Idle speculation

20 May

Still grinning

An unofficial anti-Wales leaflet currently doing the rounds

Back in 2010 the electoral fates conspired to help Sir Robin Wales to a landslide victory in the mayoral election.

The election was held on the same day as the general election, boosting turnout to over 50%, and he was to all intents and purposes unopposed. The Tories barely campaigned at all, there was no Liberal Democrat and no Left candidate. The field was so pathetically thin that Kamran Malik came third.

The full results were:

Candidate Party Votes Share
Sir Robin Wales Labour 64,748 68.0%
Maria Joy Allen Conservative 15,330 16.1%
Kamran Malik KM Communities Welfare Party 6,607 7.0%
Alan Craig Christian Peoples Alliance 6,503 6.8%
Chikwe Nkemnacho Independent 2,006 2.1%

This time though Sir Robin faces a tougher test: all the main Westminster parties are running and there are two credible options to the left of Labour – the Greens and TUSC. To the right there’s UKIP, whose vote will be boosted by the coincidence of the poll with the European elections and endless BBC coverage of Nigel Farage. Plus Kamran Malik is beaming down from the Planet Zarg for another go.

There is also a sense that people are just getting a bit tired of Sir Robin: he’s been around a very long time.

While it would be nice to think that Jane Lithgow or Lois Austin will be the main beneficiaries of the ‘anyone-but-Robin’ mood, it’s the Tories who are most likely to challenge.

They have picked a local candidate and are actually making an effort – for the first time I can remember they’ve had people out knocking on doors, actively canvassing. They’ve also made a big play for Muslim votes by selecting former Respect candidates in key wards and making some specific promises. They’ve pledged to grant free parking near mosques for Friday prayers, support plans for a Muslim cemetery and to ‘take account of religious beliefs when considering planning applications.’ They have picked up where George Galloway left off in trying to exploit resentment at the council’s stance over the so-called mega-mosque.

So what does this mean for Thursday’s vote? Will we wake up on Friday to find Stefan Mrozinski’s face staring out from the front page of the council website, alongside an invitation to ‘Meet the Mayor’?

I think not.

Whatever the appeal of a fresh face may be, Labour is too deeply entrenched locally and the Tories too toxic nationally for there to be a real upset. But Sir Robin will suffer some damage. His total vote will inevitably decline as turnout drops. Disgruntled Labour voters will peel off to the left and the European elections will encourage some voters into the UKIP camp locally too.

It is likely that Labour’s share of mayoral first preferences will be below 50% – just as it did in 2006 when Respect ran strongly. That year they did well enough to win 6 seats on the council.

Will the Tories replicate that success? It will be fascinating to see what happens within Newham Labour if it does. Never in the history of the borough has an official Conservative candidate been elected. That it should happen on Sir Robin’s watch would be richly ironic. After Labour handed him re-nomination with barely a whisper of dissent it would surely prompt some very difficult questions.

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2 Responses to “Idle speculation”

  1. angrynewhamresident May 20, 2014 at 08:27 #

    Reblogged this on angrynewhamresident.

  2. carotomes May 21, 2014 at 17:24 #

    I’ve only had labour going door-to-door in my ward. General impression is that the other parties have given up already… which is a real shame. Single party domination is not a healthy way for any council to be run. I don’t know if my vote will change that, but I’ll sure try.

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