Friday, 9 June 2017

Theresa's plan backfired! My analysis of the 2017 snap general election

Theresa May's opportunistic plan has backfired-the Conservatives, far from gaining a landslide majority, now have no majority at all. At this time of writing only Kensington is still to declare, and there is a chance it could elect a Labour MP despite having some of the wealthiest real estate in London (especially around Earl's Court).

Only a handful of Labour seats fell to the Conservatives despite UKIP's collapse and subsequent transfer of votes. Those seats were Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland, Copeland (a by-election hold), Walsall North, Mansfield, North East Derbyshire, and Stoke-on-Trent South, with crucial seats like Newcastle-under-Lyme being held by Labour, if only by 30 votes in the latter. It is worth mentioning nonetheless that the last three of these seats had been held by Labour since 1922, 1935, and 1935 respectively, and it was inevitable Labour's dominance in Stoke-on-Trent would be brought to an end. Labour in return gained from the Conservatives Lincoln, Bedford, Ipswich, Peterborough, Warrington South, Weaver Vale, Crewe & Nantwich, Bury North, Croydon Central, Enfield Southgate, Colne Valley, Keighley, Gower, Vale of Clwyd, Cardiff North, Reading East, Warwick & Leamington, Brighton Kemptown, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Bristol North West, Stroud, Derby North, High Peak, Stockton South, Battersea, and for the first time ever, Kensington, Portsmouth South and Canterbury. The majority of those particular seats delivered a substantial Remain vote in last year's EU referendum or were only narrowly won by Leave, and aided in a backlash against the Conservatives. The same phenomenon ironically helped in Labour's capture of Leeds North West and Sheffield Hallam from the Liberal Democrats, ousting former deputy PM Nick Clegg in the process. In only 7 seats in England did Labour's vote share fall; six of these (especially St Albans, the only English constituency were Labour were pushed from second to third by the Lib Dems) were due to efforts by the Liberal Democrats and the other, Waveney, was due to the loss of Bob Blizzard's personal vote.

The Liberal Democrats avoided a net loss of seats after all, managing to finish with 12, but they did make some critical losses. They finished third in Southport behind Labour, who were reasonably close to gaining a seat that had never been theirs, and lost their last remaining seat in Wales, Ceredigion, to Plaid Cymru's Ben Lake by just 104 votes. Great hopes like St Albans and Cambridge were also missed and in many places which once had a 'Liberal tradition' they finished third, Cornwall being a strong example. The Liberal Democrats also lost more deposits than in 2015, not less, a victim of the major squeeze exacted by Labour and the Conservatives on everyone else. The Liberal Democrat gains were Eastbourne, Bath, Oxford West & Abingdon, Twickenham, and Kingston & Surbiton from the Conservatives, and East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West, and Caithness, Sutherland & Ross from the SNP on anti-nationalist votes. They have however lost overall in vote share terms and are competitive in fewer seats than last time, as they can no longer rely on 'traditional' voters; in fact, no party can due to the substantial demographic changes that have taken place in the last 20 years alone. The losses incurred by all three major parties in traditionally strong areas for them (Labour in the former coalfields, Conservatives in prosperous middle class areas, Liberal Democrats in the West Country and Pennines) are testament to this.

In spite of all these spectacular losses, the SNP remain the largest party in Scotland and also hold a majority of Scottish Westminster seats, making this their second best ever night. Lost by the SNP were Banff & Buchan, Angus, Aberdeen South, West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, Gordon, Ochil & South Perthshire, Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk, Ayr, Carrick, & Cumnock, Moray, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries & Galloway and Stirling to the Conservatives despite the Conservatives being third in many of those initially; Glasgow North East, Rutherglen & Hamilton West, Coatbridge, Chryston & Belshill, East Lothian, Midlothian, and Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath to Labour, and the three seats to the Lib Dems mentioned above; in some cases however the majority was in the low hundreds. This has certainly coloured the palette of the Scottish constituency map, with 35 SNP, 13 Conservative, 7 Labour, and 4 Lib Dem MPs returned in Scotland, and certainly shows that the unionist opposition is still rather divided in Scotland despite Ruth Davidson's best efforts. Much of this happened due to Scottish voters growing tired at Nicola Sturgeon's demands for another Scottish independence referendum, leading many voters to unite against her especially in places with a low appetite for independence, and rural areas where the SNP suffered the biggest hits (the Conservatives gained only one remotely urban constituency from the SNP-East Renfrewshire; the rest were rural and sparsely populated).

Plaid Cymru were very disappointed in Wales to have finished third in Ynys Mon despite fielding former MP Ieuan Wyn Jones; the national upswing to Labour helped them hold that seat, although Plaid held on to Arfon nonetheless. They also held Dwyfor Meirionydd and Carmarthen East & Dinefwr without any problems, and narrowly gained Ceredigion. However, they slipped back in Rhondda, Llanelli, Cynon Valley, and Neath, lost more deposits, and recorded few other vote share increases, Blaenau Gwent being a big exception. They will therefore have to resort more to holding on to what they have next time, in case another snap election ends up being on the cards.

The Green Party suffered a very poor night in spite of holding Brighton Pavilion with a record majority of 14,689. Only 8 Green candidates saved their deposits, which in the cases they did not win were in the constituencies of the Isle of Wight, Bristol West, Sheffield Central, Buckingham, Skipton & Ripon, North Herefordshire, and North East Hertfordshire. Their only vote share increase of note outside Brighton Pavilion was on the Isle of Wight and they finished third instead of second in Bristol West and Sheffield Central despite having campaigned heavily there for months beforehand. In many straight fights with Labour, their vote was decimated to its core level, and rural areas proved to be a missed opportunity for the Green Party that should have been capitalised on. The Progressive Alliance project, much vaunted by Caroline Lucas & Jonathan Bartley, cost the Green Party dearly especially against Labour, and meant they were unable to gain any of UKIP's protest votes. It also had no effect in the end, for many of the gains Labour and the Liberal Democrats managed were clearly achievable without it in light of the majorities achieved. The Green Party must not become a poodle of Labour under any circumstances; Greens must stand on their own and adopt a more universal approach, and reach out more to rural voters and coastal voters. The Green Party must return to its roots and core values, and must stop shifting to the left simply to out-do Labour. I will promise to ensure the Green Party can achieve all this and regain credibility that it lost in this election, and if I have to stand against, and oust, Caroline & Jonathan in the next leadership election to achieve these goals, then that is exactly what I will do.

UKIP were never going to do well, particularly with Article 50 already having been triggered, and it will continue to be triggered even without a majority for the Conservatives, since the DUP support Brexit as well and because there are not enough anti-Brexit MPs to prevent it. UKIP spectacularly fell back in many of the seats where it had done so well, its highest vote being in Thurrock where Tim Aker still secured 20.1% of the vote, compared to 7.6% in Clacton and 7.7% in Boston & Skegness. UKIP lost the vast majority of their deposits, despite still coming third in many constituencies, although it is worth mentioning that only 338 UKIP candidates stood. Even with the Greens' fall in vote share many UKIP candidates failed to beat the Green Party. They also did not save a single deposit in Wales. Their vote share collapse or lack of candidature was undoubtedly responsible for the few Conservative gains from Labour, even though Labour increased their vote in all those cases, and they made many Conservative seats even safer, so they did have a significant part to play in this election after all. However, in a considerable number of seats where UKIP did not stand, the Conservative vote actually fell, even outside London (such as in the case of Reading East which Labour captured). With Brexit now clearly on course to happen, UKIP has lost its raison d'etre and will likely cease to exist in a matter of years.

Northern Ireland was a very interesting story, with the SDLP and UUP wiped out and Independent Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon being the only Northern Irish MP not from the DUP or Sinn Fein. The DUP finished with 10 seats, their highest ever despite memories of the RHI scandal still being fresh, and Sinn Fein finished with 7 seats, also their highest ever total. The Green Party saved both their deposits from 2015, though, with Steve Agnew increasing his vote in North Down to 6.5%. The Alliance Party failed badly, suffering a considerable swing in Belfast East despite the UUP's intervention, and only finishing third in highly competitive Belfast South. Not only did the UUP lose both their seats but their vote share fell sharply in every other seat they contested except for Lagan Valley. The Northern Irish Conservatives, as expected, flopped badly even in Strangford and North Down. Only one TUV candidate bothered to contest a Northern Irish constituency, although Timothy Gaston did save his deposit with 6.8%.

All the minor parties did badly, apart from Louise Irvine of the NHAP in South West Surrey who was backed by the Greens and achieved 20% of the vote. This was still nowhere near unseating Jeremy Hunt, although his majority did decrease to 35.5% in what is one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. The Yorkshire Party did much better than in 2015, when they were Yorkshire First, but all 21 candidates lost their deposits. However, they did often beat UKIP, Lib Dem, and Green candidates depending on constituency; their best vote share was 3.8%. Like the Green Party, they do better in rural Yorkshire than in urban Yorkshire, especially in the ex-mining areas. The Christian Peoples' Alliance stood more candidates than every other minor party to no avail, since none of them achieved even 1% of the vote apiece and most of them lost support compared to 2015. UKIP's collapse did not help them at all as it could have; in fact their candidate in Maidenhead was beating by the OMRLP's Howling Laud Hope. All 10 Pirate Party candidates did badly, in line with the decline of the whole Pirate Party movement; none achieved more than 200 votes. UKIP's collapse did not help the BNP at all, since they all achieved derisory votes as in 2015; no other far right party stood at all. The only party of the far left to oppose Labour was the Workers' Revolutionary Party, and all five of their candidates did very poorly, usually achieving less than 100 votes each. It was a decent night for Independents, though, since many saved their deposits, although Claire Wright was unable to capture East Devon from Hugo Swire despite achieving 35% of the vote, squeezing out other parties in the process. Notable Independent performances include those of Salma Yaqoob in Bradford West with 13.9%, most of the ex-Respect vote, ex-Lib Dem MP David Ward in Bradford East, where the official Lib Dem candidate lost their deposit when David kept his with 7.8%, Jim Kenyon in Hereford & South Herefordshire with 11.0%, and Gail Turner in Ashfield with 9.2%, which was largely responsible for the Conservatives' failure to capture this seat from Labour's Gloria de Piero. Simon Danczuk, meanwhile, polled only 833 votes as an Independent in Rochdale, the seat he once held for Labour before being suspended by the party (he later resigned). Former Camborne & Redruth candidate Michael Foster's stand against Jeremy Corbyn and his left-wing mantra failed spectacularly when he polled just 208 votes in Islington North. The wooden sppon for this election goes to Bobby Smith of Give Me Back Elmo Fame, polling in Maidenhead an all-time low of 3 votes, and the second-lowest on record in a British general election.

The most marginal seat is now Lanark & Hamilton East, a three-way marginal between the SNP, Conservatives and Labour, which the SNP held by 265 votes and with Labour only 360 votes behind the SNP. The closest three-way marginal in England meanwhile is the above-mentioned Southport, with Wales' three-way marginal being Ceredigion, won by Plaid Cymru's youngest MP to date.

Even though in theory Theresa May can bring the DUP to the table in order to retain power, it will be anything but strong and stable as she kept repeating throughout the Conservatives' terrible campaign. Perhaps there will be another snap general election in less than a year's time, and it is time Britain moved with the times and abandoned FPTP at Westminster level. Only electoral reform and proportional representation can bring strong and stable government in times of uncertainty for the United Kingdom as it begins its course to exit the European Union.

UPDATE: Labour gained Kensington after 3 recounts by a majority of 20 votes.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alan, good stuff. Do you have a detailed list ofthe results on spreadsheet or similar?