Yes, Natwest is closing – but will you miss it?

Natwest Radlett Branch Closure Factsheet cover
RBS has confirmed that they’re closing 259 branches, 62 at the Bank of Scotland and 197 at Natwest. Radlett is on the list. The bank is doing a pretty thorough job of informing customers and local people about their plans. There’s a leaflet for each closing branch, with an explanation of why the branch has been chosen for closure and details of alternatives (although, amusingly, the Radlett leaflet suggests the soon-to-be-demolished petrol station as an alternative cash point location!).

Are you a Natwest customer? Will you miss the Radlett branch? Or have you already gone fully digital?

Five slightly mind-blowing things we learnt from our Amazon survey

Amazon is the beast that ate shopping. In the US, Amazon is responsible for 43% of all online sales and is worth more than all the big bricks-and-mortar retailers put together. About a quarter of the US population pays for Prime membership (more figures). There’s an extraordinary battle going on in the US right now – 238 towns and cities are bidding billions for the right to host Amazon’s ‘second HQ’ (In Seattle, home of the first one, 7.5% of the working-age population works for the firm).

Amazon came to the UK in 1999 – its first major market outside the US – so we’ve had plenty of time to get used to buying all our stuff from the Seattle monster. And, although they don’t publish the numbers, we’re probably just as addicted as the Americans.

Radlett’s in an Amazon sweet spot. We’re close enough to the big warehouses to have access to all of the company’s services – from the basic delivery service to groceries (including Whole Foods, the upmarket food retailer bought by Amazon earlier this year) and the Amazon Prime Now app, so you can order practically anything for delivery within an hour. Step outside your front door during daylight and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll see an Amazon delivery happening. Radlett is the kind of prosperous suburban community that forms the backbone of Amazon’s profitability everywhere. We’re a kind of case study for Amazon’s take-over of UK retail.

So, we wanted to know how Radlett relates to Amazon. The anonymous survey is still live so please take two minutes to complete it if you haven’t already. There are ten questions and a box for you to type what you think of the company. If you complete the survey you get to see the complete results at the end. Fascinating reading.

Here are five insights from the survey results:

We shop with Amazon all the time

Graph showing Radlett Amazon shopping
Over 85% of respondents shop at least once per month with Amazon. For almost a third of us it’s ‘several times per week’! This is the kind of loyalty that any retailer would kill for.

We spend a lot

Graph showing how much people in Radlett spend with Amazon
64.2% of us spend at least £50 per month with Amazon and nearly a fifth (17%) of respondents say they spend over £200 per month. That’s a lot of money: the average household grocery spend in the UK is £53 per week.

We love Amazon Prime

Graph showing the number of people in Radlett who pay for an Amazon Prime subscription
Nearly three-quarters (71.2%) of respondents pay for Amazon Prime – the service that provides free delivery and access to lots of other services, from free Kindle downloads to music streaming. This is really telling. Radlett has a major Amazon addiction.

We dig one-hour delivery

Graph showing how many people in Radlett use the Amazon Prime Now app
Prime Now represents the next stage of Amazon dependence. A mobile app that gives you free one-hour delivery on groceries – from Amazon, Morrisons and Whole Foods (plus loads of other products held in the Hemel Hempstead warehouse). 30.2% of respondents use it or have tried it. We’ve certainly used the app in our house and the delivery drivers I’ve spoken to confirm that we’re not untypical in using the app to get emergency booze supplies midway through dinner!

We’re Amazon nuts

Graph showing the attitude of Radlett residents to Amazon
Not to put too fine a point on it, respondents to our survey are hopelessly in love with Amazon. 84.9% are either positive or very positive about the company. 28.3% ticked the box labelled ‘Very positive – I’ve become completely dependent’. And only 3.8% of us have any negative feelings at all, ticking the box labelled ‘Quite negative – I’m not comfortable with their market power but will use them occasionally’.

Radlett Wire’s Amazon survey

If you live in Radlett you live in an Amazon sweet spot. You can get free, one-hour delivery of practically everything in the warehouse and you can use all of the company’s services, including grocery delivery and the Prime Now mobile app. But not everyone likes the Seattle behemoth. Do you? Take our Amazon survey and we’ll share the results with you, here and on Twitter and Facebook.

What were the big issues for General Election voters in Radlett?

About a week ago, just before the 2017 General Election, we asked you which local issues would motivate you to vote. We did this for the last election too, back in 2015.

So, in order of importance to you, here are the issues that got the Radlett electorate voting, with the 2015 position in italics and the number of votes for each issue (in brackets).

1. The NHS (140) – up from 3rd position
2. Local amenities (134) – up from 8
3. The freight terminal and the green belt (133) – down from number 1
4. Caring for the elderly (130) – up from 11
5. Crime and policing (130) – down from 4
6. Transport and commuting (129) – non-mover
7. Young people (129) – up from 9
8. Development in Radlett (121) – down from 2
9. The Newberries car park development (121) – new entry
10. Housing (120) – up from 12
9. Local business (117) – down from 7
10. Environment (114) – non-mover
11. Or is it really all about Brexit? (112) – new entry
12. Schools (105) – down from 8

The NHS has displaced the freight terminal as your number one concern since 2015, the Newberries car park redevelopment is a new entry at number nine and, although we were really expecting you to tell us that Brexit trumps everything else, it was the second-least important issue in the survey. Does this reflect a national loss of interest in the mechanics of Brexit, now that it’s a done deal? And will the biggest electoral surprise in decades throw the whole Brexit calculation in the air again anyway?

It’s also fascinating that schools have dropped from number eight to last place. The huge cuts coming down the pipe for all state schools are clearly not freaking out the population of Radlett.

Our 2017 election survey results are here. And you can read the 2015 results here.

And on the national scale, Tory donor (and noted tax avoider) Lord Ashcroft runs a large and detailed survey of UK voters after every major vote. His most recent data is absolutely fascinating. He shows, for instance, that the only age group that voted majority Conservative in last week’s election was the over-55s.

Elections in Hertsmere since 1983

A line chart showing Hertsmere Parliamentary election voting data, from 1983-2017That’s 34 years of Hertsmere General Election voting data, from the Thatcher high water mark of 1983 (the biggest landslide since Labour’s 1945 win, you’ll remember) to 2017’s most surprising result, via that other high water mark – Blair’s even bigger 1997 landslide.

The Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency has only existed since 1983. Before it there was a constituency called South Hertfordshire that itself only lasted for three general elections. Cecil Parkinson, a close ally of Margaret Thatcher, held the seat from 1983, when he also ran the extraordinarily successful Conservative national campaign. He was replaced, after a particularly egregious scandal, for the 1992 election, by James Clappison, who went on to be a popular and hard-working constituency representative for five Parliamentary terms.

Clappison was summarily dumped by his party for the 2015 election, though, to make room for David Cameron adviser Oliver Dowden. Dowden himself has spent the last two years building a reputation for hard work and commitment to the constituency and he has, of course, now been re-elected with a higher share of the vote, although a slightly smaller majority.

What all the results in the chart have in common, of course, is the winner. Hertsmere has been a comfortably Conservative seat throughout. Even the Blair revolution, in which Labour took 418 Parliamentary seats, the largest number ever held by a UK party, couldn’t (quite) touch that and, although Fiona Smith has lifted the party further from that dreadful 2010 result, the Corbyn uprising has done essentially nothing to close the gap.

In some ways, the Liberals’ trajectory in the constituency since 1983 is the grimmest of all – steadily falling from a quarter of the vote and second place ahead of Labour – to little more than 5% this year. That’s a snapshot of the national challenge for Farron and his party.

This chart shows the Conservatives’ winning majority in Hertsmere, over the 34-year period. You can see just how close things got in 1997. It’s fascinating to note how long it’s taken the party to recover from that enormous electoral shock.

Chart showing winning majority in Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency from 1983 - 2017

And this chart shows turnout over the same period.
Hertsmere General Election turnout data, 1983-2017

To keep the top chart simple, I’ve left out the minor parties – the levitating transcendentalists from the Natural Law Party (please watch their 1994 European Parliamentary election broadcast); James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party, whose programme looked pretty kooky at the time but now looks like a model of sanity; the Independent Communist candidate whose vote exceeded 2% back in 1983; Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party and the BNP, whose Daniel Seabrook ran once in 2010 before being rendered entirely irrelevant by UKIP. The smaller-party numbers are all included in the raw data, though, in case you’re interested.
(sources: Wikipedia and BBC)

Hertsmere – the results are in

Oliver Dowden acceptance speech 2017Blimey, what a night. British politics has been turned on its head. Young voters have challenged the electoral status quo as never before. A Prime Minister brought low by hubris. But you don’t want to know about all that. You want to know what happened here in Hertsmere, right?
Screenshot of 2017 election results from Hertsmere Parliamentary constituency

As expected, it was not an exciting night in Hertsmere. The photograph (from Hertsmere Borough Council on Twitter), taken during Oliver Dowden’s acceptance speech, properly expresses the frenzy at the count in Borehamwood. It was a good night for Dowden, though. He was re-elected with more votes and an increased share.

He’s won a smaller majority though, and that’s all about a substantially better performance from Labour and the collapse in UKIP’s vote. Fiona Smith, a first time candidate for Labour, built on Richard Butler’s work in 2015, taking Labour’s vote to 14,977, over 6% more than in 2015 and a 28.7% share, the party’s highest since 2001. I predict a solid political future for Fiona Smith.

UKIP’s loss mirrored the national numbers. David Hoy polled only 1,564 votes, 75% fewer than in 2015.

The Liberal Democrats polled almost exactly the same as in 2015, which itself was a thirty-year low point, and the Greens’ return to Hertsmere politics made essentially no difference. Return to two-party politics, anyone?

Turnout was 71%, the best since the high water mark of 1997, when it was 74%.

What to expect from General Election day in Hertsmere

Polling station in New South Wales, Australia, in 1925First of all, if you live in Radlett and can vote, do complete our one-minute survey about local issues influencing Radlett voters. We’ve done this before and it produces lots of useful insight. It’ll be online until 5pm today and we’ll share the results this evening.

We essentially already know the result of the 2017 General Election in our constituency, Hertsmere. It’s the 103rd safest seat in the country for the Conservatives. Only an gigantic electoral earthquake could unseat Conservative incumbent Oliver Dowden so, for Hertsmere, it’s all about the details:

Will Oliver Dowden improve on his 2015 majority of 36.9%? His majority was very close to his predecessor James Clappison’s in 2010 but he had managed to improve his party’s share by more than 3% over 2010.

Will the post-Brexit political ferment increase turnout from 2015’s 67.9%, which was itself up from 64.7% in 2010? National turnout for the 2015 General Election was 66.1%, up over the previous three General Elections but still substantially down on the average for the second half of the 20th Century, when over 70% of the population showed up to vote every time. Some pollsters are projecting a big increase in turnout, thanks to a rush of enthusiasm from young people enthused by Jeremy Corbyn. We’ll see.

Can the Liberal Democrats’ candidate Joe Jordan possibly improve on his party’s disastrous 2015 Hertsmere performance – 2,777 votes, down 11.8 ooints on 2010? 2015 was an especially bad year for the Liberals, for reasons you’ll probably remember, but many think the party has badly miscalculated the electorate’s interest in re-running the Brexit vote. This may even reduce the Lib Dems’ share.

Will UKIP’s vote, which was 6,383 or a 12.7% share in 2015 (over three times the party’s 2010 vote) shrink sharply as it is expected to nationally?

Can Labour’s Fiona Smith overcome the concerns of Hertsmere’s Jewish community, on antisemitism and the party’s position on Israel? She’s been working hard to do so in the constituency but with Labour’s share in 2015 at not much more than a third of the Tory vote, it’s not looking good.

And will the return of The Greens to the fray, with Sophie Summerhahyes, who only joined the party in 2015, further reduce Labour and the Lib Dems’ share in the constituency?

We’ll share the Hertsmere result here and on Twitter and Facebook as soon as we have it. The count, at Allum Lane Community Centre in Borehamwood, is always well organised so we’re expecting a fairly early result. Also on Twitter, the Borehamwood Times and the press team at Hertsmere Borough Council will also be providing election news overnight.

Your Hertsmere candidates are:
Oliver Dowden, Conservative.
David Hoy, UKIP @1DavidHoy
Joe Jordan, Liberal Democrats @GeekofHearts.
Fiona Smith, Labour @Fiona4Hertsmere.
Sophie Summerhahyes, Green Party @Barber_Sophie.

Here’s our detailed analysis of the 2016 referendum vote and of the 2015 General Election vote in Hertsmere.

Your Radlett General Election guide

Let’s start with the 2015 results for the Hertsmere constituency. Here’s our analysis of the voting two years ago.
Screenshot of Hertsmere general election result from BBC web site, 8 May 2015
Four parties stood last time (no Greens) and the Tory share was a substantial 59.3%. According to the excellent Electoral Calculus, Hertsmere is the Conservatives’ 103rd safest seat and Oliver Dowden has a 97% chance of retaining the seat so all the action this year will be at the margins. Will the Liberals lose share, as some predict? Will Labour do better than expected?

Your candidates. There are five this time around:
Oliver Dowden, Conservative.
David Hoy, UKIP.
Joe Jordan, Liberal Democrats.
Fiona Smith, Labour.
Sophie Summerhayes, Green Party.
Here’s what we know about them so far.

And what about that other big vote?. Our polling district voted Leave by a margin of 1.6% (50.8 – 49.2%), putting the district 262nd of the 382 UK polling districts – meaning that 261 districts, or 68% of the total, had larger majorities for Leave. We put together a quite detailed analysis of the Brexit vote in Hertsmere – putting the local vote in the regional and national context. Referendum vote counting was done differently from election counting, so we don’t have ward-by-ward voting data, except for neighbouring Shenley, which, thanks the BBC’s Martin Rosenbaum, we know voted Remain.

Before the 2015 election we ran a survey. We wanted to know what were the Radlett issues that got you all voting. The big issue last time around was the railfreight terminal- a story that has moved on since then but is still not in any way resolved. Do please take two minutes to fill in this year’s survey! It’ll take two minutes and we’ll share the results here and on Facebook and Twitter.

What to do on the big day. There are usually four polling stations in Radlett – the United Synagogue and the Radlett Centre, Newberries Primary School and the Phillimore Community Centre, and if you don’t know which one is yours, there’s a handy web site where you can find out.

Local and Parliamentary elections in Radlett are run by a team at Hertsmere Borough Council. They have a useful web site where you can find out about candidates, counts, previous results and so on. On the My Society web site, there’s a very useful, plain English guide to voting in UK elections.

Are you ready for the General Election?

Here’s a timetable for the next few weeks.

Monday 22 May (11.59pm). Deadline for registering to vote. Do it online here. You’ll need your National Insurance number (but there’s also a way to register if you don’t have one) and it takes five minutes. If you haven’t done this yet, or if you haven’t helped the young people in your household to do so, you’re off our Christmas card list for good. Seriously.

Tuesday 23 May (5pm). Deadline for new new postal vote and postal proxy applications and for changes to existing postal or proxy votes. If you or your proxy can’t attend the polling station in person on the day.

Wednesday 31 May (5pm). Deadline for new applications to vote by proxy (not postal proxy or emergency proxies). If you can’t attend the polling station in person on the day you can appoint a proxy. You can apply for an emergency proxy vote up till 5pm on polling day itself.

Thursday 8 June, polling day (7am – 10pm). You know what to do. There are usually four polling stations in Radlett – the United Synagogue and the Radlett Centre, Newberries Primary School and the Phillimore Community Centre, and if you don’t know which one is yours, there’s a handy web site where you can find out.

Local and Parliamentary elections in Radlett are run by a team at Hertsmere Borough Council. They have a useful web site where you can find out about candidates, counts, previous results and so on. On the My Society web site, there’s a very useful, plain English guide to voting in UK elections.