All right on the night?

Rosie Carter - 11 12 19

Rosie Carter looks ahead to election night, and the morning after the election night before, and what it might mean for what comes next.

The general election campaign is finally over. This was an election that set out to be about Brexit but has been about much more, seeing the resurgence of dog-whistle anti-immigration rhetoric, attempts to whip up populist anti-establishment sentiment, and a failure to address racism across the main political parties.

While many will feel dispirited about election night, how people make their decisions will also lay out some of the challenges for HOPE not hate as we look to 2020, a new government and a new decade.

Here’s what we’ll be looking out for on the night:

Which Way Will Labour Leavers Swing?

Seats currently held by Labour where the majority of people voted Leave in the 2016 referendum have been a primary target for the Brexit party as well as the Conservatives. Of Labour’s 50 most marginal seats, as many as 39 voted in favour of Leave in the 2016 referendum. Seats like Dudley North and Ashfield were slim wins for Labour in 2017, but as seats where the 2016 Leave vote was around 70%, are predicted to turn blue.

At the same time, our research has found that Labour Leave voters are less motivated by Brexit than other issues. These voters tend to have lower incomes or be in precarious work, and are more motivated by issues that press on their day to day lives, like schools and funding for the NHS, than on Brexit.

A lot rides on these voters, and if they swing more towards parties pushing for Brexit, or stay loyal to Labour. Moreover, their fractured relationship with the establishment will be tested to see if they turn out at all.

Brexit Party Breakthrough Or Bust?

Polling that HOPE not hate has seen suggests the Brexit Party are competitive in five seats – far fewer than they expected earlier in the year. It will worth watching Barnsley East and Hartlepool especially closely to see if Nigel Farage can translate his big claims into actual seats in the Commons. Even if they do fail to win seats, will the Brexit Party’s support hold up enough in the key marginals to prevent Tories from winning a majority? While the Tories have certainly squeezed the Brexit Party vote in many areas, polling suggests the party is maintaining support at 20-30% in those areas, which highlights a fact that we have been warning about: the appeal of the Brexit Party is about more than just Brexit

What Happens To The Anti-Establishment Vote?

Boris Johnson kick-started this election as one of people vs. parliament, playing into declining public trust in the political system, and a broader feeling of alienation from ‘the establishment’. The Brexit party too, have attempted to target those who most want Britain to leave the EU and are frustrated at delays and deadlock.

But our research has found that the voters being targeted by populist, anti-establishment messaging fall into two groups. One is motivated by Brexit: older, more established and identify most with Nigel Farage, they are most likely to vote for the Brexit party. But the other group of anti-establishment voters are more pessimistic, almost completely detached from the political system and although they most likely voted Leave, don’t think Brexit will bring about much change in their lives. This group are likely to stay at home unless there is an offer from one of the parties that speaks directly to their frustrations.

We’ll be watching to see how playing the anti-establishment card has fared in this election.

How Will Rapid Demographic Change Affect The Outcome?  

Many of the predictions for this election are based on 2011 census data, but the rate of demographic change over the last nine years is significant. Urban and suburban areas, in particular, have seen rapid demographic change over recent years, with growth in the proportion of BME residents that may lead to some election surprises. Moreover, issues of race and immigration have been at the forefront of this campaign, which could well have a direct impact on BME voters – a factor that will motivate some and see other voters detach.

Marginal constituencies like Kensington and Chipping Barnet, ones to watch for Labour, could well be affected by the changes in make-up of their constituents. At the same time, while BME voters are much less likely to vote for parties on the right, they have historically been less likely to turn out on polling day.

It is worth paying close attention to see if attempts to segment minority groups, such as warnings to Hindu voters to shun Labour, have electoral effects and in the long term prove to be divisive tactics.

In a winter election with much uncertainty, these votes could be critical for Labour, but hard to grasp.


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