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Oh dear oh dear oh dear ....

David Cameron is supposedly the best leader you've had since Thatcher.

Ming Campbell is supposedly an old man with no resonance with the voters.

Bromley is supposedly a safe seat for you.

And you win by a mere 633 votes?

Vaizey's comments look increasingly like getting excuses in early for a very, very poor perfomrance. Becaue, of course, you don't fight dirty ever do you? And you'd certainly never stoop to implying an opposition candidate was a rapist.

Please, please keep Cameron in place. He's doing just fine for you!

Just woken up and seen the results. Awful night for Labour. We suffered traditional by-election blues on a much reduced turnout. We had everything to lose and it is notoriously difficult to defend a large majority in the glare of the national spotlight.

Finally I’ve also just listened to Bob Neil's speech - wicked!! Well done him - love the mirror analogy!!!

The LibDems are a party of no principles except increasing the number of MP's they hold. For the first time in a long time, We tory's now CLEARLY hold the moral high ground, with no challenge from LAB or LIB.

Interesting to hear Francis Maude on the radio earlier; he said the result meant the Party had to drive through change faster and deeper.

I'd like to know why so many people turned away from the Party at this election (with our votes down 11,000 I think), considering Conservative voters are traditionally more likely to vote.

Blaenau Gwent really was rather a success for Plaid Cymru and the Conservative Party who both increased their total votes, Labour have the consolation of knowing that the majority in the parliamentary seat is now very narrow although the Assembly Seat looks still way out of their reach for next time around.

So far as Bromley & Chislehurst goes, rather a dissapointing result for UKIP in what should have been a golden opportunity and the Liberal Democrats failed to make much headway in their vote despite a collapse in the Labour vote and Green vote presumabky partly due to tactical voting, surely the likliehood is that the Conservatives will run out in 2009 with a majority more in the order of 10,000 there.

As I just said on my blog, at the next General Election, when the Lib Dems won't be able to descend on Bromley from every corner of the country, the 700 vote difference will leap back into the many thousands.

The funinest thing is Ming Campbell claiming the result showed there is no confidence in Cameron. Has he looked at what the polls say about him?


No need to panic (though close!) but lessons to be learned.

1 Selection. The mess over A list v local candidates started the campaign off on the wrong foot. For all the talk of strong local candidates in the event we selected someone who though representing the area on GLA didn't have roots in the community. The Party needs to agree a firm set of rules regarding candidate selection at a by-election where there is no candidate in place.

2 Three or is it four jobs? Voters expect their MP to put that post first. Some can get away with being assembly members & MPs but normally in full elections with no spotlight.

3 Play your strengths - David Cameron is more popular than the party yet hardly mentioned or involved. The election literature & campaign comes across as pre-Cameron Tory. I agree with your point 3 as regards Europe but from what I can gather the campaign message was otherwise pretty right wing. If the selection had been one of the two A list finalists and had carried the exitement of regular high profile visits (better managed so known Labour suporters didn't get chance to harangue leader in front of press) perhaps the thousands of Tory voters wouldn't have stayed at home.

4 A professional by-election team. We don't want to estrange the local constituency but a by election is a national event. Its outcome affects our national standing and so needs a core expert team. At least we could have had someone who checked that the candidate didn't have a job that conflicted with election laws.

5 Don't expect supporters to turn out to vote if you give them an un-exciting campaign & candidate. I think the acceptance speech last night demonstrated the weaknesses. Mr Forth wasn't boring and if he had attacked his opponents in his acceptance speech I think he'd have done it with more style and acid humour. Mr Neill may be a good & competent MP but he didn't come across well last night.

6 Expect your opponents to attack especially if you give them open goals. We know how the LDs operate, so plan for it.

Still at least Labour did really badly:-)

UKIP's vote was not necessarily coming from previous Conservatives. The BNP told their supporters to back UKIP in Bromley & Chislehurst.

If Farage cannot do more than 10% of the vote against a known europhile, UKIP are not going to get seats at Westminster. They keep standing against known eurosceptics such as Bill Cash, and might actually prolong Britain's stay in the EU. They are a strategic disaster.

With labour's vote down by over 80% it seems likely there must have been a tactical vote. Even that did not win the LD's the seat.

If we can turn all seats into marginals then the voters will finally get control of the parties..............and era of NOC in Parliament and Councils would work wonders


Points 4&6 very well made... the biggest cause of this result was not anticipating the intensisty of hte LibDem Challenge and then a confused, disorganised campaign (minus the World Cup posters :) ) which did not play to the party's strengths.

The real significant change compared to the general election is that the Conservative & Labour votes slumped.

So would it be reasonable to assume that:

1) Labour voters, tactically switch to Lib Dem
2) Some Conservative voters, switch to UKIP (probably in some cases, thinking there is no risk)
3) Everything else is explained by lower turnout.

Ted - an excellent post if I may so and I agree with every word.

I think the candidate selection point is important. I did some canvassing in Bromley and three things stick out in my mind.

1) A guy who said "I've always voted Conservative, Bob Neill doesn't live here and LD candidate does so I'm voting for him" - It's coming to something when the man who's represented Bromley and Bexley on the GLA for six years doesn't live there.

2) The person that looks at the literature and Bob's picture and said "he's a very 1980s looking Tory isn't he". Yes, I know it sounds horrible to talk about image, but it matters.

3) The older gentleman who said "I shall be voting Tory of course, but why didn't you get someone taller?" Conclusion? God Knows, I just thought it was amusing.

I thought Bob Neill was having an Alan Partridge moment when he made his speech.

"a confused, disorganised campaign"

The office was next door to the pub in the middle of the World Cup. Think about priorities!

Seriously though, you may be right, and I wasn't there much I admit, but it felt quite well organised to me.

"Play your strengths - David Cameron is more popular than the party yet hardly mentioned or involved. The election literature & campaign comes across as pre-Cameron Tory. I agree with your point 3 as regards Europe but from what I can gather the campaign message was otherwise pretty right wing. If the selection had been one of the two A list finalists and had carried the exitement of regular high profile visits (better managed so known Labour suporters didn't get chance to harangue leader in front of press) perhaps the thousands of Tory voters wouldn't have stayed at home."

Cameron wasn't mentioned on any literature in Hammersmith and Fulham at the council elections

Result = thumping win.

Desmond - the locals were on a national stage and IIRC Cameron apeared on TV quite a bit and there was a national campaign to support the individual local ones. By elections are different.

B&C - local campaign, based round Bromley Councils record and re-cycled 2005 messages, almost overt distancing from the Cameron chage agenda - result wimpering win. Maybe I'm being harsh on B&C party; CCHQ is probably equally at fault.

Still its not all bad - over on Politicalbetting the LDs seem to have taken the lesson that B&C proves the LD's have no need to change their leadership, that B&C voters actually knew what the LD policies are and liked them, that this result is a judgement on Cameron.

And the Ed Vaizeys of this world have re-discovered why the Labour & Tory parties dislike the LDs so much - perhaps this lesson will drive CCHQ to take beating the LDs more seriouly.

Bob Neill had a chance to be magnanimous and statesmanlike but, perhaps understandably, emotions got the better of him. A chance missed.

What astonished me was the braying arrogance of the LibDem candidate while Bob was speaking. That ought to be played to every conservative activist in the country so that it actually gets into everyone's heads what a thoroughly despicable bunch the LibDems are.

Disasterous night for Labour in both be-elections.

In respect of Blaenau Gwent this must surely hasten Blair's departure but I don't think there is any message the Tories can really take from this internal Labour falling out.

Bromley & Chislehurst is a differnt matter. Yes the Tories won. But I have to agree with Francis Maude that this shows reform has to be speeded up and entrenched. CCHQ ducked a fight over candidate selection and allowed the local association to select a 'local' 50 something white middle class man rather than insist on an A lister to project a fresh Tory face. IMO that decision was disasterous as Bob Neill represented the Tory party of the 1980s and 1990s which the electorate has rejected and again large numbers continued to reject again yesterday.

I believe there are two lessons from B&C. These are:

1) that an A lister should have been insisted upon at the outset, a better result might have been delivered then as the candidate's image and message would have chimed with that of Cameron rather than jarred against it.


2) that this should be the end to the selection of local white 50 something middle class male worthies who frankly don't reflect modern Britain and want the seat based buggins turn rather than merit. There is more than enough of these in parliament to ensure the concerns of the group of the electorate are represented.

IMO CCHQ ought to a take a closer involvement in selections and make sure that unsuitable candidates are not selected elsewhere. Cameron has made candidate selection a litmus test for his leadership and the failure to insist on A listers in target seats will put at risk undermining Cameron's credibility to deliver change and Tory success at the next general election. As B&C has shown the electorate don't like the old Tories image and want to see a new Tory Party with a fresher face and a more modern message than that represented by the likes of Bob Neill.

I blame the result on the choice of candidate. Membership of a lodge is a symptom of a personality that s not compatible with being an MP. The public is not so blind to this as the party.

It was a very disappointing night for Labour, the Tories and UKIP.

The message for Labour and the Tories is that, no matter how big their historic support in an area, they can no longer take it for granted, and even 'safe' seats are up for grabs.

The message for ukip is clear too; they need to change to win. B&C ticked all the boxes, they had an excellent candidate, spent a lot of money and all worked admirably hard to gain less than 1,000 extra votes than last time.

Lets not try to heap the blame all onto Bob Neill's shoulders. I agree that at this time and in this place he was the wrong choice, but just as the party needs to reach out to women & minority candidates it must also not become a no go area for middle aged men (and membership of a lodge shouldn't be a bar Mark anymore than odd handshakes should be an aid).

We won.

If you only manage a 633 majority in a 'safe' seat how will you do when there is a by-election in a marginal ?

I think it would be a good idea to canvas the area and find out why 10, 000 people didn't vote this time. Instead of guessing why they didn't, do some research. Ask and learn.

Well first of all must remove egg from face. Thought B&C would be easy Tory win. The South Wales result has no significance, it being due to rather perculiar local circumstances.

1. Never ever complain about the other party's tactics, blame yourself for not anticipating them and knowing how to counter them.

2. Don't take anything for granted, thank your lucky stars that the LD's don't have a more marketable leader.

3. UKIP may not have had a particularly good night, but between now and the GE they could improve. UKIP has the potential to cause considerable damage to the Conservative Party in some seats.

4. Don't be misled by opinion polls, they are very reliable as far as it goes. Remember they are snapshots of opinion at the time they are taken, things can change!!

5. Some of us remember, when at byelections when it was guaranteed that the main opposition party would benefit from swings of 20% or more. The B&C result shows just how different British politics are becoming.

The Bromley result was firstly caused by a fall in the Tory vote because of a natural assumption that the result would be a foregone conclusion and secondly by a significant shift in support from Labour to the LibDems. We all know about LibDem anoraks descending with their tents on by-elections but the real lesson to be learned is that too many people are not yet prepared to switch directly from Labour to the Conservatives. We were fortunate on this occasion.

I've looked at the numbers, it isn't a great result for anyone really. It's pretty obvious what happened, a lot of Tories didn't turn out to vote, probably assuming a victory, or because they didn't like Bob Neil, and the other parties mostly voted Lib Dem.

by-elections tend to throw up unusual results which more often than not do not have a wider significance. We can probably spend all day coming up with possible explanations for the result but the most important thing is Bob Neill won and he'll be superb local MP. The Lib dems had nothing positive to say throughout the campaign, they relied on hurling abuse at Bob and hoped that would be enough to see them through, Fortunately such shameless and unpleasant negativity was rejected by the people of bromley & chislehurst. With the by-election over we'll see how long they stick around to demonstrate their committment to bromley residents, about as long as Abbotts did after his defeat in Sevenoaks I'd think.

There's no valid excuse for LibDems being better at by-elections than Conservatives.

Last night's result shows that considerable change is needed in the party when it comes to election campaigning + in this respect nothing has changed since the 2005 General Election.

I hate to say it but if you look at my post at 18.07 last night I predicted the result and every candidates position from the winner to the bottom in correct order.

Some of us have been fighting elections for years and wish that a bit of experience could have been used. The LD campaign from the outset went for Bob and they spent the whole campaign issuing variations on the same theme. Our rebuttal leaflet was on Wednesday! As the old saying has it "truth is getting its boots on when lie has gone half way around the world'.

The LD campaign followed the usual path - identify any weakness in your opponent and ruthlessly exploit it. Do CCHQ not learn from previous by-elections? I showed some of the LD literature to an experienced agent and he said "That's the sort of thing they always issue!' And?

Our literature had no theme, was over written (take the Sun as our template not the Times and remember the 8 second rule from letterbox to waste bin)and wordy. Bob's pictures were dreadful, the one they used made him look smug and complacent when those of us who know him, know that he is a decent hardworking chap.

Thirdly go back to the basics of running and election. Prepare for polling day a week ahead with tellers' lists and committee room boxes 9not at 6am on polling day as happened in some wards)and improve on sharing of information and distribution of resources. I found myself knocking up people who had voted 6 or 7 hours before and who had spoken to the tellers (they were party members) and yet they were on the knock up list and were rung or called on 3 times.

You've got to be joking if you think it was a bad night for UKIP. With David Cameron supposedly driving the party toward victory after 11 years of terminally unpopular Blair, getting towards a quarter of the Tories' total is surely a result.

UKIP had circa £75,000 to spend after a very quiet couple of years and a candidate who outclassed 3 Jobs Bob and the other candidates. I reckon despite the Lib Dems being the best repository for an anti-Cameron vote and coming within 633 of victory UKIP's 2347 wasn't bad at all.

Can someone tell me how the Cameroons are going to get into power without the full core conservative vote? The question should surely be why so many turned out to vote UKIP in this Westminster by-election. Are they going to stop doing that any time soon?

"UKIP may not have had a particularly good night, but between now and the GE they could improve. UKIP has the potential to cause considerable damage to the Conservative Party in some seats. "

That's the aim, but the aim is to win support from all the big 3 parties to grow with a positive, progressive agenda and broad appeal, not be a tory protest vote. A very big challenge, but certainly achieveable.

There is no great mystery here.

Many voters who would have supported us thought that this was “safe as houses” and didn’t need to come and vote, I got this response a number of ties when I was knocking up. A significant number were put off voting for Bob because of the Lib Dem/UKIP smear campaign.

They picked up a few votes but not many. Their tactics reinforced the natural inclination of Conservative voters to stay at home.

I think that an A-lister from outside the area would have had just as much flack, possibly even more than Bob got and they would have also suffered from the “imposed by Cameron” tag. CCHQ and the local association were right not to fall out over this selection.

Lessons to be learned?

For By-elections pick ultra local. Campaign really, really hard whatever the majority and stay positive.

This is not a significant result and I think we should be careful before we supimpose our personal prejudices upon it.

Try to be a little more investigative about the parties you join - UKIP has since DC's election positioned itself as the true home for core conservatives. It makes little effort to have "progressive" policies to attract Labour or LibDem support (other than the anti-EU one which I admit does attract across the spectrum). UKIP's domestic hopes rest on attracting the Conservative right.

Agree all Ted's points above.

Also the main CHome statement "CCHQ needs to understand what went wrong with the campaign. We need to be stronger for the next by-election when we might be defending a smaller majority or, more likely, our opportunity is to win a Labour seat."

To which my question is when will CCHQ and the Associations wake up?

It was good that no A-lister was chosen as a fall in the vote would have been blamed on them and could have wrecked it through no fault of the A list process.

Bob Neil does bear part of the responsibility through own goals of hanging onto all his jobs. A political operator like Bob should have known what the Lib Dems would attack him on and reduced the target areas. He failed to do that.

The choice of candidate in a by election needs reviewing. Since Lib Dems are going to attack any weaknesses we do need to choose blander candidates that do not have negatives. Leaving that choice to a constituency that is choosing "their person" in a beauty contest is just not working. Somehow the negatives need listing internally at the selection panel stage so that a Bob Neil is either not selected or understands what he needs to change before the election.

There also needs to be a guidance Note on candidate vulnerabilities sent to every PPC candidate highlighting the failures of Bob and other candidates who have been undermined by LD tactics.

Lastly - anyone know how many leaflets we delivered per voter compared to the Lds. Were we also out delivered?

Oh and Labour abandond their campaign here gifting the Lib Dems a bucket of votes.

I note the BBC is running the line that the majority went down from 11,000 to 600. All fine except the turnout here was pretty poor - 40%. Seems to me the Labour vote collapsed to Lib Dems (predictable when you consider Labour votes were over 10,000 here last May) and UKIP drained support from our guy. On a 40% turnout the comparative GE majority would have been 6,700. UKIP took 2,310, leaving a notional majority of 5,400.

I went a few times to help out and really thought the literature was "low key".

Well, we won, and certainly the LDs didn't expect that. Yes, it is a by-election and William Hague got a similar majority at his by-election in Richmond.

But, I really want to cry out loud. What will it take to bring the national Tory Party to its senses.

I have had the misfortune to see the LDs at close proximity for some time. I have seen the result, an obviously safe Tory area with an obnoxious but popular LD MP and an LD controlled council with a majority of 9.

The first thing to realise is they DO NOT have a by-elections unit. They have a specialist Election Campaign Unit. This focuses where they perceive it will be most use in a very small number of constituencies or districts. These are selected on a probability basis. And, when it is in town the equivalent of the local association is kicked into the background and takes its orders from them.

They then run the sausage machine. This time it didn't have time to produce a sausage, thank goodness we held the by-election on the first available date. Another fortnight and Bob Neill would not have won.

The answer, a full time Election Crack Unit, employed full time by the party nationally, ideally about 50 people which expects to live out of youth hostels, not 4 star hotels. This team to move in like a disaster relief team as soon as an MP dies and kick arse.

Our leader prefers to discuss climate change with polar bears. All very well, but, did they actually come out and vote ?

I think it's very dangerous to simply criticise the candidate in these situations. To be honest, if an A lister had been picked and the result had been similar (most likely I suspect), the risk is that we would have a stream of contributions and commentators heaping scorn on Cameron and the whole A list project. It's a by-election, freakish results occur, the Lib Dems thrive on them. Let's learn lessons and run effective campaigns. If there's one critical lesson re candidates, I'd say in by-elections, they need to be local (whether A list or not). We're asking for trouble when we select an outsider in these circumstances.

Why do so many people insist on over-analysing? Yes, the LDs did what they always did at by-elections. Our vote didn't bother getting out because it assumed the result was a foregone conclusion anyway.

The biggest lesson to learn I think is that nothing should be taken for granted at an election, especially a by-election.

Oiut of all the comments I pick Serf's - - -

"1) Labour voters, tactically switch to Lib Dem
2) Some Conservative voters, switch to UKIP (probably in some cases, thinking there is no risk)
3) Everything else is explained by lower turnout"

Had I been a voter there I would have sat on my hands. I am that bit of the "core" vote who came back to Michael Howard. When you get a leadership that can't see the social justice in grammer schools, the overriding necessity to cut taxes to prevent meltdown, the vital necessity to disentangle Britain from the EU then you have a leadership that is all spin and no substance. So it looks like I'll be sitting on my hands at a general election too.

I agree with your analysis James. It was apathy, and the expectation that we would win, which kept Tory voters at home. Also, both bye elections continue the trend which has demonstrated an increasing "independence" amongst voters, who will often rally round somebody who lives, works in and is active in the community - whatever their political stripe.

The Lib Dems used this to their advantage by emphasising that Bob Neil was an "outsider".

Some may throw up their hands in horror over such a tactic, I don't share that horror. I say beat them at their own game!

We did exactly that in our local elections on Sheppey when we took a previously safe Lib Dem seat by a large majority by putting out an eve of poll leaflet explaining that the LIb Dem candidate did not even live on the Island, let alone in the ward!

Exit red faced Lib Dem candidate stage left!

I would echo what others have said - don't panic.

From the figures the turn out was very low (but then it is a by election) - we FAILED to get our vote out.

The Lib Dems managed not only to get their vote out, but also to increase it (but not by a massive figure).

That we failed to get our votes out I think is the only major comment - CCHQ should look into this, however I would hope to see the majority increase at the next GE.

Has anyone even looked at the actual vote figures yet? (Haven't had chance to read this whole thread yet) Bromley and Chiselhurst actually looks a lot worse than it is. About 17,000 less people actually voted there yesterday than in 2005 and most were Conservatives. It was a classic case of a safe seat nearly being lost because of our supporters not voting due to thinking we'd always win it. The Lib Dems only gained 1,620 votes, whilst we lost 11,962 and Labour lost 8,316. It just simply looks far worse than it is, and as itis you can manipulate the figures to get whatever headline you want. Personally I see it as Labour in freefall, Lib Dems scraping together votes and the Conservatives being lazy.

My criticsm of Bob is just that he should have minimised his negatives on the jobs front.

He will probably be a very good MP and possible aide to the shadow cabinet.

But, he provided too many bullets for the LD by election machine.

Also westmoreland activist hits the nail on the head about our whole approach to by election campaigns. Local constituencies just cannot cope because they lack the experience of by elections. They are rare events. A GE with a sitting MP with a massive majority is radically different to a by election Vs the LDs.

I am just wondering whether those voters placing their cross against the candidate for the Monster Raving Looney Party had actually thought they were voting for Cameron Conservatives?

Odd, is it not how Cameron's alleged popularity doesn't translate into votes.

A request: If 'Cameron's Conservatives' would change their name to reflect their ideology - and call themselves the 'New Liberals' - it would help us genuine conservatives not to be weighed down by the confusion Dave is currently causing.

Yet more pain awaits I fear...

Wow, what a surprising set of results. I was convinced Bromley was about 2nd place. It's a good job for you guys the handful of Labour and Green voters obviously thought so too! I doubt know if there was any truth in the rumour of a second by-election in Bromley, but the Lib dems would surely win it.

As for BG it's almost unheard of for a sitting govt to pick up a seat in a by-election. (early 80's was the last time) but still a bad result for Labour. This is the heartland of heartlands remember.

I'm not sure if anybody will be happy-apart of course from Trish and Dai!

I am continually amazed that apparently only real local candidates can win anywhere, how did all these guys who like Mr Forth were incomers manage to build and hold majorities?

Sorry James et al but a strong candidate, backed by an effective machine (as Westmoreland Activist suggests) could have run an entirely different campaign than stimulated our supporters to come out and vote - be part of the change perhaps? Local connections help a great deal but my feeling is that if Mr Neill had moved to B&C when he became the GLA member he wouldn't have done that much better.

I read Bromley voter and Andrew Kennedy's posts over last few days with sinking heart as it was apparent we were at sea over this campaign. You must work with the local party and carry them with you (as Labour learnt last night) and the leadership has to do something to overcome this local constituency v CCHQ issue that severely weakens our by election campaigns.

"UKIP's domestic hopes rest on attracting the Conservative right."

No it doesn't Ted.

I was in that Policy Exchange "Case For Change" Tory meeting last year when the Tories admitted they had a poisoned brand. I was pushing for progressive change.

I can see the same in ukip. I have people from across ukip contacting me and supporting this progressive change. Even Nigel Farage has directly shown an interest in this. It feels very similar to the Tories 12 months ago.

The key is to balance the traditional values with the conversion ones. As many here including Liam Fox have noted, Cameron has been too skewed to the conversion issues, losing some equally important traditional support.

It is not about being one or the other, but about fusing the two to create balance.

The hint of a progressive agenda has propelled the Tories from poisoned "right wing" nasty party to poll leaders in just 12 months. Things can change radically, very quicky.

The reason for the slump in support was because yet again a right-wing constituency party thought the way forward was to run a right-wing campaign with a identi-kit old fashioned Trory. When will people learn!
David Cameron should be at the centre of any Conservative campaign and the message should be his message of change and moderation not the right-wing nonsense of yesteryear.
Please lets not have all those old right-wing nutters get on saying we should ape UKIP policies if we want to get back to power. Follow UKIP and you won`t get back to power you will be giving way to the LIb/Dems as the main opposition party.
When the BNP do well are we suppose to do all become racist! Its nonsense.
The majority in Bromley will be back in five figures at the next election along with David Cameron in Downing Street so long as we do things the Cameron way.

I don't get this Local thing either. It reminds me of the The League of Gentlemen. My MP is Michael Meacher from Berkhamstead. I'm in Oldham West! He has a majority of around 10, 000.

Eric Forth was from Glasgow.

I doubt know if there was any truth in the rumour of a second by-election in Bromley, but the Lib dems would surely win it.
I'd say thats very unlikely. Personally I wouldn't mind a second by-election, following a challenge to the result in the courts. Conservatives in Bromley will have been scared by the result and won't be so content next time, also I imagine more activists would head to the area, again after being scared by the result. The majority at the next GE will increase to around 15,000 most likely.

"Membership of a lodge is a symptom of a personality that s not compatible with being an MP. The public is not so blind to this as the party."

That's a silly comment, about an issue which is irrelevant to all but conspiracy theorists.

Overall, I doubt if the choice of candidate made much difference one way or the other. An A List candidate, from outside the constituency, would have been attacked for not being local, or worse (imagine what Lib Dem canvassers would have been saying if Syed Kamal had been chosen).

We have to anticipate that the Lib Dems will go negative on any candidate we choose - in by-election conditions - and be ready to go negative on them - as Labour did so effectively in Hartlepool.

That said, where exactly have the Lib Dems got, despite good by-election results? Nowhere.

" am continually amazed that apparently only real local candidates can win anywhere, how did all these guys who like Mr Forth were incomers manage to build and hold majorities?"

Did forth come in at a general or a by election? I would think people are voting more for a national party in a general, where as a by-election isn't to choose a government so voters go more for the person.

But what do I know- I got every prediction wrong last night :P

The Liberal Democrats really are a bunch of despicable weasels aren't they?

Their by-election campaign was a definitive example of politics at its very worst - a cocktail of lies, duplicity, mendacity, smears and double standards.

With the voters of Bromley and Chislehurst facing this barrage of cynical dirty tactics, is it any wonder that turnout was as low as it was?

"That's a silly comment, about an issue which is irrelevant to all but conspiracy theorists."

That's what all Freemasons say! ;-)

Lots of interesting comments.Probably a bit of over analysis from some but in the end we won and in a short time this byelection will be forgotten and the odious Ben Abbott will crawled back under the stone from whence he came.
Can we learn some lessons? Perhaps.During the leadership contest both Cameron and Davis made clear their intense dislike of the Liberal Democrats.Since then however we have gone easy against them and talked more about what unites our parties than what divides us.Is this the right approach? I don't think so.A harsh ,tough and relentless campaign should be devised specifically to highlight the numerous flaws and inconsistencies in their policies.I certainly don't believe they would be able to withstand for long much close scrutiny.
Secondly let's not give opponents an easy target with our choice of candidate.I don't think the fact that Bob Neill was a white middle aged barrister had much relevance to the electorate in B & C, the fact that opponents called him '3 jobs Bob' did.

Did forth come in at a general or a by election?

He was elected in 1997. It's rarely an issue in a general election, but, for some reason, matters in many by-elections.

Some of the comments made seem to think we live in a pre-media age where no-one watches the 24 hour news or listens to the radio.

Heaping the blame on Bob Neil to the exclusion of the "project" is simply ludicrious.

By elections do through up freak results, but they can also signal the way the wind is blowing. Cameron's project is beginning to look a bit like change for change's sake, and not to preserve Conservative ideals in a modern context.

The point is for all the focus we have given to the green agenda, it doesn't necessarily sway votes. People are very very angry about the home office debacle, the west lothian question and the Blair Brown feud. We are saying so little about these issues that we are in danger of becoming a seaside show - fun to go and watch for a bit of light relief but not everyday and not in your living room.

The rebranding has become all consuming to the detriment of having a positive agenda.

Are you implying that with Syed we would have got a, should we say, ethnic based assault from the LDs? It's perhaps unfair on the candidate but I think if we had chosen Syed and there had been the same level of personal attack as we saw against Bob then that would have tarred the nasty parties in the larger national picture.

Agree that coming close isn't good enough, it's winning that counts in the end, but this has put the bounce back into the LDs.

Our take:
Conservatives hold Bromley from anti gay candidate


Are you a conservative?

UKIP's policies are straightforward conservative principles. Calling their voters right-wing nutters or closet racists, loonies and whatever, just condemns conservativeism. They are going to be encouraged by trendy lefty name-calling from the playground, not awed.

What possible good will your failed corporatist vision do, and at what vast and ultimately un-payable cost?

" People are very very angry about the home office debacle, the west lothian question and the Blair Brown feud"

Yes to the first and the last, I'm not conviced the second is a massive issue tbh.

Look at the results... the real story in B&C is Labour's vote collapses while Tory voters in a safe seat were complacent and couldn't be bothered. We still won, it'll be a thumping majority at the next general election. Chill.

The only bad thing was the archane way B&C Tories ran their campaign... judging by the website and literature I saw very little Cameron rebranding or his agenda making us so popular leaking through to voters... in other words fight a old style tory campaign against the Lib dems and get a worse than expected result. Hardly rocket science.

Henry, though I rarely comment on Jack's comments he did not say UKIP voters were loony,closet racists etc. He said right wing nutters wanted us to ape UKIPs policies. He implied the BNP were racists. I think, though I wouldn't use the word nutters, that for one I agree with Mr Stone.

So selecting Three Jobs was a local victory over the A-List, eh? Wonder who noticed?

The lovely (but never knowingly accurate)Hazel Blurs on the BBC website:

"And people vote tactically in by-elections, and clearly there was a move here to vote anything but for the Tory party so everybody got behind the candidate that they thought could beat David Cameron's nominee," she told BBC Breakfast.

It occurs to me that the inhabitants of Planet PolBlog have all failed to mention that the campaign was fought during both the World Cup and (perhaps more critical to Leafy-Bromleypersons) Wimbledon. In the real world, slumping turnouts surprise fewer of us.

This is the second recent by-election in which our opponents have been able to traduce our candidate. The first was the contest in Moray for the Scottish parliament in April. As in Bromley, this led to a disappointing result, despite a huge on-the-ground effort.
Our media people must get sharper and anticipate these kind of attacks. Above all, don't hand our opponents sticks with which they can beat us. Unfortunately the voters are only too ready to believe bad news stories about Tory candidates.
We must expect the LibDems to pursue these tactics given the success they have enjoyed.

LOL some of these comments are truly comedic genius...the result of the election was bad for the Tories because reform wasnt going fast enough? Oh pull the other one! What a ridiculous reason to push reform through faster.

For once I agree with Jack Stone too.In a high profile byelection with undoubtedly their best candidate UKIP still attract a fairly derisory vote.With Westminster elections their only power is to be a nuisance.

It would seem that people took my suggestion that our by-election machine needs an overhaul ;-)

I do not want to criticise Bob Neill personally - however it would appear that our campaign in Bromley failed to respond effectively to the Lib Dems smears, and as a result the "three-jobs Bob" line was allowed to stick and almost turn Bob into a bad candidate if you see what I mean.

I will go into detail more about what we might or should have to do for by-election campaigning later. However is it time now for CCHQ to hire their own equivalent of Chris Rennard?

Although I have been critical of the Party's approach before, I do not believe that this result shows some sort of national rejection for either Cameron and the Party generally, no matter how hard the Lib Dems try to spin it. A poor campaign, plus an outrageously effective Lib Dem one, is most likely responsible for the poor result. However the most important thing to remember is that we did HOLD the seat.

Can nobody count?! The pluses do not equal the losses.
The Lib Dems are irrelevant in all this. Their vote rose by a pathetic amount. Slippage to other parties was as much as you would expect when you lose a figure like Eric who commanded a personal as much as political vote.

10,000 Thatcherite heartland Tories STAYED AT HOME.

There is only one message. The right of the party remain unconvinced by Cameron's strategy.

Please can someone shut the Lib Dems up before I throw something at my telly.

Ed, I have posted fuller thoughts on my blog which you can all read.


I am not saying that only local candidates can ever win, but by-elections are funny beasts.

I had a lot of people saying "but he doesn't live here". At a general election candidates have the time to bed in, get known and become loved. At a by-election the candidate doesn't have the luxury of time, they need to come with all those things in a bag.

A good candidate, given time, can become a local candidate. When there is no time available the candidate has to be local.

"UKIP's domestic hopes rest on attracting the Conservative right."

Thus, basically the same as a vote for Labour.

Now, what background was that nice Mr Kilroy-Silk again....

"In a high profile byelection with undoubtedly their best candidate UKIP still attract a fairly derisory vote.With Westminster elections their only power is to be a nuisance.
That is about the only comfort me (and my wallet) are taking from last nights results Malcolm. If UKIP can take even a small number of Tory votes, things look slightly easier for Gordy.

Other than that-bad night for the Tories, disaster for Labour.

LOL some of these comments are truly comedic genius...the result of the election was bad for the Tories because reform wasnt going fast enough? Oh pull the other one! What a ridiculous reason to push reform through faster.

Who said that ? Dawn Primarolo or Michae Meacher back in the Bennite 80s ?

I'm amazed that some people still don't seem to realise the importance of a local candidate (if possible) in a by-election - for all the reasons James Cleverly notes. If they're not, it just grants the opposition a stick with which to beat us. Remember Romsey (or in our favour, Uxbridge)?

Frankly whether the candidate is A list or not is irrelevant in these circumstances.

And I have to say the claims that the result shows we need to change more seem perverse given that B&C is a seat which has never turned against us. If we need to change to gain votes, it's surely in areas where we need to win, not where we're already winning!

An agent I spoke to about this result said "thank god for Ming Campbell". If it had been any other leader of the Lib Dems; Nick Clegg, Charles Kennedy - we would have lost.

I was there much, and the patch we were in was appallingly organised. The literature was dismal, deliveries sporadic/late, tellers being organised on the day itself (usually meaning the few able bodied available had to step in & do it instead of knocking-up), no one collecting tellers slips for hours...

a professional by-election team? Think there is a widely held misunderstanding. This campaign was not run by the local Agent & association worthies (though clearly, should have been..). It was run by a CCHQ team led by senior campaign directors and staffed by a large amount of the talent the Party has employed as Agents. This was as expert a team as the national party can muster. So yes, Ted, not only are there lessons to be learned but I think there might just be a need to panic...

Ref Bromley:
Firstly, it was a by-election - they are circuses and not particularly good benchmarks of performance these day. Everyone, not least our Party Chairman needs to smell the salts before charging off on their respective bandwagons and pet agendas.

Secondly, it may not have been pretty or convincing, but for the first time in a good long while, the Tories have actually held a seat in a by-election against the Lib Dems. That is a turning point, albeit with some caveats.

Thirdly, I don't think we can draw too many organisational lessons from this campaign. From a Tory perspective it was a near thing. I suspect that there are too few battle hardened agents who know how to fight and win elections in the field or CCHQ. How many seats might we fail to gain if we don't bring on professionalism within this party and stop overpaying politicians cronies to do meaningless jobs at the centre whilst neglecting the field and then trying to cover up our deteriorating position with these absurd groupings?

Lastly, from a Lib Dem perspective, things can only get worse. Yes, the Labour vote was completely and utterly squeezed but it wasn't enough. IT WAS NOT ENOUGH LORD FATSO RENNARD. If you could not do it in Bromley with a massive by-election budget you certainly won't do it in a General Election. More to the point, with a strong Tory swing on your chocolate stained pinkies, the Lib Dems are going to lose seats, and not just the odd one or two like 2005.

But will it be enough to put the Tories back in power? No. That will require not more change and disrobing or business attire but a more statemanlike and purposeful approach from now on. No more Woss, no more Nanook of the North stunts. Start spelling out in a coherent narrative just what a Conservative government will mean and how it will make people's lives better.

This result was not surprising to me at all. Having spent 5 days campaigning in Bromley plus election day knocking up I knew the Conservative vote was demotivated.

In fact, I posted on this site on Wednesday that the Conservative share would be around 40% and the LibDems would be 36%. Slightly over-optimistic as it turned out. I also gave my reasons for such a prediction on my blog.

So let's cut out the excuses and examine the facts.

Firstly, I do not believe the local Association is to blame. B&C managed to win every single council seat in May with 60% vote share. They held the seat at the last GE with 51%. They even achieved 46.3% in 1997.

Secondly, let's not pass off failure with such fatuous comments as "By Election Blues". What blues ? Why should voters feel 'blue' about the Conservative Party. We are supposed to have a wonderful leader who is designed to appeal. Labour are in meltdown. LibDems are falling in the polls with an unpopular leader. We are the official and recognised party of opposition. We should have been looking for a 60% vote share under such circumstances.

Third - Many have mentioned the candidate. Yes, I agree - I think there were many issues involving his membership of the GLA and the validity of his nomination and this obviously depressed the Conservative vote. But we cannot use this to explain every other poor result: Livingston, Cheadle, Moray, Dumfermline.

Fourth - LibDem dirty tricks ? Yes - they do fight mean, but let's not be pompous and sanctimonious - so can we, as anyone who worked in Cheadle will confirm. The truth is the LibDems out-campaign and out-smart us every time - and we are too rigid and arrogant to learn and adapt.

The fact is this result is a bloody disaster. We need to completely re-evaluate the way we campaign at Parliamentary level. We need to campaign from within communities, from the bottom up, not campaigning from the top down. We can sneer and tut all we like at photographs of Ben Abbots cleaning up graffiti - but until we actually reconnect with the hearts of our core vote we shall continue to fail - and deservedly so.

"We tory's now CLEARLY hold the moral high ground, with no challenge from LAB or LIB"

No, the Tories need to learn how to write in English.

I think the selection of the candiate was the huge factor here, anadonoing the A-list, going against the wishes of the CCHQ wasn't a good way to fight a campaign.

Bob was plagued by bad headlines saying that his ballot papers would be made void, if that doesn't lose confidence in the voters what would? He was personally attack quite vigorously, I think the Libdems are the most disgusting local level party around at the moment.

UKIP, not a factor at the moment, I'm confident Cameron will come out with some right-wing policies eventually. I don't buy UKIP sorry, I'm not stupid enough to believe the vast majority of Britain problems are due to Europe, they are not.

A serious debate needs to go on at CCHQ as to what to do about by-elections, w fail to win them, in most cases we lose large majorities. It's not good enough.

While this is not a good result for us I don’t think that the Lib Dems have any right to feel positive. Two reasons.

1. Their campaign was foul in all respects.
2. In 2005 they conducted almost no campaigning in B&C, they were all over in Orpington trying (successfully) to get Chris Maines elected. In this by-election they threw the kitchen sink at the task and despite Labour losing 8,000 votes managed to pick up only 1,600.

We need to pull our heads up out of the weeds and look at the big picture. The Lib Dems failed convincingly to convert disillusioned Labour voters. This is incredibly bad news for them; today’s result is their high water mark and our low ebb. We still won.

Are you implying that with Syed we would have got a, should we say, ethnic based assault from the LDs?"

Yes. It would have been deniable. It would have focused on his lack of "local roots", and "lack of understanding of the issues facing the people of Bromley & Chislehurst". Canvassers would have been rather blunter - but they can always be disowned if they are caught out.

The classic case was the Orpington by-election. Peter Goldman, the Conservative, was Jewish. The Liberals made great play of the fact that he was "from the East End" and "never goes to Church in the Constituency."

A lot of people have said it and I think it bears repeating: CCHQ appear hopelessly inept at running by-election campaigns. Pull your collective fingers out.

Some of these comments are so agenda driven that they should be completely discounted.

To suggest that the Lib Dems would have run a campaign if different style when facing an A List candidate is risible. They run the same style campaign at every election. It could be argued that their campaign would have been more vituperative were they facing an A List candidate, as a result or defeat could have derailed Cameron completely.

My concern is that there is a tangible nascent feeling around that just perhaps what they are getting from us is a bit of the Emperor's new clothes and just as people are tired of style over substance and eye catching initiatives we are offering them.

Change should continue but agenda driven change will damage the Party and lead to more results like last night.

I agree. An A list candidate with no local connection would have been torn to pieces.

We got two things right. We organised the postal votes well (the Lib Dems actually won more votes than we did yesterday), and we went for a short campaign (the Lib Dems would have won if they'd had an extra week to campaign).

Steve, did you go to bromley to help?


Your reading of the election was on the money and I agree with most of your comments.

I have reservations about how you match the LDs with their centrally managed hit squad led by Rennard with bottom up campaigning in the circumstances of a by-election. I agree in general elections a history of bottom up campaigning works but here we had a constituency where recently in locals we swept aside the opposition. So we should have been in a stong position for local campaigning.

I agree that the recent by-elections show institutional failure so lets do something about it. The local party should provide the local knowledge, CCHQ the expertise & media savvy.

Personally I believe that higher profile involvement from the Shadow Cabinet and Cameron would have added that bit of excitement to stimulate our voters to vote. You probably have a better idea of why it seemed B&C wanted to go it alone.

But weren't people on this site holding Bob Neill up as the ideal candidate. Popular and local. Surely this result sures why exactly we need the A-list!

Good post James Cleverly.I hadn't really thought of that.

In respect of Blaenau Gwent this must surely hasten Blair's departure but I don't think there is any message the Tories can really take from this internal Labour falling out.
I doubt it will make any difference, in what is close to mid-term the majorities in both the parliamentary and assembly seat dropped quite a bit leaving Labour requiring only a very modest gain in votes at the next General Election to retake the parliamentary seat, if the majority had held or increased then I think there would have been a crisis for him, if Labour had retaken it then probably a lot of the demands for him to go early would have subsided, it means that he is going to continue to get a rough ride but is going to hang until the dates of his choosing.

James Cleverly

If there is a strong local candidate I'd agree. The problem I had with the other shortlisted local candidates is that in view of their opinions and actions on civil partnerships I would have been tempted to actively support another party.

Ted - that is exactly the problem.

I genuinley don't believe we have any CCHQ Campaign 'expertise'.

"I blame the result on the choice of candidate. Membership of a lodge is a symptom of a personality that s not compatible with being an MP. "

Er, what the Hell are you talking about? I know several Freemasons (myself included) and none of them strike me as being any different from any other person I know.

"that this should be the end to the selection of local white 50 something middle class male worthies"

I was under the impression most people living there were white and middle class. A very large proportion of them would have been male too and I expect a great number are over 50.

"that this should be the end to the selection of local white 50 something middle class male worthies"

Comments like that are best made by left-wing members of the Labour Party.

Slightly off topic,anyone see Hazel Blears trYing to explain B&C and BG losses.Apparently cutting the Independants majority from 9,000 to 2,500 in BG is a triumph and shows Labour are on their way back!Very amusing.Why can't politicians when they have been given a kicking just admit it? Good old Cecil Parkinson did on election night in '97.Perhaps Labour should take a leaf out of his book.

The figures are very straightforward.

(1) We failed to appeal to thousands of our supporters, who stayed at home rather than vote for us. So much for Cameron's "new-Tory" tosh. No good getting new supporters if we lose our existing ones.

(2) The LibDems failed to appeal to thousands of their voters. No surprise there, after the boredom of Ming's leadership.

(3) UKIP nearly doubled their vote ... Not surprising as all three big parties had pro-EU candidates.

We nearly lost because we have alienated proportionally more of our supporters than the LibDems have alienated thiers.

Malcolm, yes I agree. If you've done badly, just say so, and people will have a bit more respect for you.

Richard Bailey [and Andrew Kennedy] have it right when RB: writes- - -

"10,000 Thatcherite heartland Tories STAYED AT HOME.
There is only one message. The right of the party remain unconvinced by Cameron's strategy."

The right of the party brought back by Michael Howard positively wince at each dumbed-down inanity from Cameron. We'll only vote for him if we can be persuaded that there's some point in doing so. We don't want another New Lab-Lib-Dem

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