The parties of government found out just how unpopular they were on Thursday of last week. Labour won a by-election seat from the Tories for the first time in 15 years.
They took the Corby seat in Northamptonshire after Tory Louise Mensch resigned. The Liberal Democrats were beaten into fourth place by the UK Independence Party (UKIP). And to add to the humiliation they even lost their deposit when they failed to win 5 percent of votes cast.
The media has used this result to hail UKIP as the new third force in politics as the Lib Dems slip down to rock bottom in the polls. UKIP hopes to win Tory voters from the right of the party disillusioned with David Cameron and his coalition with the Lib Dems.
The result is a bitter blow to the Lib Dems who are looking at total wipeout after being held responsible for keeping the hated Tories in power.
Labour candidates held two seats—Cardiff South & Penarth and Manchester Central, where the Tories failed to keep their deposit.
The doomed Police and Crime Commissioner elections generated the most headlines. These saw the lowest turnout ever for a nationwide election in peacetime—just 15 percent. In some polling stations in Newport and Salford, not a single voter even went over the threshold.
The elected commissioners are one of Cameron’s bright ideas. He claimed that people were clamouring for his idea of “democratic” control over local police forces. The shockingly low vote leaves the new commissioners as another expensive experiment with no popular mandate.
All parties are looking anxiously to the general election in 2015. The Tories’ have recruited Tory mayor Boris Johnson’s election advisor Lynton Crosby. This reveals the even further rightward tack they may take.
Crosby is known for his crusades against immigrants. He has been accused of telling Johnson’s team to concentrate on traditional Conservative voters instead of “fucking Muslims”.
Labour is the main alternative for voters sick of the Tories and Labour leader Ed Miliband will be happy with the results. But the turnout shows these were hardly ringing endorsements—the Manchester turnout of 20 percent was the lowest by-election turnout since the Second World War.
Voters vote Labour to keep the Tories out, but Miliband’s adoption of the Tory slogan of “One Nation” is not inspiring a surge of support. “One Nation” means nothing to workers who feel a deep class bitterness directed against politicians, bankers and bosses.
As the Tories’ austerity attacks intensify, workers need a political alternative that is willing to take up a real fight against the government.