Friday, December 13, 2019

It Was Brexit Wot Done It

A landslide victory for the Conservative Party in the 2019 UK election has already lead to lots of recrimination among left of center voters and politicians. Those on the left of the Labour Party are arguing that the voters didn't necessarily reject the party's left-wing policies. They are saying that the Conservative Party successfully cast this election as being about getting Brexit done.

Everyone else in the country appears to be blaming the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Economist's 2019 General Election map allows us to explore the results of the 2019 UK election in more detail. In particular the map allows us to compare the 2019 election results with the results of the 2016 EU referendum results. The map shows that in the constituencies where the majority voted to leave the EU in 2016 the Conservatives won 291 seats and Labour won 105 seats. In the constituencies where the majority voted to remain in the EU the Conservative Party won 71 seats and the Labour Party won 95. The Liberal Democrat Party also won 10 out of their 11 seats in constituencies which voted to remain in the EU. There does therefore seem to be some support for the idea that Brexit was a major factor in how people voted in this election.

The BBC has released an interactive 2019 Election map which shows all the constituencies which have switched party since the last election. This map includes a neat hexagon view (using Esri hexagons) which reveals how the Conservative Party managed to pick up a lot of new seats in the north of England, the midlands and north Wales.

The six new seats which the Conservative Party won in Wales were all Labour seats in 2017. All six seats also supported leave in the 2016 EU referendum. In the Midlands the Conservatives picked up Wolverhampton SW, Wolverhampton NE, West Brom W, West Brom E and Dudley North, all from the Labour Party. Again all five of these constituencies voted to leave in the EU referendum. The same pattern seems to hold up in the North of England where the Conservative Party also picked up a number of seats from Labour in areas which voted to leave in the 2016 EU referendum.

The Labour Party only managed to win one new seat in the whole of the UK. This was the previously Conservative seat of Putney. In the 2016 EU referendum Putney voted to remain in the EU. It is therefore clear that in the 2019 UK election the Conservative Party were very successful in winning Brexit supporting seats which in the past normally vote Labour. Conversely the Labour Party were unable to win over traditional Conservative seats which voted to Remain in 2016.

The Economist's map also allows us to explore what demographic factors were at play in the 2019 UK election. Age is one of the biggest demographic factors which effect the results of most UK elections. It was no different in 2019. In the constituencies where over 65s make up more than 30% of the population the Conservatives won 79 seats and Labour won 3. Conversely in the constituencies where 16-34 year olds make up over 40% of the population Labour won 46 seats compared to the Conservatives 4 seats. Another huge demographic factor which played a part in this election was population density. In the least densely populated constituencies, where population density is between 10 and 1,012 people per square mile, the Conservative Party won 163 seats and the Labour Party won 9. In the most densely constituencies, where population density is between 9,656 and 50,000 people per square mile, the Conservative Party won 23 seats and the Labour Party won 90 seats.

The popularity of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a lot harder to quantify. The YouGov polling company's Public Figure tracker says that 61% of the UK public has a negative opinion of Jeremy Corbyn. This is compared to 47% of the population having a negative opinion of the Conservative leader Boris Johnson. When asked who would make the best Prime Minister the contrast is just as great. In November (according to a YouGov poll) 41% of the population said Boris Johnson would make a better Prime Minister and only 22% said Jeremy Corbyn.

It could well be that it was a combination of 'getting Brexit done' and the unpopularity of the Labour leader that cost Labour this election. What ever the reasons for the huge Conservative win Jeremy Corbyn has already said that he won't be leading the Labour Party in the next election. It remains to be seen if a new leader will move the Labour Party towards the middle-ground of UK politics. Clearly the party has a lot to do to win the votes of older and more rural voters.

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