A tale of two constituencies

Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, claimed that his constituents were telling him they we’re frustrated by the lack of progress on Brexit. Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, thought that was a bit odd. “I’m in a leave seat and my constituents never ever say this stuff,” she said. “Where is he hearing these opinions?” She reckoned he and his fellow Tory MPs were making it all up.

They might not be though. It is quite likely that they are both right. A quick glance at the two constituencies shows that they are very different places. Both are estimated to have had a Leave vote of around 60 percent but there the similarity ends. North Shropshire and Birmingham Yardley sit either side of the UK average on a number of measures.

Comparing Birmingham Yardley and North Shropshire (all figures percentages)

Source: House of Commons Library

Birmingham Yardley is the 21st most deprived constituency in England while North Shropshire is 315th. In general, North Shropshire’s population is older, whiter, more financially secure and more middle-class than that of Birmingham Yardley. According to constituency profiles developed by Electoral Calculus, North Shropshire is likely to be more economically right-wing than the rest of the UK, while Birmingham Yardley is a similar number of degrees to the left.

The Brexit vote is often depicted as a working-class revolt but as Danny Dorling says, according to Ashcroft polling data, ABC1 voters made up 59 percent of the Brexit vote – higher than their proportion of the general population. A majority of working class voters might have voted for Brexit but fewer of them turned out. It was the middle-class voters who made it happen.

Working class people were much more likely not to vote, whereas middle-class people, particularly older middle-class people voted.

And your typical Leave voter was a conservative Tory voter who wasn’t rich but wasn’t particularly poor.

So your typical Leave voter was very much like the typical voter in North Shropshire.

The people who want Brexit, I mean really want it, tend to be middle-class and middle-aged to elderly. As IpsosMORI consistently reports, it is these voters who see it as the most important issue.

Owen Paterson and Jess Phillips are probably both right. North Shropshire is just the sort of place where people are likely to bend their MP’s ear about Brexit. And Birmingham Yardley isn’t.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that it is Labour seats which are seeing a shift in opinion against Brexit. Some of this is because people who have turned 18 since the referendum are predominantly Labour and Remain supporters and are helping to shift the balance. But many working class voters were never as personally invested in the idea of Brexit in the first place. They are also the ones likely to suffer most from the economic consequences. Birmingham Yardley has seen the 8th highest swing to Remain. Based on these figures, the constituency would probably now vote narrowly to stay in the EU.

But think what might happen in a place like Birmingham Yardley if the political party with which most voters identify were to campaign wholeheartedly against Brexit and the havoc it will wreak on working class areas. With some clear leadership, the trickle of support away from Brexit in Labour areas would become a flood. Jess Phillips came to a similar conclusion a few days ago:

Labour voters are starting to realise that Brexit will be bad for them. Really bad. Until now, many Labour MPs have been worried that opposing Brexit would see them punished at the ballot box by hordes of angry working class Brexit voters. But working class Brexit support has been overhyped and the ground is now starting to shift. Working class voters are far more likely to punish their MPs for allowing an unnecessary job-destroying catastrophe. For Labour MPs it is less of a risk to campaign against Brexit than it is to blindly plough on with it because they think it’s what their supporters want. Brexit is not Labour’s project. It is the fantasy of conservative middle England. It will be severely damaging for most Labour voters. The party should put all its energy into stopping it.

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12 Responses to A tale of two constituencies

  1. Dipper says:

    “Labour voters are starting to realise that Brexit will be bad for them”. Would the people telling them that be the same people who said that voting Leave in the first place would also be really bad or them?

    This presentation of opinion as fact is one of the stand-out features of the Remain and 2nd referendum campaign. There is simply no satisfactory evidential base underlying these assertions. You might just as reasonably have said that studies of tea-leaves have shown Brexit will be bad for workers.

    If we have a second referendum and it is a vote Remain, and we end up going back into the EU, then millions of people will see that they were offered a vote to leave the EU, they won it, and then the offer was reneged on. Remainers may think a second referendum is democratic, Leave voters don’t. Every time a factory closes, or our growth rate falters, millions of people will be saying that we were told that being in the EU would be economically worth it, and it isn’t, and can we have our Leave vote honoured please?

    And this “swing” in polls may not last a referendum campaign. The first campaign was over whether or not we should leave the EU. The second will be over whether your vote should count for anything or whether you want to spend the rest of your life being ignored and insulted by a self-satisfied elite that suspends democracy whenever they wish. The campaign might not go in the way you imagine.

    If as a country we don’t want millions of people being drawn to parties that rely on a narrative of betrayal to push extreme policies, then a good place to start is by not betraying millions of people.

    All you Remainers are just talking to each other. From the day the referendum was called, you haven’t addressed a single concern of Leavers.

    • P Hearn says:

      The article starts well enough, but suddenly veers from the data into political assertions that things will be disastrous. In other words, standard Blairite Labour fare.

      Great response. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Dipper. It’s really rather sad to see the mental distress of so many Remainers. They really did love the EU project.

    • gunnerbear says:

      Well said

    • Hugh Mann says:

      The pro-Remain Dominic Lawson wrote in the Mail about being in a meeting in Brussels just after the vote. He records that his European colleagues were sanguine about the result, “Don’t worry, it won’t happen. They’ll be made to vote again, or Parliament will ignore it”.

      Lawson told them “You don’t understand. That’s not what we do in the UK. The vote will be respected and we will leave”.

      We’ll find out soon whether his more cynical colleagues were right, and if the UK is just another European country.

  2. M M (Micky) says:

    Nice tosee the saddo Quitters out “en masse” with their rhetoric, so funny! Losers!

  3. Dave Timoney says:

    You are correct, of course, that the 2016 leave vote was dominated by the conservative middle classes, but I think you’re still subscribing to a myth when you say that “A majority of working class voters might have voted for Brexit but fewer of them turned out”. That’s broadly true – working class voters usually turn out at a lesser rate than middle class voters in elections – but two years ago those predominantly working class areas that voted heavily for leave did so because of significantly higher turnout.

    For example, Sunderland saw its turnout jump from 56% (in the 2015 general election) to 65%. The increase largely explains why the actual result, 61/39 for leave, was different to the pre-poll projections, based on party share, of 58/42 (I looked at the numbers in detail at the time: https://fromarsetoelbow.blogspot.com/2016/06/plato-on-wearside.html). In other words, the increment in turnout opted overwhelmingly for leave. This in turn obscured the fact that Labour voters in Sunderland broke 2/3rds for remain, in line with the projections.

    It’s also worth noting that the higher turnout in 2016 actually marked a return to the levels of 1997. A reasonable theory is that an essentially reactionary fraction of working class voters in Sunderland, who opted for New Labour in 1997 but then stopped turning out (the 2001 general election saw turnout fall to 49%), returned to the polls in 2016. Were a second referendum to take place, it would be these voters, rather than those who have habitually voted Labour over the last two decades, who would make the difference. A sensible remain strategy would be to discourage their turnout, not try and convert them by chiding.

    Your claim that “With some clear leadership, the trickle of support away from Brexit in Labour areas would become a flood” is a dubious assertion, but it’s also a pretty obvious dig at Corbyn. If the 2016 referendum has taught us anything, it is that personality is not central to the issue of our relations with the EU (it wasn’t the charm of Farage or Johnson “wot won it”). To suggest that the Labour leader is the problem is akin to imagining that England could have won the World Cup if only they’d shown more passion.

    • gunnerbear says:

      Exactly…I live near a seat that has been Red Mob for decades…the area overwhelmingly voted Leave. The Red Remain MP is still shittin’ bricks…..

      ..in GE ’15 the turnout was about 57.5%….the Brexit vote turnout…71.9%…Leave Vote 66.3%….

    • George Carty says:

      Not really surprising that the increment in turnout was overwhelmingly Leave (by the way I think the projected vote for Sunderland was 52% Leave, not 58%), as habitual non-voters probably have little interest in politics and were more likely to rely on the tabloids for their information.

  4. Flubber says:

    “The people who want Brexit, I mean really want it, tend to be middle-class and middle-aged to elderly.”

    Maybe they realise what we’ve lost, as the EU tries to subsume the UK.

    • Hugh Mann says:

      They can perhaps remember the days when a single median male wage could sustain both a house purchase and a stay at home mother – a luxury that only the upper middle classes can afford now.

      Median real male wages are lower now than in 1997 – and that’s using an inflation measure that doesn’t account for huge house price increases.

  5. Pingback: Interesting Links for 23-12-2018 | Made from Truth and Lies

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