Will Enfield be the next Wyre Forest?
Dr. Richard Taylor caused a shock when he won the Wyre Forest constituency from Labour in 2001. His success was based on a campaign to save Kidderminster Hospital. At the same time, a small political party, Kidderminster Hospital Health Concern, won a number of seats on the local council on a similar platform. Although Dr. Taylor’s majority was cut in 2005, he was the first Independent Parliamentary candidate since 1945, to win his seat twice in succession against major party opposition.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Dr. Taylor was part of a trend by which increasing numbers of voters now vote for Independent and minor party candidates. Peter Law won Blaenau Gwent from 2005, and following his death, his agent Dai Davies held the seat comfortably last week. George Galloway won Bethnal Green and Stepney from Labour last year, and Respect, his party, polled more than 20% of the vote across Tower Hamlets in May’s local elections.
A similar upset now seems possible in Enfield North, traditionally, a keenly fought marginal seat between Labour and the Conservatives. There have been proposals to close Chase Farm Hospital, which is in the constituency. A well organised Save Chase Farm Hospital campaign saw two councillors elected in Town and Chase wards in the constituency, unseating two Conservative councillors. Indeed, had they fielded a full slate of candidates, they might have taken enough seats off the Conservatives to cost them control of the London Borough of Enfield. Overall, 6 Save Chase Farm candidates stood in the constituency (which has seven wards) and took 26% of the vote. By contrast, Conservative candidates took 36%, and Labour candidates took 22%. If Chase Farm hospital is still a live issue at the next election, and if the campaigners were to choose a local doctor, or some other respected figure to contest the constituency, then there must be a real chance that they would repeat Dr. Taylor’s achievement.
Nor was Enfield North unique in London. In Brentford and Isleworth, parties outside the big three took 26% of the vote, in the local elections; in East and West Ham, more than 40%. In Barking 44%, and in Upminster and Hornchurch, no less than 53%! As Innocent Abroad has pointed out in his article today, there are huge numbers of voters, and potential voters, who no longer regard the Conservative and Labour parties (and to some extent even the Lib Dems) as representing them, and are now prepared to look elsewhere.
Thursdayâ€™s by-election results produced nothing so exciting in terms of results, with one Lib Dem gain from an Independent, which was uncontested by any Indpendent:-
Boston BC, Fishtoft; Con 495 LD 428 UKIP 184: Con Hold
Halton BC, Castlefields: Lab 359 LD 345 Ind 87 Con 52: Lab hold. Last fought 2004
Kings Lynn & West Norfolk DC, Hunstanton: Con 908 Lab 727: Con hold.
Lincolnshire CC, Bourne Castle: Con 657 No Description (Lab) 435 LD 255 UKIP 127: Con hold.
North Dorset DC, Lydden Vale: LD 429 Con 324: LD gain Ind.
Sean Fear, a Tory activist, writes a regular column on local elections.