‘This result… is a victory for Labour that shows the progress we are making under Ed Miliband’s leadership; a vote of confidence in the way that Labour is changing…’ Or, rather, it
isn’t. Whatever Labour’s winning candidate in Feltham and Heston, Seema Malhotra, says, this byelection result was little more than an
unsurprising Labour victory in a Labour area. The opinion polls, as we know, show more
comprehensively what people think of the ‘progress’ that Labour is making under Ed Miliband’s leadership. And it’s far from a vote of confidence.
Which isn’t to say that Malhotra underperformed in her byelection victory, last night. Not at all. Labour actually increased their share of the vote — from 43.6 per cent in last year’s
general election to 54.5 per cent now — and managed an 8.6 per cent swing away from the second-placed Tories in the process. But that achievement does need to be set against the lowest
byelection turnout for over a decade: 28.8 per cent, so less than a third of voters.
Perhaps the most intriguing battle, and outcome, of the evening was that between the Lib Dems and UKIP. They were close, in the end — with the Lib Dems losing 7.8 percentage points off their
vote, and UKIP gaining 3.5 — but the Lib Dems still nudged it, finishing in third place. What it all says about the effect of David Cameron’s veto last week, I’m not sure. UKIP’s vote went
up, the Tories’ came down, but in this case, there’s no particular evidence that Europe was a real vote-mover either way.
But, then, this was Feltham and Heston on a cold day in December. So we probably can’t draw too many conclusions from it, whatever the new Labour MP might say.