Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Vote Keys, Get Brown

[Apologies for another lengthy post. But I hope you enjoy it...]

The media and the blogosphere alike seem to have reached a point in this campaign where things appear to be unravelling for all. Despite the Tories initial poll figures showing them moving in the right direction, suddenly Labour appear to have opened up a gap once more. In some cases, leads of 9-10%, which if produced on election day would be a travesty - allowing another Blair landslide and letting him claim the nation has given his disgusting Iraq invasion their ringing endorsement.

The Tories meanwhile spent yesterday defending the allegation that they are obsessed with immigration. I watched Michael Howard's despicable performance on the Ask the Leader programme on Monday night and it once more reminded me exactly why I don't want them to win. This is seriously harming their prospects. We all know what happened in 2001 and it's going to happen again. While people may like what they're saying, it is not going down well in the key marginals, and it certainly is not going to be the deciding factor in many people's votes. Moreover, the constant banging on about it just reinforces their image as the "nasty party".

So the rest of us worried about Tony getting another huge majority, while wanting to see the Conservatives isolated again, and at the same time wishing the Lib Dems could make a serious breakthrough are left pondering what to do now.

It seems to me there is just one solution left. It's a simple goal, but its achivement is largely improbable. It involves using the delights of the First Past the Post electoral system against those who seem to enjoy revelling in its disproportionality.

Vote Keys, Get Brown

In Tony's Sedgefield constituency, there is an unfortunate mass of opposition lined up against him, ensuring the anti-Blair vote gets split many ways and giving him another romping "majority". (Of course, the word "majority" is misleading in our system. It should actually be "plurality". Majority means more than 50%. The real majority in this seat is 15 percentage points.)

And that's what's wrong. Sure this is safe Labour territory, but there are so many opposition candidates that they are removing any chance of an election night shock. The cruel irony is that by all standing against him, they are actually ensuring that he romps home with another glorious majority.

Reg Keys is standing against Tony Blair in Sedgefield. Already he has a higher media profile than all the other independents, thanks to the media attention given to his heart-rending story over his son in Iraq, the endorsement of Martin Bell and the defection from Blair's constituency campaign of a senior member of his staff. He is standing on one issue - to hold Blair accountable for the disaster of our involvement in Iraq.

This is a chance. It is a difficult one, and probably a long shot at first glance, but when you consider this issue further, there could well be a window of opportunity opening.

The Tories and Lib Dems in this seat have no chance at all. Blair achieved 65% of the vote at the last election. The Tory candidate got 21% and the Lib Dem 9%. Blair's "majority" is large, but that's only because the word "majority" is not used correctly. A majority means to get more than 50%. Blair's actual majority in this constituency in some 15 percentage points.

It makes sense for both parties to stand aside and endorse Reg Keys' campaign. It also makes sense for all the other independents to do so. After all, this has happened before. A precedent was set when Labour and Lib Dem candidates stood aside on the issue of a worm who liked a little stuffed brown envelope action. This time, there is only the small matter of some 18,000 to 100,000 deaths directly attributable to this government's involvement in the Iraq campaign.

A direct face-off between Tony Blair and Reg Keys would enliven this campaign. Turnout in this constituency was 62% at the last election, and the media interest that would be generated from such a contest would likely ensure that would rise. Sure, some of it would be voters coming out to defend Blair, but more would be looking to take the opportunity of being able to cast a vote that's worth something. In safe seats of any colour, voters are less inclined to turn out. After all, what difference does it make?

Labour voters upset with the war should vote for Reg Keys anyway - there are plenty of good reasons for doing so. People who don't vote normally may be encouraged to by the campaign and the realisation that they could be the architects of another Portillo moment. But the appeal is wider:

Labour voters: by voting Keys and toppling Blair, the rise of Gordon Brown to the party leadership would be unstoppable. Labour will win the election anyway, and a swift coronation would be the outcome. A safe and easy way to get rid of Blair now and bring about a Brown premiership, which is much more popular with Labour voters. Success!

Conservative voters: The Conservatives have long wished for the arrival of someone new to challenge. They believe Brown is vulnerable on many issues, and he may struggle in moulding a new Cabinet in the first weeks, given them precious time to assault his style. It will also probably bring back the return of clear divisions between the parties, allowing them to present themselves once more as a genuine alternative. Voters will be able to see the difference, and will hopefully be more engaged.

Lib Dems voters: The demise of Blair will be celebrated for the ousting of an excessively authoritarian leader. This will then give them the opportunity to appeal for the key issues to be re-evaluated, and giving them the chance to put forward the liberal alternative for the debate on the issues that would likely follow the rise of Brown. They have no chance in this seat anyway, and by standing aside they could help ensure Blair's removal and punishment for his actions in Iraq.

Looking from a numbers point of view, this doesn't seem so impossible.

Blair achieved 65% of the vote last time. There is a 35% non-Labour vote. So some persuasion of Labour voters would be required in this hypothetical situation. Not impossible, given the fact that the campaign could imply the mantra of this post. They couldn't be explicit, but the fact that voting Keys could give them Brown as Prime Minister could well be a significant pull factor. They would also be encouraged to change based on the chance of punishing Blair for the Iraq war too.

Allowing for a non-Labour vote of 30%, and before considering the effects of turnout, it comes out as 1 in 3 Labour voters must be encouraged to change their mind. This is not impossible if all resources are concentrated behind one candidate. This figure also gets easier as the likely rise in turnout through the media spectacle this would create would benefit Keys and not Blair.

There is a real opportunity here; a chance to make Blair personally accountable. We have this flawed electoral system, so we might as well use it. Even if Blair only wins by a small margin, the fact will remain that he will be forced to fight for his political career. He will be distracted and have to spend time in Sedgefield canvassing - possibly for the first time ever. This will take a lot of energy out of the Labour campaign.

This is a chance. It's a slim one at the moment, but if people could unite and force Blair to listen, he could find he ends up with more than a fight on his hands. Blair cannot go on forever. He is not expecting to lose his seat. He is taking Sedgefield voters for granted. We can bring his premiership to a close much sooner than anyone anticipated.

A little surprise on election night could be just what this campaign and this country needs.

Vote Reg Keys for Sedgefield!


At 10:31 pm, May 04, 2005, Blogger Matt Davies said...

As a UKIP member.

I say VOTE REG KEYS for Sedgefield!

Party loyalties go out the window in Sedgefield!


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