I’m not allowed to vote in the local elections in Blackpool (due to moving to Hong Kong in January). And it’s probably just as well.
In my ward, Tyldesley, there’s a true Hobson’s choice. We can pick a couple of Labour candidates who we kicked out four years ago, or a couple of Tories who’ve got a profile lower than a snake’s belly (sersiouly, I once pushed their names through the archive at The Gazette and came up with one – yes, one – reference to one of them. And it wasn’t even for council business) and a list of achievements that’s as short as the membership list of the Nick Clegg appreciation society. Not even a paper Lib Dem to break up the monotony. For the first time, I’d be faced with the unedifying prospect of spoiling my ballot paper – there’s just nothing between ’em.
It’s a similar picture in much of Blackpool. The same old faces from the same old parties. The only candidates I can really vouch for are the ones I know personally. The town hall would be a better place if Jon Bamborough won in Anchorsholme and Steven Bate took Ingthorpe. And it would be a poorer place without Fred Jackson in Victoria, Jim Houldsworth in Marton (even though some people really don’t seem to like him), Lily Henderson in Highfield and Henry Mitchell in Bispham, all old stagers with a contribution that goes beyond sticking their hand up when the party whip tells ’em too.
For a fuller preview, have a look at the always excellent Philtheone blog. Phil predicts a balanced council with two Lib Dems holding the balance of power. I think a couple of independents might just muddy the water and that Labour’s youthful leader Simon Blackburn might find himself in trouble (voters in the western part of Lancashire seem to have a taste for decapitation – up in Lancaster, no sitting council leader has held their seat since 1995).
There’s an even more comprehensive look forward to the vote in Fylde, where independents are likely to prevail, on Counterbalance – just a thought, but isn’t this the kind of thing local newspapers used to do?
Were those the words echoing in the ears of millions of voters on Friday morning? Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems appear to have the initiative, taking advantage of a collpasing Labour vote and pinning the Tories back to a total that’s barely better than they managed in 2005. It’s not quite a ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government‘ moment, but Clegg’s party looks to be on the threshold of a major breakthrough to compare to its 1997 success, guaranteeing them seats at the next cabinet table, regardless of who is at its head.
I’ve long sensed that the Tories, just like Neil Kinnock in ’92, hadn’t sealed the deal with the electorate. Cameron’s Eton background and lack of real political pedigree, combined with the lumbering collective memory of the 90s ‘nasty party’ suggested that, while they may have enough votes for an overall majority, many of those casting their ballots would be holding their noses and hoping for the best. The more viable the Lib Dem alternative looks, the more likely it is to pick up votes – and with the way the latest polls are looking, could it be that the rise will be self perpetuating and the Lib-Dems getting towards the magical 40 per cent their polls say would vote Lib Dem if they thought the party could win?
More likely, in my opinion, is a slide back towards the main parties, leaving the Lib Dems perhaps targetting an extra 20 seats and getting within two or three points of Labour. So here goes. First prediction of the election;
Conservatives – 34 per cent
Labour – 29 per cent
Lib-Dems – 26 per cent
Most likely the Lib Dems will take seats where they’re currently second to Labour rather than surging through from third (look for Pendle as a possible, interesting exception). Also there would be a small Con to Lib swing, so a handful of tight seats could fall.
According to the excellent BBC election calculator, that leaves Labour as the largest party with 282 seats, 44 short of a majority, the Tories on 260 and the Lib-Dems on 79. And we’re into hung parliament territory with a vengeance…
Quick word on the previous post; Still no sign of Labour in Blackpool South, one leaflet from Ron Bell (couple of pics of David Cameron, tiny Conservative logo well below the fold and an oblique reference to Kensingtongate). The Lib Dems also remain conspicious by their absence.
DID someone say there was an election on? You could quite easily miss it.
Driving around Blackpool (home to two tight marginal seats) I’ve seen two election posters. Count ’em, two. Both for Conservative candidate Ron Bell, a local councillor and former serviceman.
Impressive they were too, taking up the full garden of a medium-sized semi, wth the candidate’s face beaming out like that of Chairman Mao in a communist propaganda frieze. The only question is, who’s paying for them….
Not a single leaflet has fallen through the door since polling was announced. In fact the only campaign literature in recent months has been a two-sides-of-A4 missive from Ukip’s Hamish Howitt.
In what is surely a first for his party, the word Europe isn’t mentioned in a lengthy invictive about council waste, seemingy typeset in Microsoft Publisher, without the aid of a spellchecker.
Driving around – on the long road to Barrow a couple of times a week and on an ultimately unhappy jaunt up to Newcastle on Saturday, evidence of a Labour campaign is in short supply – although an impressive display of orange lines the A6 and A590 through Westmorland and Lonsdale, where Lib Dem Tim Farron looks likely to be re-elected. Evenly-spaced Tory posters in fields give an impression of strength but reflect the views of only a handful of voters.
At the risk of sounding prematurely aged, it’s all a stark contrast to he elections of the 80s and even the 90s, the days when things could only get better.
Take 1992. Turnout reached 77.4 per cent and John Major’s Tories won more votes than any party before – or, for that matter – since. Will any party break the 10 million vote barrier this time? It’s unlikey – Major’s Tories got 14 million.
There was a sense that the election mattered – just as there was in 1997. You couldn’t escape it even if you wanted to, ’cause the parties brought it right to your door.
Now, it seems, the ground war, the phalanax of canvassers, the leafletters, the knocking up operation, have become part of history. The air war – fought through mass media and staged events like tonight’s leader’s debate has taken over.
And, as every generations pass, the politicians become even more remote, and politics becomes something other people do. It’s a dangerous path, and the politicians – from the local councillor to the next PM – need to start burning up some shoe leather… urgently.