What the media says

Two good results for the Lib Dems on Thursday with swings against Labour and two embarrassing third places for David Cameron’s Conservatives. That’s our line – but what does the press think? Here’s a handy guide…

Daily Express, Saturday 21st
“Leading Britain is a grown-up job for a serious politician. Voters have had quite enough of windmills, bicycles, sledges and huskies. They do not care for the dilettante Notting Hill Set which surrounds Mr Cameron. Part-time spokesmen who prefer to make money moonlighting rather than mastering their briefs should be swept away.”

Simon Heffer, The Daily Telegraph, Saturday 21st
“Frankly, if you can’t even come second in by-elections halfway through the third term of another party’s time in power, things aren’t just wrong. They are catastrophically wrong. The worst mistake Dave can make now, though, is to imagine they can’t get worse. They can. They can get a lot worse.”

Tania Branigan, The Guardian, Saturday 21st
“The third-place finish is a personal blow to David Cameron, who toured the west London constituency five times with political newcomer Tony Lit. The Liberal Democrats also squeezed the Conservatives into third place in Sedgefield.”

Jean Eaglesham, Financial Times, Friday 20th
“A senior Tory MP told the Financial Times the Cameron project risked ‘imploding’, as some activists questioned whether the opposition party should consider electing its sixth leader in a decade.”

“The third place in Ealing was seen as particularly damaging for Mr Cameron, who lent his personal authority to the campaign, visiting the west London constituency five times.”

“Lord Tebbit, the former party chairman, acidly summarised the result as ‘Labour won, the Liberal Democrats did well, and Mr [Tony] Lit, the Tory candidate, and former Labour party donor, who stood under the banner of David Cameron’s Conservatives, did extremely badly’.”

Oonagh Blackman, Daily Mirror, Saturday 21st
“Humiliated David Cameron was facing a fresh crisis yesterday after the Tories limped into third place in two by-elections”

Toby Helm, The Daily Telegraph, Saturday 21st
“Yesterday, the sense of a mini-crisis enveloping the Tories deepened after the failure to capture even second place in two by-elections; in Labour-held Ealing Southall and in Tony Blair’s former seat of Sedgefield. When a party should be powering to victory in every by-election if it is to have any chance of winning a general election, the Tories limped home in third place in both.”

James Chapman, Daily Mail, Friday 20th
“David Cameron is facing a backlash from sections of his party after the Tories failed to make progress in their first test at the ballot box since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.”

“Others voiced unease at the Tory leader’s decision to rebrand the party ‘David Cameron’s Conservatives’ in the constituency”

“Mr Cameron had put his personal authority on the line in the Ealing Southall poll, visiting the seat five times and having his name featured on ballot papers.”

Philip Webster, Greg Hurst and Fran Yeoman, The Times, Saturday 21st July
“David Cameron’s leadership faced the first murmurings of revolt yesterday as MPs, officials and activists reacted with dismay to the Tory party’s failure in by-elections in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield.”

“The Conservatives were beaten into third place in both battles and Tory websites and blogs yesterday were dismissive of the leadership’s strategy, which was blamed for causing lasting damage to the party’s relations with British Asians.”

Michael Lea, The Sun, Saturday 21st
“David Cameron was caught running a red light on his bicycle yesterday — hours after being humiliated in two by-elections.

“The Tory leader — whose mind must have been elsewhere as he peddled through London — now faces a revolt after coming third behind Labour and the Lib Dems in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield.”

“He had visited Ealing Southall FIVE times and hand-picked candidate Tony Lit was on the ballot paper representing “David Cameron’s Conservatives”.”

Andrew Woodcock, The Independent, Saturday 21st
“The results were a blow for Mr Cameron, who was hoping to restore momentum to his challenge for power after being knocked off course by rows over grammar schools and Labour’s “Brown bounce” in the polls.”

BBC News, Friday 20th
“David Cameron failed to make the grade, stuck in third place in a seat the Conservatives had thrown everything at.”

“David Cameron’s judgement over his choice of candidate is questionable.”

Greg Hurst and Philip Webster, The Times, Friday 20th
“The results, with the Tories trailing in third place in both constituencies, was a hammer blow for David Cameron, who tried to use the campaigns to showcase his brand of modern, broad-based Conservatism.”

“the vote is further evidence of the [Liberal Democrats’] formidable by-election team.”

Ben Russell, The Independent, Saturday 21st
“David Cameron faced a furious backlash from within his own party after the Conservatives slumped to third place in the Southall and Sedgefield by-elections.

“MPs and activists demanded that Mr Cameron ditch his “heir to Blair” style after the party failed to make a breakthrough in Southall, despite a high-profile campaign that even put ‘David Cameron’s Conservatives’ on the ballot paper.”

BBC News Online, Friday 20th
“Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who saw his party take second place in both seats, was the main beneficiary.”

Daily Star, Saturday 21st
“Calamity Cameron”

“David Cameron’s Conservatives were licking their wounds after being beaten into third place in two parliamentary by-elections”

Anthony King, Daily Telegraph, Friday 20th
“If the Conservatives are depressed by Thursday’s events, Labour has little to cheer about either – apart from the mere fact of having held on.”

“The results were good news for Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell.”

Graeme Wilson, Daily Telegraph, Friday 20th
“Just seven days ago, Tory insiders were talking excitedly about how well things were going for their campaign in Ealing Southall.”

“An upset appeared to be on the cards. By last night, Mr Cameron’s hopes of a breakthrough were in tatters.”

“The party’s poor performance is clearly a setback for the leadership’s modernising drive. But the result in Ealing Southall is also a personal blow for the Tory leader, who hand-picked the candidate and then visited the constituency five times in recent weeks to boost the campaign.”

George Pascoe-Watson, The Sun, Friday 20th
“Tory leader David Cameron suffered two bruising defeats at the polls last night.

“The Conservatives came third in two by-elections.

“The Tories were desperately hoping to steal second place in West London’s Ealing Southall.”

Gerri Peev, The Scotsman, Saturday 21st
“What route now for Cameron after ‘fiasco’ of by-election defeat?

“Questions over David Cameron’s leadership were growing last night after the Conservatives trailed in third place in Thursday’s by-elections.”

Newsnight, Friday 20th
“David Cameron staked his name on the Ealing and Southall by-election.”

“In the post mortem, even those who’ve been supportive of the Cameron project think he got it wrong in Ealing.”

“Failure in Ealing has dampened David Cameron’s drive.”

“This is quite embarrassing for David Cameron.”

Tony Travers, LSE, Newsnight, Friday 20th
“[The result] will worry Conservative strategists.”

“Both by-elections results were good news for the Liberal Democrats”

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This entry was posted in Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Dennis Wake 21st Jul '07 - 2:48pm

    Maybe the Conservatives are finished as a major force. There will always be some support for a free market, tax cutting party and if they want to continue to exist they should put forward their core beliefs and hope to secure a reasonable number of seats in Parliament to advance their cause.

    When Tony Blair came to power no Conservative leader whatever policy he advocated had a chance of winning then or for some years but the time will come when people tire of Labour and they will want different policies. Blair won not because he promised to keep some of Mrs Thatcher’s reforms but because people were sick of the Tories and wanted a change and he seemed like a breath of fresh air at that time.

    Labour will lose power when people become tired of them and there is an attractive alternative leader with different policies. William Hague said no Tory leader could beat Blair and he was right.

    There is also a sense that the sort of people who are in the Conservative party are unrepresentative of modern people and while that has always been so there is no longer much demand for “our betters” to rule over us. Cameron knows this but he is in a dilemma as inorder to change things he feels he has to ditch that image but in doing so he has also ditched his core supporters.

  • littlejohnuk 21st Jul '07 - 3:00pm

    An astute observation – i think the idea of the Tories becoming a modern `Christian Democrat` party is fine on paper but there’s already one – New Labour! If you’re going to do PR puffery, as Blair did, you have to do it properly!

    It seems the mass of British people have come to the conclusion that the new consenus in British politics – more spending on NHS, Education etc and a more liberal society is a `settlement` – the more astute among observers have noted that whereas Blair closed the blue water pushing the Tories ever rightwards, Menzies Campbell and his team are creating yellow water in between Nu Labour and Lib Dems.

    As one Labour stalwart said to me `I find it all very dangerous` – `what` i replied the policies. Yes not that they’re not practical – just that they threaten Labour!

  • Andrew Grice, The Independent -‘A glitzy expensive Tory campaign was outgunned by the traditional pavement politics of the Liberal Democrats under their brilliant election guru Lord (Chris) Rennard.’

  • I think Dennis is right and also I’m sure they would split two or more ways if we had a real form of PR in all our elections.I wouldnt like to be a Tory today & I guess some of their recent comments on the various Blogs show how cornered/desperate they really are.History will show whether the Tories are travelling the road of the Liberal Party after the first World War.

  • It certainly takes the spotlight off the dismal Lib Dem performances.
    A truly awful record of 2 seats net gain at the 2006 locals,a loss of 300 seats at the 2007 locals and now they can’t even win a by-election,oh and their lowest poll ratings for 20 years of 15% ?
    The Tories must be delighted that Ming gets to keep his job which must be worth at least 20 seats to the Tories at the next GE.
    What is the purpose of the Lib Dems as they don’t even do by-elections now?

  • Lib Dem member 22nd Jul '07 - 8:19pm

    Jim: your knowledge of opinion polls needs a little updating. Last month there was a poll that put the party on less than 15%, as have many other polls over the last 20 years. You may find your comments have more effect if you made a passing effort at getting your facts rights?

  • Cheltenham Robin 22nd Jul '07 - 8:59pm

    The decision to put David Cameron on the ballot paper in Ealing is an intersting one.

    This failed to have a positive effect and may even have been a negative for the Tories.

    Does anyone think that there will come a time when we will be using Cameron liberally on our leaflets as he becomes more amd more of a negative for his party.

    The general public are already starting to realise that he is all spin and no substance.

  • ‘Does anyone think that there will come a time when we will be using Cameron liberally on our leaflets as he becomes more amd more of a negative for his party.’

    I would be more concerned about Ming,two consecutive years of disastrous local election results and now the Lib Dems don’t even do by-elections.

    No longer even a successful protest party?

  • Jim, suggest you go back to Conservative home and your chums.

    To pretend that the Lib dems don’t even do by-elections now is plainly stupid – two good second places against all the press and the resource the Tories threw at Ealing and from third to second in Sedgefield in a hard fought 3 week campaign with the PM still in his honeymoon is not a disappointment for us friend!

  • And, Jim, I know your chums in the Tory press portrayed the local election result as a bad one for the LibDems, but it was actually something like our 2nd best share of the vote ever.

  • Ming is not an encumberance for those who are prepared to make the liberal choice and eschew personality for politics. Quite simply he is the first citizen of a party – the only party – which is democratic through and through.
    Our treasured democracy becomes ever more threatened by the rise of secular and political idols despite this reverence being continually shown up as a flawed concept – so it is to LD credit and advantage to continue to promote the necessary alternative: faith in the wisdom of the electorate is always repaid, given half a chance (and sufficient profile).
    You’re damn right LibDems are no longer just a protest party – the story of recent elections is the growth of the LD argument, and voting patterns clearly show LibDems are the only group to have an appeal wide enough to govern in the wider interest.

  • One observation: lots of bad news for David Cameron (great!), but not that much talk about the Liberal Democrats. It’s all very well for the opponent to be getting bad press, but it doesn’t necessarily influence people to vote Lib Dem if there isn’t some positive news out there about Lib Dem policies.

    Easier said than done, I’m sure, but there has to be a way of generating more frequent headlines, without becoming tainted by the spinning of Labour and the Tories.

  • The Liberal Democrats have many rising stars who they fail promote,and would be attractive to voters dispairing at seeing recycled polititians trying to jump on band wagons which they are both inept and ill informed about.
    Ming needs to show case the talent his team undoubtable has and offer the public a fresh and exciting new vision for Britian.By doing so the Lib/dems will capture
    seats at bye elections and more importantly the next general election.

  • Win Grimmette 27th Jul '07 - 4:38pm

    It is disappointing that the media largely ignore our party. They enjoy putting people down rather than giving positive statements on policy. At least we were not on the receiving end of the put down this time.

  • Cousin Jack 27th Jul '07 - 6:58pm

    The UK media have always preferred a two party system – easier to write about when you’ve had a couple, and less of that nasty thinking to do. But it was ever thus.
    I intend to follow the great David Penhaligon’s advice, put it on a Focus and get it through letter-boxes…

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