Manchester Gorton, one of the most solidly Labour constituencies in the UK, was represented 1955-1967 by Konni Zilliacus, an interesting character who was acquainted with many of the most significant political figures of the 20th Century (his widow, whom I met a few times, carried on in the local Labour Party of Maida Vale, London until her death in 1999).
The recent death of Gerald Kaufman MP (a famously anti-Zionist Jew, MP for the seat since 1983 and for a neighbouring seat from 1970-1983) has triggered a by-election, though the date (probably 4 May 2017) is yet to be confirmed. It follows that there is still time for candidates to be nominated (e.g. the Conservative Party has not yet selected its candidate).
At present, the candidate list includes those of Labour, Green Party, Liberal Democrat and, standing as Independent, George Galloway. UKIP may or may not stand. Previous elections in the seat have attracted a host of minor candidates: Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition [TUSC], Pirate, Christian, Workers’ Revolutionary Party [WRP], Resolutionist Party, Socialist Labour; and going back further, Revolutionary Communist, Red Front, Natural Law, BNP (only in 1983), National Front (only in 1979) etc.
Manchester Gorton is a Labour seat, has always been Labour, right back beyond the creation of the seat in 1918 and further back to when it was called South-East Lancashire, Gorton Division: Labour won in 1906 and in 1910 (twice). This is rock-solid Labour Party territory and considered to rank as the 9th-most-Labour seat in the UK
The Labour vote in Manchester Gorton has only once (since 1918 anyway) fallen below 50% [1967 by-election: just below 46%] and peaked in 1945 at over 69%, though Gerald Kaufman almost equalled that in 2015, with just over 67%.
There is no prospect of Labour losing in Manchester Gorton. It is a question of how many voters turn out and of the margin of Labour’s inevitable win. Turnout, at one time over 70% and even over 80%, has fallen back in recent years [2015: nearly 58%]. The other points of interest will revolve around the votes garnered by UKIP (if standing), the Liberal Democrats and George Galloway.
29% of the voters of Manchester Gorton are ethnic Pakistanis. The most recent ICM polling has made clear that the Conservative Party is preferred to Labour by every standard demographic except non-whites. The Labour shortlist contained 5 candidates, all Pakistani Muslims.
The Conservative Party always came second in Manchester Gorton until 1997, since which year it has always come third and always third to the Liberal Democrats, until 2015, when the general LibDem slaughter led to their 2010 vote share of 33% collapsing to 4%, which put the LibDems only fifth (after UKIP). Since 1997, the Conservative Party vote has always been around 10%, compared to 20%+ in the 1980s and 30%+ in 1970s. In the 1967 by-election, the Conservative candidate was Winston Churchill, grandson of the former Prime Minister. Winston junior nearly won that by-election, getting 44.51% as against Labour’s 45.89%.
Interestingly enough, the 2015 Liberal Democrat rout did not help the Conservative candidate: third place and 9.7% as against 11% in 2010. Second place went to the Green Party , which got 9.8%, its previous best having been 3.1% (in 2001).
The 2015 UKIP vote was 8.2% (2010, 2.7%). Likely 2017 vote would be around 5%.
George Galloway has attacked the all-Asian Labour shortlist. This may indicate that he is hoping to attract to his banner English (i.e. white) former Labour voters who were willing to vote for Kaufman but will not vote for a Pakistani Muslim as their MP. A proposition which may be flawed. Abstention is more likely, in my opinion.
There is nothing much to disturb the inevitable Labour victory here.
- The Pakistani Muslim demographic will turn out in large numbers for the Labour candidate and that alone will ensure a Labour win.
- The Conservatives may see a small increase, no more, in vote share.
- The same is true of the Liberal Democrats. This is an area hard hit by the spending cuts of the Con Coalition, which was propped up by 2010-2015 LibDem MPs’ votes. On the other hand, there is the “dustbin” or “catch-all” factor.
- George Galloway will probably only get a few per cent of the vote (hard to see who would vote for him either from white or non-white communities, despite his new role as TV face on RT).
- The Greens will have achieved a victory if they save their deposit.
- If UKIP stand, they will be lucky to save their deposit.
In the end, turnout may be very low. The white former Labour voters may well vote with their feet and stay home and Labour will probably see both its vote numbers and vote percentage fall to some extent, but Labour has in its favour the fact that almost a third of the voters are Pakistani Muslims and that there are other non-white groups in the constituency.
5.UKIP (if standing).
Postscript, written in early 2018
In the event, a General Election was called and the by-election was cancelled. Almost all candidates standing in the constituency at the General Election were the same as had been candidates in the cancelled by-election.