Thursday, July 23, 2009

Norwich North: What's a good result?

After the results come out it's likely that all the parties will be declaring they've received a good result, well, all of them except Labour. It's always been a little bug bear of mine that politicians do this when hours before they were claiming they were going to win they still feel able to justify how halving their vote was a great victory in the circumstances.

Anyway, as my tiny contribution against this tendency I thought I'd lay out what I think would be a good or bad result for the parties in Norwich North. Feel free to disagree - but only before the final result comes out!

The Conservatives:

Probably the simplest to judge. For the Tories a win is a good result, anything else will be gutting for them. I don't necessarily think it matters how convincing the majority is but second place for Chloe Smith (right) would tarnish Cameron's armour no end.

Out of interest Iain Dale writes about the parties lowering expectations.
We all wish Labour's candidate Chris Osterowski a swift recovery from his swine flu but what would a good result for Labour look like? Frankly a victory would leave most Labour supporters over the moon despite the fact that they have held the seat for many years.

However, the real question will be how badly will they lose. Second place won't be a good result for Labour but they could weather it. Third or below would be absolutely humiliating, especially if they are beaten by the Greens.

Gordon Brown doesn't seem to have high hopes though.
Lib Dems:
The Lib Dems can't win here. But then we knew that. Having said that if the Lib Dems are able to beat Labour and gain second place I suspect they'd be very pleased indeed. If they do that by getting more than, say, 20% rather than a total collapse of Labour's vote all the better for them.

The humiliation zone for the Lib Dems will be to get beaten by the Green Party, who achieved just one sixth of their vote at the General Election in this constituency. One election leaflet claimed that the Lib Dems were on track to beat Labour and the very last one claimed the result would be a "thrilling finish" between the Tories and Lib Dems. This is all well and good if the result bears out that that was a possibility, but if they're beaten by Labour it will make the claim look foolish and once again they will hope for the voters to develop amnesia.

All credit to Lib Dem Darrell for making a sensible prediction.
Green Party:
At the last election the Green Party received just 2.7% of the vote in Norwich North. Normally I would say that any increase on this would be a good result and a decline a bad one, but this election is different. Circumstances have changed, the Norwich Green Party has grown in that time and of course this time we have an actual campaign in the constituency so we have to set the bar higher.

I think I'll be disappointed if Rupert Read does not get at least 10% of the vote (almost four times what we received last time) especially when you consider the press coverage. It would be a very good result if we beat the Lib Dems. Second place would be fantastic, although that's less likely than some Greens seem to think.
Craig Murray:
This is the first time that Murray has stood in Norwich North so there's no telling what kind of support he might get. His campaign, Put An Honest Man in Parliament, sets the bar high by focusing on winning the seat so anything under that might feel like a slap in the face to him, but it shouldn't.

The people of Norwich can be a surprising lot when they put their mind to it and it would have been good for Craig to have been on more of the official hustings, especially the BBC, putting anti-war, progressive arguments with Rupert, but he has won a certain amount of name recognition so 5% and his deposit back is not impossible and where I would set the level for a 'good result' for his campaign.
As you might expect UKIP's campaign has been bizarre, hyperbolic and bigoted. I'm tempted to say that a good result for the candidate is not getting a smack in the face for his anti-immigrant bullshit but I shan't in case someone thinks I'm advocating violence.

Anyway, UKIP have given us an indication of what they think the result should look like (right) so given it's their propaganda and we should take them at their word and any result where Labour, Lib Dems AND the Greens beat them will expose their utterly miserable political judgement.
Let's see what happens tonight. Good luck my team!


Strategist said...

Jim, I agree with all your analyses here, except to say that if Craig Murray retains his deposit this should be viewed as a brilliant, near-miraculous performance given the media - including local media - blackout Craig has been operating under.

It is wrong for anyone to think of Craig Murray's campaign as some kind of ego-trip. The circumstances of the by-election are very particular: the Commons expenses debacle and what this reveals about the stitch up of British democracy by the major parties, not just sleaze but the stitch up of the voting system, the decline in independent-minded MPs as national parties stitch up candidate selection so that only identikit mediocre permanently on-message party hacks can ever make it, and so on.

All this is what Craig Murray's campaign is specifically about, and justifies running as an Independent. as well as plain speaking on Afghanistan, the banking bailout etc.

If Craig saves his deposit then BBC Newsnight's Michael Crick shoudl resign.

Jim Jay said...

I certainly don't think that independent candidacies are de facto ego campaigns - at least not when compared to the ego driven ambitions of party candidates.

However, I do think less than 5% for Murray would not be a good result because at the end of the day it doesn't matter what obstacles are in his way - if he doesn't get a substantial minority of people voting for him he didn't make an impact and it wasn't worth standing.

The news hasn't changed its agenda from before Murray stood so all independent candidates should bear this in mind when standing - you'll have to fight to get your voice heard in a way that the Labour candidate, for example, wont.

It doesn't matter if it's unfair it still wont be a good result.

What's interesting about the fact the Greens have been one of the four players in this election is that the press *do* recognise candidates outside the big three if they've earned that place.

Rupert has dedicated a large amount of time to the people of Norwich serving for some years as a local councillor and the Green Party more generally has come from nowhere to being a real player in the city. You can carve out a niche and the press will take you seriously, but it's not easy.

It's certainly not a matter of just turning up and demanding airtime.

The press could not ignore the Greens - but they could ignore Murray because he has not done anything to force them to take notice.

I wish him all the best and I hope he gets his deposit back but if he didn't know before that there is an uneven playing field I really don't know why.

Strategist said...

Firm but fair, Jim.

I wish Rupert Read well, and he's a good candidate, although I think Craig Murray is head and shoulders the best & most talented candidate in the election. It's unlucky that this election sets the two of them against each other.

What would be really fascinating would be to run a shadow election using Single Transferable Vote - that would give fascinating results. I personally would be delighted to cast transferable vote in Norwich North, but would find a single "X" hurting a bit.

Anyway, Good Luck My Team!