Death by bar chart? Tories plotting to kill in Norwich North

ConservativeHome proudly announces the start of the Tory by-election campaign in Norwich North by posting Tories begin Norwich North campaign with attempt to kill off third parties.

And this is how they plan to do it:
Conservative bar chart for Norwich North
Look at the heights of the bars – they don’t even match the percentages. The Labour and Lib Dem results have been depressed and Green and UKIP have been artificially inflated.

From ConservativeHome:

Within minutes of Ian Gibson announcing his resignation as MP for Norwich North key Tory strategists including Stephen Gilbert, Oliver Dowden and Andy Coulson were in a conference to plot tactics to win the seat for the Conservatives.

Yesterday the Conservatives distributed their first election leaflet across the seat.

The Tories’ first task is to kill off a third party challenge. The Greens, in particular, score well in other parts of Norwich. The leaflet contains the chart above and the Conservative candidate Chloe Smith’s top message will be that only a vote for her can send the clear message of voter anger to Gordon Brown.

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This entry was posted in Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Matthew Forkins 15th Jun '09 - 11:00am

    The words ‘hoist by own petard’ come to mind… this misuse of bar charts is a regular Lib Dem tactic.

  • Funniest Lib Dem Voice post ever! Have you never looked at the bar graphs on a Lib Dem leaflet? You’re right that the Tory leaflet is misleading, but your party could not possibly be in a worse position to criticise.

  • “Look at the heights of the bars – they don’t even match the percentages.”

    Oh purleeeze. Lets not go there.

    If bar charts have the figures they are based on, and a reference where those figures come from then people are quite capable of working out what is trying to be said.

  • The interesting thing about this is whether the voters will buy it. One reason the barcharts work for the Lib Dems is that in reality there is about 40% of voters who WOULD vote Lib Dems if they thought they could win. I know that they think Lib Dems might vote Conservative there as a `referendum on Brown` my guess is that they will come across the same question by the Lab/Green/LD voters in Norwich North that they do nationally – what are the Conservatives FOR?

    It was easier for the Lib Dems in days gone by precisely because the casual Tory/Labour/Green person could cast a `protest vote`. The Conservatives are in contention for Government.

    Norwich North Lib Dems should start saying what they’re for and asking the same hard question to the Conservatives. No soft flannel – hard questions.

  • If Cowley Street had any sense they would more or less fight this by election with a three good leaflets with a real message strategy and then ask everyone to come to Norwich and help in Norwich SOUTH, which is our target seat in the area.

  • I have gone to by-elections and been given leaflets where the bar charts numbers had clearly been completly made up, sometimes not even adding up properly. Its pretty rich for us to moan about slightly misleading heights on others bar charts.

  • Surely this is our tactic??

  • Herbert Brown 15th Jun '09 - 11:43am

    Is this an attempt at parody?

    The heights of the bars you show are considerably closer to the correct values than those in the Good Morning leaflet I received from the Lib Dems for the European elections.

    That was the one which showed the percentages for the last Westminster election, even though it was a Euro election. And which claimed “voting Labour will only help the Conservatives win!”

    I never did manage to get a straight answer out of Mark Pack as to whether he really believed that voting Labour could “help the Conservatives” win in the London Euro constituency!

  • Typical Tories showing their ignorance of the correct use of bar charts. Every fule knows the ‘Con 33%’ should be above the bar, not within it.

    Will they every learn?

  • Surely the point is not so much our virtue in this department (though I have always been scrupulous in my use of barcharts) but that the Tories can never again deride us for “dodgy barcharts” given that they’re doing it too.

  • Our disingenuous use of bar charts has always been one of the most offputting features of Lib Dem campaigns to me, so I assume this must be some sort of joke. If the Conservatives are now doing the same then sure they have less scope to complain next time we do it, but I don’t think that’s really the point. We’d all be better off if we didn’t put out laughably misleading figures in our election literature (the European elections were probably the most extreme example of this).

  • How about campaigning on the issues so people want to vote for the Liberal Democrats ? In essence the Conservative bar chart is true, so make a virtue out of it.

    It would help if the party had a consistent message on votings systems, rather than having Nick Clegg jumping about from STV, to PR, to Jenkins AV+ on a referendum.

  • Terry Gilbert 15th Jun '09 - 12:56pm

    As a former member of Norwich Exec., I believe there are good reasons we CAN win Norwich North – there is a discussion in the members’ Forum right now.
    Please read it, and if you are not a troll from the other parties, get out to Norwich as soon as possible. A good start is crucial.

  • Herbert Brown 15th Jun '09 - 1:31pm

    “As a former member of Norwich Exec., I believe there are good reasons we CAN win Norwich North …”

    It seems not much has been learned in the past year.

  • Same old Tories. Same old lies.

  • Mark Littlewood 15th Jun '09 - 2:40pm

    It’s strange that the Tories are immitating the standard LibDem bar chart approach. It works for us because we (reasonably) assume that a high proportion of the natural supporters of those parties in 3rd/4th/5th place would prefer us to the incumbent party (whether they be Labour or Tory).

  • Herbert Brown 15th Jun '09 - 2:56pm


    Is the assumption just that there’s a large “Get Labour Out” vote?

  • I think we should bar charts

  • I find it rather implausible that supporters of the Green Party (which is against growth and consumption, and increasingly hard left) would wish to use the Tories as a mechanism to humiliate Gordon Brown. They might equally want to punish David Cameron.

    In Norwich, the elephant in the room is the Green Party. Why is it that within a year of taking control of the City Council, the Lib Dem vote in Norwich collapsed and went Green? A serious qeustion calling for a serious answer.

    The Lib Dems might be in poll position in Norwich South based on the 2005 result, but we hold only two wards in that constituency, both of them on the southern suburban fringe. We actually have more councillors in Norwich North, I believe (in Broadland).

  • Terry Gilbert 15th Jun '09 - 4:51pm

    Sesenko – The Greens have been exclusively targetting Lib Dem seats, though their hopes of eradicating/replacing us have recently run up against a brick wall in the two wards you mention. There are other reasons why the Lib Dems failed to respond adequately. I will post in the members forum later (when the kids are in bed!).

  • Terry Gilbert 15th Jun '09 - 5:01pm

    Herbert – I learned quite enough between 2004 (30 seats) and 2007 (7 seats) thanks! Alas not quickly enough! But not many of the 30 were in Norwich North, where the Greens got only 3% in County elections less than a fortnight ago. They are not the challengers to the Tories in this election.

  • Matthew Forkins 15th Jun '09 - 5:14pm

    The Greens are picking up disaffected Lib Dem voters. People who were attracted by the party’s former ethical stance, but now dismayed with the party’s lunge rightwards under Nick Clegg.

  • How can I do an eyes rolling emoticon at Matthew Forkins on this thing?

  • Herbert Brown 15th Jun '09 - 6:27pm


    I’m afraid the very fact that you’re having to argue that “the Greens are not the challengers to the Tories in this election” – in a Labour-held seat! – only emphasises what an uphill struggle it will be for the Lib Dems to come from a not particularly strong third place.

  • Philip as Terry has pointed out details about how you can help (there is plenty to do), the HQ etc are all in the members section. Details will also be in this weeks Lib Dem News.

  • Terry Gilbert 15th Jun '09 - 10:25pm

    It is well known in the Lib Dems that the Greens have been very succesful at local level in Norwich. But it is less well known that this success has been exclusively in Norwich South. My post was an attempt to redress this balance. The Greens have never won a City Council election in Norwich North. And the Lib Dems do much better in Tory Broadland which makes up two thirds of the seat. With Labour in disarray, and a Lib Dem HQ already extant for two years (NN lies between two target seats) there are sound reasons to expect a good showing. Perhaps you are unused to 4 party politics in your neck of the woods? Or even 3…

  • This post has to be a piss-take.

  • A former Lib Dem 16th Jun '09 - 12:23am


    Using Photoshop and Excel the percentages are as follows:

    Labour 42.45%
    Conservative 35.35%
    Lib Dems 15.10%
    Green 4.26%
    UKIP 2.84%

    Hardly a conspiracy, especially considering some of the “two horse race” leaflets for the Euros, when actually it was a race between Labour, Tories, Libs, UKIP, Green and other minor parties.

  • Herbert Brown 16th Jun '09 - 12:47am


    The trouble is that regardless of the Greens, the Lib Dems are starting with less than half the Tory vote, on the basis of 2005.

    Add to that the fact that the polls are currently showing the Tories up by 5 points, and the Lib Dems down by 5 points. That is why it is such an uphill struggle.

    The point is that people aren’t looking for “challengers to the Tories”, but for a party that can defeat Labour. On any objective grounds, that is going to be the Tories in this seat. I grant you that it is desirable to prevent a collapse in the Lib Dem vote and/or being beaten into fourth place by the Greens, but for heaven’s sake let’s learn the lessons of the last few by-elections and refrain from encouraging wholly unrealistic expectations.

  • It is not unknown for parties to win from third place. Take Greenwich in 1987, or St Albans in 1997. That doesn’t mean it is likely to happen in Norwich North, but we shouldn’t assume that voters are going to turn out in their tens of thousands to express their undying love for David Cameron.

  • We have to admit that they are frontrunners here. But I think it is worth trying to turn round the question towards the issue of “If they win, what would the Tories do?” After all, what policies do they actually have?

    – Fail to reform our political system?
    – Protect “flipping” front benchers like Osborne and Lansley?
    – Have no new ideas about how to sort out our public finances?
    – Destroy our relations with the rest of Europe?
    – Launch indiscriminate public spending cuts?
    – Abolish the minimum wage?

    The message is: Remember, voting Tory is a negative vote.

  • Matthew Forkins 16th Jun '09 - 12:57pm

    Simon R – why the need for roll eyes? You denying that people used to think the Lib Dems were an ethical party e.g. the stance on Iraq. And have more recently been let down by it’s right ward lunge under Clegg?

  • Thank you, “A former Lib Dem”, for confirming that the Conservatives are misleading people with this leaflet.

  • Terry Gilbert 16th Jun '09 - 9:24pm


    On the objective criteria that the Tories start (from your own reckoning) on 38%, that leaves 62%. More than a quarter of those actually voted for us in a seat where we barely campaigned in 2005. The popular left wing Labour MP has just been forced out by his own side, who are in disarray, and many (most?) of his supporters will be looking for a new home – unlikely to be Cameron in my view (especially after last night’s Nazi accent gaffe, which has featured prominently on Radio Norfolk all day today.) The Greens and UKIP really are, as the Tories say, out of it.

  • “It would help if the party had a consistent message on votings systems, rather than having Nick Clegg jumping about from STV, to PR, to Jenkins AV+ on a referendum.”

    Since STV and AV+ are both types of PR, then Clegg has only ever mentioned two voting systems. It’s disingenuous of you to list PR there, as if it’s separate from the rest.

    Moreover, there has been no jumping about from Clegg. He’s made it quite clear that the party wants STV, but that if AV+ was the only option on the table, it would be a positive step.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Jun '09 - 12:32am


    I have no idea where these figures come from that you’re attributing to me. But no matter.

    If you want to believe that the Lib Dems are going to come from third place and take this seat, by all means believe it.

    But given what’s happened in the last few by elections, it would be wise not to raise expectations too much in public.

  • Terry Gilbert 17th Jun '09 - 5:56am

    ‘the polls are currently showing the Tories up by 5 points’ – your own words, above – together with a bar chart above of the last GE result!

    I don’t ‘believe the Lib Dems are (necessarily) going to come from third place and take this seat’; merely that if we did put the resources in, we could.

    Now lets get up there, get rid of those 20k Focuses, and convince our party bosses that we are prepared to give it a go!

    I am, as you will see from the Member’s Forum (assuming you are not a Tory troll, here to damp down our enthusism?), entirely realistic about waht might happen with (and without) those resources.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Jun '09 - 8:24am

    “assuming you are not a Tory troll, here to damp down our enthusism?”

    How boring.

    Just for fun – maybe you’re a Tory mole, trying to damage the party by building up false expectations and encouraging people to waste their time campaigning in a (probably) unwinnable election.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Jun '09 - 8:25am

    And by the way, I am no longer a member of the party, so the members’ forum is inaccessible to me.

    But I am not, and have never been, a supporter of the Tories.

  • It would be a more effective communication of the tactical position if the Tories had put the bar chart on every leaflet in Norwich North since 2005 and not artworked it yesterday.

    Oh hang on. The Tories don’t put out leaflets between elections.

    The voters round here tell us they know it’s election time when a Tory leaflet appears. A bit like the first cuckoo of spring.

  • Terry Gilbert 18th Jun '09 - 7:23am


    I do sincerely apologise, if as you say, you are a (presumably disillusioned?) ex member. It was beneath me to accuse you of being a Tory, something I would not wish on my worst enemy.

    I note, however, that my argument appears to be gaining traction? You are down to ‘(probably) unwinnable’, now!

  • Terry Gilbert 19th Jun '09 - 7:31am

    How interesting to see yet another ex-member here!
    But you only won the two Norwich North County seats because of a Labour collapse – both nationally, and locally after Greyhound Opening. I think one of your candidates won with only 620 votes? Perhaps you would like to tell us the respective County vote across the NN constituency?

  • Terry Gilbert 20th Jun '09 - 5:58am

    A deafening response!

    The Green Party came fourth in Norwich North at the County Elections on 4/6/09, btw…
    And they sat on their hands and allowed Labour to remain in control of Norwich City Council after the utter scandal of Greyhound Opening. The Labour leader has all but admitted he doesn’t know how to run the Council. What does it take to get Greens to vote against them? (See )

  • Siberian Tory 20th Jul '09 - 12:43pm

    An interesting thread. I do agree the misleading bar chart is unpalatable. I guess we’re in the glass house too now.

    Anyway, based on the national as opposed to local issues I shouldn’t be suprised if the Lib Dems recapture some of their vote from the Greens. The recent opnion polls see a decrease in the support for “other” parties with the support swinging back to us and you with Lab’ pretty static.

    That said it seems the Green party transcends the status of “other” in Norwich.

  • JustAnObserver 20th Jul '09 - 4:13pm

    Hypocritical to say the least for a LibDem to start whinging about bar chart misuse.

    The LibDems are the masters of it.

    And, though I may be wrong, I swear I can remember having LibDem Euro election material with bar charts on coming through my door in June.

    Never mind the fact that the Euro elections are based on PR.

    A tad dishonest if that was the case, no?

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