2017 General Election Diary day 6: Record breaking

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Two bits of ‘things not seen in many years’ news coming out today. First up, Liberal Democrat membership has passed 100,000 for the first time since 1994. The milestone was passed at some point today, and the 100,000th member has yet to be revealed, but it’s another example of the way the party’s membership hasn’t just bounced back after the coalition but rocketed on to levels no one was really expecting to see again. The record membership for the party was just a little over 100,000, so expect to see that record broken at some point in the next day or two as well.

It will be interesting to see how this new membership affects the party, given that now over half of the party has joined (or rejoined) since the 2015 General Election. Will these new members be active campaigning in their local parties? Will they all want to come along to the party conference and use their right to vote? Of course, this is only a modern record for the party, as the old Liberals had membership in the hundreds of thousands up until the 1960s, but as I explained in an earlier post on why people join political parties, a lot of that membership was strictly local and more based on wanting to use the facilities of the local Liberal Club than any political tendency.

(For fans of international comparisons, I believe this makes the Lib Dems the largest party within the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, but still behind the Canadian Liberals in the contest to be the largest in Liberal International)

Our second bit of record-breaking comes in Welsh polling news. (Yes, I know I ranted about obsessing over polls yesterday, but I’ve got space to fill and tenuous links to make) Just as Labour look set to head back to early 1906 in having no MPs at all in Scotland, so the Tories are looking to head back to the 1920s in Wales. Which is when they were the largest party. It’s starting to feel like as well as John Curtice for the psephology, the BBC’s election night coverage is going to need a team of historians to keep up with all the ‘first time since’ news that breaks during the night.

With most political commentary looking over the Channel and processing the French Presidential first round results (if you missed it, my take is here), there’s been a slightly muted quality to election campaigning today, which might explain why no one’s seen Theresa May out taking the arguments to the people at all in the last twenty four hours. However, this morning did give us the now traditional first election sighting of Michael Fallon saying that Labour will be bad for Britain’s security. The real challenge for interviewers now is seeing just how long they can keep him talking for before he lapses into that soundbite, though anything longer than a few seconds seems frankly impossible.

In ‘maybe this is the moment that finally collapses this reality back into the real timeline’ news, Ed Miliband has started following the Miliverse Twitter account, which tells us what would have happened in a world where he’d won the 2015 election. Spoiler alert: there’s a lot less Brexit and a lot more arguments over biscuits.

And finally, it’s time for the return of the regular feature that at least one person mentioned on Twitter in the last week so I can claim it’s by popular demand: Election Leaflet Of The Day! And when it comes to the General Election, that title is even more descriptive than usual because we have just one General Election leaflet on the Election Leaflets site – and it’s from Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth South candidate for the Liberal Democrats. Unfortunately, Gerald made the classic error of being in such a rush to get the leaflet designed, printed and delivered that he forgot to include anything in it that makes for easy mockery from a blogger like me looking for cheap laughs. However, as the candidate of the first Election Leaflet Of The Day, he is now assured a place in a very, very, tiny footnote in the most meticulously detailed history of this election, should someone choose to write that.

And even though this isn’t a local elections blog, I do feel someone has to draw attention to this leaflet’s ‘we’ve paid for the stock footage of a magician, so yes, we’re using it, I don’t care how little it connects to the text’ aesthetic. I expect to see those principles applied to General Election publicity in the next few days, or I’ll start believing people aren’t really trying.

The referendum issues

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Yes, the burning issue here is the old one – is the plural referendums or referenda?

First up, interesting news from Wales where there’ll be a referendum at the start of March on granting new powers to the Welsh Assembly. The interesting part comes from the news that there may be no official referendum campaigns as it seems no one’s that interested in being the official No campaign. This would mean that there would be no official Yes campaign either, but as that’s supported by all four of the parties that sit in the Welsh Assembly, it’s not going to be short of support.

There does appear to be an attempt at a No campaign but – and this may be due to the fact I haven’t had much contact with Welsh politics for almost fifteen years – it doesn’t seem to make much sense, and seems to consist mainly of criticising the politicians rather than the policy.

Meanwhile, back in London, Labour peers in the House of Lords are trying to delay the referendum on AV, which presents the rather bizarre spectacle of them working to delay the implementation of something that was in their manifesto at the last election. I wonder what the Salisbury Convention would have to say about that?

But if anyone wants to see just why negotiations between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in May broke down, this is why. Given the number of Labour dinosaurs opposed to any reform in the voting system – and a Government that spent thirteen years kicking the issue into the long grass – it was obvious that Gordon Brown couldn’t deliver any promises on electoral reform, even before other issues were looked at.

2010 General Election Diary Day 29: Paper shortage

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Do you remember four weeks ago? When BBC News spent half an hour showing us live footage of Gordon Brown’s car driving through London, when David Cameron told us he was going to campaign for the ‘great ignored’ and the media didn’t really care who Nick Clegg was?

Yes, we’re four weeks into this campaign, with a little over 48 hours to go, or less if you’re a party leader. Must be great for them, not having to do anything but go out and vote, knowing that there’s no way for them to campaign any more, and there’ll be other people out there doing the knocking up for them on election day. The rest of us will be running up and down streets, looking for someone with a car to take someone to the polling station before it closes and wondering if this is the year that a Parliamentary seat or Council ward will be won by one single vote, so we can claim we made that difference. Though, for anyone doubting the need for work on election day, every election here in Colchester has featured at least one seat where the result could have been different (for every party) if there’d been one more person out knocking up for an hour or two on election day.

Lots of links for you today, you lucky people. Cicero’s Songs is waiting for the Liberal Democrat earthquake and Unlock Democracy has a point to make about hung Parliaments – would you rather be Greece or Germany? Over in Wales, my old friend Daran Hill writes for WalesHome about which seats there might see shock results on election night, while the New Statesman shocks us with the revelation that Ed Balls might just, possibly, be able to countenance the idea of someone voting for a party other than Labour.

Here in Colchester, we had some of the Young Britons’ Foundation leaflets delivered yesterday and The Bureau of Sabotage has some more information on them, including the interesting news that the deliverers of them may not have been doing it for ideological reasons, but purely for cash. I’m sure the YBF’s accounts will show that any payments for delivery were legal and above board, and not cash-in-hand payments dodging tax and employment laws. Changing the subject entirely, a rather shocking report from The Independent on what happened when a reporter attempted to investigate stories of election fraud in the East End.

After all that, have a break with a quick video:

As for me, it was a bit of a quiet day. Had to go to Ipswich this morning for non-election related work, but had an interesting tour of the Museums there, which are part of the joint Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service – and I’m sure I’ll talk about that at greater length after the election. I came back and went to do some deliveries, only to discover that thanks to a over-supply of volunteers today, there was very little left to do! Yes, today we were delivering things faster than we could print them, something that brings a smile to the face of every election agent. I did find a few things left to deliver, but just 100 to take my total deliveries for the campaign up to 3,450. From my memories of previous campaigns, I might double that in the next 48 hours.