Diaries from the Campaign Trail - an impending earthquake?

Ellie Anderson, Junior Consultant

This insight follows Atticus team member and Labour Party activist Ellie as she campaigns in the South West of England, gaining firsthand detail on what the election looks like on the doorstep. This is the first of two articles, the second of which will detail a Conservative activist’s perspective from the campaign trail - including insights from the battle for Clacton.

With just seven days until polling day, this is an election unlike anything seen before. With the Conservatives facing their potentially worst electoral defeat in history and Labour expected to win their largest majority, a senior party staffer relayed to me their belief that ‘an earthquake was coming’—taking the form of something unseen in British politics.

The closer we get to the moment of truth, the clearer the attitudes of voters appear to be. In Swindon, Filton, Bournemouth, and Somerset, once staunch Conservative voters are now voting Labour—many for the first time. Their reason? They want change.

Knocking on door after door across the South West, as I have done since the election was first called on a rainy May day, voter apathy and anger are evident. One woman said to me that she doesn’t think she can vote for the Conservatives again, having been a lifelong member up until a few months ago.

Now approaching what is overwhelmingly likely to be their first victory since 2005, the Labour Party—and its candidates—are brutally aware of the historic moment that’s approaching. With many voters lending their votes to them and seats across the country expected to turn red for the first time, every candidate I know is working hard to deliver—and secure – that all-important victory.

Where this is clear is Swindon. Both seats in the city look set to change political allegiance on 4 July for the first time since 2010. Both seats have representatives with service instilled in them – and are ready to take on that challenge. With Swindon South viewed as crucial in securing Labour a majority, and Swindon North expected – if the polls can be believed – to follow suit, this would see Heidi Alexander and Army veteran Will Stone elected next week.

The enormity of the challenge and the change that is expected are not being taken for granted. From Bridgend to Bournemouth and Filton to Finchley, no candidate in this election is pausing for breath. For many, this has been a job they have held for over two years, fighting to secure that all-important victory.

Attending a hustings in Bath yesterday, with voters coming from across the city and beyond to hear what candidates have to say, this is palpable. The desire for change filled the large – and ever-impressive – Bath Abbey on Monday evening. As voters heard from representatives from the eight candidates standing, and as the Conservative candidate fought to make his case as to why voters should see him elected as their representative, many shook their heads.

A Conservative voter since 1979 who had travelled from neighbouring North East Somerset —where Sir Jacob Rees Mogg is holding onto a seat likely to go to his predecessor, Dan Norris — told me that it was despicable, left me in no uncertain terms that he remained to be convinced to pull the blue lever again this time.

The impending election result, which could see several high-profile and high-ranking cabinet ministers lose their seats, is something neither party machine could have foreseen a year ago. In Richmond, Yorkshire, the Prime Minister himself may not be safe from voters’ rath — with many servicemen and women and those who are employed by Catterick Garrison, just 3 miles away from the town, seething from the Prime Minister’s early departure from the D-Day Commemorations.

The message from Labour HQ, however, is anything but jubilant. The polls, they say, should not be believed. Everything is to play for until 10pm next Thursday, and every vote must be fought for. Remembering the painful defeats of 2010, 2015, 2017, and 2019, Party staffers of all generations have banded together in the hope that the 5th of July will see a change in government—and with it, a change for the country.

The challenge for Labour is considerable, and does not end next Thursday. With a leader many voters feel apathetic towards (at best), it has been a challenge for Sir Keir Starmer to appear relatable to voters. If he enters Number 10 next week, his job will be to prove that he can be the man the nation hopes him to be.

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