Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Is it Candidate or Party that Drives Voters?

When you go into a polling booth, the voting slip shows three things:
  1. Candidate name and address
  2. Candidate's party name, (if there is one)
  3. Candidate's party emblem (if there is one)
It is said that for many Labour voters, the party could put up a donkey as the candidate, and it would still get votes.  The same is no doubt true of the Tories and other parties.  Party loyalty can be strong.

But there are also floating voters, who don't decide until the last minute. Perhaps when they are actually in the polling booth, staring at the voting slip.


A candidate without a party emblem looks second rate.  It is important for a candidate to represent a party registered with the Electoral Commission, with an emblem they have approved.


Once a party has an MP in Parliament, the party has a different status.  They will be invited to discussions and hustings arranged by TV, radio and others to which other candidates are not invited.

Inevitably that means the public ignore 'minor' parties that are not at that 'top table' enjoyed by the 'major' parties.

It can be that a party is also invited to the 'top table' where they have a clear and demonstrable following, without an MP.  Now that UKIP does not have an MP, it will be interesting to see when they are and are not invited to 'top table' events, given that they still have significant support. Having an MP is a simple black and white justification for organisers.


A new party does not have an MP or an established following.  One option to get on the 'top table' is to get a sitting MP to defect, and win the subsequent by-election.  That is how UKIP did it.

Ofcom sets the regulations under which the UK's TV and radio transmissions are governed, including the BBC from April 2017.  In the case of political coverage, both at a national and local level, they recognise that it is not practical to invite all parties and candidates to the 'top table'.

Clause 6.2 of the Ofcom Broadcast Code says:
"Due weight must be given to the coverage of parties and independent candidates
during the election period. In determining the appropriate level of coverage
to be given to parties and independent candidates broadcasters must take into
account evidence of past electoral support and/or current support. Broadcasters
must also consider giving appropriate coverage to parties and independent
candidates with significant views and perspectives."

i.e. Broadcasters shoudl include candidates that:
  1. Have past electoral support and/or
  2. Have current support, [or]
  3. Have potential through offering a signficant view and perspective
All people arranging debates and hustings should also  apply all three criteria for inclusion of candidates.


The newspapers in the last few days before the election started to run headlines that gave the public the impression that this was May versus Corbyn, Tories versus Labour.  What effect did that have?  What about the distinction between 'major' and 'minor' parties?

The election in Maidenhead, Theresa May;s own constituency, gives an indication.  Based on % of the local electorate, the 'major ' parties who were on the 'top table' of hustings and debates were:

                                                                      Votes                              Vs 2015    Vs 2010

Conservative Theresa May 37,718
49.5% 1.7% 5.7%
Labour Pat McDonald 11,261
14.8% 6.2% 9.6%
Liberal Democrat Tony Hill 6,540
8.6% 1.4% -12.2%
Green Derek Wall 907
1.2% -1.4% 1.2%
UKIP Gerard Batten 871
1.1% -5.0% 0.4%
Theresa May's share of the electorate increased over 2015 and 2010. Perhaps her mantras about needing support hit home.  That and regaining voters UKIP lost.

Pat McDonald of Labour stood in 2010, but not in 2015.  His personal icnrease of 9.6% is arguably purely down to Labour's national resurgence.

Tony Hill of the LibDems was slightly up in 2017, having been well down in 2015.  This reflects the LibDems generally.

The Greens were slightly down, and UKIP were signfiicantly down.  Their time has been and gone.

What about the minor parties?  The highest candidate polled just 282 votes, less than a third of the lowest 'major'.

  1. Arguably NONE of the 'major' candidates outperformed (or indeed underperformed) their national parties.  Hardly worth campaigning locally!
  2. A 'minor' candidate does not have a chance of competing
It si essential to be on the 'top table'. That should include any party offering "a signficant view and perspective" even if they do not have past or current support.  Broadcasters and other husting arrangers please take note!

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