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Saturday, 1 May 2010

Will Ed Balls lose Morley and Outwood?

Ed Balls is contesting the newly formed parliamentary constituency of Morley and Outwood, as his former seat - Normanton - has passed into history. Unlike Normanton, Morley and Outwood will be a much harder nut for Balls to crack, and the result should provide some of the best drama of election night. Many have speculated that Morley and Outwood will yield a 'Portillo moment', and having looked at the May 2008 local election results from each of its five constituent wards, I think it likely that this leading 'light' of the Labour Party will be snuffed out in the early hours of Friday 7 May.

Not only does it seem likely that Balls will fail to win the seat, but there is an outside chance that the winner will once again render many media pundits near speechless, as did the election of Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons to the EU Parliament in June 2009. From my analysis, it seems most likely that the Tories will take the seat by a small margin, but it will be a fight between Labour and the BNP for second place. It is not however, beyond the realms of possibility that the BNP could take Morley and Outwood. Although it is somewhat foolhardy to extrapolate parliamentary results from those of local elections, it seems to me that the voting patterns of the May 2008 local elections will provide a reasonable guide to what happens next week. Why? Primarily because voters remain in a volatile mood and many feel alienated from the near-identical policies of the mainstream parties, thus traditional tribal affiliations to party are more brittle with the result that voters are more willing to lend their vote to other candidates. Moreover, none of the 'big three' are offering policies deemed anywhere near adequate with respect to curtailing immigration.

The five wards comprising Morley and Outwood are: Morley North; Morley South; Ardsley and Robin Hood; Stanley and Outwood East; Wrenthorpe and Outwood West. If the votes from these in 2008 are combined we reach a total of 26,766 which split as follows:
  • Morley Borough Independents (contested two wards) – 6,379 (23.8%)
  • BNP – 5,956 (22.3%)
  • Conservative – 5,897 (22.0%)
  • Labour – 5,745 (21.5%)
  • Liberal Democrat – 1,999 (7.5%)
  • Other independents (two wards only) – 578 (2.2%)
  • UKIP (contested one ward) – 201 (0.7%)
  • Spoiled votes – 11
Independents often do well at the local level, but rarely do so at national elections. In a way however, this is irrelevant, as no independents are standing for election in the seat. The five party candidates are: Ed Balls (Labour); Chris Beverley (BNP); Antony Calvert (Conservative); David Daniel (UKIP) and James Monaghan (Liberal Democrat).

As noted in yesterday's posting on a Newsnight report from Morley, lifelong Labour supporters have declared that they have deserted the party, and some of those interviewed declared coyly that they would be voting for "one of the smaller parties" without declaring which it would be. In my opinion, straight-speaking Yorkshire folk would not be reticent about declaring support for UKIP if this is the party to which they were switching their support, but like most people in the UK today, they don't want to be harangued by idiots for declaring their support for the BNP. It is therefore my opinion that many former Labour supporters will be transferring support to the BNP. This shift in sentiment will have been reinforced by the Gillian Duffy episode. Given local vote shares, it is an outside possibility that the BNP could take the seat, but I think that many are so keen to take Balls's scalp that they will vote Tory. My guess (which will invariably be wrong, but it'll be fun to see by how much) is that the result will look something like this:

Conservatives - 30%
Labour – 28%
BNP – 25%
Liberal Democrat – 12.5%
UKIP – 4.5%

The BNP should be aiming to poll a minimum of 20%. If they achieve 25% or above, this would be an excellent result, particularly if it puts them into second place.

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