Friday, May 22, 2009

A patchy Conservative recovery

The most interesting point about the Chopwell and Rowlands Gill by-election in Gateshead last week was the big fall in the Conservative vote and share. It falls into a pattern of by-elections and to some extent local elections that has been in place for some time. The Conservative recovery in recent years has been patchy. It has been strong in some areas. In other areas it has simply not happened at all. The Labour heartlands used to have a strong Conservative vote. There were plenty of people who could be termed "working class Tories". And there have always been "middle class" areas within the Labour heartlands where in the past the Conservatives had significant traction. The Conservative appeal in so many Labour heartlands has now gone. The implosion of the Conservative organisation in the 80s and especially the 90s in Labour heartlands has, other than on occasioanly islands, been so extensive that there are no grassroots left to grown when the political sun shines for the Conservatives.

In by-election after by-election in wards in Labour heartlands, the Conservatives are more often than not coming behind the BNP in 4th place. In Chopwell and Rowlands Gill they were saved from humiliation of 4th place simply because there were only 3 parties standing. Nevertheless, the Conservative share was down 8%. It should be remembered that when Rowlands Gill was a ward in its own right 30 years ago, it returned Conservative councillors. It is a prosperous town which is exactly the sort of area where the Conservatives would normally be expected to do well. Last week they barely registered at all with the voters.

It was the same in my ward last year. Whickham South was Conservative until 1986. In the byelection in July, their vote was tiny. In a byelection in Salford yesterday, they came 4th. In a recent byelection in Hartlepool they came 5th. There is a clear pattern developing of the Conservatives being an irrelevant fringe party in some areas.

There are some exceptions. North Tyneside and Sunderland for example. But cross the border from those councils and the Conservatives are back in a desert.

Back in the 90s, Labour's then recovery was marked by the election of Labour councillors in areas where few had dreamed of Labour ever being elected. I always remember the shock people experienced when Labour councillors were elected in Isle of Wight. The equivalent Tory recovery is much more patchy. There are some in the Conservatives who think the general election is in the bag for them. They should not be so easy however with their confidence. They need to gain 130 seats to scrape in with a minimal majority. That is going to be a major challenge.
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kevin scott said...

I see you are still trying to write off the Tories, Jonathan.

Tell you what, here are two predictions that will make you spill your (fair trade) coffee this morning, Jonathan.

The Tories will top the Euro poll nationally and they will take the mayoral seat in North Tyneside.

How do you think the Lib Dems will fare in both contests?

Andrea Cave said...

Kevin - That's a totally different prediction to what you gave me on my comment that the NE's Euro MP would be the most worried out of the 3 of them. You said that the Labour member would be re-elected in the region with no problems whatsoever. What has changed your mind ?

I am asking you that question out of pure and genuine interest - as a floating voter.

kevin scott said...

No it isn't, Andrea.

The Tories will top the poll nationally, but not in the North East. Labour will do that (again) and easily retain their seat. The Tories will easily retain their seat too in the North East.

The question mark is over the Lib Dems and that third seat.

They might find themselves squeezed by the surge in support for UKIP (and hopefully, the BNP) and the size of the Labour vote in the North East.

Anonymous said...

I will be watching with interest.

Anonymous said...

26 May 2009

"The crisis gripping Parliament, as the Daily Telegraph has released details of MPs’ expenses, is being used by the financial oligarchy and their media spokesmen to shift the agenda of official politics to the right. Under cover of ringing declarations that corruption must be rooted from the body politic, a frontal assault is being prepared on the welfare state and the living standards of millions of working people. This is what, in reality, lies behind the calls by the Conservatives and sections of the media for an early election."...