Does Liberal Democrat bravado about two-horse races mask a deeper fear, that I might be about to challenge their position?
One more day to go, and I’m starting to feel a little pinch of nervousness in my stomach. It seems silly, given the unlikeliness of me winning. But I’m wondering if the Lib Dems aren’t starting to get a little worried.
I’m the first Labour candidate in a long while to actually campaign this ward. The first non-paper candidate in a while. Previously the ward has been a safe Tory seat, with the Lib Dems in clear second place and no one else in sight. This is something that the Lib Dems seem oddly proud of, though as I say since no Labour candidate has properly campaigned here before it isn’t exactly a fair measure.
But for the last few weeks I’ve been working the pavement hard. I’m at a disadvantage from the start, really, since I have less money to throw into a campaign, and a smaller pool of volunteers to draw from (though the local party members have risen admirably to my aid, and I’m proud to count myself amongst their number). So I’ve only been able to produce one leaflet, and have had to (largely) distribute it myself.
The Tories seem only to feel the need to put out one leaflet, and honestly when one looks at the electoral history of the ward, it seems understandable. The interesting thing, however, is the Lib Dems. On the face of it, they’ve put out three leaflets: one a few weeks before the date of the by-election was announced, another around the same time as I started canvassing, and then a third last night. Except, in reality, they seem to be the self-same leaflet.
They’ve moved things around, changed fonts, changed the format. But at its core, it contains largely the same information. There seems to be no new revelation which prompts another sheet, other than to maintain some sort of endless barrage. And I do wish that their canvassers would actually put leaflets all the way through letterboxes, and not leave them hanging halfway out. I suspect a lot of local residents would agree with me there.
But having damned them for putting out the same leaflet three times, there are a few minor changes, and I think they’re very telling. Firstly, the latest leaflet has a section about the reasons behind the by-election. This is on the front of my leaflet, and has been my primary line of attack against the Tories. Cllr Stretton resigned in a manner which showed utter disrespect for the people who voted for her, and showed she was thinking almost solely about her own political career. And yet this is the first I’ve seen from the Lib Dems mentioning. Maybe I’m gaining some traction with it. Maybe they’re worried they’re loosing ground on it.
Secondly, there’s a slight change in their “two-horse race” spiel. It featured on their last leaflet, saying:
“Lib Dems v Conseravtives – that’s the political battle in Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe and across the Wokingham Borough. The Conservatives control the council and the Lib Dems are the only opposition; there are no councillors from any other party, nor any independent councillors.”
The latest leaflet says:
“The Conservatives run the council. The Liberal Democrats are the only opposition and there are no other councillors. In Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe Labour have come bottom in the last 3 local elections, averaging less than 5% of the vote.”
Notice the change of tack from a general attack on the chances of other parties, to a specific attack on my chances as Labour candidate? Interesting, isn’t it. In the previous leaflet, they were confident of their status as the only opposition. Now they seem to feel threatened by my campaign.
Everything they say is true. Labour have come bottom the last three times, with around 5% of the vote. But as I said above, there was no real campaign. And as for this two-horse race, is that all residents want? The Lib Dems, like the Tories, seem to discount the fact that such positions are only decided by the voters. Of course Labour can win here. All it takes is for people to go out tomorrow and vote for me.
This, I think, is what the Liberal Democrats are realising. I think they’re noticing a new challenger, who might be able to take up ground they have systematically failed to. I think they’re getting a bit worried.