Why didn’t bellwether Bedford swing?
Even though it was a fortnight ago I’ve still not found an answer to what appeared to be an inexplicable outcome in my seat of Bedford. This is a constituency that at GE2010, GE2015, GE2017 and the referendum voted most of all 650 seats in line with the country as a whole. Longstanding PB regular, Andy JS, highlighted the seat’s status before GE2019 and certainly on hearing the exit poll many, including me, assumed that the Tories with their energetic young candidate had won it back.
Indeed after that dramatic news at 10pm on December 12th Bedford was projected to be a 99% certain CON gain returning to what it was from 2010 to 2017.
This didn’t happen. One theory, that there was a counting error which wasn’t picked up on night, I don’t buy. In tight seats the counting agents appointed by the parties play a key role watching how it progresses and looking out for possible issues like ballot papers which are put into piles being allocated to the wrong contender. If something had been amiss it would have been picked up.
My own theory is twofold. Firstly there is an established pattern of first time incumbents getting a bonus at the general election following the one when they were elected for the first time. Secondly the area with its six trains or more an hour London service has led to an increasing proportion of households where at least one person is a commuter. Its voting pattern could be said to be more akin to what we see in the capital than in less accessible places which are closer. Indeed the LAB-CON swing was within about half of a percent of the London outcome.