What Now After The Local Election Results?

The local council elections of May 4th did not deliver the kind of sweeping Tory defeat we might have dreamed of.

The Conservative Party were the best performers nationally, Laobur tripped up and the Liberal Democrats couldn’t resemble any sort of the ‘revival’ that had been considered. The Green Party performed well, whilst UKIP were completely finished.

So what about locally and what does this mean for Totnes heading into the general election?

The small town distrcit of Totnes and Dartington (which makes up just a fraction of teh overal Parliamentary Totnes constituency), returned a Green councillor once more. Robert Vint, the sitting Councillor had been elected on a Green ticket previously, but had been forced to return to the Liberal Democrats not too long ago, due to internal political issue within the local Green Party.

Vint was unable to defend his position, with Jacqi Hodgson taking the win with a slim majority of 220 votes
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So should you be voting Green for the Totnes seat based on this information? Well not necessarily. As mentioned, this represents just a fraction of the overall Parliamentary Constituency. When adding together all votes from local council boundarys within the Totnes Parliamentary seat, the local election delivered as follows:

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So what does this mean? It means that there may have been a bit of a resurgence for Liberal Democrats locally. However, it is worth considering many people don’t vote the same for local elections as they would in the general.

Yet if the Liberal Democrat vote held and just 11% of the combined 23% vote share between Green and Labour translated to the Liberal Democrats….assuming Tory vote share did not increase (unlikely- local turnout usually fairly representative for GE tory vote), then a defeat is possible.

Not impossible. More to follow.

Does Sarah Woolaston MP have reasons to be concerned?

Hardly for now. We’ve already discussed the challenges of removing Tory, Sarah Woolaston, from the Totnes Constituency seat. She does however seem concerned at the idea of a left-wing alliance forming locally to challenge her.

Speaking to the BBC, Woolaston described the move as ‘anti-democratic‘.

Maybe she forgets the unfair democratic nature of the first past the post electoral system that has put her and much of her peers in her seat of power.

Her comments would be better suited to her own parties insistance on a hard brexit that was not on the table during the referendum and voted for my such a slim amount of the electorate. Or even more suited to the current electoral fraud scandal gripping the Tory party.

On that topic, the media contineu to under-report the magnitude of these cases. teh key point we would like to leave you with tonight is this potential game changer:

“Prosecutors do not have long to make a decision on whether to charge the MPs – there is a different deadline in each case but the first charging decision must be made by May 20 and the others in the following fortnight”.

That’s right. In the midst of a General election, if found guilty, the implication could turn the campaigns on their head and public response could challenge even the safest of seats… W

So what are the chances of a Tory loss in Totnes?

As big or small as we choose to make them.

Totnes has effectively been a Tory safe seat since the 1930’s! That said, 4 of the last 5 elections could have seen a Tory defeat had the left-leaning parties (Labour/Lib Dems and occasionally Green) joined in an alliance and endorsed just one candidate- most likely the Lib Dem option.

A brief boundary change for about a decade, saw Totnes constituency merge into ‘South Hams’, where it became an even safer seat, before returning to a Totnes boundary in the late 1990’s, when things began to change and the Tory grip became less tight…

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With one of the closest Totnes elections to date in 1997, the somewhat infamous Anthony Steen won by a mere 877 votes. The start of the Tony Blair years, also saw the Totnes Labour Party polling well- in fact they haven’t polled higher ever since! Yet had labour stood aside and endorsed Rob Chave, the Lib Dems would have won Totnes- something surely in the interest of the Labour voters?

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This theme continued into the early 2000’s. SteenĀ  increased his percentage of the vote, but had Lib Dems appealed to Labour voters and Labour officially or otherwise endorsed the Lib Dems, once more Totnes would not have a Tory candidate. UKIP began to become an established party locally…apparently.

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You should be starting to see a pattern here…

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2010 sees the Greens see their biggest turnout locally. BNP surface to arguably shave some votes of the UKIP vote. Here voter turnout has dropped from recent elections and for the first time LIB+Lab votes would not have been enough to secure a victory over, though an unrealistic grouping of all non-right leaning candidates would have been.
This saw the first election of Sarah Woolaston MP after the Anthony Steen expenses scandal. In a shrewd and very intelligent move, the Tories held a local primary election (postal) for their 2010 candidate. Woolaston won by a landslide and the primary likely worked well to establish her name locally and regain any mistrust from local Tory voters after the Steen scandal.

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The 2015 election was arguably the most disappointing locally for any non-right wing candidate. The Green Party could have celebrated a small internal victory on more than quadrupling their vote. Arguably many of their votes may have come from previous tactical Lib Dem voters, now no longer holding out hope for a tactical win. Lib Dems suffered an unsurprising crushing defeat- not dissimilar to their national results. Heartbreakingly, UKIP became the second party, polling high than ever.

Sarah Woolaston’s 53% share of the vote, made it the highest Tory share since the 1950’s and Totnes began to appear as a “Safe seat” again across the media.

But it doesn’t have to be. 47,097 people turned out to vote in the last election. But with a total electorate of 69,000 there are many votes still to be won…

If the local left wing parties can come to an agreement to support one candidate, there is plenty to be hopeful for.

If we can persuade the mass of non-voters- I assume many Totnesians don’t vote assumign thereĀ  is no way to remove a Tory MP locally- then that hope grows even more..

If we persuade young people, our kids, nephews, nieces, siblings, to vote- and then register to vote via proxy if away at university or traveling- then there is a real chance.

Why Target a Tory Loss in Totnes?

1200px-Totnes2007Constituency.pngWhilst the purpose of this blog will be to help facilitate a switch of political representation for Totnes, we would like to start by respectfully acknowledging the work that the current Totnes MP, Sarah Woolaston, has given, but also wish her well in her future outside of politics.

If you have come to this blog looking for a series of Tory-bashing memes, you will not find it here. Here we assume a certain degree of knowledge of what Conservative PArty politics is and direct our energies to removing it from the locale.

We are in a unique and almost oxymoronic position of potentially having one of the ‘better’ Tory MP’s there are in Parliament. Lone Green MP Caroline Lucas, on a visit to Totnes in January, commented that, “…Totnes was lucky to have such an moderate representative, who speaks her mind probably mroe often than her own party would like.”

Caronline isn’t wrong. Woolaston has often rubbed her party up the wrong way, been outspoken in her general support of the NHS and it’s workers (despite being a member of a party seemingly insistant on it’s demise), and even took a bold step of suggesting a tax rise could be in order to support public services. Yet there is plenty that can not be supported and when push comes to shove, she toes the party line all too much.

VIEW SARAH WOOLASTON PARLIAMENTARY VOTING RECORD

So why go after one of the moderate and open-minded Conservatives, in one of the Tory’s safest seats in the counrty?

Because if we can cause an upset in Totnes, prove that political change is possible here, then it proves it can be done anywhere….and we believe it can be done.

The following posts will analyse the current situation of elections in Totnes, consider what recent history tells us and begin to spell out a road map of just how a Tory defeat could be delivered and what might replace it.