How local?

The New York Times looks at the Shutdown in Washington in the context of the Virginian Gubernatorial election:

With 170,000 federal employees in Virginia and 30 percent of the economy of Northern Virginia dependent on government spending, no state has more to lose from a government shutdown than this one.

And the first concrete gauge of the political fallout may play out here, where a governor’s race that had been dominated by the weakness of the two candidates now seems to be focused on the question of which party will take the blame.

With the election just 34 days away, the issue increasingly is raising risks for Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the Republican, who is worriedly trying to keep voters angry at Washington Republicans from taking it out on him.

All (and the rest of that piece by Trip Gabriel) doubtless very valid.

The niggle it raises in Malcolm’s mind is: to what extent do national issues rub off at the local level?

There obviously is a chasm of difference between, say, the 3.75 million accredited votes in Virginia in the 2012 Presidential Election, and the 394 who turned out last week for the Way Ward of Mid Devon District Council. On quantum alone, one is statistically suggestive, and the other is … not.

Even so, we can draw some inferences:

  • There something odd about Virginia returning eight Republican Congressmen (and they are all men) out of eleven Districts, when Obama carried the State by a twinge over his national rating. Only back in 1982 was the disparity so great.
  • Admittedly, the Democrat vote seems heavily concentrated in places like Hampton Roads and Fairfax County (which, incidentally, has the highest family income anywhere in the nation).
  • There does seem to be an issue to be addressed about balancing the Districts. The GOP intended to gerrymander even worse, and ran into serious problems therewith.
  • The State is dividing, as the liberal north moves Democrat, while the south remains highly conservative and Republican. It is in the northern part that the population is growing, and now comprises as much as a third of the electorate.
  • Despite all that, the GOP grip continues to tighten:


  • An outsider might begin to mutter “fix”.

That is incidental to that niggle in Malcolm’s mind

It’s quite illogically logical for voters to go different directions locally and nationally. There is a natural propensity to be “awkward”, or to look for “balance”. More than half of Greater London’s constituencies (38 of the 73) stayed with Labour in 2010 (and that was a “bad” year). Then in the 2012 Mayoral (generally, a pretty “good” year for Labour), Boris Johnson was near on 4% ahead of Ken Livingstone.

As for the surge of UKIPpers in May 2013 (up to 23% nationally, and 139 additional councillors), we still don’t know if that was a freak (current polling seems about 10%, but doing far better in local elections), or a more enduring presence. UKIP, in any case, seems to be the “Up yours!” vote (which, at least, is an improvement on the BNP, the previous recipients). By all accounts the “Up yours” tendency will be a strong flavour in the European Parliamentary election next year — though, surely, Labour must improve on its derisory 15.7% of 2009.

Let’s apply all this to the four million voters in Scotland

A couple of curious statistics there:

On December 1, 2012:

  • 4.06 million people were registered to vote in the local government and Scottish Parliament elections – an increase of 54,795 (1.4 per cent) compared to December 1, 2011, the highest level recorded since local government boundaries were revised in 1996.
  • 3.99 million people were registered to vote in UK Parliament elections – an increase of 43,665 (1.1 per cent);
  • 3.99 million people were registered to vote in elections to the European Parliament, an increase of 43,489 (1.1 per cent).

The Scottish General Record Office adds a further caveat to that:

  • During the same period [2009-12], the number of European Union (EU) citizens registered to vote in local government and Scottish Parliament elections rose by 11,114 to 79,063 (16.4 per cent). This is likely to underestimate the total number of EU citizens resident in Scotland, since many may not register. Latest estimates put the number of EU citizens from continental Europe living in Scotland at around double that number.

So, Mr Salmond: one in every fifty of the voters in the Referendum will be Europeans, rather than Scots. And four more of those fifty are English-born. We are already accounting for 10% of the Scottish electorate.

For the BBC, just a couple of weeks back, John Curtice ran his slide-rule over the present polling:


The Curtice slide-rule may have an electric smoothing attachment, for his conclusion is:

… the best measure of the balance of public opinion – the average ratings for the Yes and the No side across all of the recent polls – looks much the same now as it did a year ago.

The Yes side’s average poll rating currently stands at 33%, while the No side has a score of 50%. Around 17% say they do not know or are unsure about what they will do.

If we leave the Don’t Knows to one side, that suggests that if the referendum were being held today rather than next year, 60% of people would vote to stay in the United Kingdom while 40% will vote for Scotland to become an independent country.

That is a little better for the Yes side than the equivalent figures for those polls that were conducted earlier this year, which on average gave Yes 38% and No 62%.

That is a bit of a come-down for Salmond and the SNP: in May 2011 the SNP took 45.4% of the constituency vote. It is more credible that the SNP excess-of-2011 over where-they-are-now isn’t disillusion among Nationalists, but that on local issues and for local candidates a significant number of Unionist votes were lent to the SNP.

By the by, if there’s anything crooked about Districting in the State of Virginia, it’s straight stuff compared to Scotland: on just 32.7% of the vote, Labour took 35 of the 73 constituency seats (though that was “remedied” by the Regional Seats.

[For the record, Malcolm happily voted “No!” in the 2011 Alternative Vote Referendum, not because of partisan bias, but because it didn’t offer, by any stretch of the imagination “proportional representation”.]

In the meanwhile, for an Election addict, like Malcolm, the Virginian Gubernatorial is the juiciest low-hanging fruit. And — happily — it shows good promise of being a dirty one:

Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign is launching Facebook ads targeting Virginia’s substantial federal worker population that attack Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) for the federal government shutdown.

“There are 150,000 federal employees in Virginia,” read the Web ads. “Why is Ken Cuccinelli standing with the Tea Party on the government shutdown?”

The ads target federal workers in Northern Virginia, where nearly one third of the economy relies on the federal government, and in the military-heavy Hampton Roads region. 

The shutdown could have a severe impact on Virginia’s economy, and stands to become a major campaign issue with one month left to go until the election.


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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, Elections, Europe, Ken Livingstone, Labour Party, London, Salmond, Scotland, Seamus Heaney, Tories., UKIP, US Elections, US politics

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