I don't see cataclysm written in the by-election results. It's hardly a place Labour should expect to do well, but it does condense two problems the party has. The first is with the former LibDem voters. The 35 per cent strategy so-labelled by Dan Hodges claimed that Ed Miliband's Labour was content with building an electoral coalition from existing Labour voters and those fleeing the LibDems during the time of their coalition with the Tories. That, apparently, would be enough to carry a general election. Unfortunately, there was some substance to this as the data sent back to canvassing teams screened out Tories and had us knocking on doors of voters with Labour and LibDem affiliations, don't knows, and no previous data. I digress. The problem Labour has is these folks are going back to the yellow party. This is powering their excellent showing in local council by-elections, and the upset in Richmond.
This is not unrelated to the second problem: Labour's incoherence over Brexit. The LibDems are the party of in. UKIP remain the party of out. The Tories are managing the process and routinely cloak their cluelessness in babble like the infamous objective of a "red, white and blue Brexit". And Labour? Um.
This paralysis is simply not good enough. The official position of the leader's office is the acceptance of June's calamitous result, but that is where clarity ends. A simple critical Brexit position is all that needs taking up, one putting the interest of our people first. Let's call it what it should be: a class position. From here flows the rest - the holding out for a Brexit that isn't paid for by our class, that retains the environmental and workplace protections guaranteed by EU legislation, that doesn't shell out free money to some of Britain's biggest companies under the guise of tariff protection. Yet what do we see? The shadow chancellor borrowing May's rhetoric about making "a success of it", next to nothing from the leader except at Prime Minister's Questions, and too many Labour MPs who think shouting about the "need" for immigration controls will connect with our voters.
Brexit isn't going away and until the party pursues a clear, Brexit-critical line explicitly aligned with the interests of our people, more miserable results await.