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General Election 2019: Analysis from Registry Trust

On the 13th December 2019, the Conservative party in the United Kingdom saw a landslide win in the General Election, at the expense of the Labour party. Following this, many narratives to explain the results emerged. Above all, most attention was given to the idea of the ‘left behind’ areas and Brexit.

Here at Registry Trust, we decided to delve into our data and look into what the evidence on financial distress says about whether these constituencies are indeed ‘left-behind’.

We used the two election years, 2017 and 2019, to provide comparison as well as including external data to provide depth to our findings.

Since 2017, there has been an average rise of 8.6% across all constituencies to 2019. The biggest increases were seen in South Cambridgeshire and Ipswich where judgments rose by over 50% in both. Comparatively, the greatest decreases were all seen in Scotland, specifically Perth and North Perthshire and Angus, both falling by 48%.

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We decided to hone in on the 57 swing constituencies that the Conservative party gained in the General Election. This included places in the famous Labour Red Wall which crosses large parts of the Midlands and the North of England. Places such as Ashfield, Blyth Valley, Leigh and Workington.

Across these constituencies, there was also an increase in the number of judgments from 2017 to 2019. Slightly higher than the national average, the rise was 7%. Overall, as these areas are receiving greater numbers of judgments, we can assume these areas are experiencing higher than average levels of economic hardship. Specifically, in these constituencies the average number of records per year was 1,937 compared to the national average of 1,627. This, for us, evidences the narrative of the ‘left-behind’ that followed the election this year.

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But, there were 10 rule breakers.

1 in 6 of the swing constituencies evidenced a trend that is only present in under 25% of all parliamentary constituencies. Blyth Valley, North West Durham, Sedgefield, Keighley, Delyn, Wrexham, Vale of Clwyd, Clwyd South, Wolverhampton North east and Bridgend all saw declines in the number of judgments from 2017 to 2019, challenging the narrative of the ‘left-behind’.

Geographically, 5 of these constituencies are in Wales, 4 of which specifically in the Clwyd area in the North East region of Wales. The others consist of 3 from the North East of England, one Yorkshire constituency and one from the West Midlands.

The average percent difference from 2017 to 2019 seen in these areas was 5%. The greatest decrease seen in Bridgend (-10%) and the smallest in Sedgefield and the Vale of Clwyd (-2%). Value of judgments also bucked a national trend, decreasing by 4% opposed to the 3.5% national average increase.

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Looking at how other measures of financial instability summarised the realities in these 10 constituencies, they all confirmed that these areas were performing better than the national average. These 10 constituencies also see less than average levels of over-indebtedness, referring to the state in which an individual is unable to uphold their financial responsibilities (MAS, 2018) and are also under the national average for number of Job Seekers Allowance claimants (ONS, 2019). Overall, it would seem that the economic environment in these constituencies was improving from previous elections.

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We therefore took these 10 constituencies in isolation and decided to explore other factors that may have played a part in the swing.

A key characteristics of these constituencies is the length of time they have been politically represented by the Labour Party. The average length of time between them is 41 years, including 3 from inception. One of these is Vale of Clwyd, which prior to 2015 had seen a Labour representative since its inception in 1997. The second is Keighley, in Bradford, which has had a chequered past often swinging between the two major parties. If these two constituencies are excluded from the average, the years of continuous Labour governance is 58 years.

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This demonstrates therefore that it is not a normal trend where the constituencies normally swing between elections. This led us to conclude that it would more likely be a single issue that has driven the swing.

What was the single issue so prominent in 2019’s General Election: Brexit.

All of the 10 saw the largest increase in vote share for the Conservative or Brexit party, each seeing an average rise of 5%. The average reduction in Labour vote share was 11%. This begins to suggest that Brexit was a huge part in the swing for these constituencies. This is only further supported by the average Leave vote across these areas at 56.3%.

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We will be keeping an eye on all constituencies as the year progresses to see how these trends change with the new Conservative government as well as the Brexit transition period.

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