for PM' (The Sun); and 'Conservative Crewe win blow to Brown' (Daily Mirror): which at least demonstrated that they all believed that the result was indeed of some significance.
It was widely noted that the last time the Conservative Party took a seat from the Labour Party at a by-election (or indeed from anyone at all) was back on the 3rd June 1982, when they won Merton, Mitcham and Morden at a time when Margaret Thatcher was basking in the glory that was the Falklands War. Of course there are those nit-picking souls who assert that this by-election arose as a result of the decision of the incumbent Bruce Douglas-Mann to seek re-election having defected from the Labour Party to the Social Democratic Party, and so it was really a gain from the latter, and that one had to go back even further back to the victory at Ilford North on the 2nd March 1978 (when incidentally, the defeated Labour candidate was one Tessa Jowell). Whatever; a long time ago in any case.
When Timpson's selection was announced on conservativehome.blogs.com back in June 2007 one realistic soul made the comment "There is no way we will take this seat". Crewe and Nantwich was a seat that had been Labour even at the high tide of the Conservative surge in the 1980s, and since it was target seat number 165 on the Conservative hit list, it was not a seat they even needed to win in order to obtain a majority in the House of Commons. Cutting into the Labour bedrock in this way therefore gladdened the hearts of the party, particularly since the scale of the victory had been so emphatic; "We've won and we've won big" as Eric Pickles put it.
What made it even more significant was that the Conservative performance in by-elections had generally been pretty awful in recent times. This time around however they ran an extremely efficient and well-organised campaign courtesy of (so it was said) the behind the scenes supremo Michael Ashcroft, which delivered the all important, if symbolic by-election gain from Labour which put David Cameron one step closer to Downing Street. Although whether it signified "the end of New Labour", as he and many others suggested would be something else altogether. Nevertheless two Plymouth University experts named Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher calculated that replicating the Crewe result across the nation in a General Election would result in the Conservatives winning 493 seats, with Labour getting 102, and the Lib Dems 26. Of course, no one suggested that there was the slightest chance this would indeed be the result of any likely General Election, but it underlined the scale of the victory achieved.
For the Liberal Democrats the best that could be said was that their share of the vote was only 4% down, which was slightly better than the 5% fall-off seen in the London Mayoral Election, although the fact that the kind of swing from Labour to Conservative seen at Crewe and Nantwich would wipe out around three-quarters of the Lib Dem parliamentary party would no doubt have concentrated minds at Lib Dem HQ.
As far as the Labour Party was concerned, one seat more or less made little difference to the Labour majority in the House of Commons, and of course governments typically do lose seats at by-elections. However retaining Crewe and Nantwich mattered to Gordon Brown as it would have cemented his government relaunch after the May Day debacle, which is why Labour threw everything but the proverbial 'kitchen sink' into their campaign, which only succeeded in driving down the level of Labour support from a starting point of 39% down to below 31%. Losing a seat is one thing, losing the campaign is another thing. Indeed after running a campaign that was widely regarded as both offensive and suicidaly inept one suspects that the damage done extends far beyond the boundaries of Crewe and Nantwich.
The Guardian referred to the result as "one of the most humiliating setbacks to Labour since the era of Michael Foot" which completed a "month of misery" for Gordon. There were comparisons drawn with the Eastbourne by-election of October 1990, when the Liberal Democrats overturned a Conservative majority of almost 17,000 to take the seat; an event which is said to have helped inspire the party to oust Margaret Thatcher from the leadership a month later. Naturally this led to even more feverish speculation regarding Gordon Brown's future, although Brown himself was said to be "defiant" when he spoke to reporters on the morning of the 23rd and repeatedly stressed that he had "no intention of stepping aside".
It was also rumoured that the Conservative Party will now seek to persuade, Boris Johnson, who had promised to give up his Henley seat on becoming London Mayor, to bring forward his resignation from the autumn, so that a by-election can be held in late June or early July in order to "keep up the momentum", and so that everyone can go through the whole process once more.
The official Statement of Person Nominated for the Crewe and Nantwich constituency (see
http://www.crewe-nantwich.gov.uk/pdf/YC4344_Statement_Of_Nominated_Parliamentary_Crewe_Nantwich.pdf) lists the home addresses of all the nominated candidates. This shows that Tamsin Dunwoody's home was at Cwarre Dduon, Ambleston, Haverfordwest, SA62 5DR
and that Edward Timpson lived at The Dial House, Tirley Lane, Kelsall Tarporley, Cheshire, CW6 0PF. Typing in either of these postcodes on Google Maps reveals all.
The above article is naturally drawn from a variety of reports in the British media including BBC News, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and their Sunday equivalents, as well as The Sun, Daily Mirror and the News of the World. But see also;
Some account was also taken of the information and opinion provided by political blogs such as Ian Dale's Diary at http://iaindale.blogspot.com/ and Guido Fawkes' Blog of plots, rumour and conspiracy at http://www.order-order.com/
Both these are of course unashamedly Conservative, and so in the interests of political balance Liberal Democrat Voice at http://www.libdemvoice.org/ was also consulted, however the search for a comparable Labour blog that showed signs of intelligence and wit was difficult and hard. For a minute Luke Akehurst's Blog at http://lukeakehurstsblog.blogspot.com/ appeared to be the genuine product of a Labour supporter with a sense of humour, however it seems rather to be a piss take of the worthy but extremely tedious blog by the real Luke Akehurst at http://lukeakehurst.blogspot.com/. Chris Paul: Labour of Love at
http://chrispaul-labouroflove.blogspot.com/ was the best that could be found out of a tedious bunch.
- Crewe and Nantwich Guardian at http://www.creweandnantwichguardian.co.uk/
- Crewe Chronicle at http://iccheshireonline.icnetwork.co.uk/crewechronicle//
- The main candidates own campaign websites:-
- The Political Science Resources website maintained by Richard Kimber of Keele University
- UK Polling Report: Crewe and Nantwich
- The preview of the entry for DUNWOODY from Burke's Landed Gentry