Saturday 1 May 2021

Previewing the Super Thursday Elections

At last, some movement in a positive direction. The polls have been uniformly dire for Labour of late, but what's that? As the belated April showers move in there are straws in the wind. Opinium reports the 11-point lead for the Tories has more than halved to five. More cheer for Keir too as Survation dropped theirs on Friday night. A nine-point cushion for Boris Johnson has collapsed to a single point. The Tories then will be hoping the clutch of polling firms, such as YouGov are nearer the mark. Double digit lead intact, encouraging numbers in the so-called red wall and, terrible news for Labour, a cataclysm among the 25s-49s where a 26-point lead has fallen to just three. Looking forward to this Thursday with Holyrood, the Senedd, the London mayoralty, local authorities, metro mayors, and police and crime commissioners, and the Hartlepool by-election all up, what can we expect?

There are the certainties. Sadiq Khan will win handily in London. Andy Burnham's re-election is a foregone conclusion. As is, sad to say, the return of Andy Street in Birmingham. The dysfunctional character of Liam Byrne's campaign is fairly well known, but not even half has come out yet. What is clear is the way he's behaved, the noses put out of joint, the bullying, blokeishness, and banality of the campaign, and the whiff of egregious rule-breaking shows Byrne is not fit to have a place on the local government panel, let alone enjoy the easy life as a no mark MP bidding for executive office. In Scotland and Wales, the only question is what the margin of victory will be for the SNP and Welsh Labour. Can the Tories make up ground in the latter, which has been forecast by some pre-election polling, and might Labour re-take second place north of the border? Both are possible.

From the perspective of politics Twitter Labour have had a disastrous campaign in Hartlepool, but putting my trust in the swing away from the Tories (which seems to have more truthiness to it than continued invulnerability), Labour might just hang on. The experiment around the Northern Independence Party is hampered by Thelma Walker being forced to stand as an independent among a sea of other indies and minor parties and so will, at best, have a marginal impact. Of course, no one is expecting a massive splash on the first outing, but matters would have been more interesting if they had been able to stand under their label and Northern Independence was clearly on the ballot paper.

Local elections? Despite movements in the polls, it's not going to be a great night for Labour. And this isn't entirely Keir Starmer's fault. The issues that persisted in the Jeremy Corbyn years largely apply. I.e. Whereas 2017-19 saw outright polarisation between the two parties, we are now experiencing lopsided polarisation. That is the Tories have held on to their electoral coalition and, um, Labour hasn't. The Tories also have another advantage. As this Thursday is a cornucopia of second order elections (except for Scotland and Wales), these tend not to matter to most people. This explains the routinely depressed turnouts we've seen before, and are going to see again. This plays well for the Conservatives because their voters are disproportionately older, and as anyone who takes the age divide in British politics seriously will tell you, there is a positive correlation between age and turnout. This is even more exacerbated for second order contests and so, yes, the Tories can look forward to making sweeping gains as their people turn out and Labour's doesn't. Fancy another Tory advantage? Millions of postal votes were cast long before government corruption and other difficulties made their presence felt on polling. Therefore expect a few people paid to write and talk about politics for a living to be stumped when the results come in.

Because Labour's vote is in the process of disaggregation, the party has to look out for local challenges from the LibDems and the Greens as well as the Tories. But also, political science isn't rocket science. The data about voting behaviour and who Labour's vote is can be found in every single poll and a simple comparison of voter characteristics over time. LOTO doesn't have to listen to mad lefties like me to grasp this elementary fact of Labour's existence. It's all there in the data tables of the polling outfits they live by. And yet, they carry on as if they're a right wing party with a right wing vote, and not a rapidly Pasokifying formation who might, with timely action, reverse the trend. Keir Starmer might find the chances stacked against Labour this Thursday, but he has not lifted a single finger to try and make political weather for his party. Instead, he's content to sit under the rain cloud, awkward and bewildered. I hope he's ready for the soaking. It stands to reason then that with all the advantages the Tories enjoy, if the party goes backwards this Thursday they are in much more trouble than polling suggests.

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Anonymous said...

I have seen a few people mention the large amount of postal ballots already sent out, where is this information coming from?

Unknown said...

Hello, you might like to check out Labour Affairs' take on the local elections, Metropolitan Mayors and Labour in Wales in their May edition: