This time yesterday Nick Perry announced he would be the Lib Dem candidate in Hastings and Rye in any snap General Election and this morning broadcast and print media is full of speculation that that national poll might just be weeks away.
Within hours of his announcement Mr Perry was being criticised for planning to stand, with Labour councillor Andrew Batsford saying his candidacy amounted to, “a pledge to keep Amber Rudd in power for another five years.”
However a new poll of voting intentions in Hastings and Rye suggests that Mr Perry could be the candidate most likely to galvanise the ant-Brexit vote in the constituency.
The poll by Coastal Action, a non-profit Hastings social research organisation, has just released details of its exclusive local poll focused on Remain voter’s attitudes to a No-Deal Brexit and how this could affect a snap general election outcome in Amber Rudd’s seat.
It focuses in particular on the Remain vote in Hastings and Rye, and specifically explores which of the parties voters identify as Remain supporting, as well as the appetite among that group towards a possible united single candidacy standing on a ‘Stop No-Deal Brexit’ ticket in a possible snap general election this autumn.
“We wanted to dig down and get a clear sense of what Hastings and Rye Remain voters make of the parties’ position on Brexit and how strong an appetite there is for some kind of coming together of the Remain parties under a single banner”, explained Coastal Action founder and Director James Prentice, a doctoral researcher at Sussex University.
Amber Rudd has a majority of just 346 votes making Hastings and Rye one of the most marginal seats in the country and a site of major political interest. In the referendum, the constituency voted for Brexit by a margin of 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
The research organisation developed a short questionnaire which was sampled in a broad range of identified Remain/strong Remain locations across the constituency, taking in both the more populous urban centres and outlying rural areas.
Over the course of the exercise, which ran from August 17th to 26th, over 130 responses were received.
The headlines are as follows:
- Voting intention for the three ‘stop a no-deal’ parties is Labour 21 per cent, Lib Dems 19 per cent and Greens seven per cent. This means the Conservatives only likely need +25 per cent to win if these parties do not unite.
- When asked to identify which political parties were Remain parties, most respondents clearly identified the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, with 79 per cent and 74 per cent recognition respectively. Labour, by contrast, generated a much more ambiguous response, with just 31 per cent seeing them as a Remain party. This figure included many previous supporters.
- Most respondents strongly identified with Remain parties in Hastings and Rye uniting behind a single ‘stop no-deal’ candidate, with 63.5 per cent saying they strongly support such an option and a further 30 per cent supporting such an option. Just two per cent opposed/strongly opposed this.
- At 49 per cent, almost half of the sample identified a preference for that ‘Stop a No-Deal Brexit’ candidacy to be led by the Liberal Democrats, with 30 per cent opting for Labour and 24 per cent for the Greens
- While Labour attracted overwhelming support among the sample in the 2017 General Election, winning 46.2 per cent of the vote and over 70 per cent of the Remain vote, the Liberal Democrats would now win most of the Remain vote in the event of an immediate general election, with 42 per cent of the vote against Labour’s 35 per cent and the Green Party’s 16 per cent.
Commenting on the results, Coastal Action Co-Director Chris Connelley, claimed: “there has been a major falling away in support for Labour among local Remain voters, probably reflecting disillusionment with its national policy position on Brexit. This has seen a sizeable direct shift from Labour to the Liberal Democrats and to a lesser extent the Greens, reinforcing the evidence seen earlier this year at the EU elections when Labour’s vote was topped by the other two parties.”
With a possible election just weeks away, the Coastal Action poll reveals a strong appetite for a united ‘Stop a No-Deal’ candidacy but with opinion split as to who might best lead it.
Coastal Action’s James Prentice sums up the position saying: “From a near winner last time, Labour is now one of three parties in active contention to lead any united ‘stop the no-deal’ formation.
“Given the party’s near success in 2017 and dominance on the local council, Labour will continue to make the case that it is the most obvious and strongest contender to challenge the Conservatives or indeed lead any ‘stop no-deal’ ‘coalition’.
“However, the situation has changed markedly over the last two years and Labour probably needs to accept it cannot go it alone this time if it wants to avoid a ‘No-Deal’ win.
“Labour must engage with – and even lead – the local talks to form an anti-No Deal alliance and must show leadership and make concessions to ensure ‘No-Deal’ is taken off the table locally. If it fails to do so, it runs the real risk of being blamed for failing Remain voters, who clearly wish to avoid a No-Deal Brexit, and this could damage their longer- term electoral prospects.”