It has been announced that John Woodcock will be allowed to stand for the seat of Barrow and Furness. He has therefore survived a serious threat of deselection, having said publicly that no-one should vote Labour in the General Election (presumably excluding from his exhortation those voting for him).
Woodcock, now 38, is one of those MPs who has never had a non-political job, unless is counted a brief spell as a trainee journalist on The Scotsman. Personal details are “a little vague”, but he was born in Sheffield and attended the University of Edinburgh. After his time at The Scotsman, Woodcock was an aide to John Hutton, the MP for Barrow and Furness from 1992-2010 and now in the House of Lords. He was also (2009-2010) a Special Adviser (SpAd) for the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. He was elected as Labour (strictly speaking, Labour and Co-operative) MP for Barrow and Furness in 2010.
As MP, Woodcock has been associated mostly with the Israel lobby and was even Chair of (Parliamentary) Labour Friends of Israel from 2011-2013. He prefers to talk more about his self-serving support for Trident (the submarines for which are built in Barrow-in-Furness, the main population centre in the constituency).
Woodcock’s entries in the House of Commons Register of Members’ Interests show donations from the governments or agencies of Israel, China and Kurdistan:
Woodcock is one of the most anti-Corbyn Labour MPs and was until 2015 the Chair of Progress, the Blairite group. He has repeatedly called for the removal (as Labour leader) of Jeremy Corbyn and has been associated with the most anti-Corbyn of the Labour plotters, including Liz Kendall (who stood against Corbyn in the second Labour leadership election, receiving 4.5% of the vote and coming last out of the four contenders). Woodcock has denied that he had some kind of affair with Liz Kendall, though rumours persist. At present he is involved with fellow-depressive Isabel Hardman of the ultra-Conservative Spectator magazine (Woodcock’s depressive illness is said to have been triggered by what his own political website describes as “a nasty fall from his attic ladder”, a Fawlty-esque vision, arguably: falling off an attic ladder hardly compares with, say, the WW2 Arctic Convoys, the Normandy Landings, the Siege of Leningrad or the Battle for Berlin). He is, it seems, separated from his wife, mother of his children.
Woodcock is intolerant not only of dissent generally but of views in conflict with his own, especially where Jews and Israeli interests are concerned. I declare an interest here: the fake “revolutionary” scribbler Owen Jones tweeted to Woodcock in 2015 that he should block me. Woodcock complied immediately!
So there we have Labour’s 2017 General Election candidate for Barrow and Furness: a not very popular, pro-Israel, pro-China Blairite, whose marriage collapsed because of his behaviour and who is currently involved with another depressive case, which lady is an ultra-Conservative scribbler. Not very appealing.
Barrow and Furness: political analysis
It is possible to think of Barrow and Furness as being now a marginal Lab-Con constituency despite the fact that, since Labour’s win in 1945, the Conservatives have only won twice (1983, 1987). The Labour majority that Woodcock inherited was 5,208. Woodcock’s tenure as MP reduced that in 2015 to 795 on a similar turnout. The 2010 Labour vote share was 48.1% (Con 36.3%); the 2015 Labour vote share was 42.3% (Con 40.5%).
The Liberal Democrat vote share of 10% in 2010 was slashed to 2.7% in 2015. It is hard to see that increasing much, bearing in mind that the Barrow and Furness area voted Leave in the EU Referendum:
Woodcock is strongly Remain and that again pits him against most Barrow voters.
The UKIP vote in 2010 was a fairly miserable 1.9%, but was elevated in 2015 to 11.7%, enough to achieve a third place. However, it is unlikely that that relative success can be repeated. The majority of 2015 UKIP voters will probably defect to the Conservatives, especially now that they scent blood vis a vis removing Woodcock.
Other parties are not very significant. The BNP and Greens both stood in 2010, both losing their deposits. The Greens also stood in 2015, more than doubling their vote (but only to 2.5%).
Conclusion and Prediction
Labour will struggle to hold the seat. Woodcock is not considered to be a very good constituency MP and will be, so to speak, handicapped by his mental issues and by the fact that many Labour voters may prefer to stay at home rather than vote for him.
Woodcock (and so, Labour) has the advantage of being pro-Trident in a pro-Trident constituency, but (barring the Greens) that is a given for candidates in Barrow and Furness.
The 2015 Conservative vote increased by about 4 points over that of 2010. Earlier votes were far below this level: 1997 27%, 2001 30%, 2005 31%. The direction of travel has been upward for 20 years. If the Conservatives can add the votes of UKIP defectors to those of their own loyalists, they can win if enough formerly Labour voters either vote Conservative or stay at home. The Conservative candidate is the same as in 2015, which may help their cause.
Overall, the Conservatives have a good chance of scoring their first win at Barrow and Furness since 1987.