I spent yesterday afternoon getting the vote out in the double seat by-election in Downham Ward, Lewisham yesterday. The result was disappointing but the trend was good:
LD 1075, 1067 (39.3%, -12.5)
Lab 655, 634 (24%, -0.8)
Con 654, 632 (23.9%, +6.9),
BNP 287 (10.5%, +10.5),
Green 63, 62 (2.3%, -4.1).
Swing of 5.9% from LD to Lab since 2006.
A 6% swing has to be considered a brilliant result totally against the trend of the national polls. It was a nostalgic day for me bumping into many old friends like Alan Smith, thanks for the tea and biscuits. Candidate Damien Egan is also Labour’s prospective candidate in Beckenham and Richard Hart had come over from there to support Damien. I met fellow LabourList contributer Dan McCurry for the first time. Thanks Dan for driving us around. We let Dan take the numbers so he could have a crafty cigarette or two. Hard working Cllr. Sam Owolabi who represents the ward I used to live in Evelyn, was out joined by Dan Whittle who is the Young Fabians Trade Union and Elections Officer. Star of the day had to be Carl Kisicki. I knew Carl when he was a Labour councillor for a neighbouring ward. He has since moved to North Staffordshire. He had travelled back especially for the election, brilliant commitment. Good to catch up briefly on City Hall in the Committee Room with Lewisham and Greenwich Assembly Member Len Duvall.
On the streets it was sad to encounter young voters talking about voting BNP, we need to tackle this and their vote of 10% seems to have come mostly from the Liberal Democrats. As I posted in my comments previously, my experience had been that Liberal Democrats in this part of Lewisham had been quiet happy to quietly pick up racist support. Good to see they ditched this approach in Downham by selecting Duwayne Brooks. I hope that principled Liberal Democrats like John Grieves can influence his colleagues who still turn a blind eye to this. Elsewhere in London the Lib Dems still play fast and loose with race for the sake of a few votes.
The result 20 miles away from Downham in Swanley, Kent where the BNP won their first seat in the South East Region on a 32% swing sends a warning. The swing is a bit exaggerated as the BNP had not stood previously. They took over the UKIP vote of 20%. UKIP may say they have no formal links to the BNP but here was a ward where the UKIP vote switched directly to BNP.
Continuing the electoral analysis this was the third London by-election where I’ve worked in a row where the Green vote has been a small fragment of less than 100 votes. Is this a result of the recession, as the Greens have councillors in Lewisham? There were also a large amount of outs, presumably people were at work.
Everyone agreed Pauline and Damien had worked oustandingly and with a better national position they could well have taken this seat. Next time.