— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) June 30, 2013
Harry Hayfield looks back at “breakaway” candidates
Independents have had a remarkably successful run in the last few general elections. Despite the fact that both Dai Davies (Ind, Blaenau Gwent) and Dr. Richard Taylor (Health Concern, Wyre Forest) lost their seats at the last election, they have been the latest in a long line of Independents who have managed to cock a snook at the main stream parties after having to wait ages for their moment to shine, however, these Independents have won in spite of (as opposed because of) the other parties getting involved in things that do not concen them (as has been demonstrated in recent electoral battles between Labour and local Independents)
Blaenau Gwent 2005
Election 2001: Lab 22,855 (72%), Plaid 3,542 (11%), Lib Dem 2,945 (9%), Con 2,383 (8%). Labour majority of 19,313 (61%)
When Llew Smith announced his intention to stand down at the 2005 general election, Labour announced that the new candidate would come from an all woman shortlist. This decision was seen as sticking two fingers up to the local party and the protest was led by the Labour AM for the constituency at the Assembly (Peter Law). In the end, Labour did select a female candidate in the form of Maggie Jones and the die was cast. Peter Law announced that he could not support such a candidate and announced that he would stand in opposition to her. This action saw him lose the Labour whip in the Assembly and he sat as an Independent, however just days later he announced that he was suffering from brain cancer and would not stand at the general election. Then, from literally nowhere, just as nominations were due to close, he popped up and announced that he was standing setting the scene for the story of Election Night 2005. We of course all know what happened, but how did the other parties fair?
Lab 2001 (Ind 20,505 + Lab 11,384) = 31,889 (90% +18% on 2001), Lib Dem 1,511 (4% -5%), Plaid 843 (2% -9%), Con 816 (2% -6%), UKIP 192 (1% +1%). Swing: 11.5% from Lib Dem to Lab
Brentwood and Ongar 2001
Election 1997: Con 23,031 (45%), Lib Dem 13,341 (26%), Lab 11,231 (22%), Referendum Party 2,658 (5%), UKIP 465 (1%). Conservative majority of 9,690 (19%)
Eric Pickles’s election in 1997 was fairly assured (given that Brentwood had a Conservative majority of 15,175 (27%) over the Liberal Democrats, however by 2001, rumours were circulating that a local Chistian organisation had been inflitating the Conservative party and trying to make the local party more like them. Despite his assurances that he would not seek a second term in Parliament, the man in the white coat (Martin Bell, Ind, Tatton) was nominated as an Independent in the constituency to try and prevent Mr. Pickles’ re-election (however unlike in Tatton in 1997 Labour and the Liberal Democrats did not stand down).
Con 16,558 (38% -7%), Ind 13,737 (32%), Lib Dem 6,772 (16% -10%), Lab 5,505 (13% -9%), UKIP 611 (1% unchanged), Others 379 (1%).
Assuming that all the Lib Dem and Lab votes would have gone to Martin Bell, then he would have become the MP with a majority of 9,456 (23%) on a swing of 20% from Con to Ind, however as Lib Dem and Lab did stand, Eric Pickles held on and is now Communities Secretary.
Falkirk West 1999 (Scottish Parliament)
General Election 1997: Lab 22,772 (59%), SNP 8,989 (23%), Con 4,639 (12%), Lib Dem 1,970 (5%). Labour majority of 13,783 (36%)
Denis Canavan sought the Labour nomination for the Falkirk West constituency for the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999, however Labour were of the opinion that a new Parliament required a new candidate (Ross Martin), so Mr. Canavan first resigned from Labour and stood as the Falkirk West MP in those elections. When the votes were counted, the result was crystal clear. The electors of Falkirk West wanted their MP to become their MSP.
Lab 1997 (Falkirk West MP 18,511 + Lab 6,319) = 24,830 (74% +15%), SNP 5,986 (18% -5%), Con 1,897 (6% -6%), Lib Dem 954 (3% -2%). Swing: SNP to Lab of 10%
Blyth February 1974
Election 1970: Lab 36,118 (74%), Con 12,550 (26%). Labour majority of 23,568 (48%)
Not being that familar with the workings of Northern politics (even less so with those before my time) I can only glean what I know from the recording of the February 1974 election that I made from BBC Parliament but it appears that Eddie Milne (the Labour MP for Blyth) did not like Labour policy in regard to something (given it’s location and the energy crisis, I suspect it was the coal miner’s pay deal proposal) and so stood as an Independent Labour candidate at the emergency election called by Edward Heath to determine “Who governs Britain?”. The answer to that question nationally was “No One” and the answer in Blyth was “Our local MP!”
Election February 1974:
Lab 1970 (Ind Lab 22,918 + Lab 16,778) = 39,696 (68% -6%), Lib 10,214 (17%), Con 8,888 (15% -11%). Swing: 12% from Lab to Lib
Merthyr Tydfil 1970
Election 1966: Lab 21,737 (74%), Con 4,082 (14%), Plaid 3,361 (12%). Labour majority of 17,655 (60%)
S O Davies had been the MP for Merthyr since 1934 (when he was elected at a by-election) and by 1970 was in his mid 80’s and so Labour felt they needed some fresh blood to be the MP and so nominated T J Lloyd instead. The local electorate were incensed by this decision and so the clamour started for Mr. Davies to stand again as an Independent Labour candidate. He did and won (although he sadly died just two years later)
Lab 1966 (Ind Lab 16,701 + Lab 9,234) = 25,935 (81% +7%), Con 3,169 (10% -4%), Plaid 3.076 (10% -2%). Swing: 5.5% from Con to Lab
So, following the news that a councillor in Liverpool has resigned from the party and is intended to stand against Luciana Berger MP (Lab, Liverpool, Wavertree), my advice to the coalition parties is STAND DOWN. At the 2010 general election Lab polled 20,132 votes (53%) against the combined coalition parties tally of 15,795 (42%) with UKIP on 890 votes (2%) in fourth. That’s 42% of the votes cast in 2010 OPPOSED to Labour and therefore a good source of support for any Independent challenge. If you need convincing just look at the examples I have listed above and consider this. Which would you rather have at the next election? A Labour MP securely re-elected or an Independent MP who (in the event of a hung parliament) would have their views listened to. I say the latter is the better choice.