Monday, June 14, 2004

Further thoughts post-Euros

With the European results now in, it's become increasingly clear that it's Labour and the Tories which have the most to worry about. Their share of the vote was affected most by the surge in UKIP support, the rise in the number of votes compared to 1999 going to them. For the Lib Dems it's frustrating we didn't get a second seat in London, especially after the hard work done by my fellow East London resident, Jonathan Fryer, but given the Eurosceptic tendency across the country we did well to maintain our number of seats.

The European results reflect a similar situation in the locals and London Assembly elections: the two bigger parties suffered substantially more than the Lib Dems and other parties.

Although I finished fourth in the London Assembly election, I am convinced it was a good result. Given the relative strength of the party across the three boroughs, we had to target our efforts, so it wasn't a comprehensive campaign on all front. Nevertheless, as the election drew closer we found more supporters in areas we had never considered before. Ultimately we managed to poll almost exactly the same number of votes as last time, which indicates we have a good solid base in the areas we targeted.

We were only 1000 votes or so behind Respect and almost 100 ahead of UKIP. Both these parties benefited from the rise in the number of people who voted this time. But heartening for us, Labour's share fell and the Tories didn't substantially increase their vote, which makes me think we really are the effective challengers to Labour.

Respect's vote was larger in East London than anywhere else in London. They got their votes by encouraging Muslims to vote for them and claiming that the Lib Dems were for the war in Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth: we marched against the war in February 2003, Charles Kennedy spoke at the rally and all 53 Lib Dem MPs voted against in the Parliamentary debate a month later.

I said it last week, but I will say it again: Respect doesn't offer East Londoners anything other than a protest vote. They are little more than the Socialist Workers' Party which has tried to co-opt the Muslim vote. Their only high-profile figure was George Galloway, who failed to win a Euro seat in London. That and their failure to gain a top-up seat in the GLA and failed to win a seat in the European Parliament in London shows that they are not a viable opposition in our part of the city.

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