6 February 2014

Wythenshawe and Sale East - byelection update

The polling by Lord Ashcroft leaves no one in any doubt about the result next Thursday. The Labour Party are going to win, and Mike Kane will be the next MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East. UKIP and the Conservatives will slug it out for 2nd place, while the Greens and Lib Dems compete for 4th. It is like a preview of the European Elections, and this result will serve as an indicator about relative progress in the North West region.

The fact that we are standing at all this close to the European Elections is a testament to our improved organisation and fundraising abilities. In 48 hours we raised the £1300 we needed to run a viable campaign, without distracting effort from the European Election campaign. Anyway, back to that poll.

We've been frustrated (as usual) with the lack of coverage for the Greens, with the notable exception of TV this morning with Natalie Bennett's visit to Barton Moss with Nigel Woodcock, our candidate. The written coverage has really been about red, yellow and blue, with addition of UKIP to top level media coverage. Despite this, you can look at the actual figures in the poll about people who are likely to vote (P3). 15 say they will be backing the Liberal Democrats and 13 say they will back the Greens, despite the Lib Dems being included in the prompting, while the Greens were not.

So with a week to go, what do we need to be communicating to W&SE voters to get into 4th place and beat the Liberal Democrats, which has to be our target in this byelection? Firstly, we need to be asking former Liberal Democrats about where they want their votes to go. If they were the Liberal Democrats who opposed Trident, opposed fracking and supported genuine electoral reform, then why on earth are they voting for Labour now?

Secondly, we need to be saying to those on the left of Labour (and to the left of Labour) in the constituency, that the result is not in doubt, and whether they want to send a message to Mike Kane as their new MP that they are not happy that he is a strong supporter of the right wing Progress movement within Labour. We need to be using our Trade Union networks to point out that Nigel is a UCU rep and someone who like me was formerly a member of Labour. Their votes for Mike Kane won't matter, but voting Green for Nigel will have two effects:

- It will make the point to Labour in Manchester generally that they are simply not sufficiently different from the Tories on future cuts
- A small tactical shift of a few hundred voters to the Greens will relegate the Lib Dems into a humiliating 5th place

With Iain Dale doing a detailed analysis of the 57 Lib Dem seats Parliamentary seats being defended next year, and concluding that the Lib Dems will be dropping to as few as 30 after the next General Election, there is bound to be a lot of Lib Dem nervousness if the Greens overtake them in a First Past the Post election, in a seat where they previously gained 22% of the vote. Combine that with the recent poll that suggested that they would lose every single Euro MP in May, it will make for extreme nervousness.

This is why it matters. We need to kick out the legs from under this coalition and it is the Lib Dems who are the weakest link. Anything that voters can do to bring forward the next General Election to autumn 2014, rather than the unholy Cameron / Clegg affair lasting until May 2015, has to be better for the country, even if Labour seem unlikely to pursue a policy that is much different. A few hundred more votes for Nigel Woodcock in this byelection can help make this happen.

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