A Survival Guide for the Sheffield Central General Election (Part 3)

Welcome to the third, and final, part of my Sheffield Central election preview. Having already looked at the not-going-to-be-winners and the probably-not-going to be winners, this week I’m looking at the man who is likely walking off with the top prize.

If you haven’t read the first two parts, click here and here.

The Probable Winner

Paul Blomfield is the incumbent MP, and Labour candidate. He holds one of his parties’ thinnest majorities at 154 and presided over a 23.1% loss of majority in his first general election. Seems like a possible lost Labour seat right? Let’s go through his challengers to see who might beat him:

  • Communist, Pirate and Above and Beyond – don’t think even the candidates themselves think they will win
  • Conservative – given the unpopularity of the Tories nationwide and the demographic of the seat (students, working class people and more students), Stephanie Roe will be doing well if she can match the 10% share the Tories usually get here.
  • Liberal Democrats – in the 2014 council elections, the Lib Dems got an average of 11.7%. That is just over one quarter of what they got in the 2010 general election. Given that students can’t be arsed to get out of bed for the local elections, that isn’t even lost student votes, that is just lost votes. I think I may have been too optimistic giving Joe Otten a possible in this election
  • Greens – Probably the most likely challenger to Paul Blomfield, the Greens were the clear second party in the local elections (30.52% to 42.12%), and the only party other than Labour to win council seats in the 5 constituency wards that make up Sheffield Central. However, they still have to gain 37% form their 2010 general election performance. If they pulled it off, it would be the single biggest increase ever in a general election.

For those still paying attention, Paul Blomfield in all likelihood is going to sleepwalk into his seat. According to electoralcalculus.com, he’s predicted to get 46.3% of the vote. Though I’m not sure how much I trust them as they have UKIP gaining 12% of the vote, and they aren’t even running a candidate in this constituency.

They are still probably correct though. The Lib Dems will lose votes this time around, the Tories haven’t got much of a look in, and the Greens could improve by 1000% percent and still possibly not get in . Even without looking at the advantages Mr Blomfield has, the disadvantages of every other party will probably gift him the seat.

Speaking of advantages, what does Mr Blomfield have? Well he has had 5 years to raise his profile, and has, so far, avoided any huge political cock-ups. Thanks to theyworkforyou.com, we can see that his voting record is pretty appealing to his left-leaning constituency (for an elected Lords, against tuition fees, against the bedroom tax etc.). His one major challenger last time around was basically kneecapped by the tuition fee saga, and his up-and-coming challenger needs to gain 15,582 votes cast to catch up with him.

Now those votes do exist. 28,000 people didn’t vote in Sheffield Central in 2010, easily enough to catch up with Labour. Fortunately for Labour, that was also the biggest turnout in 60-odd years and they still didn’t lose.

Another positive indication for Paul Blomfield, he’s just won a national award for higher education which was awarded through a popular vote. In other words, he’s just had a load of students vote for him and come out on top. Which is more or less what he needs to happen on May 7th.

Realistically, Paul Blomfield is highly likely to win; both the bookies and pollsters think so. The Greens simply have to jump through too many hoops to win, and any small pothole could send the whole campaign bus spinning for them.

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A Survival Guide for the Sheffield Central General Election (Part 2)

In part one, I looked at how past Sheffield Central elections have gone, and took a look at some of the candidates who will be propping up the league table on May 7th. Now onto part two, where I look at the two candidates who will probably divide up the minor medal places.

The Improbable Winners

Joe Otten is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats. He currently serves as a councillor for Dore and Totley. His election hopes were likely been snuffed out by a decision he had very little, if anything, to do with that happened half a decade ago. In 2010, the Lib Dems nearly pulled off a historic gain but fell just short, in large part to a substantial student vote. Surprisingly, students didn’t really enjoy a tripling of tuition fees and their support amongst students is at 6%.

Now if you’re not a student, you’ll find it difficult to understand quite how angry the majority of us are with the Lib Dems.  To give some perspective, the University Arms, in Sheffield, has been threatened with closure as part of a campus wide development scheme. A petition was started to save it, and no one really cared.

When you get one of the most alcohol fueled populations to stop caring about a pub, then you know you’ve messed up pretty badly. On the ‘How Bad Was Your Idea?’ Scale, it probably fits between ‘Invading Russia in the Winter’ and ‘Tweeting a Picture of Your Genitalia to a Popular Blogger‘.

Mr Otten might be the nicest human being in the world, and have fantastic ideas to change the world. But I can’t see him getting past the student desire to shaft the Lib Dems as hard as possible. Nor can the bookies.

 

Jilian Creasy is the candidate for the Green Party and has lots of reasons to be optimistic. She is currently a councillor for Sheffield Central ward (one of 5 wards in the Sheffield Central constituency) and the leader of the Green group on Sheffield City Council. She was the first Green councillor in Sheffield, and has been on the council since 2004. The #GreenSurge has actually occurred in Sheffield Central, doubling their amount of councillors on Sheffield City Council. And on top of all that, Sheffield Central is one of the Green’s top target seats.

Given all the positives, why is she only a possible, not probable, winner? Firstly, she’s running against a reasonably well-liked incumbent, who already has an advantage of four years of higher profile to help him.  Secondly, the Greens will be trying to take a seat from a previous 4th place, which has only ever been done twice in the history of the House of Commons.

Thirdly, having over a quarter of the councillors is nice, but the Greens support is pretty concentrated within Sheffield Central. They have 3 councillors in Central ward and 1in Broomhill; but were a fairly distant 2nd place in Manor Castle, Nether Edge and Walkley. In the 2014 local elections, the Greens won 8654 votes, or 30.52%. Whilst this is a nice chunk, local election figures for small parties can be misleading. Turnouts are smaller (average of 34.62% compared to 59.6% in 2010) and the electorate are less interested meaning a small determined party, like the Greens, can bat above their average. In general elections, turnouts are bigger, and the extra voters tend to vote less adventurously (i.e. Labour or Tory). For some perspective, Mrs Creasy won 3.8% of the vote in 2010. Even with the Green’s boost in recent years, can they jump 37% to catch Labour?

If the Greens were to make the leap, then they would need the support of Sheffield Central’s students (the largest proportion in the entire country). Alas, the Greens have only 14% nationally, compared to Labour on 43%. As much as I’d like to say the Greens have a realistic chance come May, I just don’t see it.

A Survival Guide for the Sheffield Central General Election (Part 1)

With an 18.4% majority, Labour MP Harry Morris took Sheffield Central from his Conservative predecessor, and began an 80 year reign for Labour over the constituency. Last time around Paul Blomfield barely hung onto the Labour ‘safe’ seat by 165 votes. Can he stick around for one more term? Will the Lib Dems find those extra 165 votes (spoiler warning: probably not)? Or will the #GreenSurge be more than just a Twitter gimmick?

History

Put simply, not thrilling. Since 1997, Labour has won gold, Lib Dems silver and the Tories bronze. The Greens have been 4th every time they’ve ran, winning a still-underwhelming 3.8% in 2010. UKIP (and its predecessor, the Referendum Party) maxed out at 2.4% and a 5th place in 1990. So yeah, not much to write home about.

Happily, for me at least, the more extreme parties offer some amusing footnotes at the bottom of the results tables.

In the red (and I mean really red) corner, we have (take a deep breath):

  • the Revolutionary Communists,
  • Communist Party of Great Britain,
  • Red Front,
  • Communist League,
  • Workers Revolutionary,
  • Socialist Alternative,
  • Socialist Labour
  • and finally the Socialist Alliance!

(And who said factionalism amongst the far-left was a problem?)

In the opposite (and frankly awful) corner, we have the British Nationalist Party and the Pro-Life Alliance! Bloody immigrants, coming over here, aborting their babies.

Your referee this evening is M. Clarke, one-time candidate for End Unemployment Vote Justice for Jobless! Amusingly, he won 0.6% of the vote, which is only 0.3% less than the Lib Dems won in the Rochester and Strood by-election last year.

Candidates

There are seven candidates running to be MP for Sheffield Central this time. And a quick checklist to begin: is there a Communist running? Is one of them a pirate? Is one of them younger than me? Yes, yes and yes!

  1. Paul Blomfield (Labour)
  2. Joe Otten (Lib Dem)
  3. Jilian Creasy (Green)
  4. Stephanie Roe (Conservative)
  5. Andy Halsall (Pirate Party UK)
  6. Steve Andrew (Communist Party of GB)
  7. Thom Brown (Above and Beyond)

The Not-Going-To-Be Winners

Stephanie Roe is the Tory candidate which normally means a decent shout of election. Unluckily for her, she is running in a fabulously left wing part of a fabulously left wing city where 40% of the voters are students. Combine that with the lack of Tory growth in the area (and a frankly embarrassing website), and it’s fair to say she’s not going to win.

Andy Halsall is Sheffield’s first Pirate Party candidate, a party which focuses on surveillance and copyright issues. He is fairly senior within the party, being their national campaigns officer. Whilst I can see him picking up some votes from out-there students, and generate some interest in Pirate Party positions, he’s not going to top the podium.

Steve Andrew is the candidate for the Communist Party of GB. Since WWII, far left parties in Sheffield Central have gathered 2725 votes in total. As much as I’d love an openly Communist MP to sit in parliament solely for the expression it would garner from Jacob Rees-Mogg, it’s not going to happen. In fact, if Mr Andrew betters his performance from Sheffield South East in 2010, I’ll be surprised

Thom Brown is the candidate for the Above and Beyond party. He turned 20 in January. Safe to say, he won’t be challenging for the top spot. Above and Beyond are a single-issue party dedicated to creating a ‘None of the Above’ slot on ballots. Will it work? Maybe not. Is it an interesting thought? Almost certainly. Does he deserve praise for standing? 100%. Students are fabulous at complaining about politics but rarely do much about it. It’s nice to see Thom doing what he can to change things.

That’s it for today, stay tuned for another exciting post in the coming days where I look at the three candidates who might actually win the seat. Yes, I know I’m playing fast and loose with the word ‘exciting’. Any comments/shares on social media are appreciated.