Sunday, May 6, 2012

Independents Day!

The 2012 local elections are over. Nationally, the coalition took a drubbing and Labour are claiming victory. What about the results in Huntingdonshire and St Neots? The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats did take a drubbing. But not everywhere. Labour won 1 seat. But also lost vote. UKIP also gained a seat but didn't do as well as their pre-election hype. It was the Independents that caused problems for the Conservatives and made one gain.

In looking at the results I have 2 datasets. The first is a comparison with the seats up for election and those same seats back in 2008. The next set is comparison where the same seats were fought in 2011 and 2012.

2008 v 2012

2011v 2012

In 2009 there was a County Council Election and in 2010 the District Election were combined with the General Election. So neither of these results have been included.

The gaining of Huntingdon North was to happen. If Labour were to make a breakthrough it had to be here. Whilst a win is a win, Labour should be disappointed this wasn't a better win. A majority of 97 when all your resources should have been targeted at this seat is pretty pathetic. The Labour vote dropped away everywhere else against their 2011 results. In 2011 Labour got a boost and they have failed to capitalise on this. In terms of vote Labour was last.

The gain in Eaton Socon is a fantastic success with Derek Giles winning by miles against the Conservatives. Just goes to show what a properly run campaign can achieve with plenty of leaflets and door knocking. The Independents for St Ives retained the Town Council against a Conservative onslaught. Independents in Godmanchester and The Hemingfords also gave the Conservative winners a run for their money.

In the end it is time, energy and commitment that needs to be put into a campaign. I didn't think Derek Giles would win because I thought the Conservative vote was more solid. In the end it was very soft.

Liberal Democrats
They were defending 3 seats. In the end they held two and lost one. `It is very obvious the Liberal Democrats had a strategy of defending Huntingdon East and Brampton. Where they fought they stemmed their losses to retain their seats. In the rest of the seats they just put up paper candidates and lost badly. In St Neots they lost by miles destroying what had been built up for years. In Eaton Socon Gordon Thorpe got just 53 votes.

In terms of seats the Liberal Democrats are still the main opposition party. In terms of votes, the Liberal Democrats have fallen from a solid second to third place behind UKIP.

They put up candidates in all 15 seats up for election. In terms of votes they came second with 4604. They gained the last seat in Ramsey which was expected. Elsewhere there was no real election strategy to win other seats. If there was a strategy it utterly failed. In Warboys and Bury, UKIP had a chance but failed to capitalise on this chance. If I was UKIP I would be happy about the vote but disappointed other seats weren't properly targeted.

The Conservatives had a torrid time. They expectedly lost in Ramsey and Huntingdon North. They unexpectedly lost in Eaton Socon and gained Warboys and Bury which the Liberal Democrats gave up on.

Looking at the results the Conservatives were targeting Huntingdon North and St Ives leaving the rest to get on with it. Not contesting Sawtry because the independent "was a tory" is a pathetic excuse. The reason they didn't stand was local opposition to the Sex Shop which the Conservatives passed.

So why did the Conservatives do so badly? The "National situation" will be the main excuse. Yet where the Conservatives did properly campaign their vote did stand up. Where the Conservatives just did the minimum is where they lost and lost badly. Against the 2011 results the Conservatives lost 47% of their vote. A dramatic loss that has much to do with how badly the Conservatives are communicating with the electorate than any "national situation".

The Conservatives put much time and effort into St Ives. The Council Leader, Jason Ablewhite, and the Deputy Chairman Political - Ryan Fuller were leading a charge to take control of St Ives Town Council. This failed. Not only did they have many leaflets and their own website they charged after the Independents to the detriment of other campaigns. If all the Conservative campaigns had similar resources and communication between the Conservatives and the electorate their losses would be been stemmed.

Nor did the Conservatives have much to say. Their literature was lacklustre. In this age of austerity the District Council has gone on a spending spree and raised Council Tax. In raising Council Tax they broke a promise. A spend, spend, spend strategy which didn't go down well with Conservative voters.

The loss of Andy Jennings to an Independent campaign by Derek Giles is a great set back for the Conservatives. This shows the Conservative vote is soft when against Independents and cannot compete against a properly organised independent campaign. The Conservatives need to take stock of where they want to go forward. My advice is simple. Cut council tax and get back to communicating with the electorate all the year round rather than only at election time.

The Conservatives have 2 years to turn this around or 2014 could be much worse. The County Council elections in 2013 could be another torrid time for the Conservatives. But not from Labour or the Liberal Democrats but from properly organised Independents. Derek Giles and others have shown Independents can win if properly organised.

A win is a win and the Conservatives won on a much reduced share of the vote. The opposition vote spread across many parties and Independents. The Liberal Democrats just don't have the resources to be the main opposition party nor does UKIP. Much will be made about the national situation yet where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats properly campaigned they didn't lose much vote. It was where minimal or non-existent campaigns took place was where the main two parties lost vote.

It was the Independents that took the fight to the Conservatives causing problems in most of the wards they stood in. The Conservative assault on the Independents for St Ives failed badly. It was the Independents election. Independents day.

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