What defeat will mean for the losers in the Westbourne by-election

There are just two full days of campaigning left before the Westbourne by-election. And the result is too close to call.

As the Conservative candidate, Graham Cox, admitted in a comment on this blog earlier today, the Labour and Green candidates have him well beaten on the poster front, but added mischievously, that all the windows in Westbourne without a poster must be supporting him.

My Pal Paul, the UKIP candidate Paul Perrin, claims to have beaten Graham in the poster race. A good result for UKIP will be fourth place, ahead of the Lib Dems.

The only good result for the Tories would be to hold the seat but a narrow defeat (a majority of less than about 20 votes) can be explained away by a low turnout and the poll taking place when most people’s thoughts will be on turkey, duck, and sprouts, or if you are a Green, nut roast and organic cabbage.

Graham Cox, if he is elected, will prove to be an exceptional councillor, if his previous track record as a police officer is anything to go by. He will not be your ‘normal’ Tory councillor, with an appeal that will transcend normal party lines. (I also have a shocking revelation about Mr Cox which I will share with you at the weekend if, and only if, he is elected. It is a revelation that can only enhance his reputation).

For the Labour Party, a win is still within their sights, and a win would prove to be a huge boost for the Party. It would see them start 2012 with renewed confidence and could be used to argue that the corner has been reached. If Nigel Jenner holds on to second place behind the Tories it would be acceptable because Labour would have beaten the Greens, a greater priority for them than even winning the seat. Third place behind the Greens in second would be a further set back, but a Green win would be a disaster for Labour in the City. No matter how much they argued low turn out, nut roast and pantomime distractions, and no matter how close they might come, it would be further evidence of the Green tide (copyright L. Walter) spreading into Hove.

The Greens, however, have the most to lose. Third place behind Labour and the Tories would be a disaster. Such a result would be presented as a rejection of the Green budget, and a sign that the honeymoon is over. Much would be made of the Green’s decision to have the by-election on December 22nd. The only result worse that third place behind the Greens would be fourth place behind UKIP, but that is even beyond the wildest dreams of My Pal Paul. I also believe that given the strength of the Green candidate, Louisa Greenbaum, the Big Mo still enjoyed by the Greens locally, and the superior nature of its election machine, Ms Greenbaum must be joint favourite alongside Graham Cox.

Second place for the Greens behind the Tories would still be a good result, establishing them as the challengers for 2015, and providing further evidence that they, and not Labour, are the party to rival the Tories in Hove.

I am now willing to make a prediction: there will be a low turnout and if it rains or snows, a very low turnout. All parties might hope for that since it will give the losing parties an excuse for the result. For the winner, a majority of 1 on a 15% turnout will feel like a landslide.

10 Responses

  1. Congrats blogger – two days in a row and little evidence of direct Green bias. Admittedly this post really says ‘in a three way marginal no-one wants to be third’ but other than that seems reasonable to me.

    • Hi Daniel, so sorry to disappoint you! I must try harder to allow my ‘Green bias’ to show through more. I know I’ve said it beforee, but I don’t have a particular bias towards the Greens, I just say it how I see it. I admire and respect members of all parties – see my praise for Graham Cox today and my defence of Dawn Barnett yesterday. I like Mary Mears and Geoffrey Theobald, think Mike Weatherley is a formidable opponent. I also thought (think) Chuck Vere is someone quite exceptional – she will be up for one of my annual awards this year!

      On the Labour side, I find it harder to single out many exceptional characters. Lord Bassam is showing how to be in opposition, in both the Lords and in his relentless attacks on Jason Kitcat (although it has gone on a bit – I hope he takes a break on December 25th!). Warren Morgan is a particular favourite since he is almost alone within the Labour Group to fight, fight, fight. But the Labour Group needs to find its voice, and needs to find it soon. The are some great activists in the background, and I would single out Caroline Penn for one (and I apologise for causing her grief by identifying her as an admirable campaigner and activist).

      I won’t talk about the Greens for fear of being accused of being biased! But all bar the most hardline activists in Labour recognise the strengths of the Greens and the outstanding politician that is Caroline Lucas. I admirer and respect many of the Green Group. And this from someone who voted Labour in May…! BPB

  2. Err the returning officer sets the date of elections, not the administration. Big error- please retract.

  3. Simple case of who gets their vote out then and possibly postal votes may play a big part

  4. Labour win with less than 400 votes. Tories second, greens third, ukip fourth.
    A good punishment for the Greens after saying they wouldn’t implement the cuts, then did.

    • Stop rewriting history, oh phoney, disgruntled one.

      Greens were always clear they would resist cuts only as far as would be possible in the context of the savage cuts to local govt budgets by the Coalition.

      There was never any ‘zero cuts’ pledge from any Green councillor before the May elections and their position was always clear.

      Given that, locally, Labour apparently are against the small rise in council tax proposed to soften the cuts, am interested to know how they would avoid much harsher cuts to services.

      As for this by-election: very close all round – will be interesting to see what happens with vote shares as well result order.

      • Simon – so what does ‘resist the cuts to the maximum possible extent’ actually mean? In the Green Party’s case it appears to mean – stand on a platform of being anti-cuts, knowing full well the reality of the situation, get elected by accident, have no real ideas on how to resist (except asking Eric Pickles to be nice to us), therefore claim to have fulfilled election promise to resist to the maximum possible extent. I’m really struggling to see what resistance has been shown.

  5. Given Feltham’s 25% turnout and Littlehampton River’s 15% turnout recently a 25% turnout in Westbourne is about 1900 votes. If you subtract about 150 for UKIP & TUSC then 580 equals a 3 way equal split.So in all probability 6-700 will be enough.

    Looking around the ward today there is so little evidence of an electorate mobilised for an election. some streets have no posters for anyone and where there are posters they are few with perhaps more Green than Labour and no Coxes visible.So on that straw poll perhaps Greens will beat Labour though the Tories are well known for quiet mobilisation.

    Do the electors want to punish the Greens for their budget? Has Lab done enough to be different? Those who have seen the postal votes no doubt know already.

  6. I can’t understand how Labour, Tory Argus or anyone else can criticise the Greens for making cuts. The Greens increased the council tax as much as they are allowed to by the government and the direct grants are being slashed by 30%. Cuts were unavoidable and a direct result of national Tory/Lib Dem rule. Yet Greens are criticised both for increasing council tax and having to make cuts. Hope the Greens trounce the other parties on December 22nd. They deserve to beat all these mendacious liars.

  7. Blogger: I don’t see that third place would be a ‘disaster’ for the Greens. That’s where they were in Westbourne before we started, after all. Granted, this time they’ve run a campaign so I guess third would be a disappointment, but no more than that. Weigh your words.

    I think maybe you’re trying a bit too hard to lose that ‘Greenie’ tag.

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