Tories hold West Leigh …. just

Georgina Phillips Conservative 743 37.2%
Chris Bailey Liberal Democrat 688 34.4%
Tino Callaghan UKIP 418 20.9%
Jane Norman Labour 149 7.5%

Tories hold West Leigh is hardly a shocker of a headline, and last night’s by-election result can be filed under ‘predictable’. However, there will be relief in the blue camp that this potential banana skin was navigated without mishap. I also think that the number-crunchers amongst them will have some cause for concern.

The turnout, at 26.2%, was pretty good considering the time of year. West Leigh voters always take their democratic duties seriously and despite the usual safe-seat nature of this ward turnout is always amongst the highest in the borough, if not actually the highest.

The Conservative majority of 55 is some way down on what they usually get in West Leigh, and their vote share (which normally is around the 50% mark) is some way down as well. The Liberal Democrat vote is at about where it usually is, as is Labour’s, which means that the main beneficiary of disenchantment amongst normally Conservative supporters was UKIP.

Of course, Georgina Phillips is a new name here and will be unfamiliar to most voters. She will be thankful that the Liberal Democrats are struggling locally (they admitted to dragging in help from far and wide) otherwise it could have been a lot closer. Chris Bailey being hospitalised must have had an impact, and if he is fit and well in May he will have good reason for optimism.

UKIP have stated that this is one of the six wards they are targeting in the borough come May. They may be pleased with a fifth of the vote, attained despite a poor campaign. They are the joker in the pack – unlikely to win but able to make the ward problematical for the Tories. The Tories will be defending here with a much-reduced team compared to what they managed in this by-election, although they will be consoled with the fact that this will be true for the other parties too.

As for Labour; this is a tough ward for us. Jane will contest this ward in May again, and will console herself that despite the potential for being squeezed our small but beautifully formed vote more or less held up.

The defending Tories across the borough in May will be looking at the twelve per cent drop in the blue vote last night and wondering what this will mean for them. I think the political map of Southend is about to be re-drawn.

I finish with my best wishes to Chris Bailey for a speedy recovery.

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15 Responses to Tories hold West Leigh …. just

  1. ‘dragging in help’ – interesting use of poetic license, some might call it a flat out lie. If help is freely offered then it isn’t dragged in.

    No doubt you’ve helped in elections that weren’t in the borough, were you dragged in or did you freely volunteer your services because you are an activist and enjoy campaigning and helping out fellow Labour candidates/councillors?

    As for the impact of Chris’s health scare, it had a significant impact as did the hail storm during the commuter time when our vote in that ward traditionally goes out. Circumstances conspired against us but on the other hand UKIP’s vote nearly helped us big time. It is one of those things but it was certainly very much a worthwhile exercise for us.

    That privately fearing fourth place nonsense didn’t exactly hold up now, did it…?

  2. A lie? I thought I was merely re-stating what Cllr Crystall said in the speeches after the declaration of the result.

    Looking forward to fourth place in May nationally?

  3. Also Neil, you ought to read some of the Lib Dem web sites. Advertising for help is not activists volunteering to assist.

    I freely admit to bias – I rather object to being called a liar.

  4. As an outsider and non-affiliated, these sort of results are always interesting particularly due to the potential lottery style impact of our electoral system (which I know you want to change)

    But, given that you cannot change it before May where does your duty lie:
    1) To try and give West Leigh a Labour councillor next May (a forlorn hope?)
    2) To get the Tories out of the town hall in May (a distinct possibility?)

    I suspect that come May you do not really want to put any resources into West Leigh in May as those (finite) resources could be better utilised in more marginal wards. Heaven forbid that putting resources into West Leigh should starve one of the marginals seats that you hold and cause you to lose it to the Tories.

    In terms of the overall result in May, you wonder what would happen if you did not even stand in West Leigh in May. To party members this is probably sacrilege, but could Labour Supporters do better than voting for a potential fourth place candidate? Some will stay home, a few may vote UKIP, a few may even vote Conservative, but I suspect the majority of the “Labour vote” would see the Lib Dems as the lesser of all evils (putting aside feelings from the Westminster situation). That plus a few more Conservatives going to UKIP could mean the Tories losing this seat to the Lib Dems. Being “squeezed out” might not be that bad a result.

    So what’s it to be:
    – reducing the Tory influence in your council, or
    – a better fourth place?

    In other parts of the country of course the Tories should be pondering very similar conundrums, such is our Lottery voting system.

  5. outsidethemarginals: There really is no choice – we are duty bound to put up a candidate, and to encourage voters to support that candidate. In the end this is the honest solution. However, with limited resources we are aware of where we stand a realistic chance of success, and where our chances are slim.

    As it happens, the ward I actually live in is a Lib Dem/ Conservative marginal. I still vote for the Labour candidate.

  6. Discouraging a merely sacrificial Labour vote in Southend West is dishonest in an era of coalition politics? Think again.

  7. “There really is no choice – we are duty bound to put up a candidate, and to encourage voters to support that candidate. In the end this is the honest solution.”

    No choice as in “constitutionally bound” or as in “feeling we ought to offer a hopeless chance rather than go for effective power”?

    A party cannot direct its vote, so I guess not putting up a candidate and then urging your supporters to vote a particular way is potentially debatable.

    But we have a dishonest electoral system. Are we bound to play its game? Or should we try to (legally) over-come the distorting impacts of the system?

    If political parties (that put resources into hopeless campaigns rather than into winnable marginals) were charities they would have to have very interesting objectives to avoid prosecution for (dishonest) misuse of funds!

    How does supporting no hope campaigns rather than ruthless targeting of marginals help achieve your objectives to “secure for the workers whether by hand or by brain …” (or the modern equivalent)? [re-write in similar vein for other parties]

    “Paper candidates” are not the answer – and are arguably “dishonest” (making some voters think you are a serious winnable candidate). Paper candidates have a habit of realising that they face getting a humiliating vote and start to do something about it.
    With two effects:
    1) They do a bit of canvassing, get their mates involved, even spend their own money; what they don’t do is work in the marginals! Reducing your party’s chance of winning by standing against the official candidate is a “party crime” (what-ever party); reducing your party’s chances by diverting resources apparently is not (what-ever party!).
    2) They potentially divert people from voting for party that is most likely to defeat the party that you want to get out of office. This again is not a “party crime”.

    Likewise it is not a “party crime” (again what-ever party) to vote in such a way as to ensure the success of the party that you actually want to get out of office.

    Politics, it’s a funny (and dishonest) game.

  8. Julian,

    If Labour had no chance of winning in West Leigh AFTER the election – by your own admission – where is the dishonesty in pointing this out BEFORE elections?

  9. Biting the bullet takes teeth … grrrrr!

  10. Pingback: Predictable election ends predictably | A Mad Man With A Blog

  11. You weren’t stating what Cllr. Crystall said, you were spinning it. When the local nationalist blog is reporting is accurately and you aren’t that is disappointing. The difference between ‘dragging in help’ and ‘the election dragged in activists’ is significant.I notice you didn’t answer my question about whether you had ever done any activism outside of where you were standing or Southend.

    No I’m not looking forward to fourth place nationally but it will happen. Nationally the LD vote is bottoming out and we aren’t the party of protest any more. That is life but we were fourth in 2009 Euros as well. Are you looking forward to being beaten by UKIP in a national election like you were then and like you will be again?

  12. Neil, are you labouring under the misapprehension that if you ask a question then I must respond?

  13. Is that the Julian Ware-Lane version of pleading the fifth?

  14. Maybe. Maybe I though it was rhetorical.

    On another tack, are you standing this May?

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