The election results so far show there are deep, structural issues for 劳动. The party is losing heavily in what I’m going to describe as blue-collar areas. It’s not blue wall, because it extends further than Yorkshire, the Midlands and the north-east. It’s Harlow and Thurrock, and places like that.
There’s a two-stage jump. Voters have gone from Labour to Ukip or the Brexit party, and then to the Tories, and that does mean extra votes. If you take the most obvious one on Friday, the Tories got nearly 12,000 votes in Hartlepool at the general election in 2019, 并且超过 15,000 in this week’s byelection. And we know where those extra votes have come from, almost certainly: that two-stage jump.
The effect is more than I would have expected it to be. I’ll be honest. I didn’t anticipate the Tories would win Hartlepool. With the county council results, in places such as Nottinghamshire the Tories are gaining even from the wave of seats they won in 2017. It’s not just a reflection of 2019.
People can develop a habit of voting differently. It’s one thing for opinion polls to say how people will vote, but until they physically cast a vote for party X, which is different from party Y, they haven’t broken the habit, and now they’re doing it twice or even a third time.
Labour is not doing so badly in the white-collar areas that have declared so far, but then they’re also losing votes to the Greens. It all points to the fact that overall Labour are going to have a problem. They’ve got to find a message for the traditional, blue-collar areas, but at the same time a message for – and I can’t think of a better way to describe it – the woke and suburban south-east.
That’s a very difficult task, and one I wouldn’t want to have to tackle. Until they can resolve it, firstly they’re not going to get a message to the electorate, and secondly, they won’t be providing an effective opposition to the government. As far as I’m concerned, good government stems from good opposition.
There is no question that a vaccine bounce, and the inadequacies of the Labour party, plus the inability of the opposition parties to campaign due to Covid, have all handed the 保守派 a very good opportunity.
It may prove to be an utterly unique set of circumstances. But there is no question that Boris Johnson has come out of this enormously strengthened. 那说, it depends of course what happens in Scotland. He may have had a wonderful Friday morning, but it might not appear so wonderful on Saturday morning.
Labour will hope that issues of sleaze will cut through for voters, but I don’t wear that. After the Greensill lobbying stories, there was a poll asking people who they thought had come out of it badly. The worst rated was the former Conservative prime minister David Cameron, but the next-worst rating was “all politicians”.
The sleaze issues have just not run that deep. People have so many other problems to deal with, all around Covid, whether it’s work, shortage of money or to get on a foreign holiday. If the vaccine programme continues to go well, the next nine months are going to be people getting their lives back in order.
The slow transition towards normality has both helped the Conservatives and appeared to be the right policy. People are making plans to meet up, booking their holidays. I think this is probably peak-bounce point, but it has lasted longer than I expected, and it may go on for a while yet.
Issues such as dealing with the NHS, education and cladding on multistorey blocks are much more likely, 我认为, to impact on Tory support in the end.
Robert Hayward is a psephologist and elections analyst, and is also a Conservative peer