In the 2010 General Election, the Hazel Grove constituency results were as follows: Andrew Stunnell, LibDem, won the seat with a 6,300 majority on a 41,000 vote turnout (this represents some 66% of a 63000 electorate) Stunnell polled 20,000 whilst the nearest challenger , the alliteratively named Annesley Abercorn, Conservative, managed 14,000 . Labour polled just over 5,000 with UKIP picking up 1,500. These numbers had not changed much over the last 3 elections although the Conservative vote increased by 3000 in 2010 despite fielding a candidate who no one locally had heard of before or since.
I believe that some of the following factors will influence the result in Hazel Grove:
- The increase and decrease in popularity of the actual parties over the last 5 years
- The local political climate and the makeup of the local council
- The effect of personality of the candidate
- The engagement of the young and the floating voters
- The propensity of voters to vote the same way
Using the 2010 result as a base, I think that LibDem votes in Hazel Grove reflected the success of Nick Clegg in the 2010 leaders debate and were an easy choice for people voting for a party enjoying a golden period. The same could be said about the increase in the Conservative vote. However, since 2010 the LibDems have declined 20% points in the opinion polls when compared to May 6th 2010, from 28/29% to about 9%, this has to be reflected locally. I am estimating that it will cost the Libdems in Hazel Grove some 3,000 votes.
The second factor is a limiting one for the estimate above. Without a strong position in Stockport council and a strong local party machine, the loss of Lib Dem vote would be even greater. There is also a slight advantage for the Conservatives here as they are gaining ground in local politics.
Perhaps the most telling factor will be the effect of personality. Stunnell enjoyed an almost revered position locally and could command support from outside his core party faithful based on his perceived local work and commitment. His retirement and the view that Lisa Smart has been “parachuted in” will cost the Liberal Democrats a further 2,000 votes. There is also resentment that Stunnell took part in the coalition negotiations and at the rather grimy “defection” of ex-Labour candidate, Laura Booth to the LibDem camp.
The candidature of Michael Taylor, Labour, this time will also be a major personality factor. Michael is well known in the area, respected and has proved to be a vigorous and effective campaigner. He is adept at using both traditional and social media and also has tried to connect with both the younger and floating voters. I can see this resulting in two things. Firstly a higher overall turnout and more younger voters and secondly an increase of the Labour vote by at least 3,000 votes in this area.
William Wragg, Conservative, has also campaigned relentlessly and used social media to good effect, assisted by a young and energetic team. This too will increase the turnout and will also capture younger supporters. ( It was never cool when I was in my youth to be Tory though, I must dust off my copy of Das Kapital. ) I think that this may be worth an additional 1,000 votes.
The final factor is the propensity of the electorate to vote the same way. There are substantial numbers of voters who vote Labour, Tory or Liberal come what may. All the campaigning, leafleting , debating and politicking just passes over and they seek only the parts in it all that suit their world view. It’s known as “Confirmation Bias”. These numbers are shrinking each year as the old allegiances slip further into the past. Each of these groups have their own set of prejudices: Old school Labour will never vote Tory and vice versa. Liberals could possibly go either way but are more likely to transfer their vote to Labour.
The latest prediction by Electionforecast.co.uk for Hazel Grove is as follows:
Conservatives 32% – Labour 17% – LibDems 37% – UKIP 10% – Green 4%
If we see an increased turnout of 42,500 votes ( 67.4% of electorate ) , we would get the following numbers of votes:
Conservatives 13,600 – Labour 7,225 – Lib Dems 15,725 – UKIP 4,250 – Green 1,700
Based on my theories above, the Lib Dems would lose 5000, split as 1500 to Conservatives and 3500 to Labour. The UKIP vote would soften by 1000 votes to the Conservatives and the Green vote by 700 to Labour. This produces a Hazel Grove election result as follows:
Lib Dems 10,000
Until the morrow, my psephologist career rests in the balance!
William hill are offering the following odds on the election LibDem 1 to 4 on, Conservative 11/4 , UKIP 40/1 and Labour 50/1. In betting parlance there is some value in there.