A two-horse race in Oxford East

by Stephen Tall on April 24, 2007

Excitement-a-plenty today at the news that Peter Tatchell is to contest Oxford East at the next general election.

Indeed, to read BBC News’ giddily breathless report a casual reader might imagine that the constituency is his for the taking from New Labour’s Andrew Smith. In reality, the Greens polled 4.3% at the last general election, and lost their deposit, while the Lib Dems’ Steve Goddard came within 963 votes of unseating Mr Smith.

Of course, it is true that the Greens have a solid local base in East Oxford (just one part of Oxford East). In the ward where I live, St Mary’s, Green city councillor Craig Simmons was re-elected with 65% of the vote last year. However, what is also true is that votes for the Greens in the local elections have never translated into national votes.

By chance, I watched the votes being verified for St Mary’s at the 2005 general election count – and the Lib Dems recorded one of their best results there. If the Greens really thought they stood a chance in Oxford East, I imagine one of their more prominent local councillors would have run for, and won, the nomination.

It’s hard to know exactly how Mr Tatchell’s candidature will play out. The celebrity-fetishising media will certainly give him a lot of free publicity – which might translate into extra Green votes (though I don’t think the voters are swayed quite that easily).

What it will certainly do is help shine a spotlight on the constituency, highlighting just how close the contest here is between New Labour and the Lib Dems – it really is two-horse race! (Nothing on earth will induce me to dare suggest that it’s a straight choice between Andrew Smith and Steve Goddard.)

I have a lot of time for Mr Tatchell’s human rights work, and it’s impossible not to admire the bravery of his denunciations of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe at personal risk to himself.

His forte is outspoken campaigning. Whether that will stand him in good stead for the coming election contest – the grit and determination of pavement politics – only time will tell.

He has, incidentally, promised to move into the constituency, to London Road, half of which is in my Headington ward. So I might soon have the pleasure of canvassing him. Or, at the very least delivering a leaflet with a bar-chart prominently displayed. Something like this, maybe…?

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In my view, it will be a sign of progress when the Lib Dems ditch the infamous bar graph. What do Lib Dems say in places where they’re trailing in third place? Don’t vote for us, we don’t stand a chance here?

by Laurence Boyce on April 25, 2007 at 1:25 am. Reply #

Wash your mouth out with ALDC soap ‘n’ water, Laurence!

by Stephen Tall on April 25, 2007 at 10:19 am. Reply #

I’m sure Peter will feel right at home as soon as confronted by a Lib Dem bar chart….


P.S. I’m surprised that you mention Craig’s 65% Stephen – weren’t you and he having a tiff over what was more impressive, a high percentage or a large numerical majority? Having neither, I couldn’t comment!

by Anonymous on April 25, 2007 at 11:26 am. Reply #

Matt – the tiff, I think, was between m’ward colleague, David Rundle – who recorded the largest numerical majority, but with ‘only’ 61% of the vote – and Craig. I would never think of such matters.

by Stephen Tall on April 25, 2007 at 3:37 pm. Reply #

Oi, ref! The only mention of the ‘tiff’ I’ve heard before was when I was told on election night that Craig was working out how his majority was the largest of all — and I was told that by Cllr Selwood… As my ward colleague knows better than I do the numbers game on this (such a fine Finance Portfolio Holder), I can’t be accused of taking pride in my majority. Anyway, it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that matters, which is I’m sure how that nice Mr Tatchell will reflect on his brief sojourn in Oxford East.

by David Rundle on April 25, 2007 at 9:24 pm. Reply #

Generous of you to mention Peter’s camp-pain against Mugabee. I suspect the real problem is that Muggy doesn’t like gays…..

Never mentioned is that in 1983, Peter was disowned as official candidate for Bermondsey by loony lefty Michael Foot.

by this guy on April 30, 2007 at 4:27 pm. Reply #

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