As there is a general election coming up, I thought I would take this time to look at how Ayrshire voted last time around; I’ll look at what those results meant for Ayrshire in 2017, and what they could mean for our vote in December.
Ayrshire is split into four different constituencies: North Ayrshire & Arran, Central Ayrshire, Kilmarnock & Loudoun and Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock. We’ll take a look at each of these in turn and then consider what this shows for Ayrshire as a whole.
In North Ayrshire and Arran the SNP managed to hold on to their seat in 2017, but suffered a massive drop in their majority, from comfortably over 50 % of the votes to just under 40%. This is still a large share, but going from most of the votes being cast in your favour to a majority of constituents actually voting against your party can’t be a welcome change.
In what was initially a surprise- although one that will become ominously more common as we discuss the other seats in Ayrshire- 2017 saw the Conservative Party grow from just shy of 15% of the vote share to more than double that amount, going on to become the second largest party, overtaking Labour.
In Central Ayrshire we have a similar story. The SNP lost the voting majority while still retaining their seat. However, in 2017 the majority was far slimmer, with only 1267 votes between the SNP and the rising Conservative Party. Labour here again lost out, completing a downward trend from holding the seat in 2010, to second place in 2015 and third place in 2017.
In Kilmarnock & Loudoun there was some variation from the trend set by the two other seats discussed so far, namely that Labour managed to retain second place rather than trailing behind the Tories. However, the Conservatives again managed an incredible increase in votes, from around 12.5% in 2015 to more than double at over 26%. Again, in this constituency the SNP held their seat, but the pro union parties totalled a larger voter share when added together. On the other hand, the SNP managed to get their highest share of the vote, at over 42%, which meant their safest majority at over 6000 votes.
Finally we get to Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock, the largest upset among the four. This was the only seat the SNP didn’t manage to keep from 2015 and the only place in Ayrshire that elected a Tory. Yet again labour performed poorly and placed third. The victory for the Tories was only slightly tainted as they didn’t manage to get an overall majority of the votes, totalling just a tad over 40%, with a majority of over 2700 votes, not insignificant but not the biggest win either.
So what does this all mean? Labour have fallen very far from 2005 and 2010, when they won unambiguously in every Ayrshire seat, and have now dropped to third place almost everywhere. Meanwhile, the Tories appear on the up and up, even winning a seat in Ayrshire and biting at the heels of the SNP in every other seat, something that would have been ridiculous to suggest in 2010. Are the SNP on the way out after their incredible high in 2015? I don’t think so, at least not for a while. The SNP are resilient, having made a comeback from losing the independence vote by winning 56 out of 59 seats in Westminster, and managing to hold a majority in Scotland in 2017 despite the loss of 21 seats. One cause for concern for the SNP is that in every seat in Ayrshire more people voted for unionist parties, Labour and Conservative, than the pro-independence SNP. It’s hard to say if this trend will repeat itself this year. With Brexit looming ever closer and most of Scotland voting against it the SNP might stand to gain votes. The Conservatives are now the second largest party in Scotland, both in Westminster and Holyrood. It’s difficult to say if they can repeat this come December, but having sold themselves as the only viable opposition to the SNP, it’s possible that the SNP downturn might continue and we could have a Tory in every Ayrshire seat come the new year. Labour stand in a poor position. Corbyn managed to win a larger voter share than any other Labour leader since Tony Blair, but didn’t perform well in Scotland, remaining about as popular north of the Border as Milliband was. Labour do have an opportunity, however, if they manage to position themselves as a pro union party that will give voters a second say on Brexit. They could then take advantage of the current political climate and undercut both the SNP and the Tory party, but this would require a massive effort to deliver.
You may be wondering why the Lib Dems have not been mentioned in relation to these seats. That’s because in every single seat the Lib Dems went from having between 15% and 10% of the votes in 2015, to political irrelevance, not even topping 2% in any seat in 2017.
I’ve tried to be as unbiased as possible while writing about past elections and I hope I managed that above, but if you are a long-time reader of the ACU you can probably guess which way we all lean. Rather than tell you what to vote out of any ideological reason I’m going to be a little cynical and encourage you to vote tactically.
Vote Labour no matter what seat you’re in.
If you’re worried that Labour won’t win, vote Labour- even if they lose, the next time the seat is contested Labour will stand a better chance of victory; If you think Labour will win, vote Labour so they will get a larger majority; If you want Brexit, vote Labour because they will get the deal done in 6 months; If you want to remain, vote Labour because you will get a second chance to beat the leave vote. If you want to remain part of the union, vote Labour in order to protect the NHS, the economy and worker rights, which are themselves the best arguments for the union; If you want independence, vote Labour because the Tories will not give Scotland a second referendum and you can vote SNP in the Scottish election.