Thoughts On Roman Bank

Thoughts On Roman Bank

On Strangleholds
The Wisbech Standard has a nice piece on last night’s by-election result.  It’s a shame that in an otherwise fairly decent article they felt the need to use adjectives like “stranglehold” in regards to the fact that the Conservatives have a majority.  After all, if you want to refer to a majority and use colourful language there are many ways to do it.  Could it not have been the Conservative’s “warm embrace”, or the Conservative’s “group hug” or if you wanted to be neutral it could have been the Conservative’s “majority management.”  It may be that opposition voters consider any Conservative majority a “stranglehold” just as Conservative voters may consider UKIP’s control of our four County Council seats a “stranglehold” – but in reality it is simply the result of the votes of the majority of people in the area at hand, isn’t it?

On Labour
Barry Diggle dropped quite a lot of support for Labour since the last election and this is a little odd.  Labour have not been a strong contender in Roman Bank for many years – nor anywhere in Fenland really – but they’ve always had a solid support base to rely on.  Barry is a good candidate – a decent man who commands a lot of respect in the area.  So where has their support gone?  A few voted tactically for us to keep UKIP out.  I expect a little also went to UKIP.  But it looks like many may have just stayed home.  Given that Barry is a perfectly good candidate and there is only one year to go before a general election in which they currently hold a poll lead, if I were Labour I’d be really worried about that.

On The Lib Dems
Oh dear.  Not so long ago the Liberal Democrats were the main opposition to the Conservatives in Fenland.  Only a couple of years later all but one of their Councillors has left, they are openly admitting they cannot find candidates in the area at all which is why they have to field people from March, and out of an electorate of more than 5000 people they have managed to convince just twenty-four to vote for them.  Some of their vote has come to us, but the majority appears to have gone to UKIP.   During our doorstep canvassing we encountered quite a lot of Lib Dem to UKIP switchers – something that amazes me.  I mean, really, how can somebody switch from the Lib Dems to UKIP?  That’s like switching from sugar to salt, or from fresh cream to lemons.

On Independents
People in Fenland, with two well-known exceptions, never seem very keen on Independents.  I think it’s because you simply can’t “know” somebody from the bumf they put out at election time.  People like an idea of policy positions in a range of areas and voting for a party candidate provides that in a broad way.  Otherwise, somebody might seem like a perfectly lovely fella’ but who knows how they’d vote once elected?  They might spend the entire period promoting their own business interests, or just holding petition after petition after petition.  Too much of a role of the dice for most people, I expect.  Seventy votes isn’t going to set the world on fire, but I reckon the Lib Dems would have been pleased to get that.  I noticed in the newspaper article that the Candidate said he was presently “doing a lot of voluntary work.”  Didn’t he recently say in a letter to both newspapers that pointing out you sometimes work for free was unnecessary?  I’d have liked to know what voluntary work he did – sometimes that helps the cause in question to get a higher profile and more help, which is always useful.  Sadly, no detail was provided.

A year ago UKIP took this area – and the other three local seats – with a sizeable swing from the Conservatives.  In twelve months they appear to have shed a huge proportion of their vote.  We knew this because people had been telling us on the canvass trail.  Many people said they’d given UKIP a try because they were unhappy about issues on a national level but that they’d been disappointed with the candidates; their lack of visibility and their poor performance.  Of course, saying that and voting that way are two different things – so we thought we might have a win but we didn’t know until those votes were counted from the boxes.  In the Wisbech Standard Cllr Alan Lay makes two interesting comments.  First, he whines that “it was only the two of them” on their campaign.  I would have thought the fact that they struggle to find campaign volunteers in an area where they have a “stranglehold” on the County Council seats is pretty damning actually.  Except that it’s not true.  We encountered at least two ‘Kippers who were not Clapp and Lay on the Campaign trail – I’m not sure how those volunteers will feel about being painted out of the picture.  Perhaps that’s why you struggle to find volunteers, guys?  People don’t appreciate having their efforts undermined in the press.  Maybe that’s why two of your old activists were out helping us on the campaign trail this time?  Thank you David and Will.  We appreciate everything you did.  And what about the UKIP battle bus?  That purple monstrosity that was cruising around Roman Bank all election day ferrying folk about?  Sounds like it might have been just a bit more than “the two of you”, huh?  Then he says: “We came second, so that’s not too bad.”  I like a man who can put a positive spin on the fact that the electorate had a chance to cast a ballot on the performance over the last twelve months and did so by saying, essentially, “sling ‘yer hook, mate.”

In Conclusion
We were not the favourites to win.  The bookies’ favourite was UKIP.  They won last time, and this one was on the brink of the Euro Elections with their populist “message” getting massive media coverage.  Maybe people just got sick of the void of local activity and policy?  Maybe the fear of Fifty Billion Martians coming to eat our babies is getting a bit old?  Maybe people have simply started to see that “common sense” sometimes means “nonsense” and “the truth” something means the opposite.  I think we won this election for three reasons.  We won it because people have seen UKIP in action and know now what electing them means.  We won it because we ran a strong, old-fashioned Campaign and lots of wonderful local people came out to help.  And we won it because Samantha Clark is a fantastic candidate; well-liked, well-respected, honest, caring and genuine.  And local.  It seems people do like that after all.  Who’d have thought? :)

Roman Bank Wisbech. By Election. Conservative team celebrating the win.
Photo borrowed from Wisbech Standard Article HERE.
Picture: Steve Williams.