Tuesday, November 15, 2022

How the Lib Dems lost a council seat in Ed Davey's constituency

Last week the Liberal Democrats lost a seat on Kingston Council in a by-election. I've not seen much discussion of this in Lib Dem circles, but then with the closure of the party newspaper, the instinctive loyalty of Lib Dem Voice and the decline of blogging generally, it's hard to find much Lib Dem discussion at all.

But an article from the On London site tells us much of what went on in the contest in Green Lane and St James ward, though it omits the fact that this corner of the borough was safe territory for us until a former Lib Dem leader of the council was convicted of possessing indecent images of children.

Anyway, this is what On London says about the contest - KIRG stands for Kingston Independent Residents' Group:

The Green Lane & St James contest was easily distinguished from a ray of sunshine. On 30 October the Labour and Lib Dem campaigns issued a statement criticising what they called divisive campaign tactics, referring to a leaflet circulated by KIRG’s councillor Giles making allegations about Rafiq in his capacity as external affairs officer of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The Conservative and local Green parties associated themselves with this denunciation.

The Ahmadiyya are a minority strand of Islam, who are targets both of Islamophobia from non-Muslims and denunciation from some Muslim bodies as not being properly Islamic. They are a familiar presence in south west London, being active in promoting the Quran to people in the streets.

On London, no doubt fairly, says the impact of this leaflet is hard to judge and that during the campaign there were also concerns about such local issues as cycle paths and green spaces, and a lingering ill-will about the council’s closure of the Kingfisher Leisure Centre.

It was also difficult for Lib Dems to make the argument that Kingston needed a 44th councillor from our ranks, when we so dominate the council already. (That's first past the post for you.)

But beware of getting the wrong impression of KIRG, As On London says:

In some ways KIRG is a classic localist party, trading on the rhetoric of being the authentic voice of the a community against the Westminster parties and picking up anti-Town Hall issues from every direction. But it is a bit different from others nearby, such as the long-established Merton Park residents or the Residents’ Association that runs Epsom & Ewell across the border in Surrey, which has a rather cuddly, even staid public image.

During May’s elections the KIRG attracted criticism for an aggressive populist approach to campaigning. Giles, a journalist, was manager of George Galloway’s rumbustious parliamentary by-election campaign in Batley & Spen in summer 2021 and has appeared on Galloway’s Sputnik programme on Russia Today (although he stressed to the Kingston Courier that he does not agree with Galloway’s anti-NATO views on Ukraine).


Dan said...

The point about having another Lib dem councillor when you already have pretty much all of them is well made. But it is more than that. Kingston council is terribly run, hates depate and scrutiny and most of the so called Lib Dem councillors are just in it for the money or ego. If the Tories hadn't been so unpopular in May the Lib Dems would no doubt lost seats - the entire Lib Dem campaign was about stopping the Tories. Without that then local issues came to the fore and this election was about local issues:
The terribly designed cycle lane
Over development and the Lib Dems broken promises to stop it
Out of touch councillors and council

The Lib dem choice of candidate enhanced these themes as he was clearly imposed by Davey on the ward for grander political reasons to atract Amadyiha votes in Wimbledon and Sutton and his views were not properly vetted beforehand - much like David Campanale from the Christian fundamentalist tradition.

KIRG played back traditional Lib Dem campaign tactics back at them. And if people think it was about one single leaflet attacking the Lib Dem candidate they're wrong - a single leaflet makes no difference as Mark Pack says:

The typical leaflet gets only a few seconds consideration from a member of the public – so you need to do a lot of leaflets to get anything more than the merest sliver of information over.

Source: https://www.markpack.org.uk/159114/leaflets/

GaryJ said...

I doubt if the 2013 conviction of the former Clunil leader had any relevance to this election. This ward seems to be the successor to Beverley Ward which Lib Dems gained comfortably in 2018.

Dan's assessment of Kingston politics may well be right but it shouldn't distract from the sinister nature of KIRG whose leader is an associate of George Galloway. The type of Muslim who might consider voting for Galloway might also be titillated by a bit of Ahmedi bashing

nigel hunter said...

I hope the party learns from this debacle and does not dismiss it as a one off.