He has achieved his principal objective: to make it even harder for the Tories to defeat him. Yet in terms of his supposed principles, there has been a heavy cost. This adds a further contour line to Michael Howard’s already mountainous challenge.So Mr Blair will not be depressed by his poor performance in the various electoral forums. Even if it only wins 3 per cent at a general election, two and a half of that will probably come from the Tories. Mr Blair has calculated that a good UKIP result now will enable that party to win more votes at the next election.Extreme parties reserve an especial hatred for their mainstream competitors. UKIP, which nurses fantasies about one day replacing the Tories, is likely to make a strong effort in Labour/Tory marginals.
Tory canvassers who encountered deserters to UKIP report that most of them declared their intention of returning to the Tories for the general election Not all will. That certainly cost the Tories one seat in the London Assembly, and no doubt others as well in councils.Tony Blair also had a longer-term goal. Equally, he was happy to give the United Kingdom Independence Party a means of increasing its vote in the local contests, at the Tories’ expense. Local elections ought to be about local issues; European ones, about Europe But Mr Blair did not want an election on Europe It would have caused him embarrassment.
Mr Blair’s second manipulation was to ensure that the local elections would be held on the same day as the European elections All common sense should revolt against that decision. It is equally essential that most voters should not cast their ballots until polling day; otherwise, there is little point in an election campaign.Anyone who does not share Tony Blair’s contempt for electoral integrity must hope that some of his cynical experiments will be struck down by judicial review.The political cynicism is harder to override. It is to be hoped that these are thoroughly investigated and that the defective results will be challenged in the courts. In the course of the 19th century, it was gradually recognised that a secret ballot is an essential democratic safeguard. Under John Prescott’s direction, it was the electoral process which got a good kicking.There have been numerous allegations that the postal ballots were polluted by fraud. Yet Mr Blair entrusted it to a man who can barely speak his own language The outcome was predictable.
He merely maximised the turnout of those who, in John Prescott’s words, wanted to give the Labour government a good kicking.
This electoral experiment was bound to be complex There was always the danger of chaos. Tony Blair tried to gerrymander the recent elections in two ways One worked, one did not Postal ballots were not a success. Mr Blair overrode the recommendations of the Electoral Commission and the doubts of the House of Lords. He insisted on postal ballots in four regions rather than two, in the hope of maximising the turnout of Labour voters.