Tuesday, 21 May 2013
his Hungtingdon constituency, here in Cambridgeshire with a
record majority of 36,230, or 49.3%. In the 2013 county
councils, the Tory lead in the wards that comprise that
(somewhat redrawn) constituency was less less than 5%.
That is the measure of the impact UKIP has made on
In fact, had UKIP performed as strongly as it did in the North
and west of Cambridgeshire right across the entire county, and
fielded a full slate of candidates the Conservatives might not
even have remained the largest party here. There are good
reasons why they did not but even the much lower UKIP shares
in the south of Cambridgeshire produced bizarre results -
boosting the number of seats that changed hands far and
beyond the eleven gains the party took straight from
North Cambridgeshire is now a UKIP stronghold. The party had
established itself here in 2009 gaining the Ramsey ward in a
delayed election. They've since taken control of the parish
council and today Ramsey is one of the safest wards in the
country for any party: UKIP won here with two thirds of the
votes cast. But to that they added surrounding wards to
Ramsey's west: Sawtry & Ellington and a seat in Huntingdon
town; to its south: Warboys & Upwood, Somersham & Earith; to
its east: Sutton, Chatteris and Littleport and to its north:
Wisbech North and South and the most northerly ward in
Cambridgeshire: Roman Bank & Peckover. UKIP's group of 12 is
just two behind the Lib Dems - who return with a group of
As with Buckinghamshire, the Lib Dems were at least as badly
damaged by the rise of UKIP - at least in terms of seats, where
they lost a larger proportion of their councillors than the Tories.
They gained two from the Tories (usually because they shed
fewer votes than the Conservatives to UKIP) but lost five the
other way - and for exactly the same reasons. So even where
UKIP was not close to winning: Duxford, Ely or Linton (where
the incumbent Lib Dem lost by a single vote) they influenced
But unlike Buckinghamshire the Lib Dems were hit by a doublewhammy:
UKIP's surge in rural Cambridgeshire, Labour's
resurgence in the City of Cambridge.
Labour replicated its gains on the district council here in the
counties, taking four wards from the Lib Dems and one from the
Greens. The Lib Dems lost a further seat to a persistent
independent there. And where they didn't win within the city
they returned to competitiveness: they came close to adding
Market, Newnham and Queen Edith's to their tally. Across the
Cambridge constituency (all the Cambridge wards bar Queen
Edith's) Labour outpolled the Lib Dems by 12% - this in a
constituency they finished third in, 7,447 votes behind at the
2010 general election and almost the exact reverse of the Lib
Dem lead in these wards at the last county council elections.
But right across the country - and especially in southern
counties like this - the story for Labour was failure to advance
beyond metropolitan areas. Because, while Cambridgeshire
outside Cambridge and Peterborough (which, as a unitary
authority doesn't elect county councillors any more) isn't
winnable for Labour they should be able to win in areas far
beyond Cambridge. In the 1990s it controlled Fenland district -
north east Cambridgeshire: Wisbech and the Marches elected
Labour county councillors. In 2013 that anti-Tory vote went
mainly to UKIP. Go back not that many years and Labour won
Fulbourn and Histon wards: dormitory wards surrounding
Cambridge,a dn Eynesbury in St Neots. This year the party
polled less than 20% in three. They did ever so slightly better in
Hardwick and Bourn wards, which is notable for producing a
remarkable four way split in the vote: the Tories winning with
just 26%. But these are unlikely to elect Labour county
I mentioned earlier that there were good reasons why UKIP's
performance in Cambridgeshire was not uniform: and those
reasons stem from the very different nature of the northern and
southern halves of the county.
The Cambridge Fens are a fairly isolated, almost frozen in time
part of the world similar in character to the Deepings in
adjoining south Lincolnshire and the marshlands of West
Norfolk. Many of the ward names in this area make reference to
their ancient ancestry: Roman Bank and the Marches for
example - or to the somewhat alien landscape here: Forty Foot
ward is the area around the three drainage canals designed by
Sir Cornelius Vermuyden in the mid 1600s that prevent this
low-lying area from being submerged. This is contrarian
territory - the area that send well-known Liberal MP Clement
Freud to Westminster for 14 years. Once it had had enough of
the Liberals it swung to Labour for a short period; now it is UKIP.
And this area, including adjoining Peterborough, has
experienced one of the biggest influxes of eastern European
migrants outside London: one of the big drivers of UKIP support.
In contrast, south Cambridgeshire is bustling, growing
commuter belt territory - commuter belt to both metropolitan,
academically-driven, liberal Cambridge but also within easy
reach of London. Cambridge itself, like most of England's large
towns and cities are very weak areas for UKIP: they fielded only
five candidates in the city and their highest vote there was
under 14%. Indeed, the contrast in terms of UKIP candidates
fielded between north and south Cambridgeshire emphasises
the divide: the party failed to contest 16 wards, all bar three of
which were in the south.
And there's another reason why UKIP has been less successful
in the south: the Liberal Democrats have been far more strongly
organised, and successful in this part of the county than the
north. All the Lib Dem seats come from the south and they
administered South and East Cambridgeshire districts for much
of the 1990s and early 2000s. But the UKIP impact was felt even
here, creating some perverse outcomes: in South East
Cambridgeshire there was an 11% swing from Lib Dem to Tory,
while in the South West corner the swing went the other way:
1.5% from Tory to Lib Dem. Yet the Lib Dems lost seats in both
Cambridgeshire is now a county that can pivot any way. Nearly
half the seats are classed as marginal - with majorities of 10% or
less - and small shifts in any direction will yield a big change in
seats. It's easiest for the Conservatives: a swing of just 0.8% will
give them overall control again. The task for both the Lib Dems
and Labour is very difficult not least because several of their
targets and held by each other. But if Labour can fulfil its "one
nation" promise then it may again be able to break out of its
Cambridge core. UKIP needs 5.0% to become the largest party
and just under 9% to take overall control - but that is only likely
to happen when it can become a party of the whole of
Cambridgeshire - not just the north and west.
Adam Gray is a psephologist and freelance political campaign consultant
Monday, 13 May 2013
This long, narrow county, now - since Milton Keynes became its own unitary authority - runs from the countryside around Buckingham in the north past the county town of Aylesbury,
over the Chiltern Hills to Chesham, Amersham and Wycombe and then down into the Thames Valley to include Marlow, Beaconsfield, and the affluent commuter suburbs of Iver and Stoke Poges, wrapping itself around Slough in the far south.
With the exception of Aylesbury town itself, pretty much all of this county is Conservative territory. Aylesbury has long been anomalous: a Liberal Democrat stronghold with a large muslim population. Labour and the Liberal Democrats may occasionally be strong enough to win a ward or two in Wycombe town, but they are rarely strong enough to cement their hold there.
Yet despite - or perhaps because of - its staunch Conservatism, Buckinghamshire was one of the first counties that UKIP established itself. In the 2009 elections 53 UKIP candidates stood: an unprecedented show of strength for a party that was then very much clumped with the also-rans. Nor were its candidate humiliated, polling as high as 28% in one South Bucks ward.
It is in that context, and that context alone that Buckinghamshire may count as one of UKIP's most disappointing results. Yes, they made the breakthrough here gaining six seats. But given their already strong organisation, given the immense dissatisfaction among traditional Home Counties Conservatives with David Cameron's brand of Toryism, and given the huge campaigning issue of the High Speed Rail plans that will tear through this county, largely above ground, six councillors seems a relatively poor return for this party.
UKIP's performance here can best be described as patchy or, alternatively, strong in parts. They performed strongly in the north of the county and - while by no means badly in the south - far less well in South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe. They generally did not build on the strong performances they managed in 2009: in Denham ward - the successor to the ward they polled 28% in last time - they were up just 9 points, good but nowhere close to winning. In Aylesbury North ward they added just 3% to their vote, while gaining neighbouring Aylesbury North West with an increase of over 20 points. And only one of their near misses: Cliveden, is in the south of the county. Certainly the seats it did pick up, as the party acknowledged, track the proposed route of the HS2 line. So on that analysis, at least, the UKIP vote was a protest vote - just not on the issues UKIP protesters are usually identified with: immigration and Europe.
One of the reasons UKIP got so far but advanced no further is that in this county, unlike places like Kent, Essex, Norfolk and Lincolnshire it was the Lib Dems almost as much as the Conservatives that they drained seats and votes from. Long the largest opposition party in Bucks, the Lib Dems had a dreadful night, beaten by UKIP in 41 of the 49 wards, finishing last of the main four parties in 25 and being the primary donor of council seats to UKIP. This party that went into the election holding seven of the eight Aylesbury seats emerged from it with just two of five (boundary changes eliminating the other three). Three of UKIP's six gains came from the Liberal Democrats, not the Conservatives. And they also lost out in redrawn Chesham,retaining just two wards at the east end of Wycombe, two in
Aylesbury and Ivinghoe, a rural ward that borders Tring in neighbouring Hertforshire.
One of the secondary headlines of the 2013 county council elections was Labour's unimpressive performance, especially in southern counties. Buckinghamshire was no exception: the party's vote rising only modestly in most wards and failing to return to competitiveness in the only Wycombe wards it has a chance in: Downley and Totteridge & Bowerdean. Labour would have gone a second election without any representation at County Hall were it not for arguably the most remarkable Labour performance anywhere in the country: their solitary gain of Buckingham West ward in the far north of the county.
Buckingham does have history of electing Labour MPs: the rogue Mirror owner Robert Maxwell was Labour MP for Buckingham in the 1960s, but that was when fledgling Milton
Keynes contributed its Labour votes to the constituency. But this ward, previously called Buckingham South but with almost identical boundaries, has not elected Labour in recent memory. In 2009 the party was 600 votes, or 22% behind here. And it can't be argued that UKIP drained away precious Tory votes: the UKIP vote in this ward was among their weaker showings: actually falling a little compared to 2009.
Labour also registered an impressive showing in Chesham, part of which elected a Lib Dem councillor four years ago. But this second unusually strong Labour showing was down to the fact that the incumbent Consevative councillor, Mohammed Bhatti, had defected to Labour and contested the ward. It is unlikely that this last stop on the Metropolitan Tube line will ever actually elect a Labour councillor. Bear in mind that in 2009, Labour polled less than 6% in both Chesham wards.
It is often argued that a vote for UKIP is a protest vote because they cannot...will not win any seats in Parliament at the nextgeneral election. That is probably true, but it is also the case
that they did "win" a constituency here in 2013: Aylesbury would have sent a UKIP MP to Westminster on the basis of these results. Of course, turnout this year was barely 1 in 4, but
it is worth noting that UKIP's performance here was entirely unaffected by apathy or enthusiasm: indeed, if anything, seats they gained tended to register turnouts in the mid 30s. But even that is a quantum leap away from a general election turnout.
What of the next contest in 2017? UKIP have achieved one thing unequivocally: they've established themselves as the principal opposition right across the county. Whereas Labour
and the Lib Dems require unimaginable swings to contemplate winning a majority, for UKIP that prospect is a distant but much more realistic 9%. And even more achievable: a 6% swing would remove the Conservative overall majority here for the first time ever.
That still remains incredibly challenging in this bluest of blue counties - and the electoral system here overwhelmingly assists the Conservatives, who hold 76% of the seats with just 41% of the vote. But at least it's now a challenge, not an impossibility.
Adam Gray is a psephologist and freelance political campaign consultant
Thursday, 9 May 2013
The success of the United Kingdom Independence party casts a shadow over the normal ebb and flow of the main parties’ fortunes. It has become the principal opposition to the Conservatives in places such as Kent, Lincolnshire and Buckinghamshire. It has also grown into a huge political force in a number of seats where Labour and the Conservatives have traditionally battled it out for white working -class and lower middle-class voters, particularly on the east coast: Waveney, Dover, Great Yarmouth, Thanet, but also in places such as the new towns of Basildon and Redditch.
Labour did so badly in the 2009 county elections that a large swing to the party was to be expected. But comparing the results of this year’s elections with those of last year, there are some causes for concern. Labour’s vote share was down in most places, as might be expected given the UKIP surge, but it was often down a little more than the Conservative vote share. The following tables show the 2012 and 2013 results in a number of local authorities based on key marginal seats.
2013: Lab 36% - Con 28% - LD 4% - UKIP 28%
2012: Lab 51% - Con 39% - LD 8% - UKIP 1%
2013: Lab 43% - Con 25% - LD 4% - UKIP 20%
2012: Lab 53% - Con 34% - LD 9% - UKIP 0%
2013: Lab 40% - Con 25% - LD 9% - UKIP 20%
2012: Lab 52% - Con 32% - LD 11% - UKIP 0%
Even in areas where UKIP were either weak or did not put up many candidates, there was a small net swing to the Conservatives since 2012. Overshadowed by the UKIP performance, the Greens also did quite well in several areas, including in the unlikely setting of some normally Tory suburbs of Nuneaton where they defeated the Conservative leader of Warwickshire county council.
2013: Lab 38% - Con 17% - LD 13% - UKIP 5% - Grn 26%
2012: Lab 40% - Con 16% - LD 13% - UKIP 1% - Grn 30%
Labour’s showing in the key parliamentary marginals was very uneven. In some seats where the Tories are defending small majorities they hung on to their lead (Waveney, Gloucester, Worcester, South Ribble, Dover) or were only narrowly edged out (Harlow, Redditch, Nuneaton). There were also, it is true, some more convincing Labour victories that should have Tory MPs scanning the employment adverts (Amber Valley, North Warwickshire, Ipswich, Cannock Chase), and some long shots that came in (Gravesham, Leicestershire North West). In one target seat, Great Yarmouth, UKIP actually took the lead.
The UKIP vote has several dimensions. The party is conservative and nostalgic on the one hand, and oppositional on the other. UKIP’s conservatism is attractive primarily to voters on the right of politics, who regret the compromises that the Conservatives have had to make with modern life and feel alienated by the coalition. But parties of the right also exercise a pull for some traditional Labour voters. Parties to the right of the Conservatives have been picking up votes in working-class Labour heartlands for a while – there was only one seat in South Yorkshire (Sheffield Hallam) where they failed to breach 10 per cent of the vote in the 2010 general election. The rightwing vote was also more unified than before with the decline of the BNP and the English Democrats, who in 2009 had polled well in some areas, such as Basildon and Dartford, which became UKIP strong points in 2013. In the 2013 local elections this cross-class core rightwing vote was joined by a wave of opposition-minded voters. While from a Labour point of view it is tactically useful for the Conservatives to leach votes to UKIP, the surge in the county elections was so strong that it probably harmed Labour. People who were disenchanted turned to UKIP instead of Labour.
When the former MP for Waveney Bob Blizzard and I examined the disastrous results in the east of England that Labour suffered in 2010, we found a number of things that foreshadowed the UKIP successes of 2013. Former Labour voters seemed particularly concerned about immigration and abuse of the benefits system – and real concerns were often accompanied by a belief in bizarre myths that were very difficult to dislodge. The government and media have made the climate even harsher, for short-term political reasons, but this has created a situation whereby even the coalition’s changes will not whet the appetite for anti-welfare and anti-immigration politics, because no practical solution will suffice. Hence, the rise of UKIP.
It is important to discard a few possibilities when looking at the UKIP vote. It has very little to do with attraction to UKIP’s policies. Public knowledge of those policies is fuzzy at best, and the policies themselves bear little relationship to the real world. UKIP voters seem extraordinarily pessimistic about the economy; there is a zero-sum mentality that seems to have given up on the prospect of growth and sees the only way to advance is at the expense of someone else (and the corollary of this is often that people who are imagined to be doing better, such as immigrants, are doing it at your expense). Voters also like Nigel Farage personally, respond to simple answers to complex problems, and project their own aspirations onto the party – the Sunday Telegraph journalist Iain Martin spoke to a UKIP voter who had somehow picked up the impression that UKIP would be tough on bankers and the City.
UKIP has managed the trick of seeming anti-establishment while in fact pursuing policies that are in the interests of the wealthy, and consisting largely of an archetypal old-fashioned establishment – white, male, ageing and of the home counties. It is a frustrating moment in politics when a force such as this makes the centre-left seem establishment and elitist. Labour has paid a price, in the county elections and in Bradford West last year, for being fairly radical about its diagnosis of what is wrong with the current state of affairs but so cautious about what it proposes to do about it.
The UKIP surge will subside in time, but Labour cannot afford to be complacent. It is pointless to engage in a policy auction with them, but Labour does need to show that it is an insurgent party rather than an arm of the establishment. I hope that people will be looking for responsible solutions to real problems at the next election, but they may not be – the success of Beppe Grillo’s movement in Italy is a warning in this respect. The local elections of 2012 were encouraging for Labour, but those of 2013 show that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Lewis Baston is senior research fellow at Democratic Audit. He tweets @Lewis_Baston
This article was first published on Progress Online on 7 May 2013.
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Colleagues outside London face important county council elections next week. They need our help and support. Click here to see the areas where you can help and obtain contact details of the local campaign coordinators. The elections are on Thursday 2 May and we will be running a phone bank everyday from our office close to Euston rail station. Please contact Luke Place to book your slot.
London Regional Director
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
On Tuesday 4 June, Southern Front is supporting an important event that is taking place in committee room 10 in the Houses of Parliament (4:30pm-6:00pm). The event is entitled "One Nation Labour: how do we win back the south?", and will explore the key challenges facing Labour as it seeks to regain southern seats lost in 2010.
An expert panel of speakers has been assembled, ensuring informed and insightful debate and discussion for all who attend. The confirmed speakers are:
John Denham MP,
Caroline Flint MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change),
Lewis Baston ( Democratic Audit )
Cllr Sharon Taylor (Leader, Stevenage Borough Council and Stevenage PPC)
Chair: Cllr Vicky Groulef (Reading PPC)
The event has been organised by the Labour Policy Review in association with Progress, and with the support of the LGA Labour Group, the Smith Institute, as well as ourselves at Southern Front.
If you wish to attend this event you can register here: http://winningbackthesouth.eventbrite.com/
Friday, 22 February 2013
Walking along the harbour in my home town of Ramsgate, with its marina and fishing trawlers, brought home to me not just the hard work and industry of Kent but also the strides that Labour have made in the South East – and the further work all of us need to take to ensure there is a Labour victory in 2015.
For if you had been walking across the same harbour during much of the 1980s and 1990s Thanet District Council would have been dominated by Tory councillors and the infamous Jonathan Aitken would have been your MP. Now we have a progressive Labour administration who are working to bring jobs to the area despite Ministers slashing our council budget.
But after gaining a Labour MP back in 1997 we are back to a Tory and so the key question is whether the tide really is turning for Labour in the South East?
The short answer is yes – but we need to use the springboard of last year’s local elections to ensure we gain further successes in the 2013 county council elections and the 2014 European Parliament election.
And it can be done. Let’s take David Cameron’s home town of Witney as one example.
There is no Aldi or Primark there and the stone clad town has 4x4s dotted around the side streets. Yet, here in this affluent Oxfordshire town Labour won the Witney wards on the district council.
But Labour gains in Witney were no flash in the pan. In nearby Chipping Norton – home of the infamous ‘supper party’ between James Murdoch and David Cameron – Labour also won.
It is not just Oxfordshire where Labour is winning. On the same night that Galloway trounced Labour in Bradford West, Labour won a remarkable victory in the affluent ward of Crokenhill and West Hill in Sevenoaks – the constituency of the ubiquitous Tory Business Minister, Michael Fallon.
We also have Labour councils dotted around the South East - such as Oxford, Southampton and Hastings.
So why are people in the towns, cities and villages of the South East turning away from the Tories?
The actions of the Labour Government are remembered and contrasted with that of this Tory led Government. Rural bus services were funded, one stop shop access points for public services were set up and the Agricultural Wages Board was protected.
Now – ministers are ploughing ahead with the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board. Farm workers are already one of the lowest paid groups in the country and the abolition of the board can only make matters worse for 154,000 agricultural workers in England and Wales.
When it comes to isolating hard up rural families from accessing essential public services and getting jobs, the decisions by a number of councils to cut bus services will make daily life even more difficult. On top of this, the watchdog, Customer Focus, has warned of the damage caused to market towns and rural life with the additional cuts in rural post offices.
The impact of Government policies is hitting the “squeezed middle” of South East England. So Labour must present a robust programme aimed specifically at our region. This should include tackling the Government’s timid programme for broadband rollout. Decent bus services for local people are a must. But it is tackling the housing crisis that is really needed to give hope for local people.
In 2012, Labour begun to change the perception of our party. In 2013, we must put forward a robust plan specifically aimed at the South East for Labour to gain the electoral breakthrough we need for 2013, 2014 – and the General Election.
James Watkins is a member of Unite the Union’s National Political Committee. This article is written in a personal capacity.
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
If we're going to build a One Nation party there can be no no go areas - so this weekend I'm asking Labour members to join us on the doorstep.
You can sign up here
Volunteers really will make the difference - so sign up for weekend campaigning this weekend and help us take our One Nation message to doorsteps in Eastleigh.
With one million young people out of work, too-far too-fast cuts hitting police numbers, attacks on the NHS and the news that the UK economy shrank again at the end of last year, people in Eastleigh want a change of direction.
There are many people in Eastleigh who voted LibDem or Tory last but who now feel let down by a Government that doesn't understand their lives.
David Cameron's policies are hurting not working - and people are sick of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Let's give them a choice of a One Nation Labour Party that will stand up for them and protect the things they care about.
Get the Eastleigh campaign off to a great start this weekend by coming along to our first campaigning sessions this Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am.
It's going to be an exciting three weeks - get on board and help take another step towards winning in 2015
See you on the doorstep.
John Denham MP