Weak analysis by Mr Rejected

Nigel Holdcroft’s psephological writing has left me wondering whether he really does not know his stuff, or is deliberately choosing the blinkered approach. Either way, his attempt to explain away the May election results in Southend-on-Sea as some sort of short-term blip is wide of the mark – very wide.

He is bound to defend his record, but this obstructs objective analysis of what went on. His party’s rejection this May needs to be looked at in context.

Before we look at the facts I feel obliged to offer Nigel, and his fellow Southend Tories, a bit of advice. If you continue to act and speak as if this year’s rejection was a one-off and that things will return to normal (i.e. Southend back in Tory hands) in pretty short order then you will be disappointed. You have got to face up to one obvious fact: Southenders did not like what you were doing to the town. Unless you admit this and change tack you will suffer further losses.

Nigel has written: As it was the Conservatives polled aprox 30% of the vote acroo the Town, well ahead of UKIP with 19% and the rest from 18% downwards

This is broadly correct as it is, although it avoids the most obvious conclusion from these numbers. First, though, a reminder of what happened in May:

30.29% Conservative
19.10% Independent
18.99% Labour
17.50% UKIP
12.96% Liberal Democrat
1.23% Green
0.04% National Front

The Conservatives, it could be argued, won in the Borough. I think a more accurate telling of the story is to state that with 69.71% voting for other parties it was quite a rejection.

The context of these elections is of a town that has only ever elected Conservative MPs since 1906 and has seen the local authority run by the Tories for far more years than they have sat in opposition. The fracturing of the anti-Tory vote in many ways emphasises the desperation of residents keen to see anyone without a blue rosette elected. I accept that this does not really account for the UKIP surge, which in many ways demonstrates that even the Tory faithful have begun to lose their faith.

I have always said, though, that any election taken in isolation can only tell part of the story. Thus, we should look at the story over a number of elections, and this shows a steadily declining Conservative vote in the town. 2014 was no one-off, but rather a continuation of a trend begun in 2005; a trend that shows the Conservative vote dwindling year after year.

To be fair, during the same period there has been only a modest growth in the Labour vote (from 16.6%). It is the vote of the ‘other parties’ (other than Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) that has grown considerably over the last decade (from 7.8% to 37.8%). To complete the story the Liberal Democrat has halved over the same period.

So Nigel, you may think that in the “ West … the picture looks strong” and you maybe “looking forward to a strong blue fightback in the East” but unless things change in your party I do not see why you think as you do. It is somewhat arrogant to think that any rejection was a blip and that the electorate will suddenly change their minds and think you were alright all along.

Mind you, perhaps I should encourage you to continue thinking this way. After all, your loss is my gain.

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3 Responses to Weak analysis by Mr Rejected

  1. The Conservatives, it could be argued, won in the Borough [with 30.29%]. I think a more accurate telling of the story is to state that with 69.71% voting for other parties it was quite a rejection.

    To be fair to them this would be consistent with their approach to AV. Remember their comparison to a horse race and the slogan “the winner should win”. It is written into their political DNA which means that a lot of the behaviour that you complain about is actually instinctive rather than rational.

    The problem with their analogy is that they rig the race. They don’t accept that the winning post should be fixed at gaining 50%+ support. So they say that once everyone is “finished” you move the winning post back down the course to find the nag that managed to get furthest along the course and you then declare that nag the winner. It is a lousy way to determine governments (and not a very good way to determine winners of horse races).

    A better analogy for electing representatives might be a free-for-all tug-of-war. Initially the die-hard supporters of the two established foes (usually Labour and the Conservatives) take an end each. As they start pulling they scream out promises and threats to bystanders to try to persuade:
    – their stay-at-home supporters to pick up their end of the rope and pull
    – supporters of minority parties to lend their weight (if only to stop the other side winning)
    – the apathetic to look at how things are going and if they don’t like what they see to also lend their weight.
    As all of this happens you may find a few people changing ends, but the result is determined by who has the greatest weight of support and can pull themselves over the line at the close of polls.

    The winner (at ward or constituency level) is then fairly clear. Perhaps we should have called AV electoral tug-of-war?

    (AV is one-dimensional with a single rope, STV is multi-dimensional with one rope per candidate! Perhaps that pushes the analogy too far!)

  2. I like your analogy, the tug o’ war one.

    Of the eighteen seats up for grabs, the Tories got four – the same as Labour. UKIP won five, making them the winners if you adhere strictly to FPTP rules.

  3. In the debate we had at the end of last year on all up elections I said I would have supported it if they had some sort of proportional representation to go along with it. After all, multi-member wards cries out for some sort of proportionality. I accept that mine was a somewhat pointless argument insofar as I believe it would have required a law change, but it was useful to point out the FPTP produces an even worse result in multi-member seats.

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