Tristram Hunt's Stoke-on-Trent Central seat had the lowest turnout. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid
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20 seats with the lowest turnout show Labour voters drifting to Ukip - or not voting at all

Tristram Hunt was elected by just 19 per cent of his constituents. 

All 20 of the seats in Britain with the lowest turnout in the general election were won by Labour.

It is a reminder of how apathy and disillusionment permeate many of the party’s heartlands. Even in Doncaster North, Ed Miliband was re-elected on a turnout of just 55.7 per cent: here, the number of Labour voters has collapsed from 34,135 in 1992 to 20,708 today.

It is even worse elsewhere. In Stoke-on-Trent Central, Labour has shed 14,000 votes since 1997. Would-be Labour leader Tristram Hunt is Britain’s least popular MP: a derisory 19 per cent of constituents voted for him. Stoke-on-Trent Central was the sole seat in Britain where the majority of the electorate did not vote.

Hunt acknowledges the threat Ukip, which came second with 22.7 per cent in his seat, poses to Labour. “In too many parts of the north of England and the Midlands, the electoral challenge we faced was from Ukip – selling an anti-metropolitan message about political elites uninterested in those ‘left behind’,” he wrote on Monday. “These were historically Labour areas who just simply felt that Labour was no longer for them.” Ed Balls, who lost by 400 votes in Morley and Outwood, where Ukip picked up 8,000 votes, was one Labour casualty of Ukip’s surge.

One of Ukip’s main aims of the election was to establish a base from which to launch a renewed assault on Labour’s heartlands at the next election: the 2020 strategy. Paul Nuttall, Ukip’s deputy leader, told me in January that he hoped Ukip would “crack the dam” in the north this time and make “big, big gains” at the next election. Of the 120 seats in which Ukip came second, 44 were in Labour seats. Nine of these were in the 20 seats with the lowest turnout; across the 20, Ukip averaged 17 per cent.

Ukip’s hope is that Labour chooses a leader who reinforces the party’s status as the party of the metropolitan elite – only one of the 20, Ilford South, is in London and none are further south – and it can turn some of these second place finishes into victories in 2020.

Yet, while these seats are brimming with voters who see nothing they love in Labour, the ruthless way that first-past-the-past discriminates against challenger parties leaves Ukip needing extraordinary swings to turn them purple in 2020. Of the 20 seats with the lowest turnout, Ukip was closest to Labour in Stoke-on-Trent North – but even here, they finished 15.2 per cent behind Labour, even being squeezed out by the Tories into third.

Ukip gained 3m votes in this election, yet it only has one MP (and with Douglas Carswell’s row with Nigel Farage over whether to accept £650,000 in short money, even that might not be for long). For all the disconnect many in core Labour areas feel with the modern day Labour party, Ukip needs a far better ground game to avoid similar disappointment at the next election. Really it needs a new electoral system, but under David Cameron there is no chance of that.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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