Lib Dems and Labour won’t contest Southend West by-election

The Liberal Democrats have stated that, along with Labour, we will not contest the forthcoming Southend West by-election caused by the shocking murder of Sir David Amess MP on Friday.

From the Evening Standard:

PA news agency understands that Labour is set to follow the principle established after Jo Cox’s murder in 2016 when parties which held Commons seats declined to select candidates in the subsequent Batley and Spen by-election, which was won by Tracey Brabin.

As a result of that move five years ago, it is understood Labour will refuse to contest the by-election in which voters will be asked to elect Sir David’s replacement after his tragic death on Friday.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman confirmed to PA that the party will not fight for the seat either when a polling date is set.

This is the second time in five years that the two parties have made this decision after an MP has been killed in violent circumstances.

It’s very different from the 80s and 90s when the parties stood in by-elections following the murders of Sir Anthony Berry and Ian Gow. In the 1979 General Election, held weeks after the assassination of Airey Neave, Labour and Lib Dems contested his Abingdon seat.

There are two arguments on this. On one hand, there is a view that the murder of an MP shouldn’t lead to a change in the make-up of Parliament. Others will feel, though, that this Government is so appalling that the opposition needs to take each and every opportunity to oppose it.

Do you think we have made the right decision?

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49 Comments

  • Do you think we have made the right decision?

    Unambiguously yes. Views like “Others will feel, though, that this Government is so appalling that the opposition needs to take each and every opportunity to oppose it.” are corrosive to the health of our democracy.

  • I disagree with this approach.
    It’s wholly undemocratic.

    There is no actual ‘election’, if there are no alternatives – and without a candidate from at least one of either Labour or the Lib Dems, there is no viable alternative.

    It’s not even as if the new Tory candidate will be the same person, with the same known views on local issues, hence they aren’t standing on the same platform on which Amess was elected. The next Tory candidate might share none of the same views (or might not even be from the area) and therefore can’t be deemed to be a ‘continuation candidate’ – but without viable alternative options, the people do not have the opportunity to reject that.

    That’s not democracy.

    As for the argument about not upsetting the balance of power at Westminster over a murdered MP, I understand that argument and could support it when it’s a minority party, or the governments power is wafer-thin. When the Tories have an 80-odd seat majority however… That argument is absolutely irrelevant.

    I therefore believe we should be fielding a candidate – even if we chose to not actively campaign out of respect/to avoid whipping up division.

  • Peter Davies 17th Oct '21 - 11:00am

    It’s the right decision for this seat but I don’t accept the argument that “On one hand, there is a view that the murder of an MP shouldn’t lead to a change in the make-up of Parliament”. It can’t help but do that. The next MP will not be David Amess. In this case it is highly unlikely that the Tories will select a candidate further from our views. I would not wish to concede the right of factions in the holding party to use any bye-election to change the political representation of a seat.

  • Once Labour had decided not to stand then I don’t see that we had much choice. If we had stood that would have been used against us.

  • Kevin Hawkins 17th Oct '21 - 11:29am

    On balance I support the decision not to contest the by-election, but I can quite understand why some would take a different view. It’s one of those awkward “condemned if we do, condemned if we don’t” choices.

    There will of course be a contested by-election – some minor parties not to mention a few publicity seekers will ensure that happens.

    I don’t live in this constituency so it doesn’t directly affect me, but how should Liberal Democrat supporters vote? The few times I have been in an area where there was no Lib Dem candidate I spoiled my ballot paper simply by writing “Liberal Democrat” on it. Perhaps that’s what we should do in Southend West.

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Oct '21 - 11:31am

    @Iain Warner
    I disagree and think the correct decision has been made.

    There would only be negative publicity for the party if we even put up a candidate.

    It would be good to know that the local LibDems were involved in the decision. They form part of a ‘rainbow’ coalition running Southend-on-Sea BC at present.

  • Steve Trevethan 17th Oct '21 - 11:36am

    Might this be a form of conditional democracy?
    Might this be a denial of democracy as the decision to deny democracy this was, at best, autocratic?
    What might be the proportions of emotion and rationality in this decision?
    Might we know who actually made this decision?
    Might this decision have furthered the aims of the assassin?

  • Brad Barrows 17th Oct '21 - 11:41am

    It seems perverse to argue that the way we uphold democratic principles in the face of the murder of an MP is to restrict the democratic choices of the voters in his constituency. All ‘standing aside’ will do is allow more extreme parties, often less supportive of democratic principles, an opportunity to attract the votes of those who would normally register their opposition to the Tories by voting Labour or Liberal Democrat.

  • Our hands may well have been forced to an extent if Labour were insistent on it too. But I do think it’s the wrong decision, just as it was in Batley & Spen. Parties should be very mindful of the circumstances of any by-election and campaign (or not) in a way reflecting that.

    We do have single-member constituencies and David Amess was an individual constituency MP as much as he was a Conservative MP. So a new Conservative candidate should have to stake their case with at least the pretence of democratic scrutiny.

    An election where the choices are one party-approved candidate and an assortment of racists (if Batley & Spen is anything to go by) doesn’t really serve anyone.

  • I agree with the principle i.e of opposition parties not benefiting from political violence.

    However it could be risky in the sense that an extremist candidate could capitalise on the situation e.g a far right candidate exploiting the Islamist terror issue. You can’t instruct voters what to do.

  • Steve Trevethan 17th Oct '21 - 2:12pm

    Next time, and I very much hope that there will not be one, might it be worth holding a “straw poll” and /or sort consultation via LDV?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Oct '21 - 3:32pm

    I believe that it is the right decision. Any liberal Democrat who thinks it would be morally considered correct or electorally gain respect, must really not understand the ways of being respected and elected. Parties only contest, a contest. This is not a contest, the Conservatives effectively, because of this outrage that has led to the seat being vacant, a deputy has more or less to be appointed. In America, the most democratic of countries, after a Governor dies in office, or resigns, another is chosen initially, no election held till next time.

    Our party is mainstream. To contest this election would be extreme.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Oct '21 - 3:33pm

    I believe that it is the right decision. Any liberal Democrat who thinks it would be morally considered correct or electorally gain respect, must really not understand the ways of being respected and elected. Parties only contest, a contest. This is not a contest, the Conservatives effectively, because of this outrage that has led to the seat being vacant, have seen that a deputy has more or less to be appointed. In America, the most democratic of countries, after a Governor dies in office, or resigns, another is chosen initially, no election held till next time.

    Our party is mainstream. To contest this election would be extreme.

  • John Bicknell 17th Oct '21 - 4:11pm

    The premise that we (and others) should contest the by-election, simply in order to try to ‘punish the Conservatives’, is the wrong mind-set. It’s an attitude of trying to exploit a tragic event.
    I did feel, after the murder of Jo Cox, that the best response would have been to have a contested election, with candidates putting forward their views, but respectful of those with alternative beliefs.
    However, now that precedent (of not standing) has been set, it would have been impossible to take a decision other than the one that has been made.

  • Given the precedent of B&S and as Labour made their announcement, we had no choice but to say we wouldn’t stand. It may have been better to quietly say to the Conservatives that we didn’t expect to stand, but we would want to be sure it was a candidate we didn’t object to. That brings its own problems, and while it could help to ensure the party doesn’t parachute in someone utterly awful, it would risk appearing to support someone moderately awful.

    I think we are kidding ourselves if we thought that standing a candidate here would give the locals anything more than the pretence of an increase in democratic choice, and I suspect even those most desperate for a non-Tory MP would be more angry at the thought of a terrorist over-turning the result of the last election than they are at not having a choice at a by-election. Ultimately, we cannot let wannabe terrorists think that murder brings political rewards.

    Being more tactical about this, standing a candidate would upset voters that might consider voting for us in the future. And being a bit more cynical, if the Tories do parachute in a useless candidate, safe in the knowledge the proverbial pig with a blue rosette would win with no effort at campaigning, then that candidate should easier to oust come the next general election.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Oct '21 - 6:57am

    Marco: “You can’t instruct voters what to do.” Indeed (and this is something I’ve been saying on here recently in another context). And actually, electoral history of by-electios held under these circumstances suggests that voters don’t agree with this mawkishly sentimtntal idea that the incumbent party should get a clear run. In Eastbourne the Tories played that card, putting out leaflets saying that a vote for the Lib Dems was a vote for terrorism. This backfired on them, not only because it drew attention to our position as the principal challenger, but also because seem to be lecturing the voters that it was a moral imperative to vote Tory. This must have seemed self-serving. The argument that the Lib Dems were “benefiting from political violence” by fighting and then winning the by-election gained no traction outside the bubble of our right-wing partisan haters. Ann Widdecombe said something about “the IRA dancing to the tune” of our by-election victory, but that’s Ann Widdecombe for you. In reality the IRA didn’t give two hoots who replaced Ian Gow. He was their target; they didn’t kill him to flip the constituency, they murdered Ian Gow because he was Ian Gow. Why wuld hte IRA have cared which pro-Unionist party won the seat afterwards?
    Our victory at Eastbourne didn’t cause a spate of murders of MPs aimed at flipping constituencies, and if that were to happen it would suggest serious problems with our political culture. People who might miurder MPs generally don’t care about the democratic process; they are people who would prefer a system without free elections at all. This is true of both Jo Cox’ traditional far-right killer and David Amess’ assassnn on the Islamist far right. Neither were out to flip the constituency. Why would they care about flipping the constituency when they are against the system as a whole?

    We have to leave it to the people.

  • Steve Comer 18th Oct '21 - 8:18am

    I think we need to distinguish between respect for an MP who was murdered and tacit support for their party. By standing down in a by-election we do the latter.

    Nobody supporting this move has been able to say what has changed since the murders of Sir Anthony Berry and Ian Gow? I know at the time of Gow’s murder there were discussions about whether it would be appropriate to stand in the by-election, and I believe Paddy Ashdown as Leader did ask about this. But he consulted with colleagues in the Party and came to a considered decision. I believe the comment made at the time was that to prevent the people of Eastbourne having the chance to choose their MP would be to give in to terrorism. Why are we now aplying reverse and perverse logic?
    We seem to have been ‘bounced’ into a bad decision by Labour’s announcement, just as we were bounced into supporting an unneccessary and disastrous General Election in 2019 by a decision of the SNP.

    The Tory candidate will not be returned unopposed, almost certainly the Reform Party, and other more extreme far right candidates will stand. They will poll far more votes than they would in a properly contested by-election, so how does that help ‘heal our democracy?’ It just gives extremists a bigger platform for their racist and divisive opinions.

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Oct '21 - 8:23am

    I think the murders of Airey Neave and Ian Gow were very different situations from those of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess. Both earlier victims appear been clearly associated with opposition to devolution in Northern Ireland during the Thatcher tory leadership era, making them obvious potential targets for terrorist organisations with much clearer political objectives than seems to be the case with the 2 more recent murders.

  • Andy Boddington 18th Oct '21 - 9:01am

    We should not contest this election or any other that occures after a murder. Otherwise that creates a danger that some people may think that murder is a way to change poltical representation. That will be a rare event but we are dealing with rare events.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Oct '21 - 9:05am

    “An election where the choices are one party-approved candidate and an assortment of racists (if Batley & Spen is anything to go by) doesn’t really serve anyone.” Absolutely, and there’s a danger that one of the racists could actually get elected. The turnout is likely to be low, even by bye-election standards. In B&S it was 25%, and it’s likely to be even lower in Southend West. Non-Tory voters in particular will see no reason to head to the voting booth at all. I would not, or if I did, it would be to spoil my ballot paper or vote for a harmless independent. This by-election is going to be a pointless waste of public money. If the political class is deciding that voters should not be given a meaningful choice in the MP’s replacement, due to the circumstances that caused the by-election, then why not be upfront about it and just rush through Parliament a Bill empowering the local Tory party to nominate a replacement MP for this specific vacancy? Of course if it could be done for this casual vacancy, it could be done for all casual vacancies, so it would set a very bad precedent. But it would at least prevent the danger of a far-right candidate being elected because voters saw no reason to vote for David Amess’ annointed replacement. But if this did happen, it might prompt parties to reconsider the mistaken idea of standing aside in the case of an MP being murdered.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Oct '21 - 9:08am

    By-election campaigns rarely refer back to the circumstances that caused the by-election. As I have noted, it didn’t in Eastbourne (or if it did, it was in the opposite direction to that expected). The only time they do is in the case of ‘unnecessary’ elections, where the voters tend to punish whoever they blame for causing it (e.g. Winchester 1997, Leyton 1964). The Southend West by-eleciton is very necessary, because it was caused by the MP’s untimely death.

  • Nonconformistradical: I don’t see any difference actually. Both the murders of Jo Cox and David Amess occur in the context of a fifth column of people who oppose the whole democratic system: neo-nazis on one side of the coin, and “radical” Islamists on the other. In neither case will the assassin care about who replaces the MP they murdered, or from which party, because the replacement will almost certainly be someone who represents the system they despise. These are people who are against the principle of free elections. Holding a by-election in the normal way would be sending the nessage that we are not gong to be cowed by them. Instead we are moving towards what they want, which is a lack of meaningful choice in elections.

    This decision is essentially telling voters how they should think and feel about the murder. And it’s entirely possible that they’ll rebel against the political class by voting in an unsavoury candidate, perhaps someone who represents the assassin’s agenda. What was that about not letting terrorists change the political make-up of Parliament? The idea that anyone would murder an MP to flip a constituency is pretty fanciful anyway.

  • This is a Westrminster bubble decision and as we know from several instances the Lib Dem MPs are ofetn out of step with their voters, Covid Passports for one and not wanting restrictions extended another.
    The reference to “Precedent” is strange, after all what was a Precedent in one year can be subject to a different court decision the next. Nothing is static.
    There should be a proper by election . It is essential that we get back to normal as soon as possible, an uncontested election just prolongs the abnormal state.
    This may sound harsh but seeing people face to face etc is part of an MPs job, as it is with all the Councillors, Social Workers, Police, Local Government officials etc etc. Where do we start and where do we finish.
    Once the initial emotion has died down this decision should be reviewed. Labour and Liberal Democrat voters deserve the chance to support their party or not.
    A by election costs a lot of money to organise. Someone will stand whatever, so that cost takes place, much better if we stand as well.

  • Alex Macfie “this is something I’ve been saying on here recently in another context”

    Yes indeed and to an extent you have convinced me on the wider issue, however on this by-election point I am in two minds.

    Hypothetically what if in the future a vote was coming up on renewing Trident for example and was expected to be very close. Then a few MP’s are killed by GRU spies with nerve agent, and the resulting by-elections flip the result in favour of abolishing Trident? The implications for democracy would be profound.

    Maybe I’ve been watching too many TV series but it’s not completely implausible.

  • Jason Connor 18th Oct '21 - 11:13am

    I agree with Mohammed. It’s not a denial of democracy, the murder of an MP is a denial of democracy. The constituents of Southend West had their elected MP taken away from them following David Amess’ horrific murder. I would expect other parties will do exactly the same if it happened to an MP of this party and any other through sincerely hope this will not be the case with increased security.

  • Peter Martin 18th Oct '21 - 11:42am

    I’m not sure why it is only recently that the convention has arisen.

    It should have always been like this. There is little, if any, appetite or enthusiasm for a contested election amongst the electorate. That can wait until the next election.

    All political parties should respect this.

  • Lorenzo Cherin: By-elections (called “special elections”) do happen in the US. Electoral law depends on the state, even for federal elections, so casual vacancies are held by special elections in some states, or nomination (often by the State administration, which may be from a different party from the departing representative) in others. Mayors and Governors are indeed usually replaced by a deputy (as is the President).

    The logic of what you are suggesting is that we should do away with by-elections altogether and introduce a formal rule that a casual vacancy should always be filled by someone nominated by the representative’s original party., There is precedent for this in UK politics — it’s what’s done where representatives are chosen by closed list, and in the implementation of STV in Northern Ireland. And it’s the logical thing to do if we decide that in reality people vote for parties rather than individuals (the implication of what a lot of people are saying here) and that the rules or practice should reflect this. But it wouldn’t be desirable as it would give too much power to party bosses.

  • Adrian Sanders 18th Oct '21 - 12:46pm

    Do you think we have made the right decision?

    Who is we?

    I heard Lynsey Hoyle quoted on the radio today as saying a consequence of this appalling act is that it has brought people together in defence of our electoral process. The Liberal Democrat response is to opt out of that electoral process, which reminded me of a past Liberal Assembly (it may have been Eastbourne strangely enough). The indomitable Claire Brooks speaking in opposition to the Party leadership declared: “This is a Liberal Party that has lost its balls.”
    It seems the Liberal Democrats might have too.

  • I think this is the wrong decision, and I’d quite like to know who took it, and how widely they consulted the party.
    In 1990 when Ian Gow was murdered, Paddy Ashdown decided unilaterally that we weren’t going to fight the Eastbourne by election. He was all set to announce this, but Chris Rennard found out and fired off a furious fax to Paddy telling him why this was the wrong decision. To his great credit, instead of sacking this then relatively junior member of staff for insubordination, Paddy listened, and relented. Both Chris and Paddy wrote about this in their respective memoirs.
    To argue that it was the wrong decision means you think the people of Eastbourne were wrong to then vote as they did, and indeed that they had no right to do so. That, for me, is a very slippery slope. In every scenario, ‘let the people decide’ must be the right way to go. Like others I’m not entirely sure why we have departed from that principle in recent years, but we should return to it.

  • On a purely practicable basis standing a candidate of anything other than Conservative is pointless..
    In 1997 Sir David Amess held the seat wiah a majority of around 14k.. Tory voters will turn out in large numbers whilst supporters of other parties are as likely to abstain, as a mark of respect, as to vote..Furthermore, those standing against his ‘replacement’ (and their party) are as likely to be seen as lacking in respect with repercussions in the future..
    It’s an unwinnable seat with only a downside for this party if it stands a candidate….

  • Alex Macfie 18th Oct '21 - 2:04pm

    Marco: Yes, I think you have been watching too many TV series. If tht sort of thing were happening then it would indicate deep-seated problems with our political culture tht would not be solved by gentlemen’s agreements about not contesting by-elections.

    Peter Martin: By your argument, we shouldn’t have by-elections at all — casual vacancies should just be filled by nominees of the departing representative’s original party. And if we decide that a party ‘owns’ a seat for the term of a Parliament, then why should it matter whether the MP was murdered, died naturally or resigned? Why should the electorate in that particular constituency get a fresh opportunity to elect a new party representative just because, for whatever reason, the present incumbent (who by this argument is just a party cipher) can no longer represent them?
    There is never a great deal of enthusiasm for a by-election anyway, but usually by the time the by-election is called things have moved on from the circumstances that caused it to happen. It can be seen from Eastbourne that it doesn’t really matter to voters how the vacancy is caused — a by-election is a by-election.

  • Peter Martin,
    History shows you are probably incorrect, Eastbourne displayed that 30 years ago. High turnout and heavy Lib Dem gain.

    .

  • Neil James Sandison 18th Oct '21 - 4:04pm

    Perhaps there should not be a by-election and the seat should remain vacant by agreement until the next general election .I am sure local Councillors could manage most of the local casework and constituency / parliamentary matters could be shared out among nieghbouring MPs .

  • Iain Warner 18th Oct '21 - 5:03pm

    As a further thought.

    If there is to be no genuinely democratic by-election (due to no major opposition party standing), how about… Rather than the local Tory Party appointing whoever they want for a foregone conclusion (and hence the candidate being decided by an undemocratic select few) perhaps a ‘half-way house’ would for a selection of local Tory candidates to be put forward and the local electorate vote on those?

    That would at least serve the local electorate with some degree of democracy – they still choose their local MP, rather than the local Tory Party doing it for them.

    Under those circumstances, it would encourage non Tory voters to at least engage and vote for their ‘most favourable’ candidate.

    (Of course this would not fit with current election law, so would need a bill to allow it etc. Just go with the idea for discussion, rather than bogged down with the delivery details! 😀 )

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Oct '21 - 5:03pm

    Alex

    I do think it is completely logical and regularly possible to have by elections. But a reason being the act of terror, personal or political, we see here, or with horrible instances like that, party politics means cross party support.

  • Expats said: “On a purely practicable basis standing a candidate of anything other than Conservative is pointless..In 1997 Sir David Amess held the seat with a majority of around 14k..”

    I would remind everyone that Conservtaive candidate an Gow had a majority of 16,923 in the 1987 General Election. In the 1990 by-election Liberal Democrat David Bellotti won the seat with a majority of 4550. This was despite the Tories tryng to argue that voting for David was supporting Ian Gow’s murderers!

  • I think you ought to read this extremist’s right wing voting patterns and give this constituency a chance to change to a decent candidate who wants to help asylum seekers and immigrants, wants more democracy, wants to help finance local councils, doesn’t want a new system of nuclear weapons, allows those dying in long agony to end their life, believe in taxing the rich and highly paid etc etc etc. I wondered at the pro Tory MP total eclipse what a wonderful man electioning of the BBC this weekend when they should have been concentrating on an innocent 14 year old being stabbed and climate changes Earthshot. But that would have meant working on a Sunday. It is imperative to stand. To offer a more acceptable candidate to the public who doesn’t vote to invade other countries might be more acceptable. That’s what I want to hear – the other side.

  • Goodness me, some people are really tying themselves in knots trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. The seat needs a new MP. Tragic circumstances, yes. But what on earth is the problem with putting up a range of candidates and allowing the voters to decide which one they want?

  • Peter Martin 19th Oct '21 - 9:34am

    I may have just missed them but I don’t remember the same arguments, for having a contested election, being used when Jo Cox was murdered.

    That’s set the precedent. I take the point about Eastbourne in 1990, but times have changed. Neither the Labour Party nor the Lib Dems should support one rule for the murder of a Tory and another for everyone else.

  • Peter Martin: I was against my party standing aside in Batley & Spen at the time. I don’t remember whether I said anything about it at the time on here, but I did on my private SM account. Although I was relieved wer didn’t have to worry about it when it was held on the same day as RPNK, I was nonetheless worried about the precedent it was setting.
    I don’t know what has changed between 1990 and now. In the Eastbourne by-election, the fact that the previous MP was assassinated by terrorists was not a factor in the campaign (and the Tory attempt to make it a factor backfired, as I noted above). If you have any evidence to suggest that voters would now view things differently, I’d love to hear it. But based on the Eastbourne by-election result, my opinion is that had Batley & Spen 2016 been a normal contested by-election then the voters would have treated it as such, and the circumstances causing it would have been largely forgotten, except maybe that the campaign would have been kinder and more respectful than usual.

    As a result of the decision by Tories and Labour not to stand in B&S 2016, the turnout was extremely low, even for a by-election (about 25%), and far-right candidates (the only opposition to the Labour candidate) got about 15% of the vote between them. The low turnout exaggerated their perceived level of support. So I fear slightly for the result in Southend West. Again there’ll be a low turnout with probably even stronger support for far right candidates. While unlikely, it is not impossible that a BNP or similar candidate might actually win, because no-one else apart from Tory loyalists will see any reason at all to vote.

  • There’s some irony that parties falling over themselves to say they’re not standing has meant the by-election is being discussed much sooner than is usual after the representative’s death. Usually everyone waits until mourning is finished before we even start to talk about it (in public at least). If this traditional purdah had been observed for this and B&S, maybe more reasoned decisions would have been reached about whether to stand.

  • Peter Martin 19th Oct '21 - 5:06pm

    @ Alex,

    “…….because no-one else apart from Tory loyalists will see any reason at all to vote.”

    I don’t know about that. If the feeling in the party was that previous Labour voters should vote Tory just this one time I’d say they should at least think about it. I haven’t heard of any such suggestion but if there is a danger of a far right victory that could change.

  • Peter Martin: Perhaps, but remember what I keep saying, voters can’t be instructed. And if there is any danger of a far-right victory in the Southend West by-election, it will only be the consequence of the Westminster bubble deciding that voters should be denied a meaningful choice among mainstream candidates. I half-hope that it does happen, because then it will cause reality to hit, and make the Westminster bubble decision-makers understand that giving one party candidate a clear run just because of the circumstances of the election is not actually a good idea.

  • Peter Martin, you assume we all thought it right not to stand at the first Batley and Spen by election. If so incorrect.

  • Alex Macfie 21st Oct '21 - 6:38am

    expats 18th Oct ’21 – 1:34pm: History of Parliamentary by-election results show that the event that caused a by-election is hardly ever a factor in the by-election campaign, however tragic. People are focusing on other, current issues by the time of the by-election. I don’t remember any sympathy vote for Cheryl Gillan being a factor in Chesham & Amersham, for instance. Sympathy votes just don’t happen. It’s also difficult to see why sympathy or respect for a deceased incumbent would lead voters to support someone who just happens to share the same party label as the deceased. The sympathy is personal, nothing to do with the party.

    Batley & Spen 2016 was artificially made about the event that caused it, due to the other parties standing aside. Labour chose a candidate who was popular and well-known locally, and not a political hack. Even so, the turnout was very low, and the Labour candidate got fewer votes than Jo Cox did in 2015. If the Tories choose a similar popular local uniting figure in Southend West, then we can expect a similar result to that of B&S. If, however, they select a party placeman, perhaps a Parliamentary retread as in Eastbourne, and seem to be taking the election for granted, then it’s likely that the electorate will rebel, and many will vote for alternative candidates. The turnout in that case is likely to be even lower than the 25.8% in B&S 2016. The Tory could still win, but it would be a hollow victory and would not be a good advertisement for democracy.

    If Southend West were to be a normal, contested by-election, the electorate would treat it as such and there would be a normal by-election campaign focusing on whatever political issues are current at the time, rather than on the tragic circumstances that caused the by-election to happen. And i the Tories tried to make it about David Amess, it would backfire on them as in Eastbourne.

  • Latest polling:
    Is the country going in the right or wrong direction?
    Response only 24% thought it was in the right. 49% going wrong.
    Imperative we fight Southend West.

  • nvelope2003 1st Nov '21 - 12:35pm

    There will be other candidates so it is wrong for the traditional supporters of democracy not to contest the seat. The next election might be almost 3 years away. I suspect that the Labour party feared that they would do badly as they did at the 2019 election while the Liberal Democrats improved their position.

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    Presumably you are talking about care home residents who are not regarded as tenants. As I said, Tenants have some security. Care home residents have none. That...