A London Post-Mortem
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 3rd May, 2008
With so much attention focused on Boris Johnson’s win in the London mayoral election, what happened in the parallal GLA contests has been overshadowed. But for Liberal Democrats, those are the results that need to be studied closely. to try to work out what went wrong. First, the facts.
On the constituency seats, just one changed hands: a Labour gain in Brent and Harrow, in sharp contrast to what happened in the local elections in most of the rest of the country. The LibDems had targeted London South West and Lambeth & Southwark heavily, but got nowhere near winning either, despite having excellent candidates, as well as vigorous campaigns and putting out tons of literature. This is particularly hard on Stephen Knight, who hadn’t invested in the safety net of a position on the top-up list, unlike Caroline Pidgeon.
On the top-up list, the Tories gained three seats because their share of the vote was so high, Labour saw no change, the LibDems lost two as did UKIP (who were therefore wiped out, which is good news in the run-up to the 2009 Euro-elections). The Greens stayed where they were, but the BNP for the first time managed to climb over the 5 per cent threshold and thus have a seat in the Assembly for the first time.
In toto, this is an awful result for the LibDems and must prompt a radical rethink about how we fight London-wide elections. The tried-and-tested methods (including ruthless targeting) which reap rewards in local council wards just aren’t working on the larger playing field. There’ll be a post-mortem next week to try to analyse what went wrong. Doubtless some people will blame things on the media, which portrayed the London elections as a straight choice between the Conservatives and Labour. But if that was the case, why did the Greens do so well? The LibDems have to get a new strategy in place quickly and start using it as soon as possible if the party is to perform better next year in the Euros.