Friday, 20 April 2012

Lies damn lies and statistics

Because of the sad death of a Councillor Roger Belson over Christmas, Oxfordshire County Council held a by-election for the vacant division of Watlington in the South of the county. The division was held by the Tory candidate Caroline Newton. Although the share of the total votes for the Conservatives was only down by about 4%, the actual drop in votes was very dramatic. There were 1720 votes for the party in 2009 but only 865 in this by-election. The turnout was very poor, only 24% of those eligible to vote compared with 54% in 2009. I don't know if this is a common trend for by-elections but the fact that most of the voters stayed away and the vast majority of them were Tory doesn't bode well for the party next year. The Greens didn't put up a candidate this time but UKIP did. UKIP got 110 votes, obviously this helped bring the numbers down for the Tories. What I decided to do with the data "just for fun" as Peter Snow would say is apply the percentage changes to the three main parties to the other divisions in Oxfordshire. Only having a small sample and the numerous other variables that can come into play means it is only a very rough estimate but if the trend for the Tory voters did hold out until 2013 and similar happened in their other safe divisions then the Tories could be in trouble next year.

Here is the divisions as of 2009:

And then the projected divisions for 2013:

On this extrapolation the Tories would a two seat majority over the other parties. Of course this is based only on tweaking the numbers for the three main parties. If Labour and the Lib Dems put in a strong performance in most of the seats  then it could get end up looking a lot worse. I personally think the Tories have more to fear from the UKIP candidates as they can split their vote in the places were they're not really safe like Kennington and the Abingdon East and North divisions. The boundaries are being redrawn soon so we end up with less county councillors, not sure if this is in time for next year but this could also have unforeseen consequences. 

I hope the Tory group are having a long, hard look at themselves before the next election. Reading the reports in the newspapers about my favourite "oik assessor" Keith Mitchell (thanks to @daddyofbob for that one!) taking decisions on his own, announcing them to the media and expecting the group to back him, have done I think massive damage to the parties standing. Having also witnessed the "scrutiny" process first hand thanks to the pointless, vote killing library cuts, this is something that I believe also needs sorting. They are supposed to be independent and non-political, I personally don't think they are and they just follow the party line.  I have been searching the committee papers and have yet to find a single instance where the actually didn't approve something put to them and forced cabinet to look at something again. If true it means ideas and evidence are not being tested and it can only lead to bad decisions and policies being waved through. We see plenty of evidence of this in the Oxford Mail.

The time has come for the Tories to start listening to voters and not take them for granted in their rural seats as they have done for the past ten decade. And some proper, evidence based policies with real consultation that engages the voters with proper independent scrutiny. If they don't they could end up watching a coalition of Labour and Lib Dems running the County Council until 2017. Democracy demands it.

P.S I normally put up a link to the data. I'm not this time because I had to painstakingly cut and paste the results from annoying web pages on the OCC site because the council has thus far not put up the data in a actual data format! If anyone wants the data though just ask nicely and I will send it.

P.P.S here is a link to the Oik Assessors site with more info on the new county councillor, who unlike a lot of politicians has actual experience in the real world

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