Friday, June 27, 2008

HOT News: Explain the Evaporation of Labour Vote

Between my two Henley posts of the last 24 hours I had a go at Iain Dale's twaddle on Mandela and responded to a comment there. About not covering Henley. Which I read only after both the other posts were up.

I wasn't going to write about it on the face of the blog. Because it seems patently obvious, to any serious student of electoral politics, just where the missing 5,000 plus Labour voters had gone. But apparently it's not so.

Over at Lib Dem Voice Stephen Tall gave his analysis of the Lib Dem debacle and most of it made some sort of sense from a Lib Dem point of view. But tucked away in it was this line :

"That in Henley Labour’s vote collapse was split pretty evenly between the BNP, Tories and Lib Dems tells its own story of our increasingly fragmented party political system.

Wrong! Assuming that :

(a) the returning officer is yet to make marked registers available and those for the last General Election are also not to hand, and
(b) canvassing and tellering are somethingly less than 100% for the by-election and the General Election, and
(c) people are not necessarily honest about their commitment to vote at all, or indeed on for whom they will vote

Then there really is a huge lack of data on which to base these assertions. That being so I am amazed at Stephen's confident analysis of where this Labour vote supposedly went.

Clearly I don't know exactly what happened to it any more than he does. But experience and logic combine to suggest a sensible alternative. And an alternative that is far less of an issue for our little world of politics than the current media feeding frenzy on this near meaningless result would have it.

It's pretty clear. Most of the Labour vote stayed at home. As it generally does in hopeless local elections. And in hopeless by-elections. And more so when it's a little pissed with Labour too. Simple as. End of.

Applying percentages and swings to this 5,000 or so votes and divvying it up three ways is delusional, unscientific, and unjustifiable from the gross data available.

They went nowhere. They stayed at home. They vote only in general elections. Unless they are really pushed or pulled kicking and screaming. We have such voters in every constituency in the land. This time as a party we certainly did not spend the time and money necessary to get out this vote outside of a General Election.

The Tories have such voters too in various strong Labour seats. But in Henley? This time around 85% of Labour voters appear to be like that.

Incidentally, analysis of local council by-election results and wards newly contested by the BNP suggests that a pretty large proportion of all those voting for the BNP are not regular voters for the other parties at all.

Some voters only come out to play when the fascists stand.

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

Hi. For the first time in my life, I think you are right. Most of those who previously voted Labour will have stayed at home (although there will have been some who chose to support a different Party). Think back to 1997 - Conservative voters abstained in huge numbers and consequently the Labour victory was magnified. Even a brief analysis of the turnout and number of votes gained by party between the 1992 and 1997 demonstartes that the number of electors switching between Conservative and Labour was much smaller than popularly imagined.

My opinion is that those who vote BNP are, generally, those who live in areas where they feel 'surrounded', 'under threat' and abandoned by main-stream political parties. These people are much less likely to vote as they feel alienated - the BNP are effective at exploiting that sense and mobilising the disaffected.

Henley, despite its leafy suburb persona, has pockets of poverty and depravation which are/were ripe for the BNP to exploit.

The debate should, I suggest, focus much more on the LibDems failure to make progress. They opened their campaign office weeks before Boris resigned, completed a mailing exercise to every home shortly after and then, following the start of the actual by-election campaign, poured huge resources into Henley.

The modest increase in their vote share is scant reward for their efforts. The LibDem analysis I've read so far misses the obvious - they are today seen as being as useful as a chocolate fireguard.