Rochdale’s Conservative candidate Azi Ahmed has revealed she’s not surprised that the Tories are currently a whisker away from an overall majority according to BBC’s exit poll.
For weeks opinion polls have put the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck, both well short of a House of Commons majority, with a Labour-SNP deal seeming the most likely outcome.
Yet the exit poll of 22,000 voters, published as counts were starting across the country, came as a huge shock, recalling memories of 1992’s late Tory swing which saw John Major return to number ten.
“Oh it’s fantastic. Oh yes, of course there’s huge cause for optimism,” Ahmed said.
“Of course the Labour people across the country are doubting its accuracy because they’re coming second, but I’m not surprised at all.
“The Conservative party have been working very, very hard in the marginal seats and I think it’s paying off.”
Many commentators have been anticipating a late Conservative surge, as many who vote Tory don’t disclose their intention to do so in opinion polls.
Ahmed, a former British army reservist, concurred, saying she experienced this ‘shy Tory’ phenomenon on her own campaign trail in Rochdale.
“What you find is there’s a lot of people who want to vote Conservative but don’t shout about it,” she said.
“You find a lot of people publicise the fact they vote Labour and Ukip, but then quietly the Conservatives always pick up a lot of votes.
I think the media representation has been slightly different to the reality. I think this exit poll is showing something very close to what we will get.”
As for her own campaign, Ahmed was quietly confident in the face of a collapsing Liberal Democrat vote in a constituency they came within 889 votes of winning in 2010.
Although incumbent Simon Danczuk is expected to win with an increased majority tonight, Ahmed’s hopes rest on whether those Lib Dem votes mainly migrate to Labour, the Conservatives or Ukip.
“The word on the street back on 2010 was that you’d knock on 20 houses and ten would be Lib Dems,” she said, “Now you knock on 20 and you get one.
“I’m hoping those lost Lib Dem seats will align themselves with the Conservatives but they might go to Labour, some might go to Ukip and hopefully some will come to us. But there will be a massive change.”
Ahmed dismissed the notion Ukip might be Labour’s biggest challenge – as they were in nearby Heywood and Middleton in October’s by-election.
She admitted Nigel Farage’s campaign had been a national success, but stood by local council results as evidence the people of Rochdale aren’t interested in Ukip representation at a local level.
Image courtesy of Rochdale News via YouTube, with thanks.