Thursday, 9 January 2014

A disappointing result in Borough Green and Long Mill.

I am sorry to say that we lost the Borough Green and Long Mill By Election in Tonbridge & Malling, by 104 votes. The Independent candidate, Mike Taylor, who is Chairman of Borough Green Parish Council, was the winner; and I send him my congratulations.

The full result was:

Independent - 692 (39%)
Conservative - 588 (34%)
UKIP - 349 (20%)
Labour - 84 (4%)
Green - 68 (3%)

It never feels good to lose a by-election but that is part of the democratic process. If seats never changed hands we would never have a change of government. We are happy to claim credit when we win - so we must be equally ready to accept the verdict of the voters when we don't.

What is interesting about this result, however, was the changing vote shares across the ward, which comprises four distinct communities; Borough Green has c 50% of voters, Platt 25%, Plaxtol 17% and Shipbourne 8%.  In the three rural parishes our vote share (including absent votes) was identical to 2011 (when the seat was last contested) and actually showed an increase on what was achieved in the County Council result last May. This was not sufficient, however, to counter the independent candidate's appeal in his home village. Our share of the vote in Borough Green fell from around 40% in 2011 to 15% tonight, with the independent candidate on around 60%.

Had the by-election been a referendum on the Conservative Council, the Government or the local campaign, then we would have lost support across the board. That didn't happen; in three of the four polling stations our share improved. We lost this election due to a massive 25% swing against us in one village; Borough Green.  What we need to do is identify why; after all, they all had the same leaflets, the same number of knocks on the door, the same GOTV campaign. 

I am surprised? In truth; no I am not. I picked-up the first signs of the independent candidate's bandwagon starting to roll on 2 January. By yesterday I knew the writing was on the wall. My blog on the by-election (posted last night) was trying to prepare the ground. Those who know me well picked up on the nuances, for example...

" I fret endlessly over what we could or should have done differently..."

" In 2011 the independent polled 900 votes compared with the lowest Conservative vote of 1,250 - so our majority is just over 350 in a ward of 5,000 voters."

"The issue is further complicated by the fact UKIP did not stand last time, but are standing now."

...and by 9.30am today, I knew we had lost. In fact, I told Jon Botten and the Association Chairman to expect defeat as soon as I had seen the first three teller's slips.

My biggest disappointment is for all those hard working and loyal volunteers who gave their time to help deliver leaflets, canvass residents, address envelopes, take numbers at the polling stations and help GOTV; they are a magnificent, selfless, dedicated and honourable team whose commitment makes me proud to be their agent. 

So well done again to Mike Taylor, I really do wish him well.


  1. I don't suppose you could tell us what sort of independent he is?

    1. Sorry Anon, I really don't know him well enough to make such judgements.

    2. And, perhaps that's why you lost. If you can't be bothered to take an interest in your opposition and the people they represent - why should people vote for you?
      You can read more about Mike Taylor at his website -

    3. Not at all, I just don't wish to express a personal view on Mr Taylor.

    4. (First anon again)

      Was wondering what sort of campaign, rather then personal qualities - anti-corruption, etc.

    5. Mike Taylor is a man of the people. He is not afraid of getting his hands dirty helping with the clearing of snow or putting the Christmas tree lights up. He is well known in the village and is very approachable. He is also not afraid of saying how it is and does not beat around the bush as so many politicians do. Borough Green is a fantastic friendly village and Mike has a lot a lot to do with this.

  2. Voice from the South West10 January 2014 at 04:06

    I know how it feels. I was a Conservative Councillor for a rural council in the West Country and we had the same problem with Independents and/or popular personalities standing for other parties. Sometimes there really is very little you can do if a well-known local person stands as an Independent, or any other party for that matter. It is very hard to stop people voting for someone they know and like! A lot of it comes down to candidate selection (this is not a criticism of your candidate, I am sure he is and was excellent) and effective targeting. When I won my ward I did it by overwhelmingly winning the poll in the largest parish, which was so large it was enough to put me over the top despite losing the other two parishes in the ward. However I probably did the most effective campaigning in the two parishes that I lost, the aim being simply to poll enough votes to make sure I was at least in with a shout. As I only won by 38 votes, 20 of them coming from the tiny, but nevertheless home parish of my Lib Dem opponent, I think the strategy worked. Then again it helped that I lived in the largest parish, had I come from outside the ward and followed the same strategy I probably would have lost as I would not have been “known” enough!

    1. Conspicuous involvement in local issues over a long period of time can count for a great deal at this level of politics. It can be quite telling to see who is standing. If you care about making people's lives better, fairer, etc (which ultimately what politics is about, yes?) then you need to be able to show the evidence of that, rather than just coming across as a career politician in it for self-improvement and personal prestige or ambition. At the national level politics in this country has suffered badly in this area i fear.

      At the local level it shouldn't be too hard to demonstrate real commitment and interest, if you live in the community and get involved in community-related activities etc, but it is still amazing how few candidates on their leaflets seem able to document this with any clarity.

      And in advance of an election, there is no excuse for not doing your homework! Find out what the local issues are (which should be easy if you are already showing a close interest and involvement in local matters) and speak clearly to those issues, not being afraid to make bold statements about your views. There's way too much fudge and fluff these days! Although having said that, after the Lib Dems dreadful behaviour after the last election in showing that grasping power really does take precedence over the convictions on which you campaigned, I suppose other parties will be careful what they say in case they render themselves unelectable in the future (as the Lib Dems have done) by breaking bold pre-election promises!

      Pick a candidate who is local and who knows the local issues and has a good level of involvement in the local community and you're definitely in with a chance.

  3. As someone living in Borough Green, here's an observation about this by-election.

    At this level of local authority and democracy, it is local issues that matter. Very local issues. The candidates need to address specific local issues and speak boldly about what they will and won't do about local issues.

    My wife was at home when the UKIP candidate knocked on the door and delivered his leaflet. Her impression was that the guy, as nice as I'm sure he is, said nothing about local issues. It was all national-level party politics. (Although he was the only candidate who knocked on our door, so presumably most others think this is a waste of time nowadays?)

    The conservative leaflet was only a bit better really, to be honest (and even, rather cheekily, seemed to suggest that the recent efforts to improve the station gardens were down to the local Conservative party!). And any candidate standing under a national party banner is potentially going to be at a disadvantage at a local level precisely because of being saddled with national-level party policies, that may or may not be perceived as having relevance at the local level.

    I'm not suggesting the independent candidate's leaflet was great, or indeed that his policies are necessarily better or very well thought out, but I suppose people in Borough Green do know more about what he stands for and his passionate interest in very local issues, even if you disagree strongly with his views and/or his way of expressing them! And in a council that is so (dangerously?) dominated by one party, it's healthy in a democracy to have some different voices speaking up.

    But let's be honest. Will the election of an independent to TMBC make any real difference? No, of course not, so I don't think the Conservatives have anything to worry about really, do they?!

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

  4. Andrew
    An interesting analysis of your defeat but I think you are failing to give enough "credit" to UKIP for splitting your vote. True, they probably pulled some Labour votes too but, whichever way you cut the numbers, their share of the vote prevented the Conservatives from holding this seat which has to be a worry for you in electoral terms. However, their rise should also be a worry to us all of in general political terms. I know you share my abhorrence of their xenophobic and anti-immigrant outlook that helps to legitimize racist views and I hope local Conservatives will continue to be steadfast in their opposition to this.
    All this said, Mike Taylor is a worthy winner in his own right. He has worked hard for the local community and will make a good Borough Councillor. I congratulate him wholeheartedly.
    Howard Porter

    1. Hi Howard

      I am not keen on this "they split our vote" business; such sentiments imply that certain blocks of voters belong to established parties and are ours by right. People could equally say "Labour lost because the Greens split the left".

      UKIP certainly did not help, however there is no evidence that had they not stood their votes wouldn't have also gone to Mr Taylor (or vice versa). After all, if the UKIP voters had wanted to vote Conservative they could and would have done so.

      What I did find most interesting was our vote share in the three more rural polling stations actually showed no decline compared with 2011, despite the UKIP presence this time. UKIP have traditionally polled strongly in these communities, but did not really do so yesterday, most of their votes coming from Borough Green.

  5. As a previous comment said, this election was very much about local issues and Mike Taylor although a bit of a maverick, is passionate about doing things for the local area. He has proved that he can get things done even if it means putting his head on the block! In my view the reason the conservatives didn't win more votes was because they put the wrong candidate forward. A husband and wife team in Stuart and Sue Murray, both as borough councillors for the same ward, doesn't sit well with many, together with the fact that Stuart has never been directly involved with issues in the area (obviously always left it up to his wife) - perhaps that's why the conservatives didn't win!

  6. Good to see such minimal support for the Greens. It would be interesting to know if their vote diminished from last time, and which party picked up those votes instead. I'd hope UKIP did well, as the AGW scam is unravelling and also people are beginning to see how the EU is working against local interests.

  7. It is heartening to be called "maverick", just as I was pleased to be called "troublemaker" by conservative campaigners. My eyes were opened by seeing the party machines in action both Tory and Ukip, and it reinforces just how surprising "and fragile" my victory was. A party assembles some policies into a manifesto, and then seeks to impose that on the electorate. I may be hopelessly naive, but I believe in taking people's hopes and dreams and making them my policies, the complete opposite. If the Party system is so good, why do you need whips?
    Finally, the ultimate destination , if unintended, for party politics is the totalitarian one party state, and we are already seeing whispers of change in the Law heading that way, Freedom of the Press? Mike Taylor

  8. Most people regard Mike Taylor as a Socialist ? Seems he was afraid to stand under his true colours. These people always pretend to be independent but they eventually come out in their true colours ?

  9. Had to reply to Anonymous Anonymous : Seems like a bit of a cheek, using Andrew's blog, but he's a good hearted guy. I am not aware of what politics people ascribe to me, but they are ALL wrong. In my callow youth I was a member of the Labour Party, but was horrified by the direction "New Labour" took, so tore up my card and resigned. I have since come to the opinion that all parties are wrong, because they try and force peoples opinions into a narrow band, and whilst I can see sense in bits of tory, ukip, green, LD and Labour, they all have other policies that make me shudder : hence Independent, and proud. I don't have a secret plan. WYSIWYG, seemples !!
    Mike Taylor Independent