On the register

The Electoral Commission tends and cares for the Register of Political Parties, letting us keep track of who wishes to enter the great political bunfights at local or national level.

Here’s the most recent additions, which acts as a companion piece to those recorded as leaving the Register in the months after this year’s main elections.
Where a web-presence is available, I’ve linked to them. All links are followed at your own risk, I can’t vouch for their safety, and I don’t necessarily agree with the policies or contents of any/all. 
October 2012
*”Royalist Party“, registered to Mr Thomas Harrison.
*”Zero Tolerance Policing Ex Police Chief”, otherwise known as Kevin Hurley, Surrey’s first Police and Crime Commissioner
*”UK in Europe Party (UK EPP)”, registered to Mr John Stevens. It might be this which links to this
*”Nottinghamshire Independent Forum“, registered to Mr Barry Answer. 
*“UK Yorkshire Socialist Alliance Party”, registered to Mr Ian Wilson
*“Democracy2015” registered to Mr Andreas Whittam Smith. At the Corby by-election, candidate Adam Lotun stood for Democracy2015 and received 35 votes. By way of comment/comparison, David Bishop got 99 for “Elvis Loves Pets”.
*“Pro Liberty”, registered to Mr James Rigby
*“nine eleven was an inside job” registered to Mr Simon Lane. This (in)famous candidate stood at Croydon North, receiving 66 votes, three more than Robin Smith from the Young People’s Party. His Facebook profile is (largely) open and contains links to some of his other “inside job” conspiracies.
*“Bristol 1st”, registered to Chris Luffingham, the candidate from which is now the first directly elected Mayor of Bristol
*“PLC Party” registered to Andre John-Salakov.
November 2012
*”Patria”, registered to Mr Ian Johnson. I have tried numerous search terms and can find no web presence. 
*“Don’t Cook Party”, registered to Mr Richard Murfitt. A candidate aligned to this lot, Mr Mozzarella complete with comedy Italian accent, stood in the Corby by-election.
*”New Democracy”, registered to Mr Richard Laycock. There’s no website, yet.
*”The Community Party”, registered to Mr Arya Hussain. It might be this person or this one, but there’s no website that I can find.
December 2012
*”F.A.I.R”, registered to Mr Gordon Barker. It’s not the easiest search term to put into Google, and with a few attempts I’ve found nothing.
*”The Entertainment Party”, registered to Mr Gwinyayi Nyagowa. “Your search term Mr Gwinyayi Nyagowa did not match any documents”. Searching for “The Entertainment Party” and “TEP – The Entertainment Party” brings up nothing either. 
*“The Ethical Governance Party”, registered to Ms Sarah Goldsmith. 
*”Wigan Independent Network”, registered to Councillor Garry Wilkes. He doesn’t/didn’t like the PCC elections

Bad days at the electoral office

Back at the faroff long-agos, the BBC would take up by-election reporting with gusto, putting Dimbles and Peter Snow in a room with two MPs hoiked against their will from the escalators at Hammersmith Tube for an evening of chat and analysis. The fondest held memory is Snow taking the 60% vote share of a comfortable victory and, “just for fun”, extrapolating how the country would vote were that the norm across the land. And with that, the credits would roll and they would all sink off to whichever club BBC personalities went to in the 1980s with….Well, I don’t think this sort of innuendo is allowed anymore, is it?

Anyway, the Beeb prefer to show repeats of “Hardtalk” and dual-broadcasts with BBC World Service nowadays, so amateur psephologist types do the analysis themselves across the nerdier parts of the Internet, across messageboards, chatrooms and invariably Twitter. It saves on paying Peter Snow to walk through greenscreen rooms pretending to stomp over the Home Counties like a gentleman Godzilla, doesn’t it?

These versions of the art of chin-stroking by-election results aren’t exactly neutral, but at the best of times parliamentary by-elections are crap shoots from which comfort is garnered from whoever wants garnering. On that turn of the sixpence, here’s my take on November’s democrogry.

Manchester Central

That sticky out bit is Moston, which would stretch the definition of both “Manchester” and “central”, if you were looking at the map for the first time. Maybe that’s number 101 in the top 100 reasons for the plummet in turnout, people not being aware that “Manchester Central” referred to the whole council area, not just the glass-and-chrome city centre?

Okay, so actually the record breaking turnout, for all the wrong reasons, has more in keeping with ‘central’ constituencies having a tendency to do this, such as Liverpool’s Riverside and Leeds’ Central, where Hilary “son of Tony” Benn was elected on a barely respectable 19%. It’s worth remembering that Manchester Central had the lowest turnout of all the constituencies which fought at the general election. Any such disinterest/apathy is worrying, for it opens the door to extremists and complacency, but it’s as much a right to turn up as it is not to, and the good folk of Manchester know how to make themselves heard when they need to. Incidentally, this was the lowest turnout in peace-time, with the war-affected Poplar by-election of 1942 registering exactly half that which came out here. As wise men often say, makes you think.

Let’s deal with what we need to deal with first. Didn’t Respect do terribly? Only 1% of the vote and beaten by Pirates. In what will be a notice we return to later, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition performed particularly badly, but with less name recognition than Respect (George Galloway), it’s surprising to see them score so highly here. By the way, in 2010, the Manchester ballot paper gave voters the choice of Socialist Labour, Socialist Equality or Workers Revolutionary, and they all lost their deposits too. Maybe there’s not that much of a lefty streak here after all? Unless there’s too much lefty choice to go round, obvz. (Surely not?)

Yes, Ed Miliband’s bag carrier Lucy Powell won handsomely. There was no betting shop this side of the moon who thought it otherwise, though the sharp increase in vote shows a real kickback after the Cleggmania surge of two years previously. The Liberal Democrat slump has been well reported and recorded. Yes, it’s a record drop, the furthest drop since the party was formed in the year 1988 and by most measures amongst the worst “Liberal” performance for generations. Reasons? There’s plenty. We’re the party of protest now being protested against, for one thing, and at times of economic uncertainty there will always be targets. Note how the Conservatives fell from over 4,700 votes to 754, just as much a poke in the eye as they’d ever get in Manchester. They remain without a single councillor at Manchester Town Hall.

This is the only by-election of the six not to see UKIP save its deposit, a point which has been swept aside by the wave of relative success they were to have elsewhere. The increase of 3% put them almost above the Conservatives, which I guess is what you might call a clue in a narrative arc.

Cardiff South and Penarth
The word here was “yawn”. Or the Welsh translation. Google suggests “dylyfu”.

Here in the southern swathe of the Welsh capital, refurbished and regenerated beyond recognition, attached to one of the few Conservative certainties in South East Wales. The result when it came was pretty much ‘as was’, a sort of holding pattern rather than a result. Labour held on, vote going up by 8.4, whilst the Conservatives fell back by the same measure. This widening gap between the top two wasn’t particularly odd on the day, even within the context of highly unpopular PCC elections. There was a steep drop for the Liberal Democrats, again par of the course, although the 10% vote share is a highly resilient figure going forward.

Both Plaid and UKIP moved forward, the latter saving one of their five deposits, making a good case for themselves in a seat which they gained only 2.6% at the election. The Plaid result should be seen in the context of the Welsh Assembly, perhaps as an indication of how different devolution has treated the nationalist parties. The surge enjoyed here retained the deposit they lost two years previously, a mark of how un-nationalist Cardiff is compared with the places across the North where the party speaks its language – literally – to much greater effect.

The only other thing to note in this quiet election is the Communist candidate gaining seventeen – count them – votes from his bottom place two years previously. 
What do we deal with first – Louise Mensch or Mr Mozzarella?

Remember when David Davies had a rush of ambition to the rectum, flouncing off to stand in Haltenmprice and Howden as a make-pretend Liberal Democrat? Well looky-here. Corby became the next location for an unnecessary by-election, and with it came a host of jokers and knaves to bother the printing presses (which is good for Corby, where the trouser press has been in good use for some time).

Let’s start at the bottom up, shall we?  The United People’s Party landed rock bottom last, under a party formed by the former editor of the Independent as a group created to re-examine what democracy means in the 21st century. It managed thirty-five votes, which is about a third less than David Bishop managed, standing for “Elvis Loves Pets”. I think we can draw our own conclusions, here, can’t we children?

The map above should give you a clue as to why Corby tends to go with whoever ends up winning the election. The blob at the north-west is Corby itself, all industrial and manufacturing and vaguely Scottish. The great swathe of otherness is East Northamptonshire, all tiny villages and handful-shized towns where people work every hour God sends to prepare for an appearance on Masterchef Professionals.  Lots of gastropubs in the rurals you know, why do you think Mr Mozzarella of the Just Eat franchise stood here?

Actually, why *did* he stand here? I don’t think he had any choice, like those page 3 girls who stood as “Miss Great Britain Party” candidates a few years ago in Britain’s most worrying brush with exploitation-as-democracy in some time. Anyhoo, there’s no surprise that the squashed up blob of Corby tends to outvote the rural expanse at times when Labour are on the rise, and the Conservatives do the reverse all other times. Point in fact – the Tories won here in 1992 with 44.5% of the vote in a 4-pronged race; Louise Mensch managed 42.2% under the same circumstances ballot paper wise in 2010. Give Labour over a dozen of candidates and what happens – nearly half of the votes cast, and that’s without anyone misunderstanding how to use AV.

The unfortunate loss of the LibDems deposit was by the very slimmest of margins. The party needed only 10 more votes to be absolute sure of keeping the £500, losing as they did by scoring 4.96% of the vote, not enough to keep the money. If there’s anything to like about the Corby result, it’s  the BNP result, something we should mention now in case I forget. Who loses when voters go to the polls for no good reason in the middle of an economic thunderstorm? Not the far-right, who fell back 3 points here to just 1.7, a collapse in real terms from 2,525 votes in 2010 to only 614 this month. By any measure, that’s a complete collapse, and it couldn’t possibly happen to a nicer bunch of people.
Lessons learned? That “the road to Downing Street runs through Corby” isn’t that bad a slogan, as it goes, and clearly the Conservatives are not safe in the semi-rurals after two years of trying to sound like it. With the narrative arc in full flow, notice how UKIP (2010 result – n/a) finished with over 5,000 votes, which isn’t bad from a standing start, unless your a Conservative in similar bellwether seats chewing your nails. 
A point about the Greens, while we’re at it. There is a place in British politics for a Green Party, though it doesn’t seem to fit that they have a place within British politics outside Brighton. Unless they have deeper pockets than we all realise, how can they afford so many terrible results across the country, even in the bizzarro-world of by-elections?
Croydon North
London elections are a bit special, let’s get that out of the way. With the assumption that all the media and its dogs prefer London to anywhere else in the country, more candidates stand in London elections on average than anywhere else in the country. It’s not just a population thing, London attracts candidates because the London-based media is attracted to places it can travel to on a single flash of their Oyster cards and expenses forms.

To show this in full colour, Croydon North attracted Simon Lane (“nine eleven was an inside job, and also capital letters are symbols of the illumniati”), Lee Jasper, Winston McKenzie and a Conservative with cerebral palsy who chose charity work over massive research job salary packets. So bonkers, all told, and that’s without mentioning that there was an official Monster Raving Loony candidate, whose website proudly declares him to be pro-cuts, pro-Coalition, and pro-Prince Harry.

Dealing with the LibDem collapse first, then, and here it was only then 10 percentage points, and a lost deposit. Not good, though I’m  not one of the voices wailing into my FOCUS newsletters. Our candidate has a proven record elsewhere in London and was a refreshing voice on the one phone-in I heard via Croydon’s community radio station. She was also, by the by, the only woman on the ballot paper, something of a surprise in London. Is Croydon statistically more male than any other London Borough? Or is a call from Julia Gillard needed?

Here’s the thing. It’s not Marisha Ray’s fault that her vote collapsed, or that the number of LibDem voters fell from over 7,000 to under 900. This was a very odd election, in a very odd part of the country, where by-elections always attract mammoth ballot papers. This election had Winston McKenzie and Lee Jasper fighting it out for attention and ego points, and when both have reason to go after Labour’s candidate from different angles, there’s going to be a squeeze. That squeeze came on us, and whilst I accept we have our part to play in explaining or justifying the Coalition’s record, I can’t see this result or others on the same day being some form of coordinated punishment. There was a lot of issues, direct and otherwise, coming down on Croydon in the run-up to the election and it shows in the vote changes of other parties, not just us.

Let’s look at UKIP, who didn’t soar as they did elsewhere. From 891 votes to 1,400 in one leap is hardly a measure of success, even with a high profile and provocative candidate. Winston McKenzie has already switched party to party to party before, even standing as a Veritas candidate at one point, and this doesn’t help his credibility very much. The gay outburst (that is, an outburst about gays, not an outburst which was a bit camp) probably bruised liberals more than it did his election chances, if we’re honest. All the same, it’s an indication that UKIP hasn’t got it right in London.

The Labour surge is impressive. It’s a marked up-shot, adding eight percentage points onto an already commanding lead. The significant drop in Conservative share can’t be just ‘a UKIP thing’, so there has to be something in the movement between Labour and LibDem votes. I can’t see much leakage going to the minority candidates, especially not from the Conservatives – notice how the National Front only managed 161, about the same number of votes in a single block of flats. I’ve not seen anybody question whether Andrew Stranack was somehow abandoned by voters because of his disability, and indeed few people brought up Steve Reed’s sexuality, so maybe there are reasons to be cheerful. Here, as in Corby, the Greens struggled in a crowded field.

Let’s go back to the TUSC lot, for the start. In times of economic hardship and disquiet with the ruling government, where do people go? The opposition, yes, but one kind? In my lifetime protest movements seemed to rely on the fringes, and indeed the anti-war movement could only survive with help from the non-aligned movement who were aided and assisted by the left and hard-left. Stop the War and associated protest groups were founded and moulded by the socialist groups who had been sent to the margins in between moments of greatest unrest.

For whatever reason, and there’s  bound to be plenty, the TUSC grouping of left/hard-left groups just hasn’t made itself known to a wide audience. In a seat like Rotherham, in a time like ours, to gain so little is not good at all. It’s plain embarrassing, and I say that as a LibDem about to talk on our 8th place.

The protest votes for the whole went into three directions – UKIP, BNP and Respect. I’m not going to lie here, I don’t think UKIP are fascists in suits or knuckle draggers. They’re not fruitcakes, or loonies or whatever David Cameron called them. What UKIP is made up of, mostly, is disgruntled people, and disgruntled people without a clear direction of travel. Under Nigel Farage, they’ve become a party of Europe not wanting to be in Europe, turning up to claim expenses without putting in any work. In the UK, they are political pygmies, without a single elected Councillor, without a single elected MP, without a single elected anybody. Using the old BNP trick of co-option onto tiny minute parish councils, UKIP can claim to have some kind of representation outside Brussels, but this doesn’t wash with most folk who know their onions and their bendy bananas.

What UKIP actually want, or how they managed to get 22% of the vote here without explaining anything, is the real question. The adoption scandal broke with exceptionally good timing.  It was used to get sympathy for both the parents, and the candidate. Why the lack of success? Jane Collins is not George Galloway, and Rotherham is not Bradford. Crucially, perhaps, Nigel Farage is not Galloway either. There’s a lot of bom, but not enough bast. Whilst George can speak with passion and target that passion to something relevant (usually the Labour Party), Nigel is too eager to use “Europe” as a codeword for anything and everything, and it will put off swing voters. “Europe” as a catch-all is not a popular electoral subject, as many polls have shown, and people are not made more popular by talking about it again and again and again.

So, then, the Liberal Democrats. What do we blame? That our candidate was a bloke with a ponytail? Well, it might be a reason, keep hold of it. Again, I’m not going to wear a black cap here and call time on us all. This was a bonkers byelection even by most standards of these things. We had the adoption case, Labour’s controversial stitch-up/selection, high profile Yvonne Wilson, and a candidate called Clint who came with backing from the English Defence League. We would always find high profile elections like this hard, moreso in government. We suffered a lot, in many ways more than we did in Manchester. In fact the 2.1% we ‘gained’ here is the worst result, of any mainstream party, in any by-election in recorded history for a mainland constituency. What I am certain of is that this was just a kick in the shins as part of a very complex and unpredictable election. We’re not going to be srtuffed like this again.

It’s notable that the BNP, whilst saving a deposit, which is very rare for them (only 4 ever in their history), it came with a short drop in the share of the vote. Clearly they are not attracting votes like they used to, and should no longer be the bogeymen of British politics. Using the BNP as some kind of scare tactic is nonsense when they’re clearly so unpopular, toothless and broke. Look at the figures – UKIP at over 4,600 votes from 2,220, whilst BNP slipped from 3,906 to 1,804. That is a party in decline, here and in Manchester and elsewhere, and there wasn’t many elsewheres for a group with such little money. If this month has shown the death of anything, it’s the demise of the BNP.


Give Peace a chance.

By-elections are theatre. Nobody knows who will turn up to stand, or to vote, and as such there’s no real guarantee that the result will marry up with the opinion polls of the day. This is why Peter Snow was so funny in going “just for fun” when taking the election result from one constituency across the country. There’s no such thing as uniform behaviour, much less uniform swing.

Here in Middlesbrough the election seemed to carry out its business without much publicity. Croydon had big names in Lee and Winston and Rotherham had scandal, walk-outs and Yvonne Ridley. So away from all that, the ‘Boro just had candidates standing for election without the media taking much notice.

The result was another disaster for TuSC, who claim to speak for the working class, and BNP, who do the same with a different accent. Neither showed much chance of a break through, less so the BNP who lost 4 percentage points to lose over 1,600 votes in real terms.

The success of Labour needs framing in context, too. Sir Stuart Bell didn’t hold a single constituency surgery for years following an physical attack, which attracted criticism all the same for being dismissive of his constituents. It’s not for nothing that the winning candidate saw his vote share climb from under 50% to above 60%. Voters do notice this sort of thing, you know.

A saved deposit for the LibDems may seem out of the storyline somewhat, although it’s worth remembering that the candidate and his team were behind the success in Redcar next-door. Good campaigners show their mark in many ways, not least a saved deposit and a better overall result than the Conservatives.

And then we get to Imdad Hussain and the Peace Party. No, me neither. Indeed, nobody really knew who this former Labour councillor was until the results were announced. Any clues? Well he was embroiled in a bit of a scandal and defected, although why he went here rather than Respect is anyone’s guess. What we do have is a nice electoral quirk to finish up with – the first time that the Peace Party had saved a deposit, a slice of the unpredictable nature of this business we call politics.

Just for fun, you understand, we ran these results through a super computer, and do you know what it said? Wait until 2015, when the votes really mean something.

Look North with George Galloway

Proving that I should continue effectively boycotting bookies shops for the time being, I wrote prior to the Bradford West by-election my confident prediction of a clear Labour victory. Just in case you need reminding this soon after the event, George Galloway just sneaked ahead.

In this shrug-shoulders cynical age, the manner of Galloway’s victory could be easily shoved to one side, bunged on Wikipedia and left alone. To be clear, the seat of Bradford West was once considered exceptionally strong for Labour, held by them since 1970. Galloway has broken one record – by virtue of standing a candidate in the general election, his share of the vote increase of 52.8 percentage point is the largest ever recorded rise since the introduction of universal suffrage. It’s worth noting too that the swing against Labour is the second worst of its kind in British political history. Let’s not be too dismissive of this flash in the news headlines; Bradford West has already guaranteed its place in political history, as much a marker on the great long road of British political history as the Liberal victories in Orpington, and Bermondsey, and the Labour victory on the Wirral on the run up to the 1997 election.

So conclusion number one – Labour and Ed Miliband are in trouble, yes? Well…yes. But not emphatically. Bradford West is significant for them by virtue of the lessons we all assumed they had learned when Galloway himself took Bethnal Green and Bow from Oona King: of all the parties who are guilty of taking for granted working class voters and particularly the voters from South Asian immigrants and their families, it is the Labour Party. When the Party dismissed across Scotland last year can still look stunned and slack-of-jaw at the result of Bradford West, you just know lessons have not been learned. There can only be so many times that the same brick can hit the same feet without someone wondering if the pain couldn’t be somehow averted.

Ed Miliband is a weaker man today than he was last week, and given his reputation as Labour leader, that’s the same level of weakness that sends the office loudmouth to KFC over Virgin Fitness. He has been at the centre of a Thick Of It style week of unbelievable news – pasties, petrol, ‘Cam Dine With Me’ – only to conclude with the deflated trump of a pin-pricked balloon. Surely someone within Labour HQ knew the ‘cheat codes’ for Galloway at this point? Or for that matter, the necessity to avoid treating British Muslims as an homogeneous group  of grateful Labour voters? Here in Preston, we’ve seen this come and go in real time: one of the safest Labour wards in the city lost to the anti-Iraq war Socialist Alliance and then Respect, with Labour so unwilling to accept the inevitable conclusions that they would take 8 years to win back the seat. It’s not that Respect have won due to ‘banging the right drums’; Labour just assumed the melody they had been banging would be stuck in the heads by now.

The unmitigated disaster for Labour in Bradford West could yet be overturned in the short-term; there’s boundary changes coming up, with the newly redrawn, more rural West likely to reject Galloway’s charms, just as Poplar and Limehouse decided to put him third in the elections last year. There’s the continued slow motion course changing which Labour continue to stop/start. And there’s the Coalition – rejected soundly by the voters in Bradford – whose fortunes will be turned round by 2015. Or at least one would hope.

Another institution failed in its duties on Thursday: the mainstream media. Having long since abandoned covering by-elections, neither the BBC nor SKY looked able to cover the polling day results adequately until the last possible minutes. For the Beeb, it’s more of a disgrace, for they once had the will and attitude to ensure every parliamentary by-election was treated with respect and good grace. Twenty-four hour news cannot be the only reason for reducing by-election coverage to a scant mention in regional opt-outs; whilst the BBC replayed a repeat of “Hardtalk”, SKY News had grabbed Galloway for an exclusive interview. Even here, though, SKY daren’t take over a third of a studio for anything approaching actual coverage.

Surprised when the media had fits of confusion when Galloway was all but declared the winner? Two studio guests and a decent Twitter feed analyser would have had that sorted within minutes. Thanks to the new emphasis on making current affairs ‘relevant’, the main broadcasters have alienated the very people who want to know, and need to know, the issues of the day. It’s not enough – especially for the BBC – to point to the big screens showing TweetDeck loading up to call their new modern coverage ‘state of the art’. If Auntie means what she says about respecting the little bits of her empire, it’s time to prove it. Next by-election – which could be Manchester Central – the BBC’s outfit oop North must be involved.

The discussion surrounding George Galloway’s win touches on many stepping stones along the river of modern Britain. His victory reminds us that politics can still shock and surprise – maybe even shock and awe! – and that not one of the three main Westminster parties can claim to fully understand the way in which the Muslim vote (and larger BME votes) can be sought and retained. This is not a victory without flaws or potential banana skins; Galloway is a provocative and controversial man, one who was ultimately proved right about both Iraq and Afghanistan. But that does not mean there’s any more of a ‘revolution’ now than there was in Bethnal Green, at which George spoke of a “you ain’t seen nothing yet” atmosphere across East London.

Yes, there has been a shake of a kaleidoscope and the pieces are in flux. For the good of his party, Ed Miliband must now learn the lessons of years of complacent Labour attitude and ignorance….and George Galloway must prove that he is willing to be more of a ‘member’ than just a ‘parliamentarian’. History can only be kind when it is written by the victor. 

Great Bradford West Bake-Off

Don’t believe the orchestrated Twitter hype; Labour is going to win today’s Bradford West by-election, and comfortably so. What ‘buzz’ surrounds a shock victory is part double-bluff and mind-games, and part the result of the decreasing interest in covering parliamentary by-elections. Anything for an ‘angle’, even if that comes just the day before polling day and comes across as a hurriedly scribbled puff-piece.

Every democracy has its ‘cuckoo cabal’, from which one curiosity or general odd-ball is plucked every month for a run of rent-a-quotes and media appearances before being plonked back into the pen. Australia has Pauline Hanson, the United States has…..the Republican Party, I guess…..and the United Kingdom can choose from an assortment of men (Nigel Farage, Richard Littlejohn) and a handful of women (notably Nadine Dorries).  This month’s choice of notable numpty is George Galloway, scourge of the pro-Iraq war lobby, Americans (mostly Republicans, it would seem) and the Labour Party. The man who would be remembered solely as one of the greatest orators in Britain were it not for *that* reality TV moment (“would you like me to be a cat?) has been stepping-stone his way back to full credibility having chosen to fight the Poplar and Limehouse constituency two years ago at the general election. He lost, and has been trying to get back to electoral victory since.

Bradford West is not going to be a site of that victory. It’s not just a matter of statistics – it would take an unprecedented standing start win. This campaign has been Galloway acting as the Grand Statesman, whose past pronouncements have been at least within the park of accuracy. It has not been “George comes for your votes” so much as “An anti-Labour roadshow comes to Bradford”. Whilst I would always prefer the defeat of Labour candidates, a Galloway victory would be a success for him, not the constituency. I say that in my humble and personal opinion – Galloway is known to be litigious – only the other day, in fact.

Labour candidate Imran Hussain is in the current mould of that party’s choices – nice, dull, unlikely to rock boats, known in the constituency but that’s about all. Hussain will melt into the backbenches, along side the current roll call of Labour by-election winners during this parliament. How many household names can you recognise – Jon Ashworth, Seema Malhotra, Debbie Abrahams?

Labour need to win Bradford West, and they will. They are still in a dire state – led by the wrong brother, struggling to provide a coherent political message, embarrassingly shrill on the economy. The current ‘buzz’ around Galloway is nothing more than Labour activists doing what they’re told through group emails and on-high instructions; by this time tomorrow, we’ll have to wade through the similarly depressing gloop of spin about ‘Ed Miliband winning against the odds!”. 

Say It Again

The Internet never forgets, I know this more than most.  It is good practice to keep this in mind whenever you’re launching something – be it a new product, a come-back single, an App, or candidature for a parliamentary career.

Last night, at a suspiciously late hour, the Conservatives chose Jackie Whiteley as their candidate for the forthcoming Bradford West by-election. Two years ago, Ms Whiteley became their spokesman for Rotherham

As is often the case in these things, and again it’s something I know about, the chosen candidate is quoted as being this, that and the other about their ward, division, constituency or what-have-you. In my past experience, these quotes come from a Big Book of Leaflet Copy. Rarely do candidates genuinely speak in that peculiar mix of tourist board and local paper editorial. 
Ms Whiteley is quoted from prior to the 2010 election saying:

“It is a real privilege to be the Parliamentary Spokesman for Rotherham. Having previously campaigned in the seat at the general election and as the owner of a small business, I have got a real understanding of the issues and concerns of Rotherham’s residents and local businesses.  I will continue to campaign passionately for jobs, investment and a brighter future for the community.” 

Ms Whiteley is quoted from last night saying:

“It is a great honour and extremely exciting to be the Conservative candidate for Bradford West.  As the owner of a small business and local employer, I have got a real understanding of the issues and concerns of Bradford’s residents and local businesses.  I will continue to campaign passionately for jobs, investment and a brighter future for the local community.” 

Memo to Conservative candidate HQ – or to any Party for that matter. The Internet remembers. It holds on to facts, faces, quotes and scandals. It also remembers that a candidate sincere about Rotherham can be sincere about Bradford. If you wanted Jackie Whiteley to be passionate about jobs, investment and a brighter future, you have succeeded only in making her sound computer generated and insincere.

Oldham East and Uphill Struggle

Tomorrow morning, in front of Oldham’s Civic Hall, Labour leader Ed Milliband and his newest backbench MP Debbie Abrahams are holding their victory press conference in the open air surrounded by shipped-in supporters of all shapes, sizes and religions.

“A new dawn has broken, has it not?” asks the younger Milliband, holding onto Debbie’s wrist with his left hand. (Her left hand is flat and by her side, as focus groups find female candidates doing the thumbs-up “too Palin”. She is permitted two (max) little waves of the hand, like the fattest bridesmaid at the wedding reception.)

“This result is a sensation that rocks the heart of the ConDemNation!” barks little Ed, to the choreographed delight of the invited crowd. By the end of the evening, Oldham East (and Saddleworth, “like attaching Coronation Street to Last of the Summer Wine” as described by Michael White) would be thankful for never being asked to vote on anything, again, ever.

All being right and reasoned with the world, the good burghers of Oldham East and Saddleworth will put Labour back with a handsome-ish majority. LibDem Elwyn Watkins is a damn fine candidate, and I would prefer him winning after running Phil Woolas so close (one-hundred-and-three votes) in 2010. My smart money is on Abrahams; this is Labour’s to lose, not the Liberal Democrats to lose.

Doubtlessly, the combined forces of the on-line Labour keyboard Corps. will hed asplode at 11pm when the Returning Officer takes to the stage. It would certainly wobble the Coalition, just nothing like as hard as Labour think it will. This is more “finger poking a cheesecake” than “hammer against a balloon”.

Ed, for one, has yet to strike a name for himself. Though his stance has advanced from “opposition for the sake of it”, he appears to have given up reminding his Shadow Cabinet colleagues of his Conference plea to ‘grow up’ and ‘do Opposition differently’. Labour MPs appear confused, still, over the best way to deal with Coalition Britain; pointing out divisions between the two partners is counter-productive. Of course there’s going to be differences, that’s what “coalition” means. On the deficit reduction plan, Labour have yet to define exactly what they would do differently (if we sidestep the inevitable reminders of Liam Byrne’s “there’s no money left” note, there’s Alistair Darling’s “cuts worse than Thatcher” quote whilst still Chancellor to bring to mind….).

I’m not as rabid pro-Coalition/anti-Labour as some notable interweb commentators appear to be, clearly frothing at the mouth at every whisper of Westminster gossip about early elections, splits and divisions, as though ‘new politics’ means the same tedious parlour games that turned off voters years ago. Labour, it has to be said however, are not addressing the nation as a “Party prepared”. In the fast-forward news agenda world of today, the Opposition are expected to be primed for action; more mature and reasoned opposition would stop chasing the spotlight and dictaphones (and, indeed, some members of the Government could do well to stop acting like newspaper commentators, too….)

Labour must be careful what they wish for. Unsettling the Coalition, even pressing for an early election, would be a disaster. Ed’s profile is negligible. His position on the student protests was shaky, uneasy, and even now his reputation amongst the growing numbers of youthful protesters and anti-cuts groups seems weakened and wary. An early election would underline the under-cooked centre of his strategy, splitting his internal coalition – Brownites and Blairites at opposite ends of the Shadow Cabinet table ready to pounce.

Opinion polls are two a penny at the moment, bringing Labour some cheer with their constant and growing lead. Annoyingly for Ed, the polls show much less obvious support for not making so many cuts so quickly. His “squeezed middle” has yet to permeate beyond the hacks in the Lobby. They are also within the margin of error; and after the 2010 election you can forget ‘uniform swing’, it no longer exists.

A snap election would doubtlessly “do” for the LibDems…but for Labour? They’re constant House of Commons “bantz” as they ridicule the Coalition without putting up answers themselves could backfire. An electorate who accept the need to keep tight hold of their pursestrings don’t want to hear about spend, spend, spend. An outright Tory majority is statistically more likely than an outright Labour win. Coalition is currently putting the brakes on the worst Conservative excesses (see how angry the 1922 Committee is getting with their allegations of ‘tickling the LibDem tummy’). Coalition is working, and Labour know deep down how realistic an outright Conservative victory really is.

Playing the long-game annoys MPs, especially now, when the news agenda demands quick-smart reactions and fast-forward changes. It would be far better for Labour to play the slow game, make the subtle and considered moves of the poker player. Ed may win in Oldham tonight, but lose the long-term battle. That’s the gamble at the foot of the Pennines. Whatever happens, it only matters what moves Labour makes next…

Glasgow North East – Result

Glasgow North East by-election.

Labour GAIN from Speaker

Willie BAIN (Labour) 12,231 (59.4) {N/A}
David KERR (SNP) 4,120 (20.0) (+2.3)
Ruth DAVIDSON (Conservative) 1,075 (5.2) {N/A}
Charlie BAILLIE (BNP) 1,013 (4.9) {+1.7}
Tommy SHERIDAN (Solidarity) 794 (3.9) {N/A}
Eileen BAXENDALE (Liberal Democrat) 474 (2.3) {N/A}
David DOHERTY (Scottish Green) 332 (1.6) {N/A}
John SMEATON (Jury Team) 258 (1.2) {N/A}
Kevin McVEY (Scottish Socialist) 152 (0.7) {-4.2}
Mikey HUGHES (no label) 54 (0.3) {N/A}
Louise McDAID (Socialist Labour) 47 (0.2) {-14.0}
Mev BROWN (Independent) 32 (0.2) {N/A}
Colin CAMPBELL (TILT) 13 (0.1) {N/A}

Labour majority over SNP – 8,111
(2005 – Speaker majority over SNP – 10,134)

Glasgow North East by-election

Following the resignation of former Speaker, Michael Martin MP, there is to be a by-election in his Glasgow North East constituency. This will take place on the 12 November. The candidates are as follows, with links and info where available.

In keeping with my policy set out in the Norwich North thread, this blog does not include direct links to British National Party websites or candidates.

Updated 1 November with Scottish Socialist Party link

Charlie BAILLIE – British National Party
Willie BAIN – Scottish Labour Party Candidate
Eileen BAXENDALE – Scottish Liberal Democrats
Mev BROWN – Independent (Fellow blogger Kristofer Keane informs me that Brown has stood in various Scottish elections with different party labels each time, namely thus far Referendum Party, UK Independence Party, NHS First, Scottish Voice Party, and the Jury Team.
Colin CAMPBELL – The Individuals Labour and Tory (TILT) This newly registered party seems to be a mix of traditional Tory, old Labour, and Whig-influenced policy pick-n-mix with some terrible poetry to boot.
Ruth DAVIDSON – Scottish Conservative and Unionist
David DOHERTY – Scottish Green Party
Mikey HUGHES – Independent. Mr Hughes took part in Big Brother. Did he win? I have no idea.
David KERR – Scottish National Party (SNP)
Louise McDAID – Socialist Labour Party
Kevin McVEYScottish Socialist Party – Make Greed History
Tommy SHERIDAN – Solidarity – Scotland’s Socialist Movement
John SMEATONJury Team. Smeaton is the Glasgow Airport baggage handler who “took on” the attempted terrorist attack while on duty with the now infamous words “This is Glasgow: we’ll set aboot ye”.

If there any further updates or links, I will try my hardest to add them.

I wish Liberal Democrat candidate Eileen Baxendale all the best of luck in what will be a testing by-election fight.

Fishwick — losses and lessons

Previous post [Fishwick by-election]

Result (1 October, 2009)

Jennifer MEIN [Labour] 656 (55.69 +13.24)
Sharon RILEY [Conservative] 283 (24.02 +3.90 )
Luke BOSMAN [Liberal Democrat] 239 (20.29 +1.31)


By-election tales can often – if spun by the losing side – focus on the trivia and minutiae of the day rather than any theories as to the result. It would be far easier for me, maybe even far more “in character”, to tell of the man asking if we were bringing back hanging, the Scouse comedian on his way to the bookies, the Labour car with a taxi-cab style illuminated ‘Vote Labour’ light on the roof, (“Does it have in imprint?”).

Fishwick is a savvy little place, with a fiercely proud and independent community spirit. The ward takes in housing estates, neat suburbia, and even isolated farm-style houses within a stroll of the Ribble. In recent years its electoral history would produce very confusing graphs for the outsider to analyse: Conservative gain for the first time in living memory, a fleeting moment of Respect-assisted marginality, and a return to healthy Labour majority. Explaining this movement brings in a number of different reasons – a population not too attracted to being treated as after-thoughts by an arrogant and distant Labour party, perceived indifference towards the Muslim population, a certain desire for a change in representation which would produce results for the regeneration of the Fishwick Bottoms and Farringdon park alike.

Our campaign for Luke Bosman was without any serious fault. The result was somewhat deflating after a whirlwind campaign with some very positive reactions on the doorstep. There seems to be a genuine wish for Town Hall to have a positive alternative to Labour, a feeling which did not ultimately lead to enough votes for Luke despite our best efforts. Attention has been drawn to matters which really concern Fishwick residents, be it the speed on the main roads, the future of Jalgos club, or the future of the number 16 bus (which clogged up the road directly outside the Tudor Avenue polling station every time it passed).

Fishwick has elected its current County Councillor. I wish her well, while hoping that she can now maintain representing her electors wearing two different hats. We have until May or June next year to keep her, and the local Labour party, under scrutiny.

The local Liberal Democrats may appear to have come out of this election the most bruised. I have to say the loss has only strengthened our resolve to fight for people who have long since given up waiting for an alternative to the Labour party in their area. We are attracting members and voters in far greater numbers than I can recall. Labour now have to prove themselves worthy of Fishwick voters trust.

There will come a very interesting, tough, fight in Preston as we make the run-up to the elections in 2010.

Fishwick By-election, 2009

The candidates for the Fishwick by-election to Preston City Council, to be held on 1, October, are;

Luke BOSMAN (Liberal Democrat)
Jennifer MEIN (Labour)
Sharon RILEY (Conservative)

I have been made aware of a potential BNP candidate who failed to correctly fill in his nomination papers with about an hour or so to go on deadline day. Oh dear. But the BNP failing (once again) means that members of the party nobody wants to have sitting in Preston Town Hall are doing a very good job of beating themselves rather than being beat at the ballot-box. Which is something of an achievement.