What happened in Greater Manchester on June 8th?
Here is a map showing the swings in Greater Manchester’s parliamentary seats. Red figures indicate a Labour victory while Blue figures indicate a Conservative was elected. Positive figures mean a swing from Tories to Labour, negative figures (also in italics) indicate a swing to Labour from Conservative. In two cases the swing reported (I used the data from the Guardian’s seat by seat compilation) was from Conservative to Liberal Democrats .
These figures can be compared with the National average swing of 1.8% to Labour (1 per cent in Leave voting seats and 8% in Remain voting seats).
Larger swings to labour (and the LD’s) are found in the South of the region (with Bury North, Labour’s gain in the city region, and Heywood and Middleton, the exceptions). There were only slight swings in the economically less favoured “inverted horseshoe” to the North and North East of the city, while in the Bolton and Wigan seats the swing was actually to the Tories (except in Wigan itself). Having helped the Labour campaign on three days in Bolton West (I was elsewhere until last weekend), I’m not altogether surprised, from doorstep conversations, apart from a few public sector workers, there was little evidence of voters switching back to Labour.
The Green vote collapsed, here as in most of the country. In Manchester Gorton, the Green candidate came second in 2015. This time they were in fifth place, even the opportunist irrelevancy that is George Galloway did better (in third place but with just 5.7% of the vote). This is disappointing. I may be a Labour Party member, but I’m an eco-socialist, critical of the growthism in Labour’s economic strategy (though there is a lot in the manifesto to like) and Labour would benefit from pressure exerted by a stronger Left Environmentalist presence.
UKIP, once seen as a challenger in seats like Heywood and Middleton, were, as elsewhere, obliterated, with Labour and the Tories the main beneficiaries.
Returning to the large swings in the area enclosed by the “inverted horseshoe”, these cannot just be attributed to Remainers rejecting the Tories, nor to the student and youth vote, although both are likely factors. The Liberal Democrats campaigned almost exclusively on the Brexit issue, but this did them no favours – they were, at second place, 30,000 votes behind Labour in Manchester Withington, a seat they held until 2015 (although there were swings their way in Cheadle and Hazel Grove. Tactical voting will have played a part). Nationally, Labour got bigger swings outside its traditional heartlands: areas not unlike the southern and central parts of the City Region in terms of educational levels and generally socially liberal outlook. Labour’s manifesto seems to have appealed to enough people here, and in these areas people are perhaps more likely to be aware of it, less influenced by the xenophobic, right wing tabloids, accessing and evaluating alternative sources of information.
What is this telling us?
Where does that leave the post-industrial, “peripheral” areas? In a region whose Labour leaders have seemed to favour economic “development” in the city centre and the south of the conurbation, it is perhaps not a surprise if people remain unconvinced by a Labour promise to improve things for them. Of course the huge changes in the Labour Party with, rejection of New Labour, the ascent of Jeremy Corbyn his team, and mass membership, does mean that the national party is now making a different offer, but scepticism is understandable from the de-industrialised working class and those groups who have experienced a precarious upward mobility, whose housing estates I walked around last week. There are some signs that the new Mayor of Greater Manchester recognises the need to break with the old model but there are plenty of traces of orthodox economic thinking (at least in the manifesto for that election). Time will tell whether we will see a real alternative to austerity, urban boosterism and trickle-down theory in the dangerous social, economic and environmental context we are living of this “interregnum” between a failed and destructive global order and whatever will take its place.
Interested? Steady State Manchester will be discussing the implications of the General and Mayoral elections on Wednesday 14 June, 6.30pm, Central Hall, Oldham Street. More info HERE.
minor corrections 12/6/17
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