Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Ben's All Lonely

Ben needs some company down south.

With that in mind, Keir has been looking into the electoral situation in the South West of England. Other observers have been correct to point out that Labour lost a key demographic in C2 and DE. Liam Byrne MP was the quickest off the mark in a Progress publication shortly after the election. As Byrne pointed out, losing 20% of the C2 vote share is not just a horrible statisticians figure; it's simply wrong. These are the people that our party was formed to serve yet we clearly let them down. Byrne's analysis is excellent and well worth a read. It was watered down recently by Ed Miliband in his essay for the Fabians. He seemed to think he'd stumbled across a revelation but Byrne had already made the case months earlier. Not surprising that Ed's copying and plagiarising though, what with his constant trumpeting of the Living Wage campaign without reference to the fact that it was a campaign started and run by London Citizens. Keir learnt how to reference sources in secondary school.

Anyway, whilst it's correct to point out these issues of our vote share dropping amongst C2s, it's also striking how we got annihilated in the South. This has been talked about by John Denham MP in the weeks proceeding the election. Keir has been particularly interested in this regional divide.

The South-West had 55 seats at this General Election: 5 Labour MPs were returned. The electorate there returned 35 Conservative MPs and 15 LibDem MPs. The biggest vote share that Labour got was 38.6%; and that was in a seat we didn't even win. Keir thinks we can come away with at least 16 at the next election. Optimistic? Maybe not as much as it sounds.

On the 5th May, voting intention polls showed 29% of people were going to vote Liberal Democrat and they ended up with a 23% share of the popular vote on polling day. The latest voting intention polling from YouGov gives them a 13% vote share. Going on their poll swing, that's a 16% drop in support. Take 16% off of their national vote share and you are left with 7%.

Seven per cent.

I know that's not entirely mathematically correct. But all the same, the drop is very big.

And what of Labour? Voting intention polls on May 5th gave us 29% of the vote share and that was indeed accurate on polling day. YouGov at the moment have Labour with 38% of the vote share.

Keir is often suspicious of using national swing and applying it to seats and/or regions but is annoyed when it often translates quite accurately. So let's bite the bullet and use it here.

In Stroud, the Tories won with 40.84% to Labour's 38.6%. The LibDems polled 15.45%. A mere 3% swing from the LibDems to Labour would secure this seat. But the national swing away from the LibDems at the moment is that whopping 16% and the swing towards Labour is at 9%. So that is a must-win seat.

Even further down the scale, we can convert seats. Let's take a trip to Somerset North East. The Tories won with 41.27% here ahead of Labour on 31.67%. The LibDems polled 22.33%. If we can convert 10% of that LibDem share to Labour, we have another seat. And that's before accounting for the inevitable decline in Tory popularity that will be seen from 2011 onwards.

Filton & Bradley Stoke: Tories 40.76%, Labour 26.44%, LibDems 25.25%. Swingy, swingy, swingy.

Swindon South: Tories 41.78%, Labour 34.36%, LibDems 17.63%. LAB GAIN.

And lest we forget the non-voters in these constituencies. A GOTV drive would open up the possibility of even more votes to topple the incumbents. Although turnout was generally good.

Of course, it's not so simple as to be able to just rely on discourse. Labour and our new leader need to make sure we appeal to the people of the region.

Aeronautical industries have grown in Bristol. Labour needs to recognise this. We need policies, similar to the ones in our manifesto, that will encourage growth in these areas. One thing that Keir believes in is re-embracing the vocational ethos of the old polytechnic. This would stimulate these sorts of manufacturing businesses as people won't be coming out of University with solely academic degrees or degrees in things like Business Studies. Instead, they will be able to take targeted, vocational courses that will translate into employment in these sectors that have high potential for growth.

Tourism in places such as Somerset and, more so, Cornwall also need stimulation from the government. Cornwall is way out of our reach when you look at the figures. In St. Ives we got 8.17% and in St. Austell & Newquay we got 7.17%. Dire. These are not places where we have a chance on the face of it. But the Liberal Democrats got just over 42% in both of these seats. Of course, we'd need more than the current national swing to topple them, but the numbers of people that they have betrayed from those constituencies by relinquishing values for power must be huge.

In addition, Labour has a proud tradition of devolution in the last 13 years. It is time to expand on that. An elected Cornish Assembly? Even a South West Assembly? Keir can think of crazier things. Well, you don't need to think of them really; Gideon, IDS and Gove just talk about them all the time.

There is the real possibility to capture the South West. Labour must capitalise.


LetUsFaceTheFuture.

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