Monday, 20 July 2009

Unpredictable by-election


First a word of warning - some major alliteration coming up.

Are you as fed-up as I am with the political pundits and political polls predicting the results of the by-election?

This by-election is not so easily predictable. The people of Norwich North are not so predictable. People are still very angry with the betrayal of public trust in the MPs expenses scandal. All three of the main parties are tarred with the same brush in this, and that leaves the field wide open to surprises.

The question is which of these four options will the voting population of Norwich North take.

1. - will they vote in traditional patterns?

2. - will they stay away in droves - which may give smaller parties with fanatic supporters a larger proportion of total votes counted?

3. - will they make 'protest' votes by voting for a minor party

4. - or will the voters break entirely with tradition and go for the Greens, vote for an Independent, even a Libertarian or UKIP to really rattle the status quo?

This by-election is unpredictable because there is no precedent for the circumstances here. We have a Conservative candidate who does not attend political hustings, a Lib/Dem candidate who lives in a house with a moat, a Labour candidate who was a member of the Conservative party, a Green candidate who was at Oxford with Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, an independent with alleged Scottish nationalist sympathies, a UKIP candidate who allegedly once dallied with the far-right, and a batty far-right priest who believes in a biblical bias against mixed marriages.

I'm sorry to leave out the other candidates, whom I am sure are just as interesting.

Finally there is Ian Gibson, sacked by Labour, who seems to be, by popular acclaim, the most popular candidate - but he's not standing. At least, not standing in this election.

We also have this by-election poster:

Even the newspapers are confused.

The Guardian suggests that "Norwich ponders a Green future as by-election looms" and that "the race for Norwich North is the clearest demonstration yet of a new era multi-party politics. The Conservatives are favourites to recapture a seat they lost in 1997 but the election is a four-way fight and could be a political watershed for the Green party, which has built up a uniquely strong base in Norwich.

"The Greens have 13 city councillors and won seven Norwich seats – from Labour and the Liberal Democrats – in the June county council elections. They took a 25% share of the Norwich vote in the European election and, with so many parties standing, including the maverick Norfolk-born independent Craig Murray, 25% could be enough to win Norwich North.

" "We've never had a strong local base or councillors when fighting a by-election before," said the Green candidate, Rupert Read, a city councillor and philosophy lecturer. "Now the public and the media have got reasons to take us seriously, who knows what will happen?" "

"Chris is our North Star" trumpets the Daily Mirror, continuing: "This is the first by-election since the MPs' expenses scandal.

"Labour's Chris Ostrowski is standing on a 25-point honesty programme, including a pledge to show that "politics need not be a dirty game".

"If you live in Norwich North, Chris deserves your vote on Thursday. "

The Times writes that "Norwich North by-election candidates feel strength of voters' anger" , adding:

(Norwich) "voters, who had this by-election forced on them, are managing to contain their enthusiasm" and predicting a win for Conservatives Chloe Smith, but that "only the Liberal Democrats can provide a challenge; the candidate, April Pond, is an established Norwich figure (she runs a jewellery shop) and not a professional politician."

The Daily Telegraph predictably predicts:

"The Tories reckon they will take Norwich North with a majority of 3000, but with a big margin either way. Defeat seems imposible given the state of the Labour campaign. The high command admit losing this one would be a back-to-the-drawing-board disaster for David Cameron, but no one expects that to happen. A win of any scale would be a boost, but north of 5000 would be epic. Still, the orders are out for all MPs to get up there and campaign. And there are plans for a first: Mr Cameron is due to be in the constituency on polling day to help a major get-out-the-vote effort."

The Independent is more realistic, pointing out:

"Norwich North: not your ordinary by-election

"In Crewe last year, thousands of traditional, old Labour voters switched straight to the Tories. And they said so on the doorstep.

"Voters in Norwich seem different, more independent-minded."

Yes, indeed.

The EDP says:

"The eyes of the country will be focussed on the Norfolk constituency this week, with indications that the Tories have their noses just in front in the race to replace Ian Gibson, who stood down following an internal Labour investigation into his expenses claims.

"Meanwhile, Home Secretary Alan Johnson let slip that he believes the general election is now eight months away - suggesting that he expects an April campaign ahead of polling day on May 6 2010.

"Thursday's by-election will provide a key indicator of how the parties stand in the race for 10 Downing Street. "

So show the country how you feel, independent-minded people of Norwich North, and get out there to vote on Thursday.

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