Friday, 4 May 2018

Barnet Council elections 2018 - An in depth look at Mill Hill

The first in a series of blogs, with a detailed analysis of the local elections we look at Mill Hill. This ward is especially important to me as I stood in the ward for the Liberal Democrats. I have spent the morning number crunching and looking at the detail and my personal campaign notes. This is probably the most detailed analysis of any ward you will see. I doubt anyone who knows the ward will argue.

We must start by offering our congratulations to the local Conservative party on a convincing victory.

The turnout in Mill Hill was high with the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems all increasing their vote from 2014

2018 Total vote breakdown




2 cands
8853 4293 3481 301
52.30% 25.36% 20.56% 1.78%

Total Votes 16,928

2 cands
1 cand
No votes5858372417031005371731
% votes43.74%27.81%12.72%7.50%2.77%5.46%

Total Votes 13,392

Over three and a half thousand more people voted in this election compared to the 2014 election. The Conservatives saw a huge increase in votes from 5,858 to 8,853. This was just under a 9% increase in share. Labour also saw an increase in numbers from 3,274 to 4,293 but this was a decrease in share of vote by approx 2.5%. The Lib Dems saw a huge increase in votes from 1,703 to 3,481 which amounted to an over 8% rise. The Greens lost 70 votes and had a 1% drop and UKIP did not stand.

What does this tell us about the respective strengths of the parties in Mill Hill.

The Mill Hill Conservatives

This is an excellent performance by the Conservatives at the ballot box. For an incumbent party to raise their voter by 9%, out performing all of the other parties in percentage rise cannot be dismissed. It is highly likely that the Tories hoovered up the UKIP votes, which would account for 25% approx of the increase, which would mean their on share still increased by 5,65%, still very respectable (it is unlikely that many UKIP supporters switched to remain supporting LD's Corbynite Labour).

Private conversations with candidates of all parties, indicated an expectation that the turnout would be similar to 2014. What was clear was that voters for both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were far more motivated to come out this time. As someone who has spent six months knocking on Mill Hill doors and having hundreds of friendly chats with Conservative voters, many of whom were friends, it was clear why the Tories turned out in such huge numbers. Not a single Conservative expressed any great enthusiasm for the policies of the local council and many privately told myself and other Lib Dems that they agreed with the local issues we raised. They also firmly told us that they saw the policies of Jeremy Corbyn, Momentum and the anti semitic elements of Labour as something that is beyond the pale. They told us that they were absolutely determined to vote Conservative to ensure that a strong signal was sent from Barnet that "momentum was not welcome around here".  A regular conversation we heard was that "we have no issue with the Lib Dems and we like your policies locally, but we will not be taking a chance whilst Labour are in the hands of Corbyn". Another key theme they had was that if the Tories lost Barnet, this would give Labour a huge propaganda victory, even if it was the Lib Dems that held the balance of power. In short, the Barnet Conservatives got every last one of their staunch voters out, which is completely unprecendented in Barnet local elections. 

One of the key themes their voters told us time and time again was "they've not knocked on our doors and we've not seen any leaflets, but we will be voting for them because we can't stand Jeremy Corbyn. I get on extremely well with local Conservative John Hart and I have discussed this with him many times over the course of the campaign. Last night he confessed that even he was surprised at just how great a job they'd done turning out their core. John said "I can't really do any door knocking now with my leg, but I've been on the telephone and as soon as you tell anyone that Corbyn's Labour may win in Barnet they are in the bag". 

My analysis is that Corbyn/Momentum has made Mill Hill unwinnable for anyone except the Conservatives.  Many of our large Jewish community and many affluent voters have sympathies with much of what the Lib Dems were proposing but were not prepared to take the risk of doing anything that might encourage the Corbynites and Momentum locally.

The Mill Hill Labour Party

First the good news. The number of people voting Labour went up 569 in Mill Hill. I suspect that this is because they had excellent local candidates. Mike Barker is well known and highly respected for his work in the Labour Party, his work in the Mill Hill Neighbourhood forum and his general involvement in local issues. Anyone who knows Mike and Catherine Barker and is not that political would have no problem voting for them. I suspect that this local profile added at least a a couple of hundred votes to each of their tally. As a Lib Dem, when I found out that Mike and Catherine were standing, I was really quite worried. Sensible people vote for people they know, like and trust. Labour did not see Mill Hill as a target ward and they put few resources into the campaign. I suspect that without the Barkers, the Lib Dems would have come a strong second. The Labour parties third candidate Kamal Gurung was also an excellent candidate. Although he had a very low local profile, as an ex Gurkha, he is an excellent chap. I genuinely hope he is given a safe seat in Burnt Oak next time. He brought a committed team of helpers out to ensure that Labour got their leaflets out across Mill Hill. I suspect that without Mr Gurungs herculean efforts to get his team out delivering and the profile of the Barkers, the percentage drop in Labour vote would have been far greater.  I also suspect that Labour were in a no win situation, as the harder they campaigned, the more committed the Tories would be to vote. 

At the hustings in Mill Hill, former Hale Councillor Hugh Rayner accused the Labour Party and the Lib Dems of a pact to "stitch up Mill Hill". Sadly (for the Lib Dems) by picking the Barkers and Mr Gurung, quite the opposite was true. If Labour had really wanted to throw the vote in Mill Hill, they'd have run three completely unknown people from the other side of the Borough, with no profile and dropped no leaflets. Barnet Labour made a monumental and catastrophic failure in their use of candidates. They should have run the Barkers and Mr Gurung in Hale. I think they would have won at least one seat in that ward if they had. I was out canvassing key Lib Dem supporters in Hale with the Hale Lib Dems a few weeks before the election and I was told they same thing several times. Rachel Barker, who in any other circumstance would be a brilliant candidate was being painted by the Conservatives as typical momentum supporter. Rachel is a bright and bubbly, extremely hard working young lady, however she was painted as  "typical head in the clouds, momentum supporting, university undergraduate with no experience of life" by the Hale Conservatives team. When it comes down to it, when the Tories have the scent of blood, they do not let go. Labour have no chance at all in Mill Hill ward, especially while Labour is lead by Jeremy Corbyn. The Tories will make hay and simply use it to turn out their core vote.

The Mill Hill Lib Dems

We nearly doubled our share of the vote, got a great reception on doorsteps, even the local staunch Tory voters told us they agreed with  much of our manifesto and what we were trying to do. We genuinely believed that we were in with a strong shout until the ballot boxes were opened. We had assumed that with Sury Khatri being booted out, we might get in with 17-1800. Valerie Duschinsky got 1,936 votes in 2014 and absolutely nothing indicated that she'd get any more this time, in fact we thought that Sury's personal vote would see her drop by 2-300 and come over to the Lib Dems. We thought this would get us over the line. As Valerie's vote went up by over 1,000 it showed that we were totally wrong on this. All of our projections and all of the media attention was predicting a slump in Tory votes. The harsh truth is that if voters perceive that another party is the only way to stop bad things happening, they will not vote for you, even if they like what you are saying. 

When I last stood in 2010, I realised a couple of days before the vote that the Lib Dems campaign may not have delivered. This time I was completely surprised. Whilst I had no idea whether we would win or lose, I genuinely thought the race was far closer. 

For the Mill Hill Lib Dems and the wider Barnet party, we have a harsh choice. We can give up and go away, or we can sit down and work out what we need to do and come back with a strategy that works for future elections. What is 100% clear. In both 2014 and 2018, we had excellent candidates in Mill Hill. The difference was that in 2018, we put the work rate to go with the candidates. I am surprisingly upbeat today. To nearly double your share is a massive achievement.

Across the rest of Barnet, where the Lib Dems did not have resources or manpower to actively campaign although we had excellent candidates, there was a marked decline in votes. An example of this was Edgware, where the number of votes declined by a 23% despite a higher turnout. There is a clear lesson that where the Lib Dems are prepared to work hard, there is a significant vote.

There are many lessons for the Lib Dems, the on clear one is that if we go out and knock on doors, we will see the fruits. My own feelings are that the snow/ice and bad weather in March caused a serious amount of disruption to our campaign. It had a massive impact on our campaign. We'd planned to spend that part of the campaign in Mill Hill working on voters with concerns about Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum. We had a leaflet prepared and a target list of voters to canvass and deliver to. As we fell two weeks behind, we simply deleted this from the plan and concentrated on our core voter plan. I firmly believe that talking to voters is the key to success and I believe the cold weather cost us 300 votes, based on our targetted planning. Our canvassing and pledges indicated that we were at around 16-1,700 votes, which seemed bang on target to win at that stage.

As we are not going away, our first task will be to find out what happened to those 4-500 voters. Myself, Donna and Richard are 100% committed to the project we embarked on. So we will be out knocking on doors, when the other parties have put away their canvass sheets for the next four years. There are many private lessons we won't share, but the one we are happy to tell anyone who will listen is that the one lesson we are happy to share is that if you want to double your vote, you have to work hard, talk to people and get the right message across.

We will keep working. We plan to double our vote again for the next election in Mill Hill - we've done it once and we've learned lessons. Whether that is a by-election or the council election in 2022, I believe that whenever that is, the Corbyn/Momentum effect in Mill Hill will not be the potent mix it is today. We will do the work and if we meet our target, we will win with 22-2400 votes.

2014 Vote
Edgware Lib Dems

ABELES Aliza Miriam Liberal Democrat 446
ABELES Elias Pinkas Liberal Democrat 410
OLLIER Alexander Timothy Matthew Liberal Democrat 169
Total Vote 1025
2018 Vote
Edgware Lib Dems
Barber Stephen David Liberal Democrat 273
Ferrero Tijera Jose-Angel Liberal Democrat 252
Manalo Maria Liberal Democrat 268
% Decline 22.63

SurnameFirst NameDescriptionVotes
BarkerKatherineLabour Party1555
BarkerMikeLabour Party1431
BokaeiGolnarThe Conservative Party Candidate (Elected)2867
DuschinskyValerie LindaThe Conservative Party Candidate (Elected)3009
GurungKamal BahadurLabour Party1307
HartJohn RobertThe Conservative Party Candidate (Elected)2977
LogueRichard JosephLiberal Democrat1236
LynchMichelleGreen Party301
PickupDonna JoanneLiberal Democrat1045
Quartey-PapafioKwatelaiGreen Party166
TichborneRoger MartinLiberal Democrat1200

Local election results 22 May 2014- Mill Hill
Name of candidateDescription (if any)Number of votes recorded
CLAYTON RolfIndependent371
DAVIES Jeremy EdwinLiberal Democrat721
DUSCHINSKY ValConservative Party Candidate1936 (elected)
FRANCOME ColinLabour Party Candidate1229
HANDLEY Deborah JuneLabour Party Candidate1264
HART John RobertConservative Party Candidate2058 (elected)
HILL AlasdairLiberal Democrat512
ILOTT Luke AlexanderGreen Party282
JOHN Sian BassettLabour Party Candidate1231
JONES George AlfredUK Independence Party (UKIP)731
KHATRI SuryConservative Party Candidate1864 (elected)
LEES Michael JohnLiberal Democrat470
RUSTIN BarbaraGreen Party495
WILLIAMS David GustaveGreen Party228

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