How to win a landslide
Lots to think about after yesterday's elections, but one absolutely brilliant piece of news was Mike Rowley getting elected to Oxford City Council. Mike is one of the nicest and most hard-working people that anyone could ever has as a councillor, and he won with an absolute landslide. In May 2010, Labour got 43%, which at the time was seen as a fantastic result. Yesterday, Labour got an amazing 59%.
The ward where he was standing, Barton and Sandhills, was won by the Liberal Democrats in 2004, and held by them in 2006 and 2008 (by just 4 votes!) In the general election in 2010, Labour won it back after a strong campaign and higher turnout amongst lower income supporters.
This by-election was caused by the resignation of the Lib Dem councillor, Patrick Murray, who has moved to another area to get a job. Patrick was, by some distance, the most effective Lib Dem councillor in Oxford in recent years. He was an extremely effective campaigner, and as a councillor who put aside party politics in the council chamber to work closely with Labour on trying to help solve the city's housing crisis. He'll be a tough act to follow, and people in Barton and Sandhills have been lucky in recent years that the fierce political competition in the city of Oxford has given them some great local champions.
In some ways, this by-election marks the changing of a political cycle. Between 2004 and 2008, the Lib Dems did well with effective local campaigns which harnessed the opposition to the Labour government. In 2010 and for the foreseeable future, political fortunes have changed and Labour is on the up.
But there's another way of looking at it. Over the past decade, people in Barton and Sandhills have been remarkably consistent in their views. The majority wanted decent, principled, hard-working left-wingers as their local representatives. Back in 2002, they voted overwhelmingly for Labour's Alex Hollingsworth. Then, for a few years, it was the Lib Dems who were best able to demonstrate that they were in touch with the views and values of the majority.
Over the past few years since the Lib Dems first won in Barton and Sandhills, Labour has listened, learned, worked hard to win back people's trust. And the result is that yesterday we won in a landslide.