Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Three days to go

Well, it has certainly been a busy few weeks, and will continue to be hectic for another three days.

I have been enjoying the election immensely but whichever way the result goes it will be a relief in the early hours of Friday morning when the returning officer announces who has won and we all know where we stand.

I have particularly enjoyed the debates. BBC Radio Cumbria last Monday with all six candidates: Whitehaven School last Wedneday afternoon with everyone except Independent candidate Brian Early: Churches in Whitehaven the same evening with all six: and St Bees School this afternoon with myself, the Lib/Dem and a county councillor standing in for the Labour candidate. (They also had a Green party speaker - there is no Green candidate in Copeland this time, but there may have been some green candidates in the school mock elections.)

I felt that all these opportunities for people to see and hear the people who are putting themselves up for election in an unscripted environment was a bit of real politics as it should be. I am disappointed that the voters of Millom will not have the chance to see an equivalent event. The churches in Millom did try to organise a debate, which both I and the Lib/Dem candidate agreed to attend, but Labour and UKIP declined while the other two candidates did not respond.

I think the Copeland constituency is too close to call. The seat needs a 7.15% swing to go from Labour to Conservative and our canvass returns suggest something of that order. This assumes that I have judged correctly which of the voters who indicate that they will be voting for me are just being polite or judge this the quickest way of getting me to move on.

But presumably those who do not like telling a candidate that they are not going to vote for him would have had the same feeling four years ago - and compared with four years ago there certainly appears to be significant movement from Labour to Conservative.

A lot will depend on whether Conservative or Labour voters are more determined to turn out and vote, and whether those who make up their minds at the last minute all go in a particular direction.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, in the last three elections the opinion polls overstated Labour support and understated that for the Conservatives and Lib/Dems. The pollsters are aware of this and are trying to correct for the biases which caused it; different polling companies are using different methods to correct, and that's why the polls are all over the place. A TV commentator said this evening that the election might be a lot closer and more unpredictable than many people think and that fits my impressions on the doorstep.

Even if a given poll is right, the projections of seats won and lost which people make as a result all seem to assume a uniform swing, and that is not going to happen - there are different local circumstances in each constituency and changes in the pattern of tactical voting can make a big difference.

We will all know on Friday.

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