The Electoral P(o)ints

This is the second of two posts looking at Al Murray’s ‘Pub Landlord’ standing in Thanet South constituency in the 2015 General Election. This post looks at what effect he could have on the election itself; while the other post looks at why he’s standing in the first place.

So, the question must be asked – how will the Pub Landlord’s candidacy effect the election in South Thanet? Ladbrokes have him at 66/1 to win which is pretty low (but not as low as the 100/1-shot Lib Dems). But, lets be honest, much like Eurovision – winning isn’t the point here. It’s to make a point about UKIP, but by just standing Murray is going to win votes – an those votes have got to come from somewhere…but where, and what effect will it have?

Firstly, those most likely to vote for a fictional character are the apathetic voters. Those who, for whatever reason, just don’t care about the outcome. The are most likely to be non-voters (so there’s no -ve effect for other parties there), or those who would consciously spoil there ballot anyway (again, no -ve effect for UKIP, CON, and LAB). But these voters alone wouldn’t allow Murry to win.
But it’s not just the apathisers that he will need to attract. People who would have voted for other parties could now consciously vote for the Pub Landlord. Foremost among these are those who would have voted for an actual pub landlord who is already standing against Farage. Nigel Askew is standing as Bez’s (of Happy Mondays fame) ‘The Reality Party’ candidate. There is also an Independent standing in South Thanet. The latest Ashcroft poll (Nov 2014) has support for these ‘others’ at 1% – but this was taken before Bez’s Reality Party news broke – which may increase that figure, albeit only slightly. Most of these people’s support will come from “Screw everyone else” sector – so are likely to switch to Murray at election time.
Greens too (the majorest of the minor parties for the time being), being honest, do not stand a chance of winning. Green votes are, in this case, mostly protest votes, as they will be in c.640odd seats in May. There is a possible issue the Murray’s manifesto is diametrically opposed to Green policies and values – but somehow I reckon that Murray’s not going to stick to rigidly to it if he gets elected (he won’t). And hey, if you’re going to protest – why not vote for someone that will have a wider base and could cause more of an upset?

But what about the major parties? Labour, The Concervatives, Lib Dems and UKIP are all in unusual situations here. The Lib Dems firstly, similarly to the GRN, don’t stand a chance. This isn’t a “you’re in bed with the Tories” thing, it’s just a fact of Thanet South. They got 15% of the vote in 2010, while LAB and CON got 31% and 48% respectively. They were never in the race, and their support is now only at 7% That means that there are now 8% of 2010-LDs looking for a home. They left because of the Tories (you can presume), and could go to Labour, but if that offering isn’t to impressive, why not vote for Murray?
Now consider Labour’s unusual position. Thanet South is officially a CON-LAB marginal, but that is misleading. It is a LAB-1997 seat, won in extraordinary times in extraordinary circumstances (the Tory MP and 1997 candidate was Johnothan Aitken). Before 1997, Labour had NEVER won the seat before, nor any of its past versions (Thant East, Thanet West of the Isle of Thantet). The fact both parties were neck and neck last July was a wonder in itself. So, there are two options for the Labour voter:

  1. Stay with Labour – there is a chance that they could win, it’s happened before and Murray won’t get the support; or
  2. Vote for Murray – Labour probably won’t win and if enough support musters around Murray, he could stop both UKIP and the Tories.

Where would the other support come from? That’s a difficult question. The Tories want to win this seat. Tory voters in Thanet South know that there is a good chance of them to win the seat, but UKIP do present a threat to their vote. They know that if not enough Tory voters vote Tory then UKIP could over take them or, even worse, Labour could come up the middle of a split CON-UKIP vote. Of all the parties, I’d imagine that the Tories will stay the most solid and see the least (but still some) leakage. Those voting Tory just to keep UKIP out may swithc, but again, it’d have to bee seen that Murray could actually win – which is not likely to happen.
But then comes UKIP. Farage knows that Murray is their focus, and so will most UKIP voters. I say ‘most’ quite deliberately, because of the Steven Colbert issue – some people think Al Murray is ‘The Pub Landlord’ so will vote for him in good faith. Murray may succeed where all other parties fail – he might actually out-UKIP UKIP! If this is the case, the UKIP deficit will only grow, potentially improving Tory chances. But also, c.20% of UKIPs 2015 support (6% of voters) comes from 201-LAB voters. Might Murray’s satirer prove effective in highlighting UKIPs potential deficiencies and moving those people back to Labour? Or maybe they left Labour in search of a new home and found UKIP – might Murray be there man?

It’s unclear what will happen as a result of Murray’s Pub Landlord standing in Thanet South. The only thing we can be sure of is that he won’t win. Even with half of 2015-Planned-Non-Voters deciding to vote for Murray (which won’t happen) & ALL the insignificant party support (IND and Reality Party) & ALL the GRN support & HALF the LD support came under too, there he would still be a good 8% behind Labour, 10% behind UKIP and 13% off the Tories..
However, he might garner just enough support, to chance the outcome. If Murray would have to take more support from the Tories than he does from UKIP to increase Farage’s chances of winning the seat. Given the solidity of the Tory vote in Thanets past, and the softness of the UKIP periphary vote – this is unlikely to happen. He has scuppered UKIP chances just by standing. But, and this is a big but, if Murray can take just 1/10th of the Tory vote away, and scare 1/10th of UKIP voters back to Labour – which is a distinct possibility thanks to that very same soft-UKIP periphery – Murray could actually switch the seat from Blue to Red and cause a reasonably sized boost for Miliband.

Don’t you just love FPTP?

I have done the sums for the scenario in the last paragraph. According to the Ashcroft polls, about 70% of people in Thanet South are likely to vote in May 2015.
On that basis, if Murray got the backing of:

  • All the OTH [1.4%] + GRN [2.1%]
  • Half the LDs [2.4%] + Half of otherwise NVs [14.7%]; support would be c.20.7% [4th]

But, if, at any turnout, 1/10 of 2010-CONs leave and go anywhere and 1/10 2015-UKIP voters got to LAB, Labour will win by less than 1%.


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