Friday, May 07, 2010

All shall have prizes

I've managed to grab a few hours sleep. It's been a remarkable 24 hours, with the ramifications of the poll result country-wide still being played out in Westminster. But what about here in Darlington? As Chris Lloyd notes on his excellent Echo blog, all three candidates from the major parties seemed positive after the result last night. And here's why.


There were some grim predictions from colleagues about the size of Jenny's likely majority - I had a £1 on 2,780 in Tom Nutt's sweepstake, and wasn't a million miles away.

10 days ago, I was even gloomier (though I always tend to see "the glass half-full" at election time), but in the last few days there were tangible signs of the Labour vote firming up appreciably. In football-speak, a win's a win, but in this election, with a new candidate and a very difficult national backdrop, a majority of over 3,000 is a good result in what has always been a marginal seat.

Moreover, Jenny was an extremely strong campaigner, and I was genuinely surprised just how many people she had helped who I came across in my own patch, given her relative youth and short time on the Council. It made campaigning for Labour so much easier - for all the sneering from some opposition circles that Labour overplayed the "local" nature of our candidate, in fact it really did make a difference on the doorstep.

Finally, we can be confident that Jenny's impressive start will continue as she gets to work, which will help continue to re-energise Labour in the town. It was a very happy post-count party afterwards for Labour supporters.


I spent quite a bit of the last couple of years mocking the Tories and their candidate on this blog for the torpor of their campaign. And in truth they squandered the advantage they had with a candidate in the field, especially in the hiatus for Labour after Alan Milburn stood down. I also wonder whether had they not selected so early (for example after rather than before the expenses scandal broke) they might have looked harder for someone local to contest the seat. Up against 2 councillors with impeccable Darlington credentials, Edward was always at a disadvantage and that told on the doorstep.

There was ample evidence in the last few weeks, however, that the Conservatives and their candidate Edward Legard got into their stride. Edward is to be commended for finally pushing the local Tories out of their West End "comfort zone" and into Labour's territory, perhaps for the first time in 15 years. From what I hear, they were pleasantly surprised by the reception they received.

Until February, I wondered whether any Tory constituency organisation would look at Edward again, given the hopelessly complacent nature of the Tory effort to date. Having seen him now at the Darlington Churches Debate and after the Declaration, I think he's grwon appreciably as an aspiring politician. Whether he sticks around to fight Darlington again (as Tory activists were speculating afterwards) remains to be seen - somehow I doubt it.


Mike Barker fought a typically feisty, insurrectionist campaign which played to his and his party's strengths. The LibDem vote wasn't squeezed as happened elsewhere in the North East, despite the clear evidence that Darlington is returning to its traditional role as a key Labour/Tory marginal. He is easily the most impressive thinker and campaigner in the local LibDem ranks - without him they'd return to being an irrelevance hereabouts.

It was a shame then that Mike spoilt the positive aura he'd built-up (in my opinion anyway) by bunking off to Durham City on polling day. For me, if you tell voters that your party has a real chance of victory, and that voting LibDem is not a "wasted vote", you have to spend the rest of the campaign behaving if that's true, even if the majority of your local supporters (understandably) are ordered away to the likes of Durham City. I thought Mike let down those people who believed him and did vote LibDem on the day. If they'd been aware that in fact the LibDems knew they never had a prayer here (as I and others pointed out) the LibDem vote would have been far smaller.


A brief mention for the BNP, if only because they were completely marginalised here. Unlike the European elections, almost nobody mentioned them on the doorstep to me - I don't think I saw a single BNP activist at the count for the first time ever. After the catastrophic result in Barking for Griffin (where they also lost all 15 of their council seats too - a great result), and beset by factional strife, they are truly on the way out. Fantastic news about the ugliest party of my generation.


Mike has come on to comment that he was only in Durham for the last couple of hours of polling day apparently. I'm happy to clear that one up.


Mike Barker said...

Cheeky so-and-so. I was only in Durham for two hours in the evening. I'd been delivering leaflets in Darlington since 5am on Polling Day.

james said...

Say Mike, now that the election is over - will you be drawn on your coalition of preference?

Mike Barker said...

LOL James, you're a persistent chap, are you not?

Our collective lips are sealed - which will sorely test many Liberal Parliamentary Candidates!

The future direction of this country and its economy is at stake here. You may, James, be able to guess at my preferred partner, assuming, as you do, that some sort of coalition is the solution of choice, but our ideological preferences have to be balanced against the apparent wishes of the electorate and the likelihood of achieving a strong enough government, both in terms of its Parliamentary strength and its popular support, to get us through the next few years safely.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

Nick. Interesting result in Darlington.

What is noticeable is that more people voted against Labour than for Labour for the first time since 1997 in Darlington. 23,000 against and 16,000 for. Also the Labour vote has been falling since the high point of 1997 when Labour polled 29,000 down to 16,000 in 2010.

Turning to the Conservatives. Their polling has flat lined since 1997. In 1997 they polled 13,633 in 1997, 12,095 in 2001, 10,239 in 2005 and now back to 13,000.

The biggest surge in Darlington has been to the Liberal Democrats. In 1997 the Lib Dems polled 3,483, 4,358 in 2001, 7,269 in 2005 and 10,000 this time.

Membership of the Liberal Democrats in Darlington, as Mike stated in his speech in the small hours of Friday morning, has shown a marked increase, especially amongst young people. A 16 year old student in Haughton West who will be studying politics at QE Sixth Form College in September signed up last night. His Dad is very happy.

Sorry Nick, but the political climate has changed both here in Darlington and nationally. As Mike has stated so eloquently above people want a strong government to sort out the economic mess which is the number one priority.

Anonymous said...

To the Tories: your not singing any more... you're not singing any more lol

james said...

Mike - the electorate were not told, either by the plutocrat-owned papers or by Gideon Osbourne that the Tories are the natural party of the wealthy elite and have no interest in fairness nor the environment. Tory voters I know - who work in the public sector FFS! - have no knowledge of the difference in approach likely to be taken in deficit reduction. Tactical Labour-supporters who voted Lib Dem in key seats did not expect that their support for the Liberals would be reciprocated by them leaping into bed with the Tories.

I know first-time voters who put a cross next to your name, Mike. You must do all you can within your party to ensure that a stitch-up with the Tories does not take place.

A strong government to sort out the mess, but for whom? The people who are victims of the recession will pay for it under Tory plans, and those who have the broadest shoulders will have them broadened with that inheritance tax cut.

The global revival of the free market model would be a disater - not least because it requires another economic contraction to boost the rate of return on capital. All so we can return to an economic system which fails to internalise social and environmental costs, and which makes it much harder to alleviate entrenched inequalities...

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

The Liberal Democrats will put the interests of the country first. A strong government to sort out the economic mess for everyone and avoid the nightmare scenario being played out in Greece which is of paramount and urgent importance.

I am really astonished about your statement James about the global revival of the free market model would be a disaster. No. Have you heard the expression "export or die." We have to trade internationally to bring in money to pay for the public services and pay our way. You simply cannot suddenly rip up the script James.

Borrowing huge sums and racking up debt which has been the hallmark of New Labour was and is a massive and reckless mistake. It was fine to have a controlled amount of debt when the economy was healthy and there was sufficent to pay the debt, but when the economy turns sour the problems start to mount, borrowing has run out of control and that should have been forseen and controlled and plans laid down to militate the effects of a downturn. It wasn't and that is a major failure of New Labour.

We are still borrowing huge sums just to keep going and that frightens me. Our credit limit must be be very close if it has not been reached. Remember James debts have to be paid back with interest on top.

Do you want to see the Greek experience being played out here where public sector workers - teachers, doctors, police officers,firefighters are not paid and they cannot in turn pay their bills, hospitals and schools could close and people who are sick and injured would not get treatment, young people cannot get jobs because there aren't any, rubbish piles up in the streets because the collectors haven't been paid leading to disease?

That is the reality of the situation which will guide the discussions.

Paul Cain said...

Alan McNab:

People like James live in a La-La land full of fluffy clouds and pink bunnies where the sun always shines, there are blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover and debt never has to be repaid.

You are right Alan: There is no golden rule that says what happened in Greece could not happen to the UK.

The UK government, James, is borrowing 500 million pounds per day just to pay the bills: never mind the debt repayments and never mind the PFI and public sector pension deficit, which are kept off the national balance sheet.

All of this under the management of that imbecile, Gordon Brown.

Personally, though, I would't mind a Lib/Lab government for two reasons:

1. It would collapse within a year, there will be another election in that time and with a bit of luck we finally elect a government that's ready to cut through the infantile crap spouted by the likes of James and actually do something about our country's debt.

2. A Lib/Lab government would be about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit as far as the international markets are concerned. I get paid in dollars and thanks to Brown's incompetence, I've had an effective 25 percent pay rise this year as sterling plummets (I convert dollars to sterling to pay UK bills).
The only way for the pound versus the dollar, under a 'progressive' coalition, in hock the unions and the public sector, is downwards. The lower the better so far as I'm concerned.

At this rate I'll have paid off my UK mortgage in the next year or so.

Off you go then, play out your fantasies, James. Bankruptcy for the country awaits, but for me it'll be triples all round.

james said...

A free market model is incompatible with a strong government acting to defend the interests of ordinary people in a time of economic crisis. It would have been a free market response to allow banks to fail and cut spending rather than run a deficit during the recession. Either you are ignorant of economic terminology, or you are winding me up.

The Orange Book wing of Lib-Dems have always been in favour of integration into a Europe-wide market for labour and capital, deregulation of the financial sector, and the kind of economic liberalism espoused by Tories - that the government should only regulate the labour market by means of restrictions on trade union organisation. They have long forgotten the support their party used to have for cooperative and mutual enterprise as an alternative to profit-maximising investor-owned firms. Although, to their credit they are backing a mutual future for Northern Rock, at least - this is probably a concession to their social democratic base - I've no doubt that typical Tory-style privatisation for most other things is favoured.

Financial markets do not want a recovery for ordinary people - they want a sharp contraction to wipe out less profitable firms and thus drive up the rate of profit across the economy. Why else would the financial services industry be contributing to the Tory election campaign? Why else would the bosses of major firms be backing the Tories? These people aren't elected by their employees and consumers - they are elected by their shareholders.

The austerity being imposed on the Greeks won't provide them with future employment and prosperity - but it will restore profit levels in the Greek economy by putting further pressure on wages. Thankfully there appears to be concerted European action to put breaks on speculators attacking Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain.

When the crisis broke, there was much talk of countries not lapsing into beggar-thy-neighbour policies. Sadly, we are now in danger of a beggar-thy-self policy of deliberately increasing unemployment, bankruptcies, and home repossessions - merely to boost the wealth of the have-yachts.

Fascist Bastard said...

Aye we were there all right Moonface. Having a laugh with the Tories about your shiny bonce, flabby physique, obvious weight gain and need to start leafleting Haughton West for impending Obesity derived heart attack which is likely to cause a by election there in the not too distant future.
Ugly???????? Have you looked in a mirror yourself lately Mr Wallis? And how about an analysis on UKIP who also stood? The combined far right election results should be causing you concern Nick. And what about those racists who should be voting BNP but still vote Con/dem Lab because their Dad did? TTFN