In the aftermath of York’s election I was interested in the sort of things that might get talked about at a general election in terms of a picture changing from election to election. The simple picture was a crushing defeat for the Liberal Democrats as Labour swept to power but in the spirit of Whitehall Watch is there a story in the votes rather than the seats?
First up, the makeup of the chamber before (taking into account the by-election results since 2007):
And you can see from a quick glance how the vote changed from 2007 to 2011
Labour recorded 18,000 votes more on Thursday than they did in 2007 and increased their share of the vote from 27% to 37%. Much has been said about Thursday representing an incredibly bad night for the Liberal Democrats but in York the result was not down to the complete evaporation of Liberal Democrat support. The ruling Liberal Democrats (only) lost 5,000 votes across the city, a similar figure to that dropped by the Conservatives. The other party to shed votes was the BNP whose support shrank by 70%.
|Party||Votes 2007||Votes 2011||Change|
Swing is a favourite statistic to work out and in order to calculate it you take the increase in votes from one party, add it to the fall of the other and divide it by two.
This means a swing to Labour from the Liberal Democrats of 8% with a similar figure for the swing to Labour from the Conservatives of 7.7%.
But there are some more nuances to what actually happened in the city. Although the Conservative party vote fell by 5,000 this is more connected to a reduction in candidates from 47 to 33. In 3 wards, which had contributed 3,724 votes in 2007 there was no Conservative candidate at all. Despite their share of the city’s vote falling to 22% their average vote per candidate increased to 994, more than any other party except Labour.
In contrast, the Green party’s significant improvement overall comes from their fielding an additional 15 candidates. In Clifton, for example, they tripled their candidates and secured an additional 10% of the vote (although their leading candidate only increased her votes by 33). But, apart from Skelton, Rawcliffe and Clifton Without (the neighbouring ward) where they picked up almost 12% more of the vote their performance across the city was fairly static with the average number of votes each candidate received falling by 74.
The Liberal Democrats don’t seem to have simply lost seats due to dissatisfaction with the national political picture. In Strensall, Haxby and Wheldrake they lost seats to their coalition partners (Christian Vassie’s loss of Wheldrake compounding a miserable 12 months in politics after last year’s general election when he was unable to dislodge Hugh Bayley).
So the convincing nature of Labour’s victory seems to be much more down to getting people to vote rather than seeing a massive drop in support for either the way the Liberal Democrats ran York or in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster. In 2007 the turnout was 41.8% (approx. 136,000 voters) but this year the extra 10,000 voters in a turnout of 44.7% seems to have made all the difference rather than disgruntled voters switching from one party to another. Edit: of course, I’d failed to think about the aggregating effect of wards where individuals got more than a single vote. The difference between 2007 and 2011 was actually closer to 4,500 voters.
Mind you, given that the majority of York wasn’t voting last Thursday I wonder whether any of these thoughts are in any way relevant.
If you want to pick over the data and point out any of the flaws in my data literacy there’s a spreadsheet on Google Docs.