Friday, March 12, 2010
Any excuse to put up a picture of Kelly LeBrock...
Firstly, congratulations to Mike Barker and his fellow Darlington LibDems on coaxing former local councillor Brian Jefferson to defect from the Tories. Mike's revelation comes on the same evening that his national party has announced that respected Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott is crossing the floor to join them.
All political parties are coalitions, of course, but McMillan-Scott's departure brings to centre-stage the fundamental split in Tory ranks, between a dwindling band of decent pro-Europeans, and the slavering horde of europhobes who constitute a significant minority of the Party. Those who think David Cameron might be able to provide leadership in Europe, as Labour under first Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown have done, will have been disabused by the Tory leader's consistent pandering to his right wing.
Disastrously, Cameron dragged the Tories out of the centre-right block in the European Parliament in the wake of last year's European elections, leaving them bereft of influence. The pandering the party has now had to engage in with some of the more "exotic" far right groups in the European Parliament is why McMillan-Scott has had enough and left. It reminds us that Cameron's stitched-together coalition here in the UK is far flakier than is often appreciated.
Anyway, I started this blogpost off on Mike and the local LibDems because one of their leaflets has fluttered onto my desk (thanks Michael!) In it, Mike produces one of those bar graphs for which his party is justly infamous. It purports to show the results of the local elections here in Darlington, and has Labour on 37%, the Tories on 33% and the LibDems on 24%. Mike is a true scholar of the 'Tony Greaves School of Statistical Manipulation' when he places a downward arrow on the Labour icon and an upward arrow on the LibDems, creating the illusion of equality - and hey presto, we have a "3-horse race"! Wahay!
Mike's only mistake in all of this has been to let us in on the calculations behind the bar chart. Apparently, the model is based on recording the vote of the highest placed candidate in each ward in the constituency in 2007 for the 3 main parties. What could be fairer than that, you say?
Except, except. Mike's analysis is fundamentally flawed, and he knows it. Take my ward in Haughton West. There are around 4,100 voters, and 3 seats. Turnout was 38%, which means roughly 1558 people voted. The 3 leading candidates from the main parties polled 741 (Labour), 552 (Conservative) and 489 (Liberal Democrat). That makes, er, 1782. That can't be right?
In fact, in a number of wards across the Borough, whilst Labour stood a candidate for every seat available, the Tories and LibDems could only muster a fraction - so in Haughton West there were 3 Labour, 2 Tory and 1 LibDem candidates. Voting in multi-seat elections is often all over the place, with some residents plumping for a single candidate for example. But in Darlington, with the 2 main opposition parties fielding fewer candidates than Labour, inevitably the Tory and the LibDem vote was at least partially conjoined.
So Mike's graph is predictably dodgy - it overstates the Tory and LibDem share of the vote. Something to think about next time you hear Darlington is a "3-horse race".