Sunday 9 November 2008
SNP warning for Barnet Conservatives
Amidst the excitement and razzmatazz of the U.S. Presidential election, it was easy to overlook the by-election last week in the Scottish constituency of Glenrothes. This was hugely important for Labour following their humiliating and crushing defeats at Crewe & Nantwich and Glasgow East.
It was a seat which the SNP were widely expected to win. Even on polling day, the opinion polls suggested that another shock was on the cards. In the end, Labour held on quite comfortably with a majority of over 6,700.
Mike Smithson writes the popular blog politicalbetting.com which describes itself as “Britain’s Most Read Political Blog” - but don’t tell Statler & Waldorf or they might spill their Ovaltine! The day after the by-election, Mr Smithson posted an article questioning whether the SNP’s defeat was due to the fact that their candidate, Peter Grant, was also the leader of the local council. Smithson wrote:-
“I also wonder whether it was a good idea for the SNP to have had a local councillor, least of all the leader of the group, as the candidate. This, inevitably, made it easier for Labour to focus on the council’s performance and made their attack on care charges that much more potent.
It’s for this reason that I don’t think it is a good idea for local councillors to be parliamentary candidates in either by elections or general elections in their areas and this applies to all parties.”
Political parties never admit that they chose the wrong candidate, and publicly the SNP will undoubtedly disagree with Smithson’s comments. But privately, will any of the parties now be re-evaluating their candidate lists?
In Barnet, Leader Mike Freer is standing for Finchley & Golders Green whilst Deputy Leader Matthew Offord is standing for Hendon. Both are important seats for the Conservatives, but none more so than Finchley which is the party’s number one target, partly due to its iconic status and partly due to the fact that recent boundary changes mean that it will technically be deemed by the media to be a Conservative seat at the next General Election.
If the Conservatives do not win Finchley & Golders Green, they will have an uphill struggle to win the election.
Conversely, might Labour throw in the towel in Finchley before the election is even called and put all their limited resources elsewhere? They know they will lose some seats, so from a manpower perspective, is it worth the effort trying to hang on to this one?
The role of the LibDems will be crucial. On Barnet council, the LibDems made an electoral pact with Labour which kept the Conservatives out of office for 8 years. If their supporters switch to Labour in 2010, it is quite conceivable that it could keep the Tory candidate out.
I hope, therefore, that the Conservative Party is happy with their choice of PPC. The last thing they need is a candidate whose campaign could be undermined by his management of the council.