So the Feltham & Heston by-election is finally over and we can all stop speculating. What happens now is the typical spin you expect with by-election results. Labour are very careful in ensuring that the message they intend on delivering is that the result was a damning judgement on the Coalition and the path they are taking in Government. The Tories however are trying their best to underplay the fact they made no ground in the seat, even though it may be the sort of seat they need to win in 2015 if they want to secure a majority. Finally the Lib Dems and UKIP can both breathe a sigh of relief after both parties retained their deposits, especially the Lib Dems who were tipped to finish fourth. I think this is the best opportunity for me to congratulate Roger Crouch, the Lib Dem candidate, on his efforts. It was never going to be an easy contest but he showed that he wanted to work relentless for the constituents and proved many critics wrong who predicted the party would finish dismally behind UKIP.
My own personal take on this by-election is probably a little different to the Tory and Labour view. I think Labour should be relieved that they cemented Feltham & Heston as a Labour safe seat, but the low turnout of 28.8% makes it harder for the party to affirm the result as a message of condemnation to the Government. The Tories, like I said before, should be disheartened by the fact that they made no ground, even though this sort of seat is one they need to win back if they wish to reach a majority number of seats in 2015.
Now although the by-election showed no particular effect from the newly formed post-Veto ground of British politics, tomorrows Sunday Telegraph/ICM poll certainly does. The poll shows a two point rise for the Conservatives (40%), a two percent drop for Labour (34%) and the Lib Dems sticking on 14%. ICM are renowned for their consistent method and proved, in 2010, that they were one of the most accurate pollsters in predicting the outcome of the General Election result. The poll adds yet another blow to the Labour camp, but more worryingly, to Ed Miliband who has received a lot of criticism lately for not capitalising on Cameron’s EU-veto and for performing poorly in this weeks Prime Minister’s Questions. It can only raise more doubts over Ed’s ability to lead the Labour party into the next General Election and to present them as a party ready to govern, with him as Prime Minister. The Conservatives will be looking to capitalise the poll lead as a confirmation that the British public view Cameron’s veto as standing up for Britain against the EU. What may be worrying however is that the poll also found that 59% of people expect a referendum on Britain’s EU membership at some point between now and by the end of the next Parliament. Although many Tory voters are Eurosceptic, the Prime Minister has made it clear that he thinks Britain’s best intentions are served within the EU and not out; thus providing yet more opportunities for UKIP to capitalise on the worries of the voters. The Liberal Democrats can take comfort in the fact that their ratings have not been affected by Cameron’s recent moves within the EU, but with 25% of voters opposing a referendum the party really needs to make ground on pro-EU voters who may react a little more hostile towards the recent moves by David Cameron.
So whatever conclusions you make from recent events it is clear that all three major parties need to really consider how to overcome the recent downfalls, whatever they may be. Labour need to sort out their ever present problems with the leadership, the Tories need to ensure they sustain their lead whilst the Lib Dems need to make sure they start to make ground on lost voters and ensure they win the PR war on the big issues like the EU.