Monday, 18 December 2017

Jeremy Corbyn and the Student Vote

Students are just for Christmas, not for forever! At least argues Chris Havergal for The Times Higher. According to polling done by the Higher Education Policy Institute and YouthSight, some 68% of undergraduates are backing Labour now - up 13 points from the last poll prior to the General Election. Happy days, right? Wrong. Brexit is, apparently, the reason why most students back Labour.

According to the research, asked what they think Labour's/Jeremy Corbyn's position on Brexit is, 55% and 58% respectively thought Labour and Jezza wanted to remain in the EU. Only 32% and 24% thought their positions were to leave the EU and retain access to the single market and customs union, which is more or less the settled view (with caveats around fudging and the like). Then asked if Labour was to more overtly support Brexit, including withdrawal from the single market and customs union, 42% said they were less likely to vote Labour next time.

This shouldn't come as news to anyone who has been paying attention. As we have seen on multiple occasions, the new class divide in politics, which is immediately presenting as an age cleavage, is effectively the story of a new, rising millions-strong class of networked (or socialised) workers asserting their political presence. Students, despite inhabiting a transitory social location, are part of this broad and broadening mass. The work many of them already do and can look forward to doing after graduation is less about making stuff and more about producing intangible things - knowledge, information, services, relationships. Increasingly, and this has been going on for decades now, you are hired for who you are and the social know how you mobilise and perform in "the role" (note, jobs don't exist any more). These jobs are varied and run the full gamut of powerless, insecure and low paid work (think retail, call centres, hospitality) to self-employed "creatives" to professional occupations, and so on. The production of the stuff of intangible labour is always an act of social production, of drawing on the competencies and knowledges we have acquired outside of work for their deployment in work, to achieve ends that are simultaneously social in their object and, most of the time, return value to the employer through a particular manner of exploitation. That also means immaterial labour is fundamentally cooperative, even if the immaterial worker is a single consultant or works on their own - hence socialised and networked.

The development of the internet and more recently the explosion of social media has catalysed and amplified these socialised characteristics. Everyday life in the advanced societies for most under-50s is partly mediated through self-expanding, self-generating voluntary networks. These are used for all kinds of reasons, and are the stuff of more than one fly-by-night moral panic about abuse and the disappearance of social life. More crucially, each line of the network is a connection along which information, emotion and affect flows, and the consequence, in spite of the doomsayers, is a greater condensation of the social. More cohesion, more recognition, experiences flit across the network at the blink of an eye, all the while pulling large numbers in a particular direction and endowing them with s certain common sense. What's the content of these background attitudes to life? A certain media literacy and a predisposition to trust their networks over broadcasters and the press. A more relaxed, accepting attitude to difference. And, crucially, an understanding that the right do not serve their interests and, indeed, actively work against them. Students (and young people generally) disproportionately support Labour not just because of a few eye-catching policies, like the tuition fee pledge, but because the party matches their common sense.

Fair enough, socially liberal students worried about their futures support the socially liberal party that talks about it being a better place. Where does the EU and Brexit fit into this? First is the basic, and correct, understanding that 40-odd years of integration is something that cannot be easily unwound, that it comes with a big hit to Britain's enfeebled economy, and they're the ones most likely to pay the price with reduced opportunities, fewer prospects, more insecurity and a continuation of the bleak vistas the Tories have hitherto thrust in front of them. The second is what you might call the popular ideology of the EU. In a society that, until recently, had been denuded of clearly articulated alternatives to Tory dog-eat-dog and the backward nationalism of the hard right, the EU presents a much more attractive proposition. It is, after all, a voluntary union of formerly warring neighbours, and appears to be a living example of cooperation. And if the people who are trying to do you down hate it, then it can't be all bad. In other words, like Labour, the EU is congruent with the popular common sense, despite its falling far short of the hopes invested in it.

Therefore, the EU is bound up with students' perceptions of their interests and how they see themselves. And this is why I object to HEPI director's Nick Hillman's comments about their research. He said this vote "could turn out to be as flaky as past student support for the Liberal Democrats". There was nothing "flaky" about this support, which surged after 1997 and the introduction of tuition fees. When the LibDems clearly, explicitly went back on their tuition fee pledges two minutes after forming the coalition government, they showed they were uninterested in their student support and so that support evaporated. That isn't flaky, that's sensible.

Nevertheless, the experience telegraphs a warning to Labour. We talk about a jobs first Brexit, but we need to emphasise and double down on keeping it as soft as practicable. When pressed, it's easy to say we don't rule anything in or out, but ultimately if the party allows itself to be seen acting against the interests of the students and the young we'll suffer for it. And rightly so.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Local Council By-Election Results 2017


Overall, 505,316 votes were cast over 314 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. For comparison see 2016's results here.

  Party
Number of Candidates
Total Vote
%
+/- 
2016
+/- 
2015
Average
+/-
Seats
Conservative
        308
176,562
   34.9%
 +5.7%
   +3.9%
   573
    -6
Labour
        273
158,131
   31.3%
 +0.7%
   +1.1%
   579
    -5
LibDem
        250
 88,436
   17.5%
 +2.6%
   +7.8%
   354
  +17
UKIP
        132
 18,898
    3.7%
  -5.2%
    -4.4%
   143
  -12
Green
        164
 23,063
    4.6%
 +0.0%
    -0.3%
   141
   +6
SNP*
          8
  9,463
    1.9%
  -2.2%
    -7.1%
 1,183
     0
PC
          2
   635
    0.1%
  -0.6%
    -1.1%  
   318
     0
Ind***
         93
 20,269
    4.0%
 -1.4%
    -0.2%
   218
    -3
Other****
         39
  9,840
    1.9%
 +0.4%
   +0.3%
   252
   +3

* There were eight by-elections in Scotland.
** There were three by-elections in Wales.
*** There were 11 Independent clashes.
**** See the quarterly round-ups for details of other parties

What a weird year. In 2016, you know, the year Labour dwelled in the doldrums, it nevertheless came out on top in the by-election contests. And with the terms somewhat reversed the Tories turn the tables. How so? It all comes down to that awful, demoralising set of local election results back in May - dispiriting if you were Labour, at least. You may remember those halcyon days where Theresa May couldn't put a foot wrong and looked like she was going to flick the Labour Party aside without breaking a sweat. Then, only a couple of weeks into the general election campaign it did look like that could have happened. We know things turned out differentlyt, but it just so happened the council by-elections that had been held over for the locals replicated the "normal" election results. And the small matter they took place in an over preponderance of Conservative-leaning seats. Therefore the polarisation that has happened since is more or less swamped by those second quarter stats.

There isn't much else to say. The Greens are holding up despite the huge pressure on them from the mammoth Corbyn-led Labour Party, so that's no mean feat. And UKIP are down to their lowest level since I've been tracking local by-elections. The nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales find themselves squeezed this year because, well, there haven't been many by-elections for them to fight.

What is interesting is the LibDems. After a tough time in the middle of the year, it would appear they're back on the by-election winning trail again, even if their vote average remains stubbornly behind the two major parties. Still, since August (i.e. the point I began reporting ward results) the LibDems have taken six seats off the Tories and three seats off Labour. To my mind this seems to tally with the win ratio from earlier in this year. Therefore they have a choice. Cuddly Uncle Vince could try the same trick Tim Farron tried to pull and disproportionately target Labour, with little headway, or pitch slightly more to the centre right to start taking more votes and seats off the Tories. On those figures, I know where I'd concentrate my fire.

Any predictions for next year? Hella no, I've supposed to have given them up. Nevertheless, despite that I'm sure something of this ilk will come along soon.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Quarter Four Local By-Election Results 2017

Overall, 116,787 votes were cast over 79 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. For comparison see Quarter Three's results here.

  Party
Number of Candidates
Total Vote
%
+/- 
Q3
+/- Q4 2016
Average
+/-
Seats
Conservative
         76
37,818
   32.4%
 +1.8%
   +1.6%
   498
    -7
Labour
         73
40,480
   34.7%
  -2.9%
   +9.8%
   555
    -1
LibDem
         65
21,263
   18.2%
 +6.3%
    -0.2%
   327
   +9
UKIP
         27
 3,003
    2.6%
 +0.6%
    -3.2%
   111
    -3
Green
         43
 3,745
    3.2%
 -2.0%
   +0.0%
    87
   +1
SNP*
          3
 3,762
    3.2%
 -2.0%
    -4.5%
 1,254
     0
PC
          1
   525
    0.4%
 +0.4%
    -0.9%  
   525
     0
Ind***
         28
 5,187
    4.4%
 -1.7%
    -2.4%
   185
   +1
Other****
          6
 1,004
    0.9%
 -1.0%
    -0.9%
   167
     0

* There were three by-elections in Scotland
** There were two by-elections in Wales
*** There were five Independent clashes
**** Others this quarter consisted of Yorkshire Party (153 and 156), Putting Hartlepool First (474), Elvis Bus Pass (34), It's Our County (Herefordshire) (156), and English Democrats (31)

Nothing dramatic has happened in this quarter, though the numbers for the top parties are a touch depressed, no doubt thanks to a surging Liberal Democrats. These kinds of percentages and successes were last seen before the general election. With nothing moving in the national polls, are we seeing a reversion back to how it was before last April, at least as far as by-elections are concerned? Possibly, though UKIP remains almost entirely spent.

Anyways, the year end aggregation is up next so we'll cast some more thoughts in this direction then.