Will today’s revelations stop them from voting for Lit?
The reaction of punters to today’s 7% ICM Labour lead and the revelations that the Tory candidate in Ealing Southall had been at Tony Blair farewell fund-raiser and had donated Â£5,000 has caused a tightening of the Labour price on the by election market.
But are Labour backers correct? For the last two general elections have shown what a cohesive electoral force the Sikh community is in the constituency and it is hard to argue that this will now go back to Labour.
For at the 2001 general election Lit’s father, standing as an independent pushed the Lib Dems into fourth place and scooped 12.3% of the vote. This was almost exactly the same as the loss of vote share experienced by the sitting Labour MP.
In 2005 Lit did not run and the Labour, Tory and Lib Dems all saw vote share increases on four years earlier. In fact at a time when Labour was being squeezed almost everywhere because of the Iraq War the Labour incumbent was one of the very few in the enitire country to see an increase in vote share.
LAB 22,239 47.5% -12.5%
CON 8,556 18.3% -2.5%
Avtar Lit 5,764 12.3%
LD 4,680 10.0% -0.4%
GRN 2,119 4.5% +2.8%
Labour 22,937 48.8% +1.3%
Liberal Democrats 11,497 24.4% +14.4%
Conservative 10,147 21.6% +3.3%
Green 2,175 4.6% +0.1%
As well as the Lit Tory candidature there are the five councillors who have switched from Labour to the Tories in protest against their former party’s candidate selection – a 70 year old non-Sikh. Each of them has got a huge interest in seeing that Labour fail on Thursday in order to justify last week’s decision.
My guess is that in 2005 Labour got back at least 9% if the Sikh vote lost to Lit’s father in 2001 and that only a very small proportion will be retained in the by election. My guess as well is that this group will be more likely to vote than others electors.
The problem for the Tories is that their candidate selection looks a shambles and that’s going to make it hard to hold onto a significant proportion of those who voted for them two years ago.
Add onto this Labour’s endemic problem of getting its vote out in elections where the government of the country is not at stake and it’s hard to see the party getting more than 32% – or just 8% more than the Lib Dems got in 2005.
Time and time again the Lib Dems have shown what a powerful force they are in tight by election situations. That’s where my money will be going.