October 1917 and After: Reflections on the Russian Revolution

The Politics and International Relations programme at Canterbury Christ Church University in association with the Political Studies Association (PSA) Marxism Specialist Group is delighted to host an afternoon of talks on the Russian Revolution and its significance.

Confirmed Speakers include:

  • Dr Philip Cunliffe, University of Kent (keynote speaker; author of Lenin Lives)
  • Professor David McLellan, Goldsmiths, UoL, and CCCU (author of Marxism After Marx)
  • Professor Sean Sayers, University of Kent and CCCU (author of Marx and Alienation)
  • Professor Amelia Hadfield, Canterbury Christ Church University (co-editor of Foreign Policy)
  • Dr David Bates, Canterbury Christ Church University (editor of Marxism, Intellectuals and Politics)
  • Professor Mark Cowling, Teesside University (co-editor of Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire)
  • Dr Paul Raekstad, University of Amsterdam

Tuesday 21 November 2017 – 1.00-6.30PM

Of27 | Old Sessions House | Canterbury | CT1 1QU

This is a free public event – to register, please email:




So why DID Labour win Canterbury?

On 5 October, 2017, the Politics and IR programme at Canterbury Christ Church University held its first Making Politics Matter event of the academic year, looking at one of the most surprising and interesting outcomes of the June 2017 UK General Election: The Labour victory in Canterbury. To find an answer to the question why Labour won Canterbury, we invited a panel of experts, featuring first and foremost the newly elected Rosie Duffield, MP for Canterbury and Whitstable. She was joined by Paul Francis (political editor Kent Online), Clare Connerton (Canterbury Not Conservative) and Ben Hickman (Momentum). Dr Ben Worthy (Birkbeck, University of London), expert on British politics and Canterbury resident, chaired the discussion.

Our panel and organisers (from left to right): Dr Demetris Tillyris (CCCU), Dr Ben Worthy (Birkbeck), Paul Francis (Kent Online), Dr Mark Bennister (CCCU), Rosie Duffield MP, Ben Hickman (Momentum), Clare Connerton (Canterbury Not Conservative).

As pointed out by Max Stafford in his blog post introducing the puzzle of Labour’s victory as well as by others, multiple factors can be put forward to explain this remarkable election result. Our panel discussion and Q&A with an audience of students, Labour (and non-Labour) supporters and the Canterbury and Whitstable public corroborated some of these but also provided interesting additional points:

  1. Politics is personal. In the GE 2017 battle of Canterbury, newcomer Rosie Duffield outfought her more experienced rival, Julian Brazier, who appeared to take the constituency for granted. In fact, we learnt from the audience that Brazier had ignored advice to step down in advance of the election. Duffield on the other hand was popular and visible, and presented herself as a distinctly different type of candidate from Brazier. By stressing LGBT rights, student finance, her pro-European stance and local healthcare needs she placed herself more in tune with a socially more diverse and demographically changed constituency.
  2. No one saw it coming. In an act of mea culpa, Paul Francis admitted the media did not see the result coming and had assumed Canterbury would remain solidly Conservative. Yet as Clare Connerton highlighted, there were signs and evidence on social media of a progressive stirring across the constituency – something was certainly going on at grassroots level. Labour may have noticed this as Emily Thornberry visited the constituency just before the election. Much of this may have been sparked by the preelection Yougov poll that showed a Labour surge in Canterbury and made it clear where the anti-Brazier vote should go.
  3. Boots on the ground. Labour, led by the local organising power of Momentum, campaigned vigorously and in areas such as the villages that previously received little or no Labour attention. Rosie was visible and active in the campaign, while Julian Brazier was largely absent and often deployed elsewhere in the region.
  4. Local is national. Focusing on healthcare and local issues hit a nerve in Canterbury and the national solutions in the Labour manifesto were utilised locally. In a wide range of policy areas, there was a very clear difference between the leading candidates, e.g. on LGBT issues, Brexit, student finance, education, housing, etc etc. This presented voters with a clear choice at local as well as at national level.
  5. Vote swapping. A successful progressive anti Conservative and anti-Brazier mobilisation played to Labour’s strengths. Hereby, social media appeared crucial in filtering information and networking from outside established party mechanisms.
  6. Brexit. Canterbury and Whitstable had a strong remain vote in the referendum. The choice was between a Remainer and a hard Brexiteer. UKIP not running a candidate to support Brazier actually harmed the Conservatives, rather than benefitted the local party, as it is likely to have driven Remainer Tories to the younger and more dynamic Remain candidate Rosie Duffield. With the Remain-supporting Liberal Democrats out of the picture, one clear Remain candidate could lead the charge in the constituency.
  7. A perfect storm. All of the above combined got Labour over the line, even though the total Tory vote went up the constituency. Turnout at 72 per cent was high by national and local standards and can certainly be attributed to the higher student vote. Yet as the debate showed, there were a range of other factors beyond the increased student vote led by a strong voter registration campaign and a favourable election date – during term time. The student vote alone cannot explain the 20 per cent jump in the Labour vote.

As always, we therefore have multiple factors in explaining a political phenomenon. But are there lessons we can learn from this result? Although Rosie Duffield has become a sought-after speaker for Labour groups across the country, the Canterbury story may not be easily replicated elsewhere, particularly in Kent as the Medway towns and Dover have strong Leave supporters to be wooed. Canterbury shows that well-organised and targeted local campaigns can be decisive. Voters are less attached to partisan loyalties and more volatile – likely to switch and swap votes. The Labour victory in Canterbury provided one of the defining moments of the June 2017 general election, demonstrating the highly unpredictable nature of our politics at present.


You can read tweets from the event via the hashtag #CCCUGE17

You can view a recording of the event’s livestream via our Facebook page and YouTube channel (see below):

Canterbury 2017: Why Labour Won

Max Stafford, PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University, sets the scene of Labour’s success in Canterbury in the 2017 general elections. For further discussion and analysis, come to our exciting public event featuring new MP Rosie Duffield and a panel of experts tomorrow, 5 October 2017, 5-7pm.

In the snap election of June 2017, there were a number of notable results which attracted considerable media attention. From Kensington to Mansfield, many of the results were as unexpected as the election itself. Perhaps, however, the most anomalous and surprising result was Labour’s win in Canterbury. New MP Rosie Duffield’s majority may be extremely slim (at just 187 votes) but this made the outcome no less notable.

In the months since, many commentators, politicians and academics have speculated as to precisely how this outcome was reached. From even a quite cursory review of these debates, one can pick out a range of alleged reasons and triggers.

Continue reading “Canterbury 2017: Why Labour Won”

Comments on A.C Grayling’s talk Brexit: The Next Steps in the Fight Against It

Dr David Bates, Director of Politics and International Relations, comments on the lecture by Professor A.C. Grayling at CCCU on 26 September 2017.

Stepping onto the podium in the Michael Berry Lecture Theatre at Canterbury Christ Church University, A.C. Grayling cut the swagger of a dandy; his long hair slightly bedraggled – but expensively so. Grayling’s oratorical and rhetorical skills have clearly been honed through such gatherings; gatherings of like-minded people who want to see an end to the undefined but seemingly unstoppable juggernaut we call ‘Brexit’.

But Grayling’s rhetorical performance was founded on a weakness of argument. Grayling divided the positions in the ideological landscape of Brexit rather crudely into the following.

First, the ‘remainers’. These were rational individuals, well-informed about the EU, educated, cosmopolitan in outlook, and broadly committed to the positive project of European integration. On the other hand, the ‘leavers’. These were a rather inchoate mob, comprising the poorly educated, politically disenchanted, largely misinformed; members of right-wing elites who were responsible for such misinformation – among which were the ‘Moggies’ (followers of Jacob Rees-Mogg); and old-fashioned ‘far leftists’ such as Jeremy Corbyn – who Grayling referred to without any subtlety as a ‘Brexiteer’. (Corbyn is of course officially a remainer, with strong sympathies for the left-exit position, a position which his mentor Tony Benn supported.) For Grayling the case of the remainers was enlightened and clear cut, the case of the leavers largely ignorant and mistaken.

Continue reading “Comments on A.C Grayling’s talk Brexit: The Next Steps in the Fight Against It”

Exciting politics events at Canterbury Christ Church University in autumn 2017

The Politics and International Relations Programme is excited to invite you to three events with exciting and distinguished speakers coming to Canterbury Christ Church University this autumn. All events are open to the public and free to attend (N.B.: booking is required for the lectures by Professor A.C. Grayling and The Rt Hon John Bercow).

If you cannot make it, both the lecture by Professor A.C. Grayling and the event with Rosie Duffield MP will be live-streamed via our Facebook Page facebook.com/PoliticsandIRatCCCU/ and later made available on our YouTube channel. You can also follow us for updates on Twitter @CCCUPoliticsIR and @CCCUCEFEUS.