Everyone is an expert on elections nowadays, myself included. With the proliferation of online media and blogs, we’ve all got a lot more time for our own opinions – which are of course all absolutely on the nose, factually accurate, and in no way wrong about anything, ever.
No greater example can be found than seeing over the course of this morning what everyone and their mother thinks about the Newark by-election results. My Tory friends crow, “Pretty poor result for anyone not named Jenrick, really”. While UKIPers gloat about their percentage swing, and how they could’ve won it, “if only Nigel had stood!”
All valid comments, of course – which is basically, alongside the incredibly annoying, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinions!” – perhaps one of the most weasel-like ways of trying not to say, “Argh, shut the f**k up you know-nothing pr*ck!” And believe me, I want to say it to myself as much as I want to say it to anyone else.
In fact, one comment following the Newark result struck me as perhaps the most insightful. It was from polling company Survation’s chief, Damian Lyons Lowe, who tweeted this morning: “To *know* what Newark means for any party, you’d need to model info no-one knows today. Would steer clear of anyone saying “this means…””
My first reaction was: “But hold on, I’m paid to *know* what ‘this means’… or at least pretend”. But Damian is right – no one can really understand the wider implications of Newark. It is another slightly strange result in a string of by-elections since the 2010 general election.
Tories cry, “We shouldn’t have been able to hang onto it! We are in the fourth year of a relatively unpopular government! What a result!” But we’re all thinking, “Oh come on, it was a 17,000 majority and also… Ed Miliband”.
Labourites are a bit quieter today, with Guido noting Chris Bryant MP absent in the Twitter field of battle for most of this morning. He has just minutes ago sprung back to life.
You’d expect the Liberal Democrats to have dissolved their party by now, and UKIP activists are of course trying to put on a brave face, consoling themselves with their percentage swing, but deep down inside they know they were hoping for a Galloway-esque ‘Bradford Spring‘ moment, overturning a sizeable majority and making Roger Helmer a Member of Parliament.
But back to the point: what Newark’s by-election results really tell us is… nothing. Nothing about the Tories next year (despite my own attempts to pull focus that way), nothing about UKIP’s ‘earthquake’ letting up, nothing about the Labour Party’s ability to win a majority in 2015, and nothing (ok maybe the teensiest something) about the Liberal Democrats.
I don’t often say this about pollsters, but Damian Lyons Lowe is right. So let’s all just shut up and enjoy the last few hours of the British summer.