08:22 Wednesday 1st May 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: In all elections you get a range of different people canvassing for your vote, and of course this week it is the county council elections. I bet you’ve had them all, knocking on your door .. different ideologies, different life experiences, people that use different methods of communicating as well. .. Let’s join our Political Correspondent Paul Rowley. Nationally, obviously, a big big week for the big parties.
PAUL ROWLEY: It’s a test for all the parties, and intriguingly, when these seats were last fought, four years ago, Labour were in government, and the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives were in opposition. Now it’s role reversal four years on. And for the Conservatives, well last time around they won 26 of the 27 county councils. Cambridge was one of those councils that the Tories actually won when Tony Blair had a landslide in 1997, and they’ve held on ever since. So it’s seemingly a strong Conservative area, but it looks as though Labour will make gains, certainly now that they are a party of opposition. And that’s the thing. You often find in circumstances like this that when the Government is going through a difficult period, as the last Government was, this one is now facing a lot of difficult spending decisions with the budget deficit, that governments do tend to get a bit of a kick up the ballot, as it were.
PAUL STAINTON: And they’ve got a lot to lose, the Conservatives, as you mentioned there. You’re a veteran of these events, and typically the people are apathetic about them. But maybe not this time around. People are angry, aren’t they? People are upset.
PAUL ROWLEY: There’s an element of that. And often on local issues that’s often a strong point too, in council elections. But always remember that much of the country isn’t going to vote tomorrow, not in the big cities, not in London, not in Scotland. Only one in Wales. Largely these are in what were Tory heartlands in the Shires. So the Tories may not do as bad as some people are predicting. At the same time, the Liberal Democrats, which were very strong in the past in local government, have taken a hit more than most, I think primarily because the raison d’etre often was being that third party, that party of being different, a party not of the establishment in certain respects. Now they’re in Government, that’s more difficult for them. One of the problems that you find in certain councils is that the Conservatives’ main challengers are the Liberal Democrats. If you want to give the Government a bit of a kicking, it’s more difficult than you think.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And many many column inches dedicated to UKIP and Nigel Farage throughout this election. Here in Cambridgeshire of course they’ve already got a stronghold in Ramsey, and they’ve got plenty to build on.
PAUL ROWLEY: They have. I mean it’s extraordinary really for a party that’s got no Members of Parliament. Their strongest base is in the European Parliament where they have 11 Euro MPs, even though they don’t believe in the place. They want Britain to withdraw from the European Union. And at the same time they have finished second in three Parliamentary by-elections of late, and what they’ve done in may respects is replace the Liberal Democrats as a party of protest, now that the Liberal Democrats are a party of government. And also I think they’re getting a lot of votes from disaffected Conservatives largely, although evidence does suggest they’re also taking votes from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. So it’s going to be fascinating. Yes, they’ve had a week of publicity. They say that no publicity is bad publicity, although they’ve had to get rid of some of their candidates.
PAUL STAINTON: You’d almost think wouldn’t you that a machine is behind some of the negative publicity that’s come out about UKIP. You’d almost think that, wouldn’t you?
PAUL ROWLEY: Well as Oscar Wilde said, there’s one thing worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about. And they are being talked about. And so Nigel Farage, who’s a very charismatic leader, very upfront, likes his cigs, likes his pint, a man of the people. He says he used to work in the City as a stockbroker, and he worked very hard until lunchtime when he went to the pub. So he’s very engaging in that respect. So I think they will get .. he thinks they’re going to get their biggest ever result tomorrow. They’re fielding 1700 candidates, which is three times what they fielded last time. And I think they’re expecting to do well.