If you’ve paid close attention to the past elections in Hastings and Rye you may have noticed the recurring appearance of Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Perry. He’s the one that looks a bit like Master Chef judge John Torode. 

Perry is standing for the current election on a platform of stopping Brexit and remaining in the EU. However, in this tightly contested Labour/Conservative marginal, a lot of his party’s local campaigning is aimed at attacking Labour, rather than Conservatives. 

On several occasions Perry has drawn attention to the meme page, Peter Chowney memes for Hastings and Rye teens, claiming that there is something weird about the page but declining to elaborate on the insinuation any further other than it being a ‘gut reaction’.

On 10th November, the Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats Facebook page published a sponsored post to appear locally that attacked “Jeremy Bloody Corbyn”, before swiftly editing out the ‘bloody’; along with other posts aimed primarily at attacking Labour. 

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats are hoping to attract more Remain supporters from the Labour party than they are Conservatives. Categorically ruling out coalitions and attacking Labour could be a strategy to boost the ovaerall LibDem popular vote; which will be key to the post-electoral defeat analysis playing out as an argument against first-past-the-post and for electoral reform.

These two election strategies, stopping Brexit and attracting as many Labour votes as possible, seem antithetical in Labour marginals like Hastings and Rye; however, Perry is confident of the ‘Lib Dem Surge’, telling HIP, “Hastings & Rye voters will use their judgement as to which candidate will best represent Remain in Hastings & Rye. 

“Our own data, based on this year’s actual election results, and additional independent polling, suggests that there is a Liberal Democrat surge here, and the election is wide open.”

In election materials, Perry has claimed to be “out in front”, referencing polling conducted by Coastal Action CIC (CA). CA is a polling company run by local PhD students, James Prentice and Chris Connelley, who produced the survey he quotes identifying the ‘Best Remain Coalition Candidate in Hastings and Rye’.

In their research CA state: “The survey asked Remain voters which party they identified as a Remain party, the aim being to create the pool from which a stop No Deal candidate could be chosen.”

This meant that those surveyed were first asked which parties they identified as a ‘remain’ party, which then limited their choices of candidates in future questions to those from these parties. This meant that Labour, who have not ‘identified’ as either a ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ party despite backing a second referendum with a clear ‘remain’ option, were selected against by many respondents in the opening stages of the polling.

The resulting bar chart, which appears on Perry’s election materials under the heading ‘Nick Perry out in front’, is an outrageous and bizarre example of data manipulation by the Liberal Democrats that has become memetic throughout this election; especially when contrasted with Hastings and Rye 2017 election results, or Best for Britain’s latest polling giving Perry an estimated 10.9% of the vote and 4% chance of success.

A poll conducted months ago, to survey the best candidate to lead a ‘remain coalition’ which has now been ruled out by all parties, and who are now  actively campaigning against each other, is being misrepresented as a poll of electoral prospect.

CA told HIP, “Our polling was undertaken some time ago, before the party conference season, the October 31st Brexit deadline expired and well in advance of the current General Election being called. 

“It sought to explore local Remain voters’ political instincts at that time, and in those circumstances. Results were duly published and content became accessible in the public domain.

“How the data continues to be used and interpreted is beyond our control.”

Nick Perry said: “The Coastal Action polling which showed me ‘out in front’ is just factual reporting”. 

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