I was up at 4am yesterday to help my friend Bob Neill in Bromley. In the couple of days that I spent there late in the campaign, I could see that it would not be a walkover. Any campaigner will tell you that a message only resonates with the public once you have got bored of repeating it. The two comments that I heard most frequently were "I have never seen so much paperwork and interest in an election here" and "I'm not happy to have an MP that does not live locally."
Bob has pledged to move into the constituency but has represented Bromley for six years now as a London Assembly Member. Local connections are important but these will count for nothing if an MP is not effective. I was appalled by the negative campaigning of the LibDems, who always take a holier-than-thou attitude whilst laying the boot in. The defeated candidate doesn't live in the constituency either, published a photo of him cleaning graffiti only for someone else to notice that the same graffiti was there the day after and claimed to have worked in an orphanage that he, in fact visited for a couple of hours.
None of this would matter if it was part of a wider campaign showing positive messages as to how the lives of Bromley residents would improve by putting their cross next to that candidate's name. Whereas Bob campaigned on crime and back garden development, there wasn't a sniff of a policy in the LibDem literature. It just means that in Carshalton & Wallington we will have to take note and redouble our efforts to explain what differences we can make for all of us.
Finally looking at the wider picture, much of the LibDem gain from a much-reduced turnout was from a squeezed Labour vote which plummeted by over 15% to put Labour in fourth place behind UKIP.
(Photo: Guido Fawkes)