"This might happen nationally" they say
The bizarre world of politics, in which black is white and losses are wins has afflicted the Exeter Green Party, which lost a by-election in the city this week and is claiming it a humungous success.
On Thursday, parties battled at the ballot box to represent Heavitree and Whipton on Devon County Council, previously held by Labour. Following the count, the seat is still Labour's. But statistics are wonderful things.
Out of the four main parties standing, the Greens came fourth. Only Frankie Rufolo, standing for the For Britain Movement, beat them in a rush to the bottom, where he secured 70 votes. Lizzie Woodman, the Green candidate, bagged 563 out of more than 3,200 cast, a share of just over 17 per cent. Because that percentage is up on the May 2017 vote and Labour's is down nearly 20 percentage points, the Greens are ecstatic.
“Watching the votes being counted on the night, we could see that Greens are topping the poll in the Heavitree ward part of the division," gushed Ms Woodman," unfortunately not illuminating us on the Whipton end. "I know Greens can win a future council election here.”
The party's election agent Chris Musgrove, a former Exeter City Labour councillor who defected to the Greens says: "This result could be seen as a barometer for what might happen nationally. It suggests a massive decline in Labour support in traditionally strong Labour areas, while the Tories fail to make headway. Meanwhile the combined vote of the two staunch remain parties, the Greens and Lib Dems, outperform both Labour and the Tories."
Such a split vote for remain parties could be their problem in the unlikely event that Mr Musgraves is right that Heavitree and Whipton really is the barometer for the UK. Third-placed Lib Dems polled 17 more votes than fourth-placed Greens in the election, receiving nearly 18 per cent of the ballot. Three and four rarely equals one.
- John Harvey (Conservatives) – 992 (30.7% – down 1%)
- Frankie Rufolo (For Britain Movement) – 70 – (2.2% – did not stand in 201)
- Greg Sheldon (Labour) – 1032 – (31.9% – down 19%)
- Rowena Squires (Liberal Democrats) – 576 – (17.8% – up 11%)
- Lizzie Woodman (Green) – 563 – (17.4% – up 11%)
Turnout was 31 per cent, down on the 42 per cent in May 2017. Local elections and especially local by-elections generally attract far fewer voters than general elections, and council by-elections generally attract a lower turnout still over main council elections.