March 14, 2013 4 Comments
West Shoebury has not been a marginal in the past, but with only seventy-three votes separating the Conservatives and UKIP at the last election perhaps it now is. Since 2014 sees the local elections being held on the same day as the European elections one can see a banana skin awaiting Cllr Tony Cox.
Tony is a seasoned campaigner, and I have been of the opinion that he would be able to see off UKIP and hold his seat. I thought it would be close, but I thought he would do it. I am now beginning to have doubts, and these doubts have come about because of UKIP’s strong polling. Ignore the recent 17% – a rogue poll if ever there was one. But they are consistently nip and tuck with the Liberal Democrats at the moment on about 10%, and clearly are performing above expectations in by-elections. UKIP’s zenith is always the European elections, and 2014 could see them winners nationally based on vote share. Against this backdrop it could be very tricky indeed for Tony.
However, West Shoebury Conservatives will be better organised than UKIP, and with three councillors should mount an effective campaign. Nonetheless, I do throw in a couple of spoilers.
As Gray Sergeant (Labour candidate in West Shoebury last year) is acutely aware, you can fight an effective campaign and the voters can ignore you. Tony may daydream on his own personal popularity, but when realism takes hold he will acknowledge that it is usually what is dominating the national news that governs what happens at elections. Cllr Cox is not yet a national figure.
The other thing that should trouble Tony is that between 2003 and 2013 the Tory vote in West Shoebury (in vote share terms) has almost halved (from 69.0% to 37.1%). It is easy to see where their votes has gone if you look at the table here – since 2003 we have seen a proliferation of minor parties stand (seven candidates in 2006 and 2010). Whilst these minor parties shared the protest vote in the past, it looks like they are coalescing behind UKIP at the moment.
In the end the Conservatives may be saved by the European elections as UKIP activists will have to chase votes everywhere in an attempt to get as many sent to Brussels as possible. They will have to spread their campaign into areas where they would not normally go, and time spent there will time not spent in West Shoebury.