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Election 2017: Birmingham and West Midlands in election spotlight

Election 2017: Birmingham and West Midlands in election spotlight

🕔08.Jun 2017

The end is almost nigh – with just another four hours of voting and then the counting to go. Even for this political nerd, it comes as a blessed relief. Kevin Johnson reflects on Birmingham’s place in election spotlight and looks ahead to tonight’s count. 

The good news is that Birmingham and the West Midlands are once centre stage as the mainstream media pull together the final strands and highlight the bellwether seats which will tell the story of this election.

Our good friend Patrick Burns, the BBC Political Editor for the West Midlands, blogged earlier this week on why the region means so much.

On Wednesday night, Jeremy Corbyn held a well attended rally in Birmingham. The same evening BBC2 Newsnight was, in part, broadcast from Walsall’s New Art Gallery. Tim Farron popped in for a sausage in Solihull yesterday whilst Theresa May held her last event in Birmingham. The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 came from the excellent 1000Trades pub in the Jewellery Quarter.

Constituencies like Birmingham Erdington, currently held by Labour’s Jack Dromey, will be watched closely in the early hours of Friday morning. If it goes blue, Theresa May’s snap election will be vindicated, to some degree, by a much bigger working majority in the Commons.

One of the best early indicators will be Nuneaton in Warwickshire with a declaration at around 1.00am. Do the Conservatives hold the seat – and, if so, by how much will it increase its majority?

READ: A Campaign of Contradictions.

From the start of this election, the national media have run features on Birmingham seats. The West Midlands has always been something of a microcosm of the electoral map, but Andy Street’s profile and victory in the West Midlands is probably already bringing the region extra political attention.

That mayoral election gave us some early indicators. But, three provisos: local and national polls can be very different, particularly a local vote for an individual and brand new executive leader versus a vote for local MPs who, in turn, determine who should form a national government.

Secondly, an awful lot has happened in the last month. Two terrorist attacks, a below par performance from Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn exceeding all expectations could make a big difference to how votes were cast in the West Midlands back on 4 May and how even more voters exercise their democratic choice today.

Third, whilst this election seems to be one where we have regressed to a two party state and the mayoral election was also dominated by Conservatives and Labour, the General Election will be affected by the presence, or otherwise, of other parties. For example, former Lib Dem MP John Hemming is back fighting to regain Yardley giving Jess Phillips a run for her money. In Erdington, a Leave constituency, there is no UKIP candidate unlike the Mayoral election where Pete Durnell took more than 6% of first preference votes.

The Conservatives won in Edgbaston and Northfield when Andy Street took on Siôn Simon. Whilst Mr Simon managed to hang on to Erdington in that election, Mr Street ran close to taking Selly Oak.

It’s been generally accepted that Edgbaston and Northfield will drop, although Preet Gill’s campaign in the former seems to have been well run.

Erdington remains on a knife edge. According to the Guardian: “This election could be lost on litter.” That, alone, may help Conservative candidate and council opposition leader Robert Alden who is a past master in litter pick pics.

The Huffington Post, working with public affairs agency Edelman (other public affairs agencies are available, Ed.), conducted a focus group in Erdington.  The FT has also been among the nationals making the trip up the High Street.

Chris Game reflected earlier in the week on the polls including YouGov’s which saw all three Birmingham seats at risk of turning blue estimated as staying “likely” red.

For all the poll excitement of the last few days, with Labour apparently drawing nearer to the Tories and even excitable talk of hung parliaments, the reality seems to be it’s a matter of how big will be the Conservative majority. This piece from Labour Uncut is well worth a read.

That said, there are reports of high turnouts in big student seats so far today. In the era of Brexit and Trump, no self-respecting political commentator of any sort denies the possibility of a shock result.

Overall, this has been, I suggest, the Least Worst campaign. Yes, there will of course be people voting enthusiastically for their local candidate, party, or leader.

However, this campaign never really got going. Many will have felt it nothing other than politically expedient in the first place.

More people have been turned off by Theresa May during the campaign than turned on. Jeremy Corbyn has done well as a campaigner, but will (probably) still be way short of forming a Government on Friday.

It would appear that many voters will be placing a cross next to the candidate and party which presents the least worst option. Not least on the issue of Brexit where finding anything new on which to hang your hat from the two main parties has been challenging, to say the least.

Many voters will, I suggest, be marking their X with something less than complete passion for a party of government.

Terrorist atrocities have, of course, affected us all more than any election could possibly engage and has created two campaign pauses. But terrorism has not, alone, been responsible for the lack of interest and engagement.

By 2022, let’s hope there is more vision, more engagement and generally a better quality campaign.

Even if you have a sense of ‘enough, already’ and if you haven’t already, please do make sure you vote in these next four hours.

READ: What will international observers make of the British way of doing elections?

Chamberlain Files will be staying up all night following the results, so do join in the fun. Yes, we said fun.

The campaign may have been a struggle for some of us, but election nights should be a festival of democracy. See you at 10pm.

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