Thursday 28 April 2022

Winning in Mill Hill Ward, one vote at a time

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. 

We discussed the prospects for 2022. At the time, Theresa May was the Tory Leader, Jeremy Corbyn was the Labour leader, the Barnet Tories had just won a big increase in seats on the Council. When you work your socks off to no avail, it can be a bit demoralising. Neither of us predicted that in 2022 the landscape would be so different. We both felt that locally, the Corbyn factor would weigh heavy for a very long time. Theresa May was seen as a bumbling leader, who had seen awful local council results, although Barnet bucked the trend everywhere. 

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

Mill Hill (3 seats)
ConservativeJohn Hart*2,05841.9-6.1
ConservativeVal Duschinsky1,93639.4-3.1
ConservativeSury Khatri*1,86438.0-5.1

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 DemocratsSheila Gottsche1,83638.7+27.3
Liberal DemocratsJeremy Davies1,83038.6+28.8
Liberal DemocratsWayne Casey1,81738.3+28.9
ConservativeJohn Hart*1,79537.8-15.5
ConservativeJane Ellison*1,78137.5-17.8
ConservativePeter Holland1,70135.8-18.7
Yesterday we saw yet another twist. As we were walking up Engle Park, a lady approached us. She asked what we thought of MP's watching Porn in Parliament. I'd actually not heard the story, as I'd been working all day. My response was "I run a company and I'd sack anyone doing that whilst working for me, it is unprofessional". After she wandered off, I asked Jeremy what that was all about. He said "You've not seen the news have you?". What was worse was that the MP was doing this whilst stood next to a female Tory MP. That lecherous MP certainly did my days work for me yesterday. Another Lady, who was doing her garden as we passed stoped me and said said "I've always voted Conservative, I'd never vote Labour, but I know it is my duty to vote, so I will fill out my postal vote when I get home and vote for you". She confided that she usually posted the vote off straight away, but just couldn't bring herself to this time. She mentioned that this latest scandal scandal had tipped her into our camp. She said "Do you think they (tory MP's) are all like that?". I replied "No, I actually think most are not and they would be horrified, but there clearly are enough who are for him to think it was OK". Her reponse was telling "I hope that you lot wipe the floor with them and they take a good, long, hard look at themselves and sort themselves out". This was perhaps the strongest resposne I've had so far. 

Three weeks ago, I felt that the mountain was maybe a bit too high for us in Mill Hill. Campaigns can tempt you to get wildly over optimistic, but I genuinely feel that this time it's different. The tides have changed. The wind is blowing in a different direction. The only thing that will derail our campaign is apathy. Like 1994, it will be tight. Please vote. 

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