Coming from behind with a late surge

Friday, February 24th, 2006

I have finally allowed my name to be included on Ming Campbell's list of website supporters – somewhat late in the day, I admit, but it seemed the right time at last.

Anyone who's been following this journal right through from when I stopped writing about buttocks, dead people, shopping trollies and the North Circular, and started writing about politics, will remember it took me quite a while to decide to vote for him. Initially I planned to write in Charles Kennedy's name.

Looking back at the posts I've written, I see a steady journey to get where I am today. The leadership campaign progressed, too, with the big story being Chris Huhne's surge. It seems to me that it started with a general expectation of a Campbell victory (a Steve Bell cartoon warned “Ask not for whom the Ming mongs – it mongs for you”) and was then thrown into confusion by his stumble at PMQs. It stayed confused for some time until the Huhne Army started its march. But now, in the final stages, it seems to have settled down and swung back to Ming. Certainly there has been a recent fightback online, as suggested by the increased number of bloggers declared for him (see here and later entries on Pigeon Post and here on the Campbell Campaign blog). I also sense that Simon might have a little wind back in his sails – though probably not enough to make a difference.

So I suspect it will all come down to the following factors:

  • When did the majority of people vote? Was it at the height of the Huhne blitzkreig? Or before, when ballot papers first arrived and people lunged at their initial choices, or will it happen in a day or two at the last possible moment?
  • Are the late voters soft Campbellites and soft Hughes supporters, waiting to see if Huhne does enough to convince them to vote against their initial favourite? And, if they are, will he?
  • Is the Huhne phenomenon an internet and media thing, or does it extend to the armchair, offline, non politics-junky membership?
  • How will the areas with the greatest membership – London especially – vote? Did Simon's lacklustre mayoral campaign kill him stone dead in the capital, or will his years as the sole London MP see him through?
  • If, as seems likely, Simon is third, where will his transfers go? Will they split broadly equally, will they go to Huhne because Hughes fans like an underdog and don't like Campbell, or will they go to Campbell because his supporters will pick the other famous name over a moderniser with a taint of the Orange Book about him?

For what it's worth, my view is that the bulk of votes were cast at the height of Huhne's surge, which will obviously help him a lot. I think he'll pick up very few of the late votes – if people were going to be swayed by him they would have been by now. I think London will (in many cases reluctantly) not favour Simon but will shade towards Huhne, as will Simon's transfers – but not by much in either case.

I think the combination of those factors will ensure that Huhne runs it very close, but I still think Ming will win. The two of them did not start equal, Campbell was the favourite and Huhne was the one nobody had heard of. He needed a massive swing his way just to get in the game. He got that massive swing, but all it did is make him a genuine contender. I don't think it's made him the winner.

But of course – no-one really knows anything at the moment. We could all be wrong.

It's kinda fun, really.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.