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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Bristol West - My Prediction
No doubt you've been wondering about my views on the election (right?). Well, I can't speak as to the likely result nationally: I hope for the best and fear the worst, of course.

Bristol West is another matter. It's a fascinatingly fluid seat, which has been Tory, Labour and LibDem within the last 20 years. There's no such thing as a safe seat, here.

In 2010 the LibDems won by a 20-point margin. Partly this was because of their cast-iron pledge on tuition fees (there are a lot of students here, and a lot of parents of students); partly it was because of residual Clegg-mania (already on the wane by the election but still non-neglible). But mostly I think it was because there was a large group of voters who would never dream of voting Tory but had become disillusioned with Labour, not on economic grounds so much, even if their love affair with market capitalism had made them almost as vulnerable to the crisis in the banking sector as the Tories would have been in their place, but because of their centralist, authoritarian and anti-civil liberties stance. This was the party of control orders and identity cards, after all - to say nothing of the damned spot of Iraq, which no rude seas would easily wash out. So, a vote for the LibDems as a more socially libertarian alternative seemed attractive.

All that went west when the LibDems installed a right-wing Tory administration. That betrayal (with the tuition fees U-turn as icing on the cake) led to a collapse in their support - how could it not? There's a huge anti-Tory majority here, and a vote for the LibDems being (as we now know) potentially a proxy vote for the Tories, of course they're screwed.

Even so, it wasn't clear just how screwed the LibDems were until Ashcroft conducted his poll in the constituency, from 16-23rd April. That showed the LibDems lying a poor third, on 20% (down from 48% in 2010), with Labour on 38% and the Greens on 25%. In 2010 the Greens had polled only 4%.

So, at that point, Labour looked a shoo-in for the seat, bouncing back from 2010. But here's where it gets interesting. Bristol West has a higher proportion of people with university degrees and doctorates than any other constituency in the country. It's a hot-bed for anarchists and for eco-warriors. In most places, the Ashcroft poll would be tomorrow's chip paper, but people here read about these things and talk about them too. There's a sizable number who had been intending to vote Labour only to get the LibDems (i.e. the Tories) out. When Ashcroft showed that the LibDems were already effectively out, it became much more thinkable for these people to vote Green, a party more in line with their actual beliefs, and potentially (given the likelihood of a hung parliament) giving their MP a real say in policy, much more so than if they turned out to be just one more in the three-line-whipped ranks of Labour lobby fodder. I suspect a lot of the 38% Labour support that Ashcroft polled was very soft, and I suspect a lot of it has now moved over to the Greens.

So, what do I predict tomorrow? I think the Tories and LibDems will do very badly, but very slightly better than the polls, on the principle that there are "shy" voters for both parties, and because the LibDems in particular have an efficient polling day machine. I expect Labour to win - but by a far, far, smaller margin than the Ashcroft poll might have suggested. I expect the Greens to run them a close second place, and be poised to take the seat next time if events run their way.

I also expect to be wrong, because I usually am. But for fun, here are my predictions tomorrow, set against the results in 2010 and the Ashcroft poll. Sorry about the colours and the cognitive dissonance - I haven't got time to work out how to fine-tune this in Excel:

election results

When I get the chance, I'll edit this post to add the actual result - then you can all point and laugh. [ETA: I've now done that. As you can see, I was pretty much on the money with the Conservatives and LDs, but overestimated the extent to which Labour would lose votes to the Greens, post-Ashcroft. Not badly enough to be laughable, though.]

Rochester's the local one I shall be watching with interest tomorrow night. There's every chance that that UKIP buffoon Reckless will lose to the Tories.

You know my politics are left socialist and it'd usually be a cold day in Hell before the Tories got my vote, but suffice it to say that I lived in the constituency next door, I'd be voting Tory to get Reckless out!

As it is, Labour stand the best chance of unseating the Tory here, so.......

I'm glad you're spared that unpleasant dilemma!

In the European elections immediately following the merger mess that created the LDs, the Greens showed a significant upturn in vote. They are indeed the protest party for everyone who's given up on the previous protest parties.

They are indeed the protest party for everyone who's given up on the previous protest parties.

I agree with that, but I do think there's a significant number of people who have said things like "In an ideal world I'd vote Green, but under the current system it would just be a wasted vote." Almost uniquely, at this election, in this constituency, that argument no longer holds.

I see on checking that your MP abstained on the tuition fees vote. Is that fact worth anything?

I doubt it will make more than a marginal difference, because a) the LibDem pledge was to vote against rises, not simply to abstain (in fact he criticized the previous Labour incumbent for abstaining on the previous hike in fees, iirc), b) both the Tories and LibDems have refused to deny that they intend to increase fees again if elected, and c) fees apart, a lot of people were always more anti-Tory than pro-LibDem, so the LDs' role in putting the Tories into power makes them persona non grata.

Edited at 2015-05-07 07:38 am (UTC)

Durham is pretty safe Labour, I think, which makes reports from marginal constituencies all the more interesting.

You make the point that the Greens have benefitted from a poll which shows the level of their support; yet the news media insist on behaving as if they were somehow outside a closed system, watching, reporting but not influencing it.

The other thing that isn't much discussed is level of poll. Yet it's clear that some of the UKIP 'surge' has not been that more people voted UKIP, just that UKIP voters turned out to vote while others didn't. And I note that although this still isn't being talked about as such, a lot of commentators are urging people to vote, as if this were a politically neutral stance. (I'm not saying it's a wrong position, but it's not entirely neutral).

As a side note on that, I got a flyer from the Labour candidate around the time of the Ashcroft poll stating that Labour had a lead in some of the polls, but that some showed the LDs just ahead. (The Greens weren't mentioned.) This at a time when Ashcroft had the LDs 18 points behind Labour. My suspicion is that the subtext was, "Don't feel you have the luxury of voting Green - you may split the left-wing vote and let the LDs in after all!" I also suspect there was a degree of truth-bending. Events of course may well prove me laughably wrong, as they have a habit of doing.

However events turn out, I suspect that's an accurate reading of the intended message!

South West Surrey is almost certainly going to stay Tory, with Jeremy Hunt as MP. Boo. However, there is just a chance that the National Health Action candidate might beat him (I can dream!), and I think she will certainly make a significant dent in his majority. He seems to be a little worried about this; in 2010 as far as I know he did little or no canvassing in person, but this year, he did. The NHA candidate will probably be helped by the Lib Dem candidate's suspension from the party (for forging signatures on his nomination papers, the pillock); I know a lot of local LD supporters planned to vote for her.

As with every election, I am amazed by the number of people on my FB friends list who are Tory supporters, but not rich. Why do they do it?

I've always thought the Marxist phrase "false consciousness" rather snotty, but sometimes it seems le mot juste.