Tag Archives: Lib Dem

Oldham & Saddleworth Result: Thoughts

So that’s that then*. A solid result for Labour.  A hold with an increased majority. I think the result was about as expected – you could, I suppose, argue the Tories did slightly worse and Lib Dems slightly better than expected – if that is correct then it is a function of:

  • The Conservative CCHQ seemed to do no more than the bare minimum to support their candidate – there is suspicion that a tactical decision was taken not to allow a result that would undermine Clegg and this meant not fighting too hard. I’m sure there will be some angst between the grass-roots and the tacticians in the Party about this over the coming weeks.
  • Partly as a result of the above, and partly regardless, many Tories will have tactically voted Lib Dem this time around. Clearly not enough to compensate those switching Lib Dem to Labour.
  • The turnout was down but I would expect this to be spread evenly between the parties.

All in – no real news. Easily a good enough result to keep Ed knockers in the party on the leash, but not quite good enough that they wont still be straining on it.  As by-election swings go it is pretty undramatic.

*Full Result: Labour: 14,718 (42.1%) Lib Dems: 11,160 (31.9%) Conservatives: 4,481 (12.8%) UKIP: 2,029 (5.8%) BNP: 1,560 (4.5%) Green Party: 530 (1.5%) Monster Raving Loony Party: 145 (0.4%) English Democrats: 144 (0.4%) Pirate Party: 96 (0.2%) Bus Pass Elvis Party: 67 (0.1%)

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Filed under Election, UK, UK Politics, Uncategorized

Put the armour on. 2011 is going to Hurt

Happy New Year.   Or is it?  The reality is that 2011 is going to be pretty miserable for the whole country.   Any honeymoon period for the Coalition (if there was one) is up.  The reality of austerity measures are kicking-in.  Turning the economy is like turning an oil tanker.  Things will get worse before they get better.  We will see more public sector redundancies, we will see more cuts to other services,  the VAT rise will trickle to the till,  we wont see pay rises in the private sector, even the employed will feel  -and actually be in real terms – poorer this April than April two years ago.  Health and education reforms will spook the Unions.   Protest will spread.

The Government has to accept this and hold its nerve.   It cannot do what it needs to do and be popular in the immediate or short term.  It needs, in the national interest, to do the right thing rather than the popular thing.  With eyes wide-open it needs to understand that its popularity will fall this year and it needs to carry on regardless.  The instinct and philosophy of this government is the right one.  The challenge now is to be competent in delivery.   The quicker we get the pain over, the quicker we start the recovery.  If we start the recovery then the short-term unpopularity will dwindle and we have a fighting chance of re-election in 2015.  Dither and spread the pain over the whole five years and even if the objective of shoring up the economy is met it will just gift the country back to Labour to mess up again.

Labour will blame the Coalition for the pain. They’ll say: “They’re in Government.  We’re not.  It is their choices, it is their fault”  This is a bit like blaming a doctor for making you ill with chemo rather than the fags you only gave up six months earlier.  Nevertheless, while the pain is there the public will buy their argument.  The Coalition needs to see its program through and see it through quickly.

The lessons are there in History.  Those who remember the 1981 budget may spot certain parallels with today.  For the whole period between of 80 and 82  it was inconceivable that the Conservatives would be returned to power.  Nerve was held.  The budget worked.  Britain, after the pain, prospered.   Thatcher would have won even without the Falklands.   But we must also learn from that period.  Nobody would want to see the likes of the Brixton or Toxteth riots again.  That’s why it is so crucial that we don’t just deliver on the miserable austerity side of the program –  but also on the social side – IDS has made his case well for welfare reform – he needs to be allowed to now get on and deliver .  This is the year to get moving.   It’s also critical that we strike the right balance in the way we police inevitable protests.  Get that wrong and the Government could doom itself.

So on that dour note, I say again:  Happy New Year.  Put the armour on, 2011 is going to Hurt.

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Filed under Economy

Out Of All Proportion – The Huge Surge in Support for PR

The British are a funny lot.  Currently there seems to be a parallel consensus that:

  • Our voting system last week produced the farce of secret smoke-filled room deals where people horse trade this-bit-and-that-bit of their manifesto for a seat at the big boys’ table.  This is vulgar, ‘undemocratic’ and a betrayal of what people actually voted for.
  • Therefore we need Proportional Representation to make it all ‘fair’ and so that people can get what they voted for.

It is absurd that there are so many people who agree with both statements despite their obvious mutual contradiction.  If you think  closed-door horse-trading stinks you cannot  be in favour of PR.  Under PR you would have that farce after every single election.  The key difference would be that the likes of Nick Griffin would also be in the room getting concessions aligned with his agenda before anyone could get on and govern.  Aside from the BNP (with 11 seats)  being the most extreme example, other people who would be able to hold the nation to ransom (had last weeks voting been under PR) would be UKIP (17 seats)  and the Greens (5 seats)*

The current First-Past-The-Post system does have flaws.  People say that Tories only favour the system because it favours them – well, that’s not true – think on this:  Labour got 34% of the vote in 2005 and 356 seats – (and there was no national outrage in favour of PR then!).  Whereas last week the Conservatives got 36% of the Vote but only 306 seats.    Whilst Labour were able to comfortably hold a five-year term with their 34%, frankly we’ll do well to even get through a year with our 36%.  The system, as is, is significantly weighted in Labour’s favour.  So why do the Tories support it?

My instincts remain that running a country by committee of people who can’t stand each other is a recipe for gridlock and failure.  The principal of our current representative democracy is sound – each area votes for an individual, if that area thinks he did a rotten job they can vote him or her out at the end of each term.  The link between a member and a constituency is a valuable part of our democracy which we would be foolish to throw away.  However, I do accept that it is an uncomfortable fact that very, very few MPs will actually have got more than 50% of their vote locally.

The more I think about it the more  the answer seems to be to concede that the Alternative Vote (AV) may be the way to go.  Under this system every candidate elected would have had a positive vote from over 50% of voters in their constituency (albeit not necessarily as first preference – but the voter at least had the chance to express their ‘true’ intention first – and then vote their next best option second knowing the second choice only counts if their first choice fails – it removes the need for ‘tactical’ voting, keeps the principal of constituencies and every voter knows that their vote mattered.   This gives the MP confidence in their mandate.  We also need to do more work to even up the size of constituencies to stop the system being so weighted in favour of any one party.  This coming Parliament will give us a chance to do that.

For those still demanding PR  perhaps there is a compromise through which it can be accommodated in part.  The obvious solution is to have PR in the Lords.  If we are to move to an elected second chamber then in this arena PR makes more sense.  There is no link between representatives and constituencies to break in the Lords.  Appointments to the upper house have always been about patronage so it isn’t a particular step backwards that people placed at the top of party lists are guaranteed their seats.  The one downside is that as a nation we’ve been served well from both less ‘party-political’  tribalism in the Lords and the existence of members who are genuinely apolitical.  Perhaps this could be balanced by mixing the available Lords seats with the vast majority being elected through PR – but supplemented by ‘apolitical’ members appointed on behalf of of key institutions – for instance  Senior Judges, University Vice-Chancellors, Heads of Key UK Faiths, Ex-leaders of the armed forces,  Local Government Leaders,  Science (perhaps appointed by the Royal Society), Heads of Royal Colleges of Surgery, Nursing etc.   I’m not sure if the supplementary idea could fly – it’s just an idea – but however we constitute the second chamber it would be a shame if we did lose the diversity of expertise we currently enjoy.

One thing does look certain – we seem set for some level of constitutional reform.  Given the proposals look to be for AV then I may be at odds with my party position and actually get out there and campaign for it.  Thank goodness that, despite the noise, PR for the commons no longer looks like it is on the table.

(*figures of likely seats under PR taken from Glyn Ley’s Blog)

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Filed under Election, Politics, UK, UK Politics

A Thought on Lib Dem ‘Porn Queen’ Candidate

This weekend’s papers have had much gratuitous fun debating the virtues or otherwise of Anna Arrowsmith, a porn film director, as a Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Gravesend.  Examples of coverage can be found here or here.

My concern this Mothers day is with the one person that the papers always ignore when they go full barrel with coverage.  Can you imagine the pain this poor woman’s mother is going to feel when she sees her precious, innocent daughter in double-page spreads in the national media openly talking about having a career in… politics?

The shame of it.

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Filed under Indulgent, Politics, UK, UK Politics