Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bromley & Chislehurst by-election

Yesterday, to help Ben Abbotts, LibDem candidate in Bromley & Chislehurst. We canvassed an area of smart housing with nice gardens. Most former Labour voters were going to vote for Ben, while Tories were uncertain. None of them mentioned David Cameron.

Chris Mead of the Press Association says the Tories should win this by-election if they can lay a ghost of more than 40 years ago. So there I was, having climbed out of the grave specially for the occasion.

44 years ago, to be exact, we won the next door constituency of Orpington, coming from third place at the previous general election. With a swing that big, we could take Bromley & Chislehurst.

Comparing Orpington in the 1959 general election with Bromley in 2005, we polled less than 1% more. Labour had almost exactly the same, and the Tories in our case had five and a half percent more.

There are other interesting parallels between the two situations. The Tory candidate is an outsider, like the man they had in Orpington. Our Labour candidate also had no links with the constituency. Ben Abbotts is the only local candidate, as I was in 1962.

Ben is a commuter, like a great many of his constituents. He is a local councillor. He has a young family, and knows about the problems they face. Those are all factors that helped me to victory in Orpington.

In 1962, the Tories took six months to move the writ. Today in Bromley, the campaign has been far shorter, and there’s only 11 days to go. It’s a huge challenge, and I hope that hundreds of volunteers will turn out to help Ben Abbots. He would be a superb MP.

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