Shock. The Liberal Democrats win a seat that it was almost impossible for them to lose, yet the result has been disappointing for them. Despite being at odds of 50/1, Jane Dodds has only managed to fend off the Tories by a margin of less than 5%. The Boris Bounce has managed to hamper the celebrations of Jo Swinson’s party and dramatically limit the potential disaster, that would have occurred under Theresa May. When the people of Brecon and Radnorshire called for a by-election, the Tories were in freefall. The future of the Tories was hanging by a thread. Boris Johnson has done remarkably well to reverse this.
The Boris Bounce has managed to reverse the trend of the EU Elections. In May the Brexit Party topped the poll in the Powys seat with 35% of the vote, whereas Theresa May’s party could only salvage 9%. The result of this by-election has reversed this, with the Tories winning 39% to the Brexit Party’s 10%. However, the Remain Alliance just pipped them to the finish. Is this a surprise? Of course, it is not. This seat voted to leave by the same margin as the United Kingdom. By coalescing the ‘Stronger In’ vote around the Liberal Democrats, they can outstep the divided Leave voters, who have the choice of a Boris-led Tory Party or the Brexit Party. However, the marginal vote has developed a new slogan for the Tories, ‘a vote for the Brexit Party is a vote against Brexit.’ By dividing the vote, one of two things can happen. The first is that the Boris Bounce continues, with more and more Brexit voters entrusting the Conservatives. Alternatively, they may hatch a pact of their own; a pro-Brexit pact may mathematically become the only way to ensure that Brexit is delivered. Given that Dominic Cummings is advising Boris, I think they will want to smash the Brexit Party vote if there is an autumnal election before we leave the EU. Potentially the postal vote may have damaged the chances of the Tory candidate, Chris Davies. Those who sent in their ballots by post may have voted before Boris Johnson was declared the leader; therefore, the postal votes may half-halt the Boris Bounce. The amalgamated pro-Brexit vote would have solidly defeated the Remain Alliance.
So why were the Liberal Democrats all but guaranteed to win Brecon and Radnorshire off of the Tories? This is a seat that the Liberal Democrats have to win. They held the seat from 1997 to 2015 and even in the period that the Tories have held it Jo Swinson’s party have kept their fingers on the seat in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. However, more importantly, as I have already stated they have managed to fuse the Remain vote, which was not possible for the Brexiteers. The Liberal Democrats, unlike both the Tories and Brexit Party, have thrown the kitchen sink at Brecon and Radnorshire. If they had failed to win, it would be shocking indeed.
What has happened to Labour? The opinion polls from Wales last week placed Labour in second place and despite Labour not winning Brecon and Radnorshire since 1974 it appears unlikely their fortunes are changing. It is undoubtedly because of Corbyn’s failure to come clear on his Brexit policy and his incompetence on the issue of antisemitism. Labour needs to reassess its position. They are no longer in a strong position to call a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, without risking the future of their party. Wales is often considered the only one-party state of the United Kingdom. Is this long Labour lead coming to an end? We will have to wait and see.
Therefore, the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election has not proved to be as damaging to the Conservatives as once thought. When the constituents called for the by-election, the Tories were in disarray and subsequently reselected Chris Davies, a man guilty of expenses fraud, probably because they felt they had no hope of winning it. This result will be a bitter-sweet moment for the Liberal Democrats and the Remain Alliance. They may have won the seat, but it is a seat that they should be winning. If they could not win a seat they held from 1997 to 2015, against a contentious candidate, with the Brexit vote split, and their Remain vote unified, then they would be very disappointed indeed. Nonetheless, this result is a litmus test for a Westminster election. By mirroring this result across the country, the Tories will do just fine. Boris Johnson has revived the Conservative Party, and even though it was not enough to take Brecon, it will be just enough to take the country. All he needs to do is stem the Brexit Party in one form or another, and he will command a hefty majority in Westminster.
Results in Full:
Liberal Democrats – 43.5%
Conservatives – 39%
Brexit Party – 10.5%
Labour – 5.3%
MRLP – 1%
UKIP – 0.8%
Turnout – 59.7%
By J Walters