Would you have voted Tory in Newark?

Imagine you are a Liberal Democrat voter in Newark. You’ve seen the Lib Dem candidate David Watts about and you like him. Anyone with that sort of humour and energy when his party seems to be falling apart has got to be made of strong stuff and would no doubt be worth voting for. Then you find Ken Clarke on your doorstep, telling you that he needs your vote for his guy or the nasty misogynist, homophobic xenophobe Helmer will get in. Might you not be inclined to grit your teeth and do it? Just this once?

We’ve been asking supporters of other parties to vote tactically for us forever so it’s hardly surprising that it works the other way, especially when the Tories amass a mighty army to knock on every door in the constituency. It kind of explains why our vote disappeared like snow off a dyke. In addition to that, we’ve hardly been covering ourselves in glory over the past couple of weeks. But I’ve been surprised to see party members say they would have voted Tory to keep UKIP out.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I could. I can’t imagine any circumstance where I’d be able to force myself to vote Tory. There was one occasion in one local election down south where I had the options of Tory vs Labour alone in a local election. I had to cross my fingers behind my back and vote Labour. It was horrible. I’d never be able to by pass a Lib Dem on a ballot paper anyway, but the Tories are a no-go area. We know from the things we’ve stopped what a majority Tory government would have done. No housing benefit to under 25s, no child benefit beyond 2 children, statutory web snooping, even more immigration nonsense, tax cuts for rich people (and don’t be fooled, yes, we cut top rate of tax, but we’ve brought in an awful lot more in wealth taxes, Gove would have had free rein on our schools. It wouldn’t have been pretty. I do hope that we’re not going to see a period of Tory majority government, but I suspect if we did, people would then see what we did.

It was a shocker of a result. It was not entirely unexpected that this was not our day, but I had kind of hoped we’d keep our deposit. Let’s face it, though, we were hardly going to do any better than in the election just a fortnight ago. There had been no time for changes of strategy. In that respect, there is no additional trauma to the crisis that we’re facing already. Newark is a bad result but it doesn’t make the global situation any worse.

Our candidate David Watts could have sat on his backside in his garden and turned up for the odd media appearance or hustings. He didn’t though. He got up and out there and hit the doorsteps with enthusiasm. He didn’t have much in the way of back-up. He was fighting this election on a shoestring and a bit of chewing gum he found in his pocket. And a few gallant helpers who went the extra mile. I want to cheer him and his team to the rafters at Conference in Glasgow. It was a hell of a time to have to keep our flag flying and they put their hearts and souls into it and deserve the party’s gratitude.

Recess or not, I do think it would have been nice if some of our MPs had bothered themselves to go there even for an afternoon. Valiant little campaign teams on the ground really appreciate that sort of thing. I refer you to the Livingston by-election in 2005 when we had a fair few MPs come up from south of the border: Greg Mulholland, Paul Holmes, Simon Hughes and Vince Cable. They all went out in atrocious weather and did whatever was required of them. They were absolutely brilliant. We weren’t going to win – although our vote on that occasion did hold up and we stopped the SNP. Our prospects in Newark weren’t great but the morale boost that a VIP visit can give is invaluable to a campaign team. I know that some of them would have had holidays booked and they’d have been busy in their own areas until the Euros but, for goodness sake, now is time for those in the Westminster bubble to show a bit of solidarity with the poor bloody infantry.

It is noted, by the way, that Tm Gordon, the party’s chief executive, came up and did some proper old fashioned leafletting and door-knocking.

So, Newark was a tough one on top of a series of horrendous ones over the last four years, but I don’t think there is much to be extrapolated from it. The Tories won’t be able to send 500 people into each marginal during the election, nor will they be able to spend 6 figure sums in 3 weeks on one constituency. UKIP didn’t make a breakthrough – but they knew fine it wasn’t on the cards. They’ll work a few places very hard to try and propel Farage and a select few into Westminster. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of conversations to have with voters by before then. We have to show them a lot of soul and fewer facts and numbers. It’s a bit like the independence referendum up here. We either get men in suits in tv studios shouting numbers at each other, or we get froth with no substance. It’s incredibly frustrating. We need to tug heartstrings and we’re nowhere near doing that at the moment.

We need to still talk about jobs and the recovering economy, but we also need to talk about the genuinely liberal policies where we’ve made a difference – shared parental leave, equal status for mental health care, equal marriage, giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school. These things show Liberal Democrat values at their best. We also need to flex some muscle in the last year = get more changes to the Bedroom Tax, for example, if we can’t get rid of it completely, sort out the prisoners’ book ban and don’t try and defend it. We need to present some bold ideas to build on our record and do much more to protect the most vulnerable.

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About caronlindsay

Scottish Lib Dem pro UK activist, mum, Doctor Who, Strictly, F1 and trashy tv addict and blogger.
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11 Responses to Would you have voted Tory in Newark?

  1. Paul Holmes, although no longer an MP spent three of the last six days in Newark. Good to know some things don’t change.

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  2. caronlindsay says:

    That doesn’t surprise me – he’s a great campaigner, one of our best, and a great supporter of the poor bloody infantry.

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  3. liberalsadie says:

    Well, no I wouldn’t. And I hope I would have remembered Ken Clarke’s health policies from long ago and hardened my heart. Always better to vote for something or someone. Even if it means spoiling a ballot paper. But then I have been around a long time.

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  4. Paul Holmes says:

    Well I am PBI again now -and would quite like to see some support from the great and good for a change. You say Caron that ‘we have hardly covered ourselves in glory over the last 2 weeks’ -by which I assume you mean Oakshott -but we have had these appalling results consistently for the last 4 years not the last 2 weeks.

    As for ‘there not being time to see a change of strategy in just 2 weeks, what possible reason do you have to believe there is going to be a change of strategy when we have already been told that there will not be one -under the present Leadership whose strategy it is/has been?

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  5. I agree with you Karen about MPs not turning up to by-elections. It’s thoroughly disheartening for the people on the ground, toiling through the daily mire on tiny budgets, little sleep to only receive meagre parliamentary support.

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  6. caronlindsay says:

    Paul, when the Queen comes out with your strapline, it really is time to get a new one, so I think a change of emphasis to show off our soul rather than a series of technocratic position statements is inevitable. And that’s what I’ll be saying at the Federal Executive in robust terms on Monday night.

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    • Paul Holmes says:

      But Caron, the Leadership -who you have so loyally supported throughout -have made it crystal clear over the last 2 weeks, as over the last 4 years, that there will be no change. Nick, Paddy, Danny have all said so.

      Given that they have also ignored Conference and FE at will over the last 4 years why do you think anything will change?

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  7. Adam says:

    I have voted Tory (four votes for a council election, two lib dems who were likely to win, one good Tory, two not so good Tories – voted for the 2 LDs and the good Tory) but I wouldn’t have voted Tor in Newark. Firstly our candidate was very strong, secondly the inevitable response to the poor showing likely from too much tactical voting but thirdly would a solitary UKIP do that much damage in comparison to the extra momentum generated for the Tories who *do* actually have a chance of winning an overall majority in the next election?

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  8. johnTilley says:

    If Ken Clarke appeared on my doorstep asking me not to vote UKIP, I might momentarily forget about politics and remind him of the personal fortune which he made out of his time with BAT. I would then ask him if he is still happy to profit from the millions of unnecessary deaths caused by cigarette addiction. I would ask him if is still happy that his tobacco company and all the others recruit children to becoming addicts. I would ask him if he would agree that his cuddly Ken Clarke image is designed to hide the reality of the monster that lives off addiction and millions of deaths every year worldwide. If he has not got the message and left my doorstep by then I might invite him into my house and put him in a smoke filled room for all eternity. I would not vote UKIP and I would not vote for UKIP Lites (aka .Conservative) because as with Marlboro Lites they are just as deadly as the real thing.

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  9. caronlindsay says:

    To be fair, they have listened over some stuff – web snooping for example. Had it not been for a very angry conference call between someone deep within the Westminster Bubble and some bloggers, we would have voted for the Digital Comms Bill – Nick listened and changed his view, ultimately stopping the message.

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  10. MatGB says:

    If I had lived in Newark, I would’ve been looking at the horrific notion of having Roger Helmer as my MP, not just for a year, but possibly 6 years. My very first vote wasn’t a pro-LibDem vote, it was a tactical anti-Steen vote (as in “it’s just jealousy, some people think my house looks like Balmoral” in the expenses fuss). It has, over the years, become a very much pro-Lib Dem liberal vote, but it wasn’t the first time.

    Roger Helmer as my MP? The LDs demonstrating they knew they had no chance? I would, first, check to make sure the Tory candidate wasn’t a nearly-as-bad Cornerstone style lunatic, couldn’t vote for a Nadine Dorries fan, but assuming not a swivel eyed loon, hell yeah, I’d vote tactically in a by election, the utter horror of having my area represented in Parliament by Roger Helmer? The idea is horrific.

    I strongly suspect if UKIP had found and put forward someone with the appearance of sane moderation like, say, James in Eastleigh, instead of a known divisive bigot, the tactical vote would’ve been substantially smaller, but they didn’t.

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