Derby North: hung parliament territory?

Let’s start with a health warning. My first-hand knowledge of Derby amounts to changing trains there once a decade ago. But the press are keen to help us find out more. Derby North qualifies as a three-way marginal (Lab 39.5%, Lib Dem 30.6% and Tories 25.9% according to Antony Wells). And not one but two national papers descended on the seat to find out how the public saw the PBR.

Slightly bizarrely, they both report on the seat as a Conservative prospect. (It is number 130 on the Tory hit list, number 30 on the Liberal Democrat list of targets.) The Guardian is too high-minded to ask people how they are going to vote. But beneath a headline that is all about Conservative prospects (“Derby holds key to Tory hopes of election victory”) the Times reports a set of vox pops that will please any Liberal Democrat.

Few in their sample were entirely convinced who they would vote for. But the first time voters are moving towards voting Liberal Democrat. The Labour voters are torn between voting Liberal Democrat and spoiling their vote.

And the traditional Conservative voters? They are almost the most interesting group here – and split three ways. Some are staying loyal but probably not Sally Timmins: “We need a change. I won’t vote Labour but I am not particularly enamoured with the Tories either. I feel very frustrated by what has happened to the economy. I am the lucky one. A lot of my colleagues have lost their jobs. We have got good Lib Dem councillors and I would like to vote for them at the general election, but I have got to decide whether it would be a wasted vote. David Cameron is just Blair in Tory clothing: the consummate, glossy PR guy. I want to see some conviction and the Lib Dems seem more in touch with ordinary people…Vince Cable made good sense, as usual…” Elsewhere, a couple of Tory voters are in the “half a mind to vote UKIP” camp.

Overall, the vox pops show a set of voters more likely to make Derby North a Lib Dem gain from second place, rather than a Tory gain from third.

Should you take it seriously? I probably wouldn’t if it didn’t chime so closely with our results in Southend West. We knocked on about a thousand doors from Thursday to Sunday. Our supporters seemed in good heart. Lots volunteered to deliver leaflets, which is always a good guide to morale. Labour supporters were hard to find. And the Conservatives were more likely to express admiration for Nick or for Vince (or Nigel Farage) than for their own leader. And it has been like that for months.

That failure to enthuse their own supporters seems the biggest problem the Tories have just now. It surely lies behind the dilemma Stephen Tall noted here a few weeks back. If David Cameron detoxifies the Tory brand, some of his core voters lose interest. If he doesn’t, the new adherents see more attractive models on the market.

So good luck to Lucy Care. She will be confident of winning votes from Labour. But if the voters changing trains in Derby North in 2010 include traditional Tory supporters too, that is great news for her, and terrible news for David Cameron.

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This entry was posted in General Election and Op-eds.


  • Half a mind is all you need to vote UKIP.

  • Joe Taylor Condliffe 12th Dec '09 - 5:36pm

    Of course, the untold story of this election as yet is the disposition of voters in Lib Dem vs Labour seats.

    The press seem to have genuinely no idea which seats we are even targeting, or just how far into Labour territory our ambitions extend.

    There’s a real possibility of many more Brent Easts, Manchester Withingtons or Hornsey and Wood Greens at the next election, and the only people who will not be surprised will be Lib Dem activists!

  • This due to a few factors is a 3 way split.
    Based on local elections it is a Lib Dem win, but it is a large jump from the last three elections.
    The Labour vote has come down each election since their high in 1997, by 3,000 each election. They have at present a 4,000 lead over the Tory vote.
    So the Tory party could well feel that they can win this seat, but as pointed out the constituency boundaries changed significantly and this alters the political balance.
    There is a change for Labour Bob Laxton is standing down, the Tory PMP is from out of the area, while Lucy is the only one from Derbyshire.
    I expect a large number of the Labour vote were voters from the Lib Dems, that went over to keep the Tories out,
    if they now return the Labour vote will go down, and the winner could win with only 16,000 votes.

    General Election 2005: Derby North [1] [2]
    Party Candidate Votes % ±%
    Labour Robert Laxton 19,272 44.0 −6.9
    Conservative Richard Aitken-Davies 15,515 35.4 +0.4
    Liberal Democrat Jeremy Beckett 7,209 16.5 +2.4
    Veritas Martin Bardoe 958 2.2 N/A
    UKIP Michelle Medgyesy 864 2.0 N/A
    Majority 3,757 8.6 −7.3
    Turnout 43,818 64.3 +6.5
    Labour hold Swing

  • Al McIntosh 12th Dec '09 - 5:58pm

    Paul, don’t be so quick to write off Mid Derbyshire. Of the three wards you describe as “hived off”, one, Oakwood is Lib Dem held and in one of the others, Allestree, we achieved a massive swing against the Tories in a recent by-election, polling twice the vote Labour got. The last county elections show that we are a resurgent force across the rest of the constituency. When our hard working PPC is out canvassing, she keeps hearing on the doorsteps from local people how deeply unpopular the Tory candidate is. One thing is for sure about Mid Derbyshire – Labour can’t win here and we are the only real alternative to the Tories.

  • “Lab 39.5%, Lib Dem 30.6% and Tories 25.9%… The Labour voters are torn between voting Liberal Democrat and spoiling their vote… ‘We have got good Lib Dem councillors and I would like to vote for them at the general election, but I have got to decide whether it would be a wasted vote.'”

    Does the local party not use bar charts or somthing? If we are to win there then we are to win there then we’ve at least got to make sure people now that we can.

  • If it is Tory target 130 then a Tory win would suggest a Commons majority of about 40. Labour could win it and still be 80 seats short of an overall majority. Would the sensible strategy in Derby N be to try to win but do so by ensuring that the Tories don’t, eg by focusing campaigning efforts on the Tory wards and trying to pick up Tory votes?

  • Hugh
    So you are not looking to win then, but to keep Brown in Downing St?

  • Peter Welch 14th Dec '09 - 8:51pm

    Thanks for all the comments.

    I personally don’t believe very much in classifying people as Tory voters/Labour voters.

    I would be going for a positive campaign in Derby North, but stressing the credibility of our challenge. It is interesting that only one person mentions the tactical argument in the vox pop. She is among the most convinced of the merits of the lib dems but is a bit worried that it might be “wasted”. A bit sad when it is such a good prospect.

  • There seems to be a lot of talking on this site but you all are missing one thing …The BNP..the only party that can take Derby forward, More money for local projects and less money wasted on translations services and pointless immigration projects. We need more houses built only to house more immigrants and scroungers of the state when we should look after our own pensioners and young children first. Lets school them in schools with English as their first language and respect is earnt. Wake up Derby you will be given a chance at the next election and the BNP is the only party to take you forward.

  • Pete will the BNP even bother contesting this seat? No candidate named yet that i know of. This is a 3 way split and they would be lucky to beat UKIP here

  • Ukip are all crooks and deserters and not a threat ..I know the BNP candidate and I am sure if you search deep enough there is plenty of web pages and sites that point out they will be ppc Derby north. I am sure that this year will be good for all parties..

  • Pete the BNP could not take anything forward, they got one gear and it is reverse, there politics would take the UK back to the Dark ages.

    I would rather die than ever vote for such a repressive party like the BNP.

  • I am torn between Labour and Lib Dems in Derby North, I support Brown in his clunking fist guise rather than the mushy camera smiles and feel his has been sold short on many occasions by the media etc. However i do feel that Labour have become stagnent. Blairs’ Third Way whilst idealistic, at least sounded like a worthwhile project, but for me as for many others it has become bogged down in the mire of debt and burocracy. The Ministers too have become ineffectual and pallid. Angry Prescott was controversial and did not share my personal view on many issues, but at least he had a presence, can anyone really see Milliband wrestling with a gianty heckler, he wouldnt even slap him! And that is my main problem with the Lib Dems, they have no strong personality. Vince is a excellent speaker on economic issues, and Nick seems like a very nice chap, but do they have the stomach for hard choices under pressure? Im not sure. This makes me apprehensive to vote Lib Dem, i like the policies on immigration and economic recovery but feel a nuclear deterorant is essential.
    If any Lib Dems read this before the poll send a convincing reply and you may just win a vote.

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