Friday, May 22, 2009

Irwell Riverside: Hazel's First Test in Court of Public Opinion

Friday, 22 May 2009 Irwell Riverside By Election Results

Matt MOLD Labour 606
Steven Iain MIDDLETON Lib Dem 293
Chris BATES Con 189
Rob MITCHELL Green 125
Duran Benjamin O'DWYER UKIP 123
Turnout 17.3%

2008: Irwell Riverside Ward

* COEN Stephen Labour 888
McKELVEY Kenneth William Liberal Democrat 337
LEWIS David Barry Conservative 286
HEALEY Anthony BNP 233

Turnout 20.6%

My general theory is this: Dinosaurs are thin at one end, thick in the middle, and thin again at the other end. And I'm sticking to it! When it comes to local government by-elections involving the BNP and where they stand for the first time my theory is as follows:

1. Whereas turn out in run of the mill by-elections is depressed by three or four percent. It will hold and likely increase.
2. Whichever parties are the incumbent the BNP will usually get out voters who don't usually bother - and this "Non Voter" element rather than Conservatives (Manchester Moston) or Labour (Kent Sevenoaks) is the true source of the majority of their votes.
3. The more alternatives there are for protesting voters the better.

Irwell Riverside - the local government ward that Hazel Blears' office in Salford stands right on top of - is an essentially inner city white working class ward with a good deal of social housing, topped off with students who scarcely turnout at all other than in General Elections, and incoming private freeholders and tenants in new build and converted apartments.

In such wards this latter group are somethingly like students. Also pretty slow on their feet, hard to reach with literature never mind on the knocker, not particularly engaged with the ward, the city of Salford, or even Greater Manchester. Many of them will drive to work and indeed on social outings from the underground carpark in their block and drive back there when they are done. Some literally never set foot on the pavements of Salford.

The turnout probably looks desperately low. And rather than growing it has dipped. This is say a six to eight percent group "on strike". Though with the BNP already standing in 2008 there is perhaps far less of a kick up the arses of the dyed in the wool tribal non voters. If we factor in a say 1% turnout from students - in the throes of exams - and a 5% turnout from incomers, the more long-standing local people don't do so badly.

In this case of course we also have a local MP under fire, including from the Labour Group in the Town Hall, and a general apathy and disillusionment with party politics. In these circumstances the result is not bad. The Tories slumped, as they did in Didsbury West, and Moston, and possibly Pendlebury (?). Do I feel the deft touch of Rob Addlard on the tiller again? The Greens may have been the main destination for Labour protests. UKIP were most welcome in offering an anti-Europe alternative to the Tories and to the BNP.

The BNP high ups have lifted their dragging knuckles onto their calculator keypads and reckon this one off by-election in strange times signals they are "on course" for the Euro Elections. In fact considering the context, that they have stood here before, and the turf they ought to be very disappointed rather than self-congratulatory.

I wasn't able to get out and help yesterday as I had planned - partly to test the temperature on The Blears Sensation - but I did drive through the ward three or four times. There were no queues at the polling stations, put it that way!

UPDATE 13:05: Have a break photo added, hat tip: David Ottewell's Politics


Iain Lindley said...

There are 2000 students in Irwell Riverside ward and judging by the number of votes coming out of certain boxes, only a handful of them voted in the by-election. There aren't actually that many new-build or converted apartments either - only the Royal and a couple of smaller blocks. The vast majority of new development along Chapel Street (The Edge, The Bridge, City Point, etc, etc) is in Ordsall ward. I agree with you that taking the students out of the equation, turnout would have been low but by no means below par for wards of a similar nature.

Hazel has tried to look smug but the truth is that to poll barely more than a third of the vote in a ward like Irwell Riverside - which demographically ought to be the safest Labour ward in Salford - can hardly be considered a ringing endorsement of the Salford Labour Party.

I do take issue that the Conservative vote slumped. Electorally this is probably the most challenging ward for us in Salford, and yet with a low-key campaign (1 leaflet and a few bits and pieces) we still got within 100 votes of both LibDems and BNP who slogged their guts out for five weeks. They will both be extremely disappointed with the return for their efforts. Another factor compressing the Conservative vote is that the UKIP, BNP, Green and LibDem Euro addresses were delivered in the week leading up to polling day, whereas the Conservative address is only hitting the doormats at the back end of this week.

(Incidentally, the Conservative vote and vote share both rose in Pendlebury - a great effort to push Labour all the way in a ward that has elected Labour Councillors since the time of the dinosaurs)

Chris Paul said...

Yep, wasn't sure about Pendlebury. Hence the question mark. Did you manage to keep Addlard out of the equation?! He stuffed up in both the Manchester by-elections.

The students - yep. Tiny turnout. Always. The incomers - yep, The Royal is the sort of block with no pavement contact for some inhabitants.

However there are a suprising number of incomer tenants down at the Magistrates Court end of things. In social housing which has gone via right to buy into private landlord hands.

But yes not as many as in Ordsall which unusually straddles the main road as you well know.

The Tory vote went from 286 to 189 which isn't so clever. Any more than 888 to 606 is that smart. The Tory slump is somethingly greater I think? About 10 and 30 respectively accounted for by reduced turnover. The rest presumably either on strike or lending votes to UKIP and Greens.

Though how UKIP can be considered "clean" on expenses I really don't know.

Obviously - as I acknowledge - Hazel has been in a spot of bother but in this ward, in that context she has done OK, there is no swing to Tory, and although the BNP overtook you they must be gutted to not make more progress than that.

I think it's a case of well done to all five proper parties, and Hazey lives to fight another day.

You don't happen to know whose hand that is on the KitKat do you?

Chris Paul said...

Ahhh, the KitKat comes from the bonehead at the back of the picture. Looks a bit bitter than one. BNP?

Will S said...

Yes, he was BNP. They were waving KitKats at her throughout the count.

Regarding a swing to/from the Conservatives, you must remember that the 2008 elections were the high water mark. It hasn't been as easy since then.

Chris Paul said...

As easy for the Tories you mean? If so you are right. Fair comment. But Lindley suggested the vote hadn't tumbled and it had.