Friday, 11 July 2008

Haltemprice and Howden: a failure for the Greens?

No surprises in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election, then, which may not quite have managed to put civil liberties on the political map to the extent that some would have hoped but has at least introduced the political commentariat to two previously unknown towns near Hull.

David Davis has got his expected walkover on a low turnout, with two out of three registered voters staying at home. He can now savour what must be the biggest majority (in percentage terms) in the country, albeit one that guarantees a huge swing against him at the general election. None of the loonies managed to save their deposits, although Miss Great Britain on 521 votes (5.21 per cent) must be mightily pleased at beating anti-rape campaigner Jill Saward on 492 votes (2.07 per cent) and the Official Monster Raving Loony candidate, Mad-Cow Girl on 412 (1.73 per cent).

The most disappointed candidate, however – apart from independents Tony Farnon and Norman Scarth, who couldn’t even get all of the ten people who nominated them to cast their votes in their favour – must be the English Democrat, Joanne Robinson. She called for a recount after losing second place to the Greens by just 44 votes.

The Green Party candidate, Shan Oakes, polled 1,758 votes (7.40 per cent, which the party is claiming as a by-election record). In any normal by-election in England, fighting candidates from all three major parties, that would have been a creditable result. In Haltemprice and Howden, it’s a poor performance – barely beating a fringe nationalist group and doing no better than the combined vote of the various loony candidates.

In the absence of the major parties, but with the presence of the national media, all desperate for a fresh and different angle on the campaign, this was an unparallelled opportunity to present the Greens as 'the real civil liberties candidate', as the party's slogan had it. That opportunity was missed.

I wrote last month that ‘anything less than several thousand votes and second place will have to be marked down as a failure’ for the Greens. I see no reason to change that assessment now.


paul richards said...

I don't see 1,700 votes as a failure. Not a breakthrough admittedly but that was never going to happen in a three week campaign when all eyes were on David Davis. The Green Party can't call on large numbers of canvassers and volunteers like the big three but they have shown again that they are the only party on the Left that can get decent results consistently across the whole of the UK.

Matt H said...

Sorry Steve, but coming second in a parliamentary by-election fought in virgin territory, with a virtual media blackout on serious reporting, is not a failure. Third in Henley... Second in Haltemprice and Howden... First in Brighton Pavilion and Norwich South...?

george said...

I disagree. Henley wasn't a great result, 1300 votes 3.8% with Labour in meltdown, but at least the Greens faced the Liberal Democrats, the BNP and UKIP in that one.
Who did they beat to come second in HandH? Oh yeah, Miss Great Britain and the Church of the Militant Elvis.

Jim Jay said...

I'm with those who say the Greens did not fail here. What they did do is put themselves in danger of failing by potentially coming third or lower - and through hard work that pitfall was avoided.

I think the same goes for Henley, for a minor party to do well enough to beat both BNP and Labour in very difficult terrain for us is not to be sniffed at. It also needs to be kept in proportion.

There were a number of people outside of the Greens who thought this by election should have been contested, particularly in the lib dems and the Greens have gained some kudos with this sort for attempting to make sure there were some options on the table.

Labour certainly failed as their proxy candidate did very poorly but the Greens might have been foolish to stand somewhere that was always difficult to do well in but they certainly made a good fist of it once the decision had been taken.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Shan Pakes intended to win - what did it do then?

- Pointed out David Davis' failings from a left/liberal point of view

- Won som national media coverage for an otherwise unkown candidate

- Built support for Shan for the Euro elections in 2009

- Maybe some lefties who backed Shan in this election will campaign for the Greens in 2009? If5 people decide because of this 'I'm campaigning for the Greens next time' its a success

alan p said...

44 votes away from a disaster. Not a failure, but a narrow escape methinks.

party member said...

It's a lot more than any so-called left group (including the Labour Party) could have managed. Yes we owuld have liked to be up there with "several thousand votes" but it's not bad starting from nothing. Let's have less arguing about the decision to stand and more work in the ocnstituences where we do.