Saturday, 28 November 2015

My analysis of by-elections from 26/11/15 and my criticism of the Autumn Statement

Readers, the results of local by-elections featuring Green Party candidates this week were as follows:

Fife UA, Dunfermline North: SNP 1166 (43.5%, +11.9%), Labour 719 (29.6%, -18.7%), Conservative 304 (12.5%, +5.9%), Liberal Democrat 230 (9.5%, -4.1%), Green 63 (2.6%), UKIP 58 (2.4%). SNP elected at stage 2.

Fife UA, Rosyth: SNP 1214 (45.2%, +9.4%), Lab 926 (34.5%, -13.2%), Con 245 (9.1%, +3.3%), Lib Dem 97 (3.6%, -3.5%), UKIP 88 (3.3%, +0.7%), Independent 66 (2.5%), Green 51 (1.9%). SNP elected at stage 2.

Newport UA, Bettws: Independent (Janet Cleverly): 336 (31.8%), Lab 294 (27.9%, -10.3%), Independent (James Jordan) 275 (26.1%),Con 114 (10.8%), Green 29 (2.7%), Lib Dem 7 (0.7%). Independent gain from Labour.

Lancaster DC, Carnforth & Millhead: Con 545 (54.9%, +8.5%), Lab 320 (32.3%, -3.3%), Green 52 (5.2%, -12.8%), Lib Dem 38 (3.8%), UKIP 37 (3.7%).

Wiltshire UA, Salisbury St Edmund & Milford: Con 425 (36.7%, +13.7%), Lib Dem 262 (20.9%, -22.1%), Lab 232 (20.0%, +5.6%), Green 215 (18.6%, +11.0%), Independent 45 (3.9%). Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat.

Our good result in Wiltshire shows that we are continuing to move onwards and upwards in the South West and Cornwall, and absorb much of the vote that used to rally behind the Liberal Democrats in their pre-coalition days. The absence of UKIP in the Wiltshire by-election also helped the Conservatives to a considerable extent, given how UKIP cost the Conservatives large numbers of council seats (and control of several councils) in 2013 (when Wiltshire UA last had local elections). We were squeezed substantially in Carnforth & Millhead by the Conservatives and Labour (both parties have substantial support in that ward).

The Autumn Statement was released three days ago, and as expected from a statement by George Osborne, there are so many things wrong with it. The cuts to DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), to Dft (Department for Transport), and to Communities and Local Government in particular show the Conservatives' disregard for people and planet, especially with planned tax breaks for shale gas. Rises in defence spending at the expense of other important departments (such as Culture, Media and Sport) are not necessary either especially when scrapping Trident alone can stop cuts to so many other departments, and the Cabinet Office does not need any extra money either.

As for loans for part-time and postgraduate students contained in the Autumn 2015 statement, beware-the interest rates on such proposed loans are not yet known!


Friday, 20 November 2015

My analysis of local by-election results from 19/11/2015

Readers, the local by-election results featuring Green Party candidates this week were as follows:

Ashford DC, Aylesford Green: Conservative 110 (23.5%, -21.5%), UKIP 109 (23.2%), Labour 106 (22.6%, -32.4%), Ashford Independent 92 (19.6%), Liberal Democrat 42 (9.0%), Green 10 (2.1%). Conservative gain from Labour.

Norfolk CC, South Smallburgh: Liberal Democrat 1383 (56.4%, +25.8%), Conservative 697 (28.4%, -1.0%), UKIP 219 (8.9%, -17.8%), Labour 103 (4.2%, -5.3%), Green 52 (2.1%, -1.6%).

Norfolk CC, Watton: Conservative 822 (45.6%, +18.2%), Independent 793* (44.0%, +20.4%*), Labour 103 (5.8%, -5.4%), Green 81 (4.5%, +0.3%). Conservative gain from UKIP.

Surrey CC, Epsom West: Conservative 612 (23.6%, +10.8%), Epsom & Ewell Residents Association 591 (22.8%, +0.0%), Liberal Democrats 588 (22.7%, -5.4%), Labour 578 (22.3%, +2.1%), UKIP 168 (6.5%, -9.7%), Green 58 (2.2%). Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat.

*The Independent candidate in Watton, Keith Gilbert, was endorsed by both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

Like a previous post of mine on by-elections last year, these results have once again shown the absurdity of first past the post in a multi-party system, especially at local level. In Ashford, just four votes separated the top three candidates, and just 18 separated the top four candidates, partly due to the terrible turnout of 19% in that by-election. The Conservatives' close wins in the three elections where they made gains are largely attributable to tactical voting, since two of them were on less than 25% of the votes cast. The Liberal Democrats' close third-place finish in the Epsom West division is actually lucky for them since not only did we stand this time around, but also the Lib Dems lost all of their council seats in Epsom & Ewell earlier this year.

Unlike last week, none of these by-elections had remotely fertile territory for the Green Party, but it remains the case that in any ward or division, anywhere in the UK, Green Party support will exist somewhere.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Why Britain has no need for 'metro mayors' and should not accept them

Recently, it has been reported in relevant local media that the effects of devolution deals are coming soon to the West Midlands and Merseyside, resulting in the creation of 'metro mayors' (mayors of large swathes of metropolitan areas):$sitewide%20p$9 (related article also mentioning devolution for 'Greater Manchester')

Britain does not need any of these 'metro mayors' anywhere, and they would not be a good idea for local devolution and democracy. Here is why:

1. Lack of real accountability. In Britain, mayors as a whole have too much power, and not enough accountability to the public or to elected councillors, and this problem increases with the size of the authority. Also, these devolution agreements have not actually involved we, the general public, at any point despite their wide-ranging impact on us-only authority leaders and government ministers were consulted.

2. Cost of metro mayors. Metro mayors and combined authorities are unnecessary and a waste of money vitally needed to protect important local services, especially given the inefficiency of having so few having considerable power over such large, populous areas.

3. Oversized areas are not good for local devolution. Decentralisation and devolution are important given that Britain should really be a federal nation anyway, but devolution needs to be more local and be given to rural areas and towns as well as metropolitan areas. Also, the metropolitan areas in the West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester etc. are large enough to have their own distinct identities and manage themselves, and therefore they do not need combined metro mayors or combined authorities; such deals could also undermine local democracy in practice.

Friday, 13 November 2015

My analysis of yesterday's local by-elections and thoughts on Aung San Suu Kyi's recent victory in Myanmar

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

Shropshire UA, Belle Vue: Labour 546 (47.8%, -28.7%), Conservative 282 (24.7%, +1.1%), Liberal Democrats 240 (21.0%), Green 75 (6.6%).

Dorset CC, Weymouth: Green 663 (34.9%, +12.0%), Conservative 561 (29.5%, +5.9%), Labour 417 (21.9%, -7.3%), UKIP 174 (9.1%, -7.8%), Liberal Democrats 87 (4.6%, -0.8%). Green gain from Labour.

The top story is that we managed a decisive strike against Labour over in Weymouth, Dorset (notable lately for having some very marginal wards), and with this Claire Sutton becomes our very first county councillor ever elected in Dorset. (Incidentally, she was the Labour councillor for that division from 2005 to 2009.) We have proven yesterday that with strong campaigns, a focus on the green message, and a good local campaigner, that we can win elections without Labour's help, and indeed against Labour despite Jeremy Corbyn having tried to win over Green voters.

In other good news internationally, it has now been confirmed that Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy have won a majority in the first free elections in Myanmar/Burma since 1990, and the votes for both houses have not even been fully counted yet. Parties supporting military rule have been conclusively rejected, with the Union and Solidarity Development Party, led by Burmese President Thein Sein, set to win as few as 30 seats at most in the House of Representatives (15 of the seats up for election have not yet been declared at this time of writing), despite attempts of electoral fraud by it in some townships. Many of the other seats were won by the interests of the various national minorities in Burma, many of whom have been brutally persecuted by the Burmese military regime (especially the Karen and Rohingya peoples).

Aung San Suu Kyi has finally got the confirmed democratic victory she has longed for, but there are still many challenges to overcome in the NLD's first years of power. Since the military-supporting USDP was not entirely wiped out at this election, since 25% of the seats in both Burmese houses are still represented by unelected and unaccountable military appointees, and since constitutional changes need a 3/4 majority (not a 2/3 majority), it will be still almost impossible to correct flaws within the Burmese constitution. Secondly, Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be President because the aforementioned constitution does not permit those who have non-Burmese spouses or children (despite being Burmese themselves) to run for President of Myanmar. Thirdly, when the NLD takes power it will need to make sure peace can be made with minorities who have suffered so badly under the Burmese junta, and (since it can still pass laws with just a simple majority) make sure reparations can be made to them, and solve other problems currently ongoing in Myanmar.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

My analysis of and thoughts on the recent Croatian parliamentary election

A few days ago, Croatia held its most recent parliamentary election, with the two opposing coalitions of Patriotic Coalition and Croatia is Growing neck and neck at many points in opinion polls leading up to Croatia's election day of 8 November. It was the centre-right Patriotic Coalition, led by the Croatian Democratic Union, who emerged top of the poll in the end, though, if only by 59 seats to the 56 for Croatia is Growing, led by the Social Democrats.

Part of the reason was the emergence of the liberal Bridge of Independent Lists (MOST) which managed to win 19 seats; the Croatia is Growing coalition lost 18 seats in this election. Even though MOST is really a classical liberal party in the manner of the FDP in Germany, it was able to take large numbers of more moderate SDP voters particularly given the fact that the left-wing Croatian Labourists had joined the Croatia is Growing coalition.

Such a decision caused two of the six Croatian Labourist MPs to defect to Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) in protest. However, despite having elected an MEP last year and strong showings earlier in the campaign (I once believed ORaH would win 12 seats), ORaH sadly failed to win a single seat in the new Croatian parliament, managing 1.8% of the vote nationally. Croatia's electoral districts are all evenly distributed (each elects 14 MPs; there are also separate districts for overseas voters and minority groups in Croatia ) and each has a 5% threshold. ORaH did not manage to pass this threshold even in district I (the capital, Zagreb, in effect) which was clearly their best result. Minor parties outside those representing minority groups of Croatia (Serbs, Hungarians, Roma, Albanians, Czechs/Slovaks, and Italians) overall found this election to be a difficult one, with the final result showing only a total of 17 seats out of 151 not being represented by the Patriotic Coalition, Croatia is Growing, or MOST.

I believe from current conditions it is likely that a moderate, centrist SDP-MOST coalition will form, given that MOST's liberal stance will bring it strongly into conflict with the more hardline right-wing parties of the Patriotic Coalition. Due to the rather fragmented nature of Croatia's parliament, however, it will be by no means stable and it will almost certainly have to rely on the support of parties representing minority groups (who have 8 seats in total from this election; a Croatia is Growing-MOST coalition would not have quite enough seats for a majority).


Monday, 9 November 2015

More on the Oldham West & Royton by-election


I am pleased to say that it has been confirmed that Simeon Hart will be standing for us again in the Oldham West & Royton by-election.

Here is who he has to face:

Sir Oink-A-Lot (Official Monster Raving Loony Party)
John Bickley (UKIP)
Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrats)
James Daly (Conservative)
Jim McMahon (Labour)

The OMRLP candidate is the only addition to the list of parties that also stood in this constituency earlier this year.

I wish the best of luck to Simeon in this by-election, and even if we do not win I hope we can perform better than in the last general election.


Friday, 6 November 2015

Analysis of by-election results from yesterday and other thoughts

Readers, the result of yesterday's by-election in Torbay which had a Green candidate was as follows (there was another in Aberdeenshire but no Green candidate stood):

Torbay UA, Clifton-with-Maidenway: Liberal Democrats 1069 (69.2%, +39.3%), Conservative 234 (14.8%, -13.7%), UKIP 158 (10.0%, -9.7%), Labour 53 (3.3%, -9.0%), Green 43 (2.7%, -6.8%).

It was a truly thundering comeback for Adrian Sanders, the newly elected Liberal Democrat councillor who just six months ago in the 2015 general election lost his Torbay parliamentary seat to the Conservatives having previously held it for 18 years (alongside so many of his colleagues that day). We were quite heavily squeezed by this comeback of his, and as it turns out every other party standing was, even the second placed Conservatives who almost took one of the seats in Torbay's last round of council elections. Conversely, on the same day in the rural Aberdeenshire ward of Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford, the Conservatives won a council seat from the Liberal Democrats in a rare double by-election with the SNP holding the other, despite the Liberal Democrats still retaining some strength in rural Aberdeenshire.

I am also pleased to hear hat my fellow Greens in Oldham will be standing Simeon Hart in the Oldham West & Royton by-election, who fought this seat at the last general election as well. Please donate to our crowdfunding effort via this link so we can spread the Green message across as much of the constituency as possible:


Monday, 2 November 2015

Five reasons why the Green Party should stand a candidate in the upcoming Oldham West & Royton by-election

Readers, the first by-election of this Parliament, caused by the death of left-wing Labour stalwart Michael Meacher, will occur on 3rd December 2015 (the writ has been officially moved). In that constituency, my fellow Greens stood a candidate, Simeon Hart, earlier this year, and I believe we should have a candidate in this by-election for five reasons:

1. The Green Party is now a major UK political party rather than a minor party, even if we only have one MP at present. In order for us to continue to be the green alternative, and advocate Green policies to the people, we need to stand in every Parliamentary by-election whether the seat is winnable for us or not.

2. The Labour candidate might not necessarily be on the left or even be that progressive, so our candidature will help give the voters of Oldham West & Royton a real choice whichever person Labour chooses.

3. By-elections in a constituency can usually attract media coverage for a seat that otherwise cannot attract such useful coverage (often because the constituency is a very safe seat; Oldham West & Royton does fall into this category but by-elections are less predictable) in general elections. If we do well (e.g. by saving our deposit when we did not do so last time round) this will be a positive boost for the green message in Britain.

4. Making sure voters have a Green choice generally improves turnout in elections. Some of our better performances in 2015 also coincided with substantially increased turnout in the respective constituency compared to 2010, even when the constituency was safe for a particular party (and especially when it was competitive and marginal).

5. If we stand, protest voters who dislike the Conservatives and Labour for one reason or another can avoid having to vote for UKIP in this by-election, and can instead vote for us.