I'm about to show you just how huge 106 votes are. The first Pirate Pioneers in the UK did not always poll in triple figures, this time every candidate did... but before we get into that, let's reflect on what happened at The Count on election night for the first Welsh Pirate election, in Bridgend.
There is no denying there was always a strong undertone in Bridgend that “If we don't vote Labour then the Tories will get in” and many Pirate voters originally expressed the same concern to me. While Labour winning in Bridgend is certainly not a victory for us Pirates, it is undeniably better than having a parachuted in Conservative candidate, which is more than many other constituencies in the UK woke up to on the 8th. The incumbent MP also took the time to speak with me as did her son and I have been invited to talk about the Pirate Party at Bath University.
The Plaid Cymru Candidate had a really good 2,784 (7.1%) Vote, which is a 1.1% increase. James was also a very likeable person and we shared a laugh over how we both had long hair and unavoidably met the odd person that would always say “I can't vote for him, he needs a haircut”.
Rather interestingly, many of the spoilt ballot papers featured a number of cases where two candidates had been marked – most of which were Pirate Party and Plaid Cymru. I expect this is because in local council, Welsh Assembly and European elections, you mark more than one candidate so the GE is a rather unusual one for us in Wales. James also mentioned that if he wasn't running in Bridgend, he would have voted for me and I think given the choice here and without a Pirate to vote for, perhaps I would have voted for him too. I would like to thank even those who spoilt their vote, be it accidental or intentional, we still saw you liked both Pirates and Plaid Cymru.
The Independent, Les and I spoke quite frequently through the night and we had met once before. We seem to have a rather lot of areas we disagree on but as a person it's hard not to like him. With Les being able to connect with people so quickly and genuinely he was able to pull a rather impressive campaign, even beating the Green vote here. I hope we can meet to disagree in the future.
UKIP and the Conservatives mostly kept to themselves, including separate from one another. I did make a small, passing conversation with the UKIP candidate and some with her. She was surprised I spoke with her and thanked me for my comments. I always think back to something Rick Falkvinge said; where you must not treat your opposition as evil. These are people you should open a dialogue with and provide them with new information, a new source of knowledge and education. Treating them like “the other” to be hated will not allow anyone to really re-think their position, it will simply drive their heels in further.
Which brings us to the National Front. Around the start of the night we were all in the same area trying to get into where they counted the ballots. The National Front candidate and I ended up essentially staring at one another as they reshuffled us around the floor. I said hello and he mentioned I thought I'd be dressed more like a Pirate. I laughed with “Well, at least you can say you've met a Pirate, even if I don't look like one” and extended my hand to shake his. He was immediately shocked. Perhaps the mere thought of being “caught” shaking the hand of the National Front would be political suicide for most politicians. He shook my hand, then a NF agent quickly jumped in to shake my hand too. We discussed some of our views that night. While the NF were obviously showing hostility to others there that night, hostility I by no way approve of, when speaking to me they were calm, collective and like us hated the lack of transparency in government. I cannot stress enough how we can completely neutralise a lot of the hate, fear and violence culture by breaking this unsavoury popular stance of hating your opposition. There is exceedingly little, perhaps nothing I like about the National Front but they were there representing a voice of 66 people in Bridgend and in a democracy those voices must be heard. Can we really stand as Pirates, advocating free speech but deny it to those we disagree with?
At the end of the night, the Labour MP did the same and shook his hand, in fact she shook every single candidate's hand on stage, in front of everyone. The National Front candidate was again shocked, turned to me and said “That was a first”.
It will be of no surprise that the Lib Dem vote here was hammered, pulling only 5th place. While it must be devastating for them to see, they prove as a valuable lesson as to what happens when you turn your back so quickly on those who put their trust in you... and I think all candidates understood that at the count.
The Green vote increased here and the co-chairs of the Bridgend branch both met with me. Bethan (one of the co-chairs) was particularly friendly. They, perhaps a little begrudgingly, admit their candidate was a paper candidate and standing in two positions but rather than leave the count devoid of Greens, four Greens turned up for Bridgend, so at least those votes had some representation on the night.
My thoughts on TUSC have already been expressed here.
To give the huge 106 votes or 0.3% vote share in Bridgend some perspective; there was very little chance of picking up protest votes with such a diverse array of candidates, of which we had a total of 10. Bridgend is also very much a town, not a city, so we are not used to this volume of choice so any candidate is already at a disadvantage. We also fielded no paper leaflets or mailshot in Bridgend, it was entirely a digital and media driven campaign, saving thousands of pounds.
I understand those are circumstantial things which will affect votes, so here is a real visual idea of just what those votes mean:
- We beat the National Front's 66 votes
- We are already in the same league as TUSC 118 (perhaps beating them if many of those spoilt ballots were filled out correctly)
- We were only 630 votes behind the Greens, who are now a Major Party
- We beat The Whig Party Leader
- 103 votes (0.2%) Waleed Ghani in Vauxhall
- We beat both Young People's Party Candidates
- 72 votes (0.1%) Dr Rohen Kapur aka Henry Northcott in Folkestone and Hythe
- 80 votes (0.2%) Mark Wadsworth in Epping Forest
- We beat each of the six Class War candidates in vote share and all but one in vote number
- 53 votes (0.1%) Lisa McKenzie in Chingford
- 55 votes (0%) Joe Wilcox in Maidenhead
- 120 votes (0.2%) Andy Bennetts in Lichfield
- 78 votes (0.2%) Dave Perkins in Sherwood
- 96 votes (0.2%) David Peel in Norwich South
- 65 votes (0.1%) Jon Bigger in Croydon South
- We beat the second oldest party, Socialist Party GB's attempt in Wales
- 49 votes (0.1%) Brian Johnson in Swansea West
- We beat the New Independent Centralists Leader
- 23 votes (0.1%) Roland Courtenay in Kensington
- We beat the Socialist Equality Party in vote share
- 58 votes (0.2%) Katie Rhodes in Glasgow Central
- 108 votes (0.2%) David O'Sullivan in Holborn & St Pancras
- We beat the English Democrats attempt in Wales (unsurprisingly)
- 100 votes (0.2%) Stephen Morris
We also beat a substantial amount of other Independents and parties accross the UK.
I would like to pay tribute to those who spoilt their votes. Some of you expressed your anger and dissatisfaction with the system with simple "No" or gave a discriptor. Others expressed your views through humour, drawing rather creative scenes on the ballots. To you all I say do not give up expressing your views until they are heard and you have someone to vote for.
I wish to express my thanks to all activists both inside and outside of the party who helped us candidates in the campaign, both digitally and physically.
Finally, I thank everyone who voted Pirate in this election. Every single one of your votes has reassured us that you believe the Pirate Party and its candidates are fighting for what you believe is right. You voted for free speech, you voted to protect privacy and you voted for an end to the mass surveillance of innocent people.
Most importantly you all voted for the Candidate who you believed best represented you and did not resign to the fear culture the other parties tried to create.