As somebody who teaches A-level Politics, my favourite areas to cover relate to elections and voting behaviour. Each year the fortunes of political parties change – some improve and some decline – and I enjoy the constant flux and jostling for power, at both a national and local level.

In May 2023, Plymouth City Council (my hometown) held another round of elections, and it was quite a heated event for several factors: the national picture of Conservative collapse (under the shambolic leaderships of Johnson and Truss in 2022) and the ill-feeling at the cost of living crisis, as well as the local dynamic in which the Plymouth Conservatives ruptured (which led to the formation of a breakaway group called the Independent Alliance) and became unpopular due to the ‘tree felling fiasco’ in the city centre.

Plymouth Labour triumphed, obtaining 45.3% of the vote, their highest percentage since 1997 (the year in which Tony Blair and New Labour swept the political landscape). The Conservatives collapsed to 25%, having obtained a stunning 50% of the vote just two years earlier in 2021. A perfect example of the constant flux within the Plymouth bubble.

All of this is contextual background to allow me to introduce a spreadsheet that I’ve put together of vote percentages in Plymouth since 1997 (back when it became a unitary authority). It charts the continual rises and setbacks of all political parties who have contested seats, including independents (green highlights a rise in their vote percentage and red denotes a decline):

Admittedly, I am a bit of a geek when it comes to stats and spreadsheets, so it was put together out of love rather than for a specific reason. However, on looking at the range of results as a whole I can now start to consider how it can be used in the classroom, based on the following questions:

  • Who are the biggest winners and losers?
  • How can we explain the shifting fortunes of the parties?
  • What big national factors made an impact on local voting behaviour?
  • How does this record of the big two parties compare to the national level?
  • What happened to the Liberal Democrats (from a fifth of the vote to a twentieth)?
  • How come independent candidates cannot make a bigger impact?
  • Does Plymouth favour or ignore extremist politics?
  • Was Plymouth more Brexit leaning in the mid-2010s?
  • What does this all suggest about the next 10 years of Plymouth local politics?

My plan is to use this spreadsheet in a future lesson to open up more ideas about voting behaviour and the continued importance of the big parties. In the meantime, before the next local election and spreadsheet update, I may turn my geeky attention to the Cornish county elections. Wish me luck!