Oyster update

No, not an oyster bar. But Oyster contactless is – possibly – coming to Radlett station this Summer

In November last year Oliver Dowden, our MP, announced the extension of the Oyster scheme to Radlett (in fact the extension is taking Oyster all the way out to Luton Airport Parkway but he’s taking credit anyway). A few weeks later various media outlets, including the Watford Observer, confirmed the news. Early this year we got right on it and began a (slightly tiring) countdown on our Twitter account. Actually, we were counting days since the announcement, so it was more of a count-up. Then, a couple of months ago we caught sight of newly printed TfL maps (thanks to Marc Edney in the Radlett Village Facebook group), apparently showing Radlett within the Oyster zone. We got excited and stopped our count-up, expecting Oyster to arrive any day.

Obviously we should have been a bit more circumspect. Months later Oyster is still not here. So, we pulled on our gumshoe hats and got in touch with the TfL press office. They passed us onto the Govia Thameslink press office and they have provided us with a statement, which reads:

“We’re working with Transport for London and the Department for Transport to have Oyster and contactless card payment facilities available at Radlett this summer.”

So that does at least seem to confirm that this should be happening this Summer. I asked if they could give us any sense of the likelihood of this actually happening or any kind of timing and the spokesperson added:

“Transport for London are continuing to install and test the equipment and software systems at Radlett, and we expect them to confirm a completion date shortly.”

I think we’ll start our count-up again. It’s now been 208 days since Oliver Dowden and the Department for Transport told us Oyster was coming. By the end of the Summer it’ll be another 60 days or so. Do you think they’ll make it?

(incidentally, I also asked Govia Thameslink about the tube map showing Radlett inside the Oyster zone but that, apparently, is a question for TfL. I’ll ask them).

The EU Parliamentary election results are in

A dramatic result in Radlett’s EU constituency – East of England. A wipe-out for Labour and a big loss for the Tories. An amazing result for the Brexit Party, the Greens and the Lib Dems (oh, and UKIP essentially disappeared).

The Conservatives lost two of their three MEPs in our EU Parliamentary constituency, leaving them with one. The Liberal Democrats gained two seats – from zero last time around, Labour’s only MEP in the region has gone and the Greens have their first seat. The extraordinary factor here, as in so many other constituencies, is the performance of the Brexit Party – the largest party by a mile. The detail shows the scale of their win. Their vote in East of England is almost four times bigger than the Tories’.

Looking more locally, at the voting percentages for our council district – Hertsmere – there’s some fascinating detail. Turnout was 36.39% (compared with 36.4% for the East of England and 37% nationally. Across Europe, the figure exceeded 50% for the first time). You can see that UKIP’s share of the vote has fallen by 26.3% to 2.7%. Lord Ashcroft’s fascinating post-election polling (an essential read after every important election these days) suggests that 68% of UKIP voters, at the national level, switched directly to Farage’s party, with most Brexit Party votes overall coming from 2017 Conservative voters. The Hertsmere numbers suggest slightly more of the UKIP voters switched and slightly fewer of the Tories. Instructive, though, to remember that UKIP’s vote in Hertsmere in the 2017 General Election was 3% (our full 2017 results post is here).

You can see that UKIP’s share of the vote has fallen by 26.3% to 2.7%. Lord Ashcroft’s fascinating post-election polling (an essential read after every important election these days) suggests that 68% of UKIP voters, at the national level, switched directly to Farage’s party, with most Brexit Party votes overall coming from 2017 Conservative voters. The Hertsmere numbers suggest slightly more of the UKIP voters switched and slightly fewer of the Tories. Instructive, though, to remember that UKIP’s vote in Hertsmere in the 2017 General Election was 3% (our full 2017 results post is here).

The Conservatives’ collapse in Hertsmere is dramatic but they’ve lost a substantially smaller share then at the National or East of England level, falling only 20 percentage points to 17.7%. Ashcroft’s numbers also suggest that almost 40% of the Lib Dem vote nationally came from 2017 Labour voters and a quarter from 2017 Tories.

In some ways the Green Party’s performance, both in Hertsmere and at the East of England level, is most interesting – their increase in vote share has been enough to get them just above the threshold for a single seat and they’ve essentially swapped places with Labour, whose share has fallen to just below the threshold, but the whole picture is so complex – somebody really did shake the kaleidoscope.

Nationally, it’s not so different. According to Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC election results programme, if the Conservatives had done this badly in a UK general election they’d have won no seats at all.

At the wider European level it’s been a good night for the far right – the largest parties in the Parliament from both France and Italy are now from what we would once have called the nationalist fringe – and for the Greens. The largest groups in the new Parliament are still from the socialist and centre right blocs but they no longer have a majority – this is going to be interesting.

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Most of the data in this post is from the BBC’s excellent and very comprehensive election results site, some from the EU’s and the Hertsmere turnout figure is from Hertsmere’s own elections web site.

An EU polling day round-up

Radlett is in the East of England constituency for the EU Parliamentary elections. We’ll send seven MEPs back to Brussels (and, for half the time, Strasbourg, of course). In 2014 the East of England elected these MEPs from three parties (full election results are on the BBC web site).

Our representation in the EU is already pretty patchy. Of the three UKIP MEPs on the list, only Stuart Agnew still represents the party. The others have defected to other parties. Vicky Ford no longer represents the Conservatives either: she is now a UK MP. And Richard Howitt retired in 2016. The European Parliament web site has the current line-up of MEPs. Whatever the outcome of today’s elections, the list of MEPs is going to look very different.

Candidates for today’s election are listed on the BBC web site. There are a lot of them – 54 individuals, representing nine political parties (one of these is an independent). The big parties all put forward seven candidates but you don’t vote for an individual, you vote for a party group. The voting system then takes over and assigns seats to parties according to their vote share.

MEPs are returned to the EU Parliament using a system chosen by each of the 28 member states. In Britain we use a proportional representation voting system (except in Northern Ireland) that’s called the D’Hondt system. The i Newspaper has an explainer. The count takes place on Sunday (most other member states are voting on Sunday) so we’ll have a result early on Monday.

Who to vote for, of course, is up to you. The polls put the Brexit Party out in front by a wide margin, wider even than UKIP’s big win in 2014. The two main parties are likely to take a beating, the Tories especially. What will be most interesting – given the odd, presumably short-term nature of this Parliament – is whether the anti-Brexit parties can put on as many votes as the pro-Brexit ones. If the outcome is an approximate balance of pro- and anti- votes – we’ll essentially be back where we were in June 2016. So much for resolving the Brexit conundrum!

And, if you haven’t voted yet, find your polling place on the Hertsmere web site.

How would Radlett vote now?

If the Brexit referendum were held today Radlett would vote Remain by a substantial margin

Just before the 2016 EU referendum we ran an opinion poll here at Radlett Wire. Although the wider constituency, Hertsmere, voted Leave – by a slightly closer margin than the national one – according to our poll Radlett voted narrowly Remain.

Radlett Wire EU referendum poll results graphic
For our referendum coverage we’ve been using the BBC’s chart format.

In February and March of this year we ran the same poll again. We deliberately asked exactly the same question. It’s the same question, of course, that was printed on the ballot form at the referendum – “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

The overall result increases the Remain margin substantially. If Radlett were to vote again now our poll suggests Remain would win by a comfortable 10% margin (Leave 45.2% – Remain 54.8%).

This time we added a question too: “Is this how you voted in the referendum?”, with possible answers: “Yes, this is how I voted in 2016” and “No, I’ve changed my mind since then.” A total of 11.1% of our respondents (26 individuals) say they have changed their minds about Brexit since they voted in the referendum. And nearly two-thirds of them switched from Remain to Leave. Now this is probably a fairly fragile number – would you admit to changing your mind about a really big decision like this? And the swing that it reveals towards Leave is obviously contradicted by the overall swing in our numbers towards Remain. So this number is likely to remain an intriguing detail rather than a particularly revealing insight

Small print: fewer people participated in our poll this time – 235 against 361 – and, of course, it’s not a valid opinion poll because participants are self-selecting. We can’t tell if the same people participated this time as last time and we can’t be 100% sure that everyone who voted was from Radlett (although we were able to eliminate duplicate votes and spam).

Does all this help us to understand how Radlett will vote in tomorrow’s EU Parliamentary elections? Probably not. For the EU vote the story looks simpler and – as is often the case with Brexit – more complicated at the same time. In this vote – one we were never meant to have – we’re likely to see a big swing to both pro-Brexit parties and anti-Brexit parties. That’ll be helpful, won’t it



Brexit – how would you vote now?

In the 2016 EU referendum Hertsmere, which is Radlett’s electoral district, voted Leave by a small margin. In an opinion poll we took just before the referendum, you voted Remain, by an equally small margin.

In our opinion poll we asked exactly the question that we knew we’d all be answering in the referendum itself (and we added a ‘don’t know’ option because you don’t get one of those in the polling booth).

Although, like all web site polls, it wasn’t at all scientific, we did get a reasonably good sample: 361 people (or about 5% of the Radlett electorate) participated. The end result was a small majority for Remain. Dividing ‘don’t knows’ equally across the two referendum responses gives us a result of 50.7% Remain to 49.3% Leave. Given the profile of the area, that doesn’t seem implausible.

Radlett Wire EU referendum poll results graphic
Results of our pre-referendum opinion poll.

The wider polling district, Hertsmere, voted Leave by 50.8% to 49.2%. We also subsequently learnt that neighbouring Shenley had actually voted Remain – by a margin of 51.78% to 48.22% so that might also serve to confirm the validity of our poll.

So, two months before Britain legally leaves the European Union (whatever the deal), how would you vote now? Click the survey button and answer our two referendum questions (it’s entirely anonymous). We’ll share the results here and on our social media accounts.

Oyster cards at the ready

Number 41On 30 November last year, Oliver Dowden, our MP, announced on his web site that he’d secured a promise from the Department of Transport that the Oyster scheme would be extended to Radlett and Potters Bar (both in his constituency, of course – but the extension will also take in St Albans and go out all the way to Luton Airport). This is, of course, unreservedly good news. It’ll make it easier and cheaper to get into town and it’ll give commuters an alternative to costly season tickets.

But – forgive us – we’re sceptical. We’ve heard this before (in 2016, for instance). In fact we’ve heard it several times before. And on each occasion, of course, it’s not actually happened. Our MP is presenting this as a ‘victory’ and the Minister has apparently promised that it will happen this year (2019) but, having followed this story for years, now, we’re going to believe it when we see it. And, in the meantime, we’re going to run a countdown on our Twitter account. Or rather a count-up. It’s been 41 days since we heard that Oyster is coming to Radlett. We’ll keep counting until it actually arrives. Let’s see how long it takes.

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.