• Development Intelligence

Elections 2021: Why these elections really mattered

Big Bad Bojo is just about the luckiest politician in history. With farcical comedic timing on election day, French fishermen decided to send a rather smelly armada to the Channel Islands. No one could have predicted, or in truth ever believed, that the French would do all they could to ensure a strong turnout of the Brexiteer vote to aid the Tories. And rather strangely, the Governor of the Bank of England chose yesterday to upgrade the UK economy’s growth projection. He did know there was an election on, right?

As yesterday’s ‘Battle of St Hellier’ recedes, we are today swamped with rather overhyped coverage of the – widely predicted but apparently shocking for the media – Hartlepool Parliamentary by-election result. Most local election days are not like this. Usually the DI team face rather bored clients when we hyperventilate with excitement on the first Thursday of each May when the annual local elections happen. This time it’s different. Yesterday’s elections do really matter. Here’s why…

First off and unusually, this was essentially what the Americans call a ‘mid-term election’, sitting roughly in the middle between Bojo’s big 80 seat majority win in December 2019 and the date when the next General Election is most likely to happen in May 2023.

(Hold on, you sharp political minds will ask, isn’t the next General Election due on 2 May 2024? Technically yes, but the Tories have a manifesto commitment to rip up the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and seem intent on seeing that through. They will want to go early. So 4 May 2023 looks a good bet right now).

Second, this was a very large set of elections. Putting aside the tremendous excitement of the police and crime commissioners’ elections (which we know is all you could think about yesterday), we had a key Parliamentary by-election, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd elections, GLA and metro mayor elections as well as two years’ worth of local council elections, as Covid stopped all the election fun last year. And an interesting facet of yesterday was that there were literally elections in every part of Great Britain on the same day, which normally isn’t the case for local elections.

Third, then there’s the party politics of all this: a big post-Brexit, post-Covid (sort of) electoral test for Bojo surrounded by all his shiny new wallpaper in No 10. The first big electoral test for Starmer and post-Corbyn Labour. The first big electoral test for St Nicola after her tricky few months with that terrible bout of amnesia that stopped her remembering any bad news for the SNP but helped her remember all the bad news for Big Alex.

And, sticking with Scotland, finally, there is the impact of the Scottish election result on the ongoing psychodrama of the SNP’s independence ‘neverendum’ which will now become a Brexit-like, all-consuming day-by-day political story going forwards with lots of high and low politics, legal challenges and all the rest. Out with “and now to our Europe Editor Katya Adler in Brussels” and in with “over to our Scotland Editor Sarah Smith at Holyrood” each night on the BBC News at Ten.

So what happened yesterday is a significant window into where we are headed for the next couple of years. And the big lessons (so far, bearing in mind the results are still coming in) are interesting:

Tories – A continuation of 2019. The red wall is still crumbling into their arms (demographic change as much as political fashion) and voters just don’t care about Bojo’s wallpaper or that he’s a bit of a rogue.

Labour – In truth, this is more Corbyn’s result than Starmer’s. The painful stain of the Corbyn era will take a long time to rub off voters’ memory banks. The scale of their 2019 defeat may take at least two General Election cycles to repair. The question is, can Starmer’s ‘middle of the road’ strategy work? As they say, if you stand in the middle of the road you tend to get run over. Trying to be all things to all people sometimes means you aren’t anything to anybody. Early results so far show the Greens and Lib Dems winning Labour council seats from the Left as well as the Tories from the Right. Problem.

We will be sending an analytical overview of all the results to our clients and colleagues as they come in.

If you think your team would benefit from a free, detailed analysis of what happened at the elections and what it means for UK politics in general and the property industry in particular, please contact Eleanor at eleanor@development-intelligence.com.