Regional Differences in the United Kingdom’s 2010 General Election

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

On May 7th of 2010, the United Kingdom held a general election to determine its new prime minister. While the Conservative Party gained a number of seats, this was not enough to ensure a majority. Fears of a hung Parliament subsided, however, when the Conservatives joined with the Liberal Democrats to form a governing coalition.

Here is a map of the general election:

Link to Map of 2010 United Kingdom General Election

This map indicates the number of seats won by each party in the general election. Red – the traditional color for socialism – is the color of the leftist Labour Party; blue the color of the conservative Tories; yellow the color of the Liberal Democrats.

Like other countries, the United Kingdom does not vote homogeneously. Certain regions are more loyal to one party; other regions to another.

Take, for instance, three distinct parts of Great Britain: Scotland, Wales, and Southeast England. The voting patterns of all three reveal some fascinating things about the country:

Link to Map of Scotland, Wales, and Southeast England

As the map above indicates, Labour dominated Scotland, winning a total of 41 seats to the Conservative Party’s paltry single seat.

Several factors lie behind Scotland’s strong pro-Labour vote. There used to be a time when the Tories could rely upon a substantial bloc of Scottish voters, mostly in the rural North. Under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s term, however, pro-market reforms led to the disintegration of Scottish industry – and to this day Scotland remains hostile to the Conservative Party.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Scottish heritage also helped him in the region. Indeed, in Scotland Labour did even better than the previous general election, winning 2.5% more of the vote.

A comparison of Labour’s performance in Wales provides evidence of this. Like Scotland, Wales constitutes a Labour stronghold; in 2005 Prime Minister Tony Blair led his party to win 30 seats out of 40 total (the Tories won 3). In 2010, however, the Conservative Party gained five seats in this Labour base. In Scotland support for favorite son Mr. Brown may have boosted Labour fortunes; this was not the case in Wales.

Mr. Brown’s Scottish heritage did not help him everywhere. In the South East England region the Labour Party received a pummeling from the Tories; they lost 13 seats, leaving Labour with a grand total of 4 seats. The Conservatives took 75 seats. Clearly, Mr. Brown’s appeal was limited here; it is possible that his being Scottish had something to do with this.

An examination of Southern England reveals yet more regional differences:

Link to Map of Regional Differences

This map illustrates the division between Southern and Northern Great Britain. Southern England has always constituted the Tory base; Northern England the Labour stronghold.

A number of fascinating socioeconomic reasons lie behind this. Historically, Southern England was – and still is – the richest, most “snobbish” part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the South East region constitutes the richest part of the country, apart from London. It is from this region that the Conservative Party draws its main strength.

Northern England, Scotland, and Wales are different. The forces of the Industrial Revolution have influenced their history quite profoundly; for decades their economies relied – too much, in hindsight – upon the factories, steel mills, and coal mines unleashed by industrialization. The death of Anglo-Saxon manufacturing, however, hit this region hard and left it poorer than the South.

The Industrial Revolution also catalyzed conditions ripe for socialism and left-wing politics. It created an urban proletariat – and, indeed, the Labour Party was formed to represent this class. Today these places still vote heavily for the Labour Party.

Indeed, to this day Labour constitutes the party for the working class – despite Mr. Blair’s rebranding of New Labour. This is a role the Democratic Party no longer truly holds, its grasp of the white working class torn apart by racial politics. Great Britain is still homogeneous enough to avoid this. Class still matters in the United Kingdom, far more than it does in the United States.

(Note: Edited images derived from BBC.)




Thoughts on the Labour Party: My First Hundred or so Days

I wasn't raised to identify with any particular party. That's not to say I wasn't exposed to politics by my parents from an early age, but tribalism of my parents was not to any one organisation. The chief item of my political thought I obtained from my parents was not devotion to any particular ideal (although I was raised within a resolutely leftist/liberal value system,) it was to hate the Tory Party above all else.

As a consequence, I never grew up with an active involvement in political systems. If there was one institution that defined our rough outlook, it was probably, as with so many middle class Britons of the left, the Guardian newspaper.

That changed about three months ago, when I joined the Labour Party. That's not due to any particular loyalty to its current policies. I was against the Iraq War and marched against it in 2003 (although I was briefly for it about a year later before the situation began to really deteriorate), I opposed the introduction of tuition and top-up fees for universities (not just because as a student I'd rather not have to pay fees, but because I don't view it as a scheme that's either financially effective or good for society), I'd like to see the railways renationalised, I think the PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schemes have been a national scandal, rewarding cronies and shafting taxpayers and there are plenty of other smaller policies I can take issue with.

At the same time, while I may adhere to a lot of ideas that Blair's government rejected as out of date and doctrinaire socialism, I was brought up in a very middle class household in a fairly rural area. I'm a supporter of grammar schools and I don't agree with much of the government's policies on field sports and gun control (although that still places me worlds away from American gun control advocates - I'm proud to say that I own a shotgun licence and had no objection to having to be checked out by the police in order to obtain said document.)

There's more...

Summary of the Labour Party Deputy Leadership Debate

On June 27 Tony Blair will step down as leader of the Labour Party. His successor will be Gordon Brown, as he was the only candidate to receive the necessary nominations from 44 MPs. Brown has been viewed as the heir apparent since 1994 and his victory was all but assured, so no other candidate from the mainstream of the parliamentary party elected to challenge him, although the ultra-Blairite faction toyed with the idea. His only opponents were Michael Meacher and John McDonnell, both from the left of the party. The former withdrew from contention to make it easier for the latter to get on the ballot, but there was little enthusiasm for a contest amongst MPs and few of them seem to have wanted to mark themselves out as members of the awkward squad by voting against Brown, so more than 300 out of 354 MPs nominated the Chancellor, sufficient to prevent McDonnell getting on the ballot.

Disappointing as this was to those like me who favoured a public debate on Labour's future path, there is a silver lining. In the Deputy Leadership Election, six candidates made it on to the ballot, covering more or less all of the ideological range of current MPs, from ultra-Blairites to Brownites to the soft left. Last night the candidates had a televised debate on BBC's Newsnight, hosted by Jeremy Paxman.

The video's here and discussion of the various candidates and their performances can be found in the extended entry.

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Analysis of the recent elections in Britain

On May 3 local elections were held in most parts of England outside London, as were elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. In the run-up to the elections it had been clear that Labour would do poorly across the board, yet Labour's acceptance of this appears to have changed the expectations game, placing the burden on the Conservatives, the Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru.

The situation now is not absolutely settled, as there have been problems with weirdly high numbers of spoiled ballots in some Scottish constituencies (possibly due to the complicated ballot paper's needed for Holyrood's mixture of proportional representation and first-past-the-post voting). Nevertheless, at present, we can make these deductions:

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Budget Day in UK. Car pollution tax announced.

Announcing what he called a "Budget for Britain's future," the Chacellor for the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who is favored to replace Tony Blair as the head of the Labour Party (who knows when?), today delivered his 10th annual budget address.

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