Friday, 29 August 2014

Cheeky (ex-) Conservative Carswell chances his constituents in coastal Clacton-and other thoughts of today

Yesterday, the (now UKIP) Conservative MP for Clacton, Essex, Douglas Carswell, took many (including myself) totally by surprised when he announced that not only had he defected to UKIP but also that he would resign to recontest his seat under his new party colours. 

This is the first time since 1982 that this exact situation has happened-and the last time it happened, Bruce Douglas-Mann (who defected to the SDP from Labour) lost heavily in the resulting by-election in Mitcham and Morden of 1982, finished third in 1983 but still allowed Conservative Angela Rumbold to hold that seat by splitting the Labour vote, and he never subsequently returned to Parliament. 

In an interesting twist, UKIP's general election candidate, Roger Lord, is refusing to stand aside for Mr. Carswell, in the same way that, returning to the 1980s, Michael O'Halloran (MP for Islington North back in 1982) refused to stand aside for John Grant (MP for Islington Central, a seat that no longer exists,back in 1982) when both defected to the SDP but when it was John Grant who was selected for the redrawn Islington North. Partly as a result of the split potential SDP vote in Islington North in 1983, Jeremy Corbyn managed to win for Labour and he has been the MP for Islington North ever since (although given his left-wing views and the Green potential in Islington, I wish he would defect to the Green Party sometime).

 I thought after the Conservative gain (whilst they were in government) of the 1982 Mitcham and Morden by-election (and only because the SDP split Labour's vote; the Conservative vote share actually decreased slightly in that by-election), that stunt would never again be repeated in British political history. In my opinion Mr. Carswell is taking a big risk here even if the bookmakers have already given him very favourable odds to win the upcoming Clacton by-election (1/3 even though the writ has not even been moved yet!) as there is some Labour potential in Clacton-he could just end up splitting the Conservative vote heavily SDP-style (and as with Mitcham and Morden push his old party into third place potentially).

Clacton's demographics are very favourable to UKIP, even by Essex standards, and I believe it is only because of Douglas Carswell himself that UKIP did not stand a candidate in Clacton (created from the now-abolished Harwich seat). More than half the electorate of Clacton is over the age of 55 (polls have shown consistently that older people are more favourable towards UKIP in the same way that younger people are more favourable towards the Green Party), UKIP has done rather well in many coastal towns in the UK in local elections recently, and Clacton has some significant areas of deprivation, Jaywick being the most notorious.

Given the publicity that has already been given to this news story in its very first day, it will be interesting to see who exactly stands in the Clacton by-election, likely to be called later this year.

As with the two other Parliamentary by-elections I have commented on in my blog, I believe we Greens should stand a candidate in the Clacton by-election, even if we have no chance of winning. We stood in Clacton in 2010, after all, and this time I think we can at least beat the Liberal Democrats, whose already weak vote share is likely to come crashing down. Beaches all across Britain have also been damaged by pollution, and they are important to our environment; this is another reason we Greens should campaign well in coastal towns like this. I also believe that we Greens can also provide a left-wing alternative to the heavy right-wing battle between Conservative and UKIP that will inevitably take place. Also, unlike UKIP, we will select our candidate locally and democratically (UKIP by-election candidates are just selected on the whims of a centralised executive committee,which has angered the aforementioned Roger Lord).

In other news, there was a by-election in the ward of North Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, yesterday, and the results were as follows:

Newcastle-upon-Tyne MBC, North Jesmond: Lib Dem 711 (52.5%), Labour 320 (23.6%), Conservative 117 (8.6%), UKIP 112 (8.3%), Green 94 (6.9%).

I will just say that this is a heavily student ward, but the students will not be returning there until next month-hence the easy Liberal Democrat hold when in other months they would have lost wards like this at by-elections. But it is an important reminder for us Greens, in light of Individual Electoral Registration which could be an issue for students, to make sure we maintain an active presence in university towns and cities where we are generally strongest.

Also, on the subject of elitism and education, I would like to say that it is not just disparities in wealth and education that are the cause of the level of elitism at high levels of British society-it is a failure to respect diversity and a culture that does not sufficiently promote cohesion ,compassion, and merit. Abolishing fee-paying private schools in the same way Finland did is a good start, but the way in which we raise our children also needs to change-materialism interferes heavily with our children's socio-emotional development and that partly explains why children in England are some of the least happy in the world. If we also abolished the monarchy and the House of Lords, our children would grow up more ambitious, more hopeful, and more willing to try their best.

Alan.





 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Green songs and poetry: Vote yes to freedom

Green songs and poetry: Vote yes, as it's the right thing (a song about Scottish independence, chorus to the tune of 'Follow Me' by Uncle Kracker)

From the UK, home to you and me,
Scotland does soon hope to be free,
From the constraints of Whitehall and Westminster elites,
And the unfair, cruel dogma of austerity.

 I hope they'll

Vote yes to freedom,as it's the right thing,
And ignore the lies of Alistair Darling,
 If in 2014 the Scots break away
It'll bring much hope to all the UK.

If the Scots support independence come 2014,
Cheers will flourish from Dumfries to Aberdeen,
 A yes vote means real control of money and energy,
And more importantly, their future destiny.
 
  I hope they'll

Vote yes to freedom, as it's the right thing, 
And ignore the lies of Alistair Darling,
 If in 2014 the Scots break away,
It'll bring much hope to all the UK.

 Yes to freedom means that Holyrood
 Never again has to bow to Old Etonians' moods.
 That fateful day come 18 September,
It shall be a day that all will remember.

I hope they'll 
 
Vote yes to freedom, as it's the right thing, 
And ignore the lies of Alistair Darling,
 If in 2014 the Scots break away,
It'll bring much hope to all the UK.

A yes vote will not just mean hope for all,
But also crack the overconfidence of Whitehall.
Light will thus not only shine on Scotland,
But also England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I hope they'll

Vote yes to freedom, as it's the right thing,
And ignore the lies of Alistair Darling,
 If in 2014 the Scots break away,
It'll bring much hope to all the UK.

  If on the other hand, the Scots vote no,
Their long-term future could be plagued with woe,
Mr. Darling's wrong, they're not better together,
They really need to break free from London's tether.

 I hope they'll

Vote yes to freedom, as it's the right thing, 
And ignore the lies of Alistair Darling,
 If in 2014 the Scots break away,
It'll bring much hope to all the UK.



Monday, 25 August 2014

The stark divide created by austerity and neoliberalism

Earlier today, the recently-appointed Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, resigned along with the entire cabinet of the French government amid the serious damage austerity is doing to France. Just before this, France's (soon to be ex-) Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg correctly blamed Angela Merkel for spreading it across the Eurozone (most of the European Union these days), especially to Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain where austerity measures are hurting the people the most for a recession they never caused. With this incident and so many others in the past two years, I sometimes wonder if French President Francois Hollande will end his term prematurely, given how ineffectual and disappointing he has been overall in France.

Monsieur Montebourg has correctly pointed out that these budget cuts to meet Eurozone deficits, far from reducing deficits, actually prolong the recession in European countries and do not achieve anything-proving once again that 'austerity' is a scam designed by the wealthy socio-economic elite everywhere so that they can avoid the consequences of their own failures and the failed free-market system by forcibly passing them onto the rest of us.

All of this is creating a starker and starker divide-and nowhere is this more pronounced in Europe than the United Kingdom, which did not fare as badly as several other nations in the years immediately following the start of the Great Recession of 2008.

Out of the 10 poorest regions in Northern Europe, nine (West Wales, Cornwall, Durham and Teeside, Lincolnshire, Humberside, South Yorkshire, Lancashire, Shropshire/Staffordshire and Northern Ireland) are in the United Kingdom. The only one of the 10 outside Britain, Hainaut (once an important industrial area of Belgium) only ranks ninth on the list, also. By contrast, the UK contains the wealthiest area in Northern Europe-Inner London (especially the City of London itself). The other nine wealthiest areas there are more evenly distributed-three are in Germany, and Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria have one of the 10 richest regions apiece.

Another example is how badly each council area in the UK is being affected by Eric Pickles' cuts-a report in The Mirror highlighted that Labour dominated areas such as Newham, Liverpool, Knowsley, Blackpool, and Hull are facing the worst cuts per household in the nation (as much as £700-£800 per household when these areas were pretty poor before the recession), whilst a few Conservative councils (Woking, Waverley, Elmbridge, and Surrey Heath, all of which are in Surrey) have actually been given increased annual budgets this year! This is tantamount to money laundering (or some type of theft anyway), in my opinion, given that the four Surrey councils in question already cover some of the most affluent areas in the country-and because Britain is the most unequal country in the EU, Western Europe as a whole. 

Thankfully, however, we are fighting back the tide of austerity hard not only in Britain but also in Europe-especially as TTIP looms ever closer. 38 degrees members within the UK will be staging anti-TTIP leafleting and canvassing events across the country-just go to 38 Degrees' website to find your nearest event, so that, for the sake of democracy, protection, and the future of the human race itself, we can all collectively defeat what is essentially the most dangerous and widespread corporate power grab ever conceived. 

Alan.

 










 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Peace for our current time (22/08/2014)

Yesterday, the first, (and I hope it will be the last) by-election for a Police and Crime Commissioner took place in the United Kingdom, in the West Midlands to replace former commissioner Bob Jones who died earlier this year. I barely wanted to notice due to the clear lack of a mandate shown for Police and Crime Commissioners across the country back in 2012-and as it turns out, so did almost 90% of the electorate of the area covered by West Midlands Police.

The final result recorded the worst ever turnout for any notable by-election in British peacetime history-the turnout was a staggeringly low 10.3%. I will just say that the Labour candidate, David Jamieson, won easily by winning 50.8% of the vote and therefore he did not have to go through a second round of voting (PCC elections use alternative vote, not first past the post)

This once again affirms that really, we should scrap Police and Crime Commissioners-they are unnecessary and with turnouts like those that occurred two years ago, it is just not worth it. Police forces should not be politicised anyway, as one unsuccessful candidate for the Lincolnshire PCC post pointed out. (He was beaten by an independent candidate, notably.)

Continuing on the theme of peace, I wish to pay my tribute to journalist James Foley, who was decapitated by a British-born ISIS combatant only known as 'Jihadi John' or 'Jailer John'; all he did was try to report what was going on so the world could know about the potential threat of the extremist group that is ISIS, many of whose members were once part of the globally infamous Al-Qaeda terrorist network. It is often difficult to speak on the subject of this fundamentalist group, but I just want to point out that they are only fighting their own extremist, brutal cause, and are certainly not promoting any Islamic cause (Islam, like all major religions, promotes peace, not violence) and that I hope 'Jailer John' is brought to justice soon for this murder.

I would also like to pay tribute to former Taoiseach (aka Prime Minister) of Ireland Albert Reynolds, who died yesterday at the age of 81. He will always be remembered for the important role he played in the Northern Ireland  peace process by brokering the 1994 IRA ceasfire (a loyalist ceasfire occurred shortly after that), which paved the way for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement there and therefore the end of 'The Troubles'.

Regards, Alan.

 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Railways+privatisation=grand theft from the people

I would like to give my thanks to those of you who demonstrated at various rail stations across the UK yesterday-especially as yet another above-inflation train fare rise, of 3.5%, will come into effect in January 2015. Bringing the railways back into public hands (as well as other types of public transport) needs to be a priority, and I am once again glad that the Green Party is fully committed to this.

To prove to you that railway privatisation has just resulted in grand theft from honest users like yourselves and I, and with worse service (especially on First Capital Connect!) to boot, here is a comparison of return fares of short, middle distance, and long return journeys in the UK and several other EU nations:

Short journey (~20 miles, the distance from my home town of Ware into London):

Great Britain (Ware to London): £17 (one day travelcard)
Ireland (Cork to Mallow; I stayed in Cork on my holiday in Ireland back in 2012): £14.35
France (Calais to Boulogne-sur-Mer): £6.60
Germany (Munich to Moosach): £8
Spain (Barcelona to Casteldefells): £10
Portugal (Lisbon to Vila Franca da Xeira): £14
Belgium (Brussels to Brain-l'Alleud): £6
Netherlands (Amsterdam to Hilversum): £12
Italy (Rome to suburbs near Formello, Bivio etc.): ~£14.
Poland (Warsaw to Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki): £6.

Semi-long journey (100 to 150 miles, the distance from London to Bristol):

Great Britain (London to Bristol): £193; (Cambridge to Birmingham New Street): £88
Ireland (Cork to Dublin):  £55.90
France: (Calais to Beauvais): £44.80
Germany (Berlin to Dresden): £70
Spain (Madrid to Albacete): £40
Portugal (Lisbon to Fratel): £36
Belgium (Rochefort to Ghent): £60
Netherlands (Amsterdam to Groningen): £52
Italy (Milan to Bologna): £62
Poland (Warsaw to Lublin): £16

Long journey (200-250 miles, the distance from London to Newcastle-upon-Tyne):

Great Britain (London to Newcastle-upon-Tyne): £126.00; (Birmingham to Plymouth): £215
Ireland (Cork to Dundalk; non-direct route and I recommend that you do not try this in practice): £64.30
France (Paris to Nantes): £51
Germany (Nuremberg to Dresden): £110
Spain (Madrid to Valencia): £50
Portugal (Faro to Caxarias, non-direct route and rather awkward): £75
Belgium: n/a 
Netherlands: n/a
Italy (Milan to Arezzo): £100
Poland (Warsaw to Wroclaw): £38

Yes, I am aware that the Telegraph did a similar analysis, in case you ask-but in my opinion it did not cover enough European nations and it was not comprehensive enough. Also, the 200 miles+ section of the article did not show a good comparison-the distance from Milan to Rome is 360 miles, compared to 220 miles from London to Sunderland. One issue with the British railway network in particular is that most long-rail distance routes originate or terminate in London and the few others that do not (e.g. Stanstead Airport to Birmingham) can actually turn out to be even more expensive in practice. In either case, it is important that in the months coming up to the general election that we keep campaigning for the return of the British rail network (and other once public services) into public hands.

Alan.



Tuesday, 19 August 2014

How much of a hit will the Con-Dems take in next year's general election?

In an earlier blog post, I made predictions about the most likely Green gains at next year's general election, the most likely UKIP gains at next year's general election, and the most likely (not likely at all, in reality) Liberal Democrat gains at next year's general election.

There has been some speculation about how many seats each party will win in 2015, based on opinion polling and current trends, and whether Labour under Ed Miliband will obtain an overall majority or not. I do not believe Labour will gain a majority at present even though they are likely to win the most seats next year, and that uniform swings will no longer be a remotely reliable measure of predicting next year's general election results. It would be more exciting if my fellow Greens were competitive in many more seats, but sadly despite the fact we are increasingly becoming the main alternative to the neoliberal consensus held by the three major parties (and UKIP to a greater extent), there are still only a handful of seats in the UK we could achieve second place in in 2015 at the moment, let alone win.

My analysis shows that in total, the Con-Dems have a lot to lose in terms of seats, even if a few of those seats are lost to each other. Here is my prediction of 60 Conservative and 25 Liberal Democrat seats in England and Wales that have at least a notable possibility of changing hands (there could be more or fewer losses next year,depending on how things develop in the next few months, but I need to avoid making this post too long), generally listed in order of percentage majority as listed on the UKPollingReport website:

1. North Warwickshire: With a majority only 54, and with sitting Conservative MP Dan Byles standing down, there is practically no chance the Conservatives can hold this seat, especially with UKIP splitting their vote even somewhat and with many Lib Dem votes likely to go to Labour. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

2. Camborne & Redruth: Despite the very small majority that George Eustic has (66), there is a chance he could just about retain this seat. However, the volatile nature of Cornish politics, especially at local level, the influence of UKIP, and Labour's inherent strength in Camborne, means that this seat could potentially also go to Labour, UKIP, or even the Liberal Democrats who have done reasonably well in Cornwall in the last few years. My prediction: No idea-this seat is definitely one to watch next year.

3. Thurrock: Jackie Doyle-Price does not have any realistic chance of holding on here, despite her lack of notoriety compared to other Conservative MPs in marginal seats. UKIP has polled strongly here at a local level (and did very well even in 2010) so it could be potentially they who win this seat instead of Labour in 2015, who are still pretty likely given the nature and demographics of this seat. My prediction: Dead cert Conservative loss-could go to either Labour or UKIP.

4. Hendon: The Conservatives have become particularly unpopular in many parts of Barnet, and in Hendon, I have heard that its former Labour MP, Andrew Dismore, who also won the FPTP London Assembly seat of Barnet and Camden from (now ex-) Conservative Brian Coleman has been reselected by Labour. On the back of a likely higher-than-average Conservative swing to Labour given local factors (UKIP is not really in play at all in Barnet), and falling Lib Dem votes, Mr. Dismore will likely regain this seat, even if my Green colleagues can gain Labour and Lib Dem votes. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

5. Solihull:  Lorely Burt has not been a particularly good Lib Dem MP (and she has also almost never rebelled against the coalition) and only has a majority of 175 in a seat where the Lib Dems have lost official opposition status on Solihull-to my fellow Greens who can win a lot of ex-Lib Dem votes here (as well as ex-Labour votes). UKIP will not perform nearly as well in Solihull as they will in some other West Midlands seats at present, so the Conservatives are strong favourites to win this seat back. My prediction: Likely Conservative gain.

6. Oxford West & Abingdon: This one is not as straightforward as its last results might indicate-the demographics of the west side of Oxford (which like much of Oxford has good Green potential) are quite different from those in the Vale of White Horse area which this seat also covers. Although the Lib Dems have not been faring as badly in Oxfordshire as some other counties, I believe on balance this will be held by the Conservatives, especially given a likely swing from Lib Dem to Labour and the fact UKIP will only perform averagely here at best. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold-but keep an eye on this seat anyway.

7. Cardiff North: Jonathan Evans, the current Conservative MP for Cardiff North, is standing down after only one term in this seat, and therefore the incumbency bonus will be lost. Cardiff is not exactly trending towards the Conservatives at the moment, so I am very sure Labour will win this seat even though Cardiff North's demographics will rule out any significant UKIP split,as Labour can win over at least some Lib Dem voters. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

8. Sherwood: Despite the fact that Mark Spencer will try to get re-elected, I believe the fact that UKIP will perform rather well in the East Midlands will prove fatal for the Conservatives' chances here-and Labour is only 214 votes behind anyway. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

9. Mid Dorset and Poole North: Annette Brooke, who has held this seat for 13 years, is retiring, and it is not looking that rosy for the Liberal Democrats in Dorset. However, due to UKIP's high potential in Dorset, and with Labour not having any real chance of winning Poole (or anywhere in Dorset for that matter), there is some chance the Liberal Democrats can hold here. My prediction: Likely Conservative gain.

10. Norwich South: Simon Wright has not stood out amongst Liberal Democrat MPs, and some say he only won this seat in the first place because of the particularly high unpopularity of this seat's former Labour MP, Charles Clarke. As I have said before, my fellow Greens have a good chance of winning this seat next year, although Labour will undoubtedly try hard to win this seat as well. My prediction: Dead cert Liberal Democrat loss-could go to either Labour or the Green Party.

11. Stockton South: This is one of only two seats in the North East region the Conservatives currently hold (the other is Hexham, which is safe for them), but with a majority of <1%, I am pretty sure Labour will win this from James Wharton, even if mostly by squeezing the Liberal Democrat vote-but Labour's vote in many parts of the North East is quite vulnerable to UKIP in the same way the Conservatives' vote is. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

12. Bradford East: David Ward has gotten himself into trouble regarding the situation in Israel, and combined with the small majority in this seat, a Labour gain is almost certain here-even if in the unlikely event Respect bother to stand here. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

13. Broxtowe: This is trending further towards Labour at the moment, and I am in no doubt that like Sherwood, UKIP will split the Conservative vote more than it will split the Labour vote, which overall will mean a Labour gain. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

14. Lancaster & Fleetwood: There is a significant student population in Lancaster, which has given my fellow Greens much support in Lancaster itself. Fleetwood meanwhile is a reasonably strong Labour voting area-the middle class Conservative support base in Lancaster will almost certainly not be enough for Eric Ollerenshaw to hold on-at least a few ex-Lib Dem voters will vote Labour. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

15. Truro and Falmouth: This is rather tricky to predict, because of the demographic and overall socio-economic disparity between the voters of Truro and the surrounding areas and the voters of Falmouth, which alone in Cornwall has a notable student electorate-and the traditional Lib Dem voter base will likely be more stable than the Conservative voter base, which is vulnerbale to UKIP even though Truro and Falmouth is better for Labour than Truro & St Austell was. If the Liberal Democrats somehow manage to make any gains at all in next year's election, this seat is likely to be one of them. My prediction: 50/50 Conservative hold/Lib Dem gain.

16. Newton Abbot: The majority Anne-Marie Morris has is rather small, and this seat's former Lib Dem MP, Richard Younger-Ross (currently a county councillor in Devon) has been reselected, and therefore the Lib Dems at a local level have been contesting harder than most in Devon. Meanwhile, UKIP's rise can do some damage to the Conservative vote, Labour might recover somewhat despite not being remotely competitive here at all, and we Greens are also on the rise in the South West-both of these can damage the Lib Dem vote. This is one to watch, although I believe on balance, Anne-Marie Morris could narrowly scrape home in 2015. My prediction: Probable Conservative hold.

17. Amber Valley: Amongst all the East Midlands counties, Derbyshire will prove worst for the Conservatives electorally, and Labour won Amber Valley council off the Conservatives this year, even if not by much. Nigel Mills only has a 1.2% majority here anyway. A rising UKIP vote and a collapsing Liberal Democrat vote, much of which will go to Labour (possibly for tactical reasons) will see an almost certain Labour win here, even if not by much. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

18. Wells: Tessa Munt has not proven herself all that useful (I thought her appearance on Question Time earlier this year was lacklustre, certainly) as an MP, and the Lib Dems won this seat narrowly in 2010. In addition, UKIP will hit both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in terms of votes here despite UKIP's recent problems in Wells, so a Conservative gain is pretty likely. My prediction: Likely Conservative gain.

19. Waveney: With Labour recovering well in Suffolk, and with UKIP also doing at least okay there, and with Peter Aldous' majority being pretty low, Labour is almost certain to gain this, even if not by much on the grounds that we Greens will make notable strides in Suffolk as a whole. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

20. Wolverhampton South West: This was once a safe Conservative seat, now it is, according to UKPollingReport, 'ultra-marginal' on the grounds that the majority is only 1.7%. Once again, UKIP's rise will probably ensure a Labour gain, even if Labour is not likely to increase its current vote share here. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

21. Harrogate and Knaresborough: Since Phil Willis retired, which was a factor in the Lib Dems losing this seat in 2010, the Lib Dem vote has unwound somewhat despite this place being naturally poor territory for Labour. Andrew Jones is likely to hold this, but UKIP cannot entirely be ruled out of the equation here. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold.

22. Morecambe and Lunesdale: There is a rather strong reliable Conservative vote in the rural parts of this seat, but given that Morecambe, like many parts of the north of England, has not fared that well in this recession, a Labour gain is almost certain, even if the swing will not be that good. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

23. Carlisle: This seat's new boundaries are better (somewhat) for the Conservatives than the previous boundaries for Carlisle, which was safe for Labour. Even though this is rather propserous by northern standards, a Labour gain is likely, particularly as they will benefit more from lost Lib Dem votes than the Conservatives will. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

24. Stroud: By Gloucestershire standards, the seat of Stroud is not all that friendly towards the Conservatives now-there is a substantial core Conservative vote but the Liberal Democrat vote will be hit hard by Labour, who have reselected former MP David Drew. Hopefully, the Green vote in Stroud will rise back up again also. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

25. Weaver Vale: This is one of the more average areas of Cheshire, socio-economically,and thus is very marginal at the moment between Labour and the Conservatives on paper. Labour appears likely to win this seat at present, given that there will still be a small swing (3-4%) from Conservative to Labour even in our shifting political landscape, which will be enough for Labour to win back this seat. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

26. Lincoln: This reliable bellwether seat is fought tightly by both Conservative and Labour, but with UKIP coming seriously into play in Lincoln, this seat's bellwether status could be lost for a long time, unless Labour suffers its own 'Black Wednesday' moment nationally (in the event it wins an overall majority) after 2015. On this basis, Labour is almost certain to win, even if the Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition stands in this seat (not that they will have any real impact). My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

27. Watford: The Conservative presence in Watford locally has been hammered down quite significantly, and the Liberal Democrats are holding on in Watford in spite of what has been happening to them elsewhere. Labour will also fight hard to win this back, and the seat's prosperity will not make much difference to the not that good Conservative chances in this seat. My prediction: Likely Conservative loss-either to Labour or the Liberal Democrats; this seat could still retain 3-way marginal status after next year's general election.

28. Plymouth Sutton & Devonport: This is more Plymouth Sutton than Devonport,really, and its naval traditions (even some modern economic activity still has naval usage) mean it leans towards the Conservatives generally. However, its substantial student population means there is a large Lib Dem vote to squeeze-and Labour is likely to benefit from that, although we Greens have tried to make inroads in Plymouth locally recently. UKIP has also performed remarkably well across Plymouth recently, as it has done in most coastal towns and cities in England-is it something in the sea air? My prediction: Likely Conservative loss-probably to Labour, but with an outside chance of a narrow UKIP gain.

29. St Austell & Newquay: Stephen Gilbert is quite a good fit for the fickle nature of Cornwall, but he has not been questioning of the coalition in the same way Andrew George over in St. Ives has been. With UKIP going strong in Cornwall, and as this seat has a low Labour potential, I believe the Lib Dems may just about hold on here-a Conservative gain is possible,though. Also, what could happen if Mebyon Kernow chairman Dick Cole (councillor for St. Enoder which is in this seat) stands here again? My prediction: 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain.

30. Dewsbury: Some believe this seat would have been held by Labour in 2010 were it not for the intervention of an independent candidate, Khizar Iqbal, who polled 7%-the majority of Conservative over Labour here is only 2.8% by comparison. UKIP did not stand here last time (they probably will do so next year given how fast they are selecting PPCs nationally) and do not appear to be that strong in the Kirklees area of West Yorkshire. As Mr. Iqbal is unlikely to try again, I am pretty certain Labour will regain Dewsbury. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

31. Warrington South: I have apparently learned that a notable proportion of voters in this seat who elect Liberal Democrat councillors (or used to) vote Conservative at general election-but I am pretty sure that in towns like Warrington, Labour will win out in the many 'how far can I squeeze the weakening Lib Dem vote?' contests that will take place across the UK come 2015. Even if the Conservative vote share drops only a point or two, Labour will likely romp home in spite of the middle-class nature and signifcant core Conservative vote of this seat. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

32. Brent Central: Sarah Teather herself, and her campaign work is the only reason the Liberal Democrats ever won this seat (formed out of two normally safe Labour seats in 2010) in the first place. Now that she is standing down, and with the Liberal Democrats having been knocked for six locally in Brent, there is practically no prospect of the Liberal Democrats stopping former Labour MP Dawn Butler from returning to Parliament. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

33. Bedford: This is not a particularly high-swing seat, and the Liberal Democrat vote in Bedford has proven rather resilient and will not go down all that much. The Conservative vote here is stable also, and as Bedford has a significant BAME (black and minority ethnic) population, UKIP will not do well here, in my opinion. If Labour wins this seat back, it will not be by a safe margin. My prediction: 50/50 Conservative hold/Labour gain.

34. Somerton & Frome: Without David Heath's incumbency (he is standing down), and with problems in Lib Dem PPC selections already occurring, and with the Conservatives not far behind, the Conservatives are very likely to gain this seat-but as with much of the South West, UKIP can hit the Conservative vote quite a bit. My prediction: Likely Conservative gain.

35. Brighton Kemptown: Quite a varied seat demographically, this one, although it does lean to the Conservatives somewhat especially in its outer parts. There are some students here as well, and the Liberal Democrat core base is pretty weak-both the Greens and Labour will hit it hard. The incumbency effect probably will not be enough for a Conservative hold, in my opinion, all things considered. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

36. Sutton and Cheam: The London Borough of Sutton, being solidly middle class and suburban especially here, has not seen any Labour recovery worth noting-and importantly, a UKIP surge actually backfired (in Eurosceptics' eyes) by allowing the Liberal Democrats to gain two council seats in that borough this year overall. With the Conservatives, Labour, and the Greens having not been able to make any real headway in this constituency, Paul Burstow is likely to win again despite his small majority of 3.3%. My prediction: Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

37. Pudsey: The Conservatives have not had that bad a performance in Pudsey locally, but Labour could make a significant recovery here-the Conservatives are considerably more likely to lose seats in the northern regions of England at the moment. My prediction: Probable Labour gain. 

38. Corby (NB: won by Labour in by-election of 2012): UKIP is still strong in Northamptonshire, rural or urban, and there is currently no realistic chance of the Conservatives winning this seat back from their by-election loss of 2012. My prediction: Dead cert Labour by-election hold/general election gain.

39. Montgomeryshire: Normally this would have been held by the Liberal Democrats, but the notoriety of Lembit Opik helped the now Conservative MP Glyn Davies win this seat-and it is only the second time in 130 years that Montgomeryshire has a Conservative MP. He has a better chance of holding this time around (the last Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire was defeated easily in 1983 having only won it in 1979), but the Liberal Democrats will probably work hard to regain this seat, and there are good prospects for UKIP (and poor prospects for Labour, who could come fifth behind Plaid Cymru even). My prediction: Probable Conservative hold,but watch this seat nonetheless.

40. Brentford & Isleworth: London's Conservatives suffered their worst loss in Hounslow, losing 14 of their 25 seats this year to Labour, and some of them were inevitably in this seat. Even though UKIP has low potential here, and even with us Greens able to rise and stall Labour's advance (we did reasonably well in Chiswick locally), Labour is likely to regain this seat, especially as they will target it. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

41. St Ives: Andrew George is arguably the most rebellious Liberal Democrat MP we have seen so far this government (not that much,though), but I definitely believe he is just a soft social liberal,really,. My fellow Greens are on the up in St. Ives, though, and Labour is making a slight recovery, which could prove his downfall next year even when the old 'UKIP splitting the Conservative vote' factor comes into play. My prediction: 50/50 Liberal Democrat hold/Conservative gain-the future political developments in this seat will be rather interesting,to say the least.

42. Hove: This used to be the most Conservative of the three Brighton and Hove seats, but ever since it joined with Brighton, the natural Conservative strength in this seat has been eroded considerably, and its nature provides for some UKIP potential, if not to the extent of Brighton Kemptown. With Mike Weatherley (notorious for his anti-squatting legislation) standing down after only one term, and with Brighton itself trending away from the Conservatives ,a Labour gain is almost a foregone conclusion even if we Greens hit the Liberal Democrat vote more than Labour can. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

43.Enfield North: Current political trends in Enfield do not look good for the Conservatives, although there is not much of a Liberal Democrat vote to squeeze-the Lib Dems stand to lose their deposit in this seat given the way the polls are going. Much of London is going Labour's way at the moment, and Enfield is no exception. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

 44. Hastings & Rye: The South East in general is the most prosperous non-London region in the UK, but Hastings & Rye is looking quite favourable to Labour at the moment.This seat will be quite tightly fought given that there are many safe Conservative seats in the South East and few marginals of any type. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

45.Manchester Withington: The people of Manchester have turned heavily against the Liberal Democrats, more than anywhere else in the country as local elections in Manchester have shown these past few years, and the bell tolls for John Leech. I hope that the Greens become the main challengers in this seat soon (to Labour) instead of the Liberal Democrats. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

46. Burnley:Local election results in the Northern regions of England (North West, North East, Yorkshire & The Humber) have largely been woe for the Liberal Democrats, especially in metropolitan areas. In addition, the BNP used to win some ex-Labour votes in Burnley but they are now gone from Burnley at district and county level, and not all of their former votes will come to UKIP. Gordon Birtwhistle meanwhile has been loyal to the same Con-Dems whose austerity measures are hitting Burnley (and much of the north) disproportionately. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

47. St Albans: As with most of Hertfordshire, the Conservatives have held up well in St. Albans despite the Liberal Democrats' and Labour's best efforts, and small cathedral cities like St. Albans are not likely to have good yields for UKIP, especially with a good core liberal vote. Anne Main is still not certain to hold,though, as Sandy Walkington will as far as I know put in a pretty good contest (or he could just spur Labour on). My prediction: Likely Conservative hold, but watch out for a surprise.

48. Ipswich: Labour is not strong in the East of England region, but Ipswich is generally Labour-inclined both locally and nationally- and the Conservatives have gone down considerably in local elections (as have the Liberal Democrats) in Ipswich,partly because of UKIP's rise. I honestly think it will be easy for Labour to win even if Labour underperforms nationally. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

49. Halesowen and Rowley Regis: This is rather tricky-Halesowen and Rowley Regis is a tale of two towns psephologically and demographically, and there is evidence from local elections that UKIP, who saved their deposit last time, can take both Conservative and Labour votes in this seat. However, Labour is likely to be able to squeeze the uncompetitive Lib Dem vote further and thus win this seat, even with only a small swing from Conservative to Labour otherwise. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

50. Nuneaton: Both Labour and the Conservatives have been having problems in this seat since 2010-and we Greens are on the rise in Nuneaton locally. However, on balance, Labour will win this seat back-not much more to say. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

51. Chippenham: The Lib Dems have been holding up well in Chippenham, as has Duncan Hames himself, and Labour is not competitive in Chippenham at all (or most of Wiltshire for that matter except Swindon). However, their majority in Chippenham over the Conservatives is only 4.7% so we cannot be sure just yet. My prediction: Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

52. Gloucester: Gloucester is a rather crucial Labour target and they are recovering a bit here-but given local elections there is a chance the Conservatives may hold on. Also,the Lib Dem vote will hold up a bit  better in the South West for the most part than in other regions. My prediction: 50/50 Conservative hold/Labour gain.

53. Northampton North: In this East Midlands three-way marginal, Labour will need to fight hard even with the Liberal Democrats being hit rather hard in Northampton given their strong performance in 2010. This is a bellwether seat and it does not like as much as a straightforward Labour gain as it should be on paper, and some ex-Lib Dem voters will vote Conservative just as soe of them will vote Labour. My prediction: 50/50 Conservative hold/Labour gain.

54.Bury North: Even though a low swing is needed for Labour to win this seat from the Conservatives, they are not faring that well locally and by Greater Manchester standards, Bury is not that pro-Labour compared to areas like Salford or Wigan. Expect a tight contest. My prediction: Probable Labour gain.

55.Kingswood: Another critical Con-Lab marginal, which this time leans somewhat toward Labour going on past records. Labour suffered a notably heavy swing last time and will need to do some work here-I still think even with a relatively low poll lead they could win this. My prediction: Probable Labour gain.

56: Weston-Super-Mare: Even though the Liberal Democrats lost this seat in 2005, not 2010, they have done well here considering their current circumstances, and UKIP could come into play here whereas Labour does not have enough potential to become the new second-place challenger to the Conservatives, but they will probably win some Lib Dem votes back. A Conservative hold is still pretty likely, but with a majority of only 5% in 2010, it will not be plain sailing. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold.

 57: Hereford & South Herefordshire: The Conservatives will enjoy an incumbency bonus this time (and have inherent strength in the much of the 'South Herefordshire' bit of this constituency), but the Liberal Democrats' new candidate, Lucy Hurds, did quite well for herself when in 2010 she brought up the Lib Dem vote significantly for the first time in years in North Herefordshire (really Leominster). However, like St. Albans (although here Labour is even less competitive), the UKIP potential is pretty poor, so the Conservatives are likely to retain this seat. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold.

58: Wyre Forest: Even though he is now 80, I would like to see Richard Taylor of the Independent Care and Health Concern group regain his seat from the Conservatives, as we Greens cannot do so. However, it does not look like this will happen, even with UKIP splitting the Conservative vote substantially at a local level and with neither the Liberal Democrats nor Labour having any serious chance of getting back second place, let alone winning. The result here could still be rather interesting,though-the old Liberals may put up a candidate in 2015 and split the weak Lib Dem vote. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold, but this is still one to watch.

59: Erewash: Another seat whose Conservative incumbent, Jessica Lee, is standing down after just one term-and Labour will probably perform better in Derbyshire than other East Midlands counties as they normally do. With a small majority and with UKIP hitting the Conservatives, this is largely a foregone conclusion. My prediction: Dead cert Labour gain.

60. Blackpool North & Cleveleys: The fracking issue will help us Greens there somewhat, but more importantly, it will leave the Conservatives with little chance of holding this seat against Labour. But Labour will not be able to take that many ex-Lib Dem votes and UKIP could win some of them. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

61. West Devon & Torridge: The Lib Dems have recovered a bit since John Burdett retired in 2005, which led to current MP Geoffrey Cox winning this seat-it seems he will likely hold it. With one of the worst Labour bases in the country, with a majority of just 5.4%, and with UKIP potential being good, I cannot realistically rule this seat a certain Conservative win just yet, even though we Greens can cut in to the Lib Dem vote a bit. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold.

62. Winchester: It has not been looking that good for the Liberal Democrats in Winchester, but I cannot say it has been that good for the Conservatives in Winchester. UKIP and Labour's organisation and potential are pretty poor as well. The Liberal Democrats will probably try and get it back given the low Conservative majority and high turnout, but I believe Winchester is more likely to return to its reasonably safe Conservative status. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold.

63. City of Chester: The City of Chester itself is pretty Conservative-leaning and upmarket-the votes of the surrounding areas of this seat, however, which are more Labour-leaning, could be a crucial factor in whether Labour gains this seat which they had from 1997-2010. I cannot say UKIP will do that well in Chester given its nature (nor will we Greens,unfortunately). My prediction: 50/50 Conservative hold/Labour gain.

64. Croydon Central: Labour managed to gain Croydon Council earlier this year, which is important as this seat is a tight marginal (Croydon North is safely Labour and Croydon South is safely Conservative).One important point is that partly the reason the seat was more marginal in 2010 than it should have been notionally was due to ex-Conservative MP Andrew Pelling having stood against current Conservative MP Gavin Barwell. Traditional swing voters will be a deciding factor in whether this seat changes hands or not, but it appears Labour may be more likely to win here at present. My prediction: Probable Labour gain.

65. Worcester: Worcester itself is normally pretty Conservative at local level, and the student electorate in Worcester which is somewhat significant may not be that inclined to vote Labour. However, Labour may be able to win based on squeezing the Liberal Democrat vote somewhat, and the Conservative majority is not that good either. My prediction: 50/50 Conservative hold/Labour gain.

66. Keighley: West Yorkshire, which has a significant number of marginal seats including this one, has not turned out well for the Conservatives. However, UKIP has been making inroads in Keighley, so Labour should not be that confident of a win here-they will need to try hard and UKIP's performance could be a decisive factor in this seat's result. My prediction: Probable Labour gain.

67. Wirral West: Since Esther McVey won this seat in 2010, she has become notorious for helping carry out Iain Duncan Smith's dirty work, firstly as Minister for Disabled People and then as Minister for Employment. Wirral West may be rather affluent (which partly explains why it is the only Conservative-held constituency in Merseyside at present) but there is enough of a Labour presence to have a good shot of ousting Ms. McVey, especially with her negative profile. This could be the most high-profile Conservative loss next year. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

68. Cheadle: This is marginal, but Stockport Borough (where Cheadle is) has few if any reliable areas of Conservative support outside Bramhall, according to what I have learned, and the Liberal Democrats have remained strong in Cheadle. Labour may recover some of their lost strength as this seat is suburban not rural, but the odds are strongly in favour of Mark Hunter retaining his seat. My prediction: Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

69. Bristol North West: This will be a rather interesting contest, even if local votes show the Conservatives ahead, as the Liberal Democrat vote here will be targeted by the Labour and Conservative parties, and as with the rest of Bristol the Green Party will win at least some Lib Dem votes. It is looking rather likely given Bristol's current situation that the Charlotte Leslie will retain her seat, depending on what happens to those lost Lib Dem votes, even though this is on Labour's target list. (the Liberal Democrats may not fall as far here as some may believe,however) My prediction: Likely Conservative hold.

70. North Cornwall: This should be interesting-the Liberals/Liberal Democrats have traditionally been very strong in the areas comprising North Cornwall (Bude, Launceston etc.) and this is naturally the weakest place for Labour in the country (Labour's worse performance in Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2010 is more down to the campaigning of Tim Farron there) but a UKIP rise could take Lib Dem votes as well as Conservative votes. It appears to be in Dan Rogerson's favour for now, but keep an eye on this seat as the Cornish electorate can be rather fickle. My prediction: Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

71. Eastbourne: Stephen Lloyd proved himself an effective enough campaigner to win this seat in 2010 even as some of his Lib Dem colleagues lost their seats elsewhere. Labour could make some recovery,though, partly because Eastbourne is no longer as genteel as it once was, but there is still a substantial elderly populace whom UKIP may target-this factor will probably help the Lib Dems hold this seat for now,actually. My prediction: Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

72. York Outer: The Conservatives are far ahead enough of the Liberal Democrats that the Liberal Democrats do not really have a chance of taking this back, but Labour was in a reasonably good third place notionally when York Outer was created (it would be more exciting politically if York had been split into York East and York West, in my opinion). There is a notable student vote in York Outer which could end up switching from Lib Dem to Labour, however, and the Conservative vote might take a hit. This is a likely Conservative hold, but there is an outside chance of it changing hands given its electorate. My prediction: Likely Conservative hold.

73. Cannock Chase: The Conservatives won Cannock Chase on a large swing in 2010-and have gone downhill since. In particular, Aidan Burley earlier this year decided to stand down after beng caught at a Nazi-themed stag party in France back in 2011. With UKIP quite strong in Staffordshire, and with Labour recovering in the West Midlands which has many crucial target seats, Labour appears likely to gain this seat now. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

74. Loughborough: Loughborough's MP, Nicky Morgan, was recently promoted to Education Secretary-and this is a key marginal and bellwether seat. Since Labour is likely to have the most seats after the next general election even though it is not likely to win a majority, I believe Labour could gain this seat on the grounds that Leicestershire in general is trending back towards Labour, if not to the extent that Derbyshire is. It will not be easy,though, even though Nicky Morgan will not do a better job as Education Secretary than Michael Gove in my honest opinion. My prediction: 50/50 Labour gain/Conservative hold.

75. Harrow East: Harrow is quite Conservative-leaning even though constituencies with a majority of ethnic minority voters are generally quite safely Labour (Brent Central being another notable exception). Labour has made progress in Harrow as a whole,though, but the intervention of the 'Independent Labour Group' at parliamentary level would probably boost the chances of a Conservative hold greatly. My prediction: Possible Labour gain/likely Conservative hold (depends on intervention or lack thereof of Harrow's Independent Labour group in this seat)

76. Taunton Deane: The Labour vote was squeezed quite relentlessly in Taunton (they almost lost their deposit in 2010) and may make enough of a recovery to drag down the Liberal Democrat vote fatally. However, the Liberal Democrats do not appear to be faring all that badly in Somerset, and thus former Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne has a good chance of holding  on in spite of the Conservatives' efforts. My prediction: Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

77. Berwick-upon-Tweed: Sir Alan Beith, who has been the MP in this seat for 41 years, is finally retiring, and his lack of incumbency could prove fatal to the Liberal Democrats' chances of holding this seat against a good Conservative challenge-they lost several seats in 2010 because those seats' incumbents retired (Colin Breed, Paul Keetch, Matthew Taylor and Phil Willis specifically). The Labour vote will recover somewhat also. My prediction: Likely Conservative gain.

78. Warwick & Leamington: Another crucial West Midlands marginal, where like Nuneaton, there has been a rise in Green Party support as well as Labour Party support.

79. Eastleigh: Based on local results, Eastleigh should be an easy hold for the Liberal Democrats even though the . But UKIP remains a strong force even more than a year on from the famous Eastleigh by-election where UKIP only missed out by 1,771 votes. Labour is not likely to improve its vote share all that well in Eastleigh, but who knows what effect UKIP will have in Eastleigh? My prediction: Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

80. Birmingham Yardley: John Hemming and the Liberal Democrats have been doing pretty well for themselves at a local level in Birmingham Yardley, in spite of some online commentators saying that Labour is likely to regain it. I believe that given John Hemming's good results even before he became this seat's MP, and the resilience of the Liberal Democrat vote here over the last few years, that he will hold, but Labour will probably try. My prediction: Probable Liberal Democrat hold.

81. Redcar: It was the local circumstances of Redcar that probably helped the Liberal Democrats win this seat in 2010 in the first place-this is otherwise safely Labour. Now that Ian Swales is standing down after only one term (even though he had been reselected a few months before!) this will likely return to the Labour fold on a relatively large swing. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

82. Hornsey & Wood Green: In Haringey, the Lib Dem 'opposition' was battered in local elections in London, losing 14 seats many of which were in this seat. There will be a tight campaign by Labour's PPC Catherine West and we Greens stand to gain a lot of progressive votes that would have once gone to the Lib Dems, which means Lynne Featherstone's chances look pretty poor in this seat. My prediction: Likely Labour gain.

83. Portsmouth South: Mike Hancock is the only non-Conservative MP ever to have held Portsmouth South since its creation in 1918 (before he won it, it was safely Conservative). As he has resigned the Liberal Democrat whip over allegations of indecent assault on 'Annie' (an out of court settlement was later reached), he has effectively been deselected. The Lib Dems lost control of Portsmouth Council partly as a result of the negative coverage surrounding that incident, and Labour will probably experience a good recovery in vote share as the Lib Dems' record in government means many Labour voters will no longer be inclined to vote tactically. UKIP must also be considered in this seat as well, even though they have better chances in Portsmouth North. My prediction: Probable Conservative gain-especially if Mike Hancock stands as an independent candidate (there have been rumours about it).

84. Cardiff Central: Cardiff Central has one of the highest student populations by constituency in the UK, which as expected will significantly increase their chances of a loss here. Although Jenny Willott herself apparently voted against the tutition fee rises, she has otherwise generally sided with the coalition and the incoming student electorate will turn against the Liberal Democrats heavily and towards Labour. My prediction: Probable Labour gain.

85.Cambridge: Cambridge Council decisively switched from no overall control to Labour this year, and Lib Dem losses were responsible for that. Also, I have noticed that Julian Huppert has wavered a bit on his stances on civil liberties recently e.g. he did not vote against DRIP any more than any other Lib Dem MP. And Cambridge's student electorate, which will be important, is probably more Green-inclined than Lib Dem inclined. The odds are on for Labour to win this seat, but we Greens should also be able to make a challenge as well. My prediction: Probable Labour gain.      
 
Note that I have left out seats which on current polling I consider 'dead cert holds' for now even if they have majorities lower than some of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat seats on this list, and even if those holds end up being knife-edge. This includes South East Cornwall, Richmond Park, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Romsey & Southampton North, and West Dorset notably among Conservative seats, and notably Brecon & Radnorshire and Cheltenham amongst Liberal Democrat seats. Also, as there are still a few weeks until the Scottish Independence referendum, I have not included Westminster consitutencies in Scotland on this list-they may be included on a future list next year,though, as much can happen in the eight months preceding the start of the 2015 general election campaign.

Regards, Alan.