West Midlands mayoral: Poll gives Labour’s Sion Simon 6 point lead over Tory Andy Street

The Birmingham skyline. Makes a change from the Bull Ring. Image: Getty.

Editor's note: 1425hrs, 20 April: I've amended this story slightly to explain the poll’s methodology in more detail, and explain why it might be questionable.

Guys, guys, guys: exciting news from the West Midlands mayoral campaign. We have a poll.

This is a bit of a surprise: I’d sort of expected we wouldn’t be getting one of those. I outlined my reasons for that here (on my Facebook page, social media fans!), but a big chunk of my reasoning could be summed up, basically, as: “Who would commission one?”

Well, the answer turns out to be Trinity Mirror, the newspaper group which owns the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph, among other titles. It surveyed 2,500 local voters, by randomly inviting visitors to its websites to answer a questionnaire and then adjusting the results based on geography and previous voting patterns. (How good a polling method this is remains to be seen.)

Anyway: here’s what it found:

  • Sion Simon, Labour – 32.8%
  • Andy Street, Conservative – 32.3%
  • Pete Durnell, UKIP – 15.7%
  • Beverley Nielsen, LibDem – 7.5%
  • James Burn, Green - 6.7%
  • Graham Stevenson, Communist - 5.1%

So: basically a tie between Simon and Street. This is pretty much what the elections expert John Curtice has been going round predicting based on history, national vote shares and so on. It’s close.

Other thoughts: UKIP coming third, with twice the votes of the LibDems, must be a shock to poor Beverley Nielsen. Also, the 5.1 per cent voting for the communist gives one pauses for thought.

But it’s a two round system: in the instantaneous second round, all candidates but the top two will be eliminated and the votes distributed by second preference.

Then it’s not a tie.

  • Sion Simon, Labour – 53%
  • Andy Street, Conservative – 47%

That’s a clear victory for Simon. In a world in which a 52/48 referendum is seen as an overwhelming mandate, that’s practically a landslide.

Some words of warning on this. Firstly, all polling requires assumptions about who will actually show up to vote. This, though, is likely to be a low-turnout election, and there’s no history to model from. It’s thus difficult to know how accurate this poll actually is, especially since it wasn't conducted by an actual pollster. If people who read Trinity Mirror newspapers have different voting patterns to those who don't, it might be junk.

Secondly, for reasons I outlined earlier, my gut instinct is that the general election campaign will work against Labour and in favour of the Tories. On balance, I think if the next fortnight sees the TV news filling with pictures of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, then that makes a Tory victory more likely.


That said – my gut is often wrong. Perhaps all the noise from national politics will make Midlanders more determined to vote against those wicked Tories.

We shall see. At the moment, though, the polls suggest Sion Simon is 6 points ahead. It’s his to lose.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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This app connects strangers in two cities across the world. But can it tackle urban loneliness?

New Delhi, in India, where many of Duet-App's users come from. Image: Ville Miettinen

“You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people”. Olivia Laing, The Lonely City

Our relationship to where we live and the spaces we inhabit define who we are and how we feel. But how often do we articulate the emotional impact of this relationship, whether this be loneliness, frustration or even civic pride?

“When I moved to a new city, started living alone, wanted to drink less, stay indoors more, and when I realised that I cannot make any more best friends.”

A new social network, a simple app that connects two individuals from the UK and India, aims to counter some of these issues.  Over the course of a year connected pairs receive one question a day through the app and their responses are exchanged with each other. A simple interaction that gradually builds a series of one-on-one relationships and invites users to imagine, over time, the other person living their life.

Distant geographies are an implicit part of the experience, therefore many of the questions nudge users to explore correlations between their physical and emotional landscapes. The data shows us that many of the Duet-App users are located in populous urban cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Manchester, Leeds and London, places that can just as often discourage feelings of belonging and place-making as much as they foster them.

“I had thought I'd never be able to live here again. but here I am living again at home after almost a decade living elsewhere. Living in Mumbai is a contact sport, and I can't do without it's chaos and infectious energy.”

Mumbai, India. Image: Deepak Gupta

In general cities are getting bigger and spreading wider at the same time as our communications are increasingly being conducted online and via digital gateways.

There is a sense that much of our online personas project an idealised version of ourselves; we increasingly document and express our daily lives through a filter and we are not always comfortable with a spontaneous expression of ourselves. Duet-App seeks to foster alternative digital relationships that through their anonymity allow us to be more honest and free.

“I feel a lot of people assume that I always have a lot going on for me and everything's always happy and amazing. I wish they could appreciate... how much of my own anxiety I swim in every single day. I appear and behave “normal” on the outside, calm and composed but there are always storms going on in my head.”

In exploring the responses to the questions so far, those that often garner the most replies relate directly to how we feel about our personal position in the world around us. Often these questions act as provocations not only to share responses but to reflect and articulate our thoughts around how we feel about what we are doing in the here and now.

Manchester, another popular city for Duet-App users. Image: Julius 

“Sometimes I feel sad about it [getting old] because I saw how easy it would be to feel lonely, and the fact that the world is set up for able-bodied young people is a bit of a travesty.”

Although many social media platforms allow for distant engagement and access into the lives of others we are in the main still curating and choosing our friendship circles. Through Duet-App this is randomised (and anonymised) with the intention of bypassing the traditional mechanics of how we broker online relationships. While directly exploring the digital space as a place for intimacy.


“Where do you go for peace?

“Well the internet, really. I do some mindless browsing, peek into the fandoms, listen to a few songs. Calms me down.”

Snapshots into the lives of someone existing and playing out their lives remotely can highlight shared concerns that break down preconceptions of how life is lived by others. Prompted by the reflections of a stranger exposed to our lives, digital relationships can encourage us to address the physical space we inhabit and the effects that the cities we live out our lives in have on our own well being. 

Catherine Baxendale is director of Invisible Flock.

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