Friday, 17 June 2016

My analysis of the Tooting by-election

The results of the Tooting parliamentary by-election were as follows:

Rosina Allin-Khan (Labour), 17,894 (55.9%, +8.7%)

Des Coke (Christian Peoples' Alliance), 164 (0.5%)

Alex Glassbrook (Liberal Democrats), 820 (2.6%, -1.3%)

Howling Laud Hope (OMRLP), 54 (0.2%)

Zirwa Jawaid (Independent), 30 (0.1%)

Elizabeth Jones (UKIP), 507 (1.6%, -1.3%)

Ankit Love (One Love Party), 32 (0.1%)

Akbar Ali Malik (Immigrants Political Party), 44 (0.1%)

Graham Moore (English Democrats), 50 (0.1%)

Esther Obiri-Darko (Green Party), 830 (2.6%, -1.5%)

Zia Samadani (Independent), 23 (0.1%)

Bobby Smith (Give Me Back Elmo), 9 (0.03%)

Smiley Smillie (Independent), 5 (0.02%)

Dan Watkins (Conservative), 11,537 (36.1%, -5.8%).

Sadly, on the same day this by-election took place, Jo Cox, who had only been elected as Labour MP for Batley & Spen 13 months ago, died after being shot and stabbed just outside a constituency surgery she was holding in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Tributes and condolences have been paid to Jo not only from her widower, Brendan, and her two children, but also from politicians  and activists across the British political spectrum. The count in the Tooting by-election was suspended for two minutes as a mark of respect for Jo, and EU referendum campaigning was also suspended by many activists likewise.

Within the Tooting by-election itself, Labour managed to more than double Sadiq Khan's numerical majority in spite of the turnout dropping from 69% to just 42.5%, and therefore nearly quadruple the percentage majority from 5.3% to 19.8%, easily electing Rosina Allin-Khan as Tooting's newest Labour MP. Even though Conservative candidate Dan Watkins had performed well to keep the Labour majority in check in Tooting at the last general election, when the tide was turning towards Labour in Greater London, he failed to make headway and in fact there was a 7.3% swing from Conservative to Labour, significant given how increasingly difficult it is for significant swings from Conservative to Labour or from Labour to Conservative to occur in an increasingly multi-party situation.

This occurred, in my opinion, for three important reasons. Labour knew the seat was marginal and would therefore have to pull out the stops in order to defend the seat successfully, particularly with the entrenched gentrification across Wandsworth, the borough in which Tooting lies. Divisions in the Conservative Party regarding the EU referendum, and questions surrounding illegal overspending in elections by Conservative MPs also damaged the Conservatives' reputation. Also, when Rosina Allin-Khan was selected, she was a junior doctor and the junior doctors' strikes were still fresh in the memory of the public, who are generally unsympathetic towards Jeremy Hunt's handling of the NHS.

Even though Esther Obiri-Darko did not save her deposit as I hoped she would given the Green Party's good performance in London, she at least retained third position with such a tight squeeze for votes going on in Tooting; all other candidates suffered as a result and UKIP recorded their worst result in England in six years.

Independents and minor party candidates are usually easy to find in London by-elections, but they almost always struggle to make an impact let alone save their £500 deposit; the Tooting by-election proved to be no exception. Of the minor candidates, only the Christian Peoples' Alliance's Des Coke polled more than 100 votes; he was also the only minor party candidate to beat the Monster Raving Loony Party Leader 'Howling Laud' Hope, who achieved just 54 votes but still beat 7 of the 14 candidates who stood. Ankit Love's attempt proved a complete failure once again after finishing bottom of the poll for Mayor of London, as he only polled 32 votes. For only the second time in the history of British by-elections, two candidates polled less than 10 votes each, and a special wooden spoon award goes to local musician George 'Smiley' Smillie-he only polled five votes in this by-election, and that is the (joint) lowest ever recorded in British by-election history, tying with the late Bill Boaks (Glasgow Hillhead, 1982) and Kailash Trivedi (Kensington, 1988).

In six days' time, Britain will hold its EU membership referendum-stay tuned.


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