Friday, April 16, 2010

Spotlight: Norwich South

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon canvassing in one of the less Conservative wards of Norwich South with Antony Little, the Tory candidate, who also stood there in 2005. Norwich South is a constituency I know well, having been at university in Norwich in the early 1980s when we wrested it from Labour control at the 1983 election. It's a seat that has changed a lot, with several of the formerly Conservative voting wards undergoing a massive change in population. The LibDems became very strong here on the local council, but are now shadows of their former selves. Instead, they have allowed the Greens to become the official opposition on Norwich City Council. The Conservatives have gone from no seats on the Council to five in a very short time, and that is largely because of the campaigning talents of Antony Little.

Norwich South is the top LibDem target in Norfolk. Simon Wright is the LibDem candidate. He is a very talented campaigner and ran Norman Lamb's campaign against me last time in North Norfolk. However, a talented campaigner doesn't always make for a great candidate and the Greens in particular are keen to point out Mr Wright's failings in that regard. The Greens' own candidate, the very youthful looking Adrian Ramsay, is also the deputy leader of the party nationally.

And of course the three of them are up against the might of Labour's Charles Clarke. Clarke's demise is often predicted but has yet to come about. Since his sacking from the Cabinet, he has been far more active in the constituency, which up to that point had felt a little neglected.

Clarke counts his lucky stars that he has a very divided opposition, and it is that which may save him. For none of his three opponents has managed to pull away and assert themselves as his main challenger. Although the LibDems came second last time, it is difficult to see any evidence of much of a campaign so far. The Greens are making great noises about the fact that they could win, but they only got 3,100 votes and 7% of the vote. Delusion rules in Norwich Green Party, but I quite accept they will move into double figures this time around. The question is, where will their votes come from? If they come both from the LibDems and Labour it could be enough to let Antony Little slide through the middle. A vote of 12-13,000 votes could win this seat, and the Tories polled around that number in the nadir year for the Tories nationally on 1997.

Anecdotally, the canvassing session this afternoon proved to be quite positive for the Tories. We had several switchers from long term Labour voters and several others who said they couldn't vote Labour again while Gordon Brown remains as leader. Between us we only discovered 1 Green and 1 LibDem - although there were several Don't Knows who I always assume are LibDems.

I am not predicting a Tory win here, because I think the split opposition will mean Charles Clarke hangs on. But stranger things have happened. The one thing I do know is that not many candidates will have fought a better campaign on limited resources than Antony Little.

9 comments:

Norfolk Blogger said...

Iain I've been in the Lib Dem office in Norwich South this weem and beleive me, the amount of campaigning going on is very high.

I seem to recall you said something similar to this about Fakenham in 2001 (the area that myself and Simon Wright were councillors for) caliming little evidence of a Lib Dem campaign. I should point out by this point we had hand delivered four leaflets, had 90 poster boards up in Fakenham alone and that didn't include the Freeposts.

Also on the Tuesday before the General Election in2005 you wrote

" I only need a swing of 0.43% to win you will see that the result is very much on a knife-edge. The LibDem tactic of trying to persuade Labour voters to vote tactically seems to be failing. Certainly my experience is that we are picking up more Labour votes than I had expected. At last, a poll which reflects what I have felt on the ground."

So your feeling "On the ground" is not always to be trusted.

Enjoy the Norfolk sunshine. My experiences in Broadland today have been in stark contrast to yours. Very positive Lib Dem vote, people enthused about Nick Clegg, people phoning up to deliver leaflets. Fabulous.

Antisthenes said...

Perhaps we should have a two round voting system where the two candidates with the highest votes go forward to the second round if none of the candidates has more than 50% of the vote. I do not know which party this would favour but perhaps parliament would reflect the views of the electorate more evenly. An added bonus it would enthuse more people to be involved in the voting process.

James Mackenzie said...

While I spent last Saturday campaigning for the Greens, and I've never seen such an efficient or prolific organisation for any party outside a byelection or absolutely top marginal.

You also fail to point out, unsurprisingly, that the Greens have topped the poll across Norwich South at all the local and Euro elections since 2005.

I think marginally more likely than not to see Adrian Ramsay elected for the Greens this time; there was no Lib Dem presence visible anywhere and no Tories either. Labour are still surprisingly strong, despite Clarke's utter uselessness. Two horse race, as the Libs say.

Adolf Brown said...

Norfolk Blogger,

Lib Dems always ramp and pretend they are doing better than they are actually doing. I seem to remember just in the next seat in Norwich North you saying the Lib Dems would win. Your vote (Lib Dem) went down.

Political parties have good days and bad days. The fact of the matter is I know something that you dont and I dont think that Nick Clegg is the positive you think.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I seem to recall I said the Greens were a long way off in Norwich North.

James, your comments about the Greens and lack of Lib Dem presence is ridiculous.

I know how much effort the Lib Dems have put in to New Costessey (where you went) and the Greens have not put anywhere near as much out as the Lib Dems.

Norfolk Blogger said...

Also, looking through my postings on Norwich North, I cannot find any posting where I state the Lib Dems were set to win ?

I seem to have mainly reported facts and anecdotes, not opinion.

So please Adolf, provide the evidence ?

James Mackenzie said...

NB, I'm not claiming the Greens have put out more literature in New Costessey than the Libs: I just don't know.

The evidence I saw on the ground is that more folk in the area are putting up Green posters, though, which is a semi-decent metric.

On Norwich Road, Oval Road etc I saw about a half dozen Green posters, but only two Liberal ones, both on one corner property but at the opposite end to make it look like a bigger presence. Made me smile.

James Mackenzie said...

NB, I'm not claiming the Greens have put out more literature in New Costessey than the Libs: I just don't know.

The evidence I saw on the ground is that more folk in the area are putting up Green posters, though, which is a semi-decent metric.

On Norwich Road, Oval Road etc I saw about a half dozen Green posters, but only two Liberal ones, both on one corner property but at the opposite end to make it look like a bigger presence. Made me smile.

norman said...

@Norfolk Blogger

Now that the times says Clegg is as popular as Winston Churchill, you will have no problem winning 500 seats, bringing in PR and ensure that BNP gets in with 50+ seats. That is this Clegg aka Winston Curchill for you.