With the dust now having settled on the local elections, it seems a timely moment to look back at my ward of Blenheim Park.
The headline here is clear: I didn’t win. Which, yes, is disappointing, after running what I believe was the most active campaign of any of the candidates. But diving beneath the headline figures, there has clearly been an improvement in the Labour vote.
Looking at position alone, and as I said in my concession speech, a move from third place in 2015 to second in 2016 is progress in anybody’s book. When one looks a longer term breakdown, of vote share as well as base position, the picture gets even more cheerful.
Helen Boyd (CON) – 715 (31.6%)
Matt Dent (LAB) – 555 (26.0%)
Roger Weaver (UKIP) – 474 (21.0%)
Jill Allen-King (LD) – 317 (14.0%)
Colin Ritchie (IND) – 105 (4.6%)
Jules Esposito (GRN) – 94 (4.2%)
CON gain, from LD
So the trends are pretty clear from a glance. The Liberal Democrat vote has collapsed pretty dramatically since 2010, a collapse which seems to have flat-lined now they have left government, but shows no signs of recovering.
The Tory vote is…inconsistent is probably the best word. Aside from a spike in 2015, when the local elections coincided with the general election, it seems that their vote is hovering around the 30% mark. On three occasions in the last six elections this has been sufficient to win.
UKIP are even more inconsistent. they came from effectively nowhere to win in 2014, but that coincided with a spike in the UKIP vote across Southend in light of the European Parliament elections. Beyond that they stumbled to second place in 2015 — buoyed by the general election? — and slipped to third place this year.
Neither the Green, Independent
Party Group, nor the BNP (Mercifully -Ed) are of any real consequence here.
But what about the Labour vote? Well, 2014–the year before I first stood as Blenheim Park candidate–was a bit of a trough for Labour votes. The candidate that year was Dean Trotter, whose fault the decline in Labour vote was resolutely not. The EU elections hurt us, as did the rise of UKIP.
In 2015 I took over the reins, and the Labour vote did actually pick up by nearly 4%. Given the fact that it wasn’t the best of general elections for Labour, I’m fairly proud of that. It was the first full campaign that we had run in the ward, with a lot of door-knocking and several leaflets, and I was realistic enough to not expect the supertanker to turn quickly, whilst being proud of being within touching distance of UKIP.
And what of 2016? Well, adding another 7.5% to the Labour vote is a particular achievement, alongside taking second place from UKIP. The campaign was essentially a stepped up continuation of my 2015 campaign, with year-round doorknocking and quarterly (Just about -Ed) newsletters. It might be boasting (It is -Ed) but most of the doors I knocked on were opened by people who said that I was the first local candidate they had heard from.
The next election is not for two years, in 2018, so making predictions about whether I will be the candidate then seems a bit rash. But until such time as I am not going to be the Labour candidate, I intend to continue as if I am — and campaigning will resume, after a suitable period of rest for my blisters to heal.
In two years I have managed to take Labour from fourth to second, and increased the share of the vote in Blenheim Park by 11.3%. Can the increase be repeated over the next two years? Well, that would take the Labour vote-share to 37.3%, which would have been an election-winning vote in all of the non-General Election years so far.
Whatever happens, one thing has become clear in 2016: in Blenheim Park, Labour are the alternative to the Tories.