Political divergence in numbers

There have been numerous theories advanced in the month since December’s general election to explain why Labour did quite so badly. Mostly they revolve around the idea that Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable as an individual, that he was viewed as sympathetic to terrorists, unpatriotic or that Labour’s manifesto was simplyunbelievable.

There is however a far simpler explanation and I tend to the general principle that the simplest explanations are often closest to the truth.It has little to do with Corbyn, good or bad.

It has little to do with Labour’s manifesto. It is simply this; England is simply becoming a more right-wing country! As the figures below show, there has been an increase in the Tory vote at each of the last 4 elections. They are the only party with that record and the period covers the rise and fall of UKIP/Brexit Party, the “phenomenon” of the 2017 Corbyn campaign as well as Theresa May’s disastrous campaign that year. The Tories have simply put on just over 4 million votes in 4 elections!

Election Party Votes Seats +/-
2010 Con 9,908,169 306 +97

Lab 7,042,398 258 -91

Libdem 6,076,189 57 -5

SNP 491,386 6

2015 Con 11,334,226 330 +24

Lab 9,347,273 232 -26

Libdem 2,415,916 8 -49

SNP 1,454,436 56 +50

2017 Con 13,636,684 317 -13

Lab 12,878,460 262 +30

Libdem 2,371,910 12 +4

SNP 977,569 35 -21

2019 Con 13,966,451 365 +48

Lab 10,265,912 202 -60

Libdem 3,696,419 11 -1

SNP 1,242,380 48 +13*

*inc Neale Hanvey as he was on the ballot paper as SNP

The figures show some surprising findings, for example, 2010 is remembered as the “I agree with Nick” election yet the LibDems actually lost 5 seats. The 2017 tory campaign, generally reckoned to be one of if not the, worst in living memory saw them put on more than 2 million votes despite losing 13 seats. Labour would need to win 124 seats just to have a majority at all. I reckon there’s more chance of bacon butties flying around than that happening at the next election!

What these figures do show is not only the scale of the task facing Labour in trying to win a majority, but also the extent to which England and Scotland are diverging.

Last year the tories managed to perform better than many commentators had predicted, yet still they lost both votes and seats. The opposite of what was happening in England. Labour polled disastrously and barely scraped half a million votes, compare that to 2010, that’s half their voters who have given up on them. The LibDems are generally a minor sideshow losing almost half of their 2010 vote. I confess to being utterly baffled why the Party of Jo Grimond and Russell Johnston continues to betray their Home Rule heritage and seek political irrelevance driven by Willie Rennie’s hatred of the very idea which was their hallmark.

Both the Tories and Libdems have become fringe parties in most of Scotland in total votes and seats but have geographically significant presence in both the North and South of Scotland. And that includes the fact that many unionists held their noses and voted for any party which could defeat the SNP. It’s perhaps significant that the areas where they have prospered most, or at perhaps suffered least, are those which are often geographically remote. The north and south have not only a greater reliance on the fishing and agriculture industries but are more suspicious of the power of the Central Belt.

As we prepare for the next Scottish elections and indyref2 being seen to be paying a bit more attention to these areas and their specific needs could pay dividends. Especially when they are sold out to safeguard London’s financial markets.