First came Barack Obama. Now attention turns to Andy Sawford who contests the Corby and East Northants constituency on Thursday 15th November. Andy’s campaign is the start of a very large number of byelections all of which appear to be winnable for the Labour Party. On 22nd November Lucy Powell, former Ed Miliband Chief of Staff, is fighting for Manchester Central, Stephen Doughty, head of Oxfam Wales, is having a crack at Cardiff South and Penarth.
Then on (phew!) 29th November, Steve Reed is going all out in Croydon North and in Middlesbrough Andy McDonald, a local solicitor, is contesting the seat left vacant by the death of Stuart Bell. Sarah Champion will be fighting for Labour in Rotherham, after Denis McShane’s ejection from the party.
These by-elections have been triggered either by candidates for the new Police Commissioner roles stepping down as MPs, by weird and flamboyant departures from Parliament, or by the sad and sudden deaths of long standing MPs.
Labour must win all of them – largely because the majority are existing Labour seats. But by-elections are fickle things and local issues play very significantly. You only have to look at the list of candidates standing to see that many view it as an opportunity for self promotion and raising the profile of a pet issue – worth the cost of their deposit. I’m looking at you Mr Mozzarella.
But the most significant contest is Corby. Sawford needs to reclaim this seat for Labour from Louise Mensch, whose departure to the Big Apple has upset a large number of her constituents. Turnout will be key in this bellwether seat – Labour is leaving nothing to chance, every MP and big hitter has been up there tramping the seats with their candidate who has run a long, focused campaign on hospital cuts and economic growth.
Thursday’s the day and fires the start gun on the political season which could usher in a sense of renewed confidence in the Parliamentary Labour Party and its leadership.