BY DAVID EYLES
My analyses of Conservative held constituencies was conducted in July 2018. The first part of the two articles is here. The second part is here. These two articles, and the analyses behind them, looked solely at the Tories by examining each constituency and then interrogating them with a very simple model to test their resilience to attack by a determined and organised UKIP. It was clear that such an attack would lead to considerable losses for the Tories, if they didn’t get their act together pretty sharpish. At the time, the Tories were led by Theresa May and were looking astonishingly weak. As time went by, her Tory government became even weaker.
A third article in September 2018 examined four examples of marginal or weak constituencies which showed how an invigorated UKIP could take votes from a Conservative party that was outwardly still in two minds as to whether it was prepared to respect the result of the referendum, or not.
In the context of the time, Nigel Farage was still in UKIP and was still very much the leading light of it. If UKIP had properly got itself together and not gone off on a wild ride into the depths of a (generally assumed) ‘Far Right’ jungle, they might possibly have inflicted considerable damage upon the Tories. However, UKIP National Executive Committee have always been a bunch of ungovernable Mavericks – UKIP elected Gerard Batten who encouraged and got involved with Tommy Robinson – and Farage left the party.
As time went on and the government was continually weakened by Parliament, a good deal of smoke and mirrors was being emitted by the ‘second referendum’ lobby. An argument that appeared with growing frequency was the idea that Leave voters had changed their minds and were now arguing for Remain. A fourth article in February 2019 examined this hypothesis using a petition to Parliament to “Leave the EU without a deal in March 2019” which attracted well over 350,000 signatures. Because Parliamentary petitions are allocated to each constituency, it was possible to relate the number of signatures to each constituency. This was done for all constituencies in England, and these were matched against the percentage of Leave votes for the same constituencies. This showed a very close correlation between Leave votes and petition signatures. The inference from that correlation was that the Leave vote was holding up and was not being eroded over time.
That inference has been upheld by repeated opinion polling and, of course, the EU election itself. This returned a massive win for the Brexit Party and gave the strong impression that the BXP were on a roll and heading towards Westminster. Had Theresa May remained in office, the future of the Brexit Party looked assured; whilst that of the country would have been wreckage cast upon a rock, despite the heroic efforts of Farage.
The Current Situation
It has become increasingly apparent over the last few weeks and days that a simple Leave/Remain calculation for each constituency is no longer reliable as a forecast as to what might happen in a General Election. The public are making an intelligent distinction between the Euro elections and General Elections, in that the they are making choices which clearly distinguish between either a ‘send a message’ (as in the Euros) or deciding which party actually governs us (as in the GE). If Theresa May was still Prime Minister, the carnage as far as the Conservative Party and the country are concerned, would have been incalculable. The ‘message’ sent to the Tories at the EU elections at long last shifted the Limpet May from her rock and brought us Boris, despite the internal divisions within the Parliamentary Conservative Party.
Once again, Farage has influenced British politics to an extent which no other politician could have done. Not even Boris. Furthermore, he has done it without ever having set foot in the House of Commons.
Despite the influence of Farage, for a few weeks now, the opinion polls have suggested that the Brexit Party support is leaching away – about 70% of it going to the Tories. Opinion polls need to be interpreted with a good deal of caution. This is partly because of their small sample sizes. This can be corrected to some extent by amalgamation with other polls taken at the same time. Hence, the ‘Poll Trackers’ give a good idea of the general drift of intended voting patterns. The latest one I can find is here, which shows both Conservatives and Labour climbing at the expense of the Lib Dems and the Brexit Party.
However, all opinion polls suffer from one bias which is impossible for them to correct: Their polling is almost always based upon a ‘panel’ of regular respondents. These respondents tend to be the more outward and socially connected (both literally and virtually) and also predominantly in the public sector. This results in a ‘Liberal/Centre-Left’ bias of almost all these polls – and provides one reason why the Leave/UKIP/BXP vote is consistently under-represented. For a more detailed discussion of these biases, see this article.
Nevertheless, the message is fairly clear: whilst the distance between Labour and the Conservatives is a fairly constant 10% or so, the two bigger parties are taking an increasing share of potential voter support from both Lib Dems and BXP. The support for the Brexit Party is therefore declining markedly. This means that its influence upon the overall number of seats (given the FPTP system) will also decline.
Away from the biases of the opinion polls, this Channel 4 focus group in the Midlands were all Labour voters but have been put off by various aspects of Corbyn. Watch it to the end and we discover that they all now intend to vote Conservative. Boris’ message has gone home hard amongst the predominantly Leave voting traditional Labour heartlands. The younger generation may turn out to be a different matter, as Gary Gibbon points out in the excerpt, but we need to remember that the 18 – 24 age group has a relatively poor voting record compared to their elders.
Until recently, I thought that the country, outside London and the university towns in the south, would divide into two parts:
- The Leave voting South, South-West, East Midlands and the coastal towns of East Anglia would be where the Brexit Party would make few gains and are at risk of splitting the Leave vote and letting Labour in, by default. These are the regions where the Conservatives MUST win in order to get any sensible majority. If these areas are split, then the ultimate disaster could occur of letting Labour into government, losing Brexit and gaining the nastiest, hard Marxist government we have ever had.
- The North, the Midlands, Wales and the North-East where the Brexit party would do well in traditional Labour towns which have voted Leave; they would either win outright or split the Labour vote, allowing the Tories or Lib Dems in.
However, in the light of the ways in which the polls are shifting nationally and the evidence of that Ch4 focus group, my opinion is that the Brexit Party vote (which, like the UKIP vote before it, has proved ephemeral) is now diminishing rapidly. The Brexit vote seems to be shifting to the Conservatives. Having said that, there are a large number of voters who will not vote Tory under any circumstances and who are most likely to vote BXP if given the opportunity.
Given all of that, there are some constituencies that could possibly switch to the BXP or where the BXP could cause upset to Labour. These are the places where the Tories have never won since 1945 and which also have a Leave percentage much larger than 50%. These are mostly in the North and the North-East. These are also places with a relatively low “block mosque vote” (votes which invariably return a Labour MP).
Elsewhere, in constituencies where the Conservatives either have a current majority; or where Labour or the Lib Dems have a majority, but the Conservatives have a good chance of winning, my feeling is that the Brexit Party should hold back, and all power be given to the Tories’ elbows.
Brief Constituency Commentary
The following is a quick assessment of four constituencies which have been suggested to me by others:
Labour majority over Conservatives: 1,832
Leave percentage: 57.6%
Here, Labour have only a very narrow majority over the Tories and so it is highly vulnerable to being lost. The party with the best chance of winning this is the Conservatives, and so they should be given all the support possible.
- South Dorset
Conservative majority over Labour: 11,695
Leave percentage: 59.4%
I know South Dorset and the incumbent, Richard Drax, personally because I used to farm near Swanage. Drax is extremely hard working and has regular meetings with local farmers. He took the constituency from Labour with a narrow majority in 2010 and has built that majority up over successive elections into a comfortable margin. Drax is highly Eurosceptic and always has been. He is a member of the ERG within Parliament and has rebelled in all the right places during May’s incumbency. He is thoroughly sound and should be given as much support as possible.
- West Dorset
Conservative majority over Lib Dems: 19,091
Leave percentage: 51%
Formerly Letwin’s constituency. Previously thought to be a good MP by the farming community, but his performance over the last three years has been grievous. Fortunately, he has now gone and is no longer able to cause mayhem in Parliament. West Dorset has a large concentration of Remain voters, due in part because of the preponderance of the prosperous public sector centred upon Dorchester. Nevertheless, they are mostly Tory voters. Whilst we do not know the Leave/Remain disposition of the new Tory candidate, it would be folly to interrupt an otherwise safe Conservative seat.
Conservative majority over Labour: 14,209
Leave percentage: 57.4%
I do not know Robert Syms or his views on the referendum result. But he has been a quiet MP in Parliament and so I assume he has been obedient and compliant with the whips’ office. He is unlikely to change under a government led by Boris Johnson and so is most likely to vote in favour of Brexit, because that is Boris’ direction of travel. He should be given support.
At the referendum, the country was faced with a binary choice: Leave or Remain. The subsequent Euro elections presented voters with a similar choice because the Leave vote had not been given effect. Once again, and with even greater emphasis, the country voted “Leave” by voting for the Leave proxy in the form of the Brexit Party.
Outwardly, this next General Election presents the voter with a similar binary choice of voting for a Leave proxy in the form of the Conservative Party, or a ‘hard’ Leave in the form of the Brexit Party.
However, the Labour Party under Corbyn has sat on the sidelines during the last Parliament and voted in such a way as to cause maximum damage to the Tories, without considering the wishes of the country. They have actively sought to delay and then reverse Brexit. Gradually, they have morphed into a Remain party whose only purpose is to gain power to the ultimate detriment of the country.
Corbyn’s leadership, with McDonnell supporting him, has plunged the Labour Party into the hardest Left it has ever been in its entire history. The Labour manifesto reveals what many of us suspected, that their plans are to re-write economics and mingle that with a highly dangerous approach to our external and internal security. Corbyn has prostituted himself to every terrorist organisation that has unfriendly designs upon the UK, its allies and trading partners.
For the last three and a half years, those of us who voted Leave have been continually subjected to the most appalling abuse, condescension and insults to our intelligence by the ‘elites’ who voted Remain. The continual, systematic attempts to reverse the result under many different guises, have come perilously close to damaging our rule of law and have diminished this country in the eyes of our allies. It will take a long time to repair the damage.
As a result, the electorate now have to juggle two outcomes as they cast their votes. On the one hand, they must assess which party will achieve Brexit (or not, whichever they desire). On the other they must assess the risks to themselves and the country if Corbyn is elected.
In my view, the country now faces the most serious existential threat to our dignity, integrity, economic, religious and personal freedom that we have faced since 1939. The pincer movement of the EU on one the hand and Corbyn on the other, must be fought off simultaneously.
Until quite recently, my opinion was that the Brexit Party should try to take votes away from Labour in the working-class areas. These people have been systematically taken for granted and now ignored by Labour. Many people are now effectively disenfranchised. The party that used to look out for them has walked away, leaving an electoral void which is begging to be filled. It might be that the BXP can still do this, but at the moment, Labour are very strong and have a formidable election machine.
In my view, it is therefore incumbent upon the Brexit Party to disrupt the Labour vote as much as possible in those areas where it will not simultaneously disrupt the Tory vote. Sadly, this narrows their choice as to which constituencies to fight. But to achieve any kind of Brexit at all, and at the same time defeat Corbyn, that is what they must do.
Have no doubt this is the Brexit Election. The winner takes all.