Friday, 11 July 2008


Yesterday's by-election in Wigan West produced the following results:

Labour 817 (38.3%)
Conservative 528 (24.8%)
Liberal Democrat 344 (16.1%)
BNP 200 (9.4%)
UKIP 124 (5.8%)
CAP 118 (5.5%)

Overall turnout 21.5%

That last number - 21.5% - is the most important information there, and I will return to it.

Our percentage of the vote dropped by almost the same as the UKIP vote. Ukip have never opposed us before in this ward, so it seems reasonable to conclude that UKIP is taking votes away from us here.

The Labour vote was down, and this is despite having some serious local power out doorknocking: Neil Turner MP and at least four councillors were seen on the streets getting out their vote.

The Conservative vote is up.

As a group, we are going to have to dicuss this. After the count I talked with representatives of the Cap, UKIP, and Lib/Dem parties. We reached a tentative conclusion about the next step we must take, but this public place is not where we should talk about that. We are all agreed - and that includes the Conservatives - that the key task is to break the stranglehold that the Labour party seems to have on the minds of the people of Wigan.

Turnout: this is crucial. Four out of every five potential voters in this ward didn't bother voting. I suspect it wouldn't have been much different in any other ward. I believe this low turnout is a part of that Labour stranglehold on the minds of the people of Wigan that I mentioned earlier.

As a party (just like all the other non-Labour parties if the talk last night was anything to go by) we believe that if you stuck a red rosette on a monkey and held it up on a stick, then the people of Wigan would elect it. Maybe that four out of five who didn't/don't vote believe the same thing ... so don't bother going out to the polling station. Well, all I can say about that is "self-fulfilling prophecy". Would it be more accurate to say that if we stuck a red rosette on a monkey and held it up on a stick that one fifth of the people of Wigan would elect it.

Let's take a look at the 2004 General election. Neil Turner won for Labour with 55% of the vote. However, only 53% of the voters bothered turning out. If you work through the numbers on that, it turns out that the Labour party had the positive endorsement of no more than 29% of the people of Wigan. So Labour is not invulnerable here. And as I said earlier, the most important issue is turnout. I believe that if we - all non-Labour parties together - could persuade the non-voters to turn out then we could finish Labour in this town.

So - how do we increase turnout? We are going to have to discuss this. And that means that whether we like it or not all the non-Labour parties are going to have to discuss this together. In public is not the place to do this - no point tipping our hand to Labour, is there.

I did notice at the count - and I've noticed it at other counts too - all we non-Labour party people get on well with each other, but mostly, the Labour people seem hostile to everyone else - almost as if they see themselves as being at war against the British. But I must give some credit to one Labour councillor: Phyll Cullen made a point of speaking to me. She asked about why Susan wasn't standing, and did seem genuinely concerned to hear about Susan's recent medical difficulties, and wishes all the best to her. Thank you Phyll. We'll remember that.

As for the rest of us - we've got two years to find a way to get the turnout up. I'm personally convinced that the only way to bring Labour to heel is to get turnout up. Ideas folks, ideas. Think. And other parties that read this site - you do the same. Ideas. Mustn't depend on just a couple of people in each party to come up with the ideas. The cleverest thing in the world isn't one or two people - the cleverest thing in the world is large group of people.

Use the comment section. Speak up at meetings. Think.

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