Month: August 2010

A council by-election in Sheffield. Stuffed? Not at all!

It’s no great revelation that a council by-election in Sheffield in the current political circumstances is not exactly a mouthwatering prospect.  But that’s what we ended up with.  But despite this and despite the bravado of Labour, the Liberal Democrat vote tonight has hardly changed at all.  In the end, whilst Labour’s vote was up, the Liberal Democrat vote barely moved.  If a coalition with the Conservatives, spending cuts and the cancellation of the Sheffield Forgemasters loan results in a 0.5% drop in the Liberal Democrat vote, then clearly even in Sheffield the coalition is either not as unpopular as our opponents would have us think, or people decide who to vote for locally on different criteria.

Firstly, a bit of background for those who don’t know the area.  The Woodhouse by-election was caused by the death of Labour councillor Marjorie Barker – a councillor who was popular across the party divide.  Woodhouse is a ward that has a demographic that is not bad for the Liberal Democrats, but has simply not been targeted by the party in the past.  The exception is that many years ago we came within a couple of hundred votes of victory and there is one small part of it that has previously been in a different ward that was held by the Lib Dems for four years.  However despite this, it was one of Labour’s largest majorities in the city, the Lib Dems had little local infrastructure and so any campaign there was a daunting prospect.

This evening’s final result on a 26% turnout was:

Labour  1,855  52.3%  +5.4
Liberal Democrats  757  21.3%  -0.5
UKIP  491  13.8%  +4.3
Conservatives  154  4.3%  -10.1
BNP  143  4.0%
Green  83  2.3%  -0.4
Independent  58  1.6%

As a complete psephological anorak, I had to look at the result over time, with the following outcome:

So although the vote dropped by just 0.5% this year, the Lib Dem vote has risen by 6% since 2008 when the council elections and the general election weren’t on the same day with the inevitable skewing of the election results.  The vote tonight has stayed at the level we had before the coalition.  However, it’s worth saying that this result has taken a lot of hardwork led by candidate Joe Otten, myself as campaign organiser and agent, and huge help from the likes of Cllrs Shaffaq Mohammed, Steve Ayris and Gail Smith, and party activists Diana Stimely and Roger Beaverstock.

Just as some background to expectations in the city, one recent comment on the internet has included:

would bet a lot of money that the Lib Dem vote will slump [from former Sheffield Hallam Tory MP, Irvine Patnick]

There were also other websites that predicted a surge in the BNP vote.  This was topped off by a complaint from the independent candidate in the Sheffield Star (including many he sent privately to the Lib Dem candidate by email) about the Lib Dems delivering too many leaflets.  This letter then had the unintended consequence that Derek Hutchinson then had to defend his past position as the BNP candidate in the ward (apparently he didn’t realise they were offensive or racist when he first got involved, although as he stood at least twice it clearly took him a while to realise!).

Perhaps more bizarre though, were the comments from Labour councillor Jack Scott:

Polls opening now for #woodhouse by-election. LibDems “hoping the [sic] don’t come last” ! Good luck to Jacquie [sic] Satur!!

and even after the result was still saying:

slaughter for LibDems in#Sheffield by-election!

Clearly deluded and not exactly good with his predictions.  Labour will be disappointed tonight if they were expecting this to prove the Liberal Democrats are in trouble in Sheffield, after all getting roughly the same number of votes as you got in May is not exactly a massive slump in fortunes.

Possibly one of the best ever election posters

Election posters in this country tend to be pretty tame.  Generally they are just the name of the candidate or occasionally a picture of the candidate too.  National ones are a bit better with clever and occasionally humorous slogans, but that’s about as far as it goes.  So the winner for one of the best posters I’ve seen is the following one from the Christian Democrats in Sweden.  The official one is on the left/top (there’s a series of them you can view here), and the inevitable parody is on the right/below.  I should point out that the man shown is the party leader Göran Hägglund.

The Swedish General Election is entering its final month with the two political blocks – the ruling centre-right Alliance made up of four parties – and the Social Democrats – who are invariably backed by the Greens and Communists even if there is no formal coalition – level pegging in the polls.  Although all parties have produced their own posters and run their own campaigns, the centre-right Alliance made up of the Moderates (Conservatives), the Peoples Party (the Liberals), the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats, also have a joint manifesto and some joint posters.  However although the two blocks are level-pegging, the popularity of the incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (with an approval rating of 63%), makes the centre-right the favourites to stay in power.  Not only that, but Sweden’s very own Melvin the Octopus is also tipping the Alliance to win!

Chance Witness by Matthew Parris

Matthew ParrisThe latest edition of Total Politics magazine includes an interview with journalist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris, which is quite apt as I’ve just finished reading Matthew Parris’ autobiography which I was already planning to blog about.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Matthew Parris.  It’s not just because I enjoy his sketch writing and his columns, which I enjoy reading as much for their insight in to politics, which I don’t always agree with, but also the style of humour that he uses that particularly appeals.  I sometimes wonder if I could be decent sketchwriter myself, although I have never tried.  What it’s largely about though is his other interests.  He has a real love of the Peak District from his time as the local MP and continues to live there, a love that I have from growing up in Sheffield on the edge of the national park.  He also has a fascination with geography and maps and had the same curiosity about the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean that I have had, although the main difference is that Matthew Parris actually lived on the island for a time.

His autobiography is fascinating for anyone who is involved in politics, although much of the book is also devoted to his childhood, student life and early working life.  But what particularly appeals to me is that parts of it really ring true with me.  We’re of different political persuasions and his political career reached heights that mine clearly hasn’t, but some of the emotions involved in being in politics some of the internal conflicts and some of the self-analysis, that it involves often feel very similar.  It’s a frank and honest book, and one that was well worth reading.  Not only for the interesting anecdotes, and for someone who tends to be “Mr Lib Dem Anecdote” (that is more interesting than it sounds, honest), that is important, but just for an insight in to a particular time in politics.

The interview with Iain Dale in Total Politics is typically candid.  What I like is his positives about the coalition, although whether I should be proud of an endorsement from a Tory I don’t know.  My favourite though was:

What I like about the Lib Dems is they combine creativity and dynamism with a belief in the individual, and you don’t get that in the Labour Party.

Both the interview and Matthew Parris’ autobiography are well worth reading.

That Lord Pearson interview

With Lord Pearson stepping down as Leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) it seems appropriate to link (as I’m sure many others have) to that interview by Jon Sopel from the 2010 General Election.  I would have blogged this at the time, if I’d had the time, but it is one of my highlights from the campaign.  So sit back, put your feet up and enjoy the car crash that this is:

Wise words from John Pardoe

In the week that Nick Clegg takes charge of the country, the following quote from former Liberal MP John Pardoe seems especially apt:

“Without political power Liberal principles and policies will forever remain in the wings… [but] we must never clutch the cloak of establishment too close around us or warm ourselves too well in its folds” (John Pardoe in The Liberal Road to Power)

Thank you to Mark Pack for helping me discover this gem.