A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Labour resurgence in the North

Monday's FT had an interesting article looking at the regional breakdown of recent polls.

It quotes ICM as saying that the Tories have gone from being 4% ahead in September across the three standard statistical regions making up the pollsters' North (North, North West and Yorkshire & Humberside) to 14% behind Labour in December.

The political significance of this is that the North West and Yorkshire are packed full of marginal seats - particularly in the area of high levels of owner-occupation on either side of the Pennines (East Lancashire and West Yorkshire).

The regional distribution of the 117 seats the Tories need to gain to have an overall majority of is a more even one than might be expected given the media preoccupation with the south and Midlands as the main battlegrounds:

London - 13 seats (10 Lab, 3 LD)
South East - 15 seats (12 Lab, 3 LD)
South West - 17 seats (11 LD, 6 Lab)
East - 8 seats (all Lab)
East Midlands - 10 seats (all Lab)
West Midlands - 16 seats (14 Lab, 1 Ind, 1 LD)
North West - 15 seats (13 Lab, 2 LD)
Yorkshire & Humberside - 12 seats (11 Lab, 1 LD)
North - 2 seats (1 Lab, 1 LD)
Wales - 5 seats (4 Lab, 1 LD)
Scotland - 4 seats (2 Lab, 2 SNP)

We already know that the Tories have been under-performing in Scotland and may not make any gains at all there. Labour also relatively over-performed in London in both the 2008 GLA elections and the 2009 Euro elections compared to the voting in the rest of the UK on the same days. And I can't see the Tories gaining all their 11 Lib Dem target seats in the South West given how good the Lib Dems are at defending seats where they are the incumbents. And now if we accept the FT's analysis we can add in a group of another 29 "must-win" marginals where the Tories are not making the headway they should.

When you go through the list of 117 in order it is also clear that generally the Northern marginals are tougher nuts to crack than the southern ones. The front end of the list includes a lot of Kent seats and New Towns around London, the difficult end of the list includes a lot of Lancashire and Yorkshire seats.

The problem for the Tories is that if they are doing disproportionately well in the south to compensate for their comparative weakness in the north, this won't help them form an overall majority. To win a majority without taking all their first 117 targets they need to take "deep attack" seats further down the list. And these hardly exist in the south - Labour doesn't have many southern seats and those in does have are almost all already in the list of the first 117 marginals. Just as Labour can't form an overall majority without taking a fair number of seats in the south outside London, the Tories can't form an overall majority without taking a bunch of seats in a broad corridor between Wakefield in the east and Bolton in the west.

The social characteristic of these seats is that for historic reasons they have far higher levels of inexpensive owner-occupied housing than similar seats would in the South, Scotland or Midlands. They therefore have voters who have mortgages when they are on lower incomes than in other parts of the country and are a lot more vulnerable to housing-related adverse economic conditions such as negative equity and high interest rates. If these voters lose their jobs they also lose their homes, which social housing residents don't. So my hunch is they have taken a look at a Tory economic policy which would increase their chances of being both homeless and jobless by prematurely switching off the stimulus package and decided they can't risk it.


Blogger Hughes Views said...

Interesting analysis. Re the SW, the Libs are certainly working hard down here in Chelters. We've been bombarded by messages from Martin and he's been popping up in the local paper more or less every other day.

Labour supporters will soon again face the standard dilemma viz whether to vote as they wish (for James) or to try to help keep out Tory Mark by tactically switching to Mr H...

3:43 pm, December 30, 2009

Anonymous DevonChap said...

Trouble is Luke the FT article is based on the region subset of the normal ICM national poll and so only based on 161 respondents. You need at least 1000 to have the normal +-3% accuracy so it is hardly surprising this figures swings wildly. Anthony Wells, the polling guru says it is of no real use.


4:00 pm, December 30, 2009

Anonymous Anthony said...

FWIW, in their standard tables where these figures were taken from ICM's "North" includes Scotland too.

As Andrew Cooper is quoted as saying in the FT article, it's perfectly feasible that Labour are ahead again in the North given they've recovered quite a bit in the national polls since September. However, this little subsample of 161 people certainly isn't enough to gauge it by.

4:07 pm, December 30, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Kellner has a great analysis in this week's New Statesman - probably too much of a left rag for most readers of this blog or the author. And he's hardly a cheerleader for the tories...


And as for the oft repeated nonsense that voters are more likely to be unemployed or homeless under the tories, it's utterly nonsensical. Both parties know they will have to make significant cuts if they win. Labour still pretend they won't have to yet are already implementing some - eg in the NHS (£25 bn to be saved in next two years) and now higher education. Will that affect jobs? Probably. Stop treating everyone like idiots.

5:22 pm, December 30, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

Personally I think people are of the same opinion as me. I was going to vote conservative but have changed my mind since the tory conference.

Labour are far from perfect but at least we'll keep the NHS and our welfare system. Plus Brown has been working incredibly hard recently and I think his efforts are paying off.

8:02 pm, December 30, 2009

Anonymous Anon E Mouse said...

Rich - Bugger off dude - you were never going to vote Tory, your last comment supporting Brown shows that.

But please, with the recession still on and unemployment still rising tell me where his "efforts have been paying off".

Get real Rich - we have an election coming and if everyone sits around like you doing nothing and dreaming of re-election it will not happen.

Roll your sleeves up Rich and start doing something constructive for the party instead of commenting from the cheap seats.

12:50 pm, December 31, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rich - what on earth are you talking about? There are £25bn of cuts to the NHS under Labour - it's happening. Now

1:33 pm, December 31, 2009

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

Rich is right. Why should working or lower middle class people vote tory all they every do is cut taxes for the rich and increase it on the lower half. The tories see redistribution as theft, they see public services as immoral theft of their wealth.
Politics is not about who has the prettiest smile.

1:08 pm, January 02, 2010

Anonymous Anon E Mouse said...

Dirty Euro - Put that mulled wine away until Christmas next year you madman!

I won't even start about how Labour has let me down but 10p tax is in there as Labour rip off the poor to pay for the Home Secretary's husband to watch porno movies.

If you think the current incarnation and behaviour of this useless fag end government is an acceptable way to behave then we deserve to be in opposition.

Why don't you demand Labour get rid of Brown so we may have a chance of re-election instead of your silly childish tribal comments.

5:01 pm, January 02, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some idiots on here.

1) The cuts that the Tories are proposing are far greater than those being proposed by Labour. To think that this isn't going to result in worse unemployment is madness.
2) It is also significant that the Tories are proposing immediate cuts. We haven't even started recovering yet! If we make cuts now, the job losses will create a downturn in consumer demand and fuck the economy up even more.
3) I'm not happy with Brown or Labour's 13 years in power but I sure don't want the Tories in power - particularly when their policies are this mental.

10:06 am, January 04, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

This doesn't surprise me.

But, Luke, it does rather underline the need not to alienate Northern voters - who are on the whole less enamoured of the 'aspirational' message and more concerned for Labour to be identifiably Labour. Not far left - but not uncritically Blairite either.

5:27 pm, January 05, 2010

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

Anon E Mouse - You are an idiot who cannot even spell anonymous. It was labour that brought in the 10 p tax rate you utter cretin. The taxes for working class people and tax credits, plus the mini wage leave lower middle class and working class people better off.
You are fooling no one you evil sinister maggot. You want a extreme right wing society be open about it for once.

10:23 pm, January 10, 2010


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