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Tag Archives: elections

After Glasgow East, Labour Lemmings Peer Over the Edge

There is much talk today of a “suicide election”, along with the speculation of who will succeed Gordon Brown (this weekend’s choice, after the deflation of Harriet Harman’s appalling PMQ performance recently, is Jack Straw). Certainly, albeit with an outsider’s view, the Labour activists I happen to have heard and talked to recently do seem to see some merit in “getting it overwith”. While suicide may be an apt analogy – in that calling an early election knowing you will almost certainly lose goes against the DNA of any party – it is inappropriate in that there is a mortal afterlife for most of those involved.

It won’t happen though, anymore than it would have happened in 1995. The general election won’t be as bad as Glasgow East, the reasoning will go, and that reasoning would be correct. But that leads back to the comfort zone thinking that it really is mid-term blues and things will swing back before the election, if only we give them time.

In truth: no, things clearly won’t be as bad as a by-election result. General elections don’t work like that. But to put off the election only gives the mantra of “time for a change” longer to soak into the electorate’s mindset. Two more years for the idea of a tired and rudderless government to become accepted fact among the media. The longer Labour go on, the larger the Conservative majority in 2010, and the longer Labour will need to de-toxify their own image (as well as David Cameron having a larger majority to cushion himself against the inevitable hiccups of government).

Of course, it won’t likely be Gordon Brown calling an early election anyway. A new leader could call it, get the expected result (but by less of a margin than feared under Brown) and get on with the real job that he/she was elected for and rebuild the party. That, after all, is an opposition leader’s main job: they can’t win elections as such (as the old saying goes, it’s governments who lose elections, not oppositions who win them), but they can pull a battle fatigued and demoralised party together and prepare them for the long slog back to power.

In the Conservative’s case, it was a task that initially fell upon William Hague – a party leader before his time, he nevertheless did a lot of the hard work: he lanced the boil of Europe and enacted some important internal reforms.

But I don’t see it happening with Labour. Those may sound like words ready to be eaten, but if I do find myself brandishing the cutlery over my digital scribblings, I won’t be too upset, as it will mean that Labour have had less time to screw things up, which means less repair work for us to do (including the pain which some will try to blame us for) before making things genuinely better for the country.

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London Election Stats

I am indebted to Croydonian for alerting me earlier this week to the release of the London election results broken down by ward*. Enjoy!

(Health warning for LibDems: You won’t enjoy this. As you’ll see further below, if these results were repeated in the 2010 council elections, you would end up with fewer councillors than the BNP.)

Firstly, the main contest …

Biggest Boris Vote
1. Stanley Ward (R.B. Kensington & Chelsea) 79.96%
2. Royal Hospital Ward (Kensington & Chelsea) 79.68%
3. Knightsbridge & Belgravia Ward (Westminster) 78.59%
Inner London average 36.24%
Outer London average 48.35%

Biggest Livingstone Vote
1. East Ham North (Newham) 73.42%
2. Green Street West (Newham) 70.92%
3. Southall Broadway (Ealing) 69.77%
Inner London average 43.80%
Outer London average 31.97%

Biggest Paddick Vote
1. The Wrythe (Sutton) 20.02% (Even here, Livingstone polled around 2.5% higher, and Boris over 26% more)
2. Wandle Valley (Sutton) 19.43%
3. St. Marks (K.C.) 19.28%
Inner London average 10.21%
Outer London average 9.49%

Now as any fule kno, it was Outer London that won it for Boris, with a 12 point lead in the outer boroughs, against Ken’s 12 point lead in the inners. Only with the ward results, and the resultant borough breakdowns, is this even clearer than when just comparing GLA constituencies, some of which straddle inner and outer London.

Although the gap was roughly equal and reversed between inner and outer London, it is clear that outer London, with approximately 800,000 more voters, was going to have the edge. Also, the inner London wards may have registered the very highest vote shares, but with the average ward size in outer London being approximately 500 voters larger, the Conservatives’ doughnut strategy was thoroughly vindicated.

“But but but..” cry the Lib Dems, “you’re only counting first preferences. That’s not fair.” Yes I am, and yes it is.

Moving on, with such a presidential style contest some focus has been given to the extra boost that that the mayoral candidates give to the “normal” party vote. Let’s compare the mayoral vote share (yes, first preferences again) to the party list “London Member” vote and look at the “premium” that the mayoral candidates gave to their parties.

Boris Premium
Highest in Mayesbrook (Barking & Dagenham) 24.64%
Lowest in Southall Broadway (Ealing) 2.88%
Overall 8.57%

Ken Premium
Highest in Spitalfields & Banglatown (Tower Hamlets): 31.50 %
Lowest in Eastbrook (Barking & Dagenham): 0.37%
Overall 9.42%

Paddick “Premium”
Highest in Thames (Barking & Dagenham): 3.27%
Lowest in Teddington (Richmond): -17.51%
Overall -1.61%

Not brilliant news for poor old Brian, then – he actually generated a negative premium – a “Brian discount” if you will. Well, as he has effectively said, the Lib Dems are rubbish at campaigning in London now. (Bad workmen and all that, Brian?)

So looking ahead to 2010, which could be the safest wards in London? Here are the final redoubts, based on the party list votes (as opposed to the mayoral votes – see above) for each party which scored a majority in any ward, which therefore includes the BNP and Greens:

Safest Conservative Ward
… by majority: Royal Hospital (Kensington & Chelsea) 65.41%
… by vote share: Knightsbridge & Belgravia (Westminster) 77.25%

Safest Labour Ward
… by majority: Southall Broadway (Ealing) 49.59%
… by vote share: Southall Broadway (Ealing) 64.94%

Safest LD Ward
… by majority: Muswell Hill (Haringey) 3.62%
… by vote share: Teddington (Richmond): 33.93% (but still beaten by the Conservatives)

In fact, based on these party list votes, the Lib Dems would take only two other wards in the whole of London: Alexandra (also Haringey) and Cathedrals (Southwark). The BNP would have more councillors, with eight wards.

Safest BNP Ward
… by majority: Mayesbrook (Barking & Dagenham) 15.67%
… by vote share: Mayesbrook (Barking & Dagenham) 38.47%

Safest Green ward
… by majority: Highgate (Camden): 0.18%
… by vote share: Brockley (Lewisham): 29.94%

And if you’ll indulge me, we’ll look at the absolute number of votes…

Largest number of votes (1st pref. mayoral)
Conservative: Hayes & Coney Hall (Bromley) 4,025
Labour: St Dunstan`s & Stepney Green (Tower Hamlets) 2,547
Lib Dem: Southfields (Wandsworth) 678

Now let’s wrap up the turnout records. I must admit I haven’t got the up to date electorate figures for every borough, most being brought forward from 2006, so take these with a pinch of salt …

Highest Turnouts
1. St. Katharine`s & Wapping (Tower Hamlets) 62.09%
2. Eastbrook (Barking and Dagenham) 59.86%
3. Stoke Newington Central (Hackney) 59.34%

Lowest Turnouts
1. Thames (Barking and Dagenham) 22.68%
2. Stratford And New Town (Newham) 22.77%
3. Cranford (Hounslow) 22.86%

Now for the booby prizes – we find out who will have to stand in the corner with the dunce’s hat on.

The most spoilt votes (1st prefs, of all votes cast) were 7.08% of ballots in Alperton (Brent)

And for the fewest spoilt papers, the gold star goes to …, the postal voters of the City, with the good burghers of the square mile only messing up two ballot papers. Otherwise, the electors in Royal Hospital ward (Kensington & Chelsea) can be smug, having only failed twelve times, or on 0.569% of ballots.

When we come to second preferences, a significant number of voters didn’t cast a vote, and this makes up the bulk (over 400,000) of spoilt 2nd preference votes. The ward whose voters were most sure that their choice would make it to the second round (or maybe they were just in a hurry) was Northumberland Park (Haringey) with 35.78% blank second preferences.

One particular category of spoilt ballot is “voting too many times”, and so we can reveal that the ward where Robert Mugabe would find himself most at home is … Plaistow South (Newham): 3.28% (95 such spoilt papers).

I think that’ll do for now. My anorak awaits its owner.

* Well, all except the postal votes, for which I only have the borough totals so far, and which I have had to ignore for the purposes of most of this election stat-fest.

Final Mayoral Thoughts

OK, time to move on, but it has been interesting browsing the lefty blogs and particularly the comment sections on why Ken lost, and while we’re on the subject, why the Lib Dems did so appallingly too. For instance on Michael White’s blog, elsewhere in the Grauniad and at Harry’s Place among others.

There are a few themes emerging:

1) “The Evening Standard was against Ken. ‘snot fair” Well, the ES certainly helped, but don’t shoot the messenger just because he’s found a message to bring. In any case, I don’t remember the Left complaining when the ES was backing Ken.
2) “It was all part of the national swing.” Not as big a factor as they might think. Ken might have been a Labour mayor – for a few years anyway – but he is and always has been Ken first and foremost. The presidential environment of the London Mayor has ensured that the election would always be primarily about him and his record.
3) From the LibDems: “we got squeezed by the two main parties”. Oh please, change the record. You’ve had over twenty years, through both unpopular Conservative and Labour governments – haven’t you got the message yet?
4) Again from the yellow corner: “Paddick was uninspiring”. They’re not wrong – I watched some of those debates. How about the two classic moments on ITV: first was when Alistair Stewart asked if Paddick would tell borough police commanders what to do. Paddick’s response? “Yes. No, I mean….”. Then, at the end of the debate, the coup de grace … Alistair Stewart: “Who would you suggest your supporters put as their second preference vote?” Paddick: “” – that’s five whole seconds of silence … and now we know why (scroll down to 6.34) it was the far Left, er, Left List (this year’s name for the Socialist Workers Party or something).
5) “How can the outer boroughs do this? They don’t use Oysters or the Tube, what gives them the right?” Errr, perhaps the fact that we have to pay for the Tube, and the Zone 1 stuff, yet see little in return. Especially in the south, where we don’t even get the Tube*

And then amongst all that was the more realistic view from some former Livingstone supporters, which show just how he lost the backing of some core voters. Ken’s support for al-Qaradawi reflects the dilemma that others on the Left seem to be facing now – how to embrace multiculturalism but without pardoning the very politically un-correct attitudes of some of those cultures.

* and, some may ask, why would we want it, when you can already get from Bromley South to Central London non stop in 20 minutes, and with a view out of the window!

Why Brown Will Still Be Here in 2010

There has been much talk of the tide turning last Thursday. In fact, the turning point was last October, and it has just got steadily worse for Labour since, but Thursday was the first time that the extent was actually measurable at the ballot box.

However, despite the predictable talk, Brown will, I think, still be leading Labour into the 2010 election. Why?

1) It is just at the “talk” stage – this is the first time there has been any serious consideration in the open media of a change of leader. To be effective, a groundswell against a leader needs to have reached a far more advanced stage than this.
2) The talk was before Brown’s so-called “fightback”, and potentially a reshuffle. Whilst not much, at this early stage it should be just enough to put off any serious challenge. By Brown’s mediocre standards, his interviews this morning with Andrew Marr and Adam Boulton were competent enough.
3) By surviving past October, which is most likely, Brown will be in until 2010, since if they aren’t going to change leader this year, then it’s even less likely next year (in the run-up to the general election).
4) If there is any challenge this year, it will only be a stalking horse – the next logical step. A John Redwood to Brown’s John Major.
5) The bunker delusion is strong – the belief that it can still be turned around despite all the signals of the turned tide. This is only something that can really be appreciated with hindsight – and that is what any Conservative, from activist to MP, understands only too well from the nineties.

Of course, this is all good stuff for us Conservatives – combined with a lacklustre LibDem “opposition” – though whether the electorate at large views the prospect of a two year general election campaign with the same glee as us sad political animals is another matter.

Another matter, also, is Crewe and Nantwich, which could still force a stalking horse into the open and could be the only potential flaw in my Brown-will-stay theory. Time will tell if the unseemly rush to move the writ was inspired or another dire miscalculation. In under three weeks time, we will know.

Momentum

So Boris is in, but the good news for the Conservatives continued (almost) through to the assembly results.

Having yesterday dismissed our chances of gaining any top-up seats, I must happily breakfast on humble pie today and congratulate our three new London-wide members, including former Conservative nomination hopefuls Andrew Boff and Victoria Borwick, and Bexley councillor Gareth Bacon. The LibDems won’t be in party mood though – they lost 2 of their five list members, and were hammered even more than Labour across the capital, suffering a swing to the Conservatives of 5.5% (based on the constituency vote). The swing from Labour was 1.5%.

The biggest individual hit suffered by the LibDems was in Bexley & Bromley where James Cleverly scored a 10.2% swing, as well as chalking up a record and thumping 75,000 majority. Labour’s worst swing was 6.6% in Havering & Redbridge where old hand Roger Evans tightened the Conservative grip.

The one sour note was the loss of Bob Blackman in Brent & Harrow, where the Labour candidate squeaked in, no doubt on the strength of being on Livingstone’s home patch.

The headlines are focussing on Boris’ historic victory – which will be a relief to the LibDems who have struggled to make any mark on Thursday. Yesterday Nick Clegg said that the local election results were “regaining momentum”. He’s not wrong – after all, he didn’t specify in what direction the momentum was going!

Just a Few Hours To Go

Judging by the current turnout estimates, if Boris has done it, it’ll be clearly on the back of a massive backlash from the Outer London boroughs. You know Ken – the sort of boroughs, like Bexley and Bromley that you visited less times than you did your friends in South America and Cuba. The sort of boroughs your minions have trouble locating on a map. The sort of boroughs that have bankrolled the Zone 1-centric plans, filled your cronies pockets and paid for the propagandising, smear campaigns and of course “The Londoner”.

As the few unfortunates who have already heard me speak on the subject will know, there’s only one piece of paper I’m interested in seeing with Livingstone’s name on – his P45.
Ken Livingstone\'s P45

The BBC – It's What They Do

I see Croydonian had a rant in the early hours about the BBC coverage of the elections. I would like to tug his hymn sheet in my direction a bit, so that I may join in.

My preset list of favourite channels on my TV does not include BBC News 24 since I prefer the balanced/less biased coverage of Sky, but last night I did use the picture in picture feature (what will they think of next) to hop regularly between the two.

Jeremy Vine, who normally provides my cue to switch over when his patronising and condescending tones contaminate Radio 2, appeared with some ape-to-homo-sapiens graphics to illustrate the increase in the Conservative (though he probably referred to us as “Torieees”) vote over the last ten years. What was wrong with a good old bar chart?

Then I noticed that, of course, Anthony King had been dusted off and wheeled out to join the panel. The Worcester result (still NOC) came through. A minor minor disappointment in a very very good night for the Conservatives, but King was quick to cut in “A very bad result for the Conservatives, they were expected to take that easily” – or words to that effect. Maybe he was right, but his past form shows that he is happiest using his “expert” soapbox to spin the “Tories are crashing and burning” whenever possible.

Why do the BBC allow such a clearly biased yet officially impartial observer on the air?

It’s OK – I’m only kidding – that wasn’t a serious question.

In the interest of balance, though, I preferred the BBC’s convention of declaring gains/losses based on a comparison to the council make-up on the morning of polling day, rather than what happened four years ago, a la Sky, but that still doesn’t justify the Beeb extorting their subscription from me licence fee.

Update: I missed Vine’s farcical performance referred to by Mike Smithson … fortunately.

Boris Boris Boris!

I will be quite happy not to see another leaflet for delivery, or another letterbox, or another canvassing sheet for a month or two, thank you.

Now, though, the count is underway for the London elections. I guess Friday counts are much more civilised – the candidate can get something resembling sleep on election night (yeah, right) – and I assume it works out cheaper than paying election staff for unsociable hours. Even so, I would imagine it lacks the atmosphere of the early hours of a Friday morning, with results coming in from around the country. And what could kill the excitement off more effectively then an electronic count? No vote tallying as the boxes are opened and their contents spilled out onto the table? What’s a political anorak to do?

Across London, Conservatives tend to have little interest in the “top-up” consolation seats, but some pundits are predicting a seat for the BNP. I have to agree that this is, sadly, quite feasible.

The BNP polled 4.84%, just below the magic 5%, in 2004. The 2006 council results in Barking and Dagenham saw them poll the equivalent of around 7,500 votes in seven wards – extrapolated across London (though more probably focussed on the traditional “white working class” Labour areas, where BNP support is most fertile), one can see that the extra 0.16% isn’t much of a hill to climb.

Interesting times ahead.