Did I lose the Bromley and Chislehurst election?

Not withstanding my irritation about Lib Dem campaign techniques, a sincere well done to the Bromley and Chislehurst team.  I wrote my post last night suspecting that it was going to be close; the fact that it was as close as it was does of course give me pause for thought.

With the majority slashed to 633, could I have made the difference between winning and losing if I’d gone to help a couple more times?  My efforts certainly would have probably slashed a few more votes off.

The aftermath of this campaign will be interesting.  The Tories are already spinning that the Lib Dems ran a very nasty and personalised campaign.  The truth is, we did, but not entirely without justification.  It is legitimate to question how good a job Bob Neill will do if he also has responsibilities in the GLA, although frankly I suspect it is the other residents of his Bromley and Bexley GLA seat who will suffer from poor representation rather than the ones in Bromley and Chislehurst who will now get to decide whether or not he gets to keep his seat at the next general election.  Attacking him for being a barrister is a less strong argument, ditto his seat on the North East London SHA (although his admission that he knowingly signed a false statement on his nomination form ought to make the Bar Council raise an eyebrow or two).

I’m not convinced it was in the Lib Dems’ best interests to make so much of the campaign about him, however.  Pretty much all the literature I’ve seen was either about Bob Neill or the World Cup.  Maybe I’m naive about expecting us to campaign on what the Lib Dems stand for, but it does seem to me that had we won, it would have been a bit of an empty victory.  It will also now only enforce the image of the party as dirty campaigners.

All parties go negative: the Tory campaign in the seat I helped in in 2005 was one of the nastiest I’ve ever seen.  Fortunately, it was also one of the most incompetent.  Iain Dale, who loves accusing people of being the proverbial pot calling the kettle black, spent pretty much the whole of the two years leading up to his crushing defeat in North Norfolk personally attacking Norman Lamb MP on the most spurious of grounds.  The Tories are in no position to take the moral high ground over this, but that won’t stop them, and it seems to me we’ve made it just that little bit easier for them to do so.


  1. James whatever you do don’t blame yourself, we could have all gone more times (I only got there once), I don’t think the message we are likely to win this got out until it was too late for most of us to get back there.


  2. Of course you would have made a difference. Don’t beat yourself up – just go to the next one. If you had gone you would have seen the literature and seen that there were many positive points made in our leaflets – it is only in the blogosphere that it seemed to be all “3 jobs Bob” – not in the real world.

  3. As you say, pointing out facts about people is not fighting dirty. The Tories should have expected it and dealt wtih it immediately – not on the last day.

    However, Lib Dem hypocrisy is an issue. How many Lib Dem MPs are still practising barristers or in another career? Certainly there have been a number in the past – for e.g. Alex Carlile. Did your current leader give up any alternative career as soon as he became an MP?

    And how many of your MPs continue to serve as local cllrs?

  4. Paul,

    I’m not beating myself up and I did go and help. I’m admitting to mixed feelings, nothing more.

    As for whether I go to the next by-election, it depends, once again, on whether I’m comfortable with the campaign we’re running. I had no problem with our campaigns in Cheadle and Birmingham Hodge Hill. I’m not offering the party a blank cheque.

  5. James

    I am delighted you went to help. And I am extremely glad you are not beating yourself up. The point is I don’t think you are fully reflecting the campaign we were running. It was not all “3 jobs Bob”.

    All the best

  6. As I said above, I’m relatively sanguine about the 3 jobs stuff, even if I do maintain that it went a little too far (what matters is what is on page 1, not the filler on page 2 that only about 1% of the electorate read). It was the crime stuff that put me off.

  7. I think the campaign suffered from both ourselves and Tories being a state of policy flux. Our tax policy may well shift away from a 50p rate this autumn to a much greater focus on environmental taxation (used to fund a cut in the basic rate of income tax). The Tories are totally up in the air policy-wise and won’t commit to anything.

    So our campaign team had to choose between saying the Tories had no policies or using the Tory candidate’s weaknesses against him. I imagine is difficult to push a comprehensive set of Lib Dem policies because some key ones may be tweaked at the Autumn conference. That said there must still be many policy areas that have not changed much since the 2005 manifesto

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