Poll result delights Mrs. Thatcher
Labour's overall commons majority now hangs on the slender thread of the forthcoming Stechford, Birmingham, by-election after Mr. Roy Jenkins leaves Parliament for Brussels.
The predictable Tory success in Cambridge early yesterday morning cuts the Government's edge to just one seat. This will disappear when the former Home Secretary becomes President of the EEC early in January. It Stechford fell, the Government would be in a minority.
The 10 per cent. swing from Labour at Cambridge was lower than in the disastrous by-elections at the start of November. Although Mrs. Thatcher, the Opposition leader, said that she was “absolutely delighted,” the fact remains that Stechford will require a swing of almost 15 per cent. If it is to be won for the Tories.
The Cambridge result in votes and percentages, on a 49.1 per cent. poll was: Con., 19,620 (51 per cent.); Lab., 9,995 (26 per cent.); Lib., 7,051 (18.3 per cent.); Nat. Front 700 (1.8 per cent.); Ind. 711 (1.8 per cent.); SciFic Looney 374 (0.9 per cent.).
Safer still for Government prospects is the other seat to be fought early in the New Year, that of Mr. David Marquand at Ashfield when he leaves Westminster to follow Mr. Jenkins to Brussels. The Conservatives would need a swing of about 21 per cent. to capture it—not an impossible but a highly unlikely feat.
Nonetheless, the Tories are back in touching distance again, and will harry the Government more intensely than ever in the weeks ahead in the hope that either its nerve or its spirit snaps.
The state of the parties in the Commons is: Lab. 313; Con. 280; Lib. 13; Scot Nat. Party 11; Ulster Unionist 10; Plaid Cymru 3; Scottish Labour 2; SDLP 1; Ind. 1; Speaker 1.
Labour's total includes one officer of the House. The Conservative total includes two.
Effective totals are thus: Labour 312, Scottish Labour, SDLP and Ind. 4, (who usually vote with Labour): Rest of Opposition 315, Officers 4.