Scarborough and Whitby Apr 27, 2020 19:28:12 GMT Admin Twaddleford, robertwaller, and 11 more like this
Post by bungle on Apr 27, 2020 19:28:12 GMT
Scarborough and Whitby
Scarborough and Whitby – Whitby and Scarborough - for several generations these names immediately conjure up images of seaside family holidays, days out, boarding houses, cheap beer, the Cricket Festival. Or for a Yorkshire curmudgeon - endless traffic on bank holidays, rain, expensive beer and the Cricket Festival. The sea is an important feature in this seat (it includes pretty all of the current North Yorkshire coastline) but most of it with its shales and sandstones doesn’t lend itself to seaside charm as it does around Filey and Brid. The sea itself doesn’t dominate - only a small fishing industry remains. This is as much a rural moorland seat as it is coastal. But despite all this geographical grandeur, when it comes to people it is in the eponymous two towns where the vast majority of the electorate are located.
It was first established as a constituency in 1918 when the growing imbalance between the number of electors in the urban Scarborough constituency (6,000) compared to the surrounding county seats could no longer be ignored. In fact Scarborough had form as a bit of a rotten borough, having returned two MPs up to 1885 with pitifully few electors. In 1885 the borough of Whitby also lost its seat and Whitby gave its name to what was in effect the ‘North Riding East’ county constituency. This seat completely surrounded Scarborough as an enclave so naturally when it came to redistribution in 1918 Scarborough was simply absorbed with only minor changes elsewhere.
Originally the proposed name of the new county division was ‘Scarborough’ but the Whitby element was added as an amendment during the passage of the relevant legislation. All was fine until 1974 when there was a major break - Whitby was removed and paired to parts of Cleveland. This made sense on one level as Whitby has many links to the west along the A171 to Middlesbrough and beyond (if you visit Whitby on a BH weekend the predominant accent isn’t Yorkshire). In so doing it created a marginal seat which was just about secured by Leon Brittan in both 1974 elections. By 1983 Whitby was reunited with Scarborough (this time minus Pickering) but its flirtation elsewhere meant it was punished by being left out from the name – Scarborough was allowed to continue in sole triumph. In 1997 this calumny was excised when even though no boundary changes were proposed the name ‘Scarborough and Whitby’ was restored.
Scarborough town and its urban fringe areas (which includes the highly contrasting Scalby village and Eastfield estate/Seamer) has an electorate of about 45,000 which represents some 60-65% of the constituency. Scarborough has been synonymous with seaside holidays for nearly two centuries (‘Scarbados’) and unlike many other resorts on the East Coast it has managed to maintain some degree of respectability, coherence and loyalty in its tourist offer although at times this is precarious (as vividly illustrated in the case of the Holbeck Hall Hotel). Both the North and South Bays with the castle high in between offer many opportunities for both holidaymakers and retirees and this trend does not seem to have abated. Traditionally Scarborough could be viewed through the ‘seaside gentility’ lens of petit bourgeois boarding house owners and small shopkeepers (cf Blackpool) who would naturally plump for the Conservatives. Whilst some semblance of this remains and there are some comfortable and respectable residences in the northern end of the town, most of the inner town itself is anything but. Castle ward is one of the most deprived within North Yorkshire and there are deeply engrained issues that reflect this poverty: poor health, average wages and house prices compared to the rest of North Yorkshire. The Eastfield estate, built in waves from the 1950s, continues this theme and even parts of what were once genteel residences off the Ramshill Road are now typical seaside HMOs or tiny studio flats.
As a result, central Scarborough is the motor for the Labour vote, especially at a parliamentary level. At a local level the picture across Scarborough town is complicated by a series of local Independents who can come from very diverse points of view. That said, ward areas which the Conservatives were regularly winning even in the 1990s have now been ceded to others. Whilst the Conservatives are often the largest party on the Borough Council they have often struggled for control and without winning well within the Scarborough urban area they won’t get close; their rural hinterland isn’t enough. The Lib Dems have largely disappeared within Scarborough despite some successes in the 2000s whilst the Greens have recently managed to win two seats in the Falsgrave ward.
Chips play a large part in the Scarborough economy and not just in the multitude of fish and chip shops on the Foreshore. McCains continue to invest and expand their chip factory between Eastfield and Cayton and Plaxton Coachbuilders are another who continue to survive. Scarborough isn’t natural territory for businesses seeking nationwide coverage as the A64 remains a long running sore with its single carriageway for much of the journey from York. Progress is glacial despite the local MP serving three years as Minister for Transport (hasn’t he heard of porkbarrelling?). A new departure for Scarborough is the arrival of the University of Coventry which has recently invested significant amounts into a new campus 'CU Scarborough' which will bring some further changes to the demographics of Scarborough town. The frequency of the railway service to York is being doubled which may attract new people who won’t rely on the town for employment.
Once outside the Scarborough environs the constituency follows the Derwent Valley to the west with its string of pleasant villages which are all reliably Conservative. To the north the landscape changes rapidly to rugged moorland. The civil parish of Fylingdales covers a vast area of moorland as well as the charming seaside village of Robin Hood’s Bay. All reliably Conservative but relatively tiny electorates. One disruption to this rural scene was the establishment in 2015 of the Woodhead Mine shaft just south of Whitby as part of a major extraction of potash which promises thousands of jobs and a 23 mile long tunnel. Progress has recently stalled.
Whitby itself is some 20 miles from Scarborough but has much in common: a coastal destination for day trippers and holiday makers; ancient buildings clinging to a promontory and relatively poor transport links. Whitby has plenty of literary connections and makes much of its Gothic heritage for those who visit. The relative remote location of Whitby means its residential population is quite varied and not prosperous as a whole. This means its politics isn’t fixed. There are some small but comfortable housing estates out west near to Sneaton Castle which makes the new Mayfield ward the most Conservative leaning. West Cliff ward elected one Labour and one Conservative in 2019 while Streonshalh ward covering eastern Whitby elected two Labour councillors.
Beyond Whitby the constituency then proceeds out west into very rural and Conservative territory taking in moorland villages such as Goathland (‘Aidensfield’ from TV’s Heartbeat) Egton, Castleton and Danby. A vast swathe of this western end of the seat around Westerdale is now owned by Carphone Warehouse magnate David Ross who as well as lavishly donating to the Conservative party recently supplied the current prime minster with a much needed post-election holiday.
As a whole it is easy to understand why the seat is naturally Conservative but not unrelentingly so. The slow trend towards Labour was detectable (this is a seat which wasn’t close to tipping in 1966 – Labour were comfortably in third place) but in 1997 Labour’s Lawrie Quinn pulled off a surprise in toppling one term Conservative MP John Sykes on a swing of nearly 15%. He held until 2005 when the Conservatives won by just over 1,000. Labour definitely aren't out of the game here, despite many similar county seats in the north drifting away from them. In 2017 Labour got to within 4,000 and the seat certainly forms part of their pathway to power. If the urban proportion of the electorate continues to grow and demographic changes continue to change the nature of Scarborough town then the chances of Labour returning here will only increase. Current MP Robert Goodwill, a farmer from Terrington near Malton, has faithfully served as a government minister through both Cameron and May administrations. He was sacked in 2018 only to be brought back again in March 2019 by Mrs May as a safe pair of hands for her Brexit woes. This was the black spot and Boris returned him firmly to the backbenches a few months later. It will be interesting to see if he stands again in 2024 when he will be 67.
I shall finish this profile with three topical quiz questions which illustrate some of those quirky elements that naturally have no place in a proper, finalised profile. Of course I fully expect this forum to answer these with ease without resorting to any online aid.
The easy one first – why do half of MPs in search of political death come to Scarborough?
Two Members of Parliament – one for Scarborough and one for Whitby – share the same forename and surname as two of our Prime Ministers. Who are they?
There is an obvious parliamentary connection between Scarborough & Brighouse and Spenborough through Michael Shaw (still with us at 99!) – but there is another and how would you come across it today? This is definitely one for anyone who has ever lived in or near Scarborough.