What now for Labour after Norwich North

A comment made by atropos on the live coverage of the Norwich North by election reads “I think the real battle is for second place. If Labour come anywhere near third place, Labour are doomed for 3 terms.”

The reporter taking on the election at Norwich for the BBC has spoken dismissively of there being a leadership challenge as a consequence of today, but certainly if Labour come third, its curtains.

In today’s by-elections, the 45.88% turnout (heads up from Norfolkblogger) may be good for the Tories, as politicalbetting has noted, “The general theory of low turnouts is that the campaigns which benefit most are those that are best organised” and on the basis of Tory candidate Chloe Smith’s highly organised operation – thanks to no less than 6 visits by Cameron, along with entourage Hague and Osborne – there is no reason to doubt this judgement.

At this time (10.08am) Sky News has word that Labour have conceded defeat and its a fight for second-place between them and the Lib-Dems.

So this is ripe time for a general plan of action – where now for Labour?

I had hoped that when Alan Johnson was sniffing around for the PM job that the tables would turn, but they didn’t, and I wrote about a leftwards shift before its too late, and it didn’t happen – and now the party is spoken of as having doomed.

Another thorn in the side. I said I didn’t want to see a Labour leftwing shift after an (general) election defeat in 2010, because this would be too late. I didn’t realise how right I would be. Strategically, a leftwing shift might not be popular among the Labour benches because the Tories themselves are calling dibs on this – one Tory even saying that James Purnell’s Open Left turn should point him in the direction of conservatism. It beggars belief, but the Tories might succeed in appearing more leftwing than Labour, even though this is clearly claptrap (Jesse Norman says that the Tories will champion leftwing/working-class traditions (often thoroughly small-c conservative) of self-help).

So one strategy is to undo that turn of academic progressive conservatism at an academic level (which is why, in spite of Purnell’s non-leftist reputation, I support the Open Left forum and am excited by the prospect of Cruddas and other encouraging voices from the left), and to also show Tories to be the party, not of communitarianism, but of big business, and that Red Toryism, or any other “political cross-dressing” is a front.