Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt

Byline: paul brannen

I'VE been knocking on doors for the Labour Party in elections since I was student in the early 1980s.

In the past I would often hear the retort 'Don't worry son, we are all Labour here', closely followed with 'My father voted Labour, he'd turn in his grave if I did anything else'.

Thirty years on the picture has changed significantly and it is much more complex.

Nowadays, if the electoral register tells you a household has four voters within it there is a reasonably high chance that at least two political parties are being voted for. Social change has also driven the way we vote. For example, 30 years ago if the man of the house voted, say Conservative, then there was a good chance his wife did also. Not any more.

Past voting behaviour is not necessarily a guide to future behaviour either. In recent years here in the North East we have seen a shift from Labour to UKIP and those voters may now be toying with voting Conservative. Some may return to Labour.

Whether someone has voted in the past doesn't now mean they will even cast a vote in the future, although it used to.

And where a person has never voted at all they may decide that now is the time to head for the ballot box. The EU referendum pulled many new voters in and they may now want a say on other policies as we head into this election.

Further complicating the picture is the growing tendency for people to vote differently in local and national elections.

All this volatility wreaks havoc with political planning on the ground, making it tricky to get your campaigners to the right place to encourage support for your candidate.

From a democratic point of view, however, it could be argued that this is all a good thing. The tribal vote is in decline and the reasoned vote is on the increase. A convincing candidate with attractive policies can be elected irrespective of which of the mainstream parties they represent. Meanwhile the party has to win on what it stands for today, with its past record increasingly irrelevant.

The floating voter enters the political supermarket and predicting what they will buy has become a mug's game. …

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