Sometimes you think it is just about getting the best candidate for the gig, however sometimes it really isn’t if you actually want to win. The more you get exposed to the inner workings of politics you come to understand that to win you have to prioritise, you have to work out where your money is, how to spend it, where to spend it, how the activist is, where the activist base is, how best to use the activist base and so on.
When the 2015 General Election comes round it is highly unlikely I’ll be voting here as it seems now all but certain I’ll be moving out of Southend in the near future. However the seat where I am living is, despite what might be seen as an extremely safe Tory seat, actually not that safe. James Duddridge is an odds on favourite to win again but if you delve into the numbers (which I like to do) then you’ll see that he’s a big favourite, but a big favourite who could lose if everything goes against him. Should Duddridge fall short then it’d be Labour who’d pick up the seat.
Over in the west of Southend David Amess will win another term at as the MP. Of that there isn’t any doubt whatsoever barring a significant scandal coming out about him and even if that happens, I’d expect him to still hold on just. If he lost he’d lose to the Liberal Democrats.
So why am I talking about Labour shooting themselves in the foot? Well they’ve decided to field their arguably two strongest candidates in both seats. Cllr. Ian Gilbert beat out Cllr. Julian Ware-Lane for the Rochford & Southend East nomination. At this point it still was a long shot they could pull off the win here but the fact the Tories failed to win a single seat here in the council elections this year, coupled with the rise of UKIP and what will be a total collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote in the east of the town then Labour are live dogs. If Cllr. James Moyies stands in the seat for Parliament next May (as far as I’ve read there hasn’t been any decision on this) then Labour are very live dogs in this seat.
Labour lost by 11,000 odd last time around and 11,000 is quite a majority to overturn, certainly if the party trying to overturn it isn’t exactly sweeping all away in the council elections (which they aren’t) but lets look at the maths again.
The Lib Dems will lose 4,000-5,000 votes in the seat at a pretty well educated guess. You would expect Labour to pick up around half of them, so that majority is now around 9,000 to win. The Tories have been in power, so Labour now aren’t the party of government. This means that the vote for change now is in the hands of Labour and for whatever David Amess’ faults on the other side of the borough, people you speak to (who aren’t staunchly political) say that he is a good constituency MP, I don’t hear the same about James Duddridge. He is kind of an anonymous MP. So his name carries very little cachet. So his personal vote will not be strong.
Then throw in the UKIP factor. I don’t want to put words in Cllr. Gilbert’s mouth but you have to think that he is out in his garden every night looking up at the sky searching for a shooting star and has his ‘Please let UKIP stand here’ wish ready to go. The Tories got just a tick over 19,500 votes last time around, if UKIP took 20% of that vote (which is entirely possible and might even be a low estimate) then that is 4,000 plus votes. Now of course UKIP would also take votes from Labour, certainly in places like Kursaal but not to the same degree.
Strangely the key ward may actually be right here in Thorpe Bay, where Labour are nowhere and will get very few votes. The Tories should sweep this seat in a General Election and this ward votes. If UKIP (or heck how about an ambitious independent?) could make serious inroads into the Tory vote here then it is really game on.
All sounds good for Labour, no?
Well, yes and no. To win they have to throw every resource they have at Rochford & Southend East. They need to run a skeleton campaign in the west and put all their eggs in the one basket. They have a straight choice whether to go for first in the east and finish third in the west, or settle for second in the east in an attempt to finish second in the west. Personally a shot at first and settling for third seems like a no brainer.
Yet they have chosen a man who will certainly go and try to win in the west in Cllr. Ware-Lane. Admirable yes, good politics, most certainly not. Good strategy wins elections often just as much as good policy. I just cannot see Cllr. Ware-Lane being a paper candidate who would spend his time in the east trying to get Cllr. Gilbert elected, which would certainly be the best decision for them strategically. Of course I could be wrong and whilst Cllr. Ware-Lane is saying all the right things publicly, he knows the best thing for Labour would be to hit the east and support Cllr. Gilbert to the fullest of his abilities.
In 2010 the Lib Dems had the most votes in Oxford yet won neither seat, they came a close second in both seats. Had they concentrated on one seat, either seat, they would have won. There are many stories similar to this. If Southend Labour want to gain an MP then they know all their eggs have to be in the east because they have a shot of winning. If they decide to fight both seats to any significant degree then it is highly likely we’ll end up with two Conservative MP’s again across the two seats.
If I was a betting man I’d back Amess and Duddridge to both be returned to parliament next May but on a very good day for the Labour party, they have a shot at dethroning Duddridge. Amess is safe as houses but Duddridge, whilst looking safe could go if the dominoes all fall the wrong way for him and the right way for Labour. So it should be full steam ahead for Labour in the east but you just get the sense that by selecting Cllr. Ware-Lane in the west that they aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket and on this occasion, that would have been the most logical strategy if their end goal was to return an MP to parliament in 2015.
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