‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Friday, 28 February 2014

How significant was Eastleigh?

Since 1945 the Liberals/LibDems have won 30 by-elections. (This includes five which were defences of seats already held – Montgomeryshire, Truro, Cheadle, Winchester and Eastleigh.) Which was the most important victory?

Four possible measures of importance could be analysed:

1) Swing - the percentage change in votes cast at the by-election

2) Durability - the number of years the seat was subsequently continuously held

3) Political importance of the winner - the positions held by the winning candidate

4) Changing the political narrative - the political and media reaction to the victory.

The top 3 victories on each measure would be:


Top: Bermondsey 1983 (44.2%), Second: Christchurch 1993 (35.4%), Third: Sutton and Cheam 1972 (32.6%)

Durability of Victory:

Top: Roxburgh 1965 (49 years), Second: Berwick 1973 (41 years), Third: Bermondsey 1983 (31 years)

Importance of Winner:

Top: Roxburgh (David Steel, party leader), Second: Bermondsey (Simon Hughes, deputy party leader, party president), Third: Berwick-upon-Tweed (Alan Beith, party deputy leader)

Changing the political narrative:

This last category is rather subjective, but both Orpington and Eastleigh gave a severe jolt to the Conservative Party’s confidence about winning the next election and both demonstrated that the Liberals/LibDems are more resilient than many people believed. Torrington was the first of the Liberal post-war victories, but the seat was only held for one year, until the Conservatives won the 1959 election and regained the seat. Eastbourne in 1990 came at a time when the LibDems were struggling. It gave a significant boost to party morale and credibility and hastened the demise of Margaret Thatcher.

No comments:

Post a Comment