Saturday, 3 May 2008

London - more than a little deflating

There's no doubt about it, the London results took the gloss off what had been a pretty good set of results until then.

It's not just the mayoral result, but the GLA too where the Party completely failed to live up to expectations.

At least with the Mayor it is possible to understand what went wrong more easily. Some contests just get personal and this was one of those. But, for some reason, when it gets personal in that way, the public just can't seem to cope with more than two candidates in the mix and so everyone else gets squeezed. And that's what happened to Brian Paddick. In the hectic mix of Ken vs Boris, there was very little room for Brian. Both of the leading two were such polarising figures that most voters were desparate to vote against the one they hated most (and I think far more people voted against than for either of them). In an effort to see off their personal nemesis, electors ignored the claims of an outsider because they feared he could not win.

There will be some debate about whether Brian was the right candidate. Ignoring the fact that he was chosen by the membership, I think that he was. We know that we were likely to be up against a Ken vs Boris contest and so we needed something special to come through the middle. With the possible exception of Lembit, I don't think we have anyone in our party who could compete purely on the basis of personality with those two. We could have put up another politician - Lynne Featherstone has been mentioned - and I think she would probably have done well - perhaps better than Brian did. But, perversely, I think a political outsider such as Brian was our only hope of winning. OK, it didn't work but it was our only hope.

So much for the Mayor, what about the Assembly. Clearly there is much trickle down from the mayoral ballot. If people are drawn to either Ken or Boris then they may stick with either Lab or Con on the Assembly ballot. Yet the Greens managed to avoid this failing. They held their two Assembly seats. Was this because of the deal they struck with Ken over mayoral second preferences? Quite possibly. Should we have done so - clearly a matter for debate.

Choosing some of our GLA candidates so late in the day didn't help but then neither does the lack of understanding about what GLA members actually do. The Lib Dems always do really badly in elections such as this where the public cannot directly relate to the post being elected. So they tend to mirror their mayoral vote on the Assembly ballot.

Whatever the case, I hope that the Party has a proper inquest into the London campaign and opens this up to members across the capital. This is not a demand for bloodletting, but there needs to be a decision that this cannot be allowed to happen again.

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