Various polling station signs

Since the election was called I’ve been agonising over which way I should vote. While quitting a party has lots of upsides, it’s actually hard work being a floating voter, especially when we insist on using an atrocious electoral system like first-past-the-post1. I’ve found myself flitting between parties and candidates. A week away from the election, I’m still no nearer a decision.

Battersea is spoilt for choice with candidates this time, with the usual selection of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat joined by Green, UKIP, Socialist and a pro-Remain independent.

Arguably first-past-the-post makes the choice of vote easier, since there’s little prospect, based on the 2015 result, of anyone but Conservatives or Labour winning. Indeed, based on the 2015 result it’s easy to assume it’s a Conservative hold.

Until, that is, the publication of the YouGov election model yesterday and listed Battersea as ‘leaning Labour’. Their model had Labour estimated to get 43% (with a 95% confidence interval of 36-51%) and the Conservatives estimated on 41% (with an interval of 34-47%). It struck me as unlikely, to say the least.

However, it did make question if there was any chance it might be right. I could certainly point to anecdotal evidence it might not be totally outlandish. My own experience (admittedly getting older) was that while the response to the Conservatives on the door was still warm, it never felt quite as effusive as it once did. It was certainly my experience at the time and from observation and gossip since that the local party machinery of the Conservatives—historically quite formidable—was a shadow of its former self and unable to compete with a youthful and energetic Labour party.

The mountain to climb…

The evidence of 2015 was, however, that local campaigns don’t necessary win elections. It was commonly accepted that the Labour party outclassed and outgunned the Conservatives on everything. Everything, that is, except votes in the ballot box. Jane Ellison held the seat with over half the votes cast, 52.4% against Labour’s Will Martindale on 36.8%. For Labour to overturn that it would require a swing of 7.8%.

The only published poll for Battersea, commissioned by the independent candidate, had the Conservatives on 46% and Labour on 38%. The poll was conducted before the recent shift towards Labour in national polling, but still showed Labour some way off the pace.

The YouGov model has a swing towards Labour in its national model, but only 3.5% 1.75%.2 That is arguably suspect, since it goes against the consensus of all the polls published thus far. And it’s hard to see where the other 4% 6% or so of swing is coming from, even if you accept YouGov’s close result.

…and how it could be scaled

A few factors? Labour’s campaigning is getting stronger while the Conservatives are getting weaker. It’s hard to see how this would be reflecting in polls, though, since campaigns are far more about getting people out to vote than changing hearts and minds on the doorstep. You certainly wouldn’t expect this to be a factor in YouGov’s model.

The London bubble, in which Labour somehow seem unaffected by the national unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn (and perhaps buoyed by the regional popularity of Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London) may be adding a little to Labour total.

The continued Lib Dem collapse may be playing a part. There were about 5,000 Lib Dem votes ‘lost’ between the 2010 and 2015 election. Again, it’s possible these voters may now be flocking to Labour having abstained or flirted with the Tories.

These may individually get a challenging Labour party a little closer, but the biggest gains, surely would have to come from the EU referendum referendum.

Remain, however, has to be the biggest factor in play. Battersea is a young, international constituency. Wandsworth had one of the biggest remain votes in the country and while constituency results were not declared there was some academic and polling evidence suggesting Battersea was the most pro-remain constituency in the borough. Given that Jane Ellison has long been an ardent pro-European there was understandable disappointment when she failed to represent her constituents and her own beliefs and still voted to trigger article 50.

Can Labour win?

Possibly, but then it’s a theoretical possibility that any candidate could win. Would I share YouGov’s projection? Probably not. They might get a few bits and pieces from some factors, and will probably get a good chunk because of the remain factor (something they are clearly pushing for in their literature). There are definitely many who are angry with Jane Ellison for, as they perceive it, putting her ministerial career before her principals and the national interest. My sense, though, is that many of those would not have been voting Conservative in any case.

So, possible? Yes. But likely, even in YouGov’s nuanced language of ‘leaning’? Probably not: so many things have to stack up it would have to be an outlier.

And my vote? I’m still stuck.

  1. Yes, I once was a supporter of first-past-the-post, but people change and I’m older and wiser.
  2. By my reckoning, I’m only using the very simplistic Butler swing model and not factoring in the potential effects of the smaller parties or independent candidate. I also got this wrong in my initial post, meaning there’s an even bigger mountain for Labour to climb.

I was at my petty worst when I received a copy of Battersea MP Jane Ellison’s reporting back leaflet talking about her Shine a Light campaign and featuring a photo of her by the newly installed light in Dorothy Gardens. Falling into that very 21st century frailty of passive aggressively tweeting in haste and repenting, or ruminating, at leisure.

Of course, the bigger part of me knows that I should consider my fondness for the (attributed) Truman quote: “It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t care who takes credit.” The petty part wasn’t listening.

Ten years of struggle

I struggled with this one. I’d been trying, on and off, to get a light installed there for over ten years. The most recent attempt, which was ultimately successful, was prompted by yet another resident contacting me about it. Together, and later joined by another nearby resident, we spent dark winter evenings collecting petition signatures from local residents and people using the passageway.

The call for a light was rejected by Cllr Jonathan Cook when it went to his council committee, despite the report not being entirely accurate. But another opportunity was on the horizon and I submitted a bid to the Wandsworth Local Fund to get a light installed. This gained the support of Tony Belton, Simon Hogg (Labour councillors from the neighbouring Latchmere ward) and, somewhat ironically, Jonathan Cook and was successful in getting funding. Hence the light that is there today.

It was surprisingly easy in the end. Almost disappointingly so. After ten years it almost felt like the end should have been harder than filling out a relatively short form. But equally, it took ten years (that I spent most of them on the council’s Leader’s Group speaks either to my staggering incompetence or just how very hard it is to get the council to say ‘yes’ to something) and it was a project to which I had become attached.

All the other lights

Why Jane Ellison chose to feature the site so prominently on her leaflet did puzzle me though. My first instinct was, uncharitably, that perhaps there were no lights that had been installed as a consequence of her Shine a Light campaign. I then wondered if it was just a useful proxy, a photogenic and recognisable location that would represent the issue, since other places might be less than pleasant alleys and tunnels.

So I contacted Jane Ellison asking for details of her other successes. Below I present a complete list of all the lights installed as a result of her campaign.

Full list of lights installed:

— End of list —

To be fair, she just didn’t bother responding. And frankly, why should she? She’s an MP and minister and has better things to do than respond to the tantrums of a slightly petulant independent councillor, however politely written those tantrums may be.

Justifying my petulance

Of course, I know my attitude is deeply unappealing. It’s exactly the sort of behaviour I know I wouldn’t want my children to see and certainly not to exhibit. (Although I suppose I do like them taking pride in their own work and wouldn’t want them seeking credit for the work of others.) In this case, though, I’ll live with my hypocrisy.

I was upset that Jane was pushing a leaflet through doors effectively taking credit for the light I felt I had been responsible for delivering: it may not be much, but it’s one of the few things I feel I have to my name. While I’ve had more than enough exposure to politics and politicians to have realistically low expectations of them, that still doesn’t stop me feeling aggrieved.

Perhaps worst of all, though, is the sense of disappointment I felt. Elsewhere in the leaflet, as she always does, Jane listed the important meetings and events she had attended. And she is, as I’ve noted, the local MP and a government minister. She has clout—a lot of clout—with the council, with public services and private companies in the constituency. That she is using her leaflet to take credit for something a non-entity councillor took ten years to deliver was a disappointment. Instead it should be full of what she’s done to make Battersea better.

Last week I wondered if most people had moved on from the riots, mentally consigning them to history and getting on as if they had happened in another time or place.

Last night I might have got an answer when 50 people attended the first of three public meetings being held at Battersea Arts Centre as part of the Kinghan review into the disorder.

I really didn’t know what to expect, and as a result am finding it hard to work out my reaction. Was an attendance of 50 good, and if so, why? To be sure, having 50 people to a public meeting (and I’m not a great fan of public meetings) is a large number by Wandsworth standards. But then this was also held in the most affected part of the borough, where thousands of people – residents and businesses owners – can legitimately claim to have been affected by the riots, so maybe 50 wasn’t such a good number.

In fact, the numbers weren’t even that good. A significant number of the audience fell into the category of ‘usual suspects’. (The term might seem derogatory, but isn’t intended that way, I include councillors as usual suspects.) At least thirteen councillors were there, as was the MP, Jane Ellison, and I would guess about half the people attending had some ‘political’ involvement in the area. This is not to discount their contribution, but we all have the advantage of being able to feed into the process in other ways.

The meeting itself was interesting. Neil Kinghan chaired it remarkably well and people were polite and courteous in hearing out others, even if they disagreed. Indeed, it struck me that the audience was remarkably balanced. For each burst of applause for someone speaking out against eviction or looking to blame the riots on social or economic factors, there was applause for someone putting the contrary view that most people managed to resist the temptation of a new TV and trainers regardless of deprivation.

In fact, it was notable that the first round of applause wasn’t given to anyone making political points, but to someone speaking up for Battersea in the Battersea/Clapham debate!

A large part of the meeting focused on the police. A few people pondered whether the police themselves were part of the cause, through heavy-handed use of stop and search, but by far the biggest area of comment and questioning was the police response, with people asking about the availability of officers on the night (52 Wandsworth officers had been deployed elsewhere) and the likely subsequent actions that will be taken.

Reflecting on the meeting today it struck me that there were two schools of thought about the causes: pure criminality or social and economic. Obviously it’s overly-simplistic see it as totally black-and-white, but most people leant more towards one school than the other.

I moved towards the criminality theory during the course of the evening.

So while some blamed bankers, I just couldn’t reconcile that with people attacking local businesses and sports fashion retailers rather than the banks.

And while some asked exactly what youth facilities were open on 8 August, I couldn’t help wondering whether that means the council has to act in loco parentis 24/7 if it wants to avoid criminality (or what difference it would make when over half those arrested are adults).

And if others believe we’ve discovered the price we pay for heavy-handed policing, does protesting against that really need people to plan drop-off points and collection vans for their stolen goods?

Fundamentally I couldn’t help listening to the different viewpoints and realising that it is deeply offensive to the vast majority of people who, regardless of circumstance, manage to go through their lives as law-abiding members of their community.

Everyone involved in the riots knows the difference between right and wrong. The question is not what excuse they (or we) offer for making the wrong decision on that night, but rather how they got to a stage where their moral compass was so weak, they could over-ride it at the expense of their local community.

Today I (technically) start my fourth term as a Wandsworth Councillor after a long and hard election.

It’s been an interesting campaign. There’s no shortage of commentary about the national campaign, so I will add little to it, suffice to say I’m pleased to see Justine re-elected in Putney and Jane elected in Battersea. Obviously it’s disappointing that we didn’t get the clean sweep and Sadiq Khan held on in Tooting. I only wish he and his supporters could have exhibited the grace in victory shown in the Putney and Battersea results declared before his, but I think I always knew that would be too much to ask.

But moving onto the local results, I can’t help but think how good they were for the Conservatives and wonder how disappointed the Labour Party must be think weekend. The combined general and local election poll was a great opportunity for them to increase their representation on the council but now they must bitterly reflect that it was an opportunity missed.

Most of their gains came in Tooting, getting one seat that had been held by the Conservatives in Furzedown and two in Tooting ward. Fuzedown has always been an ‘odd’ ward, regularly returning a split and this is the first time in my memory that all three councillors have been from the same party. Tooting was always seen as a Labour safe seat and it was an upset when we took two seats there, defeating the then Labour leader Stuart King (who must also be disappointed with the night’s results for other reasons). This time our candidates in both wards put up a hard fight, but it wasn’t enough.

However, Labour failed to make any in-roads into any of the other wards, most notably Bedford, where they must have been hopeful of a Labour gain, but found themselves 350 votes short of taking a seat and over 1,300 short of all three.

Labour’s only other gain of the evening was in Roehampton. This was a ward we won in 1998 (totally against the odds, the Conservative candidates were so sure of defeat they’d gone for a curry instead of to the count) and have managed to hold ever since. But despite another fierce Labour campaign they only managed to gain one seat, instead of all three. And they totally failed to make an impression in West Hill, the other Putney ward they had been targeting.

In Battersea no seats changed hands, Labour held onto Latchmere, but failed to take their target seat of Queenstown. I think this must be one of the few constituencies in London were all council seats were successfully defended, no mean feat and a credit to all the candidates and activists involved.

The net result is a gain of four seats for Labour, giving them 13 councillors to our 47. But given that they must have been expecting at least 15-21 seats doing worse can’t be a good feeling for them.

The challenge for them now is making sure they use what they have effectively. I do not think they were a strong team over the past four years, and were heavily reliant on their leader, Tony Belton (for whom I have a great deal of respect). Time will tell if this will change.

I make no apology for, once again, asking people to vote for me. Putting yourself up for election is a fairly egotistical thing to do, as is having an eponymous blog. And although I’ve never introduced myself on the doorstep (my patter is to call “on behalf of the Conservatives” rather than putting a particular name forward) I have no shame in promoting myself as the best choice for Shaftesbury for the next four years.

But I’m actually not quite that egotistical. I think you should vote for some others as well.

Jane Ellison has been working hard for years and will make an excellent MP for Battersea and give it the voice it deserves.

And for the council Guy Senior has represented Shaftesbury for longer than me (since 1990) and worked hard to help keep Wandsworth providing value and excellent services. Finally, Jonathan Cook will make an superb addition to the team, he’s already been around, introducing himself to all and sundry and will make a great councillor.

Remember, ONE vote on the white paper for Jane ELLISON and THREE votes on the yellow paper for Jonathan COOK, James COUSINS and Guy SENIOR. We will all have the Conservative tree logo by our names.

I’m not sure if I will be blogging during the day, I hope to post a few bits and pieces from out and about, but I also know that it’s going to be an incredibly busy and long day – we shall see what it brings.

The council have published the final list of candidates for the Battersea parliamentary seat.

I know I shouldn’t say this but I’m a little disappointed, the field has narrowed, and we are now down to seven candidates, the major parties are there, obviously, with the Conservatives Jane Ellison challenging Labour’s Martin Linton for the seat. They are joined by the Liberal Democrat, Greens and UKIP along with two independents: Tom Fox, who opposes corruption and Hugh Salmon who seems to share a lot of Conservative policy (although I confess I’ve not spent a lot of time studying his policies).

We’ve lost two candidates though. The Jury Team candidate, it seems, didn’t manage to get a nomination together and, sadly, the Monster Raving Loony Party didn’t stick to his promise to stand. Why am I disappointed? Because I occasionally enjoy politics and some of these candidates can bring some colour to the race. Sadly, they won’t be bringing it to Battersea.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect is the nomination of a BNP candidate in Putney. Given that they had managed to nominate a candidate in West Hill, they could clearly get the signatures for a parliamentary nomination (both only require ten people) and the only question remaining was whether they could afford the deposit. It seems they could.

I’m still slightly puzzled by their choice of constituency, as I mentioned with their West Hill nomination, they predominantly take votes from Labour so Putney is a surprising choice given that that the Labour vote there isn’t that high. There isn’t even the argument that there is a media focus on the seat – since most will be looking towards Battersea and Tooting where there are likely to be changes.

Whatever their logic, I hope they get a record low in the polls.

First of all I must congratulate Chloe Smith everyone involved in the Norwich North by-election on their victory. It is no mean achievement to see a 16.5% swing, which would be more than enough, if repeated across the country to see a Conservative government.

The numbers geek in me wondered what this would mean for Wandsworth.

This needs prefacing with lots of caveats. Swing is a very imperfect measure. It is never uniform and local issues and campaigns mean it’s dangerous to draw conclusions from it. The method I’m using (the Butler Swing) only takes account of the top two parties, so it also ignores the impact of a strong campaign from minor parties. However, since Norwich North and all the Wandsworth seats are fairly straightforward Labour/Conservative fights, it’s not entirely unreasonable to put the numbers in and see what happens.

The Butler Swing basically takes the average of the change in vote share for the top two parties. So in Norwich North the Conservative vote share increased by 6.29% and the Labour vote share dropped by 26.70% – an average swing of 16.49% from Labour to Conservative.

In Wandsworth this would mean, very simply, all three seats would be Conservative – a 16.49% swing from the 2005 result would see:

  • In Battersea Martin Linton’s 163 majority would easily be overturned, becoming a 13,374 vote majority for Jane Ellison.
  • In Putney Justine Greening would see her 1,766 majority increase to a 13,828 majority over Labour’s Stuart King.
  • Even in the ‘safe’ Labour seat of Tooting, Sadiq Khan would see his 5,381 majority turn into a Conservative majority of 8,328 for Mark Clarke.

Even at half the swing, 8.25% from Labour to the Conservatives, all three seats would return Conservatives (majorities of 6,610, 7,801 and 1,477 in Battersea, Putney and Tooting respectively).

I’ve compared the current situation to 1997, which I saw from the losing side. Twelve years later the Norwich North result is almost a mirror image of the Wirral South by-election in 1997, which saw a 17% swing from the Conservatives to Labour and preceded the landslide Labour victory in the general election when they got a national swing of over 10%.

There’s no doubt that the Labour candidates in all three seats will be looking at the results and making the same comparisons. There’s going to be some fierce campaigning over the next year.

Battersea In TouchWe are currently in the process of distributing the latest issue of ‘In Touch’, our consitutency wide paper.

If you prefer paperless, you can download a copy by following this link (543kb).

The issue contains:

  • Zero council tax increase this year
  • A message from Wandsworth Council Leader Edward Lister
  • Boris tackles City Hall waste to deliver tax freeze this year
  • What Wandsworth is doing to help combat the recession
  • David Cameron on the change our country needs