Sunday, 21 December 2014

My thoughts on recent news regarding devolution-and season's greetings :)

Readers, devolution in England part by part is once again in the spotlight.

Firstly, Greater Manchester, and all 10 councils that fall into its area (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan) is having an executive mayor imposed on it, even after the people of Manchester voted against having an elected mayor back in 2012, and without the consent of the electors within Greater Manchester. Only one of the ten boroughs in Greater Manchester, Salford, voted to have an elected mayor, and the turnout in that referendum was a dreadful 18%.

The cities and boroughs whose people voted against having elected mayors (instead of council leaders) in 2012 had good reason to reject the idea: in Britain, directly elected mayors can just by themselves appoint a cabinet tailored to their own personal whim, and this cabinet is more likely to represent that mayor's interests (and corporate interests whom that mayor is friendly with) than those of the electors (and the council's make-up, for that matter). The exclusive powers mayors have, and often abuse (especially in the case of Greater London Mayor Boris Johnson), end up overriding local democracy to the detriment of the people. Boris' closure of many fire stations in London, even when that endangers lives, without a vote in the GLA, and the fact he can licence wasteful projects of his (like the 'garden bridge' over the Thames) without a GLA vote or a referendum, is a key example of the problems of having directly elected mayors in Britain. Councils, instead of having the usual leader and cabinet system or a mayor and cabinet system, should instead have committee systems which mean that key decisions are actually taken democratically and not by cliquey cabinets. So should the House of Commons-the Cabinet system needs to be abolished as it is clear that the Secretaries of State, who are appointed only by the Prime Minister and not chosen by MPs, have too many reserved powers and usually do not act in the interests of the British public but rather those of the Establishment.

Local devolution as a whole is progressive and necessary to reduce the level of central control in the UK, and to give people a fairer voice locally. However, it needs to be done carefully so that both rural and urban areas can benefit from it-and historic boundaries and places should be respected as well. I do not believe, for example, the combined city regions idea (https://psin.uk/reports/devo-city-devolution-report/) is a good one-not only will many cities that were former county towns be left behind (such as Derby and Nottingham), but also increasing urbanisation in Britain even further will have detrimental effects on our environment and on local identity, which need to be protected. (http://www.theinformationdaily.com/2014/12/01/16-english-cities-could-be-lost-in-the-gaps-of-the-devolution-jigsaw) In fact I personally believe Britain would be better off overall in important ways had 'Greater London' and other oversized 'metropolitan boroughs' (e.g. Tameside; there is not even such a town as Tameside!) had never been created, and if more reasonably sized and more manageable councils such as Middlesex County Council, which actually covered a real county, had been allowed to remain.

Local and fair devolution across the UK is important to us, but we need to all fight for it and vote for it-it will not simply come to us on a plate.

I finally wish you all season's greetings-my blog will return in the new year!

Alan.



Saturday, 20 December 2014

What those Ashcroft polls tell me

Over the past year, readers, you may have been paying attention to polls released by Michael Ashcroft, aka Lord Ashcroft.

I have as well, sometimes, although it is only know that I will be analysing these recent Ashcroft polls (i.e. polls conducted within the last six months, in which the Green Party has been steadily rising in support, where the gap between Conservatives and Labour has been closing, and where the Liberal Democrats' support is reaching its nadir and not getting any lower overall) to give my thoughts.

1. The Green Party is taking votes from the Liberal Democrats-but their level of strength varies quite widely in constituencies the Liberal Democrats hold or have strength in. Why?

Analysis of Con-LD marginals, LD-Lab marginals, and three way marginals (rather rare) by Ashcroft polls shows that in south west seats, especially those that have a latent 'green' nature (St Ives, for example). the Liberal Democrat vote is shifting reasonably well to the Green Party, because the Liberal Democrats in government have not acted like liberals. The Green Party, by contrast, is the most socially liberal and progressive of the UK's five largest parties which contest elections across Great Britain.

Many university seats were once held by the Conservatives (most of the time) before the 1990s, possibly because of the aspirational nature of the academic vote. Bristol West, Cambridge, and Cardiff Central, which all have a high student population, were all once often represented by Conservative MPs. (In fact, Bristol West had continuous Conservative representation from 1885 until their 1997 rout) Oxford was also frequently represented by Conservative MPs, but the splitting of this seat from 1983 meant that Labour and the Liberal Democrats were able to gain much more concentration (many student voters live in Oxford East). The seats in question all went to Labour in 1992 or 1997, and then on to the Liberal Democrats in some cases (all three of the aforementioned seats have Lib Dem MPs at the moment).

However, the Green Party is not polling nearly as well in places which have Liberal Democrat strength but are much more suburban and middle-class in character; places like Cheadle, Eastleigh, and Sutton and Cheam also lack a substantial student/youth vote and conversely can often harbour voters more favourable to UKIP (which ironically helps the Liberal Democrats by undermining the Conservative vote). In these circumstances the Green Party has to try and win over more Labour voters, but Labour has in the long-term been squeezed heavily in some middle-class suburban areas making this difficult. In this type of LD-held seat the Green Party also does not have a strong base; for example in Cheadle, there has never been a Green Party candidate so far.

2. Why is UKIP polling well in constituencies on the coast in particular?

Many seaside resorts and coastal cities once had strong industries, but those industries have largely disappeared. The fishing and shipbuilding industries in particular have been in steep decline in Britain over the last 30 years, and the shift in economic sectors (spurred on by globalisation in some cases) within these constituencies has inevitably marginalised many former industrial workers. It has been cited that UKIP is winning many disaffected voters from blue-collar backgrounds, and these voters are easy to find in constituencies such as Great Grimsby and Great Yarmouth. Inland seats with a past of heavy industry such as steelworking, which now have above average unemployment, often have demographics which are also UKIP-friendly by the standards of safely Labour constituencies.

3. In what sort of seats will the Liberal Democrat vote take the heaviest hit?

Seats with heavy student populations, and where incumbent MPs are retiring. The Ashcroft poll of Redcar was particularly striking in this regard- it shows the Liberal Democrats at only 17% in Redcar compared to the 45% vote share they polled in the last general election-a drop of 28% and to third position (behind UKIP) from first. It was also shown that in the Ashcroft poll of Plymouth Sutton and Devonport (currently a Conservative-held 3-way marginal likely to fall to Labour next year), the Lib Dems were shown at a shockingly low (even for them) 5%-down from 24% in 2010. Ashcroft polls carried out in Manchester Withington and Norwich South regarding voting intention by constituency as early as July 2014 were already showing drops in the Liberal Democrat vote of 23% and 18% respectively (down from 44% to 21% and 29% to 11%, to be precise). The Liberal Democrats polled in fifth place in the Norwich South Ashcroft poll, and they currently hold this seat!

4. What is behind the fact that Labour are ahead in polls of some crucial Con-Lab marginals but not others?

It is not just the variable levels of UKIP support that are behind this fact-the relative prosperity of these seats should be taken into account. Warwick and Leamington is relatively prosperous among marginal seats, and even when Labour held it the Conservative vote share was rather strong (it never went lower than 38%)-there are also not that many Lib Dem votes to squeeze in that seat. Other Con-Lab marginal seats such as Ealing Central & Acton, Stevenage, and South Swindon either have many Lib Dem votes to squeeze (they are more likely to go to Labour in areas without a good Green presence) or have enough UKIP potential to significantly split the Conservative vote; Stevenage is a prime example of this. UKIP has not performed that well in Hertfordshire locally (it only has one district council seat and no county council seats) but it has nevertheless been decisive in causing many Conservative wards to flip to Labour in many areas of Hertfordshire.

I hope you find my analysis of the story behind the results of these Ashcroft polls worthwhile :)

Regards, Alan.

Monday, 15 December 2014

My analysis of the recent Japanese general election

Yesterday, readers, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, notable for his economic stance of 'Abenomics', called an early general election in Japan, despite the fact that the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), which has held power in Japan for most of the last 60 years, was losing ground in the polls.

However, as in 2012, he and the LDP won another landslide victory, with 290 seats out of 475, including three-quarters of the FPTP seats. (Japan uses the Mixed Member Proportional voting system for its House of Representatives, but there are 295 FPTP seats and only 180 PR seats). Even though the main opposition party there, the Democratic Party of Japan (which like Labour in the UK is not really that much of an opposition at all), gained an extra 16 seats compared to 2012, its leader, Banri Kaieda, ended up losing his own seat. I believe this can partly be blamed on the rise of the Japanese Communist Party, which increased its seats from 8 to 21, its best result since 2000. Meanwhile, Japan's new Green Party (kind of, at least), the People's Life Party, which supports environmentalism, is opposed to nuclear power, and is opposed to the dangerous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), could only win two seats, which incidentally were both FPTP seats. In MMP systems, Green Parties traditionally perform better on PR lists rather than in single member constituencies, Germany and Hungary being notable examples of this.

Mr Abe's decision to go to the polls in December also had a serious knock-on effect on general election turnout; according to BBC reports, turnout overall dropped to as low as 35% (although the exact turnout figure has not been verified yet for some reason). Turnout was not much better in 2012, though, at 59.3%-by comparison, the 2010 UK general election's turnout overall was 65.1%.

One major problem with Japan's democracy is ability to stand as a candidate. For a start, a deposit of 3,000,000 yen has to be paid to stand in a FPTP district, or 6,000,000 yen for a PR list seat, and the threshold to retain said deposit is 10%, not 5%. That is approximately £16,100/£32,200 at current yen-pound sterling exchange rates! Secondly, because of the fact most districts' boundaries have not been changed properly for many years, urban FPTP districts in Japan can sometimes have an electorate up to five times that of rural FPTP districts. This lack of fairness in Japanese politics is partly why the right-wing and conservative LDP has been able to dominate Japanese politics most of the time-why should any party, let alone an independent, have to pay tens of thousands of pounds just to be a somewhat credible candidate? Democracy should be about popular support and useful ideas, not about which candidates are fortunate enough to be able to raise the most money.

I believe following on from this that if Japan accepts the TPP (at least in its current form) that notably the negative effects of 'Abenomics' will be worsened still for most Japanese people.

Alan.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Green songs and poetry: My special parody of '12 Days of Christmas'

Readers, in the past I have often parodied the traditional Christmas tune '12 Days of Christmas' , particularly with a reference to news stories of the year. Here is my 2014 edition:

On the first day of Christmas,                     On the seventh day of Christmas,
This was revealed to me,                             This was revealed to me,
Blatant bias from the BBC.                          Seven spurious sanctions,
                                                                       Six rants from Boris etc.....
On the second day of Christmas,               And blatant bias from the BBC.
This was revealed to me,                       
Two crooked kippers,                                On the eighth day of Christmas,
And blatant bias from the BBC.                This was revealed to me,
                                                                     Eight gaffes from Miliband,
On the third day of Christmas,                 Seven spurious sanctions etc...
This was revealed to me,                          And blatant bias from the BBC.
Three Green surges,
Two crooked kippers,                              On the ninth day of Christmas,
And blatant bias from the BBC.             This was revealed to me,
                                                                  Nine shades of classism,
On the fourth day of Christmas,            Eight gaffes from Miliband etc....
This was revealed to me,                       And blatant bias from the BBC.     

Four financial screwings,
Three Green surges,                              On the tenth day of Christmas,
Two crooked kippers,                           This was revealed to me,
And blatant bias from the BBC.          Ten crippling cutbacks,
                                                                Nine shades of classism etc...
On the fifth day of Christmas,             And blatant bias from the BBC.
This was revealed to me,
Five tax avoiders!                               On the eleventh day of Christmas,
Four financial screwings,                  This was revealed to me,
Three Green surges,                           Eleven rotten boroughs,
Two crooked kippers,                        Ten crippling cutbacks etc....
And blatant bias from the BBC.         And blatant bias from the BBC.

On the sixth day of Christmas,         On the twelfth day of Christmas,
This was revealed to me,                  This was revealed to me,
Six rants from Boris,                         Twelve famous farewells,
Five tax avoiders etc.....                     Eleven rotten boroughs etc....
And blatant bias from the BBC.        And blatant bias from the BBC.

Regards, Alan.

Friday, 12 December 2014

My analysis of local by-election results from yesterday (11/12/14) and my thoughts on what could happen after May 2015

Readers, the results from local by-elections yesterday featuring Green Party candidates were as follows (in case you missed them):

Aylesbury DC, Gatehouse: Liberal Democrat 295 (35.6%, -5.9%), UKIP 267 (32.2%, +15.2%), Conservative 113 (13.6%, -9.2%), Labour 113 (13.6%,-5.0%), Green 28 (3.4%), Independent 12 (1.4%)

Aylesbury DC, Southcourt: Lib Dem 429 (42.3%, +6.3%), UKIP 266 (26.2%, +12.1%), Lab 175 (17.2%, -12.2%), Con 112 (11.0%, -9.4%), Green 33 (3.3%). Lib Dem gain from Labour.

Moray UA, Elgin City North: (1st preference votes) SNP 728 (38.0%, -5.3%), Independent 472 (24.6%), Lab 287 (15.0%, -14.9%), Con 273 (14.2%, -3.2%), UKIP 81 (4.2%), Green 77 (4.0%). SNP gain from Labour.

Sunderland MBC, Washington East: Lab 775 (38.3%, -3.0%), Con 595 (29.4%, +4.2%), UKIP 506 (25.0%, -1.1%), Green 93 (4.6%), Lib Dem 52 (2.6%). [All changes are since 2014]

Despite the fact polls show that the Green Party will win more voters from the Liberal Democrats than the other major parties, not every area with significant Liberal Democrat strength can yield fruit for the Greens-the by-elections of Aylesbury proved this point well (although they took some votes from Labour, I presume). I am sadly not surprised about UKIP finishing a good second in both Gatehouse and Southcourt, since UKIP got one of its better results in the Aylesbury constituency in 2010 (6.8%, twice its average vote share across the UK); the Conservative vote share was a greater victim as a result of UKIP's resurgence this time. However, the Greens' decision to venture further and farther across the UK will serve them well, even if initial results are not as good as I would like them to be. It was a good night for nationalists in Scotland and Wales, though-the SNP gained in both the Scottish by-elections that occurred last night (there was also one in Argyll and Bute; full results not shown as there was no Scottish Green Party candidate there), and Plaid Cymru won easily in the Trelech by-election of Carmarthenshire, possibly due to the Independent candidate's past record as a bad company director being exposed (the Independent candidate had been disqualified from being a company director for 10 years some time ago).

In other news, The Independent reported on a list of possible coalitions that could emerge from next year's general election, given that it is very unlikely now that any party will be able to form a majority in the next Parliament. One (rather unlikely) possibility The Independent noted is a traffic light coalition of Labour, Liberal Democrats, and one or more Green MPs. I strongly advise against the Green Party joining any coalition involving any of the four major UK-wide parties for four very good reasons listed below:

1. The Green Party have consistently opposed the LibLabCons and UKIP, and with good cause.
2. As it is very unlikely they will have more than 3 seats in Parliament after May 2015, the Green Party will not be able to have an effective influence on the coalition any more than the six Green Party TDs in Ireland had when they were in coalition with Fianna Fail from 2007 to 2011.
3. Almost every time Green Parties in Europe have joined coalitions with mainstream parties, they have come off much worse (e.g. in Ireland and the Czech Republic), and they can find it difficult to recover.
4. The Green Party would be betraying its principles in practice by joining any coalition involving Labour or the Liberal Democrats-neither of those two parties has shown real concern for the environment and neither of them admit that free-market capitalism is most responsible for the environmental damage the Earth has suffered.

It has also been quoted that the MPs of Northern Ireland (DUP and SDLP in practice; there is only one Alliance Party MP and the Sinn Fein MPs never occupy any Westminster seats they win) could hold the balance of power, but with only 13 Northern Irish Parliamentary constituencies taken (18 minus the 5 Sinn Fein MPs) and with neither Labour nor the Conservatives likely to win more than 300 seats apiece on current polling, there is no realistic chance of this occurring whatever the result of next year's general election.

Alan.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

On Europe: how are we doing?

Readers, it is almost the end of the calendar year, and several important general elections in Europe are coming up next year, in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and of course the United Kingdom. (There will also be early elections in Sweden next year following a government defeat on a budget vote).

The Green Party of England and Wales, I am pleased to say, is still experiencing a good influx of members; GPEW now has nearly 30,000 members and counting. I believe that Green Party membership across the UK (which also includes the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party of Northern Ireland) will overtake that of both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats by May 2015, when our next general election will take place. GPEW is also still performing well at 6% in national polls on average over the last four weeks.

Meanwhile, let us check how Green and left-wing parties are polling at the moment in the countries I mentioned above:

Denmark: Socialist Folkeparti (G/EFA): 7.6%; Red-Green Alliance (hard left): 9.4%.
(polling is from November 2014)

Estonia: Estonian Greens (G/EFA): 4.5%, no polling information available for Estonian United Left at this time.

Finland: Green League (G/EFA): 8.3%, Left Alliance (GUE/NGL): 8.9%.

Portugal: Democratic Unitarian Coalition (G/EFA and GUE/NGL): 7.6%, Left Bloc (GUE/NGL): 5.2%, LIVRE (G/EFA): 2.9%.

Spain: Podemos (GUE/NGL): 29.1%, United Left (GUE/NGL): 4.8%, Republican Left of Catalonia (GUE/NGL): 2.6% (No information available for Spanish Greens Federation in these polls for some reason).

Sweden: Swedish Green Party (G/EFA): 7.5%, Swedish Left Party (GUE/NGL): 6.4%.

Switzerland: Swiss Green Party: 7.3%, Green Liberals 7.3%, Alternative Left: 1.2% (polling is from October 2014).

More importantly, Podemos has now climbed to first place in Spanish general election polls, in the same way that SYRIZA has been in first place in Greek general election polls (there may be an early election as the current ND-PASOK coalition is only just about holding on with a majority of 4). Viva la revolucion, I say :)

Alan.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Local by-election result from 5/12/14 and my thoughts on the life and times of Jeremy Thorpe

Readers, only one local by-election from this week featured a Green Party candidate, and the results of it were as follows:

Adur DC, St. Mary's: Conservative 340 (38.4%, +1.3%), Labour 223 (25.2%, +2.6%), UKIP 216 (24.4%, +3.2%), Green 106 (12.0%, -0.7%).

All changes are since 2014.

Two days ago, former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, the last pre-Thatcher leader of any major British political party, died aged 85, having suffered from early onset Parkinson's disease for 30 years. He famously helped the Liberals rise to prominence in the February 1974 general election, polling six million votes and 14 seats, but is infamously remembered for the 'Rinkagate' scandal, involving Norman Scott and his dog, Rinka.

Throughout recent history, there has been much speculation about the facts and rumours behind the Rinkagate affair of 1976, which caused Jeremy to resign as Liberal leader the same year. I myself wonder this, however-did Conservative allies engineer the quick spreading of Rinkagate in order to stitch up the 1979 general election in the Conservative Party's favour?

In my opinion, the answer is yes. Here is why.

This is not to say that I think well of Jeremy himself, because I do not. His Edwardian style of dress (particularly the trilby hat he often wore) was a hint of his upper-class, old guard origins. John Jeremy Thorpe, descended from Conservative MPs, was Eton-educated and an alumnus of Trinity College, Oxford. Although his Labour and Conservative contemporaries, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, were also educated at Oxford University, neither of them had a wealthy background nor were they fortunate enough to be able to attend prestigious private schools. (Harold won a scholarship to a grammar school and needed a grant to pay for his Oxford studies; Edward also only got to Oxford by scholarship as there were no state-sponsored student grants or loans back in the 1930s). He also married a woman whose husband was a first cousin to none other than Queen Elizabeth II, and the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time officiated the marriage ceremony!

In spite of this background, Jeremy was more radical than many other Liberals of his time-in particular, he called for campaigns on the apartheid-era states of Rhodesia and South Africa. Despite almost losing his seat of North Devon in 1970, he was able to rise to prominence once again-during the 1972-74 Liberal revival which led to the Liberals winning a total of 14 seats during the February 1974 general election-eight more than in 1970, and with almost 20% of the votes cast.

What needs to be made clear is that the Conservative vote took a considerably greater hit from the Liberals than the Labour vote did-the Conservative vote fell nationally in February 1974 by 8.5%, but Labour's vote in the same election only fell by 5.9%. The Liberals captured five seats from the Conservatives (Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Isle of Ely, Bodmin, Hazel Grove, and the Isle of Wight, but lost their by-election gains of Ripon and Sutton & Cheam ) but only three from Labour (Cardiganshire, Colne Valley, and Rochdale). Also, they did not field candidates in every British constituency (they fielded 517 out of 623); many of the constituencies they did not field a candidate in were solidly Labour at the time.

The Conservatives thus knew that the Liberals were splitting their vote in places the Liberals could not win, and that indirectly and unintentionally the Liberals ensured that Labour won the most seats despite the fact Labour did not win the most votes in the February 1974 election. Regarding the affair itself, it was first brought to light by Auberon Waugh, a notable Private Eye correspondent, on 12 December 1975; Auberon wrote 'my only hope is that sorrow over his friend's dog will not cause Mr Thorpe's premature retirement from public life'. This led to the opening up of knowledge of the affair, helped by Bodmin's former Liberal MP, Peter Bessell (a close friend of Jeremy's who represented Bodmin from 1964 to 1970) agreeing to an interview by the very pro-Conservative Daily Mail.

In my opinion, Peter Bessell was a Conservative in drag posing as a Liberal-whilst in Parliament, he supported capital punishment and British involvement in the Vietnam war but was not pro-EEC-antithetical to his few fellow Liberal MPs. Strangely for a friend of Jeremy Thorpe, Peter was opposed to sanctions on Rhodesia. He met his own not-so-well-known end after problems with his businesses occurred just prior to 1970, and he fled to California to avoid potential bankruptcy.

One interesting note is this: within the 1970-74 Parliament, the Liberal revival in Jeremy's tenure only took place from October 1972 onwards, with their win of Rochdale from Labour. In by-elections from October 1970 to May 1972, the share of the Liberal vote fell in every single one they stood in, and they only saved their deposit in the Arundel and Shoreham by-election during that time. Maybe it was just the choice of Liberal candidates that tells this story....

The revelation of Rinkagate and the affair between Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott caused it to all unravel. Rising Liberal support shattered, to the point where in polls of the day the Liberals were polling below 10%, and in by-elections they were losing votes (and £150 deposits) left, right, and centre, typified by their fifth-place finish in the infamous Walsall North by-election, whose result alongside that of the Workington by-election the same day cost Harold Wilson's Labour government their tiny majority.
(Coincidentally, this is when the Ecology Party, now of course the Green Party, stood its first ever parliamentary by-election candidate). The one saving grace for the Liberals (even when Jeremy was replaced as Liberal leader by David Steel, the damage from the Thorpe affair still reverbrated) was in the Liverpool Edge Hill by-election, where somehow David Alton won that seat from Labour (after they lost the vote of no confidence in March 1979) on a 30% swing, and kept it and its successor Liverpool Mossley Hill for another 18 years.

The fallout from the Thorpe affair divided the Liberals internally as well-John Pardoe, who became Deputy Leader after failing to succeed Jeremy as actual Liberal leader, lost his seat of North Cornwall in 1979 having held it for 13 years because he supported Jeremy over the scandal. The only other Liberal MP to lose his seat in the 1979 general election, despite the significant fall in the Liberal vote that year, was Emlyn Hooson, who was not actually friendly towards Jeremy and was in fact investigating him over the allegations against him. Why Emlyn lost his seat of Montgomery, I do not know, and his obituary does not tell me either.
Meanwhile, David Penhaligon, MP for Truro, spoke against the Lib-Lab pact of 1977 and refused to support Jeremy when Jeremy did not stand down from his North Devon seat of 1979, as David Penhaligon advised. David Penhaligon increased his majority in Truro substantially in 1979, but Jeremy lost North Devon on a 12% swing (swings that size are rare even in modern general elections). At the same time, the relative weakness of James Callaghan compared to his predecessor, Harold Wilson (who I believe resigned not only because of his ill health but also because of attempts by MI5, and pro-establishment figures with links to the secret services like Airey Neave, to undermine him and undemocratically replace him), was used easily to attack Labour by the Conservatives and Conservative-allied press, which combined with a loss of Liberal votes in many Conservative-Labour swinging bellweather seats and the vote of no confidence of March 1979 where the Liberals severed their temporary pact with Labour, all helped Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 general election.

As for Rinkagate itself, so much information within it has been clouded, making it difficult for me to make my assessment of it. The trial judge's abusive (he referred to Norman as a liar, sponger and whiner and Peter as a humbug just seeking financial gain; I do not believe a Crown Court judge like Sir Joseph Cantley, who presided over the trial, would get away with such abusive remarks today) and blatantly biased summing up was a serious issue, as were the questions over the details of the entire incident. Andrew Newton was the man who shot Rinka (Norman Scott's pet dog), but I believe there are some doubts about whether Jeremy actually hired Andrew to kill both Rinka and Norman. Media bias on both sides within the scandal (e.g. the Sunday Times publishing 'the lies of Norman Scott' and other major newspapers painting a shady picture of Jeremy Thorpe and co) is also a notable problem. I believe that the character of the defendants or the plaintiffs should not have been included in the summing up, only the evidence on both sides within the case.

However, had I been around in 1979 and on that jury which acquitted all four defendants in that trial, I would not have judged Jeremy at least to be guilty, simply because there is insufficient evidence to clearly prove he was involved in a conspiracy to kill Norman Scott.  There probably was one, given the evidence, but I do not believe we can ever be certain of that. As for the guilt or lack thereof of Andrew, David Holmes, and John Le Mesurier, the other defendants, I am not so sure; I believe much of the truth behind Rinkagate, and the supposed affair between Jeremy and Norman, will never be known.

The public perception following the trial nevertheless ended Jeremy Thorpe's political career; he never fully regained the trust of the Liberal Party despite having been made honorary president of North Devon Liberal Democrats in 1988 (by which time he had acquired early onset Parkinson's disease). He survived in general obscurity hereafter until he died; when I first learned about him I was surprised to read that he was still alive when his Conservative/Labour contemporaries of Edward Heath and Harold Wilson were long since dead (Edward died in 2005, Harold died in 1995).

If I did not post this yesterday, it is because of the controversial nature of the events in Jeremy Thorpe's life which has made it difficult for me to write an opinion of it all; I feel that as an (amateur) historian of politics I need to write this. If you have an opinion on all this, please let me know.

Alan.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Green songs and poetry: Just appreciate our differences

Just Appreciate Our Differences (a poem about the importance of respecting diversity, and especially people with disabilities):

My fellow humans,
Just listen around you,
Just look around you,
Wherever you are.

We are not all the same,
But why should we let
Difference and diversity
Set us humans apart?

I am different, I act different,
But you cannot always see that.
You think I might be faking it,
You think it does not matter.

We all have our struggles,
Our paths, our quests,
I do as well, but they are more difficult,
I never chose to have a disability,
People never choose to acquire mental illness,
But still some of you and the media,
Want our heads on a platter.

We try to work, we try to help you,
Despite what we have to overcome,
But too often you fail to appreciate me
Or what I can bring to you and our world.

But I know you can all be compassionate,
When not being influenced by harmful media
Or by soulless corporations,
There may be things I find more difficult
To do or to understand,
A lot of the time, this hurts.

Important to tell you that
You could at some point
Acquire disability or poor mental health
Whether through fault or accident.
So just appreciate our differences,
Whatever they may be and however tough times are,
Please try and help us create a better world.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The psychology (and politics) behind our dependence on machines in much of our lives

On BBC news, Professor Stephen Hawking warned that AI (artificial intelligence) could, if it advanced far enough, ultimately spell the end of the human race.

I believe Professor Hawking has an important point-we are already seeing the potential dangers of AI in unmanned drone warfare as well as science fiction. And although Channel Four's new comedy, 'Bad Robots' (where automated machines are used to prank members of the public in various ways in the same way Fonejacker and Facejacker once did), is supposed to just frustrate its victims (and amuse its audience), it could be potentially a warning of what will come next in terms of AI-human interaction.

And machines and robots have already deprived so many people of their jobs, especially over the last three decades of neoliberal capitalism, even if there need to be humans around to maintain the machines.

How did we become so attached to machines, even though we are often as frustrated by them as we are pleased by them?

1. Ease of stress. Work, especially onerous and repetitive work, is by its nature stressful and does not stimulate the brain's pleasure or cognitive centres-and can actually hinder stimulation in some cases. Machines cannot suffer mental stress as they lack the ability to feel emotions-ironically, however, we are sometimes stressed by machines' inability to interpret some requests properly due to their lack of independent thought.

2. Cognitive perception of progress. Humans are generally naturally inclined to be at least somewhat progressive (even if their cultural influence normally influences them to be more conservative than usual) and machines, because of their lower error rates, comparative smoothness, and quicker rate of task completion. This is all advantageous to the capitalist elite, who of course care much more about short-term profits than they ever did about ethics or compassion towards fellow human beings.

3. Machines cannot deliberately ignore or disobey instructions. Not yet, at least. However, we generally consider this trait useful when we want a particular and simple task (that current machines are able to be programmed to carry out) done with a minimum of hassle and consequent stress.

However, at the same time, our attachment to technology, especially in wealthier nations, has created some wide-ranging psychological problems. First of all, over-use of social media, and over-reliance on machines for certain tasks, has within everyday society affected our ability to emotionally connect with and empathise with other human beings, which is essential for us and our continuance. Secondly, on the whole we are less thoughtful about using backup solutions should the complex technology we use fail-and the greater the complexity and capacity of a technological device, the greater potential for error there is. This is particularly notable in voice-activated devices, for instance. Thirdly, our physical and mental health has been affected by the use of too much labour-saving technology.

I believe by gaining further evidence into how machines and advanced technology can affect us, we can counter the mechanisation of ourselves, try and reconnect with each other as I have said before on my blog, and above all, we should avoid at all costs creating machines and artificial intelligence capable of independent thought. If you are wondering how this relates to politics as well as psychology, it is because it is free-market capitalism and its greed that takes major responsibility for the rapid pace in technological advancement-whilst that is sometimes useful, it should only go so far.

Alan.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Special: Things that are more popular than the Liberal Democrats ;)

Readers, with the Liberal Democrats in such decline after their many betrayals, suck-ups to the Conservative Party, and failure to uphold their values, it is no wonder that in many local by-elections, local elections, and parliamentary by-elections, they have been bettered in polls by such a wide variety of different candidates. The Green Party is now regularly bettering the Liberal Democrats in many polls, on that note.

Here is a list of minor party (the major parties other than the Lib Dems are the Conservatives, the Greens, Labour, and UKIP; the SNP and Plaid Cymru are also major parties in Scottish- and Welsh-related contexts respectively) and independent candidates who have beaten the Lib Dems over the span of the Con-Dem government's time (which is due to expire soon next year):

Parliamentary by-elections

2011, Barnsley Central: BNP and Independent Tony Devoy.

2012, Bradford West: Respect MP George Galloway.

2012, Rotherham: BNP, Respect, English Democrats and Independent Simon Copley.

2013, South Shields: Independents Ahmed Khan and Phil Brown, and the BNP. The OMRLP came tantalisingly close (only 155 votes behind the Lib Dems here)

2014, Newark: Independent Paul Baggaley (who only needed 50 votes more to keep his £500 deposit)

In Scottish local elections and by-elections:

2013: No Bedroom Tax, TUSC, Borders Party, various independent candidates.

2012: (depending on area): Christian Party, Scottish Socialist Party, TUSC, Glasgow First, Borders Party, and most notably, a man dressed in a penguin suit.

In Welsh local elections and by-elections:

2014: Llandaff North Independents, TUSC, a few other independents.

2013: Socialist Labour (in Ynys Mon Assembly by-election), TUSC, one independent.

2012: (depending on area): TUSC, independent.

In English local elections and by-elections (parties with at least two candidates having beaten the Liberal Democrats in two separate wards):

2014: TUSC, Socialist Labour, Make Willesden Green, National Health Action, Harrow's Independent Labour Group, People Before Profit, All People's Party, Peace Party, Respect, Pirate Party, the (continuing) Liberals, English Democrats, British Democrats, BNP, National Front, (and infamously once in Clifton North, Nottingham), the Bus Pass Elvis Party.

Also, one thing I have noticed is the astounding drop in the Liberal Democrat share (in comparison to their 2010 vote share in the respective seat, by terms of how much of the vote share they lost) in by-elections compared to increases/decreases in Labour and Conservative vote shares during the last four years:

By-election:       Lab vote share +/-:    Con vote share +/-:      LD vote share +/-:

Oldham East
& Saddleworth           +32.9                       -51.5                           +0.9

Barnsley Central       +28.5                       -52.0                           -75.8

Leicester South       +26.8                         -29.4                          -16.3

Inverclyde                -3.9                            -17.5                         -83.5

Feltham & Heston    +24.8                        -18.5                         -57.0

Bradford West          -44.8                         -73.0                        -61.7

Manchester Central  +31.1                       -61.9                         -64.7

Cardiff South
& Penarth                  +21.6                      -29.7                        -51.6

Corby                         +25.4                     -37.0                        -65.8

Rotherham               +4.0                        -67.7                        -86.9

Middlesbrough       +31.8                    -66.5                         -50.2

Croydon North         +15.5                     -30.3                         -75.0

Eastleigh                  +2.1                     -35.4                          -31.0

South Shields          -3.1                       -46.8                         -90.0

Wythenshawe
& Sale East              +25.4                   -43.1                        -78.0

Newark                    -21.0                    -16.5                        -87.0

Clacton                   -55.2                      -53.6                      -89.4

Heywood
& Middleton            +2.0                       -54.8                      -77.5

Rochester
& Strood                -41.0                       -30.1                      -94.7     


Meanwhile, we Greens have always increased our vote share (and in some cases the number of votes we got in 2010 in the respective seat) in Parliamentary by-elections so far in the coalition government's tenure, excepting only Bradford West. And this was even before our recent surge this year.

Alan.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

It is not just in Britain that we Greens are moving forward

Readers, I am pleased to say that not just in Britain, but also British Commonwealth nations (many of which still have first-past-the-post electoral systems), Green Parties are moving forwards and making strides.

The state of Victoria, Australia, held a legislative election yesterday, which resulted in the Liberals losing power after only one term, a significant blow to Australia's rabidly anti-green, neoliberal Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (now ex-Liberal Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine, was overheard blaming Tony Abbott for his defeat, apparently). More importantly, though, our Green counterparts in Australia won their first assembly seat in the division of Melbourne, covering an area Adam Bandt (the only current Green MP in Australia's federal House of Representatives) represents. I give my thanks to the successful Australian Green in question, Ellen Sandell, who at just 30 years of age has made that significant breakthrough. They also nearly gained the division of Richmond from Labor.

The Australian Greens also gained two more seats in the Victoria legislature's upper house, the Legislative Council, and would have gained more had it not been for the quirk in Australia's particular STV system, which allowed unconventional single-issue parties such as the Australian Sex Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party to gain seats despite a comparative lack of support. In federal and state by-elections, the Australian Greens have also made comparatively good strides.

Elsewhere in British Commonwealth nations, the Green Party of Canada two months earlier
managed to win only its second state-level assembly seat in New Brunswick-David Coon won the riding of Fredericton South, and the New Brunswick Greens finished second in the safely Liberal riding of Kent North. I hope this will encourage the Green Party of Canada to contest harder when Canada's next federal election comes around sometime next year.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, the various Green Parties combined (GPEW, SGP, GPNI) have now overtaken the Liberal Democrats in terms of prospective parliamentary candidates selected across the country-keep up the good work :)

Alan.

UPDATE: The Australian Greens, via Sam Hibbins, also won Prahran from the Liberals in the lower house of Victoria in the Victoria state election I mentioned.

Friday, 28 November 2014

My analysis of yesterday's local by-elections (from 27/11/14) and my tribute to PD James

Readers, the results of yesterday's local by-elections featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Aberdeenshire UA, Troup: (1st preference votes): SNP 1159 (46.1%, +6.4%), Conservative 574 (22.8%, +1.9%), Independent S 391 (15.5%), Liberal Democrat 141 (5.6%, +3.6%), Labour 140 (5.6%, -0.9%), Green 68 (2.4%), Independent M 43 (1.7%).

Midlothian UA, Midlothian East: Lab 1294 (32.9%, -2.7%), SNP 1260 (32.1%, -10.8%), Ind 780 (19.8%), Con 331 (8.4%, -0.7%), Green 197 (5.0%), Lib Dem 68 (1.7%)

Oxford CC, Blackbird Leys: Lab 509 (75.7%, +8.4%), UKIP 91 (13.5%, -7.0%), Con 27 (4.0%, -1.6%), Green 21 (3.1%, -1.4%), TUSC 13 (1.9%), Lib Dem 11 (1.7%, -0.4%)

Oxford CC, Northfield Brook: Lab 401 (70.6%, -1.0%), Con 65 (11.4%, +0.0%), Green 50 (8.8%, -2.5%), TUSC 34 (6.0%), Lib Dem 18 (3.2%, -2.5%)

Oxfordshire CC, The Leys: Lab 879 (71.0%, -10.5%), UKIP 168 (13.6%), Con 77 (6.2%, -1.4%), Green 57 (4.6%, -2.8%), Lib Dem 30 (2.4%, -1.0%), TUSC 27 (2.2%).

Despite the very strong showing of the SNP in current opinion polls, this has not necessarily translated into increased support in local elections where STV is used and not FPTP (at least not by much). In STV, tactical voting can be even more problematic than under FPTP, as Assembly elections in Northern Ireland, and Dail elections in the Republic of Ireland, show. In the Midlothian local by-election, the Independent probably advocated that his supporters use their higher preferences to vote Labour to stop the SNP winning; there is enough SNP strength in rural Aberdeenshire to obviate this, usually.

Back in Oxfordshire, my view that the Socialists (the Socialist Party is the largest component of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) sometimes hold the Green Party back has sadly been proved once again-our vote shares, which should have increased in Labour wards as safely as Blackbird Leys and Northfield Brook, where left of Labour potential also exists, have actually gone down partly due to TUSC's intervention. Although as usual they did not poll well they at least managed to come ahead of the hapless Liberal Democrats in the city council by-elections (they also managed this in the Charville by-election in Hillingdon, where we Greens sadly did not stand), and only come three votes behind them in the county council by-election. Strangely, the county council by-election featured a swing from Labour to UKIP, but the city council by-election in Blackbird Leys (UKIP did not stand in Northfield Brook) actually featured a swing from UKIP to Labour!

Out of the by-elections without Green Party candidates, the most notable (at least for psephologists) is Bridlington Central & Old Town in East Yorkshire-UKIP has just taken one of the only two remaining council seats in Britain that was held by the continuing Social Democratic Party (SDP), which formed in late 1990 after David Owen wound up the old SDP following its disastrous performance at the first Bootle by-election of 1990; in that by-election the old SDP finished with less than half the votes of the Monster Raving Loony Party's then leader, Screaming Lord Sutch. The continuing SDP did not even stand a candidate in the by-election following the death of former Bridlington Mayor Ray Allerston, even though they put forward two candidates for the two seats of that ward in the last local elections for East Yorkshire Unitary Authority in 2011. I wonder what the continuing SDP's only remaining district councillor, Tony Taylor (he represents Aberavon ward on Neath Port Talbot UA for the SDP), is thinking now. Speaking of dying local parties, the Idle Toad, which once was active in Lancashire, has now been wound up and deregistered.

I would finally like to pay tribute to the novelist Phyllis Dorothy James (later Baroness James), aka PD James, who sadly died at the age of 92 recently. I will remember her not only for her detective thrillers, but more importantly her dystopian novel, Children of Men, (set in a future where human fertility has ceased completely due to male sperm counts plummeting to zero) which I quite enjoyed reading a few years ago.

Alan.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Political history: For a few hundred votes more....

40 years ago, two general elections took place in the UK. February 1974 is much better remembered, not only for the strong Liberal surge which shook both the Conservatives and Labour (the Conservatives more so) and the first real establishment of Plaid Cymru and the SNP as a force in British politics, but also for a hung Parliament that resulted. The October 1974 general election by contrast is less well-known today, partly because a majority government did come out of it and also because of the lower turnout.

Both were very tightly fought, though-the Conservatives were just ahead of Labour in terms of vote share (37.8% to 37.5%) but ended up with four seats fewer because of the unfairness of first past the post; the Liberals were even more hard done by since nearly 20% of the votes cast only rewarded them with just over 2% of Westminster seats (14 out of 623 mainland seats, although they only put forward 517 candidates). In October 1974, the Liberals fielded a candidate in almost every single mainland constituency (except Argyll, Glasgow Provan, Fife Central, and Lincoln where they supported Dick Taverne) meaning for the first time in the history of universal suffrage in Britain, each constituency had at least 3 candidates standing (1979 had three two candidate contests, in Birmingham Handsworth, Dudley West and Salford East, the last time that this has happened, and ever will happen, in any UK constituency)

With Labour only coming out of it with a majority of three, it was already looking unstable, and within three years Labour (by now under the rather weak James Callaghan) ended up having to make a pact with the Liberals under David Steel, which ultimately resulted in a vote of no confidence in March 1979, infamously won by a single vote.

What I can say is this, however: a swing of just 1% more in Labour's favour would have pushed enough crucial marginal into their hands to form a stable enough government for five years- eight seats alone that were held by the Conservatives over Labour were held with a majority of one percent or less.

A still small but firm majority of 19 that would have been given had those eight seats (Plymouth Drake, Croydon Central, Northampton South, Beeston, Bosworth, Brentford & Isleworth, Aberdeen South, and Reading North) would have been workable in those circumstances, and that vote of no confidence mentioned above (which was a strong contributing factor in the decisive majority the Conservatives won in 1979) would never have happened.

What else might have been had what I described above happened? I leave it to you, the readers of my blog, to make your own opinions here :)

Alan.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Green songs and poetry: Reclaim the stolen land

Reclaim the stolen land (I read this at an event last weekend):

People of Britain, let us come and occupy
On every square, every space, of public land.
Land stolen from our ancestors by the filthy rich,
Using force and capitalism's grabby hands.

Let us be fazed by nothing,
Not the police, not corporate guards, no-one,
Let us stride and thus fear nothing,
Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow, the square shall be won.

People everywhere, let us reclaim the stolen land,
That has been despoiled by the rich, abused by the Crown.
Let us block the entry of those dirty fracking drills,
That blot the grass and trees and turn our drinking water brown.

Remember, this land was really ours all along,
Those peers do not really own it, they just took it without asking.
Let us strive to reclaim the stolen land,
To restore its glory, to let it become vibrant and shining.

Friday, 21 November 2014

My analysis of the Rochester and Strood by-election and the same-day local by-elections

Readers, in case you have not seen it already, the results from the Rochester and Strood by-election were as follows:

Mike Barker, Independent, 54 (0.13%)

Christopher Challis, Independent, 22 (0.05%)

Norman 'Hairy Knorm' Davidson, Official Monster Raving Loony Party, 151 (0.38%)

Jayda Fransen, Britain First, 56 (0.14%)

Stephen Goldsborough, Independent, 69 (0.17%)

Clive Gregory, Green Party, 1,692 (4.22%, +2.71%)

Geoff Juby, Liberal Democrats, 349 (0.87%, -15.5%)

Naushabah Khan, Labour, 6,713 (16.8%, -11.7%)

Nick Long, People Before Profit, 69 (0.17%)

Dave Osborn, Patriotic Socialist Party, 33 (0.08%)

Mark Reckless, UKIP, 16,867 (42.1%)

Charlotte Rose, Independent, 43 (0.11%)

Kelly Tolhurst, Conservative, 13,947 (34.8%, -14.4%)

Unlike with Clacton, it was not a foregone conclusion that Mark Reckless would win, even though all polls showed him ahead of the Conservatives. However, Kelly Tolhurst made several of the same mistakes as Eastleigh's Conservative candidate, Maria Hutchings (incidentally, I could briefly see Kelly with Maria during the live by-election coverage leading up to the result) despite being local and more genuine (Mark, by contrast, was not born in the constituency, is privately educated and an Oxford alumnus), by pandering to UKIP on immigration and by her terrible performance at the two by-election hustings. I greatly dislike both the Conservatives and UKIP, but I believe for the record that Kelly could have won narrowly had she not been so abrasive and argumentative.

I was hoping that we would save our deposit in this by-election, given how well we are doing nationally, but sadly that did not happen-maybe it is just the demographics of this seat.

The Liberal Democrats' vote share, by the way, is the worst for any major party in the entire history of the United Kingdom-not just since World War II, and is the very first time any of the three parties have polled less than 1% of the vote in a by-election. Quite frankly, the Liberal Democrats would have done better if they had not bothered to field a candidate in the first place.

And the answers to my five by-election questions about Rochester and Strood are:

1. If Mark Reckless wins, how much will he win by? He did win, of course, but only by 2,920 votes-a margin of only 7.3%.

2. Can Labour push the Conservatives into third place, given that there is more potential for them here than in Clacton? No, they finished third as they did in Clacton, although their performance was somewhat better.

3. Will the Green Party's Clive Gregory beat the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Juby, and will he save his deposit? He got almost five times the Liberal Democrats' vote, but sadly it was not enough for him to save his deposit.

4. Will the turnout remain as buoyant as Clacton's? Not quite-turnout for the Rochester and Strood by-election was slightly lower at 50.6%, a drop of 14.3%.

5. How well, or not, will the other eight candidates do? And who will get the (metaphorical) wooden spoon? Only one, the OMRLP's Hairy Knorm Davidson (who had actually achieved decent results by OMRLP standards back in Faversham & Mid Kent) got more than 100 votes; the other 7 candidates put together could not even achieve more than the 349 votes the Lib Dems polled. The wooden spoon went surprisingly to Christopher Challis, with a dismal 22 votes.

This was certainly an interesting by-election, with a wide plethora of candidates, although with a clear indication that the lessons of Eastleigh have not been correctly learnt just yet.

Meanwhile, there were three local by-elections going on-here are their results (NB: if you stayed up to watch the Rochester and Strood by-election live you will already know about one of them):

Medway UA, Peninsula: UKIP 2,850 (48.3%), Conservative 1,965 (33.3%, -20.9%), Labour 716 (12.1%,-8.5%), Green 314 (5.3%,-2.1%), Liberal Democrats 60 (1.0%, -5.3%)

Stockport MBC, Bramhall South & Woodford: Con 2080 (53.2%, +8.2%), Lib Dem 1502 (38.3%, +5.4%), Green 197 (5.0%), Lab 132 (3.4%, -5.5%)

Swansea UA, Uplands: Independent (Peter May) 671 (32.8%), Lab 533 (26.1%, -13.1%), Lib Dem 215 (10.5%, -22.2%), Green 179 (8.8%, -9.7%), Independent (Pat Dwan) 158 (7.7%), Con 154 (7.5%, -2.1%), Plaid Cymru 105 (5.1%), TUSC 31 (1.5%).

The fact that the Medway by-election occurred at the same time (although its declaration was one hour earlier) as the Rochester and Strood by-election gave a large boost to UKIP, even though the Peninsula ward is actually in the Gillingham and Rainham constituency nearby. As with the by-election, there was a large swing from Conservative to UKIP.

At least the Lib Dems have one crumb of comfort in the fact their vote share increased in Stockport's local by-election, partly because the Labour candidate was not local and did not campaign much (Labour have no realistic chance of winning in many parts of the borough of Stockport which are not in the city of Stockport itself; Bramhall is in the Cheadle constituency); we managed to finish ahead of Labour despite not having stood there before. Not all Liberal Democrat-strong territory is necessarily good for the Green Party, alas.

Meanwhile in Swansea, former Lib Dem PPC Peter May, who came only 504 votes short of winning the seat of Swansea West in 2010, won the 'naturally liberal' ward of Uplands, where the late great Dylan Thomas once lived. We Greens are recovering somewhat in Wales, but the intervention of Plaid Cymru (they did not stand here in 2012) split our vote when they could have supported us (Plaid Cymru is somewhat stronger in wards in Swansea East). Even for Swansea, the Conservatives' sixth-place finish, especially without a UKIP candidate in this by-election, is rather poor. As for Peter May, I suspect he would probably have become MP for Swansea West in 2010 if Charles Kennedy was still Lib Dem leader then and not Nick Clegg.

The Rochester and Strood by-election will probably be the last Westminster by-election of this parliament, with less than six months to go before the general election of 2015 takes place. In the meantime, the Green Party is getting more and more PPCs ready across England and Wales :)

Alan.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

My questions about the Rochester and Strood by-election and other thoughts.

Readers, I would first of all like to thank everyone who came to today's Free Education Demo in London, especially those of you from the Green Party, and in particular the Young Greens, who helped get the march organised. I am sorry I could not be there, but I am glad that so many came. After all, many countries in Europe have free higher education, so we can, and we should also have it for both undergraduate and postgraduate education (particularly important to me since I want to become a psychologist one day).

Secondly, polling day for the Rochester & Strood by-election is tomorrow and it has been a rather interesting campaign. I am hoping Clive Gregory will have done well enough to save his deposit in the end (since he has not got a realistic chance of winning this by-election, unfortunately), especially with a YouGov poll showing the Green Party as high as 8%. There has undoubtedly been some campaigning from the eight 'minor candidates' (all candidates except Labour's Naushabah Khan, our Clive Gregory, the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Juby, Mark Reckless for UKIP and the Conservatives' Kelly Tolhurst) but sadly the media sometimes just has not enough time (or enough fairness in the BBC's case) to hear them all in equal measure to the Greens, the Lib Dems., Labour, UKIP and the Conservatives.

It appears that a UKIP win is now a given in this by-election, even though it was not from the start; Kelly's abrasive, argumentative and rude manner will undoubtedly play a major factor in the Conservatives' defeat here, and also how much of a swing to UKIP they take when the results come through. However, what happens regarding how well the other eleven candidates do is still debatable at this point.

My five by-election questions for Rochester & Strood are:

1. If Mark Reckless wins, how much will he win by?
2. Can Labour push the Conservatives into third place, given that there is more potential for them here than there was in Clacton?
3. Will the Green Party's Clive Gregory get his deposit returned, and will he beat the Liberal Democrats' Geoff Juby?
4. Will the turnout in this by-election remain more buoyant than that of Clacton?
5. How well, or not, will the four independent candidates and the four minor party candidates poll in this by-election, and who will take the (metaphorical) wooden spoon?

Please feel free to give your own answers to my five questions :)

Regards, Alan.

Friday, 14 November 2014

My analysis of by-election results from 13/11/14 and other thoughts

Readers, there were three local by-elections yesterday featuring Green Party candidates, and the results were as follows:

Cambridge CC, Queen Edith's: Liberal Democrat 933 (36.5%, -4.7%), Labour 790 (30.9%, +1.1%), Conservative 614 (24.0%, +7.7%), Green 222 (8.7%, -2.7%).

Wigan MBC, Douglas: Lab 874 (59.4%, -0.7%), UKIP 452 (30.7%, -0.9%), Con 80 (5.4%, -3.0%), Green 37 (2.5%), Community Action Party 29 (2.0%).

Wokingham UA, Bulmershe & Whitegates: Con 726 (35.4%, +8.4%), Lab 498 (24.3%, -10.0%), Lib Dem 448 (21.8%, +4.1%), UKIP 275 (13.4%, -1.6%), Green 105 (5.1%, -1.0%).

(NB: All percentage changes in vote share are since 2014)

The fact that the Liberal Democrats regained Queen Edith's ward is not surprising-Labour's win in 2012 was a serious shock, given how that ward elected Conservative councillors until 1992 and Lib Dem councillors from then onwards, usually. I am surprised that we Greens did not make an advance even though this ward is in the South Cambridgeshire constituency and not the Cambridge constituency.

In Wigan, the Community Action Party was once a strong force, but it went into decline a few years ago and once ended up de-registering at one point. They returned earlier this year but it is clear that they are no longer as influential as they once were. Speaking of local parties in decline, the Mansfield Independent Forum (who Mansfield's elected Mayor, Tony Eggington, is a member of), which once controlled Mansfield council, has not even fielded a candidate for an upcoming by-election caused by the death of one of their own councillors. The continuing SDP's base in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, may be about to fade away again as they could not find anyone to replace long-serving Ray Allerston (who sadly died two months ago and whose wife was once Mayor of Bridlington) for a by-election due to take place in two weeks' time.

The result from Wokingham, meanwhile, is indicative of the Liberal Democrats' long-term decline in Berkshire as a whole, which in my opinion started when David Rendel lost his Newbury seat to Richard Benyon in 2005. In several seats in Berkshire in 2010, there were significant swings from Liberal Democrat to Conservative (outside Slough, Reading, and parts of Bracknell, there is little Labour support to speak of in Berkshire) and Wokingham proved no exception.

The Rochester & Strood by-election is now only six days away-apart from UKIP winning (in all likelihood), what will happen on the day with so many candidates?

Alan.