Voters in Birmingham Erdington have neither backed Boris Johnson amidst an international crisis nor endorsed Keir Starmer with a thumping swing.
The lens through which Labour’s win should be viewed is the turnout – 26 per cent, and the eighth lowest in a by-election since 1997.
The swing to the party was “a below average swing to an opposition party” and “about half the swing that the national polls are showing”, according to Matt Singh.
Robert Alden, the Conservative candidate, is the Leader of the Tory group on Birmingham City Council and represents the Erdington ward on it. The West Midlands is a relatively strong area for the Conservatives.
The seat has been Labour since 1945 (though the result was close-run in 1983 and 1979) – so the result will have been seen by many local voters as a foregone conclusion.
Those factors and especially the last – reflected in the turnout – will help to explain why the swing to Labour was relatively low. The Conservatives had also called on Starmer to suspend Paulette Hamilton, the party’s candidate.
GB news published footage during the campaign of Hamilton speaking at an event called “The Ballot or the Bullet” in 2015.
She said that she believed in voting but was not sure that “we will get what we really deserve in this country using the vote”.
“But I don’t know if we are a strong enough group to get what we want to get if we have an uprising. I think that we will be quashed in such a way that we would lose a generation of our young people.”
Labour responded by saying that “these attacks on a black woman seeking to become the city’s first black MP are deeply disturbing”.
The party won 17,710 votes (50.3 per cent) at the 2019 general election in the seat compared with 9,413 (55.5 per cent) yesterday.
The Conservatives were second in 2019 with 14,119 votes (40.1 per cent) and second again yesterday with 6,147 votes (36.3 per cent).
So: not a great result for Labour. But the Erdington conservatism that Nick Timothy floated, when writing as a columnist for this site, has yet to blossom there – even if it has elsewhere, at least to some extent.