As the dust settled from the Chancellors Spring Statement, the data team at Trafalgar Strategy took a closer look at how local media in the ‘red wall’ constituencies reacted to the news.
Over a three day period, we tracked and analyzed local media articles in this key electoral battleground, filtering out the background noise, and focusing on stories related to the cost of living crisis and the spring statement.
The government’s big announcement regarding a cut to income tax was eclipsed by two dominant themes to emerge around the spring statement – the first was a bit of a home goal as it related to the Chancellors cut to fuel duty. However, ultimately even this was overshadowed by the second key theme, Martin Lewis – the so-called money savings expert – who warned about the dire consequences of the cost of energy on Sunday. Before attacking the spring statement on Wednesday for not doing enough to reduce the energy burden on voters.
By hinting at the cut to fuel duty over the weekend, the Chancellor was clearly hoping to put drivers at ease, given spiraling fuel costs. Unfortunately for him and the conservative party, they didn’t get everything their own way, as comment from the RA fuel spokesman Simon Williams suggesting such a cut would not be enough to “make a real difference” was also circulated by local media. In further damning news, such articles received very little engagement when shared by their respective papers on social media.
More damaging from a Conseravtive party perspective was coverage related to energy bills. Despite the Chancellor’s best efforts to appease potential voters by abolishing the tax on energy saving materials, Martin Lewis’s interjection over weekend – specifically his interview with the BBC on Sunday – cast a negative light over much of the reporting in the run up to the spring statement. When shared on social media, such articles received significantly more engagement when compared to articles on any other theme.
Initially, local media either picked up his comments related to the cost of living being the “worst” in over twenty years or his calls on the Government to do more to specifically reduce the burden of rising energy costs.
To make matters worse, in the immediate aftermath of the spring statement, Martin Lewis appeared to dig the knife in with local papers claiming “Lewis slams Rishi Sunak’s spring budget” after he suggested the new energy measures would do nothing to help the majority of people.
Commenting on the report Giles Kenningham, Founder of Trafalgar Strategy said: “With so much uncertainty surrounding the economy given the war in Ukraine and increasing inflation the government fumbled a golden opportunity to use the spring statement to steady the ship and ease consumer fears. If they want to retain the red wall in a general election they need to start listening and should start by addressing some of the issues around energy prices raised by Martin Lewis.”
Any gains made by the Conservative party in the red wall in 2019 could easily be wiped out at the next general election. As the cost of living crisis gets worse, and its impact is felt more broadly, political parties across the board should start paying closer attention to how regional and local media report on key issues. Not only are such papers considered more trustworthy than their national counterparts – but they provide a unique snapshot into the local issues impacting important potential voters.