Friday, 30 October 2015

My analysis of by-election results from 29 October 2015 and other thoughts

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

Brentwood DC, Shenfield:  Conservative 852 (58.5%, +0.8%), Liberal Democrats 483 (31.7%, +4.3%), UKIP 85 (5.6%, -2.8%), Labour 49 (3.2%, -3.3%), Green 16 (1.0%). Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat.

Peterborough UA, West: Con 1174 (46.4%, +1.1%), Lab 742 (29.4%, -2.3%), UKIP 415 (16.4%, +1.6%), Lib Dem 103 (4.1%), Green 94 (3.7%, -4.5%).

Most of yesterday's by-elections took place in villages or small-town areas which were all outside the South West, and the Green Party is more active in urban areas particularly with large numbers of young people, and towns that have a 'naturally green' feeling. Our medicore result in the West ward of Peterborough-a ward that will be abolished when Peterborough gets new ward boundaries next year and 3 extra councillors-was probably due to the fact that the Liberal Democrats stood this time when they had not earlier in May. As for Shenfield, notable for being the terminus of a commuter line to London Liverpool Street (I frequently use a connection to London Liverpool Street, but from Ware), the Liberal Democrat councillor who resigned had only won her ward (otherwise safely Conservative) due to a local split in the Conservatives a few years ago; this was psephologically just a case of reverting to type.

On another (positive this time) note, Shaker Aamer, who was wrongly detained without trial in Guantanamo Bay for 13 years, is finally coming home to the UK. I would like to thank everyone who campaigned for his release over the years so he could return home and be reunited with his family, particularly his young son who Shaker has never seen before.

Alan.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Restricting or over-encouraging birth rates does not solve problems

Earlier today, China finally stated it plans to reverse its one child only policy (and replace it with a two child policy), which had been in force since 1980 initially to curb extensive population growth. China was for many years the only country with a population greater than one billion, and even now India's population has reached the one billion mark, China is still the most populous country on Earth by a considerable margin of hundreds of millions.

36 years of having a strict and harshly enforced one child policy (even when relaxed in some circumstances) has had substantial and detrimental effects on China socio-economically and psychologically. Birth rates in China are well below the expected replacement level of 2.1, the rate needed to keep a population stable in the long-term. This is being exacerbated by the fact that China, like many wealthier nations in the Western hemisphere, now has a substantial elderly population with ~20% of its population being over the age of 65-China still has no free national healthcare system, and the elderly population will likely expand significantly over the next few decades. The gender imbalance, caused by numerous sex-selective abortions of female foetuses (since males are still valued more in Chinese society, especially in rural areas) is another serious problem with the one child policy, causing a serious imbalance of 117 males to every 100 females.

The fact that children are forced to grow up as only children as a result of government policy also often causes psychological harm, since having no siblings to relate to and knowing that they will be the one great hope their parents have places undue stress on them in a country that is harshly competitive, is intolerant of free speech, and where the consequences of failure are particularly dire.

On the other side of the argument, giving too many incentives for giving birth also causes serious long-term problems. Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu is a key example since the prohibition of birth control and strong encouragement to conceive many children meant that children parents could not or would not take care of were abandoned in grim and uncaring orphanages throughout Romania, especially when those children had disabilities or other birth defects; even though those orphanages have been closed down the consequences of over-encouraging population growth are still being felt today.

It is becoming clearer that over-consumption of resources, rather than total global population, is a key contributor to accelerating artificial climate change and increasing scarcity of important resources like fresh water. Using laws to restrict or overstimulate population growth for socio-economic or environmental purposes not only does not solve problems but can exacerbate them and cause problems of their own which can be very difficult to reverse. It is better that we focus on tackling overconsumption of resources and promoting sustainable and fair lifestyles, and given our current prosperity, our population will generally remain stable when we cease government interference (either pro-population growth or anti-population growth) with national or global birth rates, and have as fair a redistribution of wealth and resources as possible.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

On the recent Polish general election- Polska kieruje ostro w prawo

Two days ago, Poland held its general election, although because it took a long time to verify results (despite the derisory turnout of 51%) I was not able to write this post yesterday. The result was a sharp turn to the right and a clear victory for the Law and Justice Party (PiS) led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, brother of former President Lech Kaczynski (who died in a plane crash in 2010). Needing to present an acceptable face to former Civic Platform (PO) voters, he declined to run for Prime Minister of Poland and instead asked Beata Szydlo to do so. It worked well, since Beata was able to steer the Law and Justice Party towards the first ever single-party majority (235 seats out of 460) in the history of Polish democracy, although given the unstable majority she is likely to seek out a coalition partner, probably the centrist Polish People's Party which managed to avoid losing out. Meanwhile, under the eye of Ewa Kopacz (who became Polish PM after the resignation of Donald Tusk, and the second woman to hold that office; the first was Hanna Suchoka), Civic Platform suffered a substantial blow, dropping from 39% to 24% of the vote partly due to liberal, younger voters it had picked up switching to newer parties (like the populist Kukiz '15 movement) and more conservative and morally conscious voters switching to Law and Justice. Ironically, despite its conservative, right-wing stance, Law and Justice pledged to restore some welfare payments (as long as they were family-related; this is one thing I would approve of in spite of my disagreement about much else of what PiS stands for).

Kukiz '15, led by musician Pawel Kukiz, won 42 seats on a populist platform and finished third even though their socio-economic policies are not so clear and in spite of their strong promotion of a first past the post system for future elections in Poland (outside this new movement there have been no calls for such a system even though the Polish Senate, Poland's upper house, is already elected using this system). The centrist party Modern received 28 seats from a standing start, due to its moderate policies winning over former PO voters, and to a lesser extent dissatisfied Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) voters. The SLD entered in an alliance with Your Movement (formerly Palikot's movement), Labour United, the Greens, and the left-wing Polish Labour Party, but only achieved 7.55%, which is worse than SLD's single party performance of 2011. Although the Polish system of list proportional representation uses a 5% threshold for single parties, this threshold increases to 8% for an alliance of two or more parties. This sadly means the first ever transgender MP anywhere in the entire world, Anna Grodzka, is out of the Polish Sejm for now.

There are quite a few reasons for the disappearance of the SLD and allies from the Polish Parliament of 2015. One is the fact they were being led by Leszek Miller, who as PM infamously presided over the Rywin-gate corruption scandal, and neither Leszek nor SLD has a good reputation amongst most Poles (in fact it has been getting worse even since their catastrophic 2005 defeat), and the ex-communist past of many of its prominent members only adds salt to the wound. Another is the appearance of Razem, Poland's newest counterpart to Podemos, SYRIZA et al. with its collective leadership, its opposition to TTIP, its platform of democratic socialism, and its liberal social policies. It achieved a remarkable 3.62%, sadly not enough to gain any seats but it definitely proved there was room for an alternative. Had it formed earlier than 2015, it might have been able to make enough prior groundwork to breach the 5% threshold.

Two good things occurred in this election in my personal opinion-one was that the extreme right-libertarian KORWiN party, led by the notorious and eccentric Janusz Korwin-Mikke, did not do well enough to enter the Sejm either, managing just 4.76%. The other is that Poland will have in just 23 years (i.e. most of the time in its recent history for where multiparty democracy has existed) have had three different female Prime Ministers, which is a remarkable achievement especially when the only 24.1% of MPs in the Sejm are women. (Norway, by contrast, notable for its consistently strong representation of women by international standards, has only had two different female PMs, one of whom, Erna Solberg, is the incumbent.)

Alan.

Friday, 23 October 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from 22 October 2015

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

Bury MBC, Tottington: Conservative 1046 (52.2%, +3.4%), Labour 619 (30.9%, +2.0%), UKIP 198 (9.9%, -4.4%), Lib Dem 87 (4.3%, +0.8%), Green 54 (2.7%, -1.8%). Conservative gain from Labour, all changes are since 2012.
Oxford BC, Northfield Brook: Lab 509 (77.9%, +7.0%), UKIP 60 (9.2%), Con 47 (7.2%, -4.3%), Green 28, (4.2%, -7.0%), TUSC 9 (1.4%).

Westminster LBC, Bryanston & Dorset Square: Con 582 (49.7%, -1.8%), Baker Street No Two Ways 218 (18.6%), Lab 167 (14.3%, -5.7%), Green 116 (9.9%, -6.4%), Lib Dem 46 (3.9%, -8.3%), UKIP 42 (3.6%).

The last of the three above by-elections is particularly notable due to the publicity of the issue of two-way traffic being implemented on Baker Street, reported for having the potential to cause traffic chaos according to local media. It was strong enough in fact for an independent to register a new political party specifically for that single issue, which partly explains why it was not only us that lost out-the Labour and Liberal Democrat votes fell significantly as well due to progressive voters (and a few Conservative voters, although keep in mind that turnout in central London at election time is generally relatively low). I personally believe there not to be a good reason for a resdesign of Baker Street to be open to two-way traffic, and the £15 million cost of this proposal is hardly justifiable given the number of councils facing yet more sharp cuts to their budgets.

Worryingly, there was another significant swing from Green to Labour (7.1%), even if in a ward that is generally heavily Labour anyway (the Independent Working Class Association, once challengers to Labour in safe working-class wards, is long gone in Oxford). As for the Tottington by-election, it is worth noting that even in the mid-1990s Conservative nadir this ward elected Conservative councillors, and the main reason that Labour made a gain here in 2012 in the first place was due to a local scandal in the Bury borough (six other Conservative wards in Bury were lost to Labour that year as well).

One important thing from these elections is how useful it is to be focused on local issues when campaigning in elections (especially by-elections), an area that has been a Green Party strength for many years.

Alan.


Thursday, 22 October 2015

My tribute to Michael Meacher

Two days ago, long-serving left-wing Labour MP for Oldham West (latterly Oldham West & Royton) Michael Meacher died. He had served as an MP for more than 45 years. I never met him personally; a few years ago he planned to show up to a political session I went to, but due to unforeseen circumstances he did not do so.

Michael first came to prominence in the Oldham West by-election of 1968, where Labour lost to the Conservatives as they did in several other by-elections in otherwise safe seats in the middle of Harold Wilson's second term as Prime Minister. However, he recaptured the seat in 1970 from Keith Campbell (the Conservative MP who had taken Oldham West in the 1968 by-election) and held it until 1997, when it was replaced by the Oldham West & Royton constituency he represented until his death.

Michael was notably one of the more left-wing Labour MPs, and was a supporter of such figures as Tony Benn and latterly Jeremy Corbyn, who in his final days he was pleased to be serving under. During his time, he remained resolutely on the side of the progressives, opposing the Iraq war and many aspects of Blairism, and during the last Parliament he stood on the side of other long-serving left-wingers like Dennis Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell when large numbers of Labour MPs failed to do so. At the time of his death, he was one of the last remaining MPs first elected before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, and had he been sworn in just some hours earlier then Gerald Kaufman he would have been Father of the House as well.

Posted in memory of Michael Hugh Meacher, born 4 November 1939, who departed this life on 20 October 2015, aged 75 years.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

On the Canadian federal election of 2015-Tru (deau) ly notable

Sensationally, Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau (one of Canada's longest serving Prime Ministers) has just easily swept to power in the latest Canadian federal election. In the few months in the run-up to this election, there was a tight race between the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP, although this slipped away as the Liberals clearly put themselves in the lead in the final moments.

The huge Liberal revival he managed, with the Liberals rising from 36 seats (notionally) to 184, gaining a majority of 30 in the 338-seat Parliament; they were also the only Canadian party not to lose any of their seats. Meanwhile, the Conservatives under Stephen Harper, despite benefitting the most from the redistribution and seat increase, fell to 99 seats despite making seven notional gains (all in Quebec) and avoiding falling to third place behind the NDP, which they feared throughout the campaign The gains made by the NDP under the late Jack Layton were generally rolled back by the Liberals pretty easily, and the NDP ended up with just 44 seats, little better than in 2008; to add insult to injury, their former leader's seat of Toronto-Danforth was gained by the Liberals this time. However, the NDP gained eight (notionally) Conservative ridings to compensate, mostly in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

The Bloc Quebecois made some recovery even though not only did they lose two ridings they notionally had (Jonquiere and Richmond-Arthabaska), but their leader Gilles Duceppe did not even come close to returning to the Canadian House of Commons; many BQ candidates performed worse than in 2011 (their anno horribilis when they were reduced to just four seats from 47) despite the NDP's wane. Although BQ now have 10 seats, it is unlikely they will return to being dominant force in Quebecois politics for the foreseeable future. I am pleased to say, however, that the Green Party is continuing to do well under Elizabeth May's stewardship despite the squeeze it faced in most ridings outside British Columbia; Elizabeth herself was re-elected in Saanich-Gulf Islands with a greatly increased majority and the Greens finished a good second in Victoria, and a useful third and fourth in the ridings of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and Nanaimo-Ladysmith respectively. In light of Justin's support for the dangerous and toxic Keystone XL pipeline, and also the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership, increasing support for environmentalism and green politics is needed in Canada more than ever.

Electoral reform in Canada needs to be a key issue, given that as in Britain it is rather easy for either the Liberals or Conservatives to gain a majority despite not having achieved even 40% of the popular vote (in fact the Liberals achieved 39% of the vote but 56% of the seats)and minor parties find it very difficult to get representation; the Greens in Canada still only have one seat despite their best efforts. Justin claims that this Canadian Parliament will likely see the scrapping of first past the post in Canadian elections, although whether electoral reform will come or what type will emerge remains to be seen. Canada also needs to turn against the TPP, for like NAFTA it will end up costing Canada thousands and thousands of jobs, further damage basic standards of protection, and increase unaccountable corporate influence on laws and initiatives. The rights of indigenous people, which have been neglected under the tenure of Stephen Harper, also need to be respected, particularly with respect to their native lands, and the fact that there are 1,200 unsolved cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, which the Liberals claim they will make an enquiry about where the Conservatives failed.

Alan.






Monday, 19 October 2015

My thoughts on the Swiss Federal Election of 2015

The Swiss Federal election of 2015, which was held yesterday, showed two disappointments significant to me. One was a shift to the right, the other was the loss of support both of Switzerland's green parties have received.

Both the Greens and Green Liberals lost support, despite some earlier polls showing the Green Liberals gaining seats at the expense of the Greens; the Greens went from 15 to 11 seats and the Green Liberals went from 12 seats to just 7. In fact the Swiss Greens co-leader Adele Thorens lost her own seat in the French-speaking canton of Vaud. Given that the Swiss are strong on environmental initiatives despite famously staying apart from the EU, this is rather worrying in my opinion-in fact, the first ever Green parliamentarian in any national legislature was elected in Switzerland, back in 1979 when at the same time our own Ecology Party was just establishing itself as a long-term (if initially minor) force in British politics.

Meanwhile, possibly due to higher campaign spending and concentrating more resources in the smaller, rural/semi-rural cantons which have fewer seats (the three cantons of Zurich, Bern, and Geneva alone have 71 seats between them, or 35.5% of all parliamentary seats in Switzerland) or in some cases just one, the right-wing Swiss People's Party gained 11 seats, although five of their own incumbents were defeated and the SVP has by a large margin the lowest proportion of female members in the Swiss Parliament relative to its representation. By contrast, the Swiss Greens were the only major party in Switzerland to have a majority of female candidates (52%, up from 49% in 2011), and the Greens, Green Liberals, and Social Democrats had strong proportions of female MPs. I believe there was a shift to the right overall, with the Social Democrats losing 3 seats and the Free Democrats gaining 3; although the Christian Democrats and Conservative People's Party incurred a small net loss in seat numbers, there are enough MPs who represent socially conservative centre-right or right-wing parties to form a government (65 SVP+28 CVP+7 BDP).

There were a few good things in this Swiss election from my point of view nonetheless. One was the return of the Alternative Left List via the canton of Neuchatel, the other was the better representation of women in the Swiss Parliament than ever before, with 64 women elected. This is a particularly important issue, because Switzerland was one of the last nations in Europe to grant female suffrage for federal elections, doing so in 1971. (An earlier referendum on women's suffrage in Switzerland in 1959 was substantially defeated by a 2-1 margin, ironically by means of direct democracy; direct democracy is one of the things I like about Swiss politics) Even with proportional representation, the percentage of female MPs in Switzerland is still poor by European standards (and only 36th in the world), and not much better than Britain whose first past the post system alone bears significant responsibility for failing to make sure women have fair representation in Parliament.

Another feature of Swiss politics I like is its cantonal system of proportional representation, representing actual communities rather than districts drawn simply for convenience or gerrymandering. I believe representation by counties in Britain, although preferably by STV and not list PR, could also work as long as there was a fairer distribution of seats (meaning for example that there would have to be separate Inner London and Outer London multi-member constituencies, in the same way that Finland has Helsinki City and Helsinki Outer districts for its elections).

Alan.

Friday, 16 October 2015

My own stance on the EU-the Think Twice campaign

Despite the fact that the referendum on the UK's future membership of the European Union may be as many as two years away, the debate on whether we should stay in the EU or exit it is up and coming.

I believe, however, that without knowledge of the referendum date, and the potential political volatility of our situation nationally (and of Europe's situation as well for that matter), it is too early to take a definite stance on the question of EU membership, and that there are many people who still do not know what it really means for Britain to be a member of the European Union, what the EU actually does, and the many ways in how British membership of the EU impacts on our daily lives.

I will therefore take a third stance on the EU issue, in response to the definite yes campaign by Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and the definite no campaign by Jenny Jones, Green Party AM and the first Green Party peer.

To celebrate the second anniversary of my blog, I announce the launch of the 'Think Twice' campaign regarding the EU referendum.

'Think Twice' is a neutral stance on the EU referendum issue, not specially advocating either a yes or no vote, but which nevertheless asks people to vote on the issue rather than abstain. I believe we need to be informed about the facts behind the EU and British membership of it, and also about both the pros and cons of each side of the story so that we can make an informed and independent choice in this matter. I also call for an impartial debate on the subject and for both sides of the story to be covered fairly and honestly.

This referendum is long overdue-the EEC/EU has changed so much in the 40 years since a similar referendum was last held in the UK. One major point about the EU referendum will be about exercising our democratic right over our own future, and for it to be binding.

Alan.

Friday, 9 October 2015

My analysis of by-elections from 7 October and 8 October 2015

Readers, the results from local by-elections earlier this week that featured Green Party candidates were as follows:

(07/10/2015):

Cardiff UA, Riverside: Labour 1071 (45.9%, -0.8%), Plaid Cymru 780 (33.5%, +2.4%), Con 155 (6.6%, -1.1%), UKIP 110 (4.7%), Green 109 (4.7%, -3.2%), Liberal Democrats 85 (3.6%, -0.2%), TUSC 21 (0.9%, -1.8%). All changes are since 2012.

Eilean Siar UA, An Taobh Siar Agus Nis: John MacLeod (No Description) 886 (86.9%), Richard Froggatt (Independent) 75 (7.4%), Scottish Green Party 59 (5.8%).

(08/10/2015):

South Hams DC, Totnes Town: Green 570 (30.1%,-3.4%), Lib Dem 558 (29.5%, +12.1%), Lab 432 (22.8%, +3.7%), Con 268 (14.2%, +0.1%), Independent P 63 (3.3%).

South Oxfordshire DC, Sandford & The Whittenhams: Con 290 (42.8%, -4.3%), Lib Dem 249 (36.7%, +16.3%), Lab 89 (13.1%, -3.7%), Green 50 (7.4%, -8.3%)

Highland UA, Aird and Loch Ness: Lib Dem 1029 (33.5%, +21.2%), SNP 1000 (32.5%, +4.4%), Con 467 (15.2%, +8.3%), Independent 293 (9.5%), Green 267 (9.2%). Lib Dem gain from SNP on 4th count.

I am in particular relieved we held our council seat in Totnes against the challenge Labour and the Lib Dems were putting up, although we have yet again been squeezed elsewhere where other parties have been running each other close. Our first foray into the Eilean Siar area in Scotland yielded a good result given that Eilean Siar residents generally prefer nonpartisan candidates who have long-standing connections to the islands. (Clan MacLeod is a well known Scottish clan resident on the Lewis islands of the Outer Hebrides, for example). We also made a good impact in the Highland by-election given that it was the Lib Dems' first local by-election in Scotland for years, and the first one so far since May 2015 that the SNP has lost.

With two key renewable energy firms sadly having gone into liquidation recently as a result of the Conservative government's unfair new policy on renewable energy, (despite the fact renewable energy is getting cheaper and overall demand for UK energy peaked in 2005 and has been falling since), I believe that our championing of green energy and its benefits to us all can help us strive to do better in rural areas and small towns in addition to more urbanised areas where we have a lot of our councillors in Britain.

Alan.


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Poetry: About A Newborn (for National Poetry Day)

In a quiet town park,
Close to the call of a singing lark,
I see a tiny little person,
Swaddled in cloth
Eyes bright and open.
Meanwhile, a moth
Flutters nearby the cute little one,
Who is resting in their mother's arms,
Looking so sweet and adorable,
Many are this newborn's charms.

They were only born so recently,
Yet their little fingers grasp so tightly,
They nestle and gurgle so sweetly,
They smile and pout so brightly.

After this sight, hours later I think alone,
Wishing I had someone so sweet,
So cuddly, so little of my own.
With my fingers tickling their tiny feet,
Them asleep in the sight of my eyes,
As soft and vividly pink as baby mice.

Monday, 5 October 2015

My thoughts on and analysis of the Portuguese election of 2015

Yesterday, Portugal, who like Greece was particularly badly hit by the Great Recession and the machinations of the Troika (if not to the same extent as Greece) held its general election, which was a convincing defeat for the Social Democratic-People's Party government.

Despite the fact that the PDS and PP allied together as they did in European elections last year (their alliance is called Portugal Ahead, abbreviated to PaF), they managed to lose 28 seats, undoing all their gains of 2011 (which they managed as separate parties). Despite subpar polling earlier, the Left Bloc (BE) achieved its best result ever, overtaking the Democratic Unitarian Coalition (a coalition between the Portuguese Communist Party and Portuguese Ecologists) and achieving third place for the first time ever, although the CDU nevertheless added 1 seat from its 2011 total. A new green list, LIVRE/TDA, sadly failed to gain any seats , partly due to PAN (Portugal's animal rights party) obtaining crucial votes from them; PAN was the only party outside the main four to win any seats anywhere in Portugal. It won a seat in Lisbon, electing its first ever MP, Andre Lourenco e Silva. The Earth Party, and its splinter group, the Democratic Republican Party, also did not win representation in the assembly even though each party has one MEP at present.

It is very difficult for minor parties to win seats in the Portuguese Assembly even though there is no electoral threshold for the list-PR seats in any constituency. This is because the 230 seats available in the assembly are very unevenly distributed, with the two largest cities, Lisbon (the capital) electing 47 MPs and Porto (the second largest) electing 39 MPs respectively. The third and fourth largest districts, Braga and Aveiro, elect 19 and 16 MPs each, meaning that just four districts in Portugal elect more than half of its MPs. Many rural districts only elect a few MPs apiece (the districts are based on actual communities and provinces), meanwhile, such as Villa Real and Braganca.

Pedro Passos Coelho's alliance may have fared badly but there is a strong possibility he will remain Prime Minister of Portugal, given that neither leader from the left (Catarina Martins or Jeromino de Sousa) would be prepared to ally with Antonia Costa and the 'Socialist Party' given how badly Portugal was faring under the last Socialist government of Jose Socrates and the major differences between the BE, CDU, and PS. Needless to say, if such a grand coalition forms, or even if the PS gives confidence and supply to the PaF, the results will almost certainly be as disastrous as in other grand coalitions on the continent.

Alan.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

My guide to and questions about the upcoming Canadian federal election

In just over two weeks time, Canada will have its general election, which like elections in the UK involves the use of the unfair first past the post system. The fact that there will be 30 extra ridings (for Britain read constituencies) will unfortunately help the Canadian Conservatives in terms of notional extra seats, just as extra seats added under boundary changes in the UK at each review since 1983 have notionally given the UK's Conservatives more extra seats notionally than other parties.

I know quite a few Canadians (one of my opponents in Hemel Hempstead at the last general election was Canadian himself) and I take a good interest in elections of nations all around the world, which is why I am covering this.

Opinion polls have been fluctuating substantially in the last few months, with the New Democratic Party (Canada's closest answer to our own Labour Party), the Liberals, and the Conservatives each being in the lead at least a few times with each party being within at least 10 percentage points of each other. However, in opinion polls of the last week, it has mainly been the Liberals (led by Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau who was Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984) in the lead with the NDP slipping back slightly. Meanwhile, the Greens, I am pleased to hear, are showing a significant improvement on their 2011 performance currently, and the Bloc Quebecois could potentially lose all of their remaining 4 seats, particularly with the Strength in Democracy group splitting their vote in key ridings and with Andre Bellavance running as an independent.

1. Who is running in this election?

The Conservatives, the Liberals, and the NDP are running candidates in all 338 ridings, with the Canadian Greens running in 336 (all except Labrador and Kelowna-Lake Country). The Bloc Quebecois is running in all 78 of Quebec's ridings. Minor parties with substantial numbers of candidates include the Libertarian Party with 72, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada with 70, the Christian Heritage Party with 30, the Rhinoceros Party (similar to Die PARTEI of Germany and our own OMRLP) with 27, the Communist Party of Canada with 26, and Strength in Democracy (or Forces et Democratie in French, since it was founded by a former Bloc Quebecois MP) with 17, including two incumbent MPs who defected to it. There are also 74 independent candidates (including MPs who have resigned from their caucus or been thrown out of it), and five others who could not register their party affiliations with Elections Canada (e.g. due to their party not having enough members).

2. Where are they key electoral battlegrounds in Canada?

In the provinces of Ontario, particularly Toronto and its suburbs, and also Quebec. Within Alberta, Edmonton is the only major area where seats are likely to change hands in spite of the decisive victory the NDP managed over the Conservatives in Alberta's provincial election just five months ago. Toronto suburbs like Etobicoke and Scarborough, and also three-way marginal ridings like Avalon, Halifax West, and Winnipeg North will be ridings to watch carefully here.

3. Will the Green Party of Canada be able to pick up extra seats in this election?

Just possibly, but it is sadly unlikely despite the personal popularity of Elizabeth May, almost certain to retain her (redistricted) riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. This is due to the fact there are very few other ridings where the Green vote is strong enough, even in British Columbia, to be in a position to win. It is unlikely that Bruce Hyer and Jose Nuniz, who defected from the NDP and Liberals to run as Greens in their ridings, will be re-elected, and the only riding that has a realistic chance to be gained by the Greens is Victoria (not far from Saanich-Gulf Islands) which they nearly won in a by-election in 2012. On other places of Vancouver Island where they are comparatively strong, there will be a tight squeeze between the NDP and Conservatives which will likely prevent their advance.

4. Are the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois likely to make a recovery?

The Liberals will likely make a strong recovery in this election, although they will find it much easier to win Conservative-held ridings than NDP-held ridings, and it is not certain Monsieur Trudeau will become Canada's next Prime Minister. The Bloc Quebecois is not only very unlikely to make any real recovery, but could potentially be eliminated from the Canadian House of Commons since the NDP is still doing well (they were the main beneficiaries of the Bloc Quebecois' near wipeout of 2011) and because there is so much disorganisation in the BQ still.

5. Is a coalition government a possibility from this Canadian election?

Yes, although whether it will be led by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair or M. Trudeau, and the consequences of such a coalition to Canadian voters, remains to be seen. It is unlikely Stephen Harper will remain Canadian PM, because the Conservatives are often behind in the polls and unlike David Cameron in Britain, Mr Harper has no coalition partner to pass the blame onto (since the Conservatives have a single-party majority at present) in order to lessen the blow. Even if the Conservatives somehow still top the poll, the Liberals and NDP could still have enough seats between them to oust them from power.

Friday, 2 October 2015

My analysis of by-elections from 24/09/2015 and 01/10/2015

Readers, the results from local by-elections from 24 September 2015 and 1 October 2015 featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

(24/09/2015):

Wyre Forest DC, Blakebrook & South Habberley: Conservative 595 (40.0%, +11.0%), UKIP 232 (16.9%, -3.2%), Labour 247 (16.6%, -1.7%), Green 173 (11.6%, +0.5%), ICHC 167 (11.2%, -4.2%), Liberal Democrat 54 (3.6%, -1.6%).

(01/10/2015):

Cherwell BC, Banbury Grimsbury & Castle: Lab 781 (45.0%, +8.3%), Con 661 (38.1%, +1.3%), UKIP 150 (8.6%, -6.3%), Lib Dem 73 (4.2%, -1.3%), Green 72 (4.1%, -3.8%). Labour gain from Conservative; all changes are since May 2015.

Aberdeen UA, George Street/Harbour: SNP 961 (51.2%, +17.5%), Scottish Labour 490 (26.1%, -6.4%), Conservative & Unionist 195 (10.4%, +3.7%), Scottish Green Party 136 (7.2%, -0.1%), Liberal Democrats 96 (5.1%, -4.8%). SNP elected at stage 1.

Aberdeen UA, Midstocket/Rosemount: SNP 1168 (40.9%, +1.9%), Con 675 (23.6%, +9.8%), Lab 608 (21.2%, -11.2%), Lib Dem 238 (8.3%, +1.9%) Green 170 (6.0%, -0.4%). SNP elected at stage 4, SNP gain from Conservative.

East Ayrshire, Urvine Valley: SNP 1797 (49.8%, +5.3%), Con 865 (24.0%, +5.8%), Lab 860 (23.8%, -6.3%), Green 88 (2.4%). SNP elected at stage 2.

Fife UA, Glenrothes West & Kinglassie: SNP 2235 (59.0%, +16.5%), Lab 1207 (31.9%, -9.3%), Con 234 (6.2%, +3.2%), Green 113 (3.0%). SNP elected at stage 1. All changes are since 2012.

Moray UA, Heldon & Laitch: Independent S 1323 (41.1%), SNP 1003 (31.1%), Con 703 (21.8%), Green 192 (6.0%). Independent (Dennis Slater) elected at stage 3.

Stirling UA, Stirling East: SNP 1311 (45.2%, +8.3%), Lab 1094 (37.7%, -11.9%), Con 343 (11.8%, +3.1%), Green 152 (5.2%, +0.5%). SNP elected at stage 3.

West Lothian UA, Linlithgow: SNP 2049 (43.1%, +1.4%), Lab 1088 (22.9%, +2.6%), Con 973 (20.7%, -12.7%), Green 282 (5.9%), Ind G 230 (4.8%), Lib Dem 133 (2.8%). SNP elected at stage 6.

I apologise for not posting the result of 24 September 2015 last week-I needed to rest to make sure I got up on time and had everything ready for Green Party conference last week.

There have been some rumours of a 'Corbyn bounce' effect in online media, but it is clear it has not really had much effect, especially in Scotland where Labour are still losing more ground to the SNP in by-elections, and to my Green colleagues to a lesser extent. It is now almost certain in any Scottish local by-election that occurs that a Scottish Green candidate will stand there, even in the remote islands of Eilean Siar (next week, we field our first ever candidate in the Outer Hebrides, which Eilean Siar consists of, for a by-election on 7 October) and the Orkney & Shetland Islands. Labour did gain Banbury Grimsbury & Castle's last Conservative seat by squeezing the Green vote but this was made easier by the fact they had already recovered two of the seats there. Blakebrook and Habberley South was also quite marginal but far from falling to Labour the Conservative majority increased substantially, although it was the declining Health Concern group (now with fewer councillors in Wyre Forest itself than on Worcestershire County Council!) who once again suffered a sharper loss in vote share (we beat them this time even though our vote share increase was only marginal). The Conservatives overall had a better time in Scotland which was marred by loss of one of their seats in Aberdeen to the SNP and by failing badly in West Lothian.

Alan.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Animals do have absolute rights just as we humans do (a refutation of Princess Michael of Kent's remarks)

Yesterday, Princess Michael of Kent (real name Marie von Reibnitz), who is married to the Queen's cousin, caused public outrage by claiming in an interview about her new book, Agnes Sorel, Mistress of Beauty, that animals 'do not have rights because they do not pay taxes, do not vote, and do not have bank accounts.' Astonishingly, she said this despite apparently being a patron of several animal charities.

These remarks of hers are not only untrue and hypocritical but also deeply offensive towards both animals and humans.

All animals have rights in the way all humans have rights because they are creatures just like us, and are living things who we share a planet with and like us are dependent on the environment. For example, it is important to know that animals have (or at least should have) a right to life, a right to freedom from degrading and cruel treatment, and a right not to be held in slavery, which are absolute rights we humans have as well. Just because someone or something does not pay taxes does not mean they do not have basic rights. Animals are not simply there for us humans to exploit or drive away-they are our fellow creatures and should be treated with respect, no matter how small or large they are or whether we think they look cute or not.

Alan.