Monday 13 December 2010
Vote H'uh, What ever is it good for?
FTB has returned to his excellent blog to muse on what has happened to the country since the election and wonders why he has found it so difficult to address urgent matters which need public illumination.
"it might be that I am still in shock that so many people voted for the Labour Party at the General Election in May."
The following observation will not cheer him up.
In the constituency of South East Cambridgeshire the election was unusual in that it wasn't possible to vote Labour at all as the candidate, John Cowan, had the Labour whip withdrawn just before the election. By then the slips had been printed so although his name went forward and was tagged "Labour", he wasn't really.
It might have been more honest to put a black line through the word "Labour" but they don't allow officers to tamper with the voting papers. If he had carried the vote, he would would have been the duly elected.
In practice, in that constituency, Labour fielded an outsider because they were never going to win it anyway. It turned out, however, the candidate was not just an outsider but a liability with whom they did not wish to be associated and about whom they had already been warned.
Asked for quote so close to the election, the Labour party spokesperson said they hoped people would vote Labour. This was despite the fact that they obviously couldn't because there was no Labour candidate on offer.
Still 4,380 citizens either didn't know this or ignored the short statement at the polling station. The results were:
Conservative James Paice 27,629
Liberal Democrat Jonathan Chatfield 21,683
Labour John Cowan 4,380
The numbers would not have swung it for the Lib Dem chaser but if a Labour voter is going to move, it is not going to be all the way to the other end of the political spectrum (not that that is very far these days) but to an intermediate "stop the Tories" point i.e. the Lib Dems. Some of them must have made that move because the Lib Dem vote increased by about 6%, although we cannot know if the vote came from people who had moved from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems either.
The mystery remains: why didn't the Labour vote collapse to about 500 people, in line with the other independent?
Some of it will be down to ignorance and a determination not to read any papers, blogs, listen to the radio or tv, read any election material frantically shoved through the door by the hopeful Lib Dems, or even to bother reading the notice at the polling station, which I'm told was displayed on the desk where the slips were given out.
Perhaps those voters came down determined to register a preference for Labour, despite the fact that our parliamentary system requires you to vote for an individual and exercise your judgment on the basis of what you think of them personally. It is in fact impossible to "hold your nose and vote Anything" because the Anything party does not stand. All you have are individuals and you either like the cut of their jib or you don't.
It is possible that some of those votes were postal and may have been entered before the row broke out, but after all this there is still the ritualistic core vote. They vote Labour because they do and no amount of facts - such as there being no Labour candidate - will shake the belief that it is the right thing to do.
If they are prepared to vote for a non-existent Labour candidate, it is logical to vote for an existing one - even Phil Woolas - as that at least represents an improvement over an imaginary candidate. Arguably.