My sleep deprived brain would struggle to understand these matters when on top form.  But right now, I have no idea:

What did Labour do to switch momentum from Lib Dems back to Labour? In Islington South, Edinburgh South, the City of Durham, Oxford East and most tragically Hampstead and Kilburn they seemed, somehow, to tell people that the right vote is Labour.  How did they win that argument? How on earth did a government this unpopular nevertheless convince voters that they were safer with Labour?

Did they use the immigration scare story? Were there loads of leaflets out there saying “Nick Clegg will flood you with immigrants”?

How do the Conservatives feel right now? Iain Dale was seriously concerned when the exit polls came out.  Listening to David Cameron, are they dismayed at his long list of areas where the LibDems and Conservatives agree – or do they think ‘Triangulation! Keep Labour out for ever!’  UPDATE Some proof that Tories are NOT happy

UPDATE Do they think things can only get better for them – or worse? I mean, they had SO many advantages in this election – fighting Brown, not being blamed for stuff going wrong in the economy.  And they got 36%.  In what scenario do they see Conservatives govern and become more popular during a period of austerity? remember what Mervyn King said

Does Cameron really think that starting to cut now will make the economy stronger? Some economists like Simon Ward agree.

Do they really want strong stable government ‘that lasts’ – or are they hoping their enormous war chest will be used again in a year or so? Following Cameron’s very careful speech reaching out to Liberal Democrats.

I have to break this off.  Listening to Cameron is fascinating.  I bet the Guardian Columnists are wailing in despair – because it seems like a very fulsome offer, a recognition of their priorities to some extent (though not really on Electoral reform – an All Party Committee Enquiry?  Purleeeaaase).  The comparison with Brown (read Shrimsley’s comparison with Friday 13th monsters) does not flatter to the current PM … Labour tweeters are going all-out to paint PR as a total red line.  Ming Campbell is on their side on that matter.

Cameron said ‘Confidence and Supply’.  So did Julian ‘Mystic Meg’ Astle not long ago.

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19 thoughts on “Questions I would love to know the answer to

  1. I can only speak for myself. I live in Hampstead and Kilburn, and intended to vote Lib Dem. When I got to the polling booth, however, I voted Labour. I think my reasoning was I was annoyed with the media narrative that was anointing Cameron and Clegg, and perhaps that’s your ‘bubble’ of which you spoke. I also reasoned that it was a Labour seat notionally and so Labour were best placed to defeat the Conservatives. The Conservative candidate in that seat is exactly the sort of dynamic person our country needs to improve its economic fortunes – but in the legislature? No.

  2. People voted against us in some areas because they thought we would form a coalition with the Tories. They voted against us in other areas because they thought we would prop up Labour.

    It has to be a PR referendum (or better) and Labour; this may be the last shot Britain ever gets.

  3. @Matthew – Glenda Jackson though?

    But the question asked was ‘why didn’t be beat Labour in Lib/Lab marginals’ and the answer is that most of those were in Scotland or the North of England where people bitterly hate the Tories. They were worried we might form a coalition with the Tories so voted for Labour instead.

    P.S. – A coalition with the Conservatives, followed by an election soon after, could kill us in Scotland and the North of England, possibly forever.

    1. In Scotland the Labour campaign consisted entirely of “Don’t let the Tories in by the back door”. Astonishing though it may seem, this banal mantra completely steamrollered both the LibDems and the SNP.

      But I doubt that many people were thinking of it in terms of us ‘going into coalition’ with the Tories, just that voting Labour seemed the simplest and most effective way of keeping the Tories out.

      As Duncan said, any Westminster coalition with the Tories would kill us in Scotland for a generation.

  4. “@Matthew – Glenda Jackson though?”

    I’ve never voted for a particular MP or against one – I have absolutely no interest in whether they do good constituency work or not. They’re there as unit of one in a parliamentary majority (they are whipped, after all).

  5. G
    You ask, “What did Labour do to switch momentum from Lib Dems back to Labour?”
    They simply reminded their ‘people’ that if they didn’t vote Labour they’d get the Tories.
    It always works. This is the definition of a core vote. Tempted briefly away from nurse they needed more reassurance from the Lib Dems that they wouldn’t get what they most fear.
    This is why the 30 -odd% LD poll figure was always unsustainable. LDs had to move higher or fall back. Moving higher would have helped reassure those tempted out of the nursery. Without that next step …
    LD campaign was too risk averse when the door stood ajar.
    Confidence and Supply ? see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confidence_and_supply. Our newly drafted conventions are based on New Zealand’s.
    B

  6. I have another question to add: How did the Tories get Labour voters in Con-Lib Dem marginals to switch to them, rather than the Lib Dems? Just have a look at the results in Oxford West and Abingdon and York Outer (among others) and you’ll see what I mean.

    1. Yes – that is EXTRAORDINARY. I mean “Don’t vote Labour, vote Tory” is amazing. Immigration?

      1. Quite possibly. I think the next task for sensible and intelligent people like you is to start making a public case for the benefits of immigration, since most of our politicians (bar Nick Clegg’s occasional arguments in the TV debates) have chickened out completely.

        It’s ironic that the Daily Mail likes nothing better than to complain that political correctness stifles debate on immigration, when the dominant voice in that debate is in fact theirs and that of their fellow xenophobes.

    2. It might be an illusion that results from lower Labour turnout and a change in boundaries meaning the comparison figures are off, in Oxford at least. You might get a better idea if you were able to get the box figures from Oxford, I suppose.

      From the fact that Ben Goldacre and others suddenly went all out to defend him I assume the Tories ran ‘Evan Harris maims animals’ or kills babies or something to the effect. Maybe that might have done it but I suspect the apparent switch from Labour to the Tories is just that; apparent.

      There are some exceptions. Lembit, for example, probably suffered from a protest vote over expenses or just being Lembit.

      1. Well, there was a Mail “Dr Death” article. They still gloatingly called him that in their round-up of the Lib Dem disaster or whatever they were calling it.

    3. The answer Niklas is negative campaigning. Creating a stampede.

      When you come under savage negative campaigning it is very easy to project your own wishes. “This is bound to back fire.” “No one in their right mind will believe this nonsense.” “Look at the demand for our posters.”

      But the sad truth is that negative campaigning uncontested destroys reputation.

      The only counter to this kind of campaign is to build a massive local reputation prior to the start of the negativity and to drown out the incoming fire with static.

      One of the functions of a literature campaign (so much derided) during the nominal four or so weeks of the campaign is to neutralise or drown out an opponent’s communication. Create static. “Not another bloody leaflet” So that they all are thrown away.

      “Why am I delivering this, no one’ll read it?” Quite.

      The effect then is that the awareness and evaluation of the local candidate (as opposed to the national leader) remains where it was on day one.

      In intensely fought seats the negative campaign starts much earlier, therefore the static needs to be created earlier and to last with sufficient intensity – very demanding and all the time the little lazy voice is saying – “Nah, no one is going to believe this so I didn’t do another leaflet ‘til next week.”

      Sometimes the candidate is just too vulnerable to the negativity because of a history that means that the mud gets over the shield and of course sticks. “No smoke without fire.”

      When an electorate wants to dump someone it is pretty skilful and realising what they have to do to dump them. Even if that means lending an opponent a vote to destroy your enemy. Create a big enough sense of fear and loathing and you get a stampede. In which case, our hero loses.

      Political is tough and not to everyone’s taste.

  7. Do they really want strong stable government ‘that lasts’ – or are they hoping their enormous war chest will be used again in a year or so?

    Well, if your/Mervyn King’s point about the inevitable unpopularity of the next government is right, surely another election after a year is something the Tories want like a hole in the head. Under that scenario Labour will have ditched Gordon Brown and will sweep back into power under their new leader on the back of a wave of anger at cuts. Remember constituency boundaries could not possibly be reformed so quickly, regardless of what Cameron wants, so only a fairly small swing would be needed, especially if they could take down some Lib Dems as well. That last is a very real possibility given the stunning reverses we suffered in many key Lib-Lab marginals.

    Of course, then we have to ask whether Mervyn King is right. That theory assumes that the public will be angry and unable to see the gravity of the problem until many years have passed (think of the grudging praise of Margaret Thatcher that is now often given in hindsight, sometimes by people who hated what she was doing at the time).

    But what if the public do understand the seriousness of the problem, and DC’s failure to get a majority is not a reflection of wishful thinking so much as genuine uncertainty as to what the best approach to closing the deficit would be? In that case the politician with a plan (even a fairly painful one) will have an advantage over the one who simply appeals against public sector job cuts without any alternative route to fiscal sustainability.

  8. Can I point out (because I’ve not seen anyone anywhere on the web do so) that while the Lib Dems result was below where they polling, that was not because of some Big Two squeeze. The difference in Lib Dem vote (high 20s down to 23%) was mostly due to a gain in those voting “Other” (i.e. not the main three parties). Perhaps those who were voting “anti-establishment” decided that the Lib Dems weren’t anti- enough or something?

    1. Very good point. SHould go into the vast mix of what happened in that dark space between final polling and marking an X.

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