Rugby Psephology

I used to do this for Crawley, so following the latest local elections, I’ve compared the results in all of the May Borough elections (I’ve not done any by-elections) to see if there are any patterns and trends by ward (with whether it is in the Town or a rural area in brackets) and by party. It is a little long…

By Ward

The general case over the past five years seems to be consistency. Results have the same each time across all wards, with the only exception being Dunchurch & Knightlow where anti-development Lib Dem Ron Ravenhall and his wife Sally have taken seats the Tories would probably usually win. Because this year’s General Election drew out nearly twice as many voters, the results are somewhat skewed when looking at the details, but even then the winners were pretty much in line with previous years, even if the share of the vote varied in places.

Admirals (Town)

3T, Safe. Usually get 50%, did better last year with Peter Butlin. Labour second, trend is generally down, from 38% in 2006 to 28% last year. Contains new estate of Cawston Grange.

Avon & Swift (Rural)

2T. Very Safe. Consistently 65-68%. Labour slightly ahead of the LDs, when the latter stand.

Benn (Town)

3L. Usually 43-44%, lower this year. LDs just ahead of Tories in second. Greens sometimes stand, only place where vote share went up for them.

Bilton (Town)

3T Safe. 60-66% usually, but lower when David Wright stood, and this year only 49%. LDs have been overtaken by Labour into second recently.

Brownsover N (Town)

2T. Becoming closer. 58% in 2006, 52% in 2008, 46% in 2010. LDs & Lab vie for second place, LDs only 38 votes ahead this year.

Brownsover S (Town)

2L Marginal. 44% in past years, 38% this year. Majorities all less than 50 over Ts. LDs a fair way back in 3rd.

Caldecott (Town)

3LD Marginal, going safe? 44% consistently, Cons usually on 40-42%, slumped to 31% this year. Turnout or forrun name? Lab 3rd,

Dunchurch & Knightlow (Mixed)

2T 1LD. Marginal, going T. Ravenhall name seems to have given LDs seats, otherwise Ts on about 50%. Now Ron has passed on, could well see LDs recede. Lab distant 3rd, Greens even more distant 4th

Earl Craven & Wolston (Rural)

3T. Safe usually 70%. Lower this year, perhaps result of proposal to close local Fire Station. Lab main second party. LDs or Greens get about 10% if they stand

Eastlands (Town)

3LD Safe. Usually 60-70%. Cons second on 20-25%, Lab usually on 11-12% but turnout improved result this year.

Fosse (Rural)

2T. Safe. 70-75% usually lower this year – perhaps turnout, perhaps Fire Station. LDs second by a few percent

Hillmorton (Town)

3T. Usually 44%, but Bill Sewell seems to have large personal vote. LDs have replaced Lab as second place, but they are very close.

Lawford & Kings Newham (Mixed)

2T. Marginal, becoming safer. Was seat of anti-Cement Works campaigner Patricia Wyatt, and she comes second here as an Independent. Lab usually 3rd, but in 2008 BN stood (only time in Borough elections since 2006)

Leam Valley (Rural)

1T. Safe – 80% in 2007, LD stood, but not Lab.

New Bilton (Town)

3L usually about 50% but lower this year, with Cons usually on 30%, LDs up to 22%. In 2008, no T stood, and Greens took 27%. This year both stood, and Greens 4th on 6%.

Newbold (Town)

3L usually 47-48%, 43% this year. Cons slipping from 35% to 30%, LDs usually on about 20% – Greens came 3rd in 2008 taking most of LD vote, this year collapsed to under 5%

Overslade (Town)

3T usually 50-57%, 44% this year. Lad around 25-30%, LDs usually 11-13%, but nearly 20% this year. Greens 5-7% (seem to take votes from LDs)

Paddox (Town)

2LD safe 53-61%. Cons on about 30%, Lab on 10-12%

Ryton-on-Dunsmore (Rural)

1T safe 59%. Lab second on 22%. Patricia Wyatt stood when no election in Lawford, came 3rd on 19%


1T ultra-safe. Over 90%, only challenger was Labour

By Party

Tories – dominate the rural areas, where once Independents used to have a chance. Also do well on the outskirts of town – Hillmorton and Admirals, Bilton and Brownsover North. Also win in the central ward of Overslade. 28 councillors

Labour – based in the north and west part of the core town area – Brownsover South, Newbold, New Bilton & Benn. 10 councillors

Lib Dems – have a clump of wards to the south and easy of the town centre – Caldecott, Eastlands & Paddox. Losing ground in Dunchurch & Knightlow. 9 councillors

Greens – Sometimes can get a good 3rd place, but generally seem to split the vote. It’s not consistent where the split comes from – Labour, Lib Dems or even Tories. Generally losing support since 2007.

BNP – stood once in Lawford & Kings Newham, got 16% (which seems to be the usual peak across the country when they first stand). Hopefully will not stand again

Independents – There used to be four Ind councillors, now none are left. Patricia Wyatt is the only one consistently trying to get back in. Dave Elsom stood as an Independent in Hillmorton in 2008, but for the LDs there this year. He was a Tory some years ago (assuming it’s the same Mr Elsom as I saw on an old report about 2002 elections).


I can’t see many changing trends at all, the past few years has seen very consistent results over time. I expect that the Tories will get the last seat in Dunchurch when it’s up next (2011?) all else being equal. They could also take Brownsover South from Labour with a small swing. Benn could become a 3-way marginal if the Labour vote slips. However, Labour’s vote was already probably at a low in this period, and certainly they were losing seats that had been won in the 2002-2004 election cycle. So if Labour starts to recover generally, and if people want to protest against a Tory-Lib Dem coalition, chances are that local results will move towards Labour. Of course, we won’t see that until next year at the earliest, and there may be a honeymoon effect for one or other coalition party.

In terms of personal votes, I detect positive ones for Bill Sewell and Peter Butlin of the Tories and the Ravenhalls for the Lib Dems. On the other hand, David Wright seems to be unpopular for the Tories. Other than that, there isn’t much variation in each ward, so for the most part it looks like people are voting by party.

An experiment

To get an idea of how PR might work, I did the following:

For each Region of the UK, find the percentage vote for each party. Ignoring those with less that 5% of the vote in each region, share out the number of seats that the region currently has proportionally.This gives:

Labour 208
Con 248
LD 159
SNP 12
PC 5
SF 5
Alliance 1
Ind Unionists) 1

However, some regions are much larger than others, and some are over-represented (basically Wales and Scotland), so the figures are not quite what we could expect from such a system after reform, but they are not far off.

It’s not completely proportional, mainly because the 5% cut off removes the smaller parties. A lower cut-off would bring in the BNP and UKIP but it would have to be about 1.5% for any Greens to get in.

So what now?

The election is over, and so is my recovery period. My blisters have stopped throbbing and I’ve caught up on the lost sleep. And now we have… um… no real certainty.

First off, my result:

  • NEWSOME Paul Michael Samuel – The Conservative Party Candidate – 861 (25%)
  • RICHARDS Owen Keir – The Labour Party Candidate – 706 (21%)
  • ROODHOUSE Jerry – Liberal Democrat – 1,818 (54%) ELECTED

It’s not a huge surprise. At the last borough election in 2008, the results were:

  • Malcolm Bassan (Con)…368 (21%)
  • *SUE PEACH (LibDem)…1,168 (67%)
  • Kathleen Yu (Lab)…214 (12%)

Turnout was nearly doubled, but Labour’s vote trebled, the greatest proportional increase. Of course, even then I was still about 150 votes behind the Tory and 1000 voted behind the winning Lib Dem, just as my predecessor was. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me for their support, and especially to those who helped in the campaign.

Elsewhere in the Borough, the only east to change hands was Dunchurch and Knightlow. The Lib Dems were defending after the death of Ron Ravenhall, but the Tories won. As a result, the Tories now have a majority of 9 and Labour are the second-largest party.

I was very disappointed to see the swing across Rugby in the General Election. Andy King was, by all accounts, a great MP and he and the local party put a lot of effort in. I met spoke to quite a few people who said they were voting for him personally. I hope that he’s not too upset with the outcome.

But the main question is what is the actual outcome. Labour lost, of course. But not by as much as many thought, and we did far better than the opinion polls of only a few months ago would have suggested. The Conservatives failed to win. They should have been able to capitalise on the economy, on Brown’s unpopularity, and on the niceness of their leader, but they couldn’t. They came close, but clearly do not have a mandate to govern, at least not alone. The Lib Dems somehow managed to lose seats while gaining votes. One thing of note that some high-profile MPs lost – Lembit Opik and Dr Evan Harris among them.

Labour can possibly form a coalition with the Lib Dems, but would need more suppport. Even with the allied Northern Ireland parties (the SDLP with Labour and the Alliance with the Lib Dems), there would only be a total of 317 seats, several short of a majority. It would be unstable and would rely on more support from small parties such as the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, DUP or Greens. So it makes sense for the Liberals to see what they can get from the Tories first.

Of course, that means a fair bit of compromise. The Lib Dems have a strong case to press for electoral reform – they had 23% of the vote and less than 9% of the seats. The Tories will not want to be seen to concede too much as they feel they should have won outright.

A coalition can damage at least one of the parties in it. On that basis, it may well be best for Labour to wait and see if a Lib/Con alliance can be formed and if so, accept the Opposition role. If it cannot, then that’s the time to make a strong offer to the Liberals. Say, a referendum on PR and other reforms. If such a referendum were to take place and pass, an election would have to be held as soon as practical afterwards anyway.

When is local not local?

In my home town, they recently had a by-election. The ward in question, Northgate, had been Labour for a long time, until in the mid-eighties the Lib Dems, through a particularly active and dedicated couple, took one and then the other seat. The two of them held on for all this time, but the husband stood down in the summer due to a personal matter.

Both Labour and the Tories had been vying for contention over the years, and by-elections for local councils tend to be low turnout affairs, so the seat was always know to be up for grabs.

The Tories had been putting leaflets out, but apparently hadn’t wanted an early poll – I’ve heard a rumour that they wanted to wait until the clocks went back so that evenings were less in inviting for canvassing. Labour not having the Ashcroft and Horsham financial backing had people on the ground to campaign instead.

The only things I saw about the campaign were on a couple of blogs. Duncan Crow, a local Tory councillor had two posts, pointing at errors in the other main parties’ leaflet. Andrew Skudder, a Labour ex-councillor, mentioned the feeling in the campaign and then the Tory reaction to it.

In the second of Skuds’ posts, he mentioned one of the things in the Tory leaflets that may have counted against them. They claimed that their candidate was “the only local candidate”. Fine, but as it is, none of the candidates were from Northgate. The Tory’s address was given in Three Bridges, which is near Northgate, but with Crawley’s easily demarcated neighbourhoods, it would be obvious that he was from a different area.

It strikes me as odd, that when one Tory is picking at minor errors in other party’s leaflets (in both cases probably down to slips in copy editing), their own leaflets contain a stonking falsehood that any voter can see is such when they come to read the ballot paper.

The result?

THOMAS, Geraint (Labour) 527
SMITH, Ryan (Conservative) 446
WISE, Darren (Liberal Democrat) 230
KHAN, Arshad (Justice) 13

Another poor day at the polls

Given the results in the previous two years, and the national political picture after the debacle of the 10% tax band, there was no real surprise at the outcome of yesterday’s Crawley Borough Council elections.

Last year I looked at the trends in each ward and for each party, and I thought I’d do the same thing. We have now had a full cycle since the 2004 boundary changes and all-out-elections, so we can compare over the past 4 years and see the overall trends. In each seat this year, the person who was in position before May had been the most popular candidate of those elected in 2004.

2004 – 3 Labour, maj 193/216/275
2006 – Labour, maj 192
2007 – Labour, maj 374
2008 – Labour, maj 281
Again the largest Labour majority in Crawley. The incumbent had stood down due to ill health, and may have had some personal vote, but it does seem that there was a slip in support. The Tory got a similar percentage of the vote to last year, and Arshad Khan managed over 100 votes. The main difference to previous years was that the Lib Dems put no-one up and the BNP had a candidate. As is usual, the BNP took about 15% of the vote at the first attempt (they tend to slip back in later years).

Broadfield N
2004 – 2 Labour, maj 99/261
2006 – Tory, maj 0
2008 – Labour, maj 150
A popular local incumbent was re-elected here, and the Tories got fewer votes than in 2006. The Lib Dems lost about a third of their vote. Now the only ward with councillors from more than one party.

Broadfield S
2004 – 2 Tory, maj 22/52
2006 – Tory, maj 112
2008 – Tory, maj 165
The incumbent was Marcella Head, elected as a Conservative and who defected to the Lib Dems in 2006 over the Council Housing issue. She apparently endorsed Ian Irvine the Labour candidate this time, but in the end the Tories extended their lead in a two-horse race.

Furnace Green
2004 – 2 Tory, maj 155/318
2006 – Tory, maj 547
2007 – 2 Tory, maj 524/568
Tory ward, although was Labour until the late 1990s. No election this year.

Gossops Green
2004 – 2 Tory, maj 33/47
2007 – Tory, maj 150
2008 – Tory, maj 281
The Tory vote was about the same as last year, with Labour down and a BNP candidate in third. The Lib Dems lost half of their vote.

2004 – 3 Labour, maj 96/100/191
2006 – Tory, maj 21
2007 – Tory, maj 59
2008 – Tory, maj 236
Last year I had this as marginal. The BNP have stood here several times and for the first time increased their vote, getting back some of the losses since 2004. The Tory vote went up by 100, and Labour lost about 80. The Lib Dems vote pretty much held. Where we had two independents last year, none stood this time.

Langley Green
2004 – 3 Labour, maj 268/303/352
2006 – Labour, maj 406
2007 – Labour, maj 148
2008 – Labour, maj 232
Safe Labour seat, although one of the councillors is always convinced that it is dead close. The Labour and Tory votes both went up, with the Lib Dems losing half of theirs (the normal candidate stood in Maidenbower instead, perhaps there’s some personal vote there).

2004 – 3 Tory, maj 682/744/779
2006 – Tory, maj 1132
2007 – Tory, maj 1215
2008 – Tory, maj 1386
Safe Tory seat. The Tory vote leapt up in 2006, and has been creeping higher since then. The Lib Dems and Labour tied for second place (and last place).

2004 – 2 LibDem, maj 292/334
2006 – LibDem, maj 276
2007 – LibDem, maj 250
Liberal Democrat haven. No election this year.

Pound Hill N
2004 – 3 Tory, maj 778/795/831
2006 – Tory, maj 1280
2007 – Tory, maj 1001
2008 – Tory, maj 1082
Safe Tory. The Lib Dems overtook Labour to come second (the only ward in 2008 where the Lib Dem vote was more than the Labour total), and the only reason that I can see for the slip in the Tory majority is lower turnout, which is natural such a safe seat.

Pound Hill S and Worth
2004 – 3 Tory, maj 707/760/828
2006 – Tory, maj 1210
2007 – Tory, maj 1072
2008 – Tory, maj 1189
Safe Tory. The Lib Dems were in second in 2006, but Labour overtook them last year and maintained second place. The BNP stood here for the first time and came last – the only place where the Lib Dems beat them.

2004 – 3 Labour, maj 3/50/51
2006 – Tory, maj 198
2007 – Tory, maj 179
2007 – Tory, maj 254
Marginal but getting safer for the Tories. The Tories won this seat in 2003 by 3 votes, probably helped by the Greens standing. The BNP and Greens used to stand here but didn’t this time. The Labour vote went up, but the Tory vote went up faster. The Lib Dems gained votes (probably from ex-Green voters).

Three Bridges
2004 – 1 Labour , 1 Tory
2007 – Tory, maj 356
2008 – Tory, maj 297
The Tory vote did fall slightly, and the Labour vote went up slightly, but from being a knife-edge seat is firmly Tory for now. Last year there was an English Democrat and a Green, but they were absent this time. The Lib Dems did pick up votes (from the Greens again?)

2004 – 2 Labour, maj 84/87
2007 – Tory, maj 355
2008 – Tory, maj 97
Like Three Bridges, a major gain for the Tories last year. However, unlike Three Bridges, Labour came much closer to holding a seat as the Tories dropped 180 votes. The BNP beat the Lib Dems to third, both gaining a few votes.

West Green
2004 – 2 Labour, maj 147/274
2006 – Labour, maj 117
2008 – Labour, maj 180
Usually safe Labour. The winner this year was Bert Crane, who must be in contention for the longest serving councillor in the country (over 50 years). The Tory vote did go up slightly, the BNP shed votes and unlike previous years, no others stood.

Overall, a fairly stable set of results. Where they have made gains in recent years these have been consolidated (except for Broadfield North which was unusual). The only bad spot was Tilgate, which was won with a very large swing in 2007 and was much closer this time around. Now have a majority of 15 on the Council.

Another bad year. Some glimmers of hope where the vote went up (despite the national trend), but could not hold on to the remaining seats in Tilgate, Southgate or Ifield.

Lib Dems
Overall, the trend is down again. Back down to two seats after Marcella Head (who was elected as a Tory) stood down and no replacement candidate was put up in Broadfield South. In some wards shed a third of even a half of their vote, and did well in few wards where they couldn’t pick up Green votes.

First making an impact in 2003 (after a Labour Councillor defected in protest at the Iraq war), they tried to expand with several candidates across the town in later years. This time no Green candidates stood at all, apparently to avoid splitting the non-Tory vote.

Stood in six wards this year, more than ever before. In most places where they stand for the first time, they get between 10% and 20% of the vote, and thereafter the trend is slowly downwards. Ifield is their best ward, where they picked up some votes this year, but not as many as in 2004/5.

English Democrats
Came in last year, stood in two seats, did pretty badly and not a word of them since.

Far Left
No candidates from any of the left-of-Labour parties this year, as was the case last year.

After last year when several independent candidates stood, only Arshad Khan with his self-styled ‘Justice Party’ remained. He did actually pick up some votes this time.


I know I’ve been a bit quiet lately. August was not a good month, basically because not much happens to comment upon anyway, but primarily because my grandfather passed away after a brief illness.

This month I just haven’t had the energy to think much about posting, and I also spent a week on holiday (piling up the carbon tonnage by flying off to San Francisco – you can tell I’m not a member of the Green Party).

So, I didn’t post anything about the new Crawley Borough Council logo when it was unveiled a couple of weeks ago. To be honest, Skuds has already posted as much as one needs to know about it – it’s eerily similar to a draft for the Conservative logo from last year and even more like an MBNA image that is used. But then all multi-coloured trees are going to look alike, and it’s not so much the thing itself that I have a problem with, but the manner in which it has come about and the needless cost of going about the change.

Of more concern to me recently is that the BNP are putting a candidate up in a by-election in the Horsham District ward of Holbrook West (an area including part of the north of the town and a patch of semi-rural and rural land between Warnham and Rusper).

I missed the whole furore about Alisher Usmanov getting some blogs shut down after they criticised him (and in the process bringing down other, unrelated blogs). Not being a fully paid up member of the blogerati, it passed me by completely, but I have to add my disgust to that of the many bloggers who have protested about this abuse of corporate power. Chicken Yoghurt has the full skinny and Sunny Hundal at Pickled Politics has more here, here and here.

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Why we don’t need a General Election after June 27

Ming Campbell thinks that he’s right to call for a General Election. He’s not, for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, the post of Prime Minister is not an elected office, it is a delegated one. The Monarch appoints the MP who can carry the confidence of Parliament. If we lived in a presidential system, perhaps we could insist upon an election. However, the USA have had presidents leave office and their successors remain in place because they, like most presidential republics, have fixed terms with a system of succession rather than a requirement for a fresh mandate.

Secondly, there is no real precedent. PMs have on occasion stood down as an election is due (Ramsey MacDonald in 1935; Churchill in 1955), although it is far more common that a PM leaves office by being defeated at an election. In the past 100 years, 8 Prime Ministers have left office without triggering or as the result of a General Election:

1908 – Campbell-Bannerman => Asquith
1916 – Asquith => Lloyd George
1937 – Baldwin => Chamberlain
1940 – Chamberlain => Churchill
1957 – Eden => Macmillan
1963 – Macmillan => Douglas-Home
1976 – Wilson => Callaghan
1990 – Thatcher => Major

As you can see, it happens quite a lot, and only two occurrences were during wartime, which would make it difficult to hold new elections. The Douglas-Home ascension was just under a year before the 1964 election (which was about as late as it could have been held). The other new PMs all waited at least a full year before calling an election. One Parliament, (1935-45) had two changes of PM.

Changing hands is no guarantee of failure, either. Asquith and Macmillan retained their posts after the following elections (1910 and 1959 respectively). Lloyd George was on the winning side, albeit in coalition with the Conservatives, in 1918. Major famously held on in 1992. Chamberlain didn’t get to fight an election, so less than half of the replacements lost their next elections.

By contrast, when Baldwin took over from Bonar Law in 1923, he insisted on a new election, primarily because he intended to reverse an election pledge on tariffs. After the election the Conservatives were still the largest party, but had lost many seats. Baldwin was defeated in a confidence motion and Ramsey McDonald replaced him at the head of a minority Labour government. Less than a year later, that government fell and Baldwin walked the 1924 election. So, the only time that an election has been called, it was over a specific pledge rather than a simple change in PM, and it led to a year of political chaos. Not a good precedent for the current situation.

Thirdly, and more topically, this is sort of what we voted for two years ago. In the 2005 campaign, Labour started badly, and Blair was distancing himself from Brown. The Conservatives launched a ‘Vote Blair, get Brown’ campaign, and they were shocked when the polls registered a sudden recovery for Labour. As a result, Blair and Brown chummed up for the rest of the campaign, and Blair promised to stand down at some point. When Labour won the election, it was on the tacit understanding that at some point Blair would make way, and the most likely successor was the Chancellor. While the phrase ‘full term’ was used, once the genie is out of the bottle and a PM has accepted that they will be going, it is very hard to avoid the pressure to go. It’s amazing to me that it has dragged out this long.

So, the change of PM mid-term is not ‘wrong’ or unusual, and certainly doesn’t demand an instant General Election. Not only is it not constitutionally required, but the precedent has already been set. All three governing parties have done it at least twice. More importantly, we voted for it to happen anyway. Just because we have forgotten about things from only 2 years ago, doesn’t mean that we have to have a new election.