Congratulations Virendra Sharma MP

Labour have won the Ealing Southall by-election with a reduced majority. The Liberal Democrats were in second, with a net 5% swing from Labour, and the Conservatives came third, their result largely unchanged from last time. Minor candidates all lost their deposits.

Ealing Southall results: from the BBC

Virendra Sharma (Lab) 15,188 (41.48%, -7.28%)
Nigel Bakhai (LD) 10,118 (27.63%, +3.19%)
Tony Lit (C) 8,230 (22.48%, +0.91%)
Sarah Edwards (Green) 1,135 (3.10%, -1.52%)
Salvinder Dhillon (Respect) 588 (1.61%)
Dr Kunnathur Rajan (UKIP) 285 (0.78%)
Yaqub Masih (Ch P) 280 (0.76%)
Jasdev Rai (Ind) 275 (0.75%)
John Cartwright (Loony) 188 (0.51%)
Sati Chaggar (Eng Dem) 152 (0.42%)
Gulbash Singh (Ind) 92 (0.25%)
Kuldeep Grewal (Ind) 87 (0.24%)

Lab maj 5,070 (13.85%) 5.24% swing Lab to Lib Dems

A result that broadly reflects Tuesday’s prediction although I believe most observers expected a slightly smaller majority. I suspect a short campaign and the Conservative performance explains much of that. Until Tony Lit was exposed as a Labour donor, it seems likely they were advancing. That story put that in reverse with the Liberal Democrats taking over the mantle as official opposition, but not soon enough to make it close.

It’s be both fun and exhausting monitoring this by-election. I have to say, given some quite late nights on this, it impresses me deeply how many people write blogs daily for months at a time, not just a few weeks. This blog won’t be continuing, but I may consider another in future, that is when my other half starts speaking to me again. 

Congratulations and thank-you to all the candidates and volunteers who have put your time into our area, congratulations again to Virendra Sharma MP for winning, Nigel Bakhai for advancing and Tony Lit for being interesting.

This is Ealing Southall Watch, watching you, watching us, signing off…

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Who’s it going to be…

Having almost tripped over another pile of cheery early morning leaflets on my way to vote this morning I almost voted for one of the unlikely suspects.

 However in the end I went for…

… and with the votes currently being counted… I wish them luck…

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All over soon

In just over 24 hours we should know who our new MP will be.

The Conservative and Labour websites haven’t put any new stories today. The Liberal Democrats have four, most notably that they’ve called the Police to investigate the theft of their stake-boards (troubling, on the other hand I have just acquired a smashing new orange table to prop up my monitor). Other stories re-iterate previous themes.

A quick trawl around around the blogs mentioning Ealing shows a few people preparing to come to Ealing to campaign/annoy us all day tomorrow. Also some attempts to predict the result, here, here and here. The Times also have a good round-up of the day’s street campaigning here.

Overall I get a sense of campaign weariness and people looking forward to the result.

I’m certainly more than a little curious. 

However, voting tomorrow morning, congratulating the winner tomorrow night, and then… we’re done.

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Predictions for Thursday

We’re in the last 2 days of the Ealing Southall by-election, and it will soon be decision time. The three major party campaigns all seem fairly orientated towards bashing each other over minutiae as the seconds tick away, but I’m guessing at this stage most minds will have been made up.

My own prediction, is not very brave, I think it’ll be either Labour or the Liberal Democrats on Thursday.

Conservative Tony Lit is probably the most interesting candidate, but not necessarily for the right reasons. As noted earlier this week I think the Labour donor story will probably have done for his chances by crippling his narrative as the alternative to Labour and making him seem light-weight.  

If he doesn’t win though he should keep trying. If he spends the next 1-2 years until the General Election with his sleeves rolled up, looking less like a media tycoon being gifted a seat through daddy’s business contacts, and more like a campaigner who really wants to work across all communities, he will do much do dismiss perceptions of his superficiality and opportunism. He could be good representative one day, I’m not sure about now.

Labour I always thought would play a safe, low-key campaign and that seems to be what has happened. They have done the least visible campaigning of the three parties, but then can afford to lose a lot of votes without losing the seat. If they hold, the General Election is not a forgone conclusion, but it will simply be one seat in six-hundred, not the focus of national media excitement; so much more difficult for a challenger.

The candidate, Virendra Sharma, I suspect disappointed a lot of Labour supporters. I’m certainly under-whelmed rather than enthused or hostile. He’s not obviously a hero or villain, or obviously that different from his predecessor, but that’s part of his problem. Piara Khabra, it was suggested by the press, wanted a young Asian woman to succeed him, to change the politics of this community. The offer instead is more of the same, which highlights the alternatives and youth offered by both opponents.

There’s also the whiff of sectarianism around his nomination and subsequent defections, although that may have been inevitable whomever Labour selected. It can’t though have been helpful to Labour to be seen as divided. His vote will surely be less than Piara Khabra’s, the only question is by how much.

The Liberal Democrat campaign has had the most activity and variety of all three, perhaps too much variety and too little focus at times. However they do seem to have won the battle to be crowned chief challengers after Tony Lit’s wobble at the weekend.

Nigel Bakhai also has something of the ‘safety-choice’ air about him. While both the Conservative and Labour candidates have been personally attacked as liabilities (mostly by each other), Nigel Bakhai seems to have been relatively controversy-free. That may be a strong card if people vote for the candidate with the least mud stuck to them.

The question now though is whether that amounts to enough to overtake Labour as well as the Conservatives.

I’m still mostly undecided as to which way I’m going to jump on Thursday, I voted Labour last time, Conservative in the locals and GLA (not a Ken fan), and Liberal Democrat for the European Parliament. 

The greatest pity I think, will be whoever I do vote for will not be my MP next time regardless of whether they win. My house will be in Ealing Central and Acton at the  next election.

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Monday, 3 days to go

More literature today when I got in from work, no time to read in detail though as bit of a late one, and the words are all starting to merge together. Conservative one is A4 and dismisses the Liberal Democrats, the Labour one is A5 and slags off the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats have sent a newspaper that has a large tabloid headline focused on the suggestion that the Conservatives admit they can’t win and that bar chart again, possibly with more languages on it than last time…  but my eyes grow bleary.

Online, in ‘breaking news’ on the Conservative website we learn that, if elected, Tony Lit will fight “tooth and nail” against Labour’s proposed tram. I’m not entirely sure this counts as news given it’s one of his campaign pledges, but it does bring to mind an troubling image of my Conservatives Councillors trying to stop a moving tram with their teeth… and some nails.

On the nails theme (rusty this time) the Labour website informs us, perhaps prematurely that the “Tory Campaign Collapses”, with a sequence of somewhat catty remarks about a David Cameron hosting a cocktail party for Tony Lit. Presumably this party was cheaper for Tony than his last dinner engagement. Not a lot of news about Virendra Sharma, which I assume is why the snazzy Google Map on the home page doesn’t seem to have been updated since the campaign began, unless you count the removal of five of the Councillor flags.

The Liberal Democrats inform us, unremarkably that their leader Menzies Campbell  is backing “Bakhai to the finish”. They are though wooing me with their  “five steps to a safer Britain” including the appealing idea of making prisoners work to pay for a victims of crime fund. They also like nurses, I like nurses, I feel happy. They don’t like developers in Hanwell Lock, I don’t like the developers either, I feel cross. 

With that emotional maelstrom whirling through my mind I’m off to bed, good night candidates, good luck on Thursday…

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What about the rest

I’m tempted to stop reading leaflets now, a snow plough may well be needed to clear my porch for the next few days. My brief observations today is that all three main parties now seem to be deploying those annoying megaphone cars, the Conservatives seem to be winning the poster war in the shops and the Liberal Democrats have more on the streets (or at least near me they do). Very attractive addition to the gnomes those large orange squares on sticks.

So have they all annoyed me enough to vote for one of the long-shots?

I’ve had three communications from wildcards, Respect, UKIP and the Greens.

Respect have a beaming picture of George Galloway, sans-catsuit inviting me to vote for Salvinder Dhillon who says “No to war, no to privatisation and yes to public services”, and invites me to put “people before profits”. He also support better pay for postal workers, but only it would seem if they are a member of the CWU Union, which alarms me a little. What about non-unionised posties George, are they to expunged in the revolution?

UKIP candidate Dr. K. T. Rajan wants a referendum on the European Union, and doesn’t seem to like immigrants very much, who are apparently “the biggest problem facing Britain”. An interesting message to send to the multi-cultural residents of Southall. I suspect Dr. Rajan may not be taking this election too seriously.

The Green’s candidate Sarah Edwards wants to “work for social justice and a better environment”, this presumably to distinguish her from all the candidates campaigning for unfairness and raping the planet. It’s a dinky little leaflet on cheap paper, with some appealing points, but it’s a bit generic, nothing here that really suggests the candidate knows Southall.

So much to consider…

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Tony Lit – Labour donor scandal

 Lit and Blair

Conservative candidate Tony Lit is in a great deal of trouble. It appears, according to the Telegraph and Labour campaign organiser Tom Watson, that just one week before agreeing to be David Cameron’s candidate, he attended a Labour party fundraiser (photo above) where his company, Sunrise Radio made a £4,800 donation.

His excuse, we can assume, is that there is that his political activities as a representative of his former business are a different matter to his personal decisions.

On that note his statement to the Telegraph says “As a businessman, I did indeed attend this event for the Asian business community but, like many British Asians, I feel the Labour Government does not have the answers to the challenges that face the country.”

But the timing is terrible, and rather highlights just how rapidly the Conservatives picked their candidate, causing much complaint from their own side and a defection of a local party member to the Liberal Democrats.

The other thing it highlights, which is not good for David Cameron is just how superficial his project is proving to be if Tony Lit, Blair-donor one week, Cameron-candidate the next, is his chosen representative of what he wants to change in his own party. It takes the whole ‘heir to Blair’ line to an embarrassing extreme.

It’s also not obviously smart for Labour to have highlighted this. The public could well read this as confirmation of the Liberal Democrat message of ‘vote conservative, get labour’. If there is an anti-Labour majority in Ealing the splitting of that opposition vote is Labour’s best chance of holding the seat.

This event though should polarise it. Certainly the odds I just checked on Betfair (after yesterday’s story) have shifted with the Conservatives in third on 4.4 and Liberal Democrats second on 3.6, Labour unchanged. That looks like the start of momentum to me and what Labour don’t want is a clear anti-Labour opponent to emerge in the next four days.

This could be the story that decides the outcome on Thursday.

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