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Blow for Cameron: Tories lose Tunbridge Wells


4:35 pm - March 18th 2011

by Don Paskini    


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It’s only one local election result, but very, very amusing. Yesterday saw a by-election in Tunbridge Wells, in a ward which the Tories have won for the past five years with more than 50% of the vote.

The three candidates were Tory, Lib Dem and UKIP (shame on Labour and the Greens for not standing, but Tunbridge Wells is not exactly a hot bed of socialism). The Lib Dems polled 43%, slightly up on their performance last year. But the Tory vote slumped from 59% to 34%, with UKIP polling 22.4%.

It’s a sign of discontent in the truest blue Tory heartlands when their Party can only poll a third of the vote in the home of “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”, and another sign of the rise of UKIP and Lib Dem resilience in Southern England. Hopefully UKIP will be embolded by this to contest many more elections and give True Conservatives a way of splitting the right wing vote expressing their principles.

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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


Good to see the trend of tories losing seats to lib dems continuing – it certainly bodes well for the people of Guildford.

Yours sincerely,
Satisfied of Guildford

Told you. The Tories are going to need AV to cling on to power at the next election. Cameron can’t say it because of his backbenchers, but he knows it.

It also looks like the sort of result that could lose you the election under AV!

In another stunning victory for the “progressive coalition” fantasists, there was a by-election in Scotland last night.

Labour gained it from the SNP (hurrah, etc). The Lib Dems slumped and were eliminated just after the Scottish Socialist Party. Of Lib Dems expressing a second preference, 45% plumped for the Tories, 20% for the SNP, and 17.5% each for Labour and an Independent.

If Scottish Lib Dems are swinging behind the Tories, I dread to think what’s happening in English marginals.

@4

What you’re forgetting is polling evidence which shows that a lot of left wing lib dems aren’t voting at all at the moment. The prospect of a progressive coalition would probably be enough to motivate them to come out and vote again. Meanwhile, under AV we would be likely to see the conservative vote fracturing. And if you think UKIPers or Cameroonians would ever be likely to enter coalition with each other then you’ve got another think coming.

@5 UKIP and the Cameroons don’t need to enter coalition together. We’re not talking about UKIP winning seats, we’re talking about the Tories winning rather than losing seats, using UKIP’s lower preferences.

As to former Lib Dems who want a progressive coalition, it’s possible, but the evidence doesn’t support that position at the moment. Only 4% of 2010 Lib Dems say they now wouldn’t vote (although 21% are undecided, so I guess there’s some leeway to argue about them).

39% of 2010 Lib Dems say they would vote Labour, and 5% that they would vote Green – this seems more logical than basing a decision on whether to back Clegg’s National Liberals on the possibility of getting a progressive second preference if they don’t win?

@4 hardly a valid comparison when you’re talking about a 3.2% share of the vote. Seems to me, like elsewhere in the country, a lot of the “slightly liberal but really Labour” Lib Dems just went back to Labour after the summer of 2010.

interesting the way lib dem voters have defected to labour over the last few months and now tories are defecting to ukip.

Well, the loss of Pembury ward in a local council by-election can only mean one thing. The end of the coalition is nigh, and David Cameron will have to resign as Prime Minister.

I just hope he can live with himself.

10. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

@4 oldpolitics

“Labour gained it from the SNP (hurrah, etc). The Lib Dems slumped and were eliminated just after the Scottish Socialist Party. Of Lib Dems expressing a second preference, 45% plumped for the Tories, 20% for the SNP, and 17.5% each for Labour and an Independent.”

It’s not clear to me that you can meaningfully use a Scottish result to draw conclusions about what is happening in the Uk as a whole.

As others have noted, many left of centre former LD supporters aren’t going to show up in the result above: they either aren’t voting, have already defected to Labour or the Greens, or they are waiting to see what happens. The reason for the high level of 2nd preferences for the Tories is that the rump LD’s in Scotland are right of centre anyway….so no great surprise.

More power to UKIP’s elbow I say… the more right wing wing nuts who vote for them, the worse the Tories will do.

12. Merseymike

Three right wing choices. I’d have preferred the Tories to win than the Fibs.

Oh dear oh dear one track mind old politics is back with his/her (his) bizarre theories, monumentally missing the point as usual.

When will you understand that there is a hell of a lot of left-leaning voters out there for whom a victory by continuity new labour fuelled by desperate betrayees-in-waiting with nowhere left to turn is no victory at all?

14. Roger Mexico

A couple of numerical notes from oldpolitics’ comments:

@4 The ‘gain’ form SNP to Labour was in a 3-member STV seat. Labour actually got a higher percentage of the vote in 2007, though the seats went SNP 2 Lab 1 because of more transfers for the SNP. All we really see here is the tendency of STV to reward the leading Party in a constituency in byelections, irrespective of who the vacant seat belonged to. So in that sense you can’t call it a gain.

The deceased Councillor also clearly had a big personal vote as well. Which reminds us that every local byelection is a separate case, so extrapolating the downfall of governments from one, is a little ambitious.

@6 Assuming you’re using the latest YouGov figures (fieldwork 16-17 March) while 25% of 2010 Lib Dems are now non-voters (4% won’t vote; 21% don’t know), the other percentages exclude these. So the real figures are: Labour 29%; Lib Dem 29%; Conservative 9%; UKIP 4%; Green 4%; Nats 1%.

This is actually a pretty typical breakdown for YouGov’s daily polls (usually Labour might be a little higher) and illustrates several points. Firstly a lot of ex-Lib Dems have still not decided where to go – much higher than the other parties (though the ex-Tory non-voters have been increasing recently). Not only might they well return, but some of the converts to Labour might well detach as well.

Secondly the percentage of ex-Lib Dems going to the Tories has been petty constant since YouGov started publishing this breakdown. That suggests that a lot of Tories, influenced by Cleggmania, voted Lib Dem to keep Labour out and then quickly reverted to their natural home. This probably was mainly in safe Labour seats and explains why the Lib Dem vote went slightly up, even while they lost seats. It also makes Clegg’s performance at the last election even less impressive.

Thirdly, despite the hopes of many on this site, the Greens have not really benefited much from the Lib Dem collapse; indeed almost as many people are fleeing from the most pro-EU Party to UKIP. And indeed UKIP are now replacing the Lib Dems as the Party of protest – in fact as many ex-Tories are going to them as to Labour (very few go to the Lib Dems)

“When will you understand that there is a hell of a lot of left-leaning voters out there for whom a victory by continuity new labour fuelled by desperate betrayees-in-waiting with nowhere left to turn is no victory at all?”

When parties articulating that position start getting any votes in any elections anywhere. We’ve had systems which enable them to express that, in Euro elections, and in Scotland and Wales. There seems to be no upward trend in the minuscule share of the vote for the far left, anywhere.

16. Anon E Mouse

And also shows that those doom merchants who predicted total meltdown for the Lib Dem’s are wrong – regardless of if Labour stand or not….

17. Vicarious Phil

(shame on Labour and the Greens for not standing, but Tunbridge Wells is not exactly a hot bed of socialism).

Since when was The Labour Party a hotbed of socialism?

“When will you understand that there is a hell of a lot of left-leaning voters out there for whom a victory by continuity new labour fuelled by desperate betrayees-in-waiting with nowhere left to turn is no victory at all?”

When parties articulating that position start getting any votes in any elections anywhere. We’ve had systems which enable them to express that, in Euro elections, and in Scotland and Wales. There seems to be no upward trend in the minuscule share of the vote for the far left, anywhere.

Well done for completely misunderstanding what Im saying, again, you splendid example of what has ruined the albour party. I’m not talking about the ‘far left’. I’m talking about millions and millions of ordinary people who feel completely betrayed by the labour party but for whom there is curently no viable alternative so they still vote for it (me included). Explain to me what good the labour party will do normal people in the years to come except perhaps marginally slow the pace of decline of the middle and working class living standards? I haven’t met a single labour voter who isn’t absolutely sick of labour’s behaviour, but sees no viable alternative. Seriously, since Blair I haven’t met a single labour voter who isn’t sick of them. And I’ve met plenty (me included). Just what is your agenda, fuckwit?

Ah, so you don’t actually have an argument other than calling me fuckwit. Fair enough.

yeah, I have laid out my cards a million times, it’s hard (and extremely frustrating) to argue with someone who is basically a programmed new labour automaton whose basic fundamental assumptions about the world are absolute and unmoving and so at odds with reality and logical thinking they make reasoned discourse impossible. You make me extremely angry, much more so than the tory trolls in fact. The condescending arrogance to dismiss any left wingish thought that is at odds with current ‘labour’ doctrine as ‘far left’ leaves me speechless (almost).

@4
Those REMAINING Lib Dems may have split more to the tories – the left leaning Lib Dems either arnt voting, or have switched to Labour.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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