Labour hold Birmingham Erdington. This by-election was triggered by the sad and untimely death of Jack Dromey with a slightly reduced majority of 3,266 on a very low turnout of just 27%. Labour MP Steve McCabe blamed the slump in turnout on four storms and an earthquake hitting the city of Birmingham.
Paulette Hamilton becomes the UK’s second largest city’s first ever black MP, increasing her party’s share of the vote by 5.2%.
This was a by-election that could have caused a political earthquake, had the Conservatives been successful. The party didn’t put too much resource into it – and unlike recent by-elections such as Hartlepool, Batley and Spen, and even Conservative solid Bexley and Old Sidcup, you did not see the usual flurry of Ministers and MPs flooding the constituency to campaign for their candidate, Robert Alden (leader of the Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council) whose share of the vote dropped by 3.8%. As a Conservative Party member myself, I received very few emails about the by-election.
Ukraine was clearly not a factor in this by-election. The Tories were really hoping they and Boris would receive a boost in this vote because of the way the Government has handled the Ukraine crisis but, alas, it was not meant to be.
Instead, it is clear voters opted for more of the same on their doorstep, with cost of living appearing to be the number one issue on peoples’ minds. Voters are nervous about what is to come in the months ahead, with the National Insurance hike and energy price cap rise next month. We are seeing support nationally for Labour rising as a result of cost of living and partygate, with the very latest polls putting Labour five points ahead of the Tories (39% v 34%). Every poll conducted since 8th December has put Labour ahead.
Labour have been incredibly nervous about by-elections since their drubbing in Hartlepool last May and failure to capitalise on scandal-related issues that caused the by-election in North Shropshire. They will breathe a sigh of relief that the result went in their favour – and rather convincingly too.
Viewed as one a traditional ‘Red Wall’ type Midlands seat, that is strongly pro-Brexit, with almost half of the population living in neighbourhoods classes as deprived, the constituency should have been high on the Tories target list, and last night’s result begs the question whether the Conservatives could have caused an earthquake if they had invested more time, effort and energy.
As we approach the local elections on 5th May, it’s important to consider what’s next for both parties. Ukraine appears to have put calls for the Prime Minister’s departure on hold, Labour will continue to dominate every opinion poll, but will it go forwards or backwards for the Conservatives once Rishi Sunak delivers his all-important Spring Forecast later this month?