You only understand an election if you talked to voters on their doorstep: distanced punditry is worthless. I was on the doorsteps in Edgbaston during the first Blair election, and was told there was no danger, surely, in true-blue Edgbaston? But it went red, and has stayed red. In Amersham, the party most in favour of HS2 has won on an anti-HS2 vote. Voices on the doorstep could have predicted this.
Voters do not like being taken for granted. They are not owned by any party – we have seen that in the North. Perhaps this time the local Conservative Association was too cocky? There was no frantic campaigning as has been seen elsewhere: the LibDems though were out campaigning months earlier, while the old MP was on her deathbed, which is obscene, but effective. You cannot expect votes just because you have had them before.
It was a by-election. Boris has a stonking majority, and the result was never going to change that, so a voter knew he or she could do anything and it was not going to overthrow the Conservatives in Westminster, so it is time to have a little fun, to shake things up.
There is reason enough and unavoidable wherever you go thereabout: just outside Amersham all along the roads the once-green fields and woods are now acre upon acre of industrial heaps of earth ringed with security fencing and ten-foot signs, filled with monstrous machines grinding the land away. This is the HS2 project. It not just a pair of steel threads across the hills, but needs the hills scraped away forever. In its wake too will come houses; thousands of indistinguishable box-houses and flats destroying what once made Amersham and its villages such a lovely place to live.
The Liberal Democrats support HS2 and support massive house-building, but they got in, convincingly, by claiming to oppose them. That is not so outrageous: it is a Conservative government which is leading the despoliation of the Chilterns.
Loss leads to loss. I knew Edgbaston only too painfully: once a solid Tory seat, now apparently permanently Labour: in the last two elections their candidate won more than 50% of the vote, when it used to be the Conservatives at that level there. Canterbury was a shock loss in 2017: as true a blue constituency as could be imagined; safe and with a big majority, but then Labour’s Rosie Duffield got in, by a tiny margin in 2017, and then two years later stayed there, with almost a 2,000 majority. Can Amersham and Chesham be won back? Once a constituency’s voters find they can vote another way, they think differently about their assumptions, and they can do it again.
This was an unusual one, with weird voting patterns skewed by the circumstances and a low turn-out, but nothing can be taken for granted. Look at Canterbury, and Edgbaston.
Do I want to write about this, and can I? I would rather be writing about the Sausage War. Still, it is the live topic of the day, so you must forgive my indulgence in my observations. Others who knocked on the endless doors of the villages may contradict me, and really I would prefer to hear from them.