The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Perhaps All Is Not Lost?

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 16, 2009 @ 19:38

Welcome to Bedford (Prison)!

Welcome to Bedford (Prison)!

Lo! What news from Bedford?

The Liberal Democrat candidate has been declared the newly elected mayor of Bedford after beating the rival Conservative candidate in the run-off.

Intriguing. That will doubtless put a spring in the step of the staff at Cowley Street for the next week at least!

Yes, it is a by-election. And by-elections don’t always follow the trend. Indeed, if recent council by-election results were anything to go by, it would be a very promising sign that perhaps the Lib Dem vote is going to hold up well in the face of the Tory onslaught after all…

The interesting thing about this result, too, is that the very nature of the ballot, the Supplementary Vote with its second preference votes, makes this a very real test of tactical voting – with sufficient voters for the other candidates being prepared to support the LDs. But the fact that this was not FPTP should give us pause before drawing too many conclusions from it.

Clearly, the elimination of the two independent candidates, the Labour and the Green candidate, did more to benefit us Lib Dems – as we picked up over 4,000 votes in the “second round” compared to 2,438 for the Conservative. That is a very promising sign that Labour voters – and others – will be prepared to lend us their vote.

Because this was what I fear most at the next election: a straight battle between us and the Tories, with a Labour vote that has already been seriously squeezed. The presence of the Indies makes things even more complicated. But either way, both Tory and Lib Dem first preference votes held up extremely well – both achieving around 9k compared to 10k in the previous election in 2007. Those second preferences – and future tactical voters, hopefully – made the critical difference.

It does bode well, but we have to be wary about extrapolating too heavily here. When the government of the country is at stake, you can be sure the turnout will be much greater.

But, let’s face it, surveys have shown consistently that those most likely to vote are generally Conservatives. Indeed, LD voters are notorious for saying they may not actually vote at all, sometimes worse than Labour voters. Tory turnout is always good, regardless of the election on offer. It is usually ours and Labour voters that play much harder to get.

With that in mind, if the election outcome can, somehow, be put back in the balance, for it to be close enough to be all to play for, it might motivate Labour voters in Con-LD marginals to get out there.

Perhaps it might even be counter-productive for Cameron to overplay the uncertainty of the election result. There can be no room for complacency, of course, but trying to argue it’s exceptionally tight when it isn’t (as the polls are showing) could be the push that gets Labour and LD voters to the ballot box.

Maybe that’s what we saw here too. It had long been predicted that the Bedford result would be on a knife edge. And so it came to pass. The electorate really do love a closely-fought election which could swing either way. Makes it far more dramatic and entertaining!

That’s what we’ve gotta provide then…

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