I seldom disagree with Fraser Nelson, Editor of The Spectator. However his analysis on the Coffee House blog over the weekend of the Hammersmith result in the General Election is wide of the mark. This is the constituency I live in and where I am a councillor. It was a seat I was confident we would gain from Labour and thus see the excellent Shaun Bailey returned to the House of Commons and the egregious Andrew Slaughter removed. It was not to be. Indeed after the most dishonest campaign Slaughter won quite easily – with a majority of over 3,500.
Andy Slaughter has defied the government on Heathrow expansion. (That, and the local Tory-run council decided to take away secured tenancy on council houses provoking a massive backlash which conspired to keep Shaun Bailey out of the House of Commons – for me, one of the most disappointing results of the evening).
First of all Fraser states as fact something that was a Labour lie. The council has no power to take away secured tenancy. We worked extremely hard on the estates to rebut this (and many other) Labour lies.
Secondly while some will have believed Labour's scare stories over housing the Council results were better for the Conservatives than the General Election results. In the General Election, Labour beat us by 7.5% in the Hammersmith constituency. Taking the relevant wards covering the Hammersmith constituency held on the same day the margin was narrower – 5.2%. In terms of votes that meant a Labour majority of 2,486 rather than 3,549.
Furthermore in the North End Ward, where redevelopment is proposed of two big estates, the average of the Conservative candidates was nearly 200 ahead of the Labour candidates average (we lost one of the three councillor slots because the alphabetical spread was so big.) If it was Labour's lies about housing that had got particular traction they could have expected a relatively stronger performance in this ward.
Instead their majority in the constituency really came from securing a high turnout in their safe wards around Shepherd's Bush and White City. There were just an awful lot of people, stuck on welfare or working for the public sector, for whom voting Conservative was felt to be against their interests. Those who lived on estates still turned out and voted Labour even if they knew really there no plans at all to redevelop their estates.
Of course after any election that is lost (or even won) those involved should sit down afterwards and consider what they should have done differently. We fought a positive campaign for Shaun Bailey – maybe it was too positive. I don't suggest we should have rolled around in the gutter with Labour trading lies and scare stories. But we were probably a bit too kind to the Labour candidate, Andrew Slaughter.
For instance he portrayed himself as a "saint" on MPs expenses. Yet he claimed for a £90 fountain pen nib. Not to mention the most extraordinary quantityof loo paper. He banged the class war drum – yet he himself was a pupil at the top Hammersmith independent school Latymer Upper. He made much of his local loyalties – without mentioning that he stood in the Uxbridge byelection or that his previous constituency included Ealing Acton. The one local connection he didn't make too much of was his ten years as leader of the Council – he presided over filthy streets and a doubling of the Council Tax.
What about his wishto abolish the monarchy – including such detailed proposals as replacing the National Anthem with Jerusalem and praise for Oliver Cromwell which is unlikely to be shared by Irish voters in the constituency?
I think we should have been tougher.