Brian Paddick’s verdict

Here’s the email which Brian Paddick sent out to supporters earlier today:

It feels a bit like waking up with a hangover but without the headache!

Thank you so much for all the hard work and support that was put into our campaign.

It is important to recognise the unique nature of this set of London elections set against the context of the national picture. If the London picture were reflected nationally we would have cause for concern and for being despondent but not a bit of it!

We have had one of the best ever results nationally and this is a major boost for our new leader, Nick Clegg. Four years ago we picked up a lot of support from those who, like me, were disgusted at the illegal war in Iraq.

For us to improve our position nationally, as we did on Thursday, is a triumph for the party and I am immensely proud to call myself a Liberal Democrat despite the London results.

Many Londoners had had enough of Ken Livingstone and believed, encouraged by the press, that the only way to get rid of him was to vote Tory. Many other Londoners saw the imminent danger of having Boris Johnson as Mayor, encouraged by the opinion polls, and defected to Labour. The staggering number of spoilt ballot papers showed that people did not understand the voting system and simply went all out for either Labour or the Tories.

I spoke to Tony Travers last night, the academic and independent commentator on London politics, who told me that we had done very well indeed in all the circumstances and that we should be proud of our performance (and Tony is no friend of the Liberal Democrats).

As I kept saying during the campaign, in the 15 or so London by-elections between September last year and April, right across the capital, what Londoners really feel about us came through:

Liberal Democrats 36%
Conservatives 28%
Labour 25%

We got squeezed between two political monsters in a way we had never seen before. We did our best. We need to get off the floor, brush ourselves down and get back to our usual winning ways. I hope to join as many of you as possible in Crewe – we have a Parliamentary by-election to win! Details are at

Apparently the best thing to do when you get thrown by a horse is get back in the saddle as soon as possible, although I wouldn’t know one end of a horse from another!

Thanks again everyone.

With every best wishes,


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  • ‘I spoke to Tony Travers last night, the academic and independent commentator on London politics, who told me that we had done very well indeed’

    Wow – is this man 4 real. Don’t u know whn ur bein patronised m8! U bombed end of!

  • I can’t believe you said you’d voted Left List No 2 preference.

    Had you always intended to do so, in which case why the careful positioning between Ken and Boris; or did you just decide on the day, eve though you knew it’d be a wasted vote; could you genuinely not ake your mind up between Ken and Boris for No 2; or did you make it up because Nick Clegg forbade you from ever revealing which ‘side’ you came down on as the Lib Dem cause is dependent on electoral flirting rather than being honest and up-front??

    Any way, makes you look a bit out-of-touch and a lot of people glad they didn’t vote for you.

  • Brian,

    with this platform to build on and 4 years of additional political experience (honing and sharpening), I think you will make an extremely credible choice capable of mounting a real challenge for victory.

    I hope you decide to continue in this capacity, as the only way to defeat a squeeze is by making a second push!

  • Brian,

    You’d be very welcome at the byelection I’m sure, but please, PLEASE can we all refer to the forthcoming contest as THE CREWE AND NANTWICH byelection. There are sensitivities when the whole area is lumped in as just Crewe.


    er, Crewegwyn (should that be CreweandNantwichgwyn ???)

  • If Brian was so very respected more people would have wanted him to be mayor. He was neither especially personable or innovative, and confusing moments such as being shocked Ken would ask people to give him votes and the left list decleration show he is not the best man for electoral politicing.

    Yes there was a squeeze, but all in all it was an uninspiring campaign, a verdict delievered directly by the voters with their list votes.

  • Tinter,

    If it was an uninspiring campaign, please will you explain the turnout figures.

  • Personally speaking, I don’t find Tinter’s comment reflects negatively at all.

    I can accept that our campaign wasn’t perfect, but I disagree that it was completely uninspiring – you simply can’t measure every tiny influence on every individual in every corner of every street.

    Sure it’s always possible to do more, but you can’t please every member all of the time; it’s unhealthy and unrealistic to have expectations of continual stimulus and perpetual inspiration.

    Most of us are lucky if we are inspired once in our lifetimes!

  • We can measure the overall influence of the various campaigns. Its called voting, and in London all of it went against us- because our campaign had an uninspiring candidate, and offered little to people but attacks on Ken and Boris, of which there was no lack anyway.

    The mayoral campaign clearly impacts on the assembly campaigns, although those doudtless had their own problems.

  • Oh, and to those putting this down to a two-party squeeze, the greens held up fine. Our campaign is clearly at fault and we did worse than we should, telling ourselves otherwise won’t help us do better next time.

  • It’s not possible to compare us to those parties which fared worse, as there is a clear difference between the objectives of us and them.

    It’s not win or bust for us – because we are liberal – because we have more realistic longer-term ambitions.

    From the standing start Brian had he is already in a position where he could possibly win next time round, providing he is interested and plays his cards right (Livingstone is dead and Labour has been buried, while BoZo will suffer the backlash of incumbency).

    On the assembly, remember it always swings and there will always be a turnaround: be a bit more philosophical will you.

  • I would be a little more optimistic and indeed charitable on this analysis as well.

    First off, you can’t blame Brian, he worked hard and its his first time around the block – pretty tough campaign and much less resources than the others. I expect his comments at the end were more down to frustration and tiredness – pretty tough on him. He wasn’t as well known and would have fared better if the Tories had chosen differently e.g. Steve Norris…

    I do think the party suffered from the big squeeze and the turnout being higher made it worse because the extra voters came to vote for Boris or Ken because of the polarisation and the high penetration of the TV and Press around the mayoral campaign. The GLA was a tag on – no real profile for the GLA campaign and so no cut through – trying to swim upstream against that mayoral overload was impossible in South West and in Lambeth – Vauxhall.

    Communicating the different voting systems and that people could vote differently in the Assembly votes would never get to the extra turnout voters.

  • “We got squeezed between two political monsters”

    – Scylla and Charybdis.

  • We do well when neither or just one of our opponents is running a credible campaign. When they both do, we get squeezed. That’s what happened here.

    The point about the Green vote holding up is not valid. Green voters are ideologues. They vote Green whatever the situation.

  • So the greens would get that vote in a westminister election? Or in FPTP council elections across London? Oh wait, they clearly wouldn’t.

    The greens have done well in these elections, increasing their vote in 11 constituencies. Have thousands of new dedicated ideologues appeared? I think not.

    Its not a case of ideologues, but it is a case of them communicating a clear policy message which works better in PR than intense targetting- giving them reasonable results despite being a tiny, marginal party mostly around a single issue. Our campaign clearly did nothing of the sort.

  • Catherine Reifen 4th May '08 - 9:08am

    It’s certainly not fair to blame Brian for the mayoral campaign, in which I agree that our poor results were mainly down to a squeeze and not helped by the media. Most of the feedback I’ve heard from ordinary voters has been along the lines of “good bloke, Brian – shame he’s not going to win”.

    BUT that’s not to say that we didn’t make plenty of mistakes and while of course we were squeezed there were things we could have done to avoid at least some of that. We can’t pretend that these aren’t awful results.

    We didn’t articulate a clear enough message, we didn’t explain the SV voting system (even one of our local members voted Ken 1 Brian 2 because he didn’t understand how it worked), and we focussed almost all our energies on the mayoral race (which was unwinnable from the start IMHO) and didn’t give our supporters a reason to go out and vote for us on the assembly ballot papers – so they didn’t.

  • lewishamgreen 4th May '08 - 10:16am

    The Greens concentrated their efforts on those GLA elections they could win through building up the Londonwide Assembly vote. The Lib-Dems concentrated their efforts on those GLA elections they couldn’t win – a futile attempt to promote Brian Paddick as the next Mayor of London and a futile attempt to win two first past the post constituencies. The result – a net loss of two Assembly seats.

    Darren Johnson AM – Green Party Assembly Member/ Campaign Manager 2008 GLA Elections

  • Hywel Morgan 4th May '08 - 1:16pm

    “I do think the party suffered from the big squeeze and the turnout being higher made it worse because the extra voters came to vote for Boris or Ken because of the polarisation and the high penetration of the TV and Press around the mayoral campaign. The GLA was a tag on… – trying to swim upstream against that mayoral overload was impossible in South West and in Lambeth – Vauxhall.”

    If we face a close general election in 2009/10 the above will all be true then so we’d better work out how to deal with it. Saying “well we were bound to get squeezed won’t do us much good!

  • The fact that we want to look at ward breakdowns shows us how we have campaigned wrongly! We are still treating these as elections to target in, not to run a wide campaign communicating a message. Even if the ground effort was “effective” where it happened, it was clearly badly designed to actually win the election. Its also difficult to see how it could be given our vote fell just about everywhere.

    The greens had no pact for the London Assembly- how could they? They focused their campaign on how they could make a difference in the assembly, we focused on why Brian should be mayor- which the voters knew full well would not happen.

    I’m not blaming Brian, because he did not manage the campaign. Whoever did probably shouldn’t be allowed near a PR election for a while.

    However, saying that the Socialist Workers Party were the group second best positioned to win London shows incredible political naivety- I can’t think of any other Liberal Democrat candidate who would do something like that.

  • Having said he would reveal his vote afterwards, he couldnt say he voted Ken or Borris, because both would have painful blow-back. He couldnt lend credibility to the Greens (who are LD challengers in many places now) by voting for them. And he couldnt say he wasted his second preference by not using it (thereby damaging the LD policy that we should have preference voting). Left List was the only plausible alternative to breaking his promise of revealing where he voted. I wouldnt be surprised if he was advised that way also.

  • Hywel – Clearly we need to look at how we avoid the squeeze in key seats in the general. Of course there isn’t a straightforward comparison because in any Westminster seat we are fighting seriously we have a lot more capacity to fight a strong ground campaign, which we don’t across London as a whole, or even any single GLA seat.

    Further comments from me in the Members’ Forum.

  • He should never have promised to reveal his preference. Really, endorsing the SWP isn’t plausible, it just looks very stupid. It maybe that it avoids direct contradictions, but endorsing Trots and the second choice? They got 20,000 votes- its certainly not going to be looked on favourably by any group of our supporters or anyone with any sense.

    Decrying all the other choices doesn’t make endorsing the SWP anything more than a stupid decision. Its not that what you said is wrong- its that its obvious, and thus promising to reveal the second preference was a terrible error.

  • David Blake 4th May '08 - 5:27pm

    Brian’s second preference is irrelevant. We need to concentrate on the campaign itself – preferably in the members forum.

  • Tinter, moderate your language and I’ll agree with you: ‘badly designed’ is better phrased as ‘not well enough designed’ etc.

    Paddick’s second preference presents a difficult choice as he has consistently played on his openness so he can’t change now by refusing to answer an enquiry.
    It would clearly diminish his platform to endorse his direct competitors and is impolitick to advocate abstention.
    The resulting choice creates certain limitations, from which I fear he did actually make the most plausible vote – not that that says much about the quality of choice available.

    The contrast between the tactics of the candidates is informative to the extent that it is clear all except the Greens and BNP dislike the fact that only two parties enter the run-off when second preferences come into play.

    Because the complications of the voting system meant that much of the airwar was dominated by the Mayoral race many assembly votes will have been influenced by the fact it was a two-way run-off – I would be interested to be able to see the difference a three-way run-off would have had, and predict all LibDems would have benefitted and that Brian would have fared closer to the national, if not regional, average.

  • It speaks volumes about how wrongly we approached the question of the second preference that Paddick ended up endorsing the SWP’s Left List. Simon Hughes put a much more nuanced and sensible position just before the elections…why couldnt we have all taken this stance??

  • lewishamgreen 4th May '08 - 10:55pm

    Tinter appears to be one of the few people on this thread who genuinely wants to learn from past mistakes and look at new ways of doing things rather than simply sniping at the Green Party. We Greens learnt a hell of a lot from the Lib-Dems about how a small party can win council seats through effective targeting and year-round campaigning. We had an abysmal record at winning council seats through the eighties and nineties and I am not ashamed to say we looked at the Lib-Dems and learnt lessons and applied them in order to build up our local government base. Maybe it is time the Lib-Dems started learning lessons from the Greens on how to win seats and maintain vote-share in regional PR elections?

    However, if you want to simply dismiss us a bunch of eccentric Labour-loving ideologues with nothing to teach anyone then that is absolutely fine by me. Carry on in your complacent bubble and leave it to us to attract the votes of thoughtful, left of centre, environmentally aware electors in the next round of PR elections in 2009.

    By the way what has happened to all those posters on this site who were confident that “Darren Johnson is likely to lose his Assembly seat on May 1st”?

    Darren Johnson AM
    Green Party

  • Actually, despite the forcefulness of her/his response to an earlier point by me, I think Tinter may actually have a point about the way the campaign was designed overall. Something to think about.

    And, Tinter, if you write in a less in-your-face manner then you might win more people over.

  • Well, I didn’t mean to be confrontational, but I guess I don’t know how else to debate! I will try to be more comradely in the future, although its because we are all in the same boat that I don’t want us to repeat the same mistakes.

    Nonetheless, I think my statements stand up for themselves regardless, and I hope those in a position to make changes will, well, make some.

  • “The staggering number of spoilt ballot papers showed that people did not understand the voting system and simply went all out for either Labour or the Tories.”

    You guys amaze me. The LibDems cry out for PR, and here you get a PR election. And when you lose badly, you blame …. er …. PR!

  • Well, anonymous, that is because we opposed this dog’s breakfast approach with FPTP & top-up votes for the GLA.

    We don’t want elected mayors either, that concentrates far too much power in one post.

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