From April 7th-21st, the 50for15 team will be going on one almighty roadtrip. From Argyll and Bute down to Camborne and Redruth, we will be visiting 23 marginal constituencies to find out what the voters in these pivotal seats think about this unpredictable election. Read the full itinerary here.
Having already visited 33 of the 50 seats so far, each member of the 50for15 team writes about where they are excited to visit, and revisit.
Claire on the first part of the roadtrip
We’re beginning the road trip in Oban, a town in Argyll and Bute. It’s in an area famous for its beauty, and it’s an amazing opportunity to combine highland views, whisky and a rare four-way marginal.
The constituency itself is huge — nearly 7000 km square — and, I’m informed, contains 23 islands. With an average population density of 0.13 people per hectare, this makes for some seriously tricky campaigning, and we could probably spend two weeks on a road (and sea) trip around just the one constituency. So we’ll be using social media to reach out to the prospective voters beyond our reach, and interviewing those that we can find!
Next we’re off to Edinburgh South, which will complete my travel checklist of all our Scottish marginals. I recently spent a weekend in Dundee, visiting Glasgow too to get a feel for the Cities of Yes. The campaigns there couldn’t be more different from the English constituencies I’ve experienced, themselves pretty varied, and I’m curious to see if this pans out elsewhere in Scotland,
A constituency a bit closer to home is Carlisle, not far from where I grew up. It’s pretty isolated — I think the quickest route to a major city is the one hour train to Glasgow — and its politics is fairly distinctive too. It’s been a constituency since 1381 (though the boundaries have changed a bit), and was Labour since 1964 prior to its turning blue in 2010. We’ll be tapping into the city’s proximity to the border, to see if the prospect of a government dependent on the SNP gets the thumbs up (or down).
Alex explains why he’s looking forward to the middle of the roadtrip
Having recently clocked up more than 3,000 words on Arfon, I can safely say I recently developed a bit of an obsession with Welsh politics. One thing Arfon is missing, however, is any significant support for the Conservative Party, so I’m looking forward to heading to Cardiff North, which is currently held by Jonathan Evans for the Conservatives. We’ll be meeting the new Conservative candidate, Craig Williams, as well as the Labour candidate Mari Williams and the UKIP candidate, Ethan Wilkinson. We interviewed the Plaid Cymru candidate, Elin Walker Jones, back in January.
Other highlights, for me, will include going back to Birmingham Edgbaston, where, in October, myself and Adam spent a day accosting people for their opinions on the NHS; I also chatted to the Labour MP, Gisela Stuart, while Adam had a drink with Luke Evans, her Conservative rival. This time round, we are meeting the Bite the Ballot organisation, who do sterling work on encouraging young people to vote.
I’m also looking forward to going to Solihull. I’ve recently been creating charts of previous election results in our 50 constituencies from 1992 to 2010. Most look as you’d expect: huge jumps in support for Labour in 1997, which gradually declines from then on, with a marked decrease in 2005 after the Iraq war. But the graph for Solihull looks little like most others:
And of course I can’t wait see Oxford West and Abingdon again, 50for15’s home turf. I was never able to vote in a general election in Oxford – I missed the 2010 election by a few months, and left the city last summer – so it’ll be fascinating to hear from almost-peers of mine about whether, how, and why they’re voting (or not).
Adam explains why he is looking forward to the home leg of the roadtrip
Coming from the South West, I have always been particularly interested in the politics of this part of the country. Clear from the marginals we will be visiting on the home leg of our roadtrip, many key narratives of the election campaign will be played out in the South West.
A majority of the constituencies in the region have traditionally been a two-way fight between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. How will competition between these two parties be affected when both have been in government, and how will the rise of smaller parties, particularly UKIP, and in some cases the Green Party, affect this balance?
Stops on the road trip include Wells, Newton Abbot, and Camborne and Redruth, which have all been served by both a Conservative and Lib Dem MP in the last two parliaments. Indeed, Lib Dems who lost in 2010, Richard Younger-Ross and Julia Goldsworthy will be contesting Newton Abbot and Camborne and Redruth again. Wells was taken by the Lib Dems from the Conservatives in 2010, and the Tories are keen to regain the seat.
Topping the European Parliament poll in May 2014 in the region, UKIP will hope to build on those gains in the Westminster election. Camborne and Redruth is their principle target from the seats we are visiting in the region, interestingly though the Conservative MP for the seat in the last Parliament, George Eustice, ran his first campaign under the UKIP banner.
The European Parliament elections last May had a break through moment for the Green Party in the region, winning their first MEP for the South West. The party has positioned Bristol West on the top of their target list after retaining Brighton Pavilion. Having already interviewed the Green candidate, Darren Hall, we will spend the day in the city meeting other contenders, Thangam Debboinaire from Labour and the MP for the constituency in the last Parliament, Stephen Williams.
Labour has traditionally been weak in the South West, winning in Exeter, Plymouth Moor View and two seats in Bristol back in 2010. On the road trip we will be in Bristol West and Plymouth Sutton and Devonport to evaluate whether the party can gain more seats in the region. In Plymouth Sutton and Devonport we have organised a hustings with the Plymouth Herald and the University of Plymouth to see how the candidates cope with quizzing from constituents.