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Sean Fear’s local election commentary

September 30th, 2006

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    Has Election Night Special Had its Day?

One of my pet hates is the BBC’s Election Night Special. It’s not too bad for General Elections, but their coverage of local elections is woeful. One spends hours watching talking heads, trying to spin the results on behalf of their respective political parties, and all piously agreeing with each other about how dreadful the British National Party is. Amid all this verbiage, one then gets about ten minutes of Professor Anthony King, or someone equally well-qualified, giving some worthwhile analysis of the results.

The absolute low point, in my view, was the local election coverage of 2003. The commentators had decided from the outset, that it was a very poor night for the Conservatives, who in fact, gained nearly 600 seats. Every so often, a little blue symbol would flash up on the screen saying “Conservative gain”, yet still the view from the Studio was that this was a bad night for the Conservatives. It was truly surreal. I actually felt sorry for Theresa May (not something you’ll hear me say often), who kept trying to draw attention to the fact that the Conservatives were actually performing rather well.

    This is where Political Betting really comes into its own. In my opinion, its coverage of the local election results, in the early hours of May 5th this year, was vastly superior to anything appearing on the BBC programme.

Lots of posters were standing in local elections, or working for the political parties, and were able to post up to the minute information on this blog, well before it reached the BBC. While political activists all had their slant on the results, the level of objectivity on this site was far superior to anything I saw on the BBC programme. Overall, I must have spent about three hours coming back repeatedly to Political Betting, and other websites (and to be fair, the BBC website was very good) , and about 30 minutes watching the BBC programme. I consider that time was well spent.

Election night programmes are of interest only to political anoraks. Nonetheless, I’ve no doubt that most political anoraks far prefer objective coverage of the results, to endless spin, and unless the BBC can provide that, Election Night Special is doomed.

Thursday night saw some curious results. Outside Scotland, the Labour vote held up pretty well overall, confirming today’s Yougov poll:-

Gateshead MBC, Dunston & Wear: Labour 694, Lib Dem 269, BNP 226, Conservative 76. Labour Hold.

North Tyneside MBC, Benton. Conservative 1,359, Labour 1,191, Lib Dem, 210. Conservative hold.

East Hants DC, Whitehill Deadwater: Lib Dem 214, Conservative 93, Labour 24. Lib Dem hold

Rossendale DC, Cribden. Labour 391, Lib Dem 312, Conservative 186, BNP 89. Labour gain from Lib Dem. For some reason, the Lib Dems didn’t field a candidate when this seat was last contested in 2004, and it was won by the Conservatives. It is still a good result for Labour though, because the last time all three parties fought the seat, in 2003, they won about a third of the vote each, and the Lib Dems narrowly won. The Conservative vote was well down on 2003.

Nottinghamshire CC, East Mansfield. Labour 1,228, Conservative 628, Independent 620, Lib Dem 544, Green 217. Labour hold. Another strong performance from Labour, whose vote share was up 6%, compared to 2005.

Fife SUA, Monkinch and Woodside: SNP 892, Labour 388, Lib Dem 257, Conservative 39, Independent 29. SNP gain from Labour. A truly terrible result for Labour, who suffered a swing of 30% against them, and continues a run of poor results in Scotland.

Blackburn with Darwen UA, East Rural. Independent 209, Conservative 201, England First 99, Lib Dem 91, BNP 70. Independent gain from Conservative. At first sight, it is astonishing that the Conservatives could lose a seat where they won 94% of the vote in May. However, the successful Independent is in fact a Conservative, and the daughter of the previous councillor. In reality it remains a safe Conservative seat – so safe that the Conservatives can run candidates against each other.

It also demonstrates, like Bridge in Redbridge, that far right candidates can poll strongly in Conservative, as well as Labour wards (23% went for the BNP and England First).

Wrexham UA: Conservative 413, Lib Dem 378, Labour 251. Conservative gain from Indpendent. A very strong performance from the Conservatives.

Sean Fear is a London Tory activist






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