If you wander around the constituency of Shipley, located in the Airedale Valley just North of Bradford in West Yorkshire, you’ll find, as is the norm across the country, the occasional row of houses littered with the distinctive red of the ‘Vote Labour’ signs. Some are sellotaped to living room windows whereas others have been planted into the ground and fastened on wooden beams.
Shipley is a constituency held by the Conservative MP Philip Davies since 2005 who won his seat by 50% share of the vote with 72% voter turnout in the 2015 General Election. With the prospect of GE2017 coming ever closer I feel something is distinctly different about this election period. What makes this general election different is its proximity to one of the most significant referenda held in the UK in the past decade. Brexit.
What’s in a Vote?
If you continue to walk around the town of Shipley nestled against the backdrop of the impressive rise of Baildon Moore you come across a small row of businesses perched just off the A650. Plastered to the exterior of one of the shops’ windows are several A4 paper posters of Philip Davies face. One reads “Consistently voted for NHS Privatisation” while another says “Voted in favour of smoking in cars with children”. These posters are critical of the incumbent. But what they remind me of is the reality of the bigger decisions we as a public have to make on June 8th other than just choosing who our local representative are.
At home the party political literature sets the story. The conservatives have dedicated half an A4 spread to asking the question ‘Who do you want to be Prime Minister?’ followed by a picture of Prime Minister Theresa May in colour and then one of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Leader, in monochrome. The local Labour party, on the other hand, haven’t mentioned Jeremy Corbyn on their literature once. Davies knows how influential party leaders can be. The choice is not as simple as selecting our representative on merit. Instead, we have to choose who runs our local constituency, who we want to be Prime Minister and ultimately who we want to be face of Brexit. The point of interest here is determining just how much these different choices will affect our voting patterns on June 8th.
Articulating these view to my partner I gently mused that I was feeling tempted to vote Conservative in support of Theresa May but at the same time couldn’t stomach voting for Philip Davies. I should contextualise; she is the first born daughter of a Labour through-and-through, ship building, Northern family from Barrow-in- Furness born and bred labour-till-I-die, still able to recount the “Margaret Thatcher milk snatcher” rhyme and the days of the strikes form beyond their time. So the reception I got was not particularly friendly.
But I find myself in this curious position of being persuaded by the character and the perception of party leadership as a gauge to measure my political support rather than what the local candidates can offer. I have two options as I see it either I vote for my Labour candidate and reluctantly offer support for a national leader and cabinet that I don’t support, or I put my backing behind Theresa May and lend support to the conservative incumbent who has a disagreeable voting record at best.
All over the country, this dilemma is being brought to life as some lifelong Labour supporters are considering for the first time to vote Conservative. The 2016 by-election results in Copeland, Cumbria saw the first Conservative MP, Trudy Harrison, voted in since the 1930’s. This represents a loosening of the traditional class-based voting ties of the past. It is precisely this that indicates to me that this is a Brexit election and not a party political one. Brexit is the detail that is re-organising party lines organising a nationwide shake-down.
A Third Way?
So, here is an election that refuses to be just about polices. Voters must balance the national with the local, the leaders with the candidates. Whether or not I support my local candidate is no longer the deciding factor in my vote. What is important is the question of who will be good for Britain in Brexit. But if all of this unscrupulous talk of two party personality politics has made you nauseous then perhaps I’ll back an independent and give the Women’s Equality Party in Shipley a chance.
I’m 25 and currently live in Shipley, West Yorkshire whilst studying for a Masters in Social and Political Theory at the University of Leeds.
I did my undergraduate at the University of York but I am originally from Bournemouth on the South Coast of the UK.
I am interested in ideology, politics and political economy and have particular interests on the effects of political ideology on people’s lives.