Guido Fawkes and the Daily Express couldn’t wait to jump on the fact that the Labour Party lost the first council by election of the year last Thursday.
After all this was in a Labour ward in flood sodden Carlisle where Jeremy Corbyn turned up to help and talk to flood victims and they firmly rejected Labour in favour of an Independent. Paul Staines was ecstatic predicting a deluge of losses for Labour next May as the party totally disintegrated under Jeremy Corbyn to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
But both Guido and the Daily Express are guilty of sloppy journalism because if they had looked or wanted to look more carefully things were not as they seemed.
Myth No 1 was that the Labour vote collapsed as Carlisle voters following the reshuffle chaos decided Labour was finished. I bet they had more things to worry about clearing up their flooded homes than following what was going on in the Westminster bubble.
In fact the Labour share of the vote – in a low turnout of 18 per cent- marginally INCREASED – from 33.1 to 33.5 per cent.
The party that lost out more was the third placed Conservative candidate whose share of the vote DECLINED by 5.4 per cent. Funny that was not reported.
Myth No 2 was that the Independent got there by taking votes only from Labour. In fact as the excellent Britain Elects Twitter file pointed out last time it was a four cornered fight with UKIP and the Greens standing. UKIP got 14 per cent of the vote but after their disastrous performances in many council by-elections and the Oldham West Parliamentary by-election, couldn’t even find someone to stand. So it looks as though this vote switched to the Independent.
The third point ignored by the press- and this is where sloppy journalism really takes the biscuit – is that the winning candidate is a local hero.
He is Jack Paton, a former veteran, and a long time campaigner of the old style ” pavement politics ” type which was pioneered in the past by the Liberal democrats.
As the local paper , the News and Star, reported :
“Mr Paton, who has also worked with cadets in Botcherby and is a well-known figure in the area, becomes the second sitting independent city councillor for the estate, with Robert Betton already representing this neighbourhood.
” Mr Paton recently led the transformation of a dilapidated building into a new base for Army cadets, with the conversion of a former hairdressers on Victoria Road and land behind it.
He has also previously campaigned on issues including buses in the area and on kerbs and pavements that he perceived as dangerous for wheelchair users.”
He has his own Facebook page and tweets as @sixtysjack. His Facebook page is full of congratulations from local residents and his family.
Where Jeremy Corbyn might want to take note is that he is an army veteran and a traditional working class supporter who backs our troops. He is the sort of person who would have warmed to Kevan Jones, the junior shadow defence minister , who quit this week, and was grossly misrepresented by John McDonnell as a right winger.
In that sense the vote is a warning to Corbyn that Labour is a broad church and needs to decide how it is going to keep on side this type of voter. After all the next PM is 2020 will definitely not be an Independent.