Back in 2018, after the local elections, I had a beer with my fellow Mill Hill Lib Dem candidate Richard Logue. We'd run a good campaign in difficult circumstances. We'd more than doubled the Lib Dem vote, in face of an onslaught from both the Conservatives who ran a strong anti Corbyn campaign and the Momentum left who got a big response from the local left vote, who both had a good go at Mill Hill.
Richard asked me if he thought the Lib Dems had any chance in 2022. I replied that it was a long way away.We didn't know how much things would change. I said "All we have to do is persuade one Conservative a day to switch to the Lib Dems and we'll walk it". When you talk about switching, 1,460 voters, that's a hell of a lot, but it's only one day. So where do you start?
If you want to win as an opposition candidate, you have to persuade people that you can make a difference. I don't stand because I want a career in Politics, I do it because I want a better Mill Hill for residents. I have written over 300 emails to the council in that time, on subjects from enforcement of building controls, the environment, green belt violations and planning applications, problems with street lighting. Not to impress people, just because it's right.
When we've been out canvassing, people have raised issues, I've been able to show evidence of work I've been doing over the last four years on the issues. Last night, a lady I was canvassing on Bittacy Rise told me she was disillusioned with politics. I told her I understood and asked why. She listed a whole list of things, most of which I'd been in a long running dialogue with the council about. Former Mill Hill Councillor Jeremy Davies was out with me and explained how the councillors could have sorted the issues out, had they been so minded. That was another voter who's mind we'd changed.
I've no idea how many people will have changed as a result of such chats, through reading this blog, through the chats that I have in M&S, Iceland and Tesco's, or whilst walking the dog in the Broadway. What I do know is that our canvass returns are telling a different story to 2018. In some ways, the 2014 elections were a better baseline for assessing the Tory base vote. There was no Corbyn bogeyman for most residents.
Mill Hill Conservative vote 2014
As you can see, you usually need 1,800-2,000 votes to win in Mill Hill. My gut feeling is that the Tories will be 25% down on that year. The Lib Dems didn't really run a strong campaign that year. I was not a member at the time. This time it is different. We are hearing tales from disaffected Tory voters of them giving Tory Telelphone canvassers a flea in their ear.
This year I feel strong parallels with what happened in 1994, when the Lib Dems came from third place to win. It seems to me that Boris Johnson's regime is even more unpopular than John Major was in 1994.
Mill Hill ward results 1994 Council elections
|Liberal Democrats||Sheila Gottsche||1,836||38.7||+27.3|
|Liberal Democrats||Jeremy Davies||1,830||38.6||+28.8|
|Liberal Democrats||Wayne Casey||1,817||38.3||+28.9|