The by-election result has given me plenty of food for thought, and not all of it as gloomy as the campaign made me feel.
Four or five weeks ago, I would have said Francis le Gresley was very likely to win by a country mile, on the strength of his CV being so much better than anybody else's. But, when he did in fact do so, I was actually quite surprised. He did not have a particularly good campaign, and his lacklustre hustings performances were well reported on the local blog scene.
So, I think my first lesson is that campaigning counts for less than it should – a decisive proportion of voters are going to vote according to their preconceptions of the candidates, and Francis le Gresley's public standing has been very high for a very long time. And a second lesson is that we bloggers are taken much less notice of by the general public than we like to think.
The upside of impotent blogging is that the vociferous clamour of the Syvret loyalists did not translate into enough votes to let him take any more long holidays at our expense. Now he can put his abject failure as a politician behind him, I hope he can make something of his journalistic career. Although he is an unpleasant man and a crushing disappointment to meet in person, he does have some real abilities, and could make the world a better place if he could only find an effective channel for them. By Election Day, I thought, from all the noise of his fans, that he was going to win, and I am glad to be wrong.
And on the subject of abject failures, I am upset to be proved right about the utter folly of Geoff Southern's campaign. Now it is too late, even he realises that people were not going to like the idea of voting for him when he is already in the States. He campaigned far better than Francis, but, as I said above, campaigning counts for less than preconceptions. And on the other hand, forcing Syvret voters, who had been JDA voters too, to choose has alienated a hefty chunk of the JDA's core vote. For the next couple of elections, the JDA may have to be a behind-the-scenes alliance again, as it was in the Deputies' round of the 2005 Election, until it has lived down this fiasco. Having put years of hard work into the JDA, I am most displeased by this setback.
Two more good things were that the turnout was far higher then I expected, and the lightweight candidates all did far worse than I thought they would. In particular, I thought Peter Remon-Whorral's cheeky charm was striking a chord with the public. However when it came to casting their votes, his lack of serious policy was overwhelmingly rejected. He may be well-liked, but almost nobody made the mistake of making that a reason to vote him into office.
I had better not be too dogmatic about campaigning not counting for much. Patrick Ryan was as good as Geoff Southern on the stage at Trinity hustings, and he managed to run Syvret a close third. I think he could be a Senator and Minister come 2012.
All in all, a lot better than I dared to hope for.
The tax gap and fiscal convergence
3 hours ago