The election in numbers – for serious political anoraks only!

By Carole Dennett Jul 6, 2024

Delving behind the voting figures from Thursday and comparing the results with the 2019 election there are some interesting conclusions to draw from the votes cast on Thursday.

 

2019 – Isle of Wight

Looking back at the outcome of the 2019 election there was an outright win for the Conservatives on the Island by former MP, Bob Seely who received more than half (56%) of the votes cast. The Liberal Democrats stood aside in a national tactical voting deal with the Green Party. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party also withdrew from fighting Conservative candidates to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote after Boris Johnson promised to leave the EU by 2020 with a “Canada-style” Brexit deal. It is obviously impossible to know how many people would have voted for the Brexit Party – but in the referendum of 2016, 62% of Islanders voted to leave – so it seems reasonable to speculate (particularly after the 2024 result) that it would have been a significant number. There were also three independent candidates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2024 General Election

For Thursday’s vote the Isle of Wight was split into two constituencies IW East and IW West.

Labour won on a national landslide, but many Islanders believed that any Conservative candidate put forward, regardless of their quality, would win in both seats. Comments like “put a blue rosette on XXXX and it would win” have long been common on on the Island (for XXXX insert ‘a donkey’ or even worse!).

In the East seat there was a tactical voting group, East Wight Primary which recommended voting Green, and on both sides there were candidates for Reform UK, the successor to the Brexit Party which Nigel Farage set up and unexpectedly returned to lead shortly after the election was announced. So this time there were the five main parties in each seat – with a previously unknown parliamentary contender on both sides of the Island – an Independent campaigning primarily on Ventor access issues in the East and a member of a small pro-Brexit party, the ADF in the West.

 

 

Isle of Wight East Result

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isle of Wight West Result

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why did we get one Labour and one Conservative MP?

The sitting MP should benefit from ‘incumbency’ – which gives an inbuilt advantage of being well-known with a high-profile record of public action and of helping individuals. Bob Seely was the incumbent Conservative MP who stood in the West. His Conservative counterpart in the East, Joe Robertson, is an Isle of Wight councillor, as is the winner in West Wight – Labour’s Richard Quigley. Both Liberal Democrat contenders Michel Lilley (East) and Nick Stuart (West) are also IW councillors. Nationally, opinion is mixed about whether being a councillor is a benefit or a burden when seeking election to parliament. Candidates have the benefit of name recognition – but their record of helping people tends to be highly localised and they may be hampered by the reputation of an unpopular council. Here, both winners are sitting councillors, so it does not appear to have played against them in any significant way.

The candidates who had appeared on the ballot paper previously were Bob Seely, Richard Quigley and Green, Vix Lowthion (East). Both Reform UK candidates, Sarah Morris (East) and Ian Pickering (West) and Green, Cameron Palin (West) were new to parliamentary elections, as were the Independent, David Groocock (East) and ADF candidate, Rachel Thacker (West).

Both Conservatives on the Island got a similar share of the vote (East 31%, West 29%) but while it led to a win in the East, they lost the West Wight, which many people regarded as the safer seat. So although the Conservatives only got around 400 votes more in the East they won with a 3,000 majority, while in the West they came 3,000 votes behind the winner. Both vote shares remained higher than Conservatives nationally (UK average 24%), but they lost more than the Tory average 20% of vote share (East 25%, West 27%). However this is in line with national results that show that areas that voted more than 60% in favour of Brexit (the Island result was 62%) returned bigger Conservative losses.

The Labour winner with 39% increased his vote share by 15% – significantly above Labour’s national average of 34%.

The Green vote in the East was 19%, with 7% in the West, (their national average was 7%), and the Liberal Democrats won 10% and 8% respectively (both lower than the national 12% – but here they will have been affected by not standing 2019).  The ADF and Independent candidate’s results were not significant enough to affect the results. The big story across the country of the 2024 election was Reform UK – who took a 14% share of the vote nationally, but did even better here with 17% (East) and 21% (West).

Overall turnout was down in both seats from 66% in 2019 to East – 61% and West 62% – both higher than the UK figure of 60%. Across the Island, in 2019 the Conservatives got 41,815 votes – this time around they got 20,490 – just under half their previous total. Labour returned 18,078, now 19,504, the Green totals were 11,338, now 8,623.

At the count on Thursday night/Friday morning, former MP, Bob Seely, told Reform UK candidate, Ian Pickering, that he had cost him his seat, but while Reform will have had an impact, not all their voters would have supported the Conservatives – some will have voted for other parties or stayed at home. It is telling that despite the efforts of the East Wight Primary campaigners and a stronger showing in the East by Reform UK, the Conservatives ‘held’ that part of the Island. It was in the West that tactical voting for Labour by Green and Liberal Democrat voters proved effective in ‘getting the Tory out’. The conventional Island wisdom about “anything with a blue rosette” winning has been proven to be wrong. It appears that, on the Island at least, people are well able to form their own opinions on when they want to cast a tactical vote and where to put their X on the ballot paper to get the outcome they want!

It has long been said that the person, rather than just the party, plays a bigger part in how Islanders cast their votes than in most constituencies and in this election, while some of the increase in Labour’s vote can be attributed to the national picture, that does not explain the 15% increase in the West Wight Labour vote in a traditionally Tory/LibDem seat, particularly as in the East the Labour vote share was well below the national average. Incumbency clearly damaged Bob Seely to the extent that the Island, for the first time ever has a Labour Member of Parliament.

Who knows what these results will herald for future Island elections. Given the size of the Labour majority of 172 (181 working majority because the Speaker, the two Deputy Speakers and seven Sinn Féin MPs will not vote) it is likely to be very close to five years before we find out – although all sorts of things can happen in politics!

If you have any views on what the voting figures mean then do let us know!