Traditional Tory voters in London are coming across to the LibDems

Siobhan Benita, our London spokesperson and 2020 mayoral candidate (right), has been campaigning for LibDem candidates all over London. Yesterday she spoke to me about how things are going. This was her assessment:

I think it is going really well. We’re definitely seeing, in some of our key target seats, what we’ve heard here (in City of London and Westminster), which is (that) especially traditional Conservative voters, are (coming across to the LibDems). (This is) not just about Brexit – what we were hearing in Kensington yesterday, for example with Sam’s team, and a lot of the older voters there who have only ever voted Conservative, were saying they don’t associate with Boris Johnson’s Conservative party – they don’t like him – they don’t like the lies he is saying – and for the first time ever – some of them had already postal voted – they’d already given us their vote. So I think we are definitely seeing that across the capital. The nice thing for me, I think as well, is that I know we are obviously strong in parts of London – say south-west London – we have traditionally been strong. I’m definitely getting that sense in the north as well, in Finchley and Golders Green it’s going to be really really exciting there too. So I am hoping that we can – you know – change the map across London and that we’ll be seeing yellow pockets across London, other than the south-west – but I think we’ll grow there as well.

I asked Siobhan is she was seeing people more willing than previously to vote tactially and this was her reply:

Definitely. And I mean that’s what we’re urging people to do and…certainly where we are Tory-facing that’s where that message is really cutting through. I think what some people are more scared of was letting in a Jeremy Corbyn government. Now that the polls show that’s virtually impossible I think our message is getting through even more. I think what people were nervous of before was – the only thing that some Conservatives were more concerned about than Brexit was Jeremy Corbyn – now I think that they’ve seen that’s not going to be an issue – actually a hung parliament is the most likely outcome – then they are even more likely to give us their vote. So that’s absolutely the message we need to be stressing in these last days.

You can hear my full interview with Siobhan on SoundCloud here.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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23 Comments

  • I think for the ex-Tories it would be crucial to know, that the Lib Dems don’t help Corbyn to number 10, or even in a case that Labour would offer another candidate for Prime Minister (say, John McDonnell), Lib Dems wouldn’t support any nationalisation program of a Labour government.

    I wish that Lib Dems can attract ex-Tory voters also from the home counties. Time to take that “blue wall” of David Cameron down. Labour can’t do it, especially as long as Corbyn is at its helm, but Lib Dems might.

  • marcstevens 4th Dec '19 - 10:32am

    I think some of us would like some nationalisation for example of the railways. Vince Cable did and there is nothing wrong with that where it can be run better and that’s what a mixed economy is all about and a better supported public sector. Labour should not have a monopoly on this issue.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Dec '19 - 11:11am

    Meanwhile, traditional opponents of the Conservative Party are saying they will be voting Conservative.

    Why is this? Because they are unhappy about the way our country has become more unequal, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and how control of our country seems to have switched to shady billionaires. They have been persuaded to believe that democratic control and a more equal society will be obtained by leaving the EU, and they are voting Conservative because the Conservatives have become the Brexit party.

    In fact, the Brexiteers leading the Conservative Party want Brexit to be able to push things even further their way towards an extreme right-wing economy run by and for shady billionaires.

    And what is our attitude to this? To persuade them that they have been conned, and what had caused their unhappiness is actually the economic policy of the Conservative Party rather than the EU? No, rather we have dismissed them and let the Conservatives tricksters win. I.e. people are voting Conservative in order to show their opposition to what the Conservatives stand for, and we have done nothing to persuade them that that is nonsense.

    And now it seems, from what is written here, that we want to take that further, by pushing the impression that we are the party that stands for what the Conservative Party used to be about. Doing that to obtain the votes of a few very wealthy people in elite parts of the country, while throwing away the support of millions who used to be why we won seats especially in arts of the country where people felt no-one else understood their concerns and spoke for them.

    This is madness, and is wrecking our party. If the aim really is to turn us into what was the 1980s Conservative Party, please let me know, and I shall leave after 40 years of membership which started because I felt the Liberal Party was the best opposition to the Conservative Party where I lived.

  • nvelope2003 4th Dec '19 - 11:37am

    nationalisation means Government control by people who have no knowledge or understanding of the industries thye are running. The Assistant General Secretary of the RMT stated on BBC Radio 4 that they had come to an agreement with South Western Railway to settle the dispute about the role of the guard but the Government had vetoed the deal so the strikes have gone ahead disrupting the travel of many people, no doubt for political reasons – there is an election on 12.12.2019
    This would not be possible if the state did not control the railways through the franchise system

  • Peter Hirst 4th Dec '19 - 3:23pm

    London is certainly an interesting electoral battle ground. People have a check list that must be ticked off before transferring their vote. Under our present electoral system, tactical voting is a risk but how can you vote other than how your conscience dictates. For many the priority must be to avoid a Johnson Brexit.

  • Matthew,
    I was leafletting an estate in Brentford this week and came across a chap stranded in a mobile scooter that had lost its electric charge. He was only a couple of hundred yards from his home, but it was all uphill and these things have speed devices that make them difficult to push. Myself and a polish guy set about the task of pushing him home and we were joined by a teenager from the estate when we reached the top of the hill.
    Going about this estate, I found little love lost for the Tories, but little enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour or the EU either. Many were quite apathetic and few thought the outcome of the election would make much difference to their individual circumstances whoever got in.
    The Brentford and Isleworth constituency is split between an area of very expensive housing in the east near central london, a relatively affluent centre (once industrial now very much dominated by office blocks) and a more downmarket town centre to the West with a high ethnic population, in which Kashmir is a prominent issue. The demographics dictate the attitude to remain with many Conservative voters in the east part of the borough strongly supporting remain and much of the rest of the borough more evenly divided.
    Across the other side of London is Dagenham and Rainham. I stood as the Libdem parliamentary candidate there in 2010 when John Cruddas won the seat for Labour with a 6% majority over the Conservatives. He held the seat in 2017 with a 10% majority of close to 5,000 votes. According to electoral calculus that vote share has now swung about in favour of the Conservatives https://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/fcgi-bin/seatdetails.py?seat=Dagenham+and+Rainham. This is a traditional working-class community, site of the old Ford Car factory and Becontree, one of the largest public housing estates in Europe.
    The issues for many in this part of East London are immigration and housing. There is a very strong leave vote and little by way of support for a more Liberal International outlook.
    Finchley and Golders Green (Margaret Thatcher’s old constituency) was won for Labour by my old friend Rudi Vis in 1997 and taken back by the Conservatives after he stood down just prior to his death in 2010. Luciana Berger has a good prospect of pushing Labour into third place in this seat on the basis of their anti-semitism record alone, although it will be a harder task to overtake the Tories here.
    This is London. 73 constituencies – each with their own particular demographics and ethnic mix dictating the focus of priorities among an economically and ethnically diverse group of voters.

  • marcstevens 4th Dec '19 - 10:22pm

    Well the East Coast line is doing ok in public hands and railway people are running it and know what they are doing. More East Coast lines in public hands to come please eg nationalisation and a reduction in train fares for those of us who not well off, that makes just a few of us on here then by the looks of things.

  • I recently spent time in a traditionally middle class community in London. I found no one person who’s circumstances neatly summed up the area and no evidence of a hive mind. I strongly suspect that it’s the same in other “communities”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Dec '19 - 10:21am

    Joe Bourke

    Going about this estate, I found little love lost for the Tories, but little enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour or the EU either.

    Indeed, so why aren’t we picking up loads of votes because there is no enthusiasm for either of the main parties? We used to be able to do that, it was what caused our party to grow and thrive – up until 2010.

    The issues for many in this part of East London are immigration and housing. There is a very strong leave vote and little by way of support for a more Liberal International outlook.

    Well, here is one reason, and what have we done to tackle it? Nothing.

    Instead, by putting out the impression that the only votes we are interested in are those who were enthusiastic supporters for Remain from the start, we have lost millions of potential votes. What we need to do is show an understanding for why so many voted Leave, and sympathy for their concerns over a country where inequality has grown and control seems to have moved from democracy to a wealthy elite who run the country just for themselves. Instead, what is being suggested in the original article by Paul Walter is that we are putting our effort into getting the votes of the wealthy elite.

    Doing this is just pushing even further those who voted Leave into believing that remaining in the EU is all about supporting the wealthy elite, and the way to get the more equal and democratic society is to leave the EU. I am very alarmed at the way so many who voted Leave just as a vague protest, and never really knew exactly what it would mean, have now become firm supporters of Leave, to the point that they will vote Conservative even though up till now they were strongly opposed to the Conservatives.

    The idea, pushed by the Conservative Brexiteers, that leaving the EU will give us more “control”, sounds very attractive for those who yearn for a more equal and democratic society. So we needed to explain how the EU does not have strong control over how our country is run, to say what its actual role is. It is actually the control of shady international billionaires that the EU has that the Conservatives want to end, not to bring back a more democratic society. We have done nothing like this to challenge the Conservatives and to stop voters from being enslaved by ignorance.

  • nvelope2003 5th Dec '19 - 2:31pm

    marcstevens: Ah the East Coast Mainline ! – the only line in the country which made a profit even before privatisation and which need never have been privatised, the problem was that all the rest cost the taxpayers a fortune and something had to be done.
    Of course the actual operation of the trains was always in the hands of railwaymen but the (mis)management of the system was and is in the hands of the politicians who use it to provoke strikes during election times and try out their often crazy pet schemes when it suits them.
    Do you know what fares were like when BR was nationalised ? Why should people who do not use trains or do not have any within 40 miles of their homes pay for those who do use or have them ?

  • marcstevens 6th Dec '19 - 7:34pm

    Well if the railway network were expanded more people would be happy to use the train. Those Beeching cuts closed down so many rural stations and trains are routed via London to many destinations where they should be more cross-county and better connectivity up north. Many journeys are more expensive within the UK than using Eurostar or the plane and trains are more environmentally friendly. Don’t get me started on my experiences of using the multifarious operating companies. So somehow I think bringing them back into public ownership is a great idea, a vote winner, benefits everyone including those of us on lower incomes and is a ‘social liberal’ policy and is what needs to happen. And we need more social liberalism to win more seats as orange booker liberalism is failing.

  • marcstevens – The advantage of being run by the government is that not every utility has to turn a profit. You can have trains run at a deficit because you know having trains is in itself beneficiary to the rest of your society, and use taxes to compensate for that more broadly, rather than punish people for using trains when they’re a better alternative than most transportation forms.

    Trains tend to be hurt badly by the fact that they already pay most of their externalities directly. Cars don’t pay for the roads directly, but train companies have to build the tracks and maintain them out of their own pocket. Why should cars, which are overall pretty problematic, should be supported by taxes, but not trains?

    Currently, my stance is to have a “public option”, I mean, to create a public-owned company to operate in the railway sector along side with current private firms. I dislike the fact that foreign state-owned operators are free to run services her but British public entities are not. However, I feel like I may switch to supporting full-blown railway renationalization soon. It is clear that British railway system is worse than most Continental European countries where railways are owned and run by the state.

  • nvelope2003 7th Dec '19 - 12:00pm

    Before the Beeching closures I tried to use the trains before the lines were closed and I was sometimes the only person on the train. When I visited my family the train stopped at rural stations where no one got on or off. It was just irritating as the journey took longer. Fares were high compared to buses and coaches despite huge subsidies.

    Train companies do not build or maintain the tracks, signalling or stations as this is done by Network Rail which is already owned by the state. The train companies are merely contractors providing train services which the Government requires, specifying the timetable, the number of trains and number of carriages per train. Fines are levied for failure to comply.

    France, Italy and Germany and some other countries use private companies to provide trains on some, particularly loss making, routes. The picture in the Labour publicity of an Italian train was of a private service !
    Foreign state railways are normally the cheapest as most British train operators have abandoned railways as the margins are too poor and Government controls too onerous. We import many things so why not train services ? British companies operate train services in Europe. You cannot ban foreign companies if you want them to use our operators.
    I use different train companies and have had no problems yet.
    I would like to see some routes restored where there are gaps but even now some stations produce very few passengers. Resources are not unlimited and money needs to be spent where it is really needed. My home town no longer has train service but few used it when it did. The bus is more convenient for most people as it goes direct to where most passengers want to go. I think better connections with the nearest railway station would be preferable to costly rebuilding of the railway line, costing billions.
    When we had nationalised railways people complained about them too. They think everything should be perfect but that will never happen except in Japan. The trains in rural France are very poor as even their Government admits.

  • marcstevens 7th Dec '19 - 12:59pm

    Thomas – on what you say about the trains I wholeheartedly agree with you. I was toying with the idea of having them run by local or regional authorities a bit like a TfL model but country-wide but haven’t fully worked this out yet but you never know it could work. It would still be a national system in the public sector but with more local control of the network. It does annoy me that Labour is making the running on this issue and not the Lib Dems.

  • nvelope2003 8th Dec '19 - 3:05pm

    Thomas /marcstevens: I do not think you were around when we had a fully nationalised railway system where private firms were banned from operating any trains.
    The London Overground is operated by a private company although it does not say so on the trains. It is generally considered good.
    I thought one of the differences between Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party was that Liberals believed in freedom and private enterprise while the Labour Party believed in state control and government ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Is there evidence that such a system works better than private enterprise and makes for prosperity ? When I went to Eastern Europe whilst it was state controlled it was a pitiful shambles. On the journeys from the airport to the capital things looked like they did here after the Second World war with buildings crumbling and everything decrepit. The trains were an utter disgrace – filthy and slow. I stopped reading left wing newspapers on my return.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '19 - 5:08pm

    marcstevens:

    “Many [train] journeys are more expensive within the UK than using Eurostar or the plane”

    Actually, open flexible fares on Eurostar or the plane (grouping these together is quite appropriate as Eurostar is essentially an airline on rails rather than a traditional train service) are generally more expensive for the distance travelled than the equivalent on UK domestic trains. And unlike the airlines (whether in the air or on rails) the UK’s traditional train services have affordable off-peak walk-up fares. If you want a cheap fare on Eurostar or the airlines in the air, the only way is to fix your travel plans and pay a hefty surcharge if you want to change them. Cheap advance-purchase fares also exist on UK National Rail services, but they are not the only way to travel reasonably cheaply on our National Rail network.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '19 - 5:50pm

    The problem Joseph Bourke’s idea of competitive bidding for individual rail track slots is that it would lead to total fragmentation of the rail network. Passenger rail services function best as an integrated network. If we have slots for rail services on a busy commuter line between towns A and B every half-hour, how can there be a co-ordinated service if 3 or 4 separate operators gain the rights for the slots for that line in an arbitrary fashion? How can you have timetabling and ticketing integration? How do the services fit in with those on other routes that connect with them? This arrangement would confuse passengers, not give them any meaningful “choice” of train service.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Dec '19 - 7:45pm

    Virgin Trains has just run its last train service, so it is no longer a player in the passenger train market. In any case, what is convenient for a train operator is not necessarily useful for passengers. Virgin’s proposal would require trains to be 100% bookahead, like flights are. But train travel is largely a turn-up-and-go affair, even for long-distance services. If I suddenly find I have to travel to Birmingham or Manchester from London, I want to be able to go to the station, buy a ticket and hop on the next train. Under a regime of airline-style fares and slot allocations, this would not be possible.

  • marcstevens 9th Dec '19 - 8:18pm

    Yes because I am a bit old in the tooth anyway so why shouldn’t I remember. I used to be able to make a long distance journey on the spur of the moment at a fraction of the cost nowadays. Do correct me if I am wrong but the Party I was a member of for many years eg Liberal Democrats always believed in a mixed economy so that means a system combining public ownership and private enterprise and the railways are good candidate for the former. The NHS isn’t there for prosperity but as a public sector service unless this is now your new orange booker idea, let’s hope it never becomes party policy. UK train companies get more of their money from passengers than through government subsidies so fares are invariably more expensive. An expanded nationalised railway network with the disused stations re-opened and new stations built, would improve connectivity, transform the country, economy, impact road congestion and is more environmentally friendly, many buses aren’t these days.

  • marcstevens: If you read my posts you would know that I am not in favour of privatising the NHS or the probation service, prisons, the justice system etc and I would not be upset if water and energy were taken into public ownership but I would not support total state control of these industries as some degree of private enterprise could be beneficial just as we still have some rail services in the public sector.
    I have looked at the train fares for journeys I made with British Rail and the fares are about the same when inflation is taken into account. The main difference from my experience is that trains now mostly run on time which was not the case before.
    When you ask for stations to be reopened you should ask yourself why they were closed. From my observations it was because very few people used them. Rail is a very expensive form of transport and only suitable for carrying large numbers of people. Even now some stations are used by only 2 people each day. Many of my relatives were railway workers so I do know something about trains as they tended to talk about little else when we met which I enjoyed.
    Liberals should not support state monopolies any more than private ones. The Royal Mail used to have a monopoly of communications. If that still existed would we have emails and the ability to post on sites like this ? We would still have horse drawn stage coaches if private companies had not built the railways and then bus services. We do have electric buses now but the diesel ones cannot be replaced overnight.

    I see that “Thomas” despises rural people so who would produce the food we eat and live in places where services are limited because urban tax payers do not want to pay for them ? Yes they do tend to be a bit right wing but maybe that is because they have to look after themselves and be self reliant whereas urban people expect someone else to do the things they do not want to do.

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