Friday, August 31, 2007

As the summer fades...

August is normally political silly season when desperate hacks spend their time trawling through MPs dustbins to try and create a side-bar story for their daily rag. However, with all the chat being about a potential Autumn poll this year the silly season has been quite, quite serious.

The government have been doing the real work, of course, tackling floods, foot and mouth disease, and terror threats. The Conservatives have been doing the real job of opposition - planning for government - and Cameron has been on a roll with the work on housing, GCSE results, crime, tax and now immigration (thanks, in part, to an excellent Newsnight interview). Polls which show Brown's so-called "bounce" being halved in just a few weeks will bear out the fruitful nature of this work. The Conservatives do look frighteningly ready for a general election and the policy launches can easily be pulled into a manifesto.

However the total absence of the LibDems during this time has totally confused both bloggers and the mainstream media. You'd have to be totally misguided to believe that Sir Ming's one decent media foray - pullout of Iraq - was planned, or even a plan to knock Cameron off the telly. This is madness - the story was, if anything, created by Brown's people because they has control of the release of the letter in reply to Sir Ming. If I were a LibDem campaigner I wouldn't be happy with the party yet again banging on about Iraq, it simply makes you look like a single-issue pressure group. Other than that, not a word from our little yellow chums in the LibDems. A cunning plan to avoid silly season? Hardly, with their dire poll ratings (14% reported again today) they need all the coverage they can get.

The EDP has a rather good report on Clarke's efforts to hold onto Norwich South today and I think to some degree his confidence is held in the belief that the opposition is split 3 ways in the constituency. Those LibDems who believe, somehow, that the vast numbers of Green votes will simply come flocking back to them at the first sign of a bar chart or that Tories will vote tactically are barking not so much up the wrong tree as in the wrong forest. All three other parties dislike the Norwich LibDems with a passion. Their PPC is making zero media impact, the council group is dwindling and the campaigning still isn't taking off. They are made mincemeat of in the council chamber and Norwich doesn't feel ready to forgive them for their tenure in office 02-06. I can honestly say that I haven't met a single Tory voter who is ready to vote tactically for them - in fact, most put Labour and the LibDems in the same box. The Tories in Norwich have their USPs in place and will build on those (whoever the candidate is).

The LibDems would have you believe that this is a two-horse race (cue graphic of two horses!) but I am not going to patronise the electorate like they do. I say any one of four parties could win Norwich South. Clarke says he hopes people won't tactically vote. I'd agree, but add that I hope people vote for the party or person they believe in. Politics shouldn't be about choosing the person you hate the least (this is, essentially, the LibDem argument) but about lending your mandate to the candidate whose vision most closely matches your own. My feel from the doorstep is that people agree with this.

If the LibDems campaign heavily on the tactical vote I think that people will reject it. I wonder if all the candidates fighting this election in this constituency would be willing to sign a "positive campaign" pledge and promise to focus on policy and not tactical voting? It sounds like Labour and the Conservatives would ... will the Greens and LibDems? Seats don't get anymore interesting than Norwich South.


Anonymous said...

I think both Clarke and Ramsay are creditable candidates. They both have a real passion for what that wish to acheive for Norwich, although different. I do not think the public are interested in spoiling and dirty politics by LibDems or other blogsters.

I think politicans should respect the way folks vote tactically or from hte heart, and just get on with the business of communicating and delivering the policies and ideas they have for Norwich.

IMO if voters see an election is getting messy without any real policies addressing voters real issues, they will just vote for the safe incumbent candidate, Charles Clarke, and be done with.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Clarke and Ramsay are good candidates, and IMHO as you are Antony. The LibDems have a record of picking donkeys for this seat and that record continues for the next election. I can't even name their candidate ... and I'm vaguely interested politics and always vote. Says a lot about their strategy.

Anonymous said...


I think maybe you have let a little partisanship(is that a word) - understandably - reduce the standard of your normally excellent blog.

While the Tories have been very active over the summer it seems the more people know about their "new" ideas the less they like them, and it seems a general theme in the polls that a slight lead has become a 5-10% deficit over the last few months.

The Lib Dems have been active, but rather than going into inititative overload like Mr Cameron have made fewer, sounder appearances on issues like the Iraq War (still important and we must NOT forget the Tories supported that one), practical ideas to tackle climate change, looking to be better equipped to deal with the next set of floods and so on.

Locally I accept your point the all three PARTIES detest the Lib Dems - whether their voters feel the same I doubt. And don't be too sure that just coz your voters say they won't desert you that they definitely won't when the pencil is in their hand.

HOWEVER, I do agree with you that their shrinking and ineffective councillor base is no position from which to fight an effective GE campaign and that yes the tactical voting message without any other USP to back it up will go down like a lead balloon. to be honest I am surprised to see Mr Clarke talking the threat up.

Finally, your last sentence "seats don't get more interesting than Norwich South" I think is spot on.

Anonymous said...

It will be a fascinating contest. Much as Charlie C is a national figure, locally he is running down the Labour majority. I have canvassed with him and I have seen why.....

Locally the Lib Dems are a busted flush. Ever since I have been involved in Norwich politics (since late 80's) any Lib Dem progress has been based on the efforts of a few certain individuals who got stuck in (e.g Lamb, A-D, Williams) - they have now all either gone elsewhere or been alienated by the local party. Like a car running on fumes the Lib Dems are a party running on hot air.

Part of the result will depend on the certainty of the national result. If it looks like Labour is on course I would tip the Greens to challenge for 2nd place. Really this is a seat where the Tories should challenge - the party has "out-localled" the Lib Dems in recent campaigning but the national tide needs to turn a bit more.

As a prediction I believe Charles Clarke will hold on. However, he might challenge Sir Russell Johnston's 1992 record of the lowest percentage total for a winning candidate! (Inverness - if you are interested).