Yesterday Channel 4 news and JLPartners released an interesting poll of so-called “red wall” seats. A lot of things get written about “Red Wall seats” that don’t necessarily have much thought behind them. It is the Essex man or Worcester woman of the 2019 election, an easy buzzword that is too often a substitute for proper understanding. They are important, but you need to look careful at the nuances.

Let us start by going back to where the term originated, with James Kanagasooriam. It wasn’t just a generic word for northern marginals or Tory targets – James coined it when talking about as seats that demographically should have been Conservative, but which consistently voted Labour. James actually identified several groups of these seats – some in Wales, some in County Durham, and a big swathe of them across urban Lancashire and Yorkshire that looked like a red wall. Hence the name.

The whole point of James’ argument was that there were seats that in terms of their make up (class, economy, education, age structure and so on) you would expect to vote Conservative, but that they actually voted Labour because of a cultural, historical and social hostility towards the Tories. These weren’t seats full of horny-handed sons of toil, they were seats that were or had become more affluent but yet not become Tory. Sefton, for example, is largely affluent suburbia, with some of the highest home-ownership rates in the country. Yet it votes Labour, because it’s Liverpool’s suburbs, and people in Liverpool are not inclined to go about voting Conservative.

One can debate the reasons for this dislike, but the most obvious explanations are historical: the identity as former mining communities, the legacy and memory of Thatcherism and the dismantling of industry in the North in the 1980s. The point was, this was an obstacle to the Tories – how to appeal to these people who “should” demographically be their target audience, but for whatever reason were not interested.

Skipping ahead, we know that the Conservatives did manage to do this in many areas in 2017 and 2019. In fact in many of these areas there has been an incredible sea-change in voting behavior. Across the two elections the Conservatives have made gains there that would have looked unbelievable ten years ago. In 2015, the Conservatives won the national share of the vote by 7%. In 2019 they won by 12%, that is, a 2.5% swing across those two elections. Compare that to the Lab=>Con swing in some of the “red wall” seats. Sedgefield experienced a 14% swing across the two elections, Blyth Valley 13%, Bolsover 19%, Leigh 18%.

While there are some areas that did not follow this tide (Merseyside in particular is still extremely unforgiving territory for the Conservative party), among other areas in Lancashire, Country Durham, and Derbyshire mining areas the “red wall” decisively crumbled.

There are different explanations one can come up with for what happened. Part of it was probably the disruptive effect Brexit had upon traditional party ties, part of it perhaps a general change to the way the Conservative party has presented itself and its message. Much will simply be to the passage of time – those old mining identities can only sustain for so long once the mines have closed, the miners have passed on, the old sites regenerated and replaced by new build housing estates.

However, the Tory advances of 2017 and 2019 were not just in James’s red wall seats. Here is where it gets complicated, and why one should be cautious about throwing all those 2019 gains in together. The Conservatives gained other seats as well, some of which don’t match this description at all. Lewis Baston has written about this well previously. Some of them were in perennial marginals – places like Darlington, Stockton South, Keighley or Lincoln that have been competitive for decades and just happen to be in the North or the Midlands. If you are looking at opinion in the “red wall seats”, you have to be careful how you define it, and what you are actually looking at.

All that brings me round to the actual JLpartners/Channel 4 polling. This polled 500 people in the seats that the Conservatives won from Labour in the North & Midlands in 2019. The write up and full tables are here (do go and have a read, as there is lots of detail I have not explored below).

Overall the poll shows Labour at 47%, the Conservatives at 41%. In comparison, in the same seats the vote share in 2019 was Conservative 48%, Labour 39%. That translates into a swing of 7.5% from Conservative to Labour. In comparison the national polls conducted over the same period showed on average a Conservative lead of 1 point, a swing of 5.5% from Conservative to Labour.

On the face of it, that suggests the Conservatives are doing marginally worse in these seats than in the country as a whole. If that was to happen at an election it would be unusual – parties actually tend to do a bit better than average in seats they gained at the previous election because they have gained the incumbency advantage (the MP’s “personal vote”), and their opponents have lost it, so this would be a particularly poor performance. However, I should add the caveat that it’s just one poll of 500 people, so there is a margin of error of 4% on there. We should not put too much confidence on whether the Conservatives are doing a couple of percentage points better or worse in an area based on a single poll.

More interesting of course would be to be able to look under the bonnet at the different types of seat within those we’ve lumped together as “red wall” seats. Are there different patterns at work in those traditional marginal seats to those former mining and industrial seats that have been part of the bigger red-wall sea-change. There is no particular reason to think that seats like Lincoln or Blackpool South or Gedling would behave any differently to marginal seats elsewhere – but for seats like Sedgefield, Bassetlaw or Bolsover there’s a question of whether the political re-alignment we’ve seen over the last few elections has come to a halt or is still ongoing.

That’s not to say the JLPartners/Channel 4 poll isn’t good stuff – it is – it’s more than it’s only a starting point.

The question people tend to ask on the back of polls like this is whether the Tories need to worry unduly about keeping these seats in their column, and whether Labour can win them back. In that context, it is probably too simplistic to look at them as a single lump. In one sense, obviously these seats will be part of the battleground – but that’s just a truism. These are marginal seats, elections will be always be won and lost in the marginal seats. The more important question is whether these marginal seats are the ones that are most likely to change at the next election, or whether by looking at the fashionable “red wall” seats we miss looking at potentially more vulnerable seats elsewhere?

It may be that the political re-alignment in the true “red wall” seats is so seismic that they actually become safer Tory seats than some of the more traditional marginals. It may be that the more vulnerable Tory seats next time round are actually some more affluent seats with high proportions of graduates. The pattern of key marginals next time round could be those that are similar to North West Bristol or Canterbury, rather than winning back old mining seats.

Northern Tory gains last time weren’t monolithic – it isn’t one single “red wall” – they mix up some traditional marginals, as well as some sea that have seen truly transformational change. We shouldn’t assume they’ll behave as one block, or in the same way in the future either. Equally, we shouldn’t necessarily assume that all the interesting changes at the next election will happen in the same place as the last one. There are risks and opportunities elsewhere too.


12,042 Responses to “On the importance of the “Red Wall” seats”

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  1. TREVOR WARNE
    @ AC – with the pubs shut and rugby on I spent the day self IDing as a pint glass, well played Wales ;)

    I’ve told the wife I’ll switch to a Christmas tree later tho. She is my angel and I’ll bring my own presence ;)
    ________

    I’m loving the self IDing as pint glass and what a lovely thought of self IDing into a Christmas tree..Your angel wife will love that. Awww. :)

    I’m just thinking when my other half gets back tonight I may self ID into a bottle whiskey to make me frisky and Brandy to make me randy.

    I really would urge everyone to embrace the self identifying culture..You can be anything you want.. ;) :) :) The World is your oyster…

  2. HUGO
    Allan Christie

    That they did…..and we’ll do ’em in a fortnight and win the Triple Crown
    __________

    Actually I’ve changed my mind…Mon the Morris Dancers of Melton.

  3. Trev,

    Do Labour not get a point for 4 tries?

    10/15/17 and 19.

  4. It’s probably safe to assume the Tories have opened up at least a 4-5% gap over Labour and in the coming weeks it may even get bigger.

    BoJo is clearly benefiting from the vaccine roll out (Vac Bounce) and the roll out is covering over a multitude of sins in other areas of government which may unravel as lockdown restrictions are eased and job losses rise when furlough ends.

    Post lockdown, whenever that is, will be interesting in a polling sense.

  5. @ JJ – you need to start kicking those conversions tho, especially when you had the ref (Bercow) on your side. Stole defeat from the jaws of victory back then.

    Good fly half’s are (in) #10s and CON have no shame in winning ugly. Boris is pretty good on the wing(ing it) and even with Dom red carded the opposition lack finishers.

    It’s not the taking part, it’s the winning that counts ;)

  6. Congratulations to

    Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Pat Toomey.

    The rest of the republican senatators should forever hang their heads in shame.

  7. The Teflon Don slides away once again.

  8. No major surprise the Republicans didn’t vote facilitate the Trump impeachment.

    We now move on to Georgia and the investigation there.

    Already feels that the Trump 2024 campaign is building momentum with the GOP terrified of the mob base.

  9. Fairly sure the Republicans will split if Trump is to remain part of the picture. And their support will split to a 3rd party, if not.

  10. There’s an interesting behavioural characteristic that has long been exhibited by those who wish to confirm their dominance in society by demeaning others. “Jokes” are key to that process – you can’t feel threatened by those that are figures of fun.

    That has long been observable in many societies, with regard to “others”. In the UK, those others have been the Irish, “inferior” races that had to be colonised, other national or regional groups, women, socialists, gays.

    Interesting to see the Trevs and AC replicating that long (if dishonourable) tradition.

  11. @OLDNAT

    That Welsh defence was hugely impressive.

    Fine defence at a crucial point, and the luck of the bounce – sometimes that’s enough.

    Curious that that’s the third away win (excluding games involving Italy) since the games became fanless. More than the annual average, and they’ve only played half a season’s worth of games so far.

    Makes me wonder if we might see some unusual things in May, assuming the voting goes ahead. A round of elections where many people will have a spent a long time with only media, social media and their immediate household to frame and filter political discussions and perceptions of events, could that be a significant difference in itself?

  12. EOR

    “A round of elections where many people will have a spent a long time with only media, social media and their immediate household to frame and filter political discussions and perceptions of events, could that be a significant difference in itself?”

    That’s an interesting and astute question! Not one that I have seen anyone else raise, so kudos to you.

    Elections are scheduled to go ahead, but the lack of normal human interaction on political issues that we’re used to happening in pubs, workplaces etc might well have an effect – though impossible to predict, I imagine,

  13. I note that the Telegraph is pushing the idea that a tunnel linking Scotland and NI would “help unblock trade which has been hit by Brexit tensions”.

    https://twitter.com/Telegraph/status/1360705440804462597

    No doubt they have been fed the concept by the same bunch of incompetent fools in Downing St who signed the deal without understanding what it meant.

    Of course (as Craig Dalzell ha pointed out) the only way this would “unblock trade” would be if it was being used to smuggle goods between NI and GB in defiance of the Brexit deal that Johnson’s government negotiated and signed.

  14. I can’t believe the NI/Scotland Tunnel has resurfaced, like Moby Dick the great white whale, obsession of Johnson the great white leader.

    The Channel tunnel cost £21bn and almost failed. It had to have it’s franchise extended from 55years to over 80 as part of restructuring and last year it’s profits were up by 22% but still less than £200m meaning it’s profits will be less than it’s costs over the franchise.

    Here’s the figures.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Channel_Tunnel#Service_locomotives

    Basically 20m passengers and 20m tonnes of freight.

    Here’s the ferry stats for the same year 2018

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/682688/sea-passengers-short-sea-routes-provisional-2017.pdf

    Basically 2m, with no figure for freight! About a tenth of the channel tunnel.

    More white elephant than White Whale.
    I can’t see it getting built!
    I can’t see the Scottish Government giving it planning permission!
    I can’t see the U.K. Government putting up the money.,
    I can’t see the city putting up the money.

    I can see it being hyped for all it’s worth as part of the Union Dividend.

    And if that doesn’t put you off the feasibility study is being run by the chairman of Network Rail!

    Peter.

  15. @STEVE
    @JIB
    I like JIB felt the result was never in doubt. I think it was necessary but actually a side show. What will get Biden and Democrats success is passing their agenda and sorting out the Covid-19.

    GOP is going to be GOP they are going to be obstructionist and they will be talking about the debt and deficit now they are out of power and doing their usual stuff.

    The Dems I believe understand that they will do the dance of bipartisanship but will implement the popular policies anyway

    As to the GOP I am not sure what will happen. I think some are waiting to find out what happens to Trump. They don’t want to be part of the whole regicide and would prefer someone else to do it so they can claim to the base it was those democrats but I think the real problem wwith the GOP is that they are not as cohesive an organisation as the Democrats it why someone like Trump could win yet Sanders following the same 30% strategy could not. So I suspect there will be lots of hoping for something to turn up to floor Trump.

    I would noot hold my breath though I suspect Trump if he is not running for President will be deciding who it is. I actually would put an outside bet on Don Jr.

  16. @PTRP

    The Donald Jnr proposition is a good one. Trump Snr is surely finished politically, or at least consigned to shouting from the sidelines.

    Too old, beset with financial and legal problems, further revelations inevitable, an immense amount of baggage, and completely bonkers: its not a good hand to play.

    The Republican establishment will ditch him, just as Labour are ridding themselves of Corbyn and his fellow travellers.

  17. LAST 5 OPINIUM

    Opinium, 16-17 Dec
    Con: 39%
    Lab: 39%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 12%

    Opinium, 06-07 Jan
    Con: 39%
    Lab: 40%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 11%

    Opinium, 14-15 Jan
    Con: 37%
    Lab: 41%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 12%

    Opinium, 28-29 Jan
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 7%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    Opinium, 11-12 Feb
    Con: 42%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 5%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

  18. LAST 5 ACROSS ALL POLLS

    Survation, 05-06 Feb
    Con: 39%
    Lab: 33%
    LDem: 9%
    Grn: 7%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 12%

    SavantaComRes, 05-07 Feb
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 8%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    Redfield & Wilton, 08 Feb
    Con: 43%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 7%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 8%

    YouGov, 09-10 Feb
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 36%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 7%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    Opinium, 11-12 Feb
    Con: 42%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 5%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

  19. ALL POLLS BETWEEN THIS OPINIUM AND LAST OPINIUM

    Opinium, 28-29 Jan
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 7%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    SavantaComRes, 29-31 Jan
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 3%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 12%

    NCPolitics, 01 Feb
    Con: 43%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 5%
    Grn: 5%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    Redfield & Wilton, 01 Feb
    Con: 42%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 8%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 8%

    YouGov, 02-03 Feb
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 6%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    IpsosMORI, 29 Jan-04 Feb
    Con: 42%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 7%
    Grn: 8%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 5%

    Survation, 05-06 Feb
    Con: 39%
    Lab: 33%
    LDem: 9%
    Grn: 7%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 12%

    SavantaComRes, 05-07 Feb
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 8%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    Redfield & Wilton, 08 Feb
    Con: 43%
    Lab: 38%
    LDem: 7%
    Grn: 4%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 8%

    YouGov, 09-10 Feb
    Con: 41%
    Lab: 36%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 7%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

    Opinium, 11-12 Feb
    Con: 42%
    Lab: 37%
    LDem: 6%
    Grn: 5%
    Oth/DK/WNV: 10%

  20. The UK Government’s Culture Secretary is extending the culture war in its ongoing strategy to promote an aggressive right wing British nationalism by seeking to instruct heritage bodies and charities to promote it:

    https://twitter.com/christopherhope/status/1360722119978549248?s=19

  21. OLDNAT

    “That Welsh defence was hugely impressive.”

    Yes it was and as an unbiased observer I thoght it a good game to watch

  22. @Hireton – the serial dimwits at the Telegraph don’t even understand that writing something like this:

    “Ministers will fine student bodies which stifle freedom of speech and tell heritage groups “public funds must never be used for political purposes” in a major new bid to torpedo efforts at rewriting Britain’s history, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose”

    is just the most classic example of cancel culture at work.

    I’d rather like to hear about the UK’s history of empire and the role of the slave trade in establishing patterns of wealth that persist to this day.

    Factual, honest, reviews of our history.

    The intolerant Conservative right are seeking to deny me that right.

    It’s almost as if they are frightened of their own past.

  23. Very solid set of polls for the Tories who clearly have a lead of approx 5%. They also lead on who is best for PM and who is best to run the economy, key indicators in elections.

    Is 5% the new polldrums? If it is, I would say Labour are doing OK . Starmer’s position looks solid. The vaccine roll out will continue but there will be fewer new people vaccinated as an increasing number will require their second jabs. We also have a budget early in March so it will be interesting to see how things develop from here

  24. Alec

    “Ministers will fine student bodies which stifle freedom of speech”

    I would certainly support that, free speech is crucial in a democracy.

  25. @Oldnat

    “On Saturday night DUP MP Sammy Wilson, whose seat East Antrim would host the Northern Ireland end of the tunnel, said: “This kind of project would at least give people in Northern Ireland the belief that the Government was prepared to put in infrastructure and spend money to make sure that we are physically connected.”

    I wonder if he reflected on his behaviour on Sunday morning?

    Throwing money at beliefs. If that’s not Brexit, I don’t know what is.

  26. @Statgeek – “The Teflon Don slides away once again.”

    I’m rather thinking that this is a good result for the Democrats.

    Trump as president lost congress. lost the senate, and became that rare thing in modern US politics, a one term president. Failing to secure a second term is an unusual failure, and he has inflicted severe electoral damage on the Republicans in the process. The Georgia senate run offs are a remarkable testament to that fact.

    I first thought that the second impeachment attempt was a mistake by Democrats, given that the odds of conviction were very low. But I think it’s worked out for them.

    They have split some Republicans from Trump, in terms of voting against him, but they have forced most of the others to acknowledge how wrong Trump was (see McConnel’s savage statements after voting against impeachment) and instead fall back on the ‘free speech’ defence.

    I suspect that the Dems will be quietly satisfied that Trump is now signalling a comeback, and their rapid fire second impeachment actions have not troubled the passage of key Biden measures while they have worked to keep the Trump/Maga bogeyman alive and kicking.

    The tension within the GOP is not now resolved, and will continue to fester, and as a result the ability of Republicans to grab the independent voters they desperately need to overcome their demographic issues is curtailed.

    There is still a long, long way to go before the next round of midterms, but seeing the GOP go deeper down the extremist rabbit hole is on balance helpful to the Dems – albeit not without some risks.

  27. @TOH – an intelligent man like you should be able to understand that the examples of such behaviour are remarkably few and far between, and the entire affair has been grossly exaggerated precisely to get people like you to post comments like “I would certainly support that, free speech is crucial in a democracy.”

    The biggest current threat to free speech and democracy is the campaign by the right wing of the Conservative Party and their acolytes to prevent organisations and individuals from discussing unsavory aspects of UK’s past history.

    So when Christopher Hope writes in the Telegraph –

    “The Government’s twin assault on the so-called ‘cancel culture’ comes amid concern at senior levels in the Government over attempts to rewrite Britain’s past”

    you should be saying that free speech is a critical part of the constant reinterpretation of a nation’s history which should be welcome in any decent democracy.

  28. Alec

    “you should be saying that free speech is a critical part of the constant reinterpretation of a nation’s history which should be welcome in any decent democracy.”

    I agree with that as much as i agree with the statement i posted.

    I don’t agree with your view of the Conservative party although I might agree that there are some in all parties who want to suppress free speech.

  29. Some interesting figures on post Brexit city trading – https://ihsmarkit.com/research-analysis/2021-brexit-no-equivalence-for-pan-european-otc-interest-rate-.html

    There has been a clear drift away from London, which has posted relative declines in every market sector listed here. Likewise, the EU share has increased across the board, although sometimes very marginally, and from a very low market share.

    But it is a consistent pattern. Commentators are generally agreed that London is taking really quite a surprisingly large hit in terms of volumes, but that this does not yet translate into substantial loss of jobs or profits. The servers and tax point have moved, not the people and salaries, and my understanding is that many of these trades are high volume low margin, so it’s the taxes on salaries rather than profits that remains the bigger cash cow.

    But commentators also seem largely agreed that it’s the direction of travel that matters. Jobs tend to follow volumes, as they did once the UK joined the EU, centralizing finance into London from across the EC as it was then. This is starting to unwind.

    Most commentators also seem to be suggesting that the real effects are likely to be in the area of new trading instruments. Carbon trading is one big upcoming growth area, and with the EU currently ahead of the UK on border carbon pricing, and having a substantially bigger market and great regulatory reach, the early signs of a major shift in carbon trading to EU platforms does not bode well for the city in this field of emerging market activity.

    As elsewhere, the effects of hard brexit have been greater than expected by most high profile leavers, and the gradual unwinding of London’s dominance looks to have started already.

  30. @TOH – it’s our government that is trying to prevent free speech in historical interpretation.

    They are Conservatives.

    I therefore don’t understand your last point.

  31. Alec

    “I therefore don’t understand your last point.”

    It’s very easy i believe that there a small minority in all the parties that would like to supress free speech on occasions.

    I read the article and I don’t think they are trying to do what you suggest. They are saying public funds should not be used for political purposes, I agree with that.

    They are suggesting a “free speech champion” who will be given powers to defend free speech and academic freedom on campuses. I agree with that.

    They want the new head of OFCOM to ensure that broadcast news is reported with “due impartiality”. I very much agree with that. It might mean I could watch the news without swearing at the LoC bias.

    I see no sign of suppression of free speech, the opposite is true IMO.

  32. Talking of tunnels, we had George Osborne solving the difficulties of cross-Pennine communications with his laughable plan for a 12-mile-long one below the Snake.

    I admit that not all Tories were keen to join the diving, maybe because some of them had actually driven the A57 from Glossop to the Sheffield area and considered how unrealistic the plan was: very costly for little benefit..

    I see the papers not making much of Hancock and Johnson failing to deliver on their rash promise of all over-70s vaccinated by February 15th . For Scotland the score for those 70-74 years-old was “almost half” vaccinated, as reported in our yesterday`s evening paper. So 50% plus of this cohort to be vaccinated in 2 days, is a big ask.

    Probably Hancock/Johnson will change their rules but confuse the gullible public by starting off saying the UK has met its targets but by implication having the Tory targets different in different nations.

  33. COLIN

    Thanks for that, I hadn’t seen it and it really seems to make my point for me. I think Alec has got it totally wrong, we could not be further apart on it.

  34. DAVWEL

    The voters don’t agree with your views, looking at the polls. I think the Government, or more correctly all those involved in delivery, have done a magnificent job on this aspect of the pandemic so far.

  35. TOH

    Yep.

    Same old stuff .

  36. THE OTHER HOWARD

    I agree with your assessment of the polls. I think the voters are quite keen on effective measures to deal with COVID and recently the government’s approach has been quite consistent and strict and and at the same time quite effective on vaccines. I also see no prospect of this government turning to austerity like David Cameron did. So this does make life difficult for Labour.

  37. DAVWEL

    @” their rash promise of all over-70s vaccinated by February 15th”

    Vaccination is not comulsory in UK. The target was to “offer” the vaccine.

    As at 7 Feb take up has been 86% in England & 73% in Wales.

    At the last Press Conference BJ urged those who have not taken the offer up to come forward.

    The take up in Black & Asian Communities is very worrying.

    https://www.rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/new-poll-finds-bame-groups-less-likely-to-want-covid-vaccine.html

  38. PROFHOWARD

    Good to have a common view of the state of play despite being different political animals.

    I agree i would be surprised to see austerity measures in the budget.

  39. @Millie

    “Trump Snr is surely finished politically, or at least consigned to shouting from the sidelines.

    Too old, beset with financial and legal problems, further revelations inevitable, an immense amount of baggage, and completely bonkers”

    We knew he was completely bonkers in 2016.

    It’s the other issues that might stop him, but irrepressible narcissistic tendencies and an equally bonkers pick up truck and gun wielding support base is still there.

  40. Mark Harper’s (Chair of CRG) open letter with 63 CON MP signatures:

    #Road2Recovery

    https://twitter.com/Mark_J_Harper/status/1360713436179673099?

  41. @Colin

    Did you read your own link?

    I did: it says – among other things – that only six external speakers were cancelled in 2019/20, the majority due to failing to carry out the basic admin required to hold a meeting.

    That implies a MAXIMUM of two instances of prevention of free speech amidst 10,000 events – hardly a pressing issue?

    It also says:
    ‘From the Office for Students (OfS) on external speakers on campus for the wider university sector in England found that of 59,574 events organised with an external speaker, just 53 were not approved (0.09%).
    It concluded that “we currently see no cause, in the information being reported to us, for concern that the sector or individual providers are not balancing their freedom of speech responsibilities with the Prevent duty, or indeed other legislation such as health and safety”.’

    Additionally, student bodies are taking steps – according to this same report – to ensure that there are no unjustified limitations on freedom of speech at universities.

    Far from supporting the government’s stance, the report you link clearly supports the view that this is a piece of ‘culture war’ froth addressing a problem that, frankly, barely exists…

  42. The trevs,
    “By May then pubs will probably be open and CON will get the credit for that due to vaccine programme”

    Indeed they may and certainly they will seek to. But the reality is that even with no vaccine at all, by May the outbreak would have followed the same outcome as last year except starting months earlier. So it would have all subsided by then anyway. Right now wave 3 is clearly over despite vaccines not having had time to make any significant impact.

    The evidence so far is limited but remains consistent with the idea the virus is still mopping up new victims from people who had immunity to it before it existed. Those who escaped noticeable disease in the first wave because of this immunity but which is likely to be weaker than immunity from an actual full infection.

    So while in the first wave maybe 1/2 were already immune, 1/3 caught it and the rest escaped because of herd immunity, in later waves the virus has been working through the 1/2 originally immune. If a similar number has had it properly now, then it is possible it would end naturally here.

    Though saying that, it’s very obvious this is a disease only killing those already unwell (at any age). Which implies this is a group with large turnover and new members coming along all the time. Though anyone who caught covid before getting that ill is likely to be much safer in the future come what may.

    Chances are anyone under 50 is safer having had covid than not.

  43. BFR

    53 is appalling IMO, I totally disagree with your post.

    “Additionally, student bodies are taking steps – according to this same report – to ensure that there are no unjustified limitations on freedom of speech at universities.”

    And so they should, Government is just helping.

  44. BFR.

    I did.
    I never imagined that it was widespread. That would be very worrying.

    Just encouraged that there are students prepared to defend engagement with controversial opinion rather than censorship of it.

  45. carfrew,
    “It could be in Tory interest to keep some form of lockdown and maintain concerns about viruses.
    If… one accepts the idea of research suggesting people more likely to vote Conservative if fearing infection”

    It’s certainly not in conservative interest to accept a thesis that lockdown was unnecessary and did not result in any significant reduction in fatalities amongst con voters. Never mind that it made this worse overall financially.

    On the other hand an argument it saved con voters disproportionately in exchange for lab voters lives and at a financial cost to be born largely by lab voters might go well.

    Labour in a bit of a pickle there for supporting such a policy.

  46. @TOH – “It’s very easy i believe that there a small minority in all the parties that would like to supress free speech on occasions.

    I read the article and I don’t think they are trying to do what you suggest. They are saying public funds should not be used for political purposes, I agree with that. ”

    As ever, you fail to contextualize.

    One of the starting points for this, back up by Dowden and others in the UK government, was the torrent of criticism the National Trust drew for it’s slavery audit.

    This was a simple, factual, non biased assessment of the role of slavery in the development of their property portfolio, with the view of giving visitors a balance and more comprehensive understanding of the properties histories. It was purely historical, was not political, and pre-dated the BLM movement.

    It was attacked by Conservative MPs , newspapers and other ‘free speech’ campaigners, who were the sole people who sought to politicise this worthy initiative. It was part of the attempt to silence alternative viewpoints and prevent an honest examination of an important part of our history that has been somewhat neglected.

    Dowden is now lecturing heritage groups suggesting that public money should not be used for such purposes, because he has deemed historical research as political.

    We live in a country where according to YouGov, 27% of the population apparently still want us to rule over an empire, more than any other country polled. I think that’s rather alarming.

    But no – I haven’t missed the point. If you don’t understand that the right is battling to retain control of the narratives of British history to defend their current nationalist tendencies, then you aren’t very good at understanding either history or politics.

  47. Hello all

    This tunnel between the mainland and Ulster is a marvellous idea, just the sort of can do optimism Boris is famed for. This is the sort of gung ho approach we need now the EU is behind us.
    All these whining separatists can be ignored, the people will be right behind this sort of muscular unionism,
    Let’s get on with it.

  48. I wonder if @Colin and @TOH have caught up with the fact the ‘freedom of speech’ is the precise defence used by Trump?

    Free speech, and the abject distortion of it’s meaning, has long been the weapon of choice of oppressive right wing regimes. It’s how they twist facts such they they become the victims, and then attempt to silence those opposed to them.

  49. @ COLIN – We can also see ‘vaccine hesitancy’ amongst BAME in the vaccine data.

    London (over 40% BAME) is only at 15.5% of population vaccinated versus 25.4% for S.West, only part of which is explained by London have a younger population

    In the last weekly data, up to 7Feb, we saw London on 78% of 80+ age group (versus every other region over 90%) and behind on 16-69 age group (healthcare workers).

    https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/covid-19-vaccinations/

    We also had the NCP poll that is more recent than the link you provided (and the SAGE analysis). ‘Hesitancy’ has reduced but in BAME and hence London and other cities with high % of BAME then a lot more work to do in getting %s up:

    “White
    Got/Get ASAP 72 (+27)
    Wait and see 17 (-17)
    Not get 8 (-5)

    Ethnic minority
    Got/Get ASAP 55 (+27)
    Wait and see 26 (-17)
    Not get 9 (-4)”

    https://twitter.com/NCPoliticsUK/status/1357092912199307264

    Could we see London having to stay in lockdown longer due to the lower % uptake? We obviously want +ve messaging but do we also need to reconsider the ‘voluntary’ option for vaccines if you work in healthcare/high contact jobs and reconsider ‘vaccine passports’ so that those who choose not to have a vaccine understand that means they choose not be allowed into shops, pubs, etc when they reopen?

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