In 2010 a lot of political analysts believed that Labour wanted to lose so they could sit on the opposition benches for five years, throw stones whilst the economy turned around and then promise the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to lure people back. It was a very persuasive argument and one that I thought actually carried some merit. Sometimes in life it is better to fight the good fight but lose and say that you’ve fought the good fight without actually then having to make the big decisions.
Yesterday I wrote what I thought was a fair and honest critique of the decision by Labour to essentially run two legitimate campaigns in Southend next year instead of really aggressively targeting one of the two seats. There were two people I expected to rile by my comments and unsurprisingly they both were. I maybe a member of the Lib Dems and therefore I may have a vested interest in things but I can also look at things from a logical point of view and not just spin and push the bandwagon (I initially mistyped that as bangwagon and have smirked to myself).
The fact is political parties do not have an infinite amount of resources, either in terms of dollar dollar bills nor in terms of manpower. Labour of course know this and that is why I never see a Labour leaflet in Thorpe Bay despite living here for several years. They know it is a waste of time and money to write, publish and deliver leaflets in this area. Thorpe Bay is not what you’d call Labour territory as the demographics and mathematics are all wrong.
Cllr. Ware-Lane tweeted me last night that my blog post reminded him that he needed to start his Leigh ward campaign. A nice shot at saying that he was coming to get the Lib Dems at the heart of their western operation. I cried all night I was so frightened at the thought of Labour pulling in the votes in Leigh to come through the pack and beat out the Tories and the Lib Dems in a General Election year. Give me a fucking break. There are votes to be had for Labour in Leigh of course but they’ll be third at best, they will not beat either the Tories or the Lib Dems there even if they ran their whole GE campaign on a ‘Leigh Independence Movement’ backdrop. The numbers nor the demographics are there. It’s not rocket science.
This is where I think a lot of people fall down. Just because I myself am a liberal doesn’t make me think that other people will be just because I am, or I talk to them about liberal values. The same with all the other parties from across the political spectrum. There are swing voters out there, a good chunk of them, but the vast majority will only swing between two parties (although having said that I did meet someone the other day who told me they had voted Lib, Lab and Con within the past five years) but those people are few and far between.
Matthew Dent says that in part he suspects my blog post was at least partially motivated by my own party’s interests, you can read his full blurb here. I can assure him it wasn’t. I know the Tories are winning Southend West next year and deep deep down whilst being second would be great, second gets you nowhere in this game bar momentum. I’m all but certainly out of Southend in the near future (landlord wants to sell and it is time for me to go elsewhere) but even saying that, I still fully expect the Lib Dems to be second next year in the west, with or without a concerted effort by Labour there and even if they aren’t – it won’t be by any significant amount. The Tories will still run away with it and long-term the demographics of the west is more Lib Dem than Labour.
Lets put it into context, Labour came last in five of the west wards in the 2014 local elections, last. It would have been six had it not been for the Greens. They won one ward (the same as the Lib Dems) but the Lib Dems were only last in Chalkwell and Belfairs. Here is the breakdown of the 2,014 council numbers in the west (I have only used the top result for each party in Westborough as two seats were up).
3645 – Labour
4126 – Lib Dems
7945 – Conservative
So even in a down year for the Tories where UKIP had a significant impact on their vote, the Tories cleared Labour by more than double in terms of votes cast and the Lib Dems by nearly double. I just don’t see any reason for any optimism for any party to overtake the Tories next year, certainly when you look at the 2010 numbers and see that the Tories may lose split votes locally but gain them nationally (Amess received around 3,000 more votes than the Tory council candidates in 2010). Of course UKIP could impact the Tory vote should they field a candidate but I would expect their impact to be less dramatic than in the east.
I maybe a Lib Dem member and activist but I am not blinded by loyalty and believe that we can win every battle no matter what the realistic situation is. I can write open and honestly and do so frequently without my Lib Dem hat on but more my Journalism degree hat on and yesterday’s post was one of those occasions. Labour’s high mark in the west is second, Labour’s high mark in the east is first, why not just go for it and go for the win instead of fighting to be best of the rest?
I think the best metaphor I can give is if you are a sprinter going for the Olympic double and someone offered you a chance for a gold in the 100m and a bronze in the 200m or a guaranteed silver in the 100m and a chance for a second silver in the 200m then which do you take? Do you go for gold or do you set your sights on two silvers? I know what I go for…
Politics is not ideal. Yes all parties should be able to put their full resources behind every potential councillor and every potential member of the House of Commons. Every single voter should get the full treatment and should be treated as equal but we all know that is impossible under the current system. You have to prioritise otherwise you risk not getting any member of your party elected. People understand that and strategically I wonder just how much Labour do…
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