Labour have triumphed in the Camborne North by-election coming from fifth place to win the seat in a tense and closely fought contest. The Conservatives previously held the Cornish seat with the Liberal Democrats positioning themselves as strong challengers.
The Western Morning News had tipped Lib Dem, Anna Pascoe, to win the seat but in the end was pushed into a distant third behind the Tories and the Labour party.
Labour polled some 239 votes taking the seat. The Tories received 203 votes, but the real shock was the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote with only 156 people supporting the party in what was, until recently, a key local target for the party.
Failing to take a seat in what the party at large will regard as their own back yard will send ripples far beyond Cornwall. Labour activists, waiting for the results of the Oldham and Saddleworth by-election quickly retweeted the results from Camborne yesterday sharing the news from Cornwall as a portent of what was to come in up north. And they were right.
Coming on the day when Labour triumphed in Oldham and Saddleworth, the defeat in Cornwall will spell more bad news for Nick Clegg. The south west is regarded as the Liberal Democrat’s heartlands and the loss of this by-election will lead many to question whether Mr Clegg’s decision to take his party into coalition with the Tories means it is not only marginals but safe seats that the party may have sacrificed its winning ways for a taste of power.
More than that, it will do little to win over the confidence of local Lib Dem activists who have serious misgivings about the coalition. A by-election win would have shown them that voters will still trust them. This defeat highlights the grim future for the party in the westcountry and will be used by those Lib Dems in Devon and Cornwall unhappy with the ever closer union between the Cameron and Clegg’s parties to stir up discontent. Given the result, perhaps rightly so.
However, this by-election was just as much a victory for Labour as it was a defeat for the Lib Dems and the Tories. Jude Robinson, Labour’s candidate, had fought a strongly local campaign and Labour had piled in the activists, growing the local party, in order to win this seat. Fighting on boundary changes, cuts and more cuts the campaign was focused, local and upbeat. This is despite another example of dodgy literature from the Lib Dems and the return of their hopelessly misleading bar charts.
Labour have already seized on this by-election victory as evidence that Labour is on its way back, not only in its northern heartlands, but elsewhere too. National opinion polling shows Labour eight points clear. I haven’t seen the regional breakdown yet, but the result in Cornwall will give a boost to those Labour activists who have noticed a shift on the doorstep, as I have, away from the Tories and Liberals and towards Labour as the cuts and the broken promises begin to mount up.
With the local elections in Plymouth now only months away, the victory in Camborne will spur on Labour, but will worry both Conservative and Lib Dems in the city. It is likely that this by-election will be dismissed by the coalition parties as a rogue result, but with polls showing a collapse in Lib Dem votes and an undermining of Tory support this might, just might, be the start of a much bigger trend.