Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 24 July 2009

Norwich North & Chloe Smith's victory - what is the message?

It is generally a mistake to question the electorate's decision after a by-election or general election. The voters have spoken and congratulations to Chloe Smith who becomes the youngest MP at 27 years old (I wonder if Jo Swinson feel just that little bit older this afternoon ;)).

However I do think that the message from this election is decidedly odd. This is the first by-election triggered as a result of the expenses scandal. Ian Gibson, the former Labour MP had his future political career destroyed by his own party after his expenses came to light and he decided to quit the Commons rather than hang around during the fag-end of this administration.

Because of the circumstances of the by-election, you might imagine that the beneficiaries of it would have been the parties that were least associated with the expenses scandal and/or were associated with being particularly clean.

This has manifestly not happened. Although Chloe Smith herself had nothing to do with the expenses scandal, her party was slap bang in the middle of it with arguably many of the worst examples and offences perpetrated by their members. And yet they are rewarded with a stunning by-election win with a 7,000+ majority.

Now of course the expenses scandal will not have been the only thing people were voting on, there are all sorts of other issues but this does demonstrate to me that it looks like the Conservatives are going to do very well and are not likely to be punished for the actions of some of their members in a way that natural justice might suggest is warranted.

I think strategists in all parties will need to take note of this. Perhaps the expenses scandal will not after all have the huge effect in the upcoming general election that many politicians feared.


Kalvis Jansons said...

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Greenfield said...

There is no justice in the World! God help us (& those who voted Tory yesterday)if we have a Tory Govt next year.................

Lady Schwarz said...

I think we are in an area of anything but Labour voting. Those who can't bring themselves to vote Tory, are spreading their votes between other parties or just not voting. That's really worrying, not because I'm anti Tory, but because they could gain a massive majority. Which will take another landslide to over throw.

And who will drive that landslide?

Duncan Stott said...

But sadly Lady Schwarz none of that ex-Labour vote seems to be going to the Lib Dems. I have absolutely no idea why.

Kalvis Jansons said...

Like Duncan, I cannot understand why the Lib Dems did not do better than this, and I find that very worrying.

marcuscleaver said...

In many ways I'm glad the expenses scandal appears to have not upset the results in Norwich North. Whilst it is still an important issue where reform needs to be implemented, I wouldn't want it to be the basis upon which we elect a government.

Robert Stopford said...

Warmest congratulations to Chloe Smith and the Tory team in Norwich North. Please God this presages a truly titanic Tory victory at the General Election. This truly appalling Labour government deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Lady Schwarz said...

@Duncan Scott

You have generally two types of Labour voters, those that voted for them in 1997 i.e New Labour voters and those that have always voted Labour i.e Old Labour.

The latter will just not vote, very few will switch to another party. As their Father voted Labour, their Grandfather voted Labour and so on. The former will mainly switch to the Tories, or as it seems split between Lib Dems and the Greens.

On this occasion the Greens ate into your vote share. However Norwich is considered a strong Green area, nationally it shouldn't have as much impact. Though it should still be of concern to Nick Clegg. That's thousands of potential votes.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

Why do you say, “the Conservatives are going to do very well and are not likely to be punished for the actions of some of their members in a way that natural justice might suggest is warranted.” when what is just surely is that the perpetrators, being the individual MPs are punished, not their party?

I think public anger was specifically directed at the sinning individuals, with an element of general dissatisfaction with all MPs. Those MPs directly involved in the scandal in a serious way I think can expect electoral problems. None of the Norwich North candidates were sinning individuals, nor did they represent parties that did other than condemn the expenses scandal. Perhaps that helps explain why it was not a material issue in that by-election.

Matthew Huntbach said...

The Conservative Party campaign seemed to be mainly about making vague commitments to small things which would cost more taxpayers' money. It was some what difficult to match this with the Conservative Party's commitment to low taxation.

The Liberal Democrat campaign seemed to involve the same sort of "I'm a nice local lady" stuff as the Conservatives, plus similar sorts of spending commitments, nothing much on the huge crisis this country is facing and the need for tough action to combat it, and lots and lots of screaming abuse aimed at all the others. That's how our literature I saw posted on the web came across - so dull one would hardly glance at it as it passed from letter box to bin, but what you saw was headlines attacking, attacking attacking all the other parties. So it came across as everything people loathe about politicians - self-important people puffing themselves up with self-promotion, and throwing abuse at every one else like silly little kiddies. I saw nothing in our literature which really showed our full vision for a better society, and which rooted us where we should be - people who want to end enslavement by poverty, ignorance and conformity. THAT should be the centre of our campaigns, not "Labour, the Conservatives and the Greens are all nasty poo-ey people, and we're nice, and even if you don't think us nice here's a boring bar chart to show why you should vote for us even though you don't really want to".

"The others are all rotten so vote for us" may have worked for us in the past, but we're now seen as mainstream not rebels against the system, people who think that way are going to go for UKIP and the Greens.

This really was an appallingly bad campaign in our part. Those responsible for it just seemed to have no insight for what is happening in politics at the moment and for how people are thinking, and for how to break the anti-politics mood. They dug out the tired old ways we've run campaigns in the past and even then did a bad job at it. The bar-chart "two horse race" approach can work, but only when it's true and comes on top of a campaign which is forceful and positive enough to amke us the main contender against the favourite. Here was a classic example of how not to do it - we didn't do enough to convince people of it, so it just came across as lying politicians trying to get votes by trickery and abuse.