Labour hangs on to Hartlepool

Labour have managed to hang on to Peter Mandleson's seat in Hartlepool with a severely diminished majority of 2,033 (compared to 14,571 previously) for successor Ian Wright who just outdid the LibDems.

As far as I can tell the election campaign boiled down to who was really more local than who. Jody Dunn, the blogging LibDem candidate, wasn't quite from Hartlepool proper and may have lost out as a result. Still she shouldn't be downhearted, it's a stunning result in Labour stronghold which had every top New Labour bod visiting (except Blair).

The night finished with the Fathers 4 Justice candidate dusting Dunn in purple powder while she was trying to make her speech. I'm not sure what the point of that was, surely the governing party Labour should be the target of fatherly powder dustings?

Key points to take home… The LibDems nearly took this safe seat when Iraq was barely a campaign issue. UKIP astonishingly beat the Tories into 4th place (3,193 votes to 3,044). Respect came in 5th with over twice the vote of 6th place Green Party (572 to 255). The Tories can take some comfort knowing that many of their votes would return from LibDems and UKIP if it wasn't a by-election. Respect did ok-ish because their candidate was a well known leader of a hospital campaign. To finish this whole review off take comfort that the Monster Raving Looney Party got twice as many votes as the English Democrats!

Did Jody Dunn's blogging help or hinder? Hard to say really. Labour did cite some of her posts against her in their campaigning. It was a rather dirty campaign. But on the other hand LibDems raised quite a bit of money through her site. I think overall the blog was neutral for the campaign but positive for Dunn who, if she wants, will be able to stand again pretty much anywhere.

Final point… turnout. It was just under 46% compared with 56% at the 2001 general election. The Guardian reckons this is inline with other recent by-elections but I'm astonished. With all the party conferences and the media circus around Hartlepool I'm stunned to see such a low turnout. I find that very worrying indeed and perhaps in a day or two it will emerge as the real story of this election. Ok fat chance but I can always wish.

Sources: BBC News, Guardian (The By-election blog also has some good stuff, in particular issue round-ups for all the candidates on defence, education, environment and health along with some banter against rival Guacamoleville)