I first took an interest in politics many years ago, well before I was eighteen and eligible to vote. By the time my turn came round to mark the ballot paper, I had long since aligned myself with a particular political party.
I’ve voted at every opportunity since, from local through to MEP elections. My broad political views have never changed during that period. That was reflected today, as I voted in the Dudley North constituency.
With four parties to choose from – Conservatives, Greens, Labour and Lib Dems – I have only ever voted for one of those. In all the years of making my way to a polling booth, the other three between them have never seen my X next to their name.
Dudley North is a marginal constituency, in fact with just twenty-two votes it’s the fourth tightest in the country. The first is in Scotland, and although it’s not exactly an SNP stronghold, they do have that one in the political portfolio. However, with North East Fife theirs by just two votes, it’s the tightest that we get.
Perth and North Perthshire, with a lead of twenty-two votes, is also one that the SNP is hanging on to. Sandwiched in the middle is the London constituency of Kensington, which is Labour red by a margin of twenty.
Dudley North is very interesting though because the previous sitting Labour MP, Ian Austin, has been at great odds with his party’s leadership, to the extent where they parted company, and he has even encouraged Labour voters to switch their allegiance to the Conservatives in this election.
I think the constituency will swing from red to blue in 2019, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a leave area, and whether some like it or not, that’s the motivation for many this time round. For some, parochial party politics will take a back seat and they will vote Conservative for the first – and probably last – time in their life.
Forget the social media activists and the politicians, listening to ‘ordinary’ people on the ground, there is anger and a sense of betrayal that what they voted for in June 2016 still hasn’t been implemented. Black County folk are fair and reasonable, but they are also determined and stubborn, and don’t give in very easily when they feel they’re being taken for a ride.
Secondly, many traditional Labour voters, again the ‘ordinary’ man on the street, don’t identify with the current leadership. Although social media is populated with activist-types who are at the best of times, out of control and confrontational, remember that we all have one vote, and for every angry, vocal tweeter there are dozens who don’t rant but will still mark X in a polling booth.
Then thirdly, and it is important because he has been in the eyes of many, a good MP, Ian Austin has gone on record to encourage constituents to vote Conservative. For a man as respected as the retiring MP, that in itself should be enough to swing a lead of just twenty-two.
Fourthly, the withdrawal of Rupert Lowe, the Brexit Party Candidate, really does give Marco Longhi, the Conservative nomination, a clear run with no danger of a split vote, certainly as far as the Brexit issue is concerned.
My prediction is that the Conservatives will win – and fairly comfortably – with a margin in the thousands. Labour will come second and then, some considerable distance behind, will be Lib Dems and the Greens.
I’ve now voted, as I’ve done every election since I was eighteen. Sometimes I’ve been on the ‘winning’ side and other times I haven’t but I’ve always accepted the result and got on with life. If you’re actively involved in politics, yes, you have to hold elected bodies – whether they be parish councils or governments – to account.
However, anything else is a direct attack on democracy, and like it or not, that will be a decisive factor in the way that millions will cast their vote this time round. That’s why I feel Brexit will still be very much in the minds of voters, and on that front I can see a comfortable Conservative majority overall. Well, certainly comfortable enough to get the job done and then, for many, it will be back to voting as they have done previously.
After many years of blogging, this has been my first political entry. I’ve enjoyed writing it, and who knows, there may be more to come. As they say, watch this space, but for now all eyes are on the 2019 General Election.