Archive for General Election

The (Electoral) Math

New year, new post, and back to blogging.

Yes, it has been an age and a bit but I’ve returned to blogging, hopefully full-time as well.

I figured I would kick off my first blog by looking at what we know about Brighton Pavilion, not what we think, nor what we hope, but what we know. Yup, that does mean looking at some very important (and some very dull) numbers.

Anyone who has kept an eye on Brighton Pavilion will be familiar with the candidates, but just for those who aren’t, here’s a link to their respective campaign sites. The candidates are Caroline Lucas for the Greens, Tory Charlotte Vere and Labour’s Nancy Platts. I’m afraid I can’t link you to the Lib Dem candidate, Berni Millam, because a) she doesn’t have a campaign website and b) I have no idea who she is. But, I think it would be fair to say that Brighton Pavilion is shaping up to be one of the country’s most exciting race for a Westminster seat. All three candidates are passionate women out to woo the hearts and minds of Brighton voters. It will be an election just as much about personality than policy, this I am sure of.

However, despite how emotive elections can be, let’s take a look at the numbers, the electoral math that has yet to come under any serious discussion about candidates and their prospects in Brighton Pavilion.

As good a place to start as any would be 2001, and the general election results from then:

General Election 2001: Brighton, Pavilion
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
  Labour Co-op David Lepper 19,846 48.7 −5.9
  Conservative David Gold 10,203 25.1 −2.6
  Liberal Democrat Ruth Berry 5,348 13.1 +3.6
  Green Keith Taylor 3,806 9.3 +6.8

Now, let’s skip forward to 2005:

General Election 2005: Brighton, Pavilion
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
  Labour Co-op David Lepper 15,427 35.4 −13.3
  Conservative Mike Weatherley 10,397 23.9 −1.2
  Green Keith Taylor 9,571 22.0 +12.7
  Liberal Democrat Hazel Thorpe 7,171 16.5 +3.4

I think it’s fair to say that the Greens saw a huge increase in their share of the vote at the expense of Labour and less than a thousand votes from replacing the Tories as the second-placed party. In the 2005 General Election the wards of Hanover and Elm Grove, Hollingbury and Stamner, Patcham, Preston Park, Regency, St. Peter’s and North Laine, and Withdean, made up the Brighton Pavilion seat.

Let’s skip forward to 2007 and the Brighton and Hove City Council elections:

The Greens held their seats in St. Peter’s and North Laine (3), holding two and picking up a third in Hanover and Elm Grove (3), as well as taking Regency ward (2) and keeping a seat in Preston Park (1). The Greens also took the Kemptown ward of Queens Park (3). Overall they doubled their representation on Brighton and Hove City Council going from 6 seats to 12.

The Greens also became the majority party in the Brighton Pavilion constituency holding 9 of the 18 seats, with Labour holding their three seats in Hollingbury and Stamner and two in Preston Park, and the Tories holding Patcham (3) and Withdean (3). However, across the city-wide vote, the Greens only polled 19.1% compared to Labour’s 23% and the Tories 30%.  The Lib Dems took 9.4%. In the 2004 Euro Elections, the Greens took 19.9% of the vote in Brighton and Hove, just ahead of Labour’s 19.8%, but behind the Tories 26%. The Lib Dems and UKIP took 13% each.

Now, let’s take the most recent results we have, those from the 2009 European Parliamentary Election:

BNP- 2.9% (1796)
Conservative- 22.1% (13891)
Green- 31.4% (19727)
Lib Dem- 10.2% (6410)
Labour- 14.5% (9113)
UKIP- 12.1% (7570)

Whilst the colossal rise in Green support could be attributed to ‘protest vote’ syndrome, I think we have to assume something else is at work here.

The Goldsmid By-Election, held on 23rd July 2009, just weeks after the resignation of absentee Tory councillor Paul Lainchbury, provided the first real opportunity for pundits to assess which way the wind was blowing in Brighton and Hove. It should be noted that Goldsmid is in the Hove constituency and not Pavilion however, it could be safe to say that Goldsmid is in itself a microcosm of Brighton and Hove’s diverse demographics.

After a long campaign (some could even say a bruising campaign) the final results were thus:

Alex Phillips (Green Party) – 1456
Andrew Wealls (Conservative Party) – 1104
Lis Telcs (Labour and Co-Operative Party) – 816
Howard Spencer (Liberal Democrats) – 280
Maria McCallum (UKIP) – 129

This was a massive 17.6% swing to the Greens at the expense of all the other parties, especially Labour and the Lib Dems. But I hear the sceptics among you, surely this was still some ‘anti-politics’ resentment left over the infamous MPs expenses scandal? Well, perhaps, but one should not underestimate the professionalism of the Green strategy in Goldsmid, as well as it’s execution. The Green campaign saw the other parties at their most vulnerable and tactfully exploited this to pull off an impressive victory.

Finally, we have the ICM poll from late December, commissioned by the Green Party itself, the figures for voting intentions in Brighton Pavilion were:

Greens – 35%
Tories – 27%
Labour – 25%
Lib Dems – 11%

Now, sceptics can make what they like of it, but it is abundantly clear that the ‘big mo’ is firmly behind the Lucas campaign in Brighton. As the national polls begin to narrow it is uncertain how this will affect Brighton Pavilion. I suspect that the national media (as well as the local press) will continue to see Brighton Pavilion (as well as Barking and Buckingham) as exceptional constituencies where a fourth party stands a realistic hope of winning a Westminster seat. John Harris, Guardian columnist and Compass supremo, has already exceptionalised Brighton with his video blog of the candidates in Pavilion, as well as his thoughts on their chances, and his own doubts about ‘tribal politics’.

I imagine many voters in Brighton Pavilion are faced with a similar conundrum to Harris, do you stick to your tribe and vote for a manifesto you don’t really believe in or, do you take the bold risk, do you vote for the candidate who best reflects your own values and aspirations for UK politics, but at a (perceived) risk of letting in a Tory.?

I believe the math speaks for itself, vote Green, vote with the momentum, or risk getting a Tory. Simple.

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