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Day: August 12, 2014

Nick Clegg will win Sheffield Hallam. I don’t understand why Labour disagree?

Sometimes I read something that I want to blog about so I leave it on a tab on my Google Chrome and it can stay there for days. This time I’m blogging about it within a day. Not too shabby for me.

Rich Clare wrote yesterday in an article entitled Nick Clegg to lose Sheffield Hallam? You’re having a laugh where he speaks about all the reasons why Nick Clegg will hold on to his seat, despite lots of press stories suggesting this he is at best, in trouble, but at worst set for a slam dunk defeat that would rival the Portillo moment from 1997.

The thing is, anyone who has any sense of numbers will know that Nick Clegg isn’t in trouble next year. That might sound ludicrous considering national polling and how disliked he is but the people of the United Kingdom are not voting on whether to have Nick Clegg as their local MP, the people of Sheffield Hallam are and that is the difference. Until people can get their heads around the fact that national polling cannot be extrapolated across different constituencies to give accurate predictions then all this crap will never stop.

Students used to love Nick Clegg. Now they are at best indifferent and at worst down right angry. I suspect most are in the latter group depressingly but such is life. However as Rich points out quite pointedly, the university itself is not based in the Sheffield Hallam constituency and students do not live in that constituency in great numbers. This is one of the lazy misnomers that people have regarding this seat and how Clegg won here and how the Lib Dems turned it into a relatively safe seat 17 years ago.

Labour control South Yorkshire but they’ve never returned an MP in this seat, never, never ever, never never ever. I think you get the point. Since 2010 that constituency has seen 21 councillors get elected, of those 21, 19 were Lib Dems and two were Labour. In a recent by-election Labour threw the kitchen sink at the Lib Dems expecting a win that would cause panic and embarrassment for Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem candidate won with over half of the vote.

Sheffield Hallam is affluent, not just affluent, but stinking rich. The average income is higher than places like Windsor and Twickenham. It has the lowest level of child poverty amongst any constituency in the country. More people in Sheffield Hallam have a degree than Cambridge. The level of professionals in the constituency exceeds practically every other seat in the country. What about all of this screams out a Labour victory?

That’s right. Nothing.

Of course the Tories could take back the seat but they have no real local campaign and are fighting with UKIP, their vote is getting split. so they aren’t going to mount a significant challenge to Clegg next year and nor are UKIP. Seats with lots of rich, educated and professional people are not going to be at the top of the UKIP plan to win seats. Immigration is not exactly an issue in Sheffield Hallam.

So it comes down to whether Labour can change the narrative in the next nine months which they haven’t been able to do in the past four years. Of course they could but I could also get second dates with women that I want to – and we all know that doesn’t happen. Labour need to gain at least 12,000 votes and nothing about the ward demographics or recent history suggests that they’ll get anywhere near that.

Personally I hope Labour keep believing they can unsettle and beat Nick Clegg. If they throw the kitchen sink at an unwinnable seat then they’ll be taking resources away from other places. It would be terrible strategy for Labour to go after a seat they have never won and are in no position to win. However I wouldn’t be stunned if terrible strategy gets deployed and Labour make Sheffield Hallam one of their key battlegrounds. If they do, they’ll lose and lose badly and all they’ll say if they were never expected to win anyway. Sounds like they can’t lose.

Yet if they don’t win a majority and fall just a few seats short, they’ll rue the fact they spent so much time and effort on a vanity campaign. Nick Clegg’s majority will no doubt go down but it will not collapse. Rich sums it up well and if you get on the ground with an open mind then you’ll come away with the feeling that the Lib Dems are safe in this one, but I doubt that will stop the stories because ‘Nick Clegg safe in Sheffield Hallam’ isn’t exactly a sexy story and won’t sell papers or garner page views. Sometimes the news can be just factual but those times are sadly few and far between.

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