Elections 2021: Post-Election Analysis
So we’ve had all the political parties’ spin and the endless journalistic commentary, but what actually happened? The DI team can now give you the inside track. First off, the ‘scores on the doors’:
(some PCC results still to declare)
The entirely predictable
Tories – They did well, the red wall continues to crumble towards them and, after 11 years in government, they are defying normal convention and are still 10 points clear of the Opposition.
Labour – They performed badly and inevitably the Corbynite v Blairite civil war has erupted again with recriminations on all sides.
UKIP/Brexit/Reform – This is now just a pointless non entity, hence Big Nige has all but retired and Richard Tice really should go back to the day job.
The scale of some of those Tory results – Not just the Hartlepool by-election swing from Labour - a huge 23%, only the second by-election gain for a governing party since Thatcher amid the backdrop of the Falklands War in 1982 and is also the largest percentage increase at a by-election by a sitting government in post-war history – but also the Putin-esque 73% percent of the votes win for Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley mayoralty and Shaun Bailey’s unexpectedly okay performance in the London mayoral race.
The Lib Dems are still alive…just – Not a great set of results for them but frankly conventional wisdom was that they would implode. They didn’t. They took a bit of a hit but held up surprisingly well.
A good result for the Greens – They will be very happy and probably hoping in next year’s local elections for some further reflected glory if the Greens actually do win the German Chancellorship from Merkel in September where they are currently polling ahead.
Some thoughts on how things panned out
One of the reasons it’s easier for the Tories to do well again is that the Right vote is once more reunified with the demise of UKIP/Brexit/Reform, whereas the Left vote is split, sometimes four ways between Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the SNP.
It is telling in the aftermath of Brexit, that over the past two years the Tories have taken 55 Parliamentary seats from Labour, 51 of which voted for Brexit. Go figure.
What is significant looking forwards is that the Hartlepool by-election result and a number of the red wall wins for the Tories prove that Labour’s 2019 General Election loss was not a short-lived Brexit anomaly that many in the Labour Party were hoping, but now clearly part of a much deeper realignment across British politics.
Interestingly, some research was published recently on what percentage of Labour MPs previously held working class jobs:
1987-1992: 64 MPs
1992-1997: 59 MPs
1997-2001: 55 MPs
2001-2005: 49 MPs
2005-2010: 37 MPs
2010-2015: 20 MPs
2015-2017: 13 MPs
2017-2019: 12 MPs
2019-now: 7 MPs
This straight line down trend underlines the realignment within the Labour Party and goes some way to explaining why the red wall is decoupling from Labour. Their interests no longer align.
As we said in this previous blog on Starmer’s win in April 2020: “The largest election swing in British political history was recorded by Tony Blair in 1997 at just over 10%. The next largest, but note at half that, was Thatcher’s in 1979 which reminds us just how huge Blair’s victory over the Tories really was in 1997.” The stark reality for Labour now is this: to win a Parliamentary majority, Labour needs a bigger swing than Attlee in 1945, Thatcher in 1979 and Blair in 1997 whilst navigating a toxic internal political divide none of them faced. Labour need to lead by 12 points in the polls not trail by 10.
To add to his difficulties, and now that Labour can’t bank on around 50 Scottish seats and around 30 Welsh seats at each General Election, Starmer needs to win non-London England where Labour has not won the popular vote since the heady heights of Blairism in 2001.
It's worth reflecting on how disappointing some of these Labour results were in England. They lost 11 of the 14 seats they were defending in Dudley. They are down 10 seats in Nuneaton. Down 11 in Derbyshire. Even in councils where they managed to hold onto control they lost seats: down six in Oldham and nine in Sunderland. This is freefall territory.
The endless Labour spin over the weekend of how well they did in Wales (won one extra seat and still not a majority), in Manchester (a hold) and London (a hold) tries to hide fact that what they were talking up is actually just holding onto some of their political heartlands. There is a whiff of messaging desperation here.
And now we have witnessed the completely botched shadow cabinet reshuffle, it is clear just how weak Starmer is within his own team, let alone the wider Labour Party membership. In so many ways, his is a dire situation.
There is of course wall to wall coverage of ‘the Scottish question’ by all commentators right now and that will persist as it’s the new media psychodrama.
But in truth, not much really happened in Scotland: (1) The SNP vote share went up by 1%, (2) overall the SNP won one extra seat (you can talk up/down how the voting system didn’t help them, but that is the refuge of those looking for excuses), but (3) they still don’t have a majority, all this being a situation the SNP are calling “a landslide” of course which is stretching language to breaking point. (We recall that when Bojo won an 80 seat actual majority in December 2019, the Left including the SNP spent a lot of time explaining how this wasn’t technically a landslide). And as for this talk of “a majority now in the Scottish Parliament for independence with the SNP and the Greens”, well that existed prior to the election, so what’s really changed?
St Nicola continues with her masterful media manipulation strategy: shout loudly over here, whilst trying to hide the reality over there. In game changing terms the election delivered very little indeed for the SNP apart from the public defenestration of Alex Salmond. Again. (But he’ll bounce back, just wait). The cold hard truth of cast iron constitutional law is that unless Bojo says ‘yes’, there ain’t gonna be another referendum. St Nicola will noisily and sanctimoniously huff and puff and use all that noise to keep stoking the fires of grievance against the Tories and the English to rile up her base, but she doesn’t really want one now anyway as it’s still too close to call. And she is way too wise to stage an illegal referendum because it would be a massive vote loser for her and she would undoubtedly damage the independence cause.
In London also nothing changed very much really. The Labour/Tory shares of the vote nudged up/down again by around 1%. Bailey did better than expected but Sadiq won just about as well as he did in 2016. So what’s new?
Now we race off to the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, and the forthcoming shiny new Planning Bill, which is being spun as the Tories’ great white hope to cement home ownership back into British politics in a very Maggie Thatcher way. You can’t have a home owning democracy if no one under 50 can afford to buy a home, after all. We’ll see. The NIMBY ‘forces of conservativism’ as Blair used to call them will continue to conspire to frustrate development and housing in particular. Magic housing number algorithms may be history, but there has been lots of ’watering down’ to the White Paper proposals and many further ones to come as the Bill gets progressively neutered on its Parliamentary journey.
We close with a quote from a Hartlepool resident to The Times: “There are beer mats with more personality than Starmer.” Just about sums it up.
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