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Random Notes from the Campaign

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(Drake Ward canvass team, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport constituency, 30 May 2017. Selfie credit: Cllr. Chaz Singh)

Theresa May demonstrated a trademark lack of consideration in the timing of the snap election, as it’s corresponded with the busiest time of the academic year. I’ve also somehow rather accidentally found myself as a ward leader for this election.  On top of all this, it’s currently half-term, and I’m sole parenting my daughter (not that I’m complaining, at all).  Indeed, it’s been very cool to watch my daughter get involved, with confidence:

(My daughter advising Luke Pollard, our candidate for Parliament in Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Plymouth Labour Party Hall.  Photo credit: Cllr. Jonny Morris).

She’s been desperate to go canvassing, and this week, she’ll be on six.  However, I’ve been terribly remiss at contributing observations to LGM about the British election. The following are some links and observations on the state of the election here in the UK. I promise neither narrative arc nor coherent thought.

First, the polls are all over the map, though the narrowing of the race since the manifestos were launched is real, and is likely partially due to the shambles of a Conservative manifesto combined with the (surprisingly) rigorous costing of ours. Going into this election, I honestly doubted our national leadership’s ability to quickly frame, and win, an issue as they have with the dementia tax. Practical politics seemed dirty to the leadership, and messaging a concept from a foreign land, all subsumed by the purity of thought that only ideological faith can bring. Yet, we won that argument.

However, we shouldn’t get too excited about a recent YouGov poll that put us only five points behind. The followup has us down seven, and if one reads below the top line figures, Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are significantly behind on critical items (e.g. who would make the better Prime Minister, who is more trusted on security and terrorism, etc.).  This is what caught many out in 2015: while the national polls predicted a hung parliament with a good chance of Labour being the largest single party in the Commons, the cross tabs under the top line suggested that David Cameron had significantly more support as PM over Ed Miliband and the Conservatives were more trusted on the economy). Worse, ICM has us down 12 points as of yesterday. Further fuelling the flames of mis-placed optimism, a YouGov constituency-level estimate released last night has the Conservatives losing 20 seats and an overall majority, with Labour picking up 28. If accurate, this should have us win both Plymouth seats, as we’re ranked 8th and 14th on Labour’s target seat list.  I’ve yet to locate the source data for this, but it’s based on an N of 50,000.  Assuming that’s divided equally across the 650 parliamentary constituencies (which is a crap assumption, but lacking source data, it’s all I have to go by), it’s an N of 77 per seat. In other words, flimsy.

Some final notes. In Labour, we’ve seen more new volunteers than we had in 2015, and they’ve been coming from further afield (Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, to name just three counties). That we’ve been able to scratch together a well run campaign in a matter of days has been impressive to observe, especially when contrasted with 2015 when we had years to prepare, safe in the assumption that the election would be held on a specific date.

I enjoyed Scott’s piece on the Labour Party manifesto, but there’s one minor point I’ll make in clarification: he writes “while too many Blarities are failing to back the leader of the party . . .”. The Blairite influence in the party (both in the Parliamentary Labour Party specifically and the pre-2015GE membership more generally) is overstated, (not only on the other side of the Atlantic, but here as well).  A good measure for this is the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, with four candidates standing. The only true Blairite standing was Liz Kendall, who secured a monumental 4.46% of the vote. The vote of no confidence in Corbyn as party leader by the PLP in the fallout of the EU referendum last summer, was 172-40. Blairites do not constitute 81% of the PLP; concern over the direction of the party’s leadership was far broader in parliament than the remaining Blairite rump.

Corbyn and Co. have run a much better campaign than many of us expected, but then we were 20-22% down when the election was called over a month ago.

There’s been breathless discussion about the utility of tactical voting for a progressive alliance. It won’t work.

Finally, a shout out to the Greens. The Green Party candidate for the constituency in the north of Plymouth formally endorsed Labour yesterday. In 2015, the Greens captured 1023 votes in the Plymouth Moor View constituency, and the Conservative candidate won by 1026. Of course, had he done so several weeks previously, his name wouldn’t be on the ballot at all; that his name will be on the ballot paper renders this endorsement hollow. Labour and the Greens came within one vote (according to my sources) of the local Green Party not standing at all in either constituency. In 2015, we lost Plymouth Sutton & Devonport by only 523 votes. The Green Party candidate received 3401 votes.

You do the math.

UPDATE . . . sort of.  Here are two links I had left open in my office for when I got around to making a post on the campaign:

Labour are leading overwhelmingly among the young (e.g. 54% to 25% among the 18-24 cohort according to yesterday’s Survation poll) but losing badly among the not-so-young (24% to 44% among the 65+ set).  Unfortunately, as we all know, the young vote at a lower rate than the rest; the 18-24 has been at the bottom of the table in every UK general election since 1964. In 2015, the 18-24s had an estimated turnout of 43%, to 78% for over 65s).  If the youngest cohort voted at the same rate as the over 65s, would it swing the election?  Computer says no.

A week ago or so, Professor Harry Bennett and I did a video interview with the local paper. In all, I think we recorded 45 minutes of chat; the first instalment went up a few days ago about the effect of the Manchester bombing on the campaign.

 

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