Firstly, and not wishing to blow my own trumpet (oh why not, it’s one of the trappings of writing my own blog eh?), every single one of my predictions in the Ipswich Borough Council elections and also the Suffolk County Council by-election turned out to be correct. Mr Geater over at the
Morning Ipswich Star parish boasted his predictions were a clean sheet as well but he only forecasted the number of gains and losses not precise ward results.
Anyway less of the gloating, let’s get down to business.
This was a very bad night for the Tories. Their vote collapsed across the Borough. You know you are in trouble when your majority in one of your safest wards collapses to just over 200 – as in Castle Hill – when you are used to a thumping 1000 gap from your nearest rival. What were the reasons for this? It’s two fold: Labour continue to gain from the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, which has not recovered from last year, and, more importantly the Tory vote, as I predicted, has this year stayed at home. The difference between hanging on in some wards and political oblivion for the Tories rested on their Get Out the Vote campaign, which patently failed:
– The literature failed to emphasise voting Conservative, instead majoring on unknown candidates.
– There was no use of social media from the constituency party as is seen with Ipswich Labour.
– The Ipswich Conservatives website elections page was left blank throughout the campaign.
– The dead tree press media were not informed of Tory MEP and MP visits until late after the event.
A telling moment last night was the Bixley County by-election. This was the only seat where UKIP fielded a candidate and as predicted Chris Streatfield stole over 200 votes, undoubtedly, from the Tory candidate Alan Murray. Even if UKIP had not been standing Cty Cllr Murray’s majority would still have been only 600 in a normally safe Conservative seat where he should be polling close to 1000. As it is, his majority is a slim 300. This is very worrying sign for the Tories.
Overall in Ipswich, the Conservatives lost three seats on the Borough Council: St John’s, Stoke Park and Whitton. Labour gained these three Tory seats and one seat – in Alexandra ward – from the Liberal Democrats, where Cllr Adam Leeder romped home with a majority 656 with the Lib Dem and Tory vote collapsing further. A very good result here for Labour. As the night wore on the Conservative vote just kept hemorrhaging: hundreds of voters deserted the Tories in Whitton, St John’s and Stoke Park.
Rushmere was one of the wards to watch and even the last minute upset over Ransomes Sports Club failed to prevent Cllr Alasdair Ross storming back to Grafton House with a massive majority over the Conservatives. Back in 2008 Cllr Ross had a majority of 13 – he now has increased this to 547.
It was a major strategic error for the Tories to target Rushmere – it was as plain as day that in this political climate the Conservatives would never come close to beating incumbent and one-man Labour campaigning machine Alasdair Ross. But still the ward was chosen as a target seat. Would this have anything to do with Rushmere Borough and County councillor Judy Terry now being the Ipswich Conservative Party chairman and also being up for election next year? I feel sorry for Chris Chambers – I know what it is like to lose after fighting tooth and nail (as I did against Sandy Martin in St John’s back in 2006). So I really hope his expectations weren’t raised by people who should know better as last night would have been a bitter blow for a young man and could put him off active politics for a while, which would be a great shame.
The Tories would have done better to target Holywells because if it wasn’t for Labour’s poor choice of candidate and the lack of a right-wing independent on the ballot paper, Pam Stewart would have been toast. The majority in this seat is becoming very thin. Former council leader Liz Harsant won by 93 votes last year. Cllr Stewart scraped home with 49 votes after a re-count this year. If Labour sort our their Selection Committee, this ward will be there’s for the taking in 2014.
Another close result was, as predicted, St Margaret’s. This ward also went to a re-count. On a lower turnout than last year (40% to 54%) Liberal Democrat Cllr Andrew Cann pipped Tory Stephen Ion to the post by 97 votes. This was a tricky result to predict. On polling day both the Lib Dems and the Tories had difficulty getting their vote out – Labour’s share of the vote actually increased by 1% compared to last year – but Andrew Cann’s name recognition allowed him to just pull ahead of the Conservatives.
So back to the Conservative collapse and how this might shape the political landscape over the next few years and beyond. People who have voted Conservative for decades no longer feel at home in the modern Conservative Party and yesterday they told Tory high command exactly what they think. Conservative voters are passionate about getting the economy moving again. They pay most of the nation’s taxes and want to see they are getting value for their money. Instead, the Government is borrowing more now than when Gordon Brown was last in office. The national debt is now at £1Trillion! The Government should be doing everything it can to sort out the British economy in a targeted fashion: Why are they cutting defence spending but increasing international aid to nuclear-armed India? Why is Cameron pandering to the metropolitan chattering classes by trying to legislate for gay marriages when we are back in recession? Why look at House of Lords reform when energy prices are crippling household budgets?
UKIP’s vote across the country rose last night as the Tory vote nosedived. Finally, after months of posts from right-wing commentators like myself, Conservative MPs – other than the usual suspects – have broken cover to denounce the Tory leadership for pandering to the metropolitan liberal elite over the ordinary mainstream British voter. The normally über-loyal Gary Streeter – Conservative MP for Devon South West – went on the BBC last night and said Cameron and his Tory ministers needed to be more Conservative and less Liberal. You don’t say? The only time in the life-time of the Coalition Cameron has done well in the polls is when he wielded a pseudo-veto against a financial arrangement in Brussels to prop up the monopoly money Euro. There’s a message somewhere there.
To add salt to the wound, Baroness Warsi on the same election result programme likened UKIP to the BNP. Someone needs to whip round a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence people to Central Office. It’s never a good idea to smear the voters who you need to win back.
David Cameron is not standing up for Tory voters and yesterday, as a consequence, they deserted the Conservative Party in their droves. As I’ve said before, Mr Cameron is still likely to become the only Conservative leader to lose two general elections in a row unless he wakes up, smells the coffee, and realises his own supporters have had enough. There might just be enough time for him to pull out of the death spiral…