Mike Smithson rightly dismisses today’s Mori poll as an accurate reflection of voter intention.Â Indeed, I have always dismissed Mori polls for the same reasons.
But there is one small note of optimisim.Â Because Mori only looks at those “certain to vote” it does suggest a slight hardening of the Lib Dem vote, which is notoriously soft (the main reason why Mori normally underestimates our voter share).Â That is good news because a hardening base provides us with a bridgehead from which to target more voters.
Whether this proves to be a trend rather than a blip, and whether the party can muster the sort of activity to maximise this (recruitment, developing our supporter networks) both remain to be seen.Â And as the bulk of this polling was conducted before the poor headlines we have suffered over the past few days, no-one should be holding their breath, at least not yet.
When it’s all said and done, Ming Campbell was my second choice and I’m happy with the result.
I can’t deny the result was a bit of a surprise. I’ve been convinced he’d win for the past fortnight, but I thought it would be within 5%. Similarly, I thought Simon Hughes was going to do better than he did.
Ming has more of a mandate than Charles Kennedy got in 1999 – more actual votes (just) and a higher turnout (although membership has gone down by 10,000 in the intervening 6 years). That genuinely surprised me. It’s a position of strength and squarely puts whingers like me in our places, but I hope he doesn’t imagine that gives him a blank cheque. The anonymous MP who told the Guardian yesterday that “It’s precisely because he’s older and experienced that he can afford to take risks and challenge and even piss off the party,” is half right. But he has to lead not drag the party by the nose. Some senior politicians seem to spend all their time fantasising about beating up the party’s grassroots, yet are blind to the fact that, given a bit of respect, the grassroots tends to go along with what the leadership wants 95% of the time.
In terms of my personal small contribution to the contest, Reflecting Britain, I’m delighted Ming won as his stated views on these issues are the closest to my own. I’m delighted at how both Ming and Huhne internalised Reflecting Britain into their own campaigns, even borrowing language and soundbites from it, and going beyond simply signing up. You can be sure that we will be taking Ming’s mandate as a mandate for the campaign itself and will ensure that the extremely positive things he said during the campaign will become reality.
As for Chris Huhne, even his most trenchant critics must surely accept that he played a blinder. While the result could obviously be better, his achievement has been considerable and he’s done a lot to highlight the issues that I personally value extremely highly. Campbell said in his acceptance speech that Huhne will have a good place in the frontbench, and he’s certainly earned it.
All in all though, I’m glad its all over and we can move on. Such hard fought election campaigns are a neccessary part of a healthy democracy, but it doesn’t mean they’re always fun experiences at the time!
A brief footnote to James’s eloquence on the Dunfermline & West Fife result.
1) Its a good reminder of the self-absorbed uselessness of the Westminster-media bubble: according to the headlines in the last month or two, the Lib Dems should have done badly, and the Tories at least done something.
2) Its difficult to know if this was a worse result for Labour or the SNP. The Nats came 2nd here in 2001, and must have aimed to get that position back at the by-election. If they can’t move forward in a by-election now, then when can they? This result is strong further support for the Lib Dems being the second party in Scotland, after coming second in seats and votes in the 2005 General Election, but in that case how should we be positioned for the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections?
Nuff said! Well done all!
The media is going overboard on this whole “Lib Dem meltdown” thing. I would refer to you about my earlier comment about us not owning our narrative. But that is not the same thing as saying the narrative owns us.
So, I thought I’d start an irregular series on why things ain’t really all that bad.
Firstly, those opinion polls. It is laughable to claim this is the worst crisis we’ve experienced in 25 years when the worst polls we are getting are comparable to 2001 and the best comparable to November last year. There is simply no evidence of our voters abandoning us, and plenty of evidence that Cameron is starting to flag.
In terms of an overall sense of panic, you could claim that it is the worst since 1989, but that was when we went behind the Green Party in the European Elections and were pretty near bankrupt.
Secondly, our local base is still strong. One of the reasons I strongly doubt that Cameron will be able to make the inroads that the Tories are spinning he’ll make is that to the north and west of Ludlow (look it up on a map), the Tories are virtually nonexistent. They have no membership base upon which to build, and while they demonstrated in 2005 that they could buy in workers, it comes at a cost. With a national spending limit of Â£20 million (they spent Â£18 million in 2005) and a standing Electoral Commission recommendation to cut this in half, they will really struggle.
Our core supporter base will ensure that a national fall in voter share will have a reduced impact on number of seats. And if Cameron is trying to get the 130 seats he needs to form a majority, he won’t be able to dedicate too much time on targeting us.