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Why Labour did well. Why the Lib Dems did not.

May 10, 2010

The Lib Dems delivered a crazy volume of paper ... here's one voter's doormat (he made the mistake of taking a couple of weeks holiday prior to polling day)

Following last week’s election, many people are asking why Labour did so much better than predicted; and why the Lib Dems fell short of expectation? In Caledonian Ward, Labour took 45% of the vote whilst the Lib Dems got only 29%.

From our experience the question really ought to be: who defined the expectation that Labour would do badly and the Lib Dems do well? Actually it was the Lib Dems themselves. But the voters didn’t buy it. And the Lib Dems made many crucial mistakes.

First, all that paper. The Lib Dems boasted they delivered a million leaflets throughout Islington during the campaign. That’s almost 40 pieces of paper for every single vote their Parliamentary candidates received. It was excessive and voters started to say that very loudly. Labour probably delivered about a fifth of that number of leaflets.

Instead, Labour went door-to-door. Very intensively, regularly and repeatedly. And we started doing that about 2 years ago. We built on the strong roots that our Councillors have in their communities. And we listened carefully to what people said.

Third, Labour pitched an appeal to Labour voters. We did not – as the Lib Dems did – try to win over another group of voters. In their case, Tories. How many times did you read yet another Lib Dem leaflet saying “Tories cannot win here”? Across the Islington South & Finsbury constituency, the Tories scored a respectable 20% of the vote. We met quite a few Tory supporters. They wanted to vote Tory much more than they wanted to vote Lib Dem to “beat Gordon Brown’s MP” as the Lib Dems put it.

Fourth, the tone of the Lib Dem campaign was very negative. At times, it was almost abusive. Voters were astonished to get “letters” from Bridget Fox saying “I just care about Islington and I’m not attacking other political parties” whilst simultaneously her supporters were delivering leaflets that peddled lies and mistruths about Emily Thornberry

Finally, Labour ran an exceptionally upbeat campaign. Contrary to the Lib Dem propaganda, Emily proved to have a strong personal following and her personality shone through the campaign. We argued the case for a Labour Government compared with the perils of a Tory one. And on the doorstep, we honestly admitted where Labour had gone wrong, at times. For the Borough election, we presented an alternative vision for Islington (and our neighbourhoods) which people understood and supported.

Interestingly, this experience in Caledonian Ward and throughout Islington was not unique. It was a London-wide phenomenon. Labour retained many Parliamentary seats that conventional wisdom had marked down as certain losses. And Labour won absolute majorities in 17 London Boroughs last week – having only fully controlled 6 Boroughs before. So, something happened in London which completely bucked the national trend. It was a significant anti-Tory mood shift. And we were part of it.

(A short film about the ecstasy and the agony of one historic night in north London)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    May 11, 2010 10:27 pm

    What a joke
    Lib dems become conservatives just what we need , have you noticed that not one reporter or news reader has said how we have another unelected PM.
    after all they keeped making the point that Gorden Brown was unelected.

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