An election with 14 candidates was always going to squeeze our share of the vote, making in-depth comparisons difficult. So we don’t view our 30 votes in quite as negative a light as you might suppose. Larger parties than us, that have polled much more in other circumstances, can limp in too; the English Democrats were also among those failing to make it into three figures at Eastleigh. Part of the problem with having a wide choice under first-past-the-post is that there’s often little that separates the smaller parties other than emphasis. The National Health Action Party supports the NHS. So do we. The Peace Party opposes militarism. So do we. Only proportional representation can remove the scourge of tactical voting.
A specific factor adding to the squeeze this time was UKIP. As soon as it became clear that Labour were a no-hoper, it was UKIP that mopped up the anti-Coalition vote. Their policies became almost irrelevant to that. Yet to protest against how the current crop of Westminster politicians manage the Whitehall farce is still an abdication of power and not, as a WR vote would be, an assertion of determination to take it back.
UKIP ran a campaign that was not only very well-organised but clearly very well-funded. Their campaign headquarters was a large, prominent building in the heart of the shopping area. That doesn’t come cheap. But with 11 MEPs, UKIP aren’t short of EU funding. The idea that the European Parliament might be paying for an anti-EU party’s attempt to get into the UK Parliament (from which it has so far been excluded by the time-honoured British practice of first-past-the-post) is one of history’s little ironies.
It would be naïve to suppose that we fight elections simply with a view to the votes, since our role is as much educational as political at this stage. What is currently of greatest positive significance to us is the publicity we gain, which is by no means limited to the seat contested. We have seen a phenomenal increase in web traffic over the past fortnight, with a steady stream of new followers on Facebook and Twitter and the highest-ever monthly number of pageviews on this blog, 3.6 times the number observed during the General Election campaign in May 2010. That is where value for our money lies.
Our aim therefore is to work for the last to be first. That’s what we exist to do, and we will continue to make the case for Wessex until it triumphs. The messages of support we have received – and continue to receive – are evidence enough that our ideas are sound, but remain sadly before their time. Sadly, because the longer it takes to implement them, the more wholly-avoidable suffering there will be.