What have we learned from last week’s byelection in the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup in the south east of London? A few things.
The seat was made vacant by the death of James Brokenshire from lung cancer at the age of 53. He first won the seat in 2010 and contested it a further three times, increasing his tally of votes on each occasion. It has been a conservative held seat since its inception.
The first thing we have learned is that there is a new Conservative MP, Louie French, who is also a councillor for Bexley Borough Council. He became an MP with an overall majority of 4,487 and 51.5% of the vote.
The second thing we learned is that it wasn’t the breakthrough for Labour that some had hoped for. Although ts candidate, Daniel Francis, managed to add over 7% points on the previous election he was still a good 20 points behind his rival.
The third thing that we learned is that there is still some momentum behind the Reform UK party. Richard Tice, its leader, managed 6.6% of the votes. The former Brexit party did far better than the Rejoin EU party which got less than 0.7% of the vote.
Perhaps there are few surprises there.
The fourth thing we learned, if we did not know it already, is that democracy is struggling in this country. Overall turnout was just over a third, meaning that just over one in five of the electorate voted for the successful candidate. Two thirds of the electorate didn’t bother to turn out even though they could have voted by post from their homes. Still, it was better than the turnout for the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for the North Yorkshire Police area.
Once again we find that the most successful political movement in the UK is apathy. Unfortunately such apathy doesn’t help the country but hands power to politicians on the narrowest of mandates.
I wish Louie French the best of luck in his new role.