Lib Dems voters did not defect they stayed away

Labour supporters all over the country are celebrating their return to winning ways and non more so that the ever increasingly annoying paper the Guardian such as in this article but the reality is more that they won so convincingly because our voters just didn’t turn up. In many areas the number of people voting for Labour decreased but at a lower number than those voting Lib Dem, allowing the Labour candidate to claim victory.

Take the 2 wards my local party targeted as an example, in Great Barr with Yew Tree Labour polled 1,831 votes in 2011 but 1549 votes in 2012 whereas we polled 950 votes in 2011 and 866 votes in 2012. The fact that we had a very popular and competent sitting councillor in Sadie Smith standing in 2012 meant that our votes were probably a lot higher than they would have been had someone else stood. An example is our other target ward Newton where Labour’s vote reduced from 1,787 in 2011 to 1483 in 2012 whereas ours reduced from 1,048 in 2011 to 519 in 2012 despite an excellent and motivated local candidate and a significantly increased campaign effort compared to 2011.

Results for Great Barr with Yew Tree in 2011:

Results for Great Barr with Yew Tree in 2012:

We can see this in many places across the country for example in Birmingham Kings Norton Labour’s vote reduced from 2,762 in 2011 to 2047 in 2012 and in Sheffield Broomhill Labour’s vote reduced from 1741 in 2011 to 1303 in 2012 despite Labour gaining the seat. Clearly there are examples of areas where Labour has increased the number of votes but because the turnout was so low generally we saw a reduced number of people voting for all parties.

The fact that Labour couldn’t even maintain their votes this time around says that there are a significant number of people who are yet to be convinced of which party to vote for. What is for sure is that they do not want to vote for the Lib Dems right now. Many previously active campaigners aren’t campaigning and some aren’t even voting for the party they belong to so it is no surprise that many of our previous voters wouldn’t turn up to vote for the party.

An example is this comment taken from a LibDemVoice article:

We need to be asking the question what can we do to attract those who have previously voted for the Lib Dems? And what can we do to attract those who would have previously voted Labour but didn’t? The answer certainly isn’t do more of what we have been doing, as while nothing can be predicted, we could make the assumption that we would see a similarly poor result next time round.

From my conversations with people over this campaign I think that one of the biggest mistakes, by which I mean has caused us the most damage, is that we allowed, and even promoted, the perception that we were at one with the Tories: the so-called-love in, the rose garden press conference, the jeering and back slapping at the first budget, the changing of political position/opinion, the rumours of joint tickets, Danny Alexander announcing Lib Dem fiscal policy was the same as the Tories to 2017, etc. Differentiation should have started the moment we entered the Coalition – we can still work with people while showing we are not the same as them – and then we should have moved towards active disengagement towards 2015, rather than being at one and moving to differentiation.

What we need to do now is a number of things which I will be writing about over the coming weeks.

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One Response to Lib Dems voters did not defect they stayed away

  1. Pingback: Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #273

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