With 8 June drawing ever nearer, IPSE’s economist Lorence Nye has researched the impact of the burgeoning self-employed sector on the election.
When it comes to marginal seats, parliamentary candidates may want to consider whether or not their constituency has a high number of self-employed people, as their vote could be crucial.
Using data from each constituency, as well as the Office of National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey, it is possible to compile a list of the marginal seats with the highest proportion of self-employed people. In other words, the seats where the self-employed will have the biggest chance of making a difference as the country goes to the polls.
On average one in seven people work for themselves in the UK. However, in some parts of the country the self-employed population is considerably higher. St Ives topped the list as the constituency with the highest number of self-employed people. In this south west town, currently a Conservative seat, 35.5 per cent of the total workforce is self-employed.
Second on the list is Dwyfor Meirionnydd, a Plaid Cymru constituency, where 31.5 per cent of the workforce is self-employed.
Of the top 20 constituencies with the highest share of self-employed workers, the majority of them are Conservative seats and they all had a fairly large majority in the election two years ago. They include, Kensington, Chesham and Amersham, South West Surrey, Ludlow and East Devon.
Also on the list is North Norfolk and Ceredigion – both of which are Lib Dem seats. Ealing Central and Acton is the only Labour seat in the top 20, which features a high proportion of self-employed. However, it also has a very low majority of just 274.
Drilling down the majorities, to find out where the self-employed would have the biggest influence, we needed to add more data to the mix. So we took all the constituencies with an above-average proportion of self-employed people, then ordered them by their majorities. Our analysis shows that there are a number of constituencies with a higher than average proportion of self-employed people, whilst also being held with only the slimmest of majorities.
At the top of the list was Gower, a Conservative seat, where 19.8 per cent of the total workforce are self-employed. The Conservatives won this seat by a majority of just 27. Other constituencies on a knife-edge include Halifax, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hove, and Lancaster and Fleetwood – all of which are Labour seats.
Conservatives seats on this list include Croydon Central, Brighton, Kemptown, Bolton West and Lewes.
In these constituencies the candidates may find that a successful strategy might be to appeal directly to the self-employed. They are both financially invested in a business and other lifestyle factors such as their ability to save for retirement or buy a home are impacted by the way they work.
There is potential evidence of this from the last General Election. In 2015, Ed Miliband made a direct appeal to the self-employed, saying that he would give them increased employment benefits, such as maternity pay. And despite losing overall, Labour won a number of seats from the Conservatives in London constituencies with high self-employment, like Ealing, Brentford and Ilford. It is very possible that Miliband’s direct appeal to the self-employed was a significant factor in this.
It will most likely have played a role in Rupa Huq, for example, turning over a lead of 3,716 in Ealing Central and Acton. She now holds a majority of just 274, and with the self-employed making up more than a quarter of her constituency’s workforce, she may find it very useful to target those 13,000+ voters. In fact, it may be the best chance to secure her seat in what promises to be a very close race.
In every election there are seats which will be won or lost by the narrowest of margins. What is clear from this analysis, is that the self-employed have not just a strong voice, but a commanding one in many constituencies across the country. Every political party will have earmarked seats which can be swung by the votes of people who work for themselves. This is a message IPSE will be delivering loud and clear with its manifesto ‘A Contract with the Self-Employed’. If any would-be-MP’s want some last minute advice on how do get elected, they could do worse than pick up their copy and give it a read.