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Election Diaries Week 1 - Focus on Airdrie and Shotts

8 min read

PoliticsHome / The House in partnership with Thinks Insight & Strategy will be tracking reactions from swing voters in five key battlegrounds throughout the general election campaign.

Find out more here.

One week in, diarists have yet to hear someone really speak to their priorities

Diarists already told us that they were feeling disillusioned by politics [t1] and this week of campaigning hasn’t helped matters. Reflecting on Week 1 of the Election Diaries, many of these swing voters feel overwhelmed by coverage and underwhelmed by substance.

GIFs etc
GIFs and emojis picked by diarists to sum up how they’re feeling about the election:

The election continues to feel like theatrics, with politicians looking to score points against one another. Meanwhile diarists are waiting for someone to tell them how they will address the issues that matter to them.

“Nothing really changed for me. They scored a few little points against each other, but nothing really changed about how I feel about it. And I still don't know who I'm gonna vote for. The way I feel about the parties is that they are two sides of the same coin. So, yeah, it feels a bit like a theatre or wrestling.” – Tony, Swindon

What's Cut Through?

When we kicked off Election Diaries (last Thursday), National Service was talk of the town. While this is still on diarists’ minds, the controversy around Diane Abbott’s candidacy, which dominated the Labour headlines at the weekend, has been mostly forgotten.

The biggest takeaway for many from Tuesday’s ITV debate was Rishi Sunak’s claim that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 – followed immediately by claims that the figure was misleading, with Diarists spontaneously referring to BBC Verify and the Treasury statement.

Nigel Farage brought the headlines to the yard (sorry!) – milkshake-gate almost overshadowed the news of his taking over Reform UK leadership. Diarists are wondering whether his candidacy will please Labour, as they’re expecting Reform to make gains in Conservative seats.

At the time of writing, Rishi Sunak’s early departure from D-Day memorial events in Normandy is dominating headlines. As diarists pick up the news, their verdict on who has “won” the week may change…

None of the main parties have convinced so far

Labour: Diarists are disappointed by Keir Starmer’s performance in Tuesday’s debate. Most feel that he avoided answering questions and didn’t present a clear view of what Labour would do to address the issues they care about – e.g. how Labour would reduce NHS waiting times and solve pay disputes, or how they would smash criminal gangs to stop illegal immigration.  They worry that Starmer’s performance might indicate a wider problem: That the party has no clear plan, vision, or substance. That said, they mostly would still prefer Labour over the Tories.

“I was leaning more towards Labour, but there were just a few questions that Kier Starmer just couldn't answer and he was really, really going around the houses in the live debate. So that led to concern. But then I don't really fully trust Rishi either.” Gemma, Bolton

“I expected Labour to come out fighting, to be strong […] all these claims, all this big talk, and then ultimately, when it comes down to it, it's a soft, weak, pathetic punch. Because where's the proof? Where is all this that you're going to do?” - Barry, Bolton

Tories: Although many feel the Conservatives have come across as “desperate”, especially with headline-grabbing policies such as the re-introduction of National Service, they are nonetheless dictating the agenda, with Labour seen to be on the backfoot. For many of our diarists, Rishi Sunak came across better in Tuesday’s debate, even if they feel he talked over Keir Starmer a lot.

"Rishi Sunak had the most direct answers to questions, had clearer plans in place to a majority of the topics compared to Keir Starmer and presented himself much better. Keir Starmer spent too much time talking about his connections to the topics than answering questions." – Kim, Wokingham

Lib Dems: Though not seen as a serious contender by most, diarists in Wokingham (a Lib Dem target seat) are starting to consider whether a tactical vote for them would be the best way forward. Ed Davey’s carer policy has landed particularly well with these voters.

"I've been Conservative for a while, but now I'm obviously considering Labour, but also now Lib Dems for our local area. They're the most likely to kick [the Conservatives] off. So, it's like, do we go tactically now or do we go with the Labour?" - Ellen, Wokingham

Reform: Overall, the biggest association is a sense that they are an ‘unknown quantity’. The association with Farage reflects his marmite profile generally, with some participants appreciating his ‘straight talking’ candour, while other find his politics and policies off putting (and even racist). Nonetheless, his entry into the race was one of the most-remarked-upon moments of the week.

"Farage back in the election game, that'll stir things up! … I think he's become more of a political celebrity rather than a proper politician. It's all a bit of a circus surrounding him." - Karen, Nuneaton

"So Nigel Farage has agreed to stand for reform in Clacton and it seems to have become its leader without any election. Clearly this will worry the Tory party quite a lot. I suspect Labour are probably quite happy about this."  - Martin, Bolton West

"Can’t imagine him as a PM at all." - Claire, Nuneaton

By Teresa Kuhn, Associate Director, Thinks Insight and Strategy


Spotlight on Airdrie & Shotts

This week we spent more time talking with the diarists in Airdrie and Shotts. The constituency has been held by the SNP since 2015, with Labour requiring a 5.7% swing to overturn it this year.

Airdrie “I mean, it’s absolutely beautiful… but also the area is quite deprived’ – Ashley, Aidrie and Shotts

What are the top issues for swing voters in Airdrie & Shotts?

Much like the rest of the country, concerns about the cost of living, the economy and the NHS are dominant.

Diarists feel local healthcare services are stretched, particularly the Monklands hospital, GP surgeries and mental health services. With one diarist’s wife waiting more than 9 months for a referral, many are keen to see the crisis in the NHS resolved.

“The main local topic surrounds the local hospital, Monklands. Our hospital is under staffed with major waiting times for consultants and also A&E. On a personal note my wife has been waiting for 9 months for a neurologist appointment.”  – Craig, Airdrie and Shotts

“I can never get a doctors appointment anymore it is such a struggle and if you do have to go to hospital you are awaiting many hours sometimes even over a full day to be seen, this is a huge issue for me that I feel strongly needs resolved! – Brittany, Airdrie and Shotts

The pressures caused by the rising cost of living are clearly felt keenly, with a sense that rising prices are amplifying the challenges faced by a struggling local economy.

“Biggest issue I feel is lack of good jobs, Airdrie and Shotts is dying in terms of business. There is nothing driving business to the area if anything it’s becoming a residential constituency.” – Ewan, Airdrie and Shotts

“The cost of living - not just my area but everywhere - is really worrying for me. These things are important to me being a single parent with 5 children.” – Amanda, Airdrie and Shotts

Many diarists note the decline of the high street in Airdrie town centre and rise in visible poverty in recent years. Several feel concerned about the future of the town as there is little that appeals to children or young people.

“Airdrie town centre has been pretty poor for a while now […] full of charity shops, sun beds and barber shops. There’s nothing exciting.” – Calum, Airdrie and Shotts

“Biggest issue I would say is there's nothing for the young to do so they hang about the street and the glass everywhere.” – Amanda, Airdrie and Shotts

What do the diarists think about their local candidates?

Most have heard very little from the local candidates: Anum Qaisar from the SNP and Kenneth Stevenson from Labour. Instead, for some it feels like it’s a national election between the two main party leaders in Westminster. 

“Anum Qaisar I know little about other than that she has been responsible for levelling up, of which we have seen little. Of Kenneth Stevenson I know nothing.” – Pat, Airdrie and Shotts

“I had to actually go looking for them because I haven't seen anything about any local candidates. Everything just seems to be about the leader of the Labour Party against leader of the Conservatives. That might change over the next few weeks, I suppose, but that's kind of how it feels.” – Andrew, Airdrie and Shotts

Despite having voted SNP in 2019, this election isn’t about Scottish independence for the diarists. Whilst the Labour Party haven’t convinced the diarists to vote for them, the recent chaos in the SNP may be pushing them to look elsewhere.

“My apprehension of party funds by our former leader’s husband being syphoned (allegedly). Mmm, guilty as charged in my eyes. No wonder support has been lost” – Craig, Airdrie and Shotts

By Allie Jennings, Associate Director, Thinks Insight and Strategy

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