Friday, 4 March 2011

Striking Things About Barnsley

I became rather fascinated by the by-election in Barnsley last night, as it became clear the order wasn't going to be as clear cut as usual. I decided to stay up and see it through, only to find the Lib Dems sliding down to 6th and UKIP taking 2nd place. It was astonishing really, especially to be following the excitement as I was on Twitter. Social media might have a lot to answer for, but it could definitely be used as a tool to reignite interest in politics.

Anyway, Labour took a vast majority of votes and Dan Jarvis is now the MP for Barnsley Central. I have great respect for the man. I read an interview with him the other day and he seems to be one of the most down to earth, no-nonsense people in politics. As an ex-soldier he has first hand experience of our military operations, something which could be very valuable should Labour return to power. However, although he was the favourite, there are some interesting points to make about the Barnsley by-election.

  1. The seat was certainly a safe Labour seat to start with. However, Eric Illsley has been imprisoned for his expenses. You would expect this to put a dent in the majority but, percentage wise, Dan Javis dramatically increased Labour's vote share from 47% to 60%. However, lower turnout has to take some responsibility for this.
  2. The turnout was 'abysmal' as Nick Clegg said in an interview earlier. Yes, it was. At 36.5% it was down by 20% on the General Election. Now, the very fact that Clegg drew attention to the turnout suggests that he doesn't believe the Lib Dem's demolition in the by-election was significant. However, I would then wonder, if he places so little stock in turnouts of around 36%, why did he fight so hard against a threshold of 40% on the upcoming AV Referendum?
  3. UKIP took second. I don't think it should be underestimated how significant this is for the party. All right, the vote share was only 12%, but that's still well above the 8% the Tories got. Forget the implications for the Coalition, this is an excellent result for a fringe party with excellent credentials.
  4. The Tories and Lib Dems came in third and sixth respectively. Of course, this could be taken as the natural reaction to the cuts, and probably will be by most people within Downing Street. It's also one small area, which was always going to stay Labour. However, it's the vote share that's concerning. Both the Tories and Lib Dems scored 17.3% at the General Election. In the case of the Lib Dems, this has dropped to 4.1%. They lost their deposit for that terrible performance. Evidently, Labour have increased their share by taking votes, primarily from the Lib Dems I would think. And it's a sure bet that some Tories decided to vote UKIP, probably exercising their right to a worthy vote in a race they knew they couldn't expect to win. However, what about all those people that stayed home? It seems to me, on looking at the figures, that only a core of people fell compelled to go out and defend the Coalition. If this trend is repeated at the next General Election it could be that we've helped create even more of an apathy towards the British political system than we had only a year ago.

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