Labour loses Norwich North

Rather unsurprisingly, the Conservatives have achieved a vast triumph over Labour in the Norwich North by-election which was forced by the resignation of left-wing Labour ex-MP Ian Gibson after he was caught up in the expenses scandal when it emerged that he had used his second home allowance to fund a flat which he then sold at a discounted price - thought to be around half the market value - to his daughter. His resignation was in protest at a party decision to bar him from standing at the next General Election.

Ian Gibson enjoyed widespread support in his Norwich North constituency, but was barred by the Labour party from standing at the next General Election.

New MP Chloe Smith (pictured right), aged 27, will now become the youngest member of Parliament and will represent the constituency that party leader David Cameron visited six times during her campaign. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, meanwhile, admitted that the election was taking place in what he called "unique" circumstances and appears to have pretty much given it up as a bad job - he refused to join the campaign, says the Daily Telegraph. Mr. Gibson enjoyed great popularity in Norwich and many residents have offered vocal support, saying they would have voted for him had he have taken the decision to stand as an independent candidate. He achieved a majority of 5459 at the last election. Ms. Smith now has a majority of 7348, with the total number of Tory votes (13,591) being more than double those won by Labour's new candidate Chris Ostrowski who managed second place with a total of 6243. Labour have been quick to claim that they would have gained more had the turnout, at 45.88%, not been low; arguing that many Labour voters will be so annoyed at Mr. Gibson's treatment they decided to stay home. Ex-Minister Geoff Hoon called the election "a perfect storm for a governing party," and admitted Labour had no chance of winning.

Gordon Brown can learn two very valuable lessons from this by-election. The first is very simple: if he is seen to have no faith in a local Labour party and its prospective MP, the public will not have faith either. It's very much the same as anyone would feel if they needed some decorating done and the decorator's boss told them that the person he or she was sending round to do the job was rubbish - they'd want someone else to do it instead. Wouldn't you?

Gordon Brown has shot himself in the foot - by preventing a popular candidate from standing, he has lost another Labour seat.

The second is going to be a bit trickier for a man such as Mr. Brown to get his head round: he should not try to choose who represents a constituency - that should be decided by those whose interests he or she will represent. That is surely one of the cornerstones of democracy, which is a concept we've grown rather accustomed to it here in Britain - Blair may have sneakily made off with a big sack full of our civil liberties, but get spotted doing anything the British people interpret as stealing their democratic rights and they will register disapproval (you'd need to stir the apathetic buggers up a good bit more for 'em to consider a revolt, though). Mr. Gibson, without any doubt, acted in a highly dishonourable - though not unlawful - way when he used his privileged position to obtain a cheap home for his daughter (though we're sure she was happy about it) and the voters of Norwich North have already expressed their anger over the matter. However, he was evidently popular enough amongst them (there's a third lesson there, Gordon - a significant percentage of the electorate still favour left-wing MPs. Maybe attracting a few more to the Labour ranks might be worth thinking about?) that they were willing to forgive him, just so long as he kept on doing a job of which they otherwise approved.

The Prime Minister has not only demonstrated that he has
little or no faith in Labour councillors, he has also somewhat ironically shot himself in the foot. Had he have listened to what constituents were saying - which would have been a lot easier had he have made a few visits to Norwich - he'd have hung onto one of the ever-diminishing number of red patches in an increasingly blue and Tory Britain. The Norwich North by-election should - and probably will - be seen as proof for Labour that, while Mr. Brown leads the party, they cannot win the General Election and for that reason he must go.

Norwich North by-election results: Chloe Smith, Conservatives - 13,591. Chris Ostrowski, Labour - 6243. April Pond, Liberal Democrats - 4803. Glenn Tingle, UKIP - 4068. Rupert Read, Green Party - 3350. Craig Murray, Put An Honest Man Into Parliament - 953. Robert West, BNP - 941. Bob Holden, Independent - 166. Alan Hope, Monster Raving Loony Party - 144. Anne Fryatt, None Of The Above (NOTA) Party - 59. Thomas Burridge, Libertarian - 36. Peter Baggs, Independent - 23.

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