Category Archives: Local elections

The State of the Parties 3: the UKIP Lightening Conductor


We are now entering a critical phase of this electoral cycle: local elections, parliamentary elections, further local elections, the European elections and the Scottish referendum on independance The outcomes of these elections will set the agenda for the next General Election. In this cycle, the fortunes of UKiP will determine the outcome of the General Election So long as UKIP’s standing in national polls is in excess of 10 percent, and it now stands at 13 percent in some polls, the Tories cannot win a General Election and Labour will be handicapped in the drive for a majority at Westminster. It is an easy prediction to make that UKIP is likely to top the Euro polls and at some time during 2014 will be showing, in some national opinion polls, support in the 20’s before a decline as the General Election approaches.

I assume that Scottish voters stay in control of their good senses and will vote No in the Scottish referendum. If so one would expect electoral support for the SNP to decline and a recovery of the Labour vote at Westminster to take place in Scotland. If this occurs then Laboiur would be diffiult to defeat in Westminster elections.

While economic predictions are foolhardy the odds are on poor economic performance up to May 2015. The best the Tories can hope for is slow growth, stable employment and a deficit edging slowly downwards. There will be little prospect of electoral bribes. This being so it is safe to predict that the chance of a Tory majority at the next
General Election are near to zero.

What then are the prospects for the Lib Dems? I do not under-rate the resiliance of the Lib Dems. However, if in the public mind they remain linked to the Tories in Coalition a reasonable prediction is that their parliamntsary position would decline substantially with a loss of 30-40 MPs. It would follow from this that it would be
most unlikely that they could play any part in a national coalition with any other party.

In these circumstances I would expect UKIP to win some Westminster seats at the expense of the Coalition parites but not enought seats to achieve any tactical advantage.

If this analysis is broadly right we would haver had a further shake in the party system that could in some circumstance lead to paralysis. As the economic circumstasnces inherited by a new Labour Government would be difficult if not dire Britain might emerge from the experiment of Coalition in a virtually ungovernable
situation.

All this will become clearer to participants and pundits. Will those individuals at the heart of this disaster do nothing? I have never believed that they would behave as rabbits staring into car lights. The Coalitiion will break up and David Cameron could be confronted with a leadership election before May 2015.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Deficit, Economics, Europe, General Election 2015, Labour Blogs, Labour Goverment, Labour Home, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, Nrew Stateman, opinion polls, Parliament, Rerendum, Scotland

The Economy: Spotting the Runes (Ruins)


One of the mysteries of our lives is the constant confidence of the OBR in economic recovery. There is, it is said, no need for a Plan B because the independent OBR tells us that the economy will recover. Each OBR forecast downgrades its predecessor but there is no denying the cheerful tone of its forecasts. In its recent forecast the OBR expresses the thought that the slide in output in the last quarter of 2010 was a dud figure and suggests that the decline was 0.2 percent and not 0.6 percent. On the back of this assumption the OBR confidently expects a bounce of 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011. The OBR gives a reassuring drop in inflation in 2012 to a rate of 2.5 percent.

We shall have to wait for the inflation figures but the output figures are available in some four weeks time, that is before the May local and assembley elections.  If the OBR is right, or nearly right, the Coalition can heave a sigh of relief but if they are wrong or mostly wrong they are up to their fetlocks in the mire.

One forecasting way out of such a dire consequence is the use of fan charts. These charts show a range of outcome. You can rely on it that the Government will finish some way between higher and lower points. It does this time. What a relief. But supposing , just supposing,  in April it is towards the bottom and not the top of the range. Is there then a Plan B? And what does the Daily Mail say then, poor thing? And what is the answer?

Leave a comment

Filed under Assembly Elections, BBC, Budget 2011, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Daily Mail, David Smith, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Local elections, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Scottish Assembly, Treasury

How Long for the Coalition?


It is now taken for granted by politicians and the general public alike that the Coalition will serve a full term of five years. You will recall that it was not always the position. In the Coalition’s earliest days it was commonly assumed that its days would be few and that it would be brought down by the policy contradictions of the Coalition parties. I assumed it myself. Several factors have kept  the show on the road. The first and most apparent is the hunger of politicians for power and influence. Oh how pleased are the Lib Dems to be in office with the chance to implement what I have long regarded as their platform of idiocies. Now one by one these policues can be put into practice and the various boxes  ticked. There is still a long way to go in that process. And then for the Lib Dems to precipitate a Coalition split would be to commit electoral suicide. Their poll ratings are so low that the Parliamentary party would barely survive an early election – perhaps not any election! Similarly for the Tories the future still beckons. They are convinced that they will be proved right on the deficit reduction programme. Economic growth will resume, the budget deficit will disappear and the nation will be grateful. The world is a nasty and unpredictable place for doctrinaire optimists. Who can forecast what shocks the world economy will be ere to over the coming years?  But the Coalition optimists believe that the ship of state will sail through all the stormy waters to a safe harbour.

Labour has no appetite for power. It is deep in self doubt and humility. Forgive us for our trespasses as we shall forgive those of the Coalition sing the voices. The tumbrils are not ready, no blood will flow (figuratively speaking). Learn to trust us. Every dog must have his day. we would not do these things but what we would do is yet to be revealed. Yawn, yawn, blah, blah.

But will the Coalition last? The determining issue is not the wishes of the political parties but the state of the economy. If real incomes continue to fall and unemployment continues to rise people will in their various ways and in their various times will reject the Coalition. A certain amount of this will not render the Coalition asunder but a lot of it will. A start can be made in May’s Assembly and Local Government elections. It is not the loss of seats alone which will be humbling but who gains them. UKIP only needs a nudge up for its current electoral rating of 5-6 percent to gain representation in Scotland and Wales. What then Britain’s membership of the EU? Watch this space.

Leave a comment

Filed under Assembly Elections, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Deficit, Economics, Ed Balls, Ed Milliband, Europe, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Politics, Scottish Assembly, Treasury

Barnsley: Worse to Come


The Barnsley Parliamentary By Election humiliation for the Coalition parties does not come as a surprise. There is worse to come. A North-South divide  with Labour dominating the vote in Scotland, Wales and Northern England and the Tories, and to a certain extent the Lib Dems, in the South, South East and South West of England has been evident for decades. New Labour and the growth of Lib Dem support in the South has muddied this picture but the rift remains.

Even if an optimistic view is taken on economic recovery, the scale of Government cuts in expenditure and a lowering of household disposable incomes for years ahead is bound to alienate whole communities across Britain but especially in Labour areas of the country. The Lib Dems, in particular, will pay a heavy electoral price: Council and Assembly votes in May are likely to result in the virtual elimination of the Lib Dems in working class communities in huge swathes of the country. Both Coalition parties are likely to huddle together in what until recently has been the Tory south. Paradoxically, the Lib Dem vote in Council By Elections  in the South has held up and the party has gained some Tory seats. This is an historic pattern of Colaitions of the right and centre over more than 100 years of their temporary emergence and is likely to make more probable the eventual merger of them. While I do not wish to exagerate the similarities between the platforms of the Coalition partners, I do believe it to be true that there a few real differences between the radical economic liberals on  right of the Lib Dems and the social liberals of the Tories: they are cut from the same cloth.

Absurd comparisons between the political and social revolutions underway in the Middle East and Africa and the future we face  together in Britain are best avoided. However, there is a relevant question for we Britons. Are British people going to accept, will ordinary people up and down the country stomach, the destruction of the welfare state, a dramatic lowering of household disposable income and the loss of many jobs, Will the public go quietly when the NHS fails to hold on to many advances, in particular shorter waiting lists for hospital appointments, and the middle classes joining the dole queues?  Of course, of course, I hear you mutter. There will always be a stolid majority for social pain – so long as it doesn’t affect us and  others like us. But will this be true this time?

Well, the Coalition has been busy fixing the Constitutional rules so that it is more difficult to get rid of them. Five years of it and not a drop less has been their resolution. Political memories are short is their belief. But is there not a valid political question? What do people do when it becomes more difficult to throw out one Parliament and elect another. Do people up and down our orderly and responsible society take to the streets? If denied the one sure constitutional method will many people choose another? Surely not. But hold on.  After all we have seen the television pictures of peoples demanding change. This is the tele/internet age. If it works for them why not us? Don’t shoot we’re British is our shout. Of course, our needs are obvious.  Oblivion is what we need now, the bottle and the pills that is what happens in the TV soaps. Oh and throwing something as well. Come off it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Barnsley, BBC, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Ed Milliband, George Osborne, Guardian, House of Lords, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Local elections, Middle East, NHS, Nick Clegg, opinion polls, Politics, Take Back Parliament, Unemployment

Let’s Play Consequences


The electorate is a sceptical lot. So far that has worked in favour of the Coalition. After all it has to be accepted by reasonable people that the budget deficit must be lowered as rapidly as possible and if the OBR tells us that there will be more people in employment  by the end of 2011 then who will gainsay them. Opposition doomsayers predicting a 1930’s style depression  for some years can be safely shrugged aside. ‘They would say that wouldn’t they’ being  a common reaction. However, today’s increase in the  unemployment figures may make a difference to all that. Whichever way you look at it these are grim figures. So far the Coalition has benefited from the Labour fiscal stimulus and the first economic upturns in world trade. But as the blessed Gordon has told us there has been no follow through internationally to a viable global economic growth stategy. The moment has been lost and the monetarists have had their day. Goodness! Might Gordon (blessed be his name)  have been right all along? 

So far the Tories have been continued to ride high in the opinion polls at around 40 percent , marginally higher than in the General Election  while the Lib Dems have incurred the  public wrath with 60 percent of their vote disappearing. As the recession grips this will change , although given the nature of Tory  support among the affluent it is likely that support will  remain in the 30’s. The Tory position relies on  self-engendered high levels of confidence and David Cameron’s exuberant leadership. It can be expected that he will lash himself to the mast as the storms break upon the ship of state but not all the crew will remain. Some will cower below deck while others will wash overboard. The storm reaches an early climax in May with local and assembly elections and the AV referendum.

It is not all cheer for Ed Milliband. He has sought to play a long game and to plead unpreparedness for an early tilt at power. Might it not be desirable to build an acceptable platform much earlier than he has supposed? Come on Ed, get on with it. I have always believed that there should be good odds for an early General Election, say June 2011. I notice that the smart money has shifted  to it with the odds shortening  from 20/1 to 4/1. There is still time for you to put your money on. 

And a word to the besieged Lib Dems. Jump now while you have the opportunity to do so. Labour could do a deal not to oppose Lib Dem MPs linking  loosely with Labour at least in those seats in the south where the Libs may still have a chance. After all if the ship is sinking who could blame you for wishing to save yourselves.

You might think that I am in advance of my self and you would be right. But judgement is crucial in politics as in life itself. For God’s sake jump, your country needs you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alan Budd, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, David Smith, Deficit, Economics, Ed Milliband, George Osborne, Gordon Brown, Labour Goverment, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, Nick Clegg, opinion polls, Politics, Referendum, Spending Review, Treasury, Vince Cable

Three of a Kind


Ruthlessness is a underestimated political virtue. With the election of Ed Miliband as Leader of the Labour Party, we have three ruthless, youngish, men leading our main political parties and the ‘game is a-foot’. Ed Milliband has had the courage to sweep his brother aside, separate himself from a past that had in the end failed his party, and  thus able to re-shape the social democratic message to an electorate that may be  willing, if not now at some time, to listen to him. This is precisely the path that Cameron and Clegg have taken in the pursuit of power. And this is what WE ELECTORS expect of them all.

For the moment the Coalition is centre stage. If we are to be fair they are confronted with a massive challenge to deal with a budget deficit that could swallow us all in a ‘black hole’. Fortunately for Labour it can stand aside if it wishes and the fruit may fall off the tree. If so it must be far more effective in deflecting the blame for our economic woes away from a Labour Government that in some ways failed us. If these massive Coalition budget cuts do not work out well, and they might not, it won’t matter. A decent par round will do the job. After all I remember Nick Faldo winning a major with a final round without any birdies. If the economic outcome is indecisive with a long period of modest growth, which seems to me to be the likely outcome, playing a straight bat and making the right noises (to mix my sporting metaphors) may still do the job. According to the OBR there is a 40 percent chance of the Coalition economic policy producing the goods. Of course the OBR is now under different management so the odds may change by end October. but at the moment the odds are not unattractive.

What should Ed do? Having cleared a space for himself he might place a stress on competence, new faces, appropriate noises, not too many policy initiatives; an Opposition that is co-operative but determined, with  emphasis on a few political strategic issues of importance to us all and where he can win. Push, push, push and hold onto everything he wins.

Can he do it? I think, yes. So far he has been very brave, determined and right. But not many, not really, are watching, and he will not be able to hold the stage. But what an opportunity he has for striking electoral gains in Scotland, Wales and much of England by next May. We all love a winner.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alan Budd, BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, David Milliband, Deficit, Ed Milliband, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Labour Ministers, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, OBR, Politics, Tony Blair

I Am Mr Average: 2


A short time ago, you kindly asked me to tell readers how I was getting on in these trouble economic times , and my views on the Coalition. I was chosen because I approximated to an average man: suburban semi, wife and two children, average wage and so on. Not that anyone is really average, but you know what I mean. Our family was managing quite well despite my wife losing her part-time job. My wage had been frozen but thanks to lower mortgage payments we were coping financially. I have this little habit, I hope you don’t mind, of saying I have good news and bad news, what would you like to hear first. (She, who must be obeyed,  gets mad at this and tells me to get on with it). Here is the good news: my wife has got a temporary job for the next four months. She is working on agency terms which give her lower pay and fewer rights. I see now why Labour was making a fuss about these agency conditions. They should have done more. And the bad news? I’ve lost my job. Quite suddenly and brutally one Friday afternoon after the company had altered its redundancy terms for the worse. Now I am on Job Seekers Allowance and quite a hassle that turns out to be. I have to go into town every Friday and report for duty so to speak. I have applied for over 50 jobs and have never had an interview. I expect that you might think me a loafer But you would be wrong. Of course I want a job, I would give my right arm for one.

I expect some of you will be fearful of losing your job and want to know what my familyis doing now. Well, I was entitled to a Mortage Holiday period of four months and this is now coming to an end. We have used our modest savings to keep going but they are running out. I don’t know what to do next. I hear some of you grumbling away and muttering things like get on your bike, move to East Grinstead, become a doctor – and things like that. All I can say is good luck to you mate if that is your strategy.

But it is not all doom and gloom. I see more of Wayne these days. We are despondent for him. He was to get a brand new school but the works have been cancelled and the staff demoralised. We can’t afford a tutor so I have stepped in and help him with his homework. I have to read up from his textbooks and the clue to my success is to keep one chapter ahead of him. It has drawn us closer together. I help my wife with the shopping so I really do know the price of bread and  all the cheaper options now. Test me if you like.

And looking forward? Well as you know I am a Tory and will find it hard not to vote so next May. However, if this Coalition lasts, and I expect it will, and if  you press me for an opinion,  I shall have to tell you that I do not think I will vote.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Education, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, Michael Gove, New Stateman, Politics, Schools, State schools, Tesco, Uncategorized

Coalition Illegitimacy


The  Coalition wishes to make significant constitutional and social changes. The process will begin this autumn. It cannot be argued that many of these changes have the endorsement of the electorate for no one voted for the Coalition or the patchcock coalition agreement. It might be argued that the Coalition partners received the votes of sixty per cent of the votes cast in the General election and that some of these  changes were foreshadowed in the General Election compaigns of both the Tory and Lib Dem partners. Surely, that suffices to claim a mandate? Well no, it doesn’t. Pushing through these changes relies on the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament: the majority in the House of Commons can do what it wants.

In such a situation it might be thought that the Coalition government should not embark on far-reaching changes that do not necessarily command support among the electorate as a whole; changes that a new government will find  difficult to reverse. Not so the Coalition is pressing on with unflagging zeal (indecent haste) to impose on us  its vision for the future.

Those who object will find it difficult to make headway. It is true that Coalitions are popular with the electorate to the very point of their collapse. The history of  20th century coalitions tell us that they invariabley commanded more than fifty percent of any poll. Today, even accepting the dire circumstances, it is true that the Coalition commands the support of 50 per cent of more of the electorate. It is open to the Coalition to pre-run elections where the weaker of the two coalition partners stands down for the benefit of the other. In a General Election campaign such an arrangement, if tolerable to  grass root activists, would save many seats. If this were to be a nationwide tactic the Labour Party would need over 45 % of the vote to win. A little political gerrymandering along the lines already put forward by the Colation parties might require an even bigger Labour share of the vote. No political party in recent times has polled half the vote.

Is it all hopeless then? Can the the Coalition literally do anything it likes, claim a mandate and win an election even if it is called early? I think not. In practice parliamentary sovereigny is a chimera and cannot be relied upon. The key to change lies with Lib Dem backbench MPs. If they decide enough is enough they can call halt the Tory gallop[ to utopia. You do not need a majorityof the House of Commons to bring down a government; a large scale desertion short of a majority will do. Is this what will happen? Well it might you know. It is possible.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Big society, Coalition Government, Financial Times, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Home, Labour leadership, Labour Ministers, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Lib Dem MPs, Lib Dems, Liberal Voice, Local elections, New Stateman, Parliament, Referendum, Take Back Parliament, Voting reform

Con Perestroika!


I am informed, reliably or not, that the Con leadership held an emergency session in Padstow early this evening without the presence of George Osborne who was busy speechifying in London. This is what our Dave is alleged to have said.

I have become concerned over recent days that the concept of the Big Society has become difficult to sell to the electorate. It has been suggested that I think of a rebranding, not abandoning the idea you know,  but giving it a new dimension. Cleggie, who is fertile in these marketing matters, has suggested what I think to be a powerful  new dimension which could be added to our message. As you know, he is hot on historical  matters and, in particular,  modern Russian history. He has suggested that we use a new slogan, that we should rename our message – wait for it and don’t smirk at the back- the British Perestroika. He is quite right on the similarities: the old Communist brand of socialism had come to an end in 1989, the people wished to cast aside  the centrally directed and collective dictatorship of an overbearing state, there was a need to end corrupt government and reform the electoral system, there were popular demands to  end  a ruinouus Afghan war, the economy had collapsed, inflation was out of control,  whole areas and regions of the State sought independance from Moscow . Ring any bells. Oh yes, and the maintenance of a large army, an independent nuclear arsenal of weapons,  and attempts to boss large parts of the world needed to be abandoned.  (By the way before I forget it I have suggested that Liam think twice before sacking any Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals at the moment. We don’t wish to encourage military unrest at this time, if you get my drift.I have always loved boats.)  And remember, Perestroika, the demand to reorganise a whole political system, did succeed in the end. Admittedly after a period of confusion and abject poverty but as George was saying today in a few years time we shall all feel better about these regretable hardships. As Margaret was apt to say this misery is a price worth paying.

I’m sorry I did not quite hear you. Yes, that distinguished looking person with the moustache, on my right. Wall, you say, we don’t have a Berlin wall to pull down. Good observation. I get reports, for all I know you get them too, that our party position has become desperate in Scotland. I have been told that we are likely to be wiped out entirely in the Scottish Assembly elections next May. It would of course, be a disaster for the Union. We do have a wall. It isn’t necessary to invent one. Hadrians Wall. We could pull it down as a gesture to the Scots. No more Imperial British power or painful memories  of past hostilities. We, the Brits and the Scots are in this together as friends and allies. We wish you to share our misery and our hopes for a better future. We are all in this together.

(The meeting broke up in confusion).

Leave a comment

Filed under Afghanistan, BBC, Berlin Wall, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, George Osborne, Gorbachov, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Liam Fox, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Local elections, Nick Clegg, Politics, Poverty, Russia, Scotland, Scottish Assembly, Thatcher

Coalition Weather Forecast


I have been reminding myself of the political history of coalition governments in recent times. There has been more of it than is commonly realised. In pre war Britain there was considerably  more: thirteen out of twenty five years. These governments  were born of crisis; the  result of a lack of national  confidence, of war and economic depression. These crises render it difficult to assess the effectiveness. of coalition governments. Arguably they lengthened and deepened the Great Depression and coalition foreign policy did nothing to deter the Fascist threat to world peace, and their defence policies weakened Britain’s ability to defend itself. It is wrongly believed by political opinion today that  Conservative dominated governments are committed to effective defence and robust foreign policy – a recollection associated with Winston Churchill –  but the facts speak otherwise. Even in more recent times Conservatism has led to weak defence policy and the run-down of our armed forces.

However, a balanced judgement of the effectiveness of these coalitions would give them a fair-wind. On the whole they have been popular and when tested in the polls they have consistently scored  52-57 percent of the vote (very similar to the current Coalition rating of 55 percent). While the thirties were  a bad time for the numerous unemployed they were thought of favourably by those in work: rising real standards of living and falling house prices benefited the middle classes and the employed and Britain and Britons dozed while Europe descended into chaos and dictatorship.

In the end these coalitions failed and the causes and circumstances of failure were common. The crises that created them were resolved and when given the opportunity of severance the parties that constiuted them reverted to their tribal loyalties. Goodbyes were said without regret. Who lost out? Liberals have always been the losers and the Conservative Party the winners. (1931 and 1945 are obvious exceptions). Although coalition in 1931 propped up the Labour  Party more often than not it was the loser. The Conservatives always gained.

The Lib Dems in entering this present Coalition are propping up and de-toxifying the Conservatives (thank you very much). But  they are flirting with disaster. They have bought some period of time of time  in government and a chance to influence policy but they risk many more years of ineffectiveness. But none of this is inevitable. History tells us that in the end it is the individual who shapes destiny. Providing the Lib Dems stick close to the Tories and its leadership exercises good judgement, and given the chemistry between Clegg and Cameron, some element of Liberalism will stick to government and thus Lib Dems will have influence, perhaps, for more than one Parliament : a new breed of Con/Lib, National Lib/Con politicians will arise.  But goodbye Lib Dem councillors, farewell Scotland, Wales and northern Britain and hello southern and western England.

The sixty four million dollar question  is how long will this Coalition last given that its days are numbered? It depends on you, dear citizen, and on the ability of the Labour party to rebuld itself and become relevant to the future. It must get its head out of the last thirteen years if it is to mount a challenge. In many ways they were good years and Labour can be proud of its achievements but it is no longer the time for gazing at one’s naval. The time has come the walrus said to think of other things. Go on then , think of them.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Europe, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Vision, Local elections, Nick Clegg, opinion polls, Parliament, Politics, Take Back Parliament