Category Archives: Election
General Election Wash-Up
Everybody and their Sister seems to have written a “what went wrong” piece about the last General Election. I’ve avoided it so far because (a) nobody probably cares what I think and (b) I wanted to mull it over.
Having spent a few months doing so, my personal view is that it’s much simpler than many people think.
In the first instance I’d like to say that I think the Prime Minister was correct to call the election. The polls made it a safe gamble and she needed a strong majority to push Brexit through and get significant Parliamentary work done. Unfortunately, it didn’t pay off. But that doesn’t make it a bad idea. Just badly implemented.
So, in my view, the reason the General Election didn’t go as expected boils down to three things.
(1) It was an ideologically poor campaign. There wasn’t much “conservatism” in there. It was managerial and failed to inspire enthusiasm. In fact, there were some hostages to fortune, ill-conceived ideas that had no business appearing in any manifesto, let alone a Conservative one. But that alone wouldn’t have turned the tide.
(2) Theresa May made the entire election about her and how strong she was. This was a perfectly good thing to do, but she then needed to go ahead and BE strong in public appearances. Personally, I think she probably is strong, but the campaign did not showcase that. In fact, it did the opposite. And the danger of campaigning on strength is that if you can’t look like it’s true, the campaign crumbles. But that alone wouldn’t have turned the tide.
(3) The main reason is the choice to run a negative campaign. Don’t get me wrong, negative campaigns are just as effective as positive ones, in the right setting. But Theresa May called the early election, which suggested she thought she was going to win. A negative campaign revolves around demonstrating the dangers of the “other guy” getting elected. How can you reasonably suggest that disaster will happen if the other guy gets elected, when you called the early election in the first place? It doesn’t ring true. Though, in actual fact, it was closer to the truth than anybody knew!
Some readers may wonder why I don’t credit any of this to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. Honestly, I really don’t. I think they were bit players who benefited from mistakes made on the Conservative side during the campaign. If they can be credited at all, it is for running a “safe” campaign that avoided their glaring weaknesses – and not being called on it. For the record, despite Corbyn’s current fairly good polling and Theresa May’s falling stats, I still don’t actually believe the country would ever vote for a Prime Minister Corbyn. I could be wrong, stranger things have happened. But I find it very hard to believe that the UK would commit itself to a financial and social basket case when it came to the crunch.
All just my opinion, of course, and many will disagree.
NE Cambs Election, 2017
Our local result in North East Cambridgeshire was declared at 3:55 this morning and was as follows:
Steve Barclay (Conservative) 34,340;
Liberal Democrats 2,383;
English Democrat 293.
Congratulations to Steve on increasing his vote and increasing his majority in North East Cambridgeshire!
Just A Reminder
… of a happy day. :)
The By Election for Wisbech South was held today and it was interesting because it was the first time the people of Wisbech have got to say how they feel about two years of UKIP County Councillors. Now it’s true that UKIP were utterly destroyed in both the General Election and the local elections a few weeks ago, silencing their many claims of an electoral breakthrough. But This division was won in the last elections by UKIP and can therefore be seen as the first direct chance for local people to show how they feel about two years of UKIP County Councillors.
The Conservative Candidate, Samantha Hoy, won with a massive 64% of the vote, smashing her opponents out of the water even all put together.
Now it’s not for me to express the will of the Town of Wisbech. I am just one person and not a particularly interesting one at that. But if I were them I’d be pretty rattled, both by what happened a few weeks ago, but even more directly by this result.
Vote For Sam
Tomorrow there is a by-election for the County Council division of Wisbech South.
If you live in Wisbech South then your choices are;
Dean Reeves for Labour : Dean is a nice chap, but he’s still Labour which means he is still from the party of taxing and borrowing and taxing and borrowing. His blog talks about all the changes he would like to make and it’s revealing that he gets some stuff completely wrong, some stuff is already happening and most of it has no bearing on the role of County Councillor.
Susan Carson for UKIP: Seriously? Who is going to vote UKIP? This is the party who gave us Peter Lagoda, the man who first got into trouble over the benefits claim and ended up in court pleading guilty, then got suspended by his party, then resigned at precisely the right time to land us all with an unnecessary bill. Once bitten, twice shy, and all that.
Josie Ratcliffe for the Lib Dems: “The Lib Who?” I hear you cry. Indeed. The Lib Dems support in Wisbech evaporated some time ago, mostly of their own doing. But Josie Ratcliffe doesn’t even live here. What is it with Lib Dems fielding paper candidates from miles away? It’s never worked so far, but they keep doing it. Can’t they find a local candidate?
Sam Hoy for the Conservatives: It will be no surprise to you, dear reader, that I’d rather like you to vote for Sam tomorrow. But not just because she is my friend. On every measure she must surely be the best candidate? She has by far the most experience as a Councillor having been a senior County Councillor previously, a senior member of the Fire Authority, a District Councillor, a town Councillor and the Mayor of Wisbech. She has always served the town in an exemplary fashion and commands the respect of many Officers and constituents. Sam has demonstrated on many occasions a keen mind, a solid work ethic and a compassionate and honourable nature.
But frankly, the main reason I’d like Sam to win tomorrow is a selfish one. I’d rather like somebody who – when a Highways issue arises – actually does something about it. That would be nice.
The Security Of A Home of Your Own
To make sure more people can enjoy the security of home ownership, a Conservative Government will extend the Right to Buy to up to 1.3 million tenants of housing associations in England and create a billion pound Brownfield Regeneration Fund to unlock 400,000 new homes on brownfield land.
Same Old Same Old
Before any election our local Conservatives get together to discuss it, plan our campaign, think about the issues and how best to communicate and address them. I commonly predict a number of things every single time which will happen. The first is that any and every thing that crops up along the way, regardless of how innocent it may be, will be spun as though it were a conspiracy by the Usual Suspects. The second is that the Wisbech Standard, particularly its editor, will help nudge those conspiracy theories along wherever possible. The third is that as the last month progresses there will always, always, always be a front page in a local paper carefully designed to “appear” like election coverage, while simultaneously pushing the opposition.
I did smile at the “online poll” carried out by the Wisbech Standard. No way to check the submissions for cheating, no recognition of the weighted nature of responders to such things, no verification of the locations of those filling it in, nothing more than the most basic test for duplicated submissions (anybody who knows a little about the internet can bypass their check easily.) They said they: “Didn’t ask which party would be voted for to prevent individuals from cheating.” So removing that question removes the temptation for some parties to cheat does it? What nonsense.
This didn’t stop them draping the front page with “the results” as though it were somehow qualitative and quantitative data. Nervetheless, let’s take it at face value and have a think about it. Apparently 48% of people said: “The Government has had a negative impact on my life since 2010.” The question is nebulous at best. It doesn’t say an “overall negative impact” and so what people do or don’t think it negative becomes a very wide field indeed. You could argue that PAYE is a “negative impact” in that without it you would have more money. You could argue thousands of things were.
One of their “big bullet points” was “not to privatise the NHS.” Which is odd, since no party is proposing privatising the NHS, except Nigel Farage, who said something about it which was quickly revised or retracted or something. They are all accusing one another of damaging the NHS, because it’s a powerful “scaremonger” issue close to people’s hearts. But unless you believe one party’s propaganda or anothers, what use is the question?
So “Stop cutting the Fire Service and the NHS,” was interesting. The Fire Service can increase their budget via the Council Tax if they want to do so. The NHS budget was protected the last four years. This is precisely the problem with these broad brush questions, they get nowhere and offer very little in the way of detail.
So how about 95% of people saying: “I am registered to vote and will do so.” Okay then. Let’s see if we have a 95% turnout shall we?
Then there was “get the Rich to pay their taxes.” Definitely no party bias there then! :) Clearly there is this idea that the vague “the rich” must all be tax cheats. Of course, there are tax cheats amongst the rich, just as there are tax cheats amongst all income groups. There are, equally, a majority of perfectly honest tax-paying “rich.” Though what precisely is meant by “the rich” is not specified.
I did enjoy “Make election pledges legally binding.” I made a proposal just like this a few years ago and was roundly mocked by all and sundry. How things change.
But my favourite is the one that John Elworthy and the Bucknors are making hay with on Twitter, in a way that doesn’t look at all orchestrated. :) Apparently, forth percent of voters are going to vote “differently” to how they voted last time. This is pronounced as though it is some death knell for something. But it is meaningless. We don’t know which way they are switching or to whom. We don’t know that it’s not two way traffic which will balance itself out. We particularly don’t know if any of this data is actually meaningful at all, given how easy it would be to fix it if somebody with the knowledge had a mind to do so.
We put out five thousand surveys across Wisbech last month. We have had just over one thousand returned. The returns are comprehensive and include many with details notes and points, from people of all sorts of political persuasions. I reckon that’s probably more valuable than the Wisbech Standard’s vague, afterthought of a poll which become front page news. But even though our survey includes quantitative and qualitative data, much of which is verifiable, it would be wrong to presume ours was “right” too. Because the sort of people who will fill in a Survey sent to them by the Conservatives are every bit as weighted as those who will fill in an online survey in a politically-active local newspaper.
The question: “Has a candidate knocked on your door asking for your vote yet?” was an odd one to ask, at the very start of the campaign period. I was surprised the number was as high as seven percent. You wouldn’t expect candidates to have reached everybody at that point. In fact, as election periods go, this seems quiet at the moment. We Conservatives are doing a full canvass as usual, but I have only encountered one other party so far and there were only two of them. Normally we’d be running into them everywhere. I guess this is because the Liberal Democrats have left the building, the Labour Party seem to be really struggling even to find candidates. And UKIP? I have no clue what they are doing. Their choices are either utter utter madness, or some kind of genius I cannot comprehend. Time will tell.
So the candidates are announced, and it’s a pretty strange state of affairs all told.
If I get time I’ll talk about the wider Fenland situation, but in this blog post I’m going to concentrate on our Wisbech scene.
There are only two District Council candidates to choose from in Peckover. Nick Meekins, who used to be a Conservative but is now standing for UKIP. And David Oliver, Leader of Wisbech Town Council, Cabinet Member at Fenland District Council. Both men have previously been Mayor of Wisbech. Nick Meekins and David Oliver used to be best friends, I believe. I don’t know if that remains the case. I think Nick Meekins is also Godfather to David Oliver’s daughter Jess, who is also standing in Peckover as a Town Councillor. So Nick Meekins has switched parties and is standing against his best friend and God daughter? It’s like a Shakespeare plot. At Town level, it’s the same two candidates with Jessica Oliver in the mix also. Which means that one of the two Oliver’s is certain to win a seat. I very much hope it’s both of them.
The Bucknors are apparently suggesting that all the other parties has “stepped aside” because they are doing such a good job. In fact, Labour simply couldn’t find candidates I hear, otherwise they’d be standing there. UKIP though probably did step aside for the Bucknors. Only they know, but they’ve been thick as thieves for ages now and the rumour they were going to stand aside in their strongest ward has been in the air for many months. Turns out to be true. So the only competition for the Bucknors at District level are the Conservative team. Our guys are working hard and are great candidates, so i’m sure it’ll be a worthy battle. The feeling on the ground, I am told, is like a clash of misery and gloom versus positivity and energy. The Bucknors, being the incumbents, clearly feel they are going to walk it. I reckon the people of Waterlees might be ready to let the sunshine in. There are only so many times you can be told the world is going to end before you want to stretch your legs, take a walk outside, and say: “Hey, things aren’t so bad after all.” We’ll see.
It’s another straight battle between Conservatives and UKIP. Garry Tibbs takes on Dave Patrick. Sure, it’s a little David and Taxi Goliath, but Garry’s a dab hand with a virtual sling. It doesn’t always pay to bet on the Big Dog. They may be able to puff themselves up and look big and scary, but they often turn out to be all sound and fury signifying nothing. There is a broad feeling in Walsoken that they have been neglected versus other areas of the town. They’ve also had Dave Patrick as their Councillor for quite a few years. I think that people are able to put two and two together and work out the cost of that particular taxi meter. At Town level Garry is joined by Rob McLaren for the Conservatives, while Taxi Dave is joined by somebody called Robert Castleman from outside the ward. There’s a lone Green there too, who might do quite well by hoovering up any hard left votes that are looking for a cause. Meanwhile, Dave Patrick is on Facebook attacking Rob & Garry for painting some garages. Apparently, Councillors shouldn’t get their hands dirty doing menial things like, you know, helping clean up the neighbourhood. They should just send emails to Roddens and log it in a website, no doubt. What a novel idea. We could call it “Slob Track.” A list of jobs that haven’t been done, to look busy and active. I suspect Garry and ROb will simply carry on getting their hands dirty. I also expect people quite like it when Councillors stop talking and start doing stuff. Who ya gonna call?
So Hill Ward, or Octavia Hill Ward in the modern vernacular, has got a slightly more nuanced battle than the previous two. Dean Reeves and Kathy Dougall, pretty much the “big two” in Wisbech Labour, versus Sam Hoy & Simon King the sitting Conservatives, versus Andrew Hunt for UKIP. You might remember Andrew. He’s the guy who previously scored a tiny vote when he stood against Simon King as a Libertarian Party candidate a few years ago. He was telling everybody at the time how he was going to win, and then he came last and that was that. Gone. Last year he returned as a ‘Kipper and stood against me at Medworth. Once again, sure he was going to win, his team said to us at the Count: “If you’d like to join UKIP just sign here, you might as well because you’ll be begging to by the end of the night.” And then they lost. So Andrew is back fighting as the lone UKIP candidate in a two member ward, in a sort of rematch against Simon King. You have to wonder why UKIP couldn’t field a full set of candidates here – they have a full set for Town Council. Very strange.
Three way fight here. David Hodgson as the sitting Councillor, defending against Labour’s Reg Mee and UKIP’s Caroline Smith. Reg Mee is a nice man, but David Hodgson is popular and well-respected in Staithe. I really don’t know anything about Caroline Smith at all. Paper candidate? No idea. The Conservative town team is Will Schooling and Irina Kumalane, versus Reg Mee for Labour and Caroline Smith for UKIP. It’s certainly an interesting match up.
Another three way battle in Clarkson between Conservative sitting Councillor and ex-Mayor Carol Cox, versus somebody called Adrian Booth for UKIP and the Labour stalwart Ann Purt. Carol has been challenged before and seen off the opposition, mostly because people just tend to like her immediately when they meet her. I wish her the very best of luck.
Medworth is my ward and it’s a really diverse battle. I’m up against not one, but two Parliamentary candidates. Which is a fun challenge. I have somebody called Paul Edwards who lives in Waterlees. Apparently, UKIP have not yet learned their lesson that Medworth folk tend to prefer Medworth Councillors. Fair enough. Then there’s Jo Reeves, who also doesn’t live in Medworth (but is much closer than Paul Edwards.) And Mary Helen Scott-Daniels for the Green Party, who also happens to be their Parliamentary candidate. I guess that tells you how likely she thinks she is to beat Steve Barclay. :) I haven’t met her, unless she was the Green lady I spoke to on the Market Place a month or so ago? If so, she seemed nice. At Town level, most of the same people are up except that I am joined by my colleague Michael Hill, Mayor of Wisbech. Paul Edwards is joined by Andrew Charalambous, who is also the Parliamentary Candidate for UKIP and the District Council candidate for Roman Bank. I was surprised he didn’t put his name up for the County Council election taking place in Whittlesey. In for a penny, huh? but I suppose he couldn’t because UKIP already had a candidate for that County Battle in Whittlesey. Paul Edwards, who is standing against me for District. They get about, this handful of UKIP guys, huh?
However you spin it, this is a poor showing for UKIP. Having boasted they would stand candidates in every seat for Town & District, they fail to do so in both cases in Wisbech. Outside Wisbech they are so sparse that there are tumbleweeds between ‘Kipper candidates. The self-styled “People’s Army” doesn’t seem to be very good at enthusing the people to get involved with it, does it? Their big announcement today was that they “intend to take control of Wisbech Town Council.” So they’ve given up on Parliament and District, clearly. The first thing I heard when this ambition was relayed to me was: “isn’t that the ambition of every party?” I mean, we have elections to try and win them, and we’d all like enough of us to win to take control of the various Councils. That’s part and parcel of the whole point of it all. Saying they want to take control of a Council is something of a non-statement, in my view. I reckon the people of Wisbech will consider the idea of Alan Lay organising the Christmas Lights, Virginia Bucknor stewarding at the Rock Festival and a bunch of UKIP paper candidates in charge of protecting and maintaining the Town Council’s assets and run a mile. But if, by some chance, UKIP were to succeed in their aim? Well, it’d be tragic and funny (in an “I told you so” kind of way) in equal measures.
Then again, if its a poor showing for UKIP it’s positively horrible for Labour, who seem to have lost so much support here that they can barely find candidates for anything outside their usual small team. But if its positively horrible for Labour, imaging being a Liberal Democrat? They have no candidates at all, anywhere in Wisbech, at any level. How the mighty have fallen.
Roll on May 7th. Let’s see what the outcome is.
A constituent of mine phoned me up the other day to tell me they had been called upon by what they described as a “looney Lefty” called Ken, representing the Labour party.
Now I rather like the NE Cambs Labour people that I’ve met, to be honest, and find them to be quite sensible Lefties even if we don’t agree on much of anything. But I thought it interesting that they are out canvassing already. Clearly more organised than they’ve been in a while.
I put this down to Dean Reeves, who is an exceptionally bright and eloquent gentleman who I am very fond of. He’s been a driving force behind local Labour for some time.
A little scouting and I turned up their “Campaign Launch” event. Here it is.
I guess the “Ken” in this video is the same Ken who was seen canvassing in Medworth. Hello Ken! Welcome to Medworth!
It has been edited to show the “highlights.” I think they need to get somebody else to edit it. It looks like Dean Reeves, talking for about four hundred years, and some balloons. :) As parties go, i’ve seen some that were more kickin’ than this, but I expect it was meant to be a very serious intellectual event, so that’s to be expected.
Our local Labour folk have always been the most honourable and genuine opposition group, sticking to the issues and not getting into dirty tricks. So with that in mind, my red flagged friends, I’d like to wish you well with “break a leg” in the theatre tradition. May the best men and women win.