Cllr John Moss is a Councillor in Waltham Forest and the Deputy Chairman Political in Iain Duncan Smith’s seat of Chingford and Woodford Green, which has six wards in Waltham Forest and two in Redbridge.
We lost two hard-working Conservative Councillors in Waltham Forest on Thursday 22nd of May. Both were the third listed candidate on the ballot paper. Both lost to the first listed Labour candidate on the ballot paper. However, they were the only losses for the Conservatives in Waltham Forest, despite the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote and a very strong showing from UKIP in the six wards we held before the elections.
The scale of the Lib-Dem collapse here was quite staggering. They had a bad result in 2010, losing nine councillors, but they still took
27.37 per cent of the total averaged vote, down from 29.36 per cent in 2006. This time, they secured just 12.07 per cent of the vote. That vote partly went Green, but with most wards standing just a single Green candidate, it could might be expected that the rest of that vote would go to the Labour Party.
Labour did increase their vote, but by just 6.5 per cent.
Across the Borough in 2006, we took 24.54 per cent, which fell slightly to 23.64 per cent in 2010. That fell to 17.57 per cent across the Borough this time. In the six wards we held entirely before the election, that fell to just 36.72 per cent of the vote, down from 55.45 per cent in 2006 and 51.45 per cent in 2010. That was almost entirely down to UKIP who took 20.95 per cent of the votes, standing single candidates in each of the six wards. By contrast, they had stood just one candidate across all six wards in both 2006 and 2010.
Yet we still only lost one councillor in each of two wards. Though we started from a lower base, we lost fewer councillors than in neighbouring Redbridge and Enfield, or in Havering. In fact in Church End, one of the Redbridge wards in Iain’s seat, we won two seats from the Liberal Democrats in a ward they have held entirely since 1990.
In the two wards where we lost seats, we led the “slate” votes by a slim margin. 96 ahead in one ward, 45 in the other. There were, as was common across London, a huge number of split votes. As these were counted, we could see a lot of votes for our first two candidates, plus the single UKIP candidate and it was a similar story for Labour. When people did split their vote, we lost almost all ours to UKIP. Labour lost quite a lot to UKIP as well, but also to the Greens and the socialists. However, with a Beg and a Bell against a Wedderburn and a Sunger, we stood little chance, and as the tally mounted, it was clear we were going to lose our third placed candidates in both wards, which was a bitter blow.
All those who voted UKIP achieved was the election of two Labour Councillors.
However, we held the other four seats and that was down to both wards having fought year-long campaigns, not just delivering and canvassing as the election hove into view.
We knew Labour would target these wards so we were ready. We had begun general survey work in the summer of 2013, delivered several inTouch newsletters and largely completed canvassing by Easter, when our first literature of the campaign was delivered. Our second leaflet to all homes was delivered just before the postal ballots arrived and we did targeted letters to known support with postal votes. We then “knocked and dropped” final letters to all pledges in the last three days. We stressed the need to vote for all three Conservative candidates in every letter and our knock up reached every household with a Conservative pledge. The problem was, we were actually getting some people out to vote who then split their vote.
We know that campaigning effort saved those four Councillors, not least because it was the same campaign that our Church End candidates ran and they won two of three seats, only missing out on a clean sweep because of a strong personal vote for the one sitting Lib-Dem Councillor who stood again.
The lesson is simple. ABC. Always Be Campaigning.