Friday, May 05, 2006

The local elections

Good times. The sun is shining and Conservatives are getting elected. The number of seats we won was important in terms of local governance but essentially a sideshow in terms of national politics as the benchmark for success is highly subjective. More significant is the proportion of the vote. It is best to be careful when predicting general elections from local polls but a few of the reasons why we had to suspect previous polls cannot be attached to this one.

The protest vote: When the Labour vote crashes it can just mean that people are vaguely pissed off rather than that their preferred government is changing. These votes, however, generally go to the Liberal Democrats or some other, nastier, minor party. People don't, or at least didn't, tend to protest by voting Conservative as we are still a party of the political establishment.

Transient issues: I don't think this election is simply a response to the specific charges of sleaze and incompetence surrounding Prescott and Clarke. Again the vote would probably go to minor parties. Also, we have specific poll evidence that the Conservatives have a leader and political platform which people are responding to; Cameron's high approval rating among the general public is particular evidence of this. Finally, a protest vote would see Labour hurt equally across the board whereas they were actually hurt most in the areas where you would expect a revival in response to new Tory support, i.e. not the northern cities.

It's no good so long as we aren't succeeding in the northern cities: It is important that the Conservatives become a political prescence in the entire country again but that is a long term project. Winning elections requires us to start winning the areas which deserted us in 1997 and probably relies more upon improving our desperately poor showing the large ABC1 social grouping than improving it among northern workers.

This is just a vote on European issues: This isn't a European election.

Conservatives should be genuinely pleased with this result. There is still plenty of work to be done but this is a good start.

1 comment:

Umbongo said...

Not wishing to preempt any more learned analysis, it seems to me that:

1. The Tory success has little to do with David Cameron and the modernisers and everything to do with sheer exasperation with the New Labour gang. Francis Maude's triumphalism - aimed significantly at his own party rather than his opponents - promises more "modernisation" and "compassion" and is incredibly counterproductive (for this Tory supporter and ex-member anyway).

2. I haven't seen the total turnout in this election but I suspect the 7(?)% switch from Labour to Tory is an effect of lower turnout figures rather than a "return" to the Tories. In other words, people not voting had more of an effect than people switching votes.

3. This was not the whole of England voting: so I'm not totally convinced it's a new dawn for the Conservatives. Moreover, the polls were solely in England which (with one exception since WW2 - or possibly WW1) has been consistently a Conservative country.

4. Local election results are interesting but are not always a pointer to what would occur in a general election.