As goes Ystragynlais, so goes the Country?

As goes Ystragynlais, so goes the Country?

The Liberal Democrats have won the by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire. By-elections are always shaped by local concerns, such as an incumbent found guilty of fiddling expenses, is recalled, and, instead of letting a fresh untainted face in, decides to run again. However, given that an Autumn election is possible there are some lessons to be learned.

Source:  BBC News

Source: BBC News

Liberal Democrats and Remain

The LibDems will obviously be pleased by this result. It continues their momentum from the European elections and is a feather in the cap of Jo Swinson. It proves her right to advocate working with other Remain-backing political parties as this is what won it for the Liberal Democrats. The question is whether they will be able to replicate this strategy in a general election. Remainers ought not get ahead of themselves. The combined Tory and Brexit Party vote outweighed the LibDems. The ‘Remain Alliance’ approach may only be viable if the Leave vote is divided. Yet, you would have to be deluded to see this as anything but a victory for Swinson, the LibDems, and Remain.

Conservatives

It was not a good night for the Tories or Boris Johnson. The Tories hoped that their ‘dynamic’ new leader and outspending the LibDems by 4 to 1 would be able to hold the seat. They were wrong. Boris has been given a black eye. It would be easy to blame this on Chris Davies. If there is something that will get British people to spit blood it is an MP fiddling their expenses, but this ignores the broader problems facing the Conservatives. As I wrote, the Tories are chasing votes they cannot win. This leaves them vulnerable. By banging the No Deal drum, they sent moderates to the LibDems and have provided impetus for Remain voters to rally to the LibDems. This would be fine if it they were compensated by pulling in all the Brexit Party vote, but Farage’s candidate still received 3,331 votes. The Tories lost by 1,425 votes. This is trouble. 

Brexit Party

The threat that they can spoil a general election for the Tories now has weight. Will it drive the Tories to reach out to Farage? Given his comments about Cummings it seems unlikely. The real question is what minor issue will Farage use to pry ardent Leavers from Boris’ embrace.

Labour

This seat was never in competition for Labour, but their vote completely collapsed. They have continued to concede leadership in the anti-Brexit (and anti-Boris) movement to the Liberal Democrats. Labour HQ may want to consider whether Labour Remainers might follow suit in a general election and not just in LibDem-Tory marginals.