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Opinion: Labour cautious of wins in Kent after previous shock election defeats, writes Paul Francis

We are in the final few days of the election campaign and never mind the parties’ prospective fortunes - the question is: how was it for you?

Although it can look as if the election is the only thing going on, it isn’t. Which might explain why, outside the political bubble, people often ask what is going on as placard-waving groups - like political Praetorian guards - wind their way through high street shopping centres where a party VIP is pretending to meet ‘real’ people.

Paul Francis gives his view on the latest in politics
Paul Francis gives his view on the latest in politics

Kent has had its fair share of these visits, usually billed by the spin doctors as senior figures meeting ordinary members of the public.

The reality is that genuine interactions with the public are few and far between, and where they do happen, the ‘ordinary member of the public’ often turns out to either be a local activist or party supporter.

In recent years, VIP visits have found a new venue - the supermarket distribution centre, where workers are assembled in a cavernous building to hear what the party will do for them.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

• If there is one thing that politicians move heaven and earth to avoid in election campaigns, it is to appear complacent about the outcome.

The message party chiefs that would-be MPs should refrain from coming over as overly confident about the result is not just because it is not a good look; it is sometimes because it is wrong.

Back in 1992 Labour was confident it was on course to defeat the Conservatives and form the next government, with the charismatic - to some - leader Neil Kinnock on course to end 13 years of Tory rule.

It wasn’t to be: under the leadership of the then PM John Major, the Conservatives snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and went on to lead the country until 1997.

To be fair, Labour did in some parts of the county fare well in 1992.

The party still smarts badly from the result and has since become overly cautious about winning seats in the Garden of England.

There is also an interesting pattern in relation to seats Labour wins when it is the party in power and when it loses.

When it loses, it tends to have no Kent seats - as in four elections from 1979 to 1992 and 2010.

When it wins it can get seven or eight MPs elected, as it did in 1997 - the Tony Blair landslide - and subsequently in 2001 and 2005.

All this is speculation: until the votes are counted, we won’t know whether that pattern is repeated.

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