Chris Rennard's verdict

by Stephen Tall on July 20, 2007

Commenting on Lib Dem Voice, Lib Dem chief executive and by-election supremo Lord Chris Rennard has posted the following assessment of how the party fared in the Ealing Southall and Sedgefield by-elections:

In Ealing Southall, our campaigns teams’ assesment of the state of play over the final weekend was not very far off the result. Of course, we hoped and thought that we could get even closer by polling day.

We published that assessment (inc on Lib Dem Voice). Our figures were Lab 37, LD 31, Con 22. The final result was Lab 41, LD 28 and Con 22.

In the end we won the Ealing end of the seat, but lost in Southall where Labour eventually managed to deliver some of their traditional votes in very large numbers.

“David Cameron’s Conservatives” did no better than “Michael Howard’s Conservatives” and less well than “William Hague’s Conservatives”. They managed to trash their reputation in this by-election.

Some people will be aware of Conservative claims in the last few days that the by-election was running at Lab 33, Con 33, LD 26. This was not generally reported in the press (apart from the Guardian) but some commentators may have been misled by them. BBC Newsnight and others had already wrongly asserted that we were in third place.

Journalists will at least be able in future to know that they can safely ignore Conservative “analysis” or “leaked figures”.

Overall we got two good results in very difficult circumstances and in very short campaigns.

In Sedgefield we pushed the Tories into third – again highlighting the lack of “Cameron’s Conservatives” appeal in the north of England.

In both cases, our campaign teams were brilliant and will be ready for whatever challenges come our way in future. See you there.

Chris

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13 comments

What are these difficult circumstances you elude to? Surely last years circumstances were more tricky for the party?

by Chris on July 20, 2007 at 10:33 pm. Reply #

The difficult circumstances were that we did not have a very strong local party base or local government presence in either seat. This made it hard to mount the strongest possible campaigns from a standing start in just 3 weeks.

In Ealing Southall for example we only had one Councillor (in a ward partially in the constituency) compared to 14 Conservative Councillors.

The aggregate votes in the constituency in the May 2006 Borough elections (a more recent test of opinion than the 2005 General Election) were Lab 39, Con 37 and Lib Dem 19.

On Thursday, we won the 5 wards in the Ealing end of the constituency by a margin of 9% over Labour with the Conservatives coming third in the wards that they had won in 2006. We would probably have removed every single Conservative Councillor in the constituency on this basis.

The Tories were also third in the Southall end of the constituency where they had assumed that they would make great progress with Tony Lit. It was here that Labour won their majority.

The Conservative campaign in Ealing Southall moved them back a long way compared to their peak in the borough elections of 2006.

Today’s Tory press shows that there is greater realisation of just how bad these results were for the Tories than there may be in CCHQ.

by Chris Rennard on July 21, 2007 at 12:41 pm. Reply #

Thanks for the clarification. I fully accept that time was short and our local government base was small.

Well done to everyone involved.

On the short timescale I understand that Labour were canvassing before their MP had even died.

by Chris on July 21, 2007 at 2:58 pm. Reply #

Could you be a bit more specific about the percentages you think each party got in the two halves of the seat because unless there was a greatly higher turnout in Southall than in Ealing, I dont believe the party were 9% of Labour in the Ealing section and yet still second in the Southall section. It doesnt add up to me

by Pete Whitehead on July 23, 2007 at 2:14 am. Reply #

The open forum prob isn’t the best place to go into that detail, but if you want to continue the discussion on the members-only forum, that’d be fascinating.

by Anthony on July 23, 2007 at 7:24 am. Reply #

If the Lib Dems polled 3k in Southall and 7k in Ealing, Labour polled 10k in Southall and 5k in Ealing and the Tories 3k in Southall and 5k in Ealing (and Labour were a handful in front of the Tories in Ealing and the Lib Dems a handful in front of the Tories in Southall) then Chris’s analysis would be correct.

Those sorts of figures don’t seem pretty realistic to me.

by Dan on July 23, 2007 at 9:34 am. Reply #

That of course should read ‘do seem pretty realistic’…

by Dan on July 23, 2007 at 9:35 am. Reply #

“because unless there was a greatly higher turnout in Southall than in Ealing…”

This was almost certainly the case. Turnout was certainly very rapid in the stint of telling I did at the Southall end and suggested a turnout in that polling station of 50-60%.

I got the feeling Labour’s machine in the Asian community – especially among Sikhs – wasn’t as damaged by the defections as the Tories tried to suggest.

I don’t know if anyone can post the respective turnout figures (which are public-ish domain information)

by Hywel Morgan on July 23, 2007 at 10:47 am. Reply #

“This was almost certainly the case. Turnout was certainly very rapid in the stint of telling I did at the Southall end and suggested a turnout in that polling station of 50-60%. ”

And yet Dan’s model implies a higher turnout of votes in the Ealing section even though there are fewer electors there than in Southall. The turnout figures would be useful indeed.

by Pete Whitehead on July 23, 2007 at 11:52 am. Reply #

Don’t get too psephological. Difficult circumstances in the general political environment too. Being a bit of veteran I’ve that long painful memory of the struggle to get back to three party politics when up against the ‘Owenite’ rump. These results talk to my intuition that the Cameroons had been capitalising on the very same sentiments of voters as the SDP project once did. Hence the patchy revival of Tories in May. These results point to the honeymoon coming to an end. Just as the public’s infatuation with smoothie Dave O waned so it is with smoothie Dave C.

by Malcolm Gardner on July 23, 2007 at 3:59 pm. Reply #

“And yet Dan’s model implies a higher turnout of votes in the Ealing section”

Or a bigger population with a lower %age turnout – If there were 5 “Ealing” wards and 4 “Southall” wards that would seem to be the case. A higher turnout in the latter could then produce the scenarion envisaged by Dan.

by Hywel Morgan on July 23, 2007 at 5:27 pm. Reply #

If there were – but there isn’t. There’s 4 (and a bit) “Ealing” wards and 5 (and a bit) “Southall” wards..

by Pete Whitehead on July 23, 2007 at 9:39 pm. Reply #

Well I’m sure you can tweak the figures a bit. I’d also say that it is likely that most of the various independents and Respect votes came from Southall as well, so you could see 1,500 or so votes on the turnout not going to any of the three big parties.

by Dan on July 23, 2007 at 9:54 pm. Reply #

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