Friday, January 14, 2011

Oldham East and Saddleworth result

It was no surprise that Labour won, although I have to admit the fact that the Lib Dems managed to slightly increase their vote share was unexpected. Of course this was aided by the Tory strategy aimed at bolstering the coalition by fighting a low key campaign where they might, arguably have been able to fight their way into second place. However, it's useful to note that the Lib Dems are still able to mobilise a viable, if losing, campaign.

The results taken from wikipedia show Labour's current increased poll ratings being borne out on the ground.

Debbie Abrahams Labour 14,718 42.1% +10.2

Elwyn Watkins Liberal Democrat 11,160 31.9% +0.3

Kashif Ali Conservative 4,481 12.8% -13.6

Paul Nuttall UKIP 2,029 5.8% +1.9

Derek Adams BNP 1,560 4.5% -1.2

Peter Allen Green 530 1.5% N/A

Nick "The Flying Brick" Delves Monster Raving Loony 145 0.4% N/A

Stephen Morris English Democrats 144 0.4% N/A

Loz Kaye Pirate 96 0.3% N/A

David Bishop Bus-Pass Elvis 67 0.1% N/A

In other news I was pleased that the BNP failed to either get their deposit back or achieve their previous fourth place in an area they think of as a target. I also happen to think that Peter Allen's 530 votes were very good considering the Greens had not stood in the area before.

I'm never sure about standing candidates in these kind of elections where we're unlikely to come fourth or better. It seems to be a prime opportunity to risk coming below Bus-Pass Elvis without any likely returns. I do wonder whether taking the lost £500 deposit and instead spending it on any random area in the country in a membership recruitment drive would actually have a better longer term impact.

I'm glad Peter got a good result as I would have been worried about mentioning this if he'd got less than 1% but it's hard enough for the Greens standing in by-elections where we have a good electoral history and a strong local party - but here this was the first time we'd ever stood, so it was a real gamble.

It reminds me of when the Greens stood against David Davis in his vanity resignation/restanding during the last Parliament. Ultimately we came second, which was a relief, because if we'd been beaten by the English Democrats et al it would have been a real embarrassment. I'm unconvinced we gained very much by putting ourselves in the firing line on that occasion.

If we're going to stand in these things it would be handy to get more of a by-election machine going, in the way the Lib Dems do - so we're prepared to give local parties support when they fight by-elections like this. But I do think it's worth considering that we don't have to stand just because there's an election and no result can someties be better than a poor result.


James Mackenzie said...

I'm not convinced by the doubts, although I agree about the need for Flying By-election Machine.

There's more to a Green by-election campaign than just the final scores on the doors. At least one of the recent Glasgow ones brought in more money than the whole campaign cost, they motivate activists and give them experience, they boost votes for local elections (especially if we use them to pick a ward or two), and they remind people we're here - useful when a PR election like the Euros comes round.

Not standing looks like impotence or irrelevance or disrespect to the local electorate too.

Brian Candeland said...

During my long time in the Green Party I've seen both sides of the by-election 'should we stand' debate. In this case I am convinced it was the right decision - it has energised the Party in a corner of Greater Manchester where it was virtually non-existent.
There were about 20 Greens at the count, which even impressed Party veteran Clive Lord

Charlie Kiss said...

Better to stand, I think. Our vote will grow and we need to have a base everywhere or perhaps nearly everywhere. Otherwise it will be asked' where was the Green Party. Answer ' they are so small they didn't even put anyone up to stand! '

Peter Cranie said...

I agree that we should be trying to stand everywhere, even in difficult constituencies. There are three "big" parties now, and three "medium" sized parties, of which we are one.

The hard work by Peter Allen, Ian Barker and others certainly will have had impact. We ran an absolutely minimum campaign in Crewe and Nantwich, ending up with just 0.9% of the vote, so 1.5% is a reasonable return given our limited resources.

There is some interesting debate about how the result would have gone under AV. I think Labour would still have won but it would have been very close.

Jim Jepps said...

I agree this vote is good - and also with James' points that by-elections can be very useful - I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm against standing in by-elections at all.

My concerns, and I wont put it stronger than that, is when we stand where we are likely to appear in a jumble of weird and wonderful organisations. It's one thing to say we want to look like a player so must stand and another thing to explain how getting 0.9% (for example) helps us look like players.

I think the local greens have got a very good result here, which probably bears out standing - but the cost of even a minimal campaign (that may end up depressing local greens) might be better spent in different ways, so it's worth remembering we don't *have* to stand.

HelloKnitty said...

Two recent by elections that have played well for us-

We could have hardly have avoided standing in the Norwich North By-election with the strength of support that exists in that city.

And didn't we also get a good result in the Henley By-election beating labour into a dismal fifth place?

By-elections have there uses. There are buds of many local parties starting to grow across the country in the most unusual places. Maybe this will prove to be a blossoming in Oldham?

However I agree with Jim when we are coming in below parties like the BNP we risk looking like also rans and money loosing ones at that.

Anonymous said...

By elections can be tricky. David Owen's SDP Mk2 gave up, after his candidate was beaten by the Loony party in the Bootle by election (Lord Sutch kindly offered to form a alliance with them, but they wound the party up.)

Anonymous said...

Looking at the election figures the most significant fact is that the combined Conservative / LD vote dropped by 10,000 while the number of Labour voters stayed static in a significantly reduced turnout.

Presumably all parties lost some voters to the reduced turnout but Labour was buoyed by left leaning Lib Dems shifting to them, the Lib Dems were buoyed by Tory tactical voters, and the Conservatives then seem to have lost most heavily.

Anonymous said...

Anon, according to Political Betting there was quite a bit of churn

Interesting to see it was Tim Farron rallying the Lib Dem activists, I wonder if the Lib Dem party would have mobilised so effectively with Clegg. The problem with Peter Allan’s 1.5% is, some Greens have been gloating over the Lib Dems falling to 7% saying the Lib Dems would come third or fourth; this result makes them look foolish.

Paul Jeater said...

At present under FPTP in most seats the Green vote will be depressed because of "wasted vote" syndrone. However James Mackenzie nails it -by elections provide a political education for members and sympathisers, and prepare the ground for local/euro/regional campaigns. After May if AV were to be introduced it would be folly not to stand.
At present a Green candidate offers the only resting place for an elector who wants to vote for an alternative to cuts today, tomorrow or for the next four years. Surely the political advantages outweigh the financial costs.

Jim Jepps said...

Paul, I'm certainly not opposed to standing at all, I'm just saying that we should not feel obliged to stand and should weigh up each by election as they come.

It's not just the financial cost (although we should always try to use resources efficiently) there is a political cost to consider too. In those elections where we get less than 1% for instance do not necessarily help the public see us as an alternative - and AV will not change the fact that we are a minor party who, in many places, will still get less than 1% of first preferences

Jim Jepps said...

For example this is a quote from a Green leaning blog today on the electoral prospects in Scotland;

"Nonetheless, it must be concerning for Patrick Harvie’s party that there is no evidence in the above figures that a Lib Dem decline will equate to a Green surge, despite the Green party holding firm to many of the former cornerstones of Lib Dem philosophy. We saw in the Oldham by-election that the Greens couldn’t even overcome UKIP and the BNP despite there being a Lib Dem freefall (masked by Tory tactical voting) so it appears the Greens do not have their challenges to seek."

So the by-election result, where we are not players, is being used to assess our prospects in a region where we are... as I say we need to think about the political cost of standing in by-elections before going ahead with it - and if we do stand we should take it seriously which is why I agree with setting up a by-election resources team to support local parties where they are standing.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's reasonable to have some clear criteria before we advise local parties on whether to contest a by-election or not. In the current circumstances I think it is probably worth contesting about 90% of them. But in seats where we are in danger of getting a really, really appalling vote some contests are best avoided. I would suggest that a suburban seat with very unfavourable demographics, no local Green Party, and which was a hotly contested Tory/Labour marginal - was perhaps a seat where we would want to avoid.

Oldham was worth contesting and we did slightly better than I anticipated - my prediction was 1.1%

Darren Johnson