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This is a question about how effectively the public can endanger an MP's job at a General Election.

The Westminster system enables the public to campaign for or against any MP-candidate in any constituency.

So, for example you might live in a safe seat. But you can choose to campaign in marginal constituencies to bring the force of democracy for or against the Executive.

But in practise, how effective is this?

For example: recently someone mentioned to me how disliked Jeremy Hunt was when he was as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. And yet he still won his constituency seat in the 2017 General Election. Given the widespread dislike of Jeremy Hunt, I might have expected people from all over the country to visit his constituency in South West Surrey to campaign against him and prevent his re-election. Was there such a campaign, and if so, why was it not successful?

And if there wasn't such a campaign, why?

  • Lots of people turning up from outside the constituency to tell you how to vote? That sounds like a recipe for an increased vote-share for the person being targeted – Valorum Jan 30 at 22:07
  • Worked in South Thanet! – Ben Jan 30 at 22:17
  • Well, it converted a Conservative seat into a Conservative seat. I wouldn't describe that as a seismic shift – Valorum Jan 30 at 22:23
  • Well if you put it like that ;) The result masks a more complex event that pitted an ex-leader of UKIP (the “Conservative”) against the then-leader of UKIP. The Tories poured so many resources into that election that they broke the law, ultimately delivering a relatively small win. – Ben Jan 30 at 22:41
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The electoral result isn't in a linear relationship to the amount of campaigning. South West Surrey seems to be a fairly safe Conservative seat, campaigning by the Labour party might actually harden attitudes amongst Conservative voters and also may move Lib Dems floating voters to the right

Most constituencies are safely held by one party or another and don't change, it's the marginals that decide the result. Here is an interesting article on the 110 seats of the 650 where the incumbent had a lead of less than ten percent in 2017. These are where most campaigning is concentrated, but campaigning alone won't decide the result. You have to factor in local attitudes to the candidates, the general mood of the country, media reports on the parties etc. etc.

  • So you're saying that scarce campaigning resources are targeted at marginals, accepting that doing so might leave unpopular figures relatively unscathed in the pursuit of a wider political goal. – Ben Jan 30 at 21:15
  • @Ben - Many unpopular figures can remain unscathed for a long time, protected by constituency and media armour – Dave Gremlin Feb 2 at 19:59

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