Thursday, 8 May 2014

Telling Yorkshiremen: Yorkshire and Humberside 2015

I'm moving further north now, but having looked first at areas of Labour strength and now at areas of Conservative strength, I'm turning to an area where both parties have considerable strength in different areas: Yorkshire and Humberside. Yorkshire has a particularly strong sense of local identity and this region is as populous as Scotland.

These last few years have not been good times for Yorkshire and Humberside in general. This predates the coalition's rise to power in 2010: between 2006 and 2011 it was the region with the lowest growth in gross disposable household income per head and average wages remain far below the national average. Its economy is not working as well as further south. Yorkshire and The Humber has the lowest labour productivity of all the English regions. It was hit hard by the recession: it had highest increase in unemployment rates and it still has the second highest regional unemployment rate, behind only the north east. Hull had an unemployment rate of 15.3%, second only to Birmingham. House prices in Yorkshire and Humberside were still falling last year.

All this leads me to suspect that the coalition message of recovery is likely to be less well-received in this region than further south.  Any swing away from the Conservatives and Lib Dems will probably be stronger here.

The region has its share of large towns such as Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield and Hull. Leeds and Sheffield are both in the self-selected core cities group that style themselves as England’s eight largest city economies outside London. The region also has vast wildernesses, where rural concerns over transport, petrol and agriculture are much more important.

Here is a handy regional summary from the ONS about the region (click on it to expand it):

Anyway, to the constituencies:

The observant will note that I have included seats in south Humberside that I have already listed when considering the eastern and south eastern coastline.  I am unrepentant: these are interesting seats.

Presenting these is less straightforward because no one party has an interest in every quoted seat.  I have opted again to put together a Conservative battleground (largely because the constituency odds on the Conservative side generally compare a bit more favourably with the odds on the Conservatives getting an overall majority or being largest party, as compared with the Labour counterpart odds), with a selection of other seat markets at the end.  There are quite a lot of seats with no markets as yet.  None of them look interesting.

As previously, the third column reflects the effect on the majority in Labour/Conservative marginals that would be had by allocating a quarter of the 2010 Lib Dem vote to Labour (the figure is derived by assuming that half will leave the Lib Dems and that these will break for Labour rather than the Conservatives in a 3:1 proportion).  I haven't bothered completing it for the safest Labour seats in this table since this would be a waste of time and effort.  I should probably have stopped well before I did.

So, what conclusions do I draw?  First, UKIP are not a major presence in this region yet, if the bookies are to be believed.  The shortest odds available are the 16/1 in Scunthorpe.

Next, the seats aren't that competitive.  Just four seats are projected by the bookies to change hands (five if you include the expectation that Labour will retake Bradford West following George Galloway's by-election victory).  There are, however, a further five seats where the incumbent is favourite at odds of 1/2 or longer.  These need a close look.

There are a few seats where undynamic betting should win you money.  The price on the Lib Dems in Sheffield Hallam is absurdly long at 1/5, driven by animus against Nick Clegg.  A 20% return in a year is not to be sneezed at.  Not quite so absurd, but still long, is the 1/3 on Labour in Pudsey.  They might easily win this seat without even becoming the largest party.

There are three seats with an underround: Brigg & Goole, Bradford West and Cleethorpes.  Such seats are of course must-bet seats.

Bradford West is a seat where local knowledge would be invaluable.  If you don't have that, then by backing both Respect and Labour in appropriate stakes, you can get over a 9% return in a year.  If you must, take out an insurance policy on the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, but that would seem very cautious to me.

I looked at Brigg & Goole and Cleethorpes when I looked at the Saxon Shore seats.  The 7/4 on Labour in Cleethorpes is certainly better value than the 6/4 on that party in Calder Valley or for that matter the 11/8 on Labour in Colne Valley, where they would have to come through from third.

The 10/11 on the Conservatives in Colne Valley looks very fair for that reason. It certainly looks better value than the evens on the Conservatives in Keighley where Labour have a much smaller majority to overcome and are already in second place.

Conversely the Conservatives are bafflingly short at 7/2 in Halifax.  To overcome a very similar majority in Wakefield, the Conservatives are offered at 8/1.  And actually, this is an outside bet worth considering.  The seat has been trending away from Labour over many years.  Unlike most of Yorkshire and Humberside, Wakefield has been doing well in recent years.  Unemployment has been falling recently.  Long-term total GVA in Wakefield increased by 91% between 1997 and 2012, the strongest growth rate in the region and 8% above the UK growth rate. This outperformance has continued in recent years.   The Conservatives' message may be listened to more attentively here than in other marginals in God's own county.

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