Sean Fear’s Friday slot?

Sean Fear’s Friday slot?

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    Is Labour Losing The Former Mining Areas?

One friend of mine drew my attention to the fact that Labour had fared badly in local authorities across the old coalfields, on May 3rd.

    Coal mining bound voters to the Labour Party, being hard, dangerous, work, carried out by a completely unionised workforce, in tight-knit communities, most of whose inhabitants rented their homes from the National Coal Board.

The comfortable capture of the Forest of Dean District Council, for the first time, by the Conservatives, illustrates that once mining ceases in an area, support for the Labour Party can gradually fade away.

It is striking to see how Labour support fell in such areas on May 3rd. Labour lost Ashfield to No Overall Control for the first time since 1976.

Bassetlaw was held easily by the Conservatives, who had won it for the first time ever, in 2004. Mansfield, Labour from 1973 to 2003, was held easily by independents. South Derbyshire, Labour from 1979 to 2007 was lost to the Conservatives for the first time.

Labour came close to losing North East Derbyshire, and Chesterfield is now a Liberal Democrat stronghold at every level.

Further North, things are only slightly better for Labour. Barnsley is close to being lost to independents. Doncaster has a Labour mayor, but the party has a minority of seats on the local council. Wear Valley, always Labour apart from a freak Liberal Democrat win in 1991, was lost to No Overall Control. Derwentside and Sedgefield, both of which have always been held by Labour, were very nearly lost to independents.

Even Chester Le Street, on the face of it, held easily by Labour, saw the Conservatives coming within 50-100 votes of winning in a string of seats. Durham, which Labour held from 1973 to 2003, and had hopes of regaining, was held easily by the Liberal Democrats. Of the former mining areas, only Bolsover and Easington remain monolithically Labour.

It should be pointed out that Labour holds the large majority of Parliamentary seats in these areas, often by very large margins. The anti-Labour vote seen on May 3rd may be no more than a passing phenomenon. Nor did the Conservatives make much headway in these areas in either South Yorkshire or County Durham, where the anti-Labour vote is much more likely to favour either the Liberal Democrats, or independents and local parties. Nevertheless, it does seem to be the case that old loyalties are starting to weaken here.

There were no by-elections last night.

Sean Fear

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