Friday 22 April 2022

Barnet Council Election commentary - Two weeks to go and the Barnet Tories are in meltdown!

 In two weeks time, I will be writing a blog, picking over the bones of the local election results. The last election was in 2018. I was intriguid to see what I wrote on this day back then. It is quite instructive. I chose not really to discuss the election at all, but to report on the final meeting of the Audit Committee to be chaired by Ex Tory Councillor Hugh Rayner.  My coverage of the election was rather low key, considering I was working my butt off. In truth, as a Lib Dem Candidate in Mill Hill, we knew we were on a hiding to nothing. We set ourselves a target of trying to get our vote up to 20%, which we achieved. We raised local issues and our ambition was to try and keep the local Tories honest. We thought that if we demonstrate that there was a serious opposition in Mill Hill, prepared to work hard, it would keep the local Tory Councillors honest and ensure they worked hard. We were aware that the local Labour party were on the attack, despite knowing they couldn't win. The hard left seemed to dislike the idea of a Lib Dem win in Mill Hill even less than a Tory victory. The Tories rather oddly posted "Vote Lib Dem, get Jerey Corbyn" to their voters. This message resonated with many local residents, despite the fact that Jeremy Corbyn had nothing to do with either the Lib Dems or the Barnet elections. The Tories very effectively made the point that the only way to tell Jeremy Corbyn what you thought of him was to vote for them. It seemed like every door we knocked on asked us "What do you think of Jeremy Corbyn". If they were Conservative leaning, they'd slam the door in our face and if they were Labour left, they'd do exactly the same. 

Our polling returns indicated a range of 1,000 to 1,400 votes. We got around 1,200. This time, it is different. Whereas last time it was Corbyn on the doorstep, this time it is Boris. Whereas last time doors were slammed in our face, casual Tory voters are saying "We will be voting for you as we couldn't possibly endorse Boris". Casual Labour voters are saying "We used to vote for you in the locals and we are this time". Our leaflets have been extraordinarily effective, causing the Tories into a humiliating climb down following a proposal to place a semi permanent fun fair on Mill Hill park this summer. They had the Chutzpah to claim it proved they are listening. Councillors hear about such plans in advance of any notices being posted, so the idea that they are doing a super job is complete nonsense. The posted on local Facebook sites, making highly dubious claims, at a time the Council is in purdah. Clearly knowing that they are on dodgy ground, they added the caveat "May I further say that this decision has nothing to do with the up and coming local elections"

Oddly, Hale Ward councillors are claiming to represent Mill Hill, to raise their profile in the posts. To indulge in such shenanigans is clearly a sign of panic. The bottom line is that for the Lib Dems to win in Mill Hill, we'd need to see a 40% drop in Tory votes and a 50% increase in the Lib Dem vote. When I was asked to stand in October, I thought this was an impossible mountain to climb. Having been leafletting and knocking on doors, my gut feeling is that this more than  achieveable. I totted up canvass returns and I'll be absolutely shocked if the the Tories do not see at least a 40% drop in votes. 

The only question is whether enough residents will vote tactically to deliver a shock. I spoke to one mate, a staunch Tory, who told me he's already voted Lib Dem in a postal vote. Although we've been mates for years, it is a first. The reason? He wants to see Boris gone. His view is that a Lib Dem councillor is a price well worth paying to send a strong message to the local Tories. Of course, he's a mate, but he's voted for all three candidates.  As we've been canvassing, we've heard the same story across the ward. When it is people you don't know, it is far more powerful.

As for the Tories, they are in a very strange mood. I see them privately around the place. A couple are quite friendly. What they are telling me privately is quite illuminating. Of course I don't know if they are stringing me along, but I cannot see why they would encourge the Mill Hill Lib Dems to try harder. Of course I've been here before. In 2010, our poll returns told us we were meeting our target to get elected. I polled over 2,000 votes, but the Tories won. There is a hard core Tory vote that always turns up. I suspect that in two weeks time, we will know exactly how large that is, because I've not talked to a single soft Tory voter who is supporting them this time.

What is clear is that the engine room of the local Conservative party is not working effectively. I think they ignored Mill Hill, thought it was a shoe in. They've relied on postal voters previously and as we did a lot of work, under the radar before these were sent, I am convinced we've hoovered up a lot of people that they would not expect to vote for us. They are now scrabbling around to try and convince people who are far less inclined to vote. In short, they are in meltdown. When you start seeing dodgy Facebook posts making false claims, you know the game is up.  As for their leaflets?

Anyway, must shoot. It's 11.39 and I have some canvassing to do!

1 comment:

Fraser said...

All well and good, but the Tories always seem to get in, don't they ? Can it be that the voters don't like the kind of people they see supporting the Lib Dems and the Labour Party.