CONGRATULATIONS to Councillor David Winter on his election.
With the South West Holderness Election Results in, the election campaigns conducted by the different candidates merit some scrutiny. What impact did they make on the result? Is a Preston Bypass now on the agenda?
The article makes some observations, a ramble rather than a rant, as a contribution to debate.
A key election issue: Impending industrial developments (the Hedon Haven development, Yorkshire Energy Park and Preston Crematorium) saw agreement amongst all candidates about the need for additional improvements in the local highways infrastructure. In order to cope with expected and increasing traffic levels and congestion then a Preston Bypass is needed. Called for specifically by the opposition candidates, the Conservative campaign said the issue of “the long awaited Bypass will be high on our agenda!” There were 3,269 total votes cast for all candidates. It might be argued they all voted in favour of the idea of a bypass.
- This seems to be a key objective resulting from ALL the election campaigns: A PRESTON BYPASS – Residents of all political persuasions will be keen to see progress on this.
The candidate campaigns were conducted against the background of the pandemic which meant that public and face-to-face events could not take place. So leaflets and/or social media became the main means of communication with residents. HU12 Online did its ‘Questions to Candidates’. However, we are generally unaware of any other specific media coverage that would have served to inform residents of candidate’s views?
How did candidates mainly contact residents?
- The Conservative campaign relied primarily on leaflets delivered across the Ward.
- Labour’s candidate had a mix of leaflets being delivered, but the candidate also engaged with social media, particularly with the Hedon Rant and Banter Facebook group.
- The Liberal Democrats conducted a thorough leafletting and postal campaign. This started before Christmas with campaign Christmas cards from the candidate and continued until election day itself. At least eight items of election material (newsletters, flyers, or personally addressed mail) were sent out.
- The Independent had one campaign leaflet but relied mainly on social media particularly with the Hedon Rant and Banter Facebook group.
- Presuming that it took place across the entire Ward, then without a doubt, the Liberal Democrats doorstep delivery campaign was impressive. It hammered home a simple message that the Lib Dems were the main opposition to the Conservative group on the council. It would have got the name of the candidate into every home. If the entire Ward was covered by each item, then some 52,000 deliveries would have taken place during their campaign. It is possible that the Lib Dems campaign chose to target only certain parts of the Ward, but with only 626 votes to show for such efforts, campaign managers must surely be looking at what else they might have done to convince voters of their case?
- The Independent candidate (having to finance his own campaign) relied mainly on social media. Having founded the Rant and Banter Facebook group with some 4,000 members now, then there was and is a growing constituency of support for the candidate in that group. However, it’s not a debate and discussion group. It plays other really useful roles in the town, but in terms of holding authorities and people to account, it is ‘rant’ and ‘banter’. The drawback of such Facebook groups – and Facebook in general – is that ‘like’ attracts ‘like’, louder voices drown out the quieter, facts and actual opinion are lost with presumed facts and presumed opinion taking their place. There is an essential place for social media in election campaigns, but it needs to supplement activities in the real world.
- The Labour campaign mixed traditional leafletting with social media engagement. As far as Rant and Banter is concerned, then the Labour candidate engaged with the group and will have undoubtedly benefitted from that.
- The Conservative campaign relied on the traditional leaflet drop. Social media engagement was not on the scale of the Independent and Labour campaigns. The candidate did not engage personally via social media.
Why did we get the result we did? Several factors are always at play in elections.
Political allegiance plays a role. Those traditionally loyal to a particular party will turn out to support it when called to do so. This will have been a factor in the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner election which took place on the same day. Despite not issuing a leaflet, not engaging in any way (at least not locally) and been a candidate for only a few weeks, the Conservative candidate got elected.
Current affairs, national, trends, and news and media reporting of them, change opinion and affects outcomes. The national trends suggest the party of Government (Conservatives) is doing well. Labour meanwhile has lost ground. The national trends will have been reflected locally.
Changes of opinion are usually reflected in election results. In 1995 when the South West Holderness Ward was established, a Liberal Democrat topped the poll who remained as a councillor until 2011. An Independent was second in 1995 who remained a councillor until 2015. Labour was third in 1995 and remained in office for one term. The Conservatives were first elected in the Ward in 2011. Whilst political allegiances can remain steadfast for some time, looking historically we realise they can and do change.
Strong local campaigns on local issues can make a difference too. When the Conservatives topped the poll in 2011 there was a national collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote i.e. a national trend, but also locally the Conservative campaign was buoyed up by the success of the HOTI campaign.
WE ASK: In 2021 if election hustings, political public meetings, and door-to-door and street campaigning had been allowed, would that have affected the results?