Friday, May 07, 2010

The People's Verdict

So, it's Hung. As I type the backroom deals are going on, Brown is clinging to the doorknocker at No.10 and policies are being dumped and adapted. There is uncertainty but nobody can say that people weren't informed about the problems of Hung Parliaments; this is clearly the will of the people, so we have to deal with that. I think that Mr Cameron's challenge to the LibDems to join him in coalition was bold, statesmanlike and grasps the nettle; we may have a government by Monday if everything goes as planned. Personally I'd prefer a minority Conservative government with a "memorandum of understanding" - maybe one with the LibDems and another with smaller groups such as the Unionists.

I can't deny that I am not gutted with the result - both nationally and locally. There were great moments (Opik and Smith, for example) but the results lacked consistency and too many marginals were missed by the Tories. However we ought to remember that Cameron had an electoral mountain to climb; gaining 100 seats is an impressive achievement and he did score more votes than Blair did in '97. Brown, although hammered in the popular vote, did actually hold up the number of Labour seats rather well. It was probably Mr Clegg who had the most disappointing night, seeing "Cleggmania" (whatever that is, or was) disappear to the point where they actually lost seats at the election. Quite why the opinion poll ratings never translated into votes could be the subject of a whole dissertation! Where were the RATM facebook group when you needed them?

Locally the LibDems picked up Norwich South with a wafer thin 310 vote majority. I have to say that the City scene will miss Mr Clarke's knowledge and experience - Mr Wright has large shoes to fill. Nothing in our canvassing - or that of Labour or the Greens - picked up this LibDem "surge" and so it came as a genuine surprise to most, if not all, of the people at the count. The LibDems had thrown a large amount of money, locally and nationally, at this campaign and done so in a largely negative and aggressive way. Clearly, it paid off.

I loved the campaign and thought we managed to strike a positive and constructive note. It was great that policies were once again the order of the day in British politics. I also thought the turnout was a great sign too; for once, the British people realised the solution to a discredited political system is by voting for change rather than staying away from the polling booths. Polling Day itself was great fun and zoomed by; we had probably the largest and most effective polling day operation in Norwich South for a generation.

And although the LibDems walked away with the prize, I believe that was much for us to be pleased about. We were the only major party to have a swing to us (yes, the LibDems won the seat despite getting a lower vote share than in 05), and managed to put on nearly 3,000 extra votes since the last election. That's 3,000 real people who now voted Conservative that didn't a few years back; we put over 1/3rd onto our vote. This is the first time that the Tory vote has risen in Norwich South since the 1980s. And with the 3 parties now all 3,000 votes apart the next election is shaping up to be a cracking contest - "a 3 way marginal with a strong Green interest", as one TV presenter put it!

I learnt 2 major things in this campaign; firstly that debate is still at the heart of our political system and people are ready to engage about ideas. The second, sadly, is that negative campaigning really does work. I thought this campaign would show that people want to vote for something rather than against something else, but I am not sure I can. The LibDems proved that with enough money and enough negativity you can achieve success. I hope this isn't a lesson other parties learn but I am sure they will.

So, I wish Simon Wright well in his new important position and hope he is able to stand up and speak up effectivly for our City. My feeling is that - like the LibDem Council here in Norwich - he will have one chance at this, because local people don't tolerate failure from their MP. Mr Wright has a largely supportive media and goodwill in the City; we look forward to seeing what difference he can make.

And as this is my last General Election post, a final word of thanks to the hundreds of people who helped in various different ways to my campaign. It is a great honour to think that people give freely of their time and energy to see me elected to parliament. And a big thank you to the c.11,000 local people who voted for me - some will have never voted Tory before, some will be stalwarts and some will be friends who put their trust in me when their political beliefs said otherwise. To each and every one of them, I say "thank you"l you faith in me made the whole campaign worthwhile. Roll on 2014?


Anonymous said...
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Paul said...


Well given my comments on your blog regarding Simon Wright am I the foolish one? maybe not...

Your views re Simon echo mine & personally, for him to have won by 310 votes whilst elsewhere other Lib Dem MPs lost their seats and on what was a very negative campaign, is particularly galling especially as I was once a LibDem cllr.

He's where he is due to the very hard work that Andrew Aalders-Dunthorne put in - 3 general election campaigns. And the way the party ousted Andrew is unforgivable. By rights Andrew should be the MP now.

Well done to you too. I think I met you for a millisecond at a count a decade ago but you seem like a nice guy - perhaps, as another commentator put it - your in the wrong party :)

Anonymous said...

"Roll on 2014?"

Rather sooner, I should think; Hung Parliaments don't generally last long.

Hannah Welch said...

Interesting words, Antony. And an interesting result. What do you think about the polling stations around the country that had people turned away at 10pm who'd been queuing? And of the "student" and "local" lines at a polling station in Sheffield, which led to waits of several hours in pouring rain for students?

How would you deal with these issues to ensure that turn out goes up next time too?

Anonymous said...

Such a nice blog entry Mr. L. Shows you should have won with your principles and values, however roll on the Arab/Israeli Conflict on Monday morning!

Sausage King said...

As someone who knows you personally I can put my hand on my heart and say I know you would have done an incredible job of representing the people of Norwich South.

You would have been tireless in your pursuit of the best in everything for your constituents. You would have represented them with integrity and honesty which sometimes appears to be lacking in modern politics.

I've heard things about Charles Clarke which makes me relieved he is now not the MP for Norwich South. That in itself is an important step forward.

You must be gutted on one hand but don't forget you are an inspirational teacher. You will also have more time for Mrs Little and your daughters and that is worth a lot.

I do hope the local party select you again whenever the next general election comes round.

Anonymous said...

I am sure there will be another general election before 2014, I am certain you will have another shot at this in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Antony unlucky. If you were a Lib Dem I would have voted for you; saying that my vote was one of 8000 Green Ramsey votes. For me Cameron stated well with green movement (glad Zac Goldsmith got voted in Richmond), but it was obvious to many Green issues in the Tory party became "Greenwash" ...pretty much at the bottom of Tory policy issues. Pity!!

Red Star said...

As you probably know I have followed the election with great interest, and one thing I noticed is that a majority of people in Norwich South did not share the Conservative viewpoint. It was shall we say a disappointing night for you, but one which was predicted.
I can remember posting on this blog that you will not win Norwich South and I was proven right, but I was proven wrong on another issue.

I strongly predicted that either Labour will retain the seat or the Greens will take it from them. How wrong was I! In the end the Greens came out forth and it was a disappointing night for them. Firstly the Greens were unable to translate their local election success into a favourable General Election swing. (Although historically the Green swing was the highest for Norwich South.)
It's interesting that the Greens will note their success in Brighton which they should be proud of, but they forget the issue of their defeat in Norwich South.

For the record I overestimated the Greens success and underestimated the surge in Lib Dem support. I was proven wrong on this.

Why was this? Was it because the Greens success is only attributed to a local phenomena?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts Antony on these questions.

Red Star said...

Will you remain as prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South?

Do you honestly believe the Tories can win Norwich South after 2 electoral defeats in 2005, and 2010?

You mentioned swings, but at the end of the day what matters is who wins. Yes I agree that swings that deliver a victory should be noted and also whether you can see any trends, you are right the Conservative vote did increase, but NOT ENOUGH. You mention the 1980s, but we are in a new era, of Post - Labour politics, and it is interesting how the electorate reacting in Norwich South by voting Lib Dem. So different era, and different circumstances.

You are right to say Simon Wright MP has big shoes to fill, as I can remember the last Lib Dem administration at City Hall but we will wait and see. I am happy to give him a chance and to see if the Lib Dems could possible erode the Green vote at a local level, and also take back some of the Lib Dems who supported Greens locally.

MisterB said...

Like you, I find the LibDem victory very very very strange.

I don't know their man. I hope he isn't a scoundrel. He campaigned like one, so I am now pretty miserable that I have got to put all my trust in him as my MP.

I didn't vote for you (you would have to Green Up considerably before I could do that), but I like your blog and I thought you ran a decent, positive campaign. All the best.

Anonymous said...

The Conservative vote hardly increased in % terms Antony. Conservatives just can't get much beyond 25% these days. 75% are centre-left voters and they'll switch between the other 3.