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Friday, July 15, 2005

Liberal Democrats win Cheadle

Congratulations are due to Mark Hunter and his team, who retained Cheadle for the Liberal Democrats with a 3,657 majority and an increased share of the vote. I spent a day up there and discovered that one of the problems of campaigning in leafy suburbs is the excessive amount of pollen.

I was astonished by the sheer nastiness of the Tory campaign, not because I think Tories are nice and cuddly (they are not), but because it was obviously counter-productive. The vicious smears that they sought to spread about Mark Hunter combined with their clumsy attempts at a tactical voting argument on every leaflet almost certainly contributed to Labour losing their deposit as supporters of the Government Party switched to the Liberal Democrats to ensure that decency prevailed.

Even Conservatives were appalled by the messages their party were propagating, as is made clear by this site:

Earlier this week The Times foresaw the reasons for the Tory defeat:

”In Stockport’s affluent commuter belt, where residents are likened by some to the characters in Footballers’ Wives, there were signs that the Tories may have been too aggressive. One leaflet superimposed a local newspaper report of a rape over a headline saying “shocking crime record of Mark Hunter”, the Lib Dem candidate and leader of Stockport council. His party threatened legal action. Another ran a headline “Hunter in school cash scandal”, attributed to the Stockport Express, whose sister paper denounced it as a misrepresentation and attacked the Tory campaign in a front page editorial.”

The Stockport Times actually described the Tory campaign as "electioneering of the worst kind."

I know of two Tory MPs who refused to deliver one of the more controversial leaflets. They are writing to Party Chairman Francis Maude to complain about the campaign.

This aggressive American-style campaigning does nothing to restore trust in politics or politicians. The Cheadle result demonstrates that voters do not like political parties to play the man, they want to talk about policy not have smears pushed through their letterboxes every day.
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