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    14 May, 2005

    Through the back door....

    A constant theme of the Labour campaign, right from the beginning, was the danger of a vote for the Liberal Democrats or Plaid letting the Tories in by the back door.

    Peter Hain had been making this point for over a year by the time the campaign started, and argued the point strongly in the Guardian at the end of March. In Wales, when we published our pledges early in February, we were concerned to get this message across early and would return to it during the campaign. Labour voters needed to turn out if they wanted a Labour government. Elections were not a lottery and voters should not ‘have a flutter on their future’ by gambling on a vote on another party. We maintained this line throughout the campaign, for example, at our manifesto launch, and when the Cardiff North opinion poll was published.

    It was a message, of course, that the Lib Dems sought to resist. The Independent also said it was impossible for the Tories to form a government through Labour defections to the Tories, though in the same paper Professor John Curtice accepted a Lib Dem advance would hit Labour. The BBC's David Cowling has subsequently noted that the Lib Dems were gainers of Labour votes.

    And after the election, the Liberal Democrats claimed that 7 out of 8 former labour voters turned to them. One of their campaign leaders, Tim (Lord) Razzall, said on Newsnight that Stephen Twigg had lost Enfield Southgate because of the rise in the Lib Dem vote.

    In Wales, the Lib Dems continued to do well along the M4. They were second in Swansea
    West and in Newport East. Labour Parties in the Welsh cities need to ensure that they do not let them pick up seats in the Assembly elections, building on their local election base. Where Labour parties are weak and not involved in community campaigning, they will always be at risk from the Lib Dems.

    The UKIP vote may also have cost the Tories 25-27 seats, as both Mark Steyn and Polly Toynbee have noted. We need to reflect on that.

    1 comment:

    Brian McGrath said...

    There's an interesting piece in the Guardian (May 17) by Patrick Wintour and Alan Travis "Parties hunt for political advantages". They reckon Labour's majority of 66 would disappear on a swing of just 2.5%. Labour has 44 seats that would fall on a swing of 5% or less. If Labour could secure a 5% swing, it would win 24 seats, only four of which are LibDem held.

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    Promoted by Leighton Andrews AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA.

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