Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency


9:21 am - January 7th 2011

by Don Paskini    


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Yesterday there was a local election in Witney, at the heart of David Cameron’s constituency. It was caused by the disqualification of the Tory councillor after she failed to turn up to any meetings for six months.

The ward is usually a very safe Tory seat, last May they got nearly 60% of the vote, although the Liberal Democrats have also won elections held the ward in the past few years.

Last night, however, Labour won. With 67% of the vote.

The Tories decided not to put forward a candidate, so the government was represented by the Lib Dems. They did pathetically, just scraping into second place ahead of the Greens.

Labour’s landslide at the heart of Cameron’s constituency was caused by three things:

– the arrogance and incompetence of local Tories who couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to meetings or field a candidate;

– the fact that Tory supporters refused to vote for their Lib Dem allies;

– an excellent Labour candidate in Duncan Enright, with a team of Labour activists from across Oxfordshire who spent December in the seemingly unpromising activity of knocking on doors in the former Tory heartland.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


Excellent news – well done to Duncan Enright and team!

You’ve got a typo in the 5th paragraph; “cUsed” instead of “caused”

3. Maggie Curtis

Way to go Duncan. Very well done. Why didn’t they field a candidate?

@3 Why didn’t the former candidate bother to turn up to the task for which they were elected? Perhaps idleness is the Tory disease in Witney.

Well done Labour.

Will the Tories brainwave of not fielding candidates to try and allow their Lib Dem collaborators to shine fail spectacularly in the furture ?

Let’s hope so.

IMO Cameron hasn’t attended to his job for the last six months and so he should be disqualified too and there should be a By election……..

Why didn’t they field a candidate?

Apparently because the seat is being contested again in the spring. Odd decision really, but there’s not much that can be usefully read into local by-election results. F’rinstance, from your link: turnout 12.6%. Call me picky, but I’m not sure that 480 people can really be called a landslide.

Call me picky, but I’m not sure that 480 people can really be called a landslide.

Haha!

“It was caused by the disqualification of the Tory councillor after she failed to turn up to any meetings for six months.”

Now if only all Tories were like that 🙂

What has she said about this and her reasons for not turning up?

@7 Tim J

I think 67% represents a landslide whichever way you look at it? You can argue that it isn’t significant, or indeed a very BIG landslide, because it’s only a local election, and because the Tories didn’t stand etc…. but whether a couple of hundred voted, or a couple of dozen, 67% still qualifies!

There may be echoes of “Small earthquake in Peru, not many killed” about the headline…. but I still like the ideas of a few blue rinsed Tories in Cameron’s back yard waking up to being represented by a Labour councillor for a while 😉

I think 67% represents a landslide whichever way you look at it? You can argue that it isn’t significant, or indeed a very BIG landslide, because it’s only a local election, and because the Tories didn’t stand etc…. but whether a couple of hundred voted, or a couple of dozen, 67% still qualifies!

Given turnout was 12.66%… no. It is a victory, a win, but not a landslide.

11

Nah, sorry.. you’re just, you know……wrong!

The ones who didn’t vote, don’t count. If any of the parties in power had won 67% of the vote on any turnout it would still be a landslide. Those that can’t be arsed to vote can’t expect to be taken into account.

12 – It’s certainly a very good result in an atypical local council by-election.

Incidentally, my initial reaction was that ‘landslide’ really only referred to election wins – like Blair in 1997 for example. It just seems strange to say, for example, that there was a Labour landslide in Bootle in 2010. But apparently it can be used in terms of any big electoral victory, so the glorious 480 stand.

Equally incidentally, if there is any lesson to take from this otherwise fairly underwhelming story, it is that Tories are still very reluctant to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats. And if that’s repeated, that’s significant. On the other hand, it’s a local council by-election.

14. Luis Enrique

reductio ad absurdem Galen, if the turn out had been one voter, the winner would have won with a 100% vote share. Landslide!

Galen10,

If any of the parties in power had won 67% of the vote on any turnout it would still be a landslide.

You tabloid journalist, you!

14 Luis

Not exactly; I think most people would accept that you wouldn’t grace the result of an election in a rotten borough with an electorate of 5 with the epithet “landslide” if 4 voted for one candidate, or even if a few dozen people were electors.

I don’t see the issue however with labelling a result where 480 people voted, and 67% voted for one candidate as a landslide.

15

There’s no need for that kind of abuse you know! 😉

Incidentally, Don:

The Tories decided not to put forward a candidate, so the government was represented by the Lib Dems. They did pathetically, just scraping into second place ahead of the Greens.

This needs a bit of rethinking. Firstly, the ‘government’ is not represented at local level anyway, since it is a coalition of two parties who locally variously are in coalition, run councils individually or are in coalition with Labour or (probably independents). Depending on local politics and attitudes, many Conservative voters may well have backed the Greens or Labour rather than Liberal Democrats (you do realise the biggest voting shift in the last general election was from Labour to Conservative don’t you?).

Secondly, how can we believe you that the Liberal Democrats did pathetically without referring to previous figures – how do we know they haven’t actually increased their share of the vote?

Oh – and for reference (and a wonderful example of equally selective reporting, since they fail to mention this result either), notice that Conservative Home record a Conservative by-election win with increased share of the vote (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/localgovernment/2011/01/first-council-by-election-of-the-year-sees-tories-holding-a-seat-with-increased-voteshare.html – note the huge increase in the Labour vote here though…). I’ll remind them about this result in the interest of fairness…

Also, the link to the results has one http too many…

Ah, someone has already linked here in the comments mentioned above – seems I am not the only person who has to read both sides of a debate to get at the truth…

Galen10,

There’s no need for that kind of abuse you know! 😉

You’re right, I apologise 🙂

Political party loses election in which it stands no candidate.

Film at 11 stuff this, isn’t it?

BTW, it’s “small earthquake in Chile”…..

22. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 Tim

“Political party loses election in which it stands no candidate.

Film at 11 stuff this, isn’t it?”

Some spectacular point missing there, Tim.

Government loses election. Majority partner’s supporters don’t turn out for minority partner.

Implications.

Chaise,

Why would you expect the majority party in the government’s supporters to be supporting the minority party anyway? That assumes a merger of the two parties, or at the very least an electoral pact, and that is not happening anywhere outside the minds of those with nothing to actually report on in Westminister.

Basically, we have at national level a coalition between two parties. This coalition has seemingly cost the minor party lots of support but is not really costing the major partner (if they can be bothered to put up a candidate) that much that can be seen. Nowhere in there is there any reason to suspect that at a local level the supporters of the major party will automatically turn towards the minor party – indeed, it is quite possible they will vote against it due to the bad press it has received recently.

Also, without actual knowledge of the election, it is hard to tell what has happened. I remember a council election in an ex-mining village in Cumbria a few years back where the Conservative candidate (a paper candidate – the normal Conservative vote share was less than 10%) was the local party treasurer, who was also a local resident, chair of several local charities etc and very well known (she was the archtypical little old lady who run the Conservative party and seem to appear aged 55 from nowhere) – she was less than 100 votes from winning a seat with no campaign or effort, simply because she was well-liked and known and her Labour opponent was generally regarded as self-serving and useless (at least amongst the minority of voters that didn’t elect him…). Totally unexpected, but the sort of freak occurence that is regular in local elections.

So trying to take anything from this result is not really that helpful.

Good result for Labour – woo hoo! But disappointing result for democracy in the sense that it was such a low turn out.

“the fact that Tory supporters refused to vote for their Lib Dem allies”

Putting ‘Tory’, ‘Lib Dem’ and ‘allies’ in the same sentence is obviously creating an oxymoron but also shows what the Tories really think of their Lib Dem compradres!

Dont you love it when toss-arguing reaches epic proportions?

Fact: Labour won the election.
Fact: Their percentage was 67%, whichever way you look at it, it’s quite a huge one.
Fact: Though it’s just “a” borough, the fact that it’s the PM’s constituency makes it more relevant.
Fact: Low turnout should be mentioned, yeah, but it’s not as relevant as the fact that the PM’s coalition got a drubbing on his own doorstep. GIven that local elections traditionally produce very low turnouts, which turnout would satisfy the Tories on this thread? Would they say it’s not a landslide if it was 30%? 40%? Maybe 60%?

End of. Otherwise it becomes desperate hair-splitting of the kind Man Utd 0 Chelsea 4, oh yeah but it wasn’t really a victory coz both Roney and Rio Ferdinand were injured.

From pedantry central: I think a “landslide” requires a certain (large) volume of land to have slid.

If my window box were to tip its contents, even its entire contents, onto the ground, I would not describe it as a “landslide”.

If I were to spill the entire contents of a small cup of coffee I would not refer to it as a “flood”.

Etc.

Thank you for your attention!

21

I stand corrected by your knowledge of antipodean trivia!

Thanks very much for the congrats. I hope I can do a good job as Councillor. Just a couple of extra facts:
* Witney Council is nearly all Conservatives with one Lib Dem who votes with them mostly. The Conservatives decided not to stand, though as it was one of their own who was disqualified it would have been difficult for them to defend
* Local Tories claim the election was a “waste of money” but it was their negligence that caused it, and abandoning democracy for financial reasons is pretty poor
* The Conservatives on the council decided not to send out polling cards which contributed a lot to the low turnout
* People locally were very supportive on a range of local issues even if not regular Labour supporters, but many were not sure they were even registered given the lack of polling cards
* The local paper came out the day before telling people the election was on Friday (doh!)
* 480 votes is more than any other Labour candidate outside General Elections since 1997
* Lib Dems have won before in this seat so it is a great step to take this seat ahead of them

Duncan,

Thanks for the information and congratulations on the election. Do you have an honest apprasial of your chances of holding the seat against a Conservative candidate should one be presented?

claude, conversely, if ten of the 5000 electors turned up, and 7 of them voted Labour, would you say Labour had won a landslide? It was after all 70% of the vote! I wouldn’t say it was a landslide – but clearly YMMV.

End of. Otherwise it becomes desperate hair-splitting of the kind Man Utd 0 Chelsea 4, oh yeah but it wasn’t really a victory coz both Roney and Rio Ferdinand were injured.

No-one’s disputing it was a victory. That would be silly. The dispute is over the meaning of “landslide”.

I wonder if you’re panicked by the sight of a small piece of grit rolling off a kerb. Because ISTM that is the kind of exaggeration we are talking about, here.

#30

What does ISTM mean?

30 ukliberty

“I wonder if you’re panicked by the sight of a small piece of grit rolling off a kerb. Because ISTM that is the kind of exaggeration we are talking about, here.”

No, it REALLY isn’t… why can’t you see that you are just plain wrong? You can legitimately claim that it is not significant in electoral terms, but your are disingenuous in your frankly rather odd insistance that polling 67% of 480 votes does not equal a landslide.

It may be a matter of degree, and many would agree that 7 out of 10 from an electorate of 5000 would not represent a landslide….but 67% of 480? Yeah, sorry…that’s still a landslide.

claude,

What does ISTM mean?

It seems to me

Galen10,

why can’t you see that you are just plain wrong?

“It may be a matter of degree” – and for me the degree is clearly different.

“67% of 480” out of some 5000… (yes I know you said non-voters don’t count)

34. Duncan Enright

29 Watchman – Chances in May: very hard to say. Depends on how much work I can do between now and then. I’d say good because it is a multi-member ward and the local Conservatives don’t have a good record of listening to local people or involving them in the Council’s work.

33 ukliberty

Yep, that’s right; if you don’t vote, guess what…you don’t get to whinge about the result and expect people to take much notice.

You can have a discussion about where on the continuum from 67% down to some other notional figure you would have to stop using the term landslide, but I’m afraid you’ve really lost the argument with respect to what number is “sufficient” to deserve the epithet: 480 does deserve it, 5 doesn’t.

Were the Labour Party the only party to make any effort to get their vote out? I’m a Lib Dem in a neighbouring constituency, and didn’t know this by election was taking place until I heard the result on Twitter last night.

37. Chaise Guevara

Congrats, Duncan.

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Watchman

“Why would you expect the majority party in the government’s supporters to be supporting the minority party anyway? That assumes a merger of the two parties, or at the very least an electoral pact, and that is not happening anywhere outside the minds of those with nothing to actually report on in Westminister.”

Very true. I’m saying it’s interesting rather than surprising. It helps to confirm the very thing you said above.

39. edward plumridge

An excellent result – positive action to erode this government – every small step counts – a great result psychologically – congratulations – the groundswell of public opinion will sweep this government away

#33
Cheers, uk liberty.
you just inspired me.

claude,

Why would you want to write ISTM instead of “It seems to me”,

I was being lazy.

But AFAIK, “ISTM”, “IMHO”, “IMV”, “FFS”, “AFAICS” etc are pretty standard on t’Interweb. Maybe something to do with bandwidth or character limits on Usenet (72?) + laziness? Dunno. Probably the latter, I guess.

OTOH, I don’t recall ever seeing “AAMOF”, so YMMV I guess…

“character limits on Usenet (72?)” – per line, not message.

Well done Duncan. I don’t think you’ll hold it in May, but that’s not the real point. The Tories screwed up by not even bothering to remind their councillor to turn up and could hardly stand without looking stupid. The cost of the election is peanuts compared to the millions WODC lost when the Icelandic banks collapsed, a point I’m sure you made on the doorsteps.

At the previous election the turnout was 33%, triple yesterday’s exceedingly low figure. That’s up to the electors. They would have been leafletted by all 3 parties and could have voted tactically to keep Labour out had they so desired.

The next election in May, when all of the seats on Witney Town Council are up for grabs, might be more interesting. Locally there will be a swing against the Tories as they have had some bad press with their antics, but I don’t think more than a couple of seats will change hands. It is Witney after all and Cameron would have had to sunk to the level major did in the mid 90s before Labour makes headway as they did at that time.

41 – the only one I can’t stand is IMHO. All the others are abbreviations of phrases actually used, but who was the last person who said ‘in my humble opinion’ without being slapped? I struggle to compress that amount of pomposity into 500 word posts.

And will the new councillor oppose cuts or will he implement them-like Labour kow-towed to the ConDem agenda of cuts?

The new councillor only has to attend 3 full council meetings and a couple of committees before standing for re-election.

Witney Town Council is a large parish council and has very limited powers (cemeteries, grass verges, sports pitches) and a small budget. There are now 13 Tories, 1 Lib Dem, 1 Independent and Duncan Enright for Labour. He will have little chance to make his mark as a number of Tories really don’t like him. Duncan knows the score and is an able debater (he covered for the Labour candidate during one of the hustings at the general election), but will be hard pressed to make even minor changes to the budget, which has to be voted on before the May elections IIRC.

I think there are 2 current issues where Duncan will probably be at odds with the bulk of the council – the Cogges Link Road (you really have to have read the Witney Gazette for several years to understand that issue) and the proposed sale of West Witney sports grounds for housing (a potential scandal in the making).

Well done to Duncan for scraping through a win in a one horse race even though over 87% of voters are so disillusioned with Labour that they couldn’t be bothered to go out and vote for him.

Let’s hope he is a success and doesn’t end up like fellow ex-labour MP David Chaytor who is starting a 18 month jail term for defrauding the public purse.

Strange how that story doesn’t appear on this site??

And as everyone knows, this bears no relationship to the real world of big party politics, as it is very rare that what happens locally gets carried over to the rest of the country.

49. Vicarious Phil

What a surreal thread. Labour win a seat in Town Council by-election, which is nice for their candidate of course, democracy in action and all that, but David Chaytor got imprisoned today and Liberal Conspiracy commenters are extrapolating this “landslide” result to wider UK politics.

Am I just not in on the joke?

50. Dick the Prick

Hee hee. That’s bad. Why did the Cllr sit on their arse for 6 months? Pissed up?

51. billy blag

ha ha
Is this all Labour supporters have to celebrate!!!
This website is a comedy.

52. maria buckingham

another reason labour did so well is that the tories have shown their true colours as self-serving, ignorant bigots and the lib-dems as political prostitutes trading principles for power.

this unelected coalition are determined to push through extreme, right-wing, social cleansing policies.

Maria @ #52, I’m afraid the truth in this seat is that Labour won because there was no Tory candidate. The seat is represented by 4 councillors, Duncan and 3 Tories. Much as I think Duncan would be as good as, or better than, some of the Tories on Witney Town Council, the truth is he will be hard pressed to retain the seat in May when the turnout will revert to 30% plus and there wil be 4 Tory candidates out knocking the doors. There are 16 councillors on Witney Town Council. The Tories will have 16 candidates, Lib Dem 8-10, Green 8-10, UKIP 1 or 2, one Independent and, with the best will in the world, 8 Labour at most. Likewise in nearby Carterton the Tories will have 15 or 16 candidates, Lib Dem one (defending his seat) and Labour one or 2. There might be some Independents. Tories will win 14 seats, most unopposed. Duncan knows I’m being realistic here as we both live in the constituency.

Nationally Tories and Labour will make gains at the expense of the Lib Dems, but a week is a long time in politics and I wouldn’t want to call the result just yet.

Hopefully this is a clear sign that people all over the United Kingdom are starting to see through this so called Coalition of misery and what it means for the United Kingdom as a whole.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/GEWBwTO via @libcon

  71. Mike Blakeney

    Epic – Labour massacre Lib Dems in Cameron's back garden (not literally, obviously) http://s.coop/6×3

  72. Rachel McCollin

    #labour landslide in local byelex in cameron's constituency. Good omen 4 @Debbie_abrahams in Oldham nxt wk I hope 🙂 http://is.gd/kjN0w

  73. redzredzredz

    RT @libcon: Labour landslide in Cameron's constituency http://bit.ly/gaYkpB

  74. Bubblejet

    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency | Liberal Conspiracy Why isn't #BBBNews reporting this? Weird! http://t.co/6nLG8Lu via @libcon

  75. Bubblejet

    @professor_dave Why isn't #BBBNews reporting this? Weird! http://t.co/6nLG8Lu via @libcon

  76. Okoji Innocent Okoji

    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/OLBbKya via @libcon

  77. Peter

    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency!! http://t.co/chBTxh8 #tories #condems #libdems #NetRootsUK #solidarity #dayx #dayx4 #labour

  78. Alan Clark

    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/NRvKiNs via @libcon

  79. Sean Desmond Parlor

    RT @UKSolidarity: Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency!! http://t.co/chBTxh8 #tories #condems #libdems #NetRootsUK #solidarity #da …

  80. Sean Desmond Parlor

    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/sBx1WJD via @libcon

  81. ABC

    RT @UKSolidarity: Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency!! http://t.co/chBTxh8 #tories #condems #libdems #NetRootsUK #solidarity #da …

  82. Graham

    RT @UKSolidarity: Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency!! http://t.co/chBTxh8 #solidarity <– Wow. No media coverage? Surprised not!

  83. Johnny Biscuit

    @UKuncut Fun times in Witney http://bit.ly/gVxyQ0. Good omen for tomorrow's protest http://bit.ly/eCmFcQ #ukuncut #solidarity #demo2011

  84. ABC

    RT @kettlesboiling: @UKuncut Fun times in Witney http://bit.ly/gVxyQ0. Good omen for tomorrow's protest http://bit.ly/eCmFcQ #ukuncut #s …

  85. Barney Jones

    http://bit.ly/hc3R0K – Labour landslide in Cameron's constituency of Witney (Friday 7th)

  86. Lescromps

    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency http://bit.ly/e3EiYC The media kept this quiet…

  87. Union

    RT @Lescromps: Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency http://bit.ly/e3EiYC The media kept this quiet…

  88. DJC

    RT @Lescromps: Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency http://bit.ly/e3EiYC The media kept this quiet…

  89. Ian Parker-Joseph

    Labour landslide at local election in Cameron’s constituency – who knew? Tories didn't bother standing http://bit.ly/hvietG

  90. Garry Dent

    Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/8RCuUUI via @libcon

  91. Steve Chambers

    RT @garryq: Labour landslide in Cameron’s constituency | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/8RCuUUI via @libcon





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