The Brecon and Radnorshire constituency was a Liberal Democrat seat until the party’s electoral wipeout in 2015. The Lib Dems have now won it back from the Tories in a by-election, reducing Boris Johnson’s working parliamentary majority to just one. And centrists have been hailing the victory as a defeat for Jeremy Corbyn. But the truth is far less straightforward.
Not exactly an overwhelming success…
The Lib Dem candidate narrowly defeated Conservative Chris Davies. The latter had lost the seat after a petition which followed a “conviction for a false expenses claim”. The Lib Dems had left out any ‘Remain’ talk from its leaflets in the Brexit-voting constituency; but with just under 14,000 votes, the party still failed to reach its pre-Coalition tally of around 18,000 in 2010. As Cardiff University’s Prof Laura McAllister pointed out, it was not a “resounding victory” for Remainers, because the three pro-Brexit parties still had more votes than the ‘Remain alliance’.
The Liberal Democrats won it after doing a deal with Plaid Cymru and the Greens.
I think that a lot of voters were determined to get rid of the Conservative, and they voted accordingly. So we were squeezed, but it’s a place we have not held for a very long time.
In the parallel centrist universe, however…
For many centrists, the by-election was somehow a clear and telling defeat for Labour:
9 days in the job and Boris Johnson has so far: tanked the pound; lost a by-election; squandered Billions on a No-Deal Brexit No-one voted for; and toured the UK prompting widespread calls for its break-up. So, I expect Labour is now making big gains in the polls…?
— Owen Smith (@OwenSmith_MP) August 2, 2019
Whilst everyone is talking about LD win in #BreconByelection let’s not forget that @UKLabour dropped 12.4% of their vote, got just 5% of the vote & came in 4th behind the Brexit Party. When are we, in the @UKLabour going to wise up, smell the coffee & get ourselves a new Leader
— Pat Glass (@PatMGlass) August 2, 2019
The people of Brecon and Radnorshire have shown that the country doesn't have to settle for Johnson or Corbyn.
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) August 2, 2019
Truth and perspective
Fortunately, though, Twitter users gave Britain a much-needed dose of reality:
They’re pursing their nasty, divisive agenda. @UKLabour haven’t won here since 1974.
Even in ‘97, when Blair won his landslide victory, the @LibDems won & Labour came third.
— James Foster (@JamesEFoster) August 2, 2019
The LD’s scraping over the line, in a seat they held recently, against such an appalling candidate, is hardly something worth the hyperbole. https://t.co/TLAaQtDZee
— Jennifer Forbes (@Jen4TruroAndFal) August 2, 2019
If Labour had campaigned hard in Brecon and Radnorshire and taken crucial votes off the Lib Dems, allowing the Tories to win, those currently blaming Corbyn for Labour's poor performance would now be slagging him off for helping the Tories keep their majority of 2 in Westminster.
— Chuka Umunna's Flip Flops (@WarmongerHodges) August 2, 2019
I'd be disappointed if I was a Remainer, Jo. Brecon has been a longstanding @LibDems seat in the past – 1997 to 2015 in fact. Plaid Cymru and Greens didn't field a candidate to help you win, yet you still only won 43% of the vote – less than Tories and Brexit Party combined.
— Darren Dixon (@BeaumontDMD) August 2, 2019
Even if Labour had sent 5000 campaigners to Brecon and Radnorshire, the best result they could have hoped for was third. Tactically, it made more sense to give the Lib Dems a free shot at beating the Tory incumbent. Remainers should be thanking Corbyn, not slagging him off.
— Chuka Umunna's Flip Flops (@WarmongerHodges) August 2, 2019
Haters gonna hate
Corbyn’s Labour is still trying to restore Britain’s trust in both politics and his own party after the Tory-lite years of Tony Blair and co. And he’s doing all of that with the media, political, and economic establishment firmly against him. Just this week, for example, controversial billionaire Alan Sugar tried to link Corbyn’s shadow cabinet to a 15th-century massacre; and a right-wing paper shamelessly sought to pin rising antisemitism on the veteran anti-racist politician (and not the populist far right) with no evidence, and despite him leading consistently strong action to defeat racism.
The Labour leader is standing firm despite the propaganda, though. He’s making his plan for a “green industrial revolution” a core part of his campaigning; travelling around the country listening to ordinary people; offering peace, integrity, and an end to disastrous and wasteful regime-change wars abroad; pledging to stop the devastation of austerity; and proposing a truly transformative democratic vision for Britain’s future.
So while the troubled Tories may have lost in Brecon and Radnorshire, the centrist attacks on Corbyn’s Labour are little more than wishful thinking. Because Corbyn is going nowhere. And no amount of deluded centrist posturing is going to change that.
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