During my time as Conservative Party Chairman I had some experience of handling bad results and so a small part of me felt sympathy for Harriet Harman when I saw her doing the rounds on television and the radio on Friday morning. But she didn’t just have to face any old result. This was the first by-election victory for the Conservative Party in nearly 30 years and we didn’t just win, we completely devastated the opposition. A 17.6% swing cannot be brushed off lightly.
But it would be all too easy for us to get carried away by last night’s results in Crewe and Nantwich. As David Cameron said, a by-election and a general election are two very different things. This result does not mean that the next general election is ‘in the bag’ – far from it. We’ve probably got another two years to prove to people that we have the ideas and the commitment to offer a really exciting and viable alternative to this tired and broken Labour government.
But the Crewe & Nantwich result is exciting for two reasons. Firstly, this was a massive swing to us in a traditional Labour heartland. We won voters who have never even considered voting Conservative before and they heard our message and put their trust in Edward Timpson and ultimately in David Cameron and the whole party. This mirrored the pattern in the London mayoral and local elections on 1st May. Traditional Labour voters weren’t just staying at home – they were coming out to put their X in the box next to the Conservative candidate’s name.
Secondly, Crewe & Nantwich demonstrated that people were not fooled by Labour’s hasty backtrack over the 10p tax furore. The swing in the Crewe local elections on 1st May was 12 points to us but just three weeks later it was 19 points. And these weren’t just Labour voters – the Liberal Democrat share of the vote also decreased.
The campaign Labour led in this by-election was negative, it was backward looking and it clearly did not resonate with voters. Their toff tactics were harping back to a by-gone age. Labour has not recognised that voters see beyond the superficial, they rightly want more substance; more focus on the issues that matter to them and that is what our campaign offered.
But we’ve still got a long way to go. We want to justify the faith that the people of Crewe and Nantwich have put in our party. We’ve got a great team of people with a real passion to change this country for the better. We’re just waiting for the Prime Minister to call that election and give us the opportunity to prove our mettle.