The one thing that the recent YouGov poll confirmed was that Yorkshire was going to be one of the key battlegrounds in this general election. There is nothing new in that as many of the Pennine seats have been regarded as bellwether seats in the past.
But, as 2015 and 2017 showed us, the one thing that is certain is uncertainty. And we know from recent events that polling is increasingly weak in being able to predict outcomes – all it can do is show us a snapshot of possible outcomes at any one moment in time.
No two elections are the same, but this general election is more like 650 individual local elections all being fought out under some very different local conditions and with local issues. In the last three years we have been witnessing Brexit unravel in a very English prism and have overlooked some very important and different political trends in other parts of our nations and regions in the UK. Watch for results in Wales and Northern Ireland, where I think you will get unusual outcomes that could well determine the prospect of any likely coalition.
Eyes at the moment are focused though on Yorkshire – a key battleground and one where the Conservatives will have to pick up seats if they wish to form the next government. In fact, the Conservatives HAVE to do well here and in the Midlands to mitigate against expected losses in London, the South West and Scotland.
There are six seats that are really vulnerable to the Conservatives: Keighley, Penistone and Stocksbridge, Rother Valley, Grimsby, Don Valley, and Bradford South. Six more should be Labour holds, but the result will be close: Dewsbury, Colne Valley, Wakefield, Scunthorpe, Halifax, High Peak. I think having visited five of these there is a very different and more complex picture emerging.
It is true that former Labour strongholds where political allegiances formed around the pit, or industry, and supported by things like working men’s clubs are a thing of the past. It is harder for traditional Labour to mobilise around these places as the demography changes rapidly. But where you have a strong local and popular MP who has got a great local campaign team the incumbency vote is worth several thousand and in a close marginal that is worth everything. John Grogan sitting on the tightest of all seats (Keighley, majority 239) is one that I think will be held by Labour. Paula Sheriff and Nic Dakin I think will also hold – especially given their track records on excellent, important local campaigns.
Labour may be more vulnerable where there is a new candidate and where the Conservatives are leading a strong ground and air war. However, one thing that is certain in Yorkshire is that the Asian vote seems to be holding up for Labour and that will be worth a lot in some of these key marginals.
There are two weeks left and they are crucial. Although postal votes have gone out (and canny candidates will have tried to convert their promises to voting by postal vote) there is everything to play for. YouGov’s MRP analysis can’t predict tactical voting and there is evidence that this will happen in spades. But, more importantly, people will campaign tactically. In some seats there is evidence that the Conservatives are relying on the air war but there is a lot you can do in two weeks on the ground and there are some interesting movements of the ground troops in Yorkshire!
This is billed as the Brexit election. This is true to an extent but on the doorstep the NHS is raised as much as Brexit and over the next few days other issues will emerge that may yet define this election. All to play for – and stay up on the 12th and watch out for Yorkshire results. There may well be surprises.