Tag Archive | "election result"

Volatile voters get a glimpse of the post-Blair landscape (6 May 2006)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Volatile voters get a glimpse of the post-Blair landscape (6 May 2006)

Posted on 06 May 2006 by admin

It has been so long since the Conservatives had a good election result that it takes a little time to recognise it for what it is. Their total of gains, at 273 seats and counting, is at the upper end of expectations for the party, and they polled quite convincingly in a range of local elections from Plymouth to Bury, as well as in London.

Labour’s losses are a little less than I had predicted, mostly because there was much more give and take between Labour and Lib Dem than I had bargained for. For every Labour calamity in, for instance, Lewisham, there was Lambeth to balance it up; and the party also made gains rather than losses vis-a-vis the Lib Dems in Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.

While in the northern metropolitan boroughs and some of the shire districts Labour were resilient and even improved on their result in 2004, in London the swing went further than merely catching up with what had happened in the rest of the country between 2002 and 2004.

Labour’s terrible results in parts of London should be deeply worrying to the party. There is not even the excuse of low turnout, as turnout was significantly up on 2002. The electoral landscape is starting to look distinctly post-Blair. In the very areas where electors responded so warmly to shiny New Labour in 1997 and 2001, they have turned away in droves in 2006.

The Greens are a far more successful minor party than the BNP, but have so far attracted less attention. They fought on a much broader front, while the BNP is a highly localised force that comes and goes. By contrast, the Greens have staying power and have elected effective and durable councillors.

Local elections can provide interesting straws in the wind. The West Yorkshire borough of Kirklees has once again – as it did in 2004 – refused to award any party a higher share of the vote than 25% and its politics are a kaleidoscopic mix of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and BNP. An additional element this time was the success of a “Save Huddersfield NHS” candidate. The appeal of purely local politics seems to be growing.

The Lib Dems have carved a niche in politics as the party of local government, but these results put this into question. They failed to take relatively easy target councils in Portsmouth and Bristol, and where they held power, or had recently held power, they tended to do badly.

The 2006 elections hint at a revival of an older political geography, with the Tories gaining in suburban areas of former strength and Labour holding up better in its traditional areas. It is perhaps not surprising that a civilised west London liberal Tory like David Cameron struck a chord in metropolitan suburbia, but did little for his party in earthier parts of England. Perhaps the 2009 election will resemble the patterns of 1992 or 1974 more than it does the rather classless electoral landscape of 2001.

But despite the Conservatives’ promising results last night, there is no sign that the electorate has any nostalgia for two-party politics, and even three-party politics now seems distinctly passé. The electorate seems volatile, grumpy and unconvinced, but it has given Cameron more cause for encouragement than it ever did for his three luckless predecessors.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/may/06/uk.localelections20061

Comments Off on Volatile voters get a glimpse of the post-Blair landscape (6 May 2006)

Post-Blair, but not quite convinced of Cameron (5 May 2006)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Post-Blair, but not quite convinced of Cameron (5 May 2006)

Posted on 05 May 2006 by admin

The electorate is in volatile mood and even three-party politics is now looking distinctly passé.

It has been so long since the Conservatives had a good election result that it takes a little time to recognise it for what it is. Their total of gains, at 273 seats and counting, is at the upper end of expectations for the party, and they polled quite convincingly in a range of different local elections from Plymouth to Bury as well as in London.

They did well enough to wrest control of a larger haul of councils than they can have hoped for. Conservative satisfaction must be all the greater because of the uncanny symmetry with which their gains mirror Labour’s losses.

In the last few rounds of local elections Labour have tended to slip back, but the spoils have been shared between the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and a variety of minor parties and independents. Labour’s losses are a little less than what I predicted before the elections, mostly because there was much more give and take between Labour and Lib Dem than I had bargained for. For every Labour calamity in, for instance, Lewisham, there was Lambeth to balance it up; and the party also made gains rather than losses vis-à-vis the Lib Dems in the northern cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.

While in the northern metropolitan boroughs and some of the shire districts Labour were resilient and even improved on their result in 2004, in London the swing went further than merely catching up with what had happened in the rest of the country between 2002 and 2004. Labour’s terrible results in parts of London should be deeply worrying to the party. There is not even the excuse of low turnout, as turnout was significantly up on 2002 and in some areas where Labour took a terrible beating (like Bexley) the increase was above average.

The electoral landscape is starting to look distinctly post-Blair. In the very areas where electors responded so warmly to shiny New Labour in 1997 and 2001, they have turned away in droves in 2006. A scary result for Labour outside London was the runaway success of the Conservatives in the borough elections in Swindon, a town with two close-fought marginal parliamentary seats.

But the London suburbs were the most dramatic illustration of the trend. Harrow has been a close fight in the last couple of borough elections, but the Conservatives won by miles this year. In Ealing, Labour’s most shocking loss, there was a 10 per cent swing to the Conservatives, who regained control of a borough some had privately believed to be beyond them permanently thanks to demographic change.

This was even bigger than the 8.5% swing in the thoroughly anticipated Conservative gain in the gentrifying borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Ealing topped their four gains from Labour and three from no overall control (for the loss only of Richmond to the Lib Dems) to put the Tories in control of exactly half the London boroughs, not quite where they were in their last good London borough election year in 1982.

Back in the 1980s when Labour’s image was poor in London and the party had trouble winning elections, Labour’s local authorities contributed a lot to the damage. It was not so much the well-advertised and often entirely fictional ‘loony left’ excesses, but the general feeling that Labour was not capable of running a local authority efficiently and in the interests of local residents. High local taxes and poor services were not an attractive mix and the national party leadership was keen to distance itself from the boroughs.

Patricia Hewitt, in her capacity as one of Neil Kinnock’s senior advisers, wrote in 1987 that London local government’s policies “were costing us dear among the pensioners”. This must have raised a bitter smile from a few dispossessed London Labour councillors today. In this campaign, Labour’s borough councils felt rather proud of their record, and were brought low by the sorry display put on by the national government.

While Labour weren’t on course for a triumph before the government fell into disarray, it may well have made the difference between holding on and losing in Merton and possibly Croydon, and dashed any chance of a surprise pick-up in Enfield.

While suburban London politics is reasonably straightforward, the politics of inner city London is contradictory and complex. Voters in some authorities such as Lambeth and Islington seem to be short of patience – in Lambeth Labour felt surprised and rather hurt to lose control in 2002, only for their Lib Dem successors to feel the same now. Camden, and more surprisingly Lewisham, chucked out reasonably successful Labour authorities. One of the small band of Lib Dems previously on the council in Lewisham is Councillor Harry Potter, but Labour had obviously missed a lesson or two in Defence Against the Dark (Electioneering) Arts.

In Tower Hamlets there was a most peculiar result, with Labour (subject to recounts) looking on course to retain control having lost seats to the Conservatives and Respect, and picked them up from the Lib Dems. Results from Hackney are slow in arriving, but it is a borough that has produced more than its share of weird results in the past. The Green Party is becoming established in parts of inner London, particularly Lewisham where Darren Johnson, their only councillor in 2002, is joined by five colleagues. Less obvious is the steady 10 per cent or more of the vote Green candidates polled across boroughs such as Camden and Lambeth.

The Greens are a far more successful minor party than the BNP, but have so far attracted less attention. They fought on a much broader front, while the BNP is a highly localised force that comes and goes. In its stamping grounds of a few years ago, Burnley and Oldham, it has faded away (after considerable anti-fascist campaigning by opponents), while it has flared up in Barking & Dagenham and West Yorkshire more recently. By contrast, the Greens have staying power and have elected effective and durable councillors.

Local elections can provide interesting straws in the wind. The final collapse of the Liberals as a party of government in the first quarter of the 20th Century started in local elections. The continuing decay of the party system is most apparent in some florid examples in local government. The West Yorkshire borough of Kirklees has once again (as it did in 2004) refused to award any party a higher share of the vote than 25 per cent – its politics is a kaleidoscopic mix of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and BNP. Its wards have delivered surprise after surprise as the votes have been counted, with hardly any local politician resting securely.

An additional element this time was the success of a “Save Huddersfield NHS” candidate in one ward, making Kirklees a six-party system. Hospital campaigners also got elected in some hitherto safe Conservative wards in Enfield and the appeal of purely local politics seems to be growing.

The Liberal Democrats have carved out a niche in politics as the party par excellence of local government, but the 2006 results put this into question. In previous rounds of local elections they have tended to outperform uniform swing and most people’s expectations before the result, but this time they have fallen short (despite their high share of the vote). They failed to take relatively easy target councils in Portsmouth and Bristol, and where they held power (or had recently held power) they tended to do badly. With the Conservatives apparently restored to acceptability as an alternative for voters cross with Labour, the Lib Dems must show more dynamism and strategic vision.

The 2006 elections hint at a revival of an older political geography, with the Conservatives gaining in their suburban areas of former strength and Labour holding up better in its most traditional areas of support. It is perhaps not surprising that a civilised west London liberal Tory like Cameron struck a chord in a swathe of metropolitan suburbia, but did little for his party in earthier parts of England like Gosport or Thurrock.

Perhaps the 2009 election will resemble the patterns of 1992 or 1974 more than it does the rather classless electoral landscape of 2001. But despite the Conservatives’ promising results last night, there is no sign that the electorate has any nostalgia for two party politics, and even three party politics now seems distinctly passé. The electorate seems volatile, grumpy and unconvinced, but has given Cameron more cause for encouragement than it ever did for his three luckless predecessors.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/may/05/lewisbaston

Comments Off on Post-Blair, but not quite convinced of Cameron (5 May 2006)

A print-out-and-keep guide to election night (May 4 2005)

Tags: , , , , , ,

A print-out-and-keep guide to election night (May 4 2005)

Posted on 04 May 2005 by admin

Lewis Baston talks you through the key results to watch out for from the moment the polls close into late Friday afternoon.

Thursday, 10pm

Polling stations around the country close. The broadcasters reveal the results of their exit polls and offer their projections of the national result. Exit polls are very expensive and sophisticated and – at least in 1997 and 2001 – have been pretty reliable. However, their forecast of a hung parliament in 1992 proved to be wide of the mark. Don’t go to bed yet, even if the forecasts are for a large Labour majority – at one stage the BBC’s computer projected a Labour majority of 144 in October 1974 and the actual result was a majority of 3.

10.45pm

After 45 minutes of pretending not to respond to the exit polls, politicians will be desperate for something else to talk about on the election night television coverage. Help is at hand. Sunderland City Council takes pride in announcing the first election result in the country, to the extent of employing teams of counters and (in 2001) rigging traffic lights to ensure that the vans carrying the ballot boxes reached the count centre as quickly as possible. Sunderland South was announced at 10.46pm last time. Labour’s Chris Mullin should win again, but the swing and the turnout should be a hint as to how the national battle is going. Turnout here in 2001 was only 48.3%, 11 points lower than the national rate of 59.4% (the gap was 12 points in 1997). If Mullin’s vote is under 17,000 (it was 19,921 in 2001 and 27,174 in 1997), either Labour is not doing well or turnout has slumped again – or both.

11.30pm

The other Sunderland counts should also be over and reveal predictable Labour majorities. A few other seats, none of them exciting, will have declared, and for those who are less than committed to election night television it is quite safe to go to the pub and get back home at about this time. You will not have missed much.

11.45pm

The first interesting declaration should be made at Torbay. Lib Dem Adrian Sanders gained the self-styled Riviera seat by only 12 votes over the Conservatives in 1997, but held it with a resounding margin of 6,708 in 2001. If the Conservative contender Marcus Wood has won, or got close, this would signify a bad defeat for the Lib Dems in the south-western marginals, and a good night for the Conservatives.

Friday, midnight

Another clutch of Labour holds should be announced at around midnight, including Alan Milburn at Darlington. If the Conservatives have gained Derbyshire South or Halifax from Labour, they are heading for an astonishing surprise victory and possibly even an overall majority in parliament. A more feasible target is Birmingham Edgbaston, Labour’s first televised gain in 1997, where Gisela Stuart defends a 4,698 majority against Conservative candidate Deirdre Alder. A Conservative win here, in their 102nd target seat, would point towards a Labour performance poor enough to lose the overall majority in parliament.

12.30am

The flow of constituency results will have started to quicken. Along with some more Labour holds, there are some key marginals coming out at around this time, including the hotly contested south-west London seats of Battersea and Putney, both Labour gains in 1997. If Labour hold both, there will probably be a reasonable Labour majority in the new parliament; if either or both go blue the Conservatives’ hoped-for London revival will have arrived, after dismal defeats in the capital in 1997 and 2001. In marginal Wolverhampton South West, currently held by Labour’s Rob Marris, Sandip Verma is challenging for the Conservatives – if elected, she will be rather different from previous MPs Enoch Powell and Nicholas Budgen. Hull East is not a marginal by any definition, but John Prescott’s victory speech should be worth watching.

12.45am

Two key constituencies to be announced are Birmingham Yardley, where the Lib Dems are very confident of gaining the seat from Labour, and the Kent seaside marginal of Thanet South. If Labour has held on in Thanet South, or lost by under 1,000, Tony Blair will be surprised and delighted – Labour would be on course for another landslide win.

1am

Results are now coming in thick and fast. In 1997 there was a succession of astonishing Labour gains which could only be briefly noted by a red bar at the bottom of the TV screen. One of the few conceivable Labour gains of 2005 will come out at around this time, namely Brent East, where Lib Dem Sarah Teather defends her byelection gain of 2003. There is further Lib Dem interest in Bournemouth East, a long-shot for a gain from the Conservatives which, if it happens, may presage a broad Lib Dem advance; and Cheadle, where Lib Dem Patsy Calton will be looking to build on her majority of 33 votes, the smallest in the country in 2001. There are some more conventional marginals announced at this time as well, such as Calder Valley, Derby North, Portsmouth North, Ilford North, and Peterborough – Labour holds in all five would show a third landslide, although the party can afford to lose the last two of these seats and still be comfortably ahead. Several senior Labour figures should also see their results announced, including Robin Cook (Livingston), Ruth Kelly (Bolton West) and Jack Straw (Blackburn); if either Kelly or Straw have lost it would be very wounding for Labour.

1.15am

Tony Blair’s own count at Sedgefield should be completed. Defeat for the prime minister is extremely unlikely, despite an impassioned anti-war challenge from Reg Keys, whose son was killed in Iraq. By the time he steps up to the podium to speak, he will have a pretty good idea of how the national contest will have gone – whether he still has a majority in the Commons and if so how large it is, to within about 10 seats either way.

1.30am

Basildon will declare about now – it would be an even greater shock for Labour to lose out than it was in 1992. The Conservatives have targeted Dudley North and Dudley South despite their large Labour majorities –if either or both fall, Labour’s majority will have disappeared and the Tories may even be the largest party in the new parliament. The two Swindon constituencies are similar – apparently comfortably Labour held but volatile seats. The BNP leader Nick Griffin is standing in marginal Keighley but the main battle is still between Labour and the Conservatives. The interesting three-way marginal of Leeds North West may see the Lib Dems vault from third to first, in a seat with thousands of student voters – it might coincide with their London target Hornsey and Wood Green. These two results should indicate what success the Lib Dems have enjoyed in capitalising on liberal-left dissatisfaction with Labour. David Blunkett (Sheffield Brightside) and Lembit Opik (Montgomeryshire) should be back in parliament, but Theresa May (Maidenhead) might not – this is the first to declare of the Lib Dem “decapitation” targets on members of the Tory front bench.

2am

The flow of results is probably at its peak. In the grudge match between Oona King and George Galloway in Bethnal Green and Bow, the Conservatives also have some hopes of slipping through the middle. The count could be lively. The marginal seat of Gravesham in Kent has been won by the party that has gone on to form the government in 23 of the 25 elections since 1918; we will see about now whether it can still claim to be Britain’s most reliable bellwether. There are some potentially fascinating and odd constituency results due. In Harwich, Labour will hope that a strong Ukip vote will stymie the Conservatives yet again in this naturally right-of-centre seat; the Conservatives in Hove and Wimbledon will be hoping that a trend in favour of Greens and Lib Dems hands them these naturally left-of-centre seats. David Davis defends Haltemprice and Howden; if the Conservatives do very badly, he loses the seat, but if the Conservatives do slightly less badly than that, he stands to gain the Conservative leadership.

2.30am

While the national picture should be very clear by now, there are still some intriguing oddball results to be declared. If the Green Party were to win any seat in Britain, it would be Brighton Pavilion; if the BNP were to win anywhere it would probably be in Dewsbury, a town with a reputation for poor race relations where the two main party candidates are both from ethnic minorities. Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath is the most Muslim constituency in Britain; while Labour’s majority is mountainous the Lib Dems may have some momentum, particularly after the election fraud case. Wyre Forest’s Independent MP, Dr Richard Taylor, whose triumph was one of the eye-catching results in 2001, defends his seat.

3am

Two more three-way marginals declare, at Bristol West and Watford. Alistair Darling should win the new seat of Edinburgh South West, but if Labour are having a Scottish disaster he might be threatened. Stephen Twigg also defends Enfield Southgate, and Tim Collins should fight off the Lib Dems in Westmorland and Lonsdale.

3.30am

The result should come in from Oliver Letwin’s constituency of Dorset West, the veritable Place de la Concorde among the Lib Dems’ “decapitation” targets. The shadow chancellor has worked himself to the bone defending this marginal against Justine McGuinness, and will now know whether he has survived.

3.45am

Charles Kennedy’s rural acres of Ross, Skye and Lochaber will surely give him another term, as it has since 1983, half Kennedy’s lifetime ago. The Liberal Democrat leader will know by now whether his party has made significant advances or not.

4am

Conservative leader Michael Howard learns what the electorate of his own constituency, Folkestone and Hythe, thinks of him. Despite some Lib Dem hopes to the contrary, locally he should win comfortably whatever happens nationally. If the Conservatives have won a surprise national victory, expect cheering hordes of Tories to have descended on Folkestone. There are not too many other seats left at this stage, although there are a couple of interesting Lib Dem v Labour fights in Cambridge and Islington South and Finsbury. Labour defend their narrowest majority (153 votes) at Dorset South, against amateur photo-editor Ed Matts, and Boris Johnson should emerge dishevelled, weary and triumphant at Henley. 4.30am

There are a few marginals left to be scraped from the barrel, but unless Labour have enjoyed another national landslide Conservative gains can be more or less taken for granted at Lancaster and Wyre and Kettering.

6am

Only the real die-hards, and people with a personal stake in the matter, will still be watching when two safe Conservative seats, Wealden and Penrith and the Border, wearily declare their results as Friday dawns.

Friday, daytime

No results from Northern Ireland will be declared overnight; the count here starts on Friday morning. Several of the counts will be very fraught affairs, including Upper Bann, where the UUP leader, David Trimble, will hear if he has fought off the challenge of the DUP. Sinn Féin won the hard-fought four way marginal of Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2001 by a disputed 53-vote margin, and politics there is always tense.

There used to be several hundred mainland results declared on the Friday, but now there are a handful, mostly in rural areas which are safe for the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. The last British marginal to declare is expected to be Harlow in Essex, where Oliver Letwin’s chief of staff, Robert Halfon, takes on Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell. But Harlow might not be the end of it. There is a statistical likelihood of a very close (50 votes or fewer) result somewhere in the country, and that would probably mean a series of recounts. The count in Winchester in 1997 was not completed until Friday evening, when Lib Dem Mark Oaten was declared elected by 2 votes.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/may/04/election2005.uk

Comments Off on A print-out-and-keep guide to election night (May 4 2005)