Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Looking Forward to Sunny Crewe & Nantwich

Later on tomorrow I shall be heading up the M1 and M6 towards Crewe, ready for a day's filming for my new (still unnamed) Telegraph TV programme. However, I want to get there in good time tomorrow to do a bit of campaigning myself and sniff the electoral air. Virtually every Conservative I run into has just been there or is about to go, so there can be no complaints about a lack of troops on the ground.

There is a huge expectation in the political media of an easy Conservative win. I don't subscribe to that school of thought at all. I think it is going to be incredibly close, and the Conservatives have got to guard against any false over-confidence. There is no shame in narrowly missing out on the party's 165th target seat, but the political media - which increases in its fickleness almost by the day - would undoubtedly write it up as a major crisis for David Cameron. It would be nothing of the sort. All I am saying is that expectations are far too high at the moment and a reality check is needed.

47 comments:

stuart said...

I am not a Tory, so I should probably be talking up your chances, but to be honest the £120 tax cut thing for all basic taxpayers may just have taken the sting out of the 10p attack.

It may leave a bad taste in the mouth however, as will today's inflation warning. The mood music playing during news bulletins at present is not good for the Government.

Your analysis is probably right, Iain.

Political Capital said...

Hi Iain, what makes you think C&N will be so close? Is is a "feeling in your water" or something more tangible?

asquith said...

Iain, I texted you to point out that myself and other members of the bureau were at Westminster, and you didn't know who I was! But you did put your number up a while back, remember. It was when you were on TV with your mates L. Akehurst and A. Mortimer.

I wanted to have a picture of me taken standing by Gladstone's statue, towering statesman, legend and hero that he was. But photos weren't allowed. And I couldn't find one of Asquith! Shocking :)

I missed Camoron and clunking fist, I had to sit through a bunch of anonymongs talking about Burma!

Also, I had a hard time finding anywhere vegetarian in the area. I found somewhere, but it didn't look to appetising so I drank a bit of alcohol beforehand to make it go down easier :)

dozzy said...

Crewe and Nantwich. We have all passed through Crewe on the train, though few will ever have got out. As for Nantwich, I don't imagine very many people in Britain had heard of it until about a week ago, and after next week they will never hear of it again. Why do we have an MP for such a tiny area? Is this not an indication that we have far too many MPs at Westminster?

Anonymous said...

For a laugh check out http://www.labourhome.org/: they've published a survey of what labour grassroots think of their front bench team. If this was a survey of every voter you'd think 'yep got it right, bunch of lighweight incompetents' but this damning indictment is just labour grassroots.

jamie said...

i'll be heading down this weekend, as i think will half the Greater Manchester CF branch!

in answer to Stuart above, i (and many others) believe that the £120 tax cut has so many flaws to it that labour may have been better to just weather the storm from the 10p attack.

needless to say we will be at pains to point out the many flaws at the weekend!

Anonymous said...

What about bringing mr heffer with you? He could assist dunwoody in the anti cameron campaign continuing on from the DT today.

Anonymous said...

An hour to approve posts. Are you in Crewe already with a wind up computer?

Vienna Woods said...

As a former District and Town Councillor in a neighbouring constituency, I can tell you it is certainly possible to win a seat from Labour. Although mine was a surprise victory for many, it was no surprise to me, given the experience of the back-stabbing Liberals and the slogan ridden sour faced Labour candidate. People round there tend to listen as long as you have something positive to say and don't run down the opposition.

Vienna Woods said...

As a former District and Town Councillor in a neighbouring constituency, I can tell you it is certainly possible to win a seat from Labour. Although mine was a surprise victory for many, it was no surprise to me, given the experience of the back-stabbing Liberals and the slogan ridden sour faced Labour candidate. People round there tend to listen as long as you have something positive to say and don't run down the opposition.

Richard Nabavi said...

I agree with your analysis, Iain, and with the more general warning against complacency.

The big question will be how many protest votes go to the LibDems. Based on experience over the last decade or so, you'd have thought that disaffected Labour voters would make their point by voting LibDem, but that doesn't seem to be happening - in the local elections, many of them went straight to the Conservatives, or stayed at home. Whilst this is no doubt a tribute to David Cameron's ability to put across Conservative values in a way which appeals to a broad spectrum, and is helped by poor LibDem leadership, the extent to which the LibDems are apparently failing to pick up Labour voters is nonetheless surprising.

Of course, by-elections are always special cases, especially when caused by the death of a popular and respected MP.

Perhaps you'll be able to give us a flavour of how those ordinary voters who are not natural Conservative supporters regard the LibDems.

Noelinho said...

Your caution is probably a good thing, Iain, but I'd still say the Conservatives will win by a few thousand. Labour can't be positive about the result, whether they hang on to the seat by the skin of their teeth or not, and I don't think people are going to rush back just because of the Chancellor's recent announcements. The damager is done there, methinks.

m said...

I think you are right-the party strategists have to walk an interesting tightrope between political momentum and realistic expectation. The most important thing is that the media political narrative (currently pro-cameron, anti-brown, lib dems...who?) doesn't change as a result of premature triumphalism a la kinnock. You have to be just as careful when you're ahead as when behind!

Anonymous said...

www.crewe.tv are running an online poll. Currently labour have been pushed into 4th place by UKIP. Tories are 1% ahead of LibDem.

If this was the real outcome next week, then Gordon Brown would surely have to consider his position as PM. We can always hope!

Anonymous said...

If a £2.7 billion bung can't buy Labour a seat back, they are REALLY in trouble....

Anonymous said...

Mr Broon will once again attain a meeting of the British Irish Council . So Why do the English have no Representation on the British Irish Council.
Or do we have to put up with the Continuity IRA Again and again backed by New Labour?

Adrian Yalland said...

Your comments are spot on. Under normal circumstances, not winning C&N would be expected - it is a very safe Labour seat.

But, we are victims of media expectations, and if we don't win it will be billed as Brown's big escape. If we win though - then the media will play this as the beginning of the end game for the New Labor Project.

If you are still around between Monday and Thursday - see you there.

Anonymous said...

This election is not in the bag at all. It needs boots on the ground, and it needs inculcating in people's heads in Crewe that Gordon Brown has NOT put through this allowance because he believes in it (if he did then why get rid of the 10p in the first place), but has done it just because he thinks it'll win him a few votes.

He's gone down in my estimation. I did think him a sort of decent man getting bashed about just because he had no charisma, and I didn't like it. Now I realise he's just as much the calculating spiv as any of them.

That needs going into voters' minds.

Niall said...

Political Capital. I think it's called "playing down expectations"...

Diablo said...

Absolutely agree that it will be closer than is being predicted.

The Crewe bit of the seat is more Labour than Nantwich and Brown's self-preservation package may be enough to keep it on side. Most of them won't realise that this "bribe" is going to have to be paid back one way or the other next year and beyond.

And look out for some dirty tricks from NuLab over the next few days. Don't know what but pretty sure that there'll be something.

TheMadCobbler said...

Political Capital: I think he means it's likely to be close due to the 10p tax thing being temporarily offset.

Plus it's been a Labour safe seat for, what? Since 1983? So for nearly 30 years now it's been Red. While it'd be a wonderful coup and a genuine crowning glory. [165 target seat will make everyone in the Lib Dems and Labour feel uneasy.]

I'm not going to hold my breathe, certainly not as much as the May 1st elections.

However, C&N is now Con controlled council-wise. It's often an idea to keep an eye on councils as a "barometer". Especially in old "safe zones" such as these.

Ultimately it's not about the activitists or the resources, it's all about mobilization. Who can mobilize the most votes? Who can swing the most votes? Labour or Cons? The record number of people voting this year seem to be generally higher than previously and seem to be voting conservative. So fingers crossed, but no held breath.

Alan Douglas said...

After the over-hype, from US, of that Ealing seat, I hope expectation management is in full swing during this campaign.

I also hope "David Cameron's Conservatives" have vanished. Asking for trouble. They are NOT his, they are all of us.

Alan Douglas

Anonymous said...

As it's a train town you should arrive by rail and you are right don't count your chickens just yet. However electors are funny folk and love giving the ruling party a kicking so let's hope they follow form. Enjoy your day with "Friends in the North" and the weather forecast is pretty good.
freedom to prosper

old school tory said...

I'm a Conservative voter of 30 years plus.

For Edward Timpson's sake, I hope that he loses by a very small amount.

If he manages to win this seat at a bye-election, he'll almost certainly lose it at the General Election. That will leave him out in the cold for another 4-5 years. If he's lucky....

John said...

To be fair, Crewe would definitely be a marginal were it not for Gwyneth's personal vote, so a narrow Labour loss here would actually be a good result for them - though of course the media would not portray it as such.

Anonymous said...

from Sea Shanty Irish

Truly do envy you for getting to hang out at a classic British by-election. Will be interesting to see how the various forces & trends balance themselves out.

My fearless prediction is that Labour will indeed get a Crewe cut, and that the Tory will win, but not by much - of course no need for big margin to make history!

BTW, here in the colonies we had our own "byelection" yesterday, the special election for US House of Representatives in the 1st congressional district of Mississippi.

Seat became vacant when GOP Sen. Trent Lott resigned and GOP Gov. Haley Barbour (former RNC chairman) appointed sitting GOP CD 1 Rep. to the US Senate.

Democratic candidate Travis Childers received 54%versus Republican Greg Davis with 46%.

Note this is the 3rd consecutive special election loss for the House GOP. First Denny Hastert's old IL seat, then CD 6 in Louisiana, now Dems take northern Mississippi.

All were previously "safe" seats. But don't think there is such a thing in 2008 here in the US, not when it comes to open seats.

Because the voters are in a mood to send a message.

And for a significant number, including many recent GOP voters, the best way to send the message is to vote for Democrats as a way of sticking it to the Republicans.

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...

@ anonymous @ 8.00pm -

It's not entirely grassroots, I voted in that poll 2 or 3 times myself.

I do this partly to prove Labourmongs couldn't run a whelk stall, and partly to demoralise the useless buggers as to how crap they are.

Anonymous said...

Never mind about Crewe...

The latest gossip from the Hornsey and Wood Green CLP is that finally Karen Jennings has written to the chair and withdrawn her name as parliamentary candidate for the constituency for "personal and family reasons".

Our " Wood Green Deep Throat" tells us that Jennings has been less than chuffed with the quality of the local membership and their capacity, let alone desire, to support her.

Some of the Sisters, we hear, have been "less than Sisterly".

Although her opinion of the leadership of the CLP is unprintable, in the case of he website fiasco, she firmly blames less the incompetence of the CLP officers and rather more on the concerted activities of bitter Sisters whose ambitions she has thwarted.

She has been heard to say that just because Labour is going down in flames in 2010 there is no reason she should.

After all she reasons, a a loss in Hornsey and Wood Green might damage her long running campaign to nab the very well paying Unison top job

Anonymous said...

Vienna Woods said...
"As a former District and Town Councillor in a neighbouring constituency, I can tell you it is certainly possible to win a seat from Labour."

You do repeat yourself.

zeno said...

As a man who grew up in Crewe - and whose parents still live there - I too think that a narrow Labour win is the most likely outcome. But it will depend on how effective the Tories are at getting out their vote in Nantwich and the rural areas.

The seat as a whole is a marginal that was held by GD largely on the strength of her personality and the widespread admiration people had for her. Crewe itself has been a Labour stronghold since time beyond memory. The Tories best hope is that the Labour supporters in Crewe stay at home: they're unlikely to be very motivated. Pray for rain!

While you're up there, pay a call to one of Chatwin's shops. They're the local bakers and bake some really superb stuff. Every time we visit we end up bringing a freezer full of their stuff home. I'm feeling hungry just writing about it....

Anonymous said...

dozzy said...
"Crewe and Nantwich...Why do we have an MP for such a tiny area? Is this not an indication that we have far too many MPs at Westminster?"

What an odd comment. The size of tye electorate is about average for England.

alexandrian said...

Don't be so cautious, Iain. I've lived in Crewe most of my life and was Labour upto and including 1997 but I can tell you without hestitation that the Labour vote has now largely collapsed in this town. Brown and his sorry crew are regarded with a mixture of contempt and mockery.

I reckon huge numbers of traditional Labour voters just won't vote, but with a sizeable minority (myself included) opting for Timpson.

The Tories will walk it by at least 3,000 votes I reckon.

zeno said...

dozzy:

C&N has a population of about 114,000 so it's by no means small. It's a fascinating constituency for political geeks because besides the Labour in Crewe/Tory in Nantwich split and the personal influence of Mrs Dunwoody, it has also seen a sizeable influx of Polish immigrants in the past 10 years. I don't know - and maybe Iain can enlighten us - how many of them are eligible to vote. I couldn't even begin to guess if they'd vote on party lines.

Anonymous said...

If the Tories can't get the vote out now, they never will!

There is a mass upswell of disgust and revulsion at this horrendous, lying government and people have strong feelings about it. People have seen through them - they are fed up to the back teeth of new laws, new taxes - they simply want to get on with their lives without the strait jacket of government impositions.

Crewe and Nantwich should be there for the taking and if it is, we may see the back of the worst Chancellor seen in the last two centuries. Thank God!!

rob's uncle said...

Re 'Why do we have an MP for such a tiny area?' what nonsense: constituencies are defined to have an equal number of electors; much of it is rural so its area is quite large.

rob's uncle said...

Amazingly, if you look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/5day.shtml?id=1589 you will discover that it is forecast to be dry for he next 5 days and mostly sunny. Enjoy!

John Pickworth said...

I'm personally much more positive about Crewe and Nantwich, although I understand the need not to be complacent.

There is real disillusionment on the streets of Crewe about Brown's Government. The abolition of the 10p tax band, the higher cost of living, the £2.7bn tax RISE (this cannot be stressed too much) and this mornings news about the return of bin taxes (another Brown broken promise). There are of course also local concerns such as crime and parking etc.

The most striking thing of this bi-election campaign has been the wealth of ideas coming from Edward Timpson's conservatives verses the vacant nu-labouresque langauage from Dunwoody II.

Dunwoody II also has a rather comical idea about how to deal with yobs on the streets when her campaign workers begin dressing up as teenage hoodies and then attempting to mug visiting opposition leaders outside the local police station. Just one of a long list of shallow electioneering stunts from Labout that's turning off their vote.

Labour and their supporters have brightened up this past couple of days but you don't have to look too deep to see how shallow their confidence is. I predict their confidence will collapse just as quickly as the political 'relaunch' competes against the aweful economic data that is coming through thick and fast now.

Iain, I'm sure after speaking with the good folk of Crewe and Nantwich you'll have a much more positive view of the situation on the ground.

Crewe and Natwich is a 'can win' but we're going to have to continue working hard for it.

asquith said...

10:53,

Perhaps if E. Timpson lost he wouldn't trouble to stand again. Maybe it's different at entry level, but there seems to be a lot of resignations among people who lose elections. One thinks of Major, Hague, Howard etc. Then there are all the Lib Dems who resigned for no obvious reason. My humble opinion is that too many people give up early and it doesn't benefit us.

Richard said...

I would still advise to err on the side of caution - have no lessons been learnt from the Ealing Southall fuck-up last summer? A lot of people were chalking up a Conservative victory for that chameleon Tony Lit, but it failed to materialise and it was the Lib Dem candidate who made the most gains.

Whilst I do not doubt that it will be close between Dunwoody and Timpson, I still think Labour are beginning with an advantage and will probably pip the Conservatives to the post.

Travis Bickle said...

Exchange quotes as at 12:00

Conservatives to win seat 1.24/1.25
(1/4 on and lengthening slightly**)
Labour to win 5.2/5.5
(4/1 and shortening slightly**)
The Irrelevant Dems 33/1

** most likely traders trying to move the market to make a profit pre event.

dozzy said...

I stand corrected. These two towns didn't look nearly so big when viewed on google maps! I still think we have far too many MPs though, and any party that proposed to halve the number would get my vote (though not Labour, of course). Those deprived of a seat could go and sit in a new English & Welsh parliament, which could be built in Nantwich (reasonably central and close to Wales).

Gobshyte said...

We can surely rely upon Nick Robinson to talk up the Labour win regardless of how narrow it will be.
Surely though it will be another previously rock solid Labour seat which has become a marginal.

verity said...

Gobshyte, no. If the Tories come close to capturing it in a by-election, they could easily fall behind in a general election, as their soft "support" melts away and the stay at homes are driven to the ballot box by fear of a Camoron government.

Richard Nabavi said...

There's a very thoughtful and interesting article by John Harris at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/15/crewebyelection08.labour

As you would expect, it's written from a left-wing viewpoint. The (mostly left-wing) readers' comments are also interesting - not just the usual rants.

What the article and comments tell me is that Brown cannot recover his position simply by pleasing his supporters on economic policy and taxation, even if he were willing and able to do so. The disillusionment of Labour supporters is much deeper than that.

I'm getting more hopeful on the C&N result...

one night in bangkok said...

Richard Nabavi, you should use tinyurl to shorten your links ;)

mad mel phillips & simple simon heffer's love child said...

http://eric-hobsbawm.blogspot.com/2008/05/while-i-obviously-will-be-seeking-lib.html

Anonymous said...

one night in bangkok said...
"Richard Nabavi, you should use tinyurl to shorten your links ;)"

Even better for other people if you create HTML links, as Iain does.