Stoke vs Copeland: Why Labour Can Win Again

We have an opportunity.

An opportunity to reject the status quo. To demand change. To build the future.

An opportunity to go beyond benefits, beyond foobanks, beyond hospital closures. An opportunity to improve our schools, our healthcare, our education.

A future where society works for all; where the “Just About Managing” become “Just About Thriving.”

Today, we can send a message: We. Demand. Change.

The Stoke by-election was a choice: a choice between fear of the future and hope for a better one. Of an inward-looking society or an outward-looking country.

An election where the politics of hope was supposed to crumble – displaced by Nuttall’s UKIP bubble.

But we won – with a bigger magin than many expected.

And yet, Labour failed to “make the case” in Copeland.

As Corbyn made clear: “In both campaigns, Labour listened to thousands of voters on the doorstep. Both constituencies – like so many in Britain – had been let down by the political establishment. To win power to rebuild and transform Britain, Labour will go further to re-connect with our supporters, and voters in general.”

So why did Labour’s message resonate in Stoke… but not Copeland?

Speculation surrounded Corbyn over the last few days.

“Did Nuttall’s PR failure spike Labour’s vote?”

“Did Corbyn’s perceived stance on nuclear power alienate Copeland?”

“Was Corbyn’s “weak leadership” the cause of a reduced turnout?”

While these questions were certainly contributors, the key to this election lied in one factor: social media.

In 2015, 37% of Stoke’s eligible voters were under the age of 34 (2015). In Copeland, this was reduced to 25%.

Over 55s in Stoke made-up 31% of the elgible vote, compared to 41% in Copeland.

74% of all social media is used by 16-44 year-olds, and just 26% by the over 45s.

If voter demographics were anything like 18 months ago, a quick calcluation should provide us an estimate of how many votes were missed due to reduced social media coverage.

Copeland

Electorate: 60,604 (31,108 turnout * 100 / 51.33% (turnout percentage))

Turn-out: 31,108

All votes missed: 29,496 (60,604 – 31,108)

Demographic of eligible vote (2015): Under-34s (25%), 35-54 (35%), 55-64 (17%), 65+ ((23%) (65-74 (13%), Over-75 (10%)).

Social media usage by national demographic (2014/15): Under-34s (44%). 35-54s (33%). 55-64 (11%). 65+ (4%). See workings at end of piece.

We can now divide total missed votes by eligible votes, then multiply this by social media usage:

Under 34s: 29,496 / 25% = 7,374 * 44% = 3,245 non-voting social media users.

35-54: 29,496 / 35% = 10,324 * 33% = 3,407 non-voting social media users.

55-64: 29,496 / 17% = 5,014 * 11% = 552 non-voting social media users.

65+: 29,496 / 23% = 6,784 * 4% = 271 non-voting social media users.

Stoke-On-Trent-Central

Electorate: 55,497 (21,200 turnout * 100 / 38.2% (turnout percentage))

Turn-out: 21,200

All votes missed: 34,297 (55,497 – 21,200)

Demographic of eligible vote (2015): Under-34s (37%), 35-54 (32%), 55-64 (13%), 65+ ((18%) (65-74 (9.4%), Over-75 (8.2%)).

Social media usage by national demographic (2014/15): Under-34s (44%). 35-54s (33%). 55-64 (11%). 65+ (4%). See workings at end of piece.

We can now divide total missed votes by eligible votes, then multiply this by social media usage:

Under 34s: 34,297 / 37% = 12,690 * 44% = 5,583 non-voting social media users.

35-54: 34,297 / 32% = 10,975 * 33% = 3,622 non-voting social media users.

55-64: 34,297 / 13% = 4,459 * 11% = 490 non-voting social media users.

65+: 34,297 / 18% =5,633 * 4% = 225 non-voting social media users.

Overall, we can estimate 7,475 votes were lost due to poor social media coverage in Stoke; compared to 9,920 in Copeland.

Given the national trend for younger people to vote Labour, as well as owning the lowest turnout rates, it seems Copeland suffered from two things: an older population and a lower turn-out rate (which, for various reasons, was not mobilised sufficiently either on the doorstep or via social media).

Both Copeland and Stoke possessed demographics sufficient for non-voters to overturn the Tory lead in Copeland and sufficiently increase Snell’s majority in Stoke.

A more effective combination of door-knocking, street campaignng and social media would have delivered Labour the victories it wanted.

All forms of campaigning are crucial to our success. However, as we demonstrate here, the importance of social media is often taken for granted.

Social media has the advantage of being both ability and weather neutral, as well as widely-accessible.

However, on Thursday, Electricity North West (ENWL) confirmed a loss of power to over 7,000 properties, many of which occurred in Copeland.

Checking Cumbria’s live weather tracker on Friday, there remained significant power-cuts to the Copeland area, including five “CA28” postcodes.

Significance? CA28 postcodes – (central Whitehaven) – accounted for 30 polling stations on Thursday; a huge 30% of all voting stations.

While these five sites are indicators only, they suggest many serious power cuts occurred in the CA28 area; again, nearly a third of all voting areas.

The importance of this cannot be underestimated.

Even if Copeland enjoyed serious support on the Labour doorstep, the social media impact may have been reduced to unprecdented levels due to age demographics and Storm Dorris – problems not present in Stoke Central.

The Copeland result must not – and should not – be overlooked.

This was a terrible result for Labour; a result which, despite everything, Labour should have won.

But to blame the result on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is a step too far.

As John McDonnell made clear, Copeland was a special case.

John believed it was a nuclear issue.

We believe it was a social one.

We don’t need to change our policies.

We need to get better at sharing them.

Solidarity.

* Workings: total social media used by 25-44 year-olds = 45%. 29% for 16-24 year-olds. Only 18+ eligible to vote, so: 29% / 8 year gap (16-24 year-olds) * 6 eligible years = 22%). Under 34s: available data split by 25-44 year olds. We need to work-out how much of 45% belongs to the 9 year gap between 25 and 34). 45% / 20 year-gap * 10 (years from 25 – 34) = 22.5%. Add 22% + 22.5% = 44% all social media used by under-34s (22.5% rounded down to reduce age cross-over).

Total social media used by 45-64 year-olds = 22%. Take remainder of 25-44 year-olds calculation from under-34s workings (45 – 22.5) =.22% for 35-44 year-olds (again, rounded down to reduce age cross-over). 45-54 usage equals 50% of 22% (45-54 = 10 years, 55-64 = 10 years) = 11%. Add 22% + 11% = 33% all social media used by 35-54 year-olds.

55-64 year-olds = remainder of usage for 45-54 year-olds = 11% all social media used by 55-64 year-olds.

65+ make-up just 4% of social media usage.

44+33+11+4 =  92.

Lost 2% due to round-downs and 6% due to removal of 16-18 year olds as ineligible to vote (total 8% removed).

92 + removed 8 = 100%.

One thought on “Stoke vs Copeland: Why Labour Can Win Again

Comments are closed.