Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The St Benet's By-Election

We lost. For the record, we got 537 votes, LibDems were on 576 and Labour 36.

I shall not pretend that this was anything other than a bad result, because it was. And without any hesitation I congratulate Barbara McGoun on her victory. I have just emailed her to do just that.

However, some of the hysterical postings I have just read about translating this result into a General Election Result in North Norfolk are so extreme as to be laughable. Feel free to write me off and indulge in complacency! For the record, here are some thoughts which people should bear in mind...

1. We underestimated the popularity in Horning of Barbara McGoun herself. Our candidate lives in Neatishead and it was clear from the ballot boxes (so I am informed) that we won overwhelmingly in Neatishead and Barton Turf, but they made up only about than a third of the total vote I think.
2. The LibDems and Norman Lamb have done no campaigning at all in the rest of the constituency for a month and have poured everything into this. For the by-election this obviously worked, but I would question whether in the long term it was wise.
3. I had about a dozen people tell me personally yesterday that they would vote for Barbara but they were Conservatives and would vote for me in the General Election - indeed one of her tellers told me that! We encountered this quite a lot during canvassing in Horning during the campaign. We could have countered this by running a more negative campaign but we didn't.
4. Virtually all the LibDem tellers and knocker uppers yesterday were from outside North Norfolk. They cannot possibly hope to replicate this in a General Election over the whole constituency. If I were Norman Lamb this is something I would find deeply worrying.

For the record, here's a statement I have just issued to the press.

“I congratulate Barbara McGoun on a truly stunning personal victory. Barbara’s strong personal following in Horning, where the majority of voters in the ward live, outnumbered Chris How’s personal vote in the smaller villages of Neatishead and Barton Turf. A significant number of people told me yesterday that while they would vote for Barbara in a local election they would still be voting Conservative at the General Election. That doesn’t alter the fact that we lost a seat we should have retained. Chris How fought a totally straight campaign on the issues, while the LibDems indulged in their usual by-election dodgy graphs and spurious claims. This is a wake-up call to those of us planning the General Election campaign and I am reflecting on the lessons to be learned. My campaign will continue to concentrate on issues which matter to local people like hospital beds, better schools, higher pensions and lower council tax but we also need to make people aware of the Liberal Democrats’ damaging and irresponsible policies on crime and tax in a clearer and more focussed way. I intend to ensure we do just that.”

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Iain,
Oh dear oh dear oh dear!!!! How wrong can you be. My Conservative spies at the count tell me that the only bit of the ward that you won was in Barton Turf {Is that the right name?]. They say that the local Lib Dem team [almost everyone from North Norfolk I hear] were continually being told by Conservatives that were voting for Barbara MacGoun as much for her as they were for Norman Lamb. Now tell me Iain - and I do find this genuinely puzzling - how did you lose such a safe seat. Was your Chris How such a liability compared to Barbara MacGoun or were you the liability? One of my spies tells me that you were driving around the ward all day in a van with Iain Dale plastered in bold letters all over it. I don't know whether Norman Lamb spent much time in the ward or not [he is after all a very busy MP], but I do know that in the week before the election you [who are not an MP] took a day out with your parents and a day out at Fakenham races. Didn't you also spend a day writing speeches at Cromer? The people have spoken and the message is clear - you are on your way out.
Robb.

Anonymous said...

Iain
One of your supporters was telling me that you put out a special leaflet on Crime and policing during the by election- didn't seem to be much believed did it. Still it is good to know that you have condemned the activities of the Country Side Alliance in physically attacking a Labour MP.
On that we are agreed - have you writen to tell them because it's possible they don't read your Blogg site?
Robb

Lady F. said...

My dear Robb,

The engagement is off as you are gloating in a very not nice way. As Iain said, Barbara is a very popular local person and I know Iain would not dissemble about the intelligence that he has received. In fact, Iain is behaving like the perfect gentleman that he is and shame on you , my ex-affianced, for being so gloating!

And here's another thing for you to consider, it is not considered very 'au courant' to be voting Conservative so many people say one thing and do another!

Lunch beckons.

Anonymous said...

How strange that Iain thinks that people would switch from voting Lib Dem in a council election to voting Tory in a General Election. A few years ago when the council was Tory dominated I heard the reverse argument! Lord Ashcroft must be wondering what he has just wasted £7,312.39 of his company's money on in a donation to North Norfolk Tories, he may as well sit and burn piles of fivers.

Lady Finchley said...

It ain't over till the Fat Lady sings!

John said...

Did Lord Ashcroft deliver the fivers in a brown paper bag? I think we should be told!

DM Andy said...

The most interesting part of the election (being a Labour member I'll gloss over the 36 votes as quickly as possible) was that it looks like a 75% turnout which is a terrific turnout for a district council by-election.

Congratulations to both the Lib Dem and Tory campaigning teams, it goes to show that when elections are close, then people can be inspired to vote.

Ivor said...

Annonymous feels that Norman is a busy MP? Poor lamb - he may be busy but he is spending his time doing basic local Councillor stuff. A parliamentarian he is not.
Why won't he meet his opposition and take part in some lively debate? (Oops, I forgot, he's a busy little lamb). His other standard excuse for not attending public debates is "The election has not started yet"! Does he only face the public during a campaign?

Tom said...

As someone who knows very little about this I would suggest that Mr Lamb is 'being' an MP, in which he has to hold surgeries, see residents in meetings and do work in Parliament. When the elction is called, he is not an MP and is a candidate- like Iain is. Therefore, why should he debate instead of doing actual work?

Anonymous said...

Iain - are you going to censor Tom for being very very abuse to Mr Lamb whose record, as published recently in the EDP, puts puts him head and shoulders above all of the other MP's in the area?
I ask you very very respectfully, without a shred of abuse, when are you going to answer all the questions that I have asked you?
Again, I say this very respectfully, until I started contributing, no-one was in the least bit interested in your Blog except for James. Now people are telling you what they think.
Respectfully Yours
Robb

Anonymous said...

Sorry your abusive supporter was Ivor not Tom.

Lady F

You are very fickle and I am quite hurt - I fear that you have been twiddling with my affections?
Robb

Neil said...

Iain - this is the second by-election in which your predictions, based on your canvassing etc., have been badly wrong.

How then can we rely on any other postings you make about how well you are doing, voters swinging your way etc. when your record suggests that you are very poor at judging such information?

Neil

Iain Dale said...

Robb, I don't censor. And as for your comment about the league table of MPs which put Norman Lamb at the top. Guess who compiled it? Yes, you guessed it - Mr N Lamb! Not at all biased then!
I think I have spent more than enough time answering your so-called questions, which actually aren't questions at all.

Iain Dale said...

Neil, you obviously belong to the Robb school of political debate. When you have something interesting to say I'll be happy to listen. I'm not holding my breath.
As a point of information our actual vote (in numbers) was spot on what we were predicting. What we hadn't predicted was the 75%turnout in Horning and Barbara McGoun's personal level of support.

Iain Dale said...

Tom, believe it or not but the idea was to reengage people with the political process. Even without Mr L this has worked quite well. So far we have had about 400 people along to the debates.

Iain Dale said...

John, all donations received by my campaign are properly registered with the Electoral Commission, just as Norman Lamb's are. But then you knew that anyway!

Anonymous said...

Iain
So now we know - you only answer the questions that you chose to. The rest you dismiss with a snide comment about the contributor. What is wrong in someone telling you that you have got it wrong type - being that it is your job to get it right. If you did canvass returns in Horning why didn't you know what the turnout figures were likely to be? It all seems a bit of a shambles. Do you blame your election agent after all he should have had his figer on the pulse. It was either Mr How, the election agent or you at fault surly. Or was it the fault of the good people of the ward who turned out in their droves to make sure that Barbara McGoun,Norman Lamb and the Lib Dems scored a fantastic victory

Neil said...

Iain - I will ignore the jibe as you have asked posters to refarin from insults.

I posed a serious question. You regularly make comments on this site about how you are winning support, that people who voted for Mr Lamb will be voting for your next time etc.

Yet on the two occasions your assertions have been tested your predicitions have been badly wrong.

Your answer here is more of the same. you excuse your wrong predicition by saying that you got the Tory vote right but didn't predict increased Lib Dem support or the candidate's level of personal support. Presumably you also didn't predict how low the Labour vote would be and the implicit level of tactical voting.

You made similar mistakes in the last by-election.

Has it not occured to you that you might read the electorate wrong on all three counts at the General Election as well. Namely the Lib Dems may turn more supporters out than you are picking up, Mr Lamb may have a higher personal vote than you anticipate, and the Labour vote my drop as more Labour voters vote tactically?

Seems a reasonable question to ask in the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Neil
What a thoughtful and well balanced question. He won't answer you directly, of course, because he knows only too well what the answer is. He might insult you, or he might slag off the opposition, or he might claim that you are being offensive, but answer your question directly? - I don't think so, it's not his style. By the way are you Lib Dem or a worried friendly Conservative? One final point. I have been thinking about something that Lady F said and I think that she is right in one thing. When someone has been humiliated, as Iain was in the by election, it isn't fair to gloat - is it? That is not the sort of thing that Iain would do - is it?
With deepest respect and sympathy at this difficult time,
Robb

John said...

Thank you Iain I am sure all of your campaign donations are properly reported. Which was really my point. As someone can be judged by his enemies so can he be by the friends he has.

Knowing that large donations are made public it might have been smarter to be more selective in who you take the money from - especially if you are going to waste it on billboards that just serve to wind up and motivate your opponents.

As for the extensive comment this result has generated on various web sites I can only conclude 'as you sow so shall you reap' - if you build a campaign on unpleasant hysterical personal attacks on your opponents then you can hardly be surprised when some of it comes back to bite you.

Once again, a smart politician knows how to DEmotive his opponents - your campaign seems to have the unhappy knack of doing the opposite - and that doesnt bode well for your chances in May (or of creating a good impression with the local Conservative Association)

Anonymous said...

John
Are you a Conservative?
I don't think that the local Conservatives are too impressed with him already. One of my Conservative spies tells me that that the agent [who is apparantly a woman] looked as though she was sucking an onion as the events at the count unfolded. She was visibly angry. Seems that the Conservatives flooded the place from far and wide - but it made no difference. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when she eventually tracked Iain down for a "discussion!"

Lady F

I once knew a brilliant Jewish poet from New York - I think that she now lives in London. I gave her a massage once when she had a bad shoulder. It was all above board.

Robb

Anonymous said...

John
Are you a Conservative?
I don't think that the local Conservatives are too impressed with him already. One of my Conservative spies tells me that that the agent [who is apparantly a woman] looked as though she was sucking an onion as the events at the count unfolded. She was visibly angry. Seems that the Conservatives flooded the place from far and wide - but it made no difference. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when she eventually tracked Iain down for a "discussion!"

Lady F

I once knew a brilliant Jewish poet from New York - I think that she now lives in London. I gave her a massage once when she had a bad shoulder. It was all above board.

Robb

John said...

I have a close personal interest in North Norfolk Conservatives.

Anonymous said...

John, and what might that be then?!

Anonymous said...

John
Are you the agents husband? It might not have been an onion.
Robb