Saturday, June 12, 2004

Initial thoughts

OK, so the results for London are all in. Tories stay on 9, Labour down 2, Lib Dems up 1 (Dee Doocey), Greens down 1 and UKIP with their first 2. Of the constituencies, only 1 of the 14 changed hands, in Brent and Harrow.

Looking at my result, a couple of things to note: John Biggs' majority fell considerably, but the two other main parties broadly held their share of the vote. As far as I'm concerned, I'm reasonably happy we maintained the same number of votes as last time. The turnout was up by around 50,000 this time around, but these voters weren't voting for the three parties. Rather it was Respect and UKIP which benefited from these voters.

Respect unsurprisingly did well in East London, which has a large Muslim community; they didn't do as well elsewhere and they failed to grab sufficient support for a top-up seat. Without that - and if they don't get too many seats at the European results tomorrow - they will be a spent force. Indeed, the only reason they picked up so many votes in East London was to focus on the anti-war message. Nowhere else did they get anything like the same amount.

But I wonder how many of their voters are aware of the rest of their policies? And given the number of votes we received, it's good to see Respect didn't make inroads into our 'core' vote.

However, what does frustrate me is what I foresaw before this contest. Respect competed with us for anti-war votes - and had the cheek to call us pro-war which I find ridiculous - and ended up splitting the vote. Had they not been so divisive perhaps we could have got a more stark message to Labour, perhaps by turfing Biggs out.

But that's the problem with the hard left. They spend their whole time bickering and arguing with each other and being sectarian. What the left never seems to realise is that they individually think they can win and fail to build coalitions as a result. And by doing that, they will always end up losing; the big picture is always sacrificed for the smaller, purer image.

As for UKIP, that has to be bad news for the Tories. They have a blunt message which they can easily communicate. And for the Tories to not take these votes - which I suspect had never previously voted - cannot be good for them.

Depressing was my view on the number of spoilt ballots - I'm sure a lot of them were due to people whose first language wasn't English finding the system confusing. Even I was struggling to put the crosses in the right boxes when I was in the polling station.

As for the count, I found the whole thing rather irksome. Arriving at the entrance I was stopped by the police before walking along a bleak and lonely road to the leisure centre in Newham. They were in the process of verifying questionable ballots and Labour and the Tories showed how they work together to the detriment of other parties. If one disputed a ballot the other would demand that they concede the next one against them. In other words, horse trading. Nice. Pleasingly, most of the questionable ballots didn't involve me, which I hope meant the blurb we put on the leaflets got through to our supporters.

After the count it was off to a late night's drinking. Whatever the result, it's been an interesting experience and one that I've gained a lot out of. I'm sure there will be more to write about on the results, but I think I might hold off until the European ones are through.

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