I have been doorstepping in IoW for 5 days. I used to do this for every by-election, but I came out of retirement because the Isle of Wight is different. The Green Party is in contention in a Conservative seat. In 2015 Vix Lowthion’s 9,404 (13.4%), beat Labour into 4th place. She has consolidated this lead. Don’t take my word for it. Yesterday the bookies were offering 200-1 against a Labour win, and 10-1 against Vix.
So yes, they still think it will remain a Conservative seat, but Jean (Vix’s agent) believes that the necessary cultural sea change to a Green mind set is already under way on the Isle of Wight. My worm’s eye view from knocking on well over 1,000 doors suggests, yes, Vix won’t quite make it, but her vote will certainly give a lot of people a shock. However my patch, East Cowes, is one where less work has been done than in other areas. Vix is on Newport Parish Council, but there was no Green candidate in East Cowes this year.
I was helped for most of the time by my partner, Brenda, but she did manage to have two ‘holiday’ excursions. What I heard more often than I expected was disapproval of this government, or at least a lack of confidence in it. My spiel, honed over the course of the campaign to anyone who showed doubt as to their intentions was:
“Labour is a wasted vote here, but if you were thinking of voting Conservative, please bear in mind their appalling record of decisions relevant to climate change.”
But the main message for me was on the Progressive Alliance. It may be argued that the IoW Labour Party is a narrrow minded parochial set up so that wider lessons cannot be drawn, but it is nevertheless exactly in line with why I argued against Progressive Alliance Mark I.
(My PA Mark II was to use this election not to oppose Labour and Lib Dems in selected seats, without requiring anything in return. See my blogs on 24th July 2016 and 27th April this year as to why).
I am not an impartial observer, but I would have thought it was in Labour’s interests to unseat a Conservative, but as Vix’ s agent said: “You would think we were Labour’s enemy”!. I shall not go into details of the smear campaign waged against Vix personally, but I met examples of it a number of times on my rounds.
IoW Labour Party’s actions are consistent with the view that it is more important to wreck the Green Party’s chances than to remove a Conservative. This could make sense as a strategy if it is true that the Green Party only takes votes which would otherwise go to Labour. The sad thing is that whilst I fear this may be too close to the truth in many areas, in the IoW we are beginning to take former Tory votes, possibly due to the culture shift Vix’s agent senses.
I think this lesson needs to be borne in mind before conclusions are drawn from the result, whatever it is. (I am writing on the eve of poll.) At all events , if it is the worst case scenario of a clear Tory majority, we must not spend the next five years pursuing the discredited notion of dialogue with everyone who isn’t Conservative.