Ian Liddell-Grainger is on the ropes. In a Constituency where the Tories have won every election for the last 60 years their current MP is in danger of throwing away one of the safest seats in the country. The Conservative council leader, Tim Taylor, says he hopes another party wins Bridgwater and West Somerset at the general election, to get rid of the ‘discredited and dishonourable MP’. Brian Smedley has studied the electoral history of the constituency, and in an open letter has this advice for Cllr Taylor and other Tories who are fed up with their MP:
Your frustrations with our MP, who seems not to represent either of us, are shared from Bridgwater to Minehead and people of all political persuasions will be eager to help democratically get rid of him at the ballot box on May 7th.
I would like to make the case for a Labour vote on this occaision.
As you can see by the history of elections in the area the Tory vote has always overshadowed the others –and this has been largely because of the divided opposition –historically Labour and Liberal. The one time this wasn’t the case was in 1938 when both parties , along with those Tories disillusioned with National Government policy at the time (appeasement), backed the broadcaster Vernon Bartlett, who went on to win and then hold the seat for 12 years. I was one of the last people to interview Sir Richard Acland, the architect of that election campaign, and he was clear that Bridgwater was chosen precisely for the reason that only the votes of the none-Tory parties combined with Tory dissidents on a moral issue could narrowly outvote the Government candidate.
For a full history of that election you can see my website www.vernonbartlett.co.uk.
The Tory vote will be adversely affected by ILG’s unpopularity
From 1950 until today Bridgwater has only had 3 MP’s. First Sir Gerald Wills and then the well respected Tom King, who maintained sizeable majorities with Labour as the main challenger throughout this period, and later with the advent of the SDP/Liberal alliance the 2nd place became more interchangeable based on the national picture. Of course the majorities maintained by ILG have slumped compared to the days of Tom King.
The Lib Dem vote will collapse
The reason a Labour vote is crucial to winning this time round is firstly down to the collapse of the Liberal vote. In 2005 Labour had regained second place but in 2010 the ‘Clegg Promises’ election saw the Lib Dems back in second place. Of course after 5 years of the Lib Dems letting down their voters in coalition their vote everywhere is now in freefall to such an extent that in one election they were even beaten by the Bus Pass Elvis candidate. Lib Dems are currently as low as 7% in the Polls and locally have no councilors in the Bridgwater or West Somerset areas and even lost their only MEP for the South West at the last election. So lacking in confidence are they that their candidate –who had to be imported from Taunton in the first place, stood down and has now been replaced at the last minute by the former candidate (who had to be imported from Wells).
UKIP will rise but at the expense of the Tories
The other factor in this election is UKIP. Certainly this vote will rise – but it will largely be at the expense of the Tory vote. This will further pull down Liddell-Grainger’s tally. At the same time, most sensible people are starting to see through UKIP’s populist knee-jerk policies and constant major media gaffes as well, and so latest statistics show that they will make no real breakthrough at the elections and merely sop up angry disillusioned votes but get nowhere.
The Greens cannot make headway under a First Past the Post system
The rise of the Green Party is also a factor to consider, but in a First Past the Post system they are severely disadvantaged as they start from such a low base vote and need to make far too much ground to have an impact. Despite many people looking to the Greens for a ‘different kind of politics’, ironically a Green vote will help keep ILG in post.
Time to choose Labour
Why a Labour vote is the right vote this time (and if we ignore the fact that we have the right policies and the right candidate anyway) is because our vote will rise and mathematically the scale of that increase, while the Tory vote and Lib Dem vote falls, gives us the best chance to all unite beyond the most likely front runner. Labour has 14 out of 16 councillors in Bridgwater and the solidness of the historical Labour vote in our town here has been the reason why we have always formed the main opposition and why we run the Bridgwater Town Council, hence are the best placed party to benefit from the situation.
On top of this our candidate Mick Lerry is acutely aware of the issues that have caused the problems with the official Tory candidate – which are more than political, they are about trust and local democracy, and immediately put out a statement saying that he would work with West Somerset Council if elected. Mick is a local candidate, the leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor District Council and has been out campaigning for months, attending numerous meetings – oddly, with no sign of Mr Liddell-Grainger.
I would urge everybody in Bridgwater and West Somerset to support Mick Lerry the Labour candidate in the election on May 7th to help unseat an unpopular MP who has lost the faith not only of his constituents but also of many people in the Party who helped him into Parliament in the first place as this is clearly now a moral issue and the voters are looking for an answer to this problem.”
Cllr Brian Smedley
Bridgwater & West Somerset Labour Party