So in a move that surprised nobody, Tony Blair revealed the worst kept secret in the country, announcing that the next General Election will be on May 5th. On a national level, debate seems to be over quite how much the Labour majority will be cut, rather than if they will actually loose. The calculations indicate that the Conservatives will need a massive swing of more than 10% to win. The BBC already have their swingometer up and running so people can play around.
On a local level we have the usual foregone conclusion, as Wokingham is traditional true blue Conservative. The Lib Dem’s are in second place on the council, and came in a credible second last time out, however an active campaign for the Labour vote meant that the Conservatives got in. (The Labour vote was 17% of the turnout – the Conservative majority 14%)
Having said that, the initial signs are that it may be a bit more lively this time around. We had an early start thanks to John Redwood’s ex-wife, the couple having had a decidedly messy split since last time out, leaving her living in Dorset, and him living with his secretary. After the regular party communication came out, plastered with pictures of Redwood doing good things for charity she wrote two letters to the local paper (neither of which were published), and then talked to the Mirror and the Telegraph urging Wokingham voters not to vote for him under the headline “He’s Not A Human… Don’t Vote For Him”, and saying that he never gave time or money to charity. The two articles are pretty much as you’d expect – tabloid style juicy details from the Mirror coming down on the side of the wife, and the Telegraph finishing off with the Wokingham Conservatives saying what an excellent MP he is.
On top of that, the original Labour party candidate, who lived in Northampton, told the local paper that he knew he had no chance of winning the seat, and he was only standing to get some practice to allow him to stand for a better seat next time! Oddly enough, subsequent to that he has stood down, and we now have a wildly enthusiastic new candidate from Godalming – note that nobody in the local party will stand – who seems ready to have a go.
The local Lib Dems have jumped on the statement from the previous candidate, but since the new Labour candidate looks keen for a fight for the seat, and it will be the same as always, and I suspect we may end up with a similar result to before. Ultimately, whatever Mrs Redwood thinks of her ex-husband, and however much she says tells Wokingham voters not to vote for him, I’ll be very surprised if, on May 6th Wokingham is not still a true blue heartland.
As always, the national election comes down to a small number of key seats, and with our current voting system my vote in Wokingham will be largely irrelevant, the votes that really matter, are the ones in those seats. Garry has much the same problem, but in reverse, being in a safe Labour seat. There is some comment already in the press about the problem of voter apathy, maybe we need a voting system where it isn’t just the votes in a few key marginal seats that count!