Tuesday 6 June 2017

Campaigning in Derby North

Thought I'd make myself super useful last Saturday and head to my nearest ultra-marginal, which happens to be Derby North (coincidentally, I work there too). Readers may recall this was unexpectedly snatched from Labour by a cruel 41 votes, and Parliament lost Chris Williamson, bĂȘte noire to rightwingers (and Masters of Hounds) everywhere. This time, the Greens - who polled 1,300 votes last time - are not standing so everything is up for grabs. If most of those voters simply switched to Labour, we'll romp home. But as politics is politics nothing is so simple. The collapse of UKIP as an electoral force is disproportionately favouring the Tories in the polls, even though they are standing a candidate in the constituency. And, it's worth noting, from our experience in Stoke a lot of what was a protest vote is returning to Labour. Could that happen in Derby North? It's very difficult to say. It's close.

Anyway, there I was with 120 or so other volunteers ready for a mass canvas of the constituency. I was paired up with Paul and Dave who'd also travelled in from outside the area and, with board in hand, off we were packed to do our round. Our destination was Darley Abbey, which is well known in Derby as the main "rich area". Huddled in a patch of greenery that stretches around the Derwent, we were in the bit that was built around the mid 1980s where the average house price weighs in at the £450k bracket. Tidy. We spent a couple of hours knocking on doors and trying to avoid the sun burn, but apart from a caught neck there were two things that stood out.

First was the novelty of working such an area. I've campaigned in safe Labour seats and marginals, but never what you would describe as safe Tory areas in either. Seeing consistent records of Tory support for a lot of voters was an entirely new experience. We also spotted a sign for Amanda Solloway, their candidate and incumbent, in one of the gardens - a Tory sign in a city is not something you see everyday. There was also a Labour poster up in one window, unfortunately tucked away down a cul-de-sac where approximately two neighbours and the postie will see it. Also, those Tory voters were pretty much staying Tory - not that their past records showed much movement. We did find some Labour voters on the round, including two switches from 2015, but definitely not the most fertile patches in the city for us.

The second problem, and a salutary lesson for any Labour supporter tempted to sack the polling station off for Jeremy Kyle, the pub, or whatevs, is this. Every Tory voter, every one who clearly weren't voting for us, every won't say had either posted their vote or were definitely turning out on Thursday. I have never done a round before where we didn't encounter a single non-voter. What does that tell you? It indicates that the better off, those who feel they have a wee bit to lose (despite the dementia tax and other idiocies) will turn out to cast their ballots for the party they feel best defends their interests. Meanwhile, and every comrade who came to the Stoke Central by-election knows this, those people who need a Labour government to take the pressure off their lives, who would materially benefit from a changing of the guard are those least likely to vote to further their interests.

As we know, the wildly variant figures reported by the pollsters hinge on turnout. We're playing a mobilisation game, and here the Tories have an advantage as their core support - the better off, a majority of older voters - are much more likely to vote. Luckily, because the party is a ridiculous size, a veritable mobilising machine, and there has been a shifting politicisation of the young in Labour's direction, there is a possibility that the nice Conservative voters of Darley Abbey will be matched vote for vote for a change, and then some.


Anonymous said...

Good luck I hope your hard work pays off.

volcanopete said...

I think it is time for compulsory voting.

Mark Walmsley said...

Green vote last time was 1618, 3.6%, and a little nod to the moral seriousness of them standing aside without reciprocation to help Williamson would have been nice.

Best of fortune on the seat though.