Labour Leadership Election 2020

A tiny swing?

So Jess Phillips has penned an article for the Guardian/Observer on the lessons to learn from the election. It’s a thinly veiled launch of her leadership bid and to be honest there’s not that much there to disagree with, it’s all very generic. But one paragraph and one line in particular made me pause.

My constituents don’t mind that we might disagree – they appreciate above all else a straightforward approach. I can’t help but think that the fact that we saw only a tiny swing away from Labour in my seat was because of our ability to disagree well, with good humour and a shared vernacular.

Jess Phillips – The Guardian website 14th December 2019

That’s a data claim and one that if true would elevate Jess Phillips’ claim to support. After all, I voted for Tony Blair in 1994 mainly because of his success in increasing the membership of Sedgefield CLP. So is it true?

Screenshot from Wikipedia

Labour down 2.3% and Conservative up 10.0%, that’s a swing of 6.2% away from Labour to Conservative. Nationally the swing was 4.5% Labour to Conservative so 6.2% doesn’t seem too good. But then again the national swing was greater outside London, so maybe it’s good for Birmingham?

Swings (Conservative to Labour) for Birmingham constituencies and the percentage for Leave in the EU Referendum 2016. Own work.

So Birmingham Yardley was the second worst swing for Labour out of the ten Birmingham constituencies. But there is the Brexit factor here, the worst ones seem to have the highest Leave. So do they correlate and would that explain Yardley’s swing?

Swings (Conservative to Labour) for Birmingham constituencies and the percentage for Leave in the EU Referendum 2016. Own work.

Even on that basis, the swing was worse than you would expect for a 60% Leave constituency in Birmingham. There is a possible reason, John Hemmings, the previous Lib Dem MP for Yardley in 2005 to 2015 stood again in 2017 but didn’t in 2019. Some Conservatives who voted for him to stop Labour wouldn’t need to do that as the Conservatives are now second in the seat and that will have increased the swing to them.

But even giving Jess Phillips the benefit of all doubt, there’s no evidence that the swing could be described as a tiny swing and some evidence that Jess did worse than the average MP would have in the same situation.

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