Now that's what I call a by-election
- 22 May 08, 01:52 PM
Simon Enright, Assistant Editor, Newsnight
There's something about by-elections that make them irresistible - especially for journalists. It's that rare chance for the electorate to give the government a kicking, to make them listen, but not change the administration.
My first memory is of the local TV presenter, Austin Mitchell, putting down his microphone and knocking on doors in Grimsby. It was a marginal seat and a worried Labour government threw all their resources at holding it. Austin Mitchell did win, just - and is still an MP. But unnoticed, the voters of Ashfield in Derbyshire took against the government and handed that much safer Labour seat to the Conservatives. Needless to say that loss didn't feature so much on Yorkshire Telly.
For every party there must be a favourite win. If you're a Scottish Nationalist you won't forget the dramatic wins in Glasgow Govan - they took it twice in by-elections from Labour. Or for sheer television drama, Labour supporters surely can't forget the result in Dudley West that broke Peter Snow's Swingometer.
But surely the by-election masters are the Liberal Democrats. Simon Hughes began the recent trend by turning yellow the safe Labour seat of Bermondsey, with what many remember as a brutally efficient campaign. The 80s, 90s and also in recent years have seen Liberal Democrats "Winning Here" in Greenwich, Eastbourne, Newbury, and most recently Sarah Teather in Brent East.
Could Crewe and Nantwich be the Conservative totem that marks a sea change in British politics? Maybe, but what really has been the most significant by-election result since 1945 and why? That's the challenge we're setting this lunchtime. On tonight's programme Liz MacKean will announce your favourite.