One consequence of the Corbyn leadership victory is that the intricate over-analysis of any election result, however trivial or untypical, will continue. Those who support the new model Labour Party are keen to demonstrate that Jeremy Corbyn is an electoral asset; more grounded left-of-centre supporters know him to be an electoral liability.
As chance would have it a first public test following the Liverpool coronation of the new leader has, in fact, taken place in my remote corner of North Norfolk. On Thursday September 29th some 1800 electors in Glaven Valley voted for a new councillor to replace the previous incumbent Liberal-Democrat who has moved to London.
The last time the position was contested, in May 2015, I was the Labour candidate: I polled derisory 78 votes coming fourth coming behind UKIP and just above the Greens. This humiliation was no surprise to me. Our area mainly consists of retired people, most but not all of whom are comfortably off. This time round the Conservatives chose a somewhat unusual candidate for the area. To quote from his election address: ‘I once won a Porsche 911 Car in a beer competition beating 17,000 others!’ and ‘I have appeared on game shows, most notably “Blind Date” beating odds of 1000-1’. By contrast the Lib-Dem was carefully understated, claiming only to have been ‘Senior advisor across the Civil Service under David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair’.
I declined the opportunity to fight again – and clearly would have been out of my depth against such august opponents. Moreover I have decided that I cannot publicly support and campaign for the Labour Party while Jeremy Corbyn is leader. I remain a committed member in the hope of better times.
Given the capture of our local Labour Party by the pro-Corbyn faction I had assumed that one of them would be keen to put their views to the test at the polling station. After all our membership has increased from 170 to over 600. However none of those in our ward attended the selection meeting and our constituency Chairman, who lives some 50 minutes away in this vast constituency, agreed to stand. I know him to be of a more traditional persuasion, politically experienced, and with considerable personal charm. His election literature avoided all mention of our new leader. When he called he assured my wife and I that he was concentrating on local issues and receiving a good response on the doorstep.
On election day (September 29th) the Lib-Dem candidate sent out an early morning e-mail that stated ‘The election today is likely to be the closest in this area for many years – probably within a few dozen votes’. I cannot believe she had any basis for making such a claim but honesty does not figure highly among LibDem considerations. Their tactic locally is to say anything that might squeeze the Labour vote. In the event she polled 429 and had a majority of 148 over the Conservative.
Labour polled 23 votes – just under 3% of the total votes cast. My estimate is that this figure will be very close to the number of people in Glaven Valley who signed up (as members, affiliates or registered supporters) to vote in the Labour Party Leadership election. This is the lowest vote we have recorded in a District Council Election in North Norfolk this century. It does not bode well.