Using Doncaster and Derbyshire results to predict the general election is risky – Tim Stickings

Party leaders and local candidates are already spinning last night’s election results as promising signs for their party ahead of next month’s general election.

George Jabbour, for instance, the Conservative candidate who was runner-up in the Doncaster mayoral election, said his party was winning over pro-Brexit voters in Labour heartlands.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, meanwhile, said Labour would improve its position now that the focus was on the general election.

According to political scientist John Curtice, there was a swing of around 7% from Labour to the Conservatives based on the local results so far.

A swing such as that on 8 June would imperil Labour seats in South Yorkshire such as Penistone and Stocksbridge, currently held by Angela Smith, or Kevin Barron’s seat in Rother Valley.

The constituencies in play in South Yorkshire at the general election.

However, a large amount of caution is needed when applying local election results to the country.

“People vote differently for different reasons at different sorts of election,” said Anthony Wells, an election expert from polling company YouGov.

“Some people will vote based on local issues or their local councillor, and people know that who they choose doesn’t involve putting Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May into power.”

Moreover, calculating overall shares of the vote from local elections is a perilous task, not least because many councillors are elected in multi-member wards (as in Doncaster) and results are often not particularly comparable to previous elections.

In Doncaster, Mr Jabbour came second in the mayoral race with 21.2%, a marked improvement from the Conservatives’ fourth-place finish in 2013.

He said that Theresa May’s popularity in Doncaster was winning over Leave voters in a very pro-Brexit part of South Yorkshire.

If the Conservatives were to pick up votes from UKIP at the general election, as they did in many parts of the country, they could compete in Labour heartlands where a divided opposition has done at least as much to keep Labour in control as any ideological affinity.

However, the Doncaster mayoral figures are hard to compare because of the presence of a strong independent candidate, then-Mayor Peter Davies, in the previous election.

Labour’s Ros Jones, who was re-elected as Mayor, won a substantially higher share of the vote than she did four years ago, defying the trend in most of the country.

And UKIP stood no candidate in 2013, so their candidate Brian Whitmore’s performance in Doncaster – coming third with 12.1% – is hard to assess.

Their leader Paul Nuttall said UKIP had been “the victims of our own success”.

More could become clear when council election results are announced in Derbyshire and Doncaster.

Early results in Derbyshire suggest a swing of more than 10% to the Conservatives.

JUS News will be at both counts.

 

Timothy Stickings

Trainee reporter at JUS News, covering Sheffield and Rotherham. History graduate, Chelsea fan, travelling enthusiast, politics nerd.