Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Season's greetings 2015 :)

Well, it is nearly the end of 2015, which so far in my life has been the most politically exciting, especially during the general election this May. It has also been a decisive crack in two party-politics in Britain (at least to some extent).

My brief Christmas message is that we should always continue to hope and work to achieve positive things, no matter how much fear anyone tries to put into us; it is the best way to combatting adverse events and making sure all that is good prevails.

Have a good Christmas, everyone, and Alan's Green Thoughts will return in the New Year :)

Monday, 21 December 2015

My analysis of the recent Spanish general election


Yesterday's general election in Spain was quite sensational, particularly for the breakthrough by Podemos and its allies. Although Podemos did not achieve first place despite their strong performance in opinion polls, they managed to win a total of 69 seats, six of which I am proud to say will go to the Spanish Greens, Equo, who have been running joint lists with them. Given the dominance of the 'People's Party' and the 'Spanish Socialist Workers Party' during the current period of Spanish democracy (i.e. from 1975 onwards), this is a historic breakthrough.

Despite still topping the poll, the People's Party led by Mariano Rajoy was the clear loser in these elections, losing 1/3 of its seats and more importantly its majority in the Spanish Congress. The Spanish Socialist Workers Party surprisingly only lost 20 seats, due to the rise of Podemos, but it still recorded its worst ever election result. Notably, the PP and PSOE only polled 50.73% between them (compared to 73.8% in 2011!), which forms a decisive crack in two-party politics in Spain, which has somehow persisted despite proportional representation.

Podemos' rise also came at the expense of United Left, the former prominent left-wing party in Spain. IU lost 9 of its 11 seats, leaving it with just two deputies, both in Madrid, although by running with Podemos in Catalonia it has maintained representation there. Attempts by the Spanish government to block Catalonia's independence referendum hardened the resolve of left-wing nationalists, as the Republican Left of Catalonia trebled its seat total despite Podemos also running. The left-wing Basque nationalists were not so fortunate, however, as Euskadi Herria Bildu (EHB) lost 5 of their 7 seats, and the centre-right Basque Nationalist Party actually gained a seat despite a slight loss in vote share terms. The Galician nationalist bloc lost both of its seats, again due to Podemos' rise, even though Podemos' left-wing policies are not as courting of independence movements in Spain as I feel they ought to be.

Elsewhere, the Ciudadanos (C's) Party managed a substantial rise, mostly at the expense of PP, winning 40 seats; however, since the Ciudadanos Party have for now ruled out a coalition with the PP (particularly because of how far PP has been lurching to the right under Senor Rajoy's tenure with its draconian law on protest, amongst other things), their rise will just be another crack in two-party politics in Spain. The Union Progress and Democracy Party (UPyD) ended up losing almost 9/10ths of its vote share and all five seats it once had, probably due to the rise of the C's and divisions within UPyD itself; it even finished behind Spain's animal rights party which did not win any seats either. The other good news about this election is that turnout increased and that invalid and blank votes were substantially down from the 2011 elections-it is easier to cast a valid and meaningful vote when real and meaningful choices exist in elections.

However, there appear to be at present no viable coalitions which could emerge from this result, due to PP and PSOE being unwilling to work with each other, Podemos not wanting to play 'second fiddle' to PSOE and the C's not wanting to work with PP (and presumably not PSOE either). I believe the nationalist parties stand to be the kingmakers at present, because if they do not help form a government, new elections will have to occur soon as was the case in Greece in 2012 when SYRIZA first rose to the forefront.


Friday, 18 December 2015

My analysis and thoughts on by-election results from this week and other thoughts

Readers, the results from local by-elections this week (one on 15/12/15, the others on 17/12/15) featuring Green Party candidates were as follows:

Spelthorne BC, Sheppertown Town: Conservative 858 (62.0%, +10.9%), UKIP 180 (13.0%, -7.5%), Liberal Democrats 154 (11.1%, -2.1%), Labour 123 (8.9%, -6.9%), Green 68 (4.9%).

East Hertfordshire DC, Hertford Heath: No Description (actually Conservative) 269 (52.0%, +6.7%), Lib Dem 101 (19.5%), UKIP 70 (13.5%, -1.8%), Lab 56 (10.8%, -1.7%), Green 21 (4.1%, -1.8%).

Brent LBC, Kensal Green: Lab 931 (53.4%, -1.0%), Lib Dem 417 (23.9%, +8.6%), Con 255 (14.6%, +2.8%), Green 102 (5.9%, -12.7%), UKIP 38 (2.2%).

Worcestershire CC, Stourport-on-Severn: Con 763 (28.7%, +9.2%), Independent Health Concern 725 (27.3%, +0.8%), Lab 581 (21.9%, -0.7%), UKIP 547 (20.6%, -6.9%), Green 42 (1.6%, -2.3%).

This week was particularly notable due to two candidates from main parties standing as 'no description' due to failing to fill out their nomination papers correctly, one of whom was standing in Hertford Heath's by-election, in the district where I currently reside. It ultimately made no difference there, even when the former Conservative councillor, Adrian McNeece, started supporting the Labour candidate. However, such an error did make a real difference over in Ryedale, which was won by the continuing Liberal Party (not to be confused with the Liberal Democrats, who they refused to merge with back in 1988).

It has not been a good week for the Green Party this week, particularly in Brent where the Liberal Democrats, like in Haringey, have been trying to regain some standing after their heavy losses in 2014 local elections (and the 2015 general election for that matter), which explains why Labour's vote share actually decreased slightly even though these places should theoretically be more favourable to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of Labour.

In other news, MPs voted 296 to 261 to allow fracking in national parks and sites of special scientific interest, days after Britain signed the climate change agreement in Paris. Only four Conservative MPs rebelled (Zac Goldsmith, Jason McCartney, Sarah Wollaston and Andrew Turner), with Mark Menzies, Kevin Hollinrake, Nick Herbert, and Jeremy Quin voting in favour even though their own constituencies are fracking targets! Jim Fitzpatrick from Labour also voted in favour-but why?

Incidentally, 39 Labour MPs did not show up-so in theory this bill could have been defeated if those MPs had also ignored the archaic 'pairing system' that still exists within Parliament. It is times like this that are an important reminder of why Green support needs to grow strongly in rural areas (where in numerous cases locally we are the only effective opposition to the Conservatives e.g. in Mid Suffolk) as well as urban areas with lots of young people.


Monday, 14 December 2015

Un oeuil sur France (an eye on France)

Yesterday, the second round of regional elections in France concluded, the first round having concluded last week. These were based on new and larger merged regions, generally merged only for administrative purposes and largely without any respect for long-established regional and cultural identities, such as those of Alsace-Lorraine and Savoy which did not get regions of their own.

It turned out to be a poor result for socialist and progressive forces in France, with the Parti Socialiste, led by the unpopular and disappointing Francois Hollande, only winning 5 regions on the mainland and finishing third in several despite allying with other left-wing parties. It consequently withdrew in the second round to keep out the dangerous, far-right Front National (FN) led infamously by Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen-a tactic which worked. The centre-right Republicans, still led by Nicolas Sarkozy, won 7 mainland regions although it was hard not to improve on their performance when back in 2010, under the old regional system, the only mainland French province they won was Alsace (meaning that they notionally had control of zero of the new mainland regions had the mergers occurred before 2010). My allies in France, Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, sadly ended up losing nearly half their 2010 vote share in spite of the climate talks in Paris going on at the same time and EELV's respect for civil liberties (the state of emergency declared by M. Hollande has led to the banning of demonstrations within Paris) as well as people and planet.

The one good thing about the French regional elections, though, is that the Front National has failed to win a single region, despite finishing first in the initial round of elections particularly in north-eastern France (aka Nord-Pas-Calais-Picardy). This is not only due to tactical ploys by both LR and PS (depending on region), but also by significantly increased voter turnout in the second round. Turnout was just 49.9% in round one, but it increased to a much more respectable 58.4% in round two; voter apathy is advantageous to extreme-right parties like FN but enough voters eventually came out to stop Mme. Le Pen in her tracks when it mattered.

Amidst all this, a deal was finalised in the COP21 talks in Paris regarding the threat of artificial climate change. Even though this deal still keeps track of the need to keep global warming within this century to below 2 degrees Celsius, it must be made known that the wealthy elite, of whom many of the delegates came from, are the people who most need to make lifestyle changes and consumption reduction overall, and realise the burden of lifestyle adjustment to combat climate change should not fall disproportionately on ordinary people. After all, those at the top are the most responsible for driving unsustainable consumerist culture of all types in the first place which has led to the need for climate talks. There also needs to be a continued long-term focus on green energy and how it can transform all nations, since most current oil/gas/coal reserves need to be kept in the ground for the key targets within the COP21 deal to be met.


Friday, 11 December 2015

My analysis of by-election results from 10/12/15 and other thoughts

Readers, the results from by-elections of 10 December 2015 that featured Green Party candidates were as follows:

Bournemouth UA, Kinson South: Conservative 520/509 (33.9%), Labour 471/371 (27.7%), UKIP 313 (20.6%), Bournemouth Independent Alliance 168/116 (9.4%), Liberal Democrat 61/60 (4.0%), Green 63/54 (3.9%), Patria 8 (0.5%).

Harborough DC, Market Harborough Logan: Lib Dem 402 (45.2%, +9.0%), Con 303 (34.0%, -1.3%), Lab 82 (9.2%, -5.9%), Green 56 (6.3%, -7.1%), UKIP 47 (5.3%).

The Kinson South by-election was a rather interesting one, given that it was not only a double by-election but caused by administrative error which affected the result. It proved to be quite a close contest, but the Labour councillor who had lost her seat in May 2015 in that ward did not quite succeed in returning to Bournemouth council. Meanwhile, we at least improved on our 2015 result, and we managed to beat UKIP over in Market Harborough despite being squeezed by the Liberal Democrats there who almost lost their seat there in the last elections of Harborough council. In Blantyre (detailed results not covered due to no Green candidate present) in South Lanarkshire, Labour surprised many by holding that seat against the SNP's advances, the first time they have done so in a local by-election in over a year.

In other Scottish news, the long-running election petition against Alistair Carmichael (MP for Orkney & Shetland and Scotland's only remaining Lib Dem MP) finally concluded two days ago, with the case going in favour of Alistair despite the petitioners proving two of their three points regarding those false statements he made against SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Although this election petition did not succeed, I believe the case may still make prominent politicians of all parties be more careful about their media statements in future, especially during major election campaigns.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

The ecologists of the 1983 UK general election: where are they now?

As a follow-on to my blog post of last year, entitled 'Our original ecologists: where are they now?' which you can find here: , I have been looking into the history of Ecology Party candidates from 1983, the first time we stood more than 100 candidates in a general election. We also had much better coverage in Scotland and Wales than in 1979, and a candidate in Northern Ireland for the first time, giving us coverage in all four UK nations. In fact, we were the only minor political party to do so that year, and it confirmed our long-term status in British politics.

In the blog post mentioned above, I have already mentioned some of the people who stood on our behalf in 1983 (having themselves stood in 1979 as well), which includes Jonathon Porritt, Guy Woodford, Gundula Dorey, Clive Lord, Alistair Laurence, David Whitebread, Howard Hoptrough, Don Grimes, Stephen Lambert, Brian Kingzett, Peter Frings, Anne Rix, Cicely Marsh, and Peter Hussey.  Therefore, the list below consists of those whose 1983 candidature was their first (or as of 2015, their only) general election candidature:

Peter Lang (contested Hornsey & Wood Green in 1983, and London North in 1984 European elections): Peter is still active in the Green Party, and was a candidate in Haringey's local elections last year.

Sonia Willington (contested Battersea in 1983 and 1987, and also London South West in 1984 European elections): Sonia, or 'Sally' as she preferred to be called, sadly died of a heart attack in 2008, aged 77.

Deborah Sutherland (contested Hammersmith in 1983, and London West in 1984): Deborah defected to the Liberal/SDP Alliance some time afterwards, and stayed with them when they merged into the Liberal Democrats (and as far as I know she is still with that party).

Elizabeth Shaw (contested Tooting in 1983): (Unsure)

Frances Rose Baillie-Grohman (contested Putney in 1983): I am not sure whether Rose is still with the Green Party-perhaps a relative of hers (who I know via my good friend Julia Lagoutte) can give me some more information.

Roger Shorter (contested City of London & Westminster South in 1983, and Kensington in 1987): Roger became better known for founding Christian Ecology Link, where he is (or at least was) active. As for whether he is still a Green Party member, I do not know.

Timothy Cooper (contested Westminster North in 1983, Brentford & Isleworth in 1987, and Cambridge in 1992): Timothy is now better known for his Green Christianity articles-I believe he may have left the Green Party some time ago.

Janet Grimes (contested Fulham in 1983 and 1987): (Unsure)

Mike Crowson (contested Hornchurch in 1983, Keighley in 1992): He was once national secretary of the Green Party when it was the Ecology Party; he now writes books on the occult and astrology.

Tim Rowe (contested Croydon North West in 1983): Tim now lives in the New Forest district, and is still a Green Party activist.

John Clarke (contested Twickenham in 1983): (Unsure)

Alexandra Presant-Collins (contested Kingston-upon-Thames in 1983): Alexandra contested quite a few local elections in Kingston-upon-Thames afterwards, but I have not heard anything further about her.

Alan Hassard (contested Lewisham East in 1983): Alan is better known for his research in behavioural psychology-I have not heard anything from him green-wise.

Cynthia Warth (contested Wanstead & Woodford in 1983): (Unsure)

Antony Jones (contested Wimbledon in 1983): (Unsure)

Jim Maclellan (contested Surbiton in 1983): (Unsure)

Brian Fewster (contested Harborough in 1983, Leicester South in 1987, Bosworth in 1992, and also the East Midlands European Parliament constituency's list in 1999 and 2004): Brian sadly died in 2008, aged 65, having been a long-serving Green Party activist.

Dinah Freer (contested North West Leicestershire in 1983 and Bosworht in 1987): Dinah is still an active Green Party member, having contested Leicester City's most recent elections earlier this year.

Rosy Stanning (contested Corby in 1983): (Unsure)

Geoffrey Dixon (contested Gainsborough & Horncastle in 1983): (Unsure)

Eric Wall (contested Derby South in 1983, Derby North in 1987 and 1992, and European elections of 1989): (Unsure)

Chris Davies (contested Leicester South in 1983): Chris is still an activist in Leicester Green Party and contested recent council elections.

Heather Goddard (contested Rutland and Melton in 1983): (Unsure)

Patricia Wood/Hewis (contested Newark in 1983 and 1992, Grantham in 1987): (Unsure)

Maureen Pook (contested Rushcliffe in 1983): (Unsure)

Robert Boenke (contested Epping Forest in 1983): He now lives in my hometown of Ware.

Nigel Callaghan (contested Peterborough in 1983 and 1987): (Unsure)

Anthony Carter (contested Norwich South in 1983): (Unsure)

Tim Eiloart (contested Huntingdon in 1983): Tim sadly died in 2009, aged 72.

James (Francis Keeling) Scott (contested Bristol West in 1983): Is he related to the Ecology Party candidate for Christchurch & Lymington in 1979, or is he the same man with a name change?

Geoff Collard (contested Bristol South in 1983 and Bristol East in 2001): Still active within Bristol Green Party-I spoke with him in person briefly at the 2015 Spring Conference.

Roger Joanes (contested North Devon in 1983): (Unsure)

John Chadwick (contested South East Cornwall in 1983): (Unsure)

Edward Barnham (contested North Wiltshire in 1983): (Unsure)

Stephen Shaw (contested Plymouth Sutton in 1983): (Unsure)

Wendy Morgan (contested South Hams in 1983): (Unsure)

Keith Radmall (contested Northavon in 1983): (Unsure)

John Waters (contested Gloucester in 1983, and York in the 1994 European Parliament elections): (Unsure)

Paul Ekins (contested Westbury in 1983): Part of forum for the future with Sara Parkin.

Suzette Starmer (contested Oxford West & Abingdon in 1983): Still in Oxfordshire Green Party.

Reginald Mutter (contested Lewes in 1983): Reginald, an English lecturer at Sussex University, sadly died in 2012, aged 87.

Peter Spurrier (contested Horsham in 1983): (Unsure)

David Newell (contested Reigate in 1983 and Surrey East in 1987): (Unsure)

Alan Francis (contested Milton Keynes in 1983 and 1987, Milton Keynes North East in 1992 and 1997, Milton Keynes South West in 2001 and 2005, Milton Keynes North in 2010, Buckingham in 2015, and European Parliament elections of 1994, 1999 and 2004): Alan was notably one of just two opponents to Speaker John Bercow in the most recent general election, and currently holds our record for most general elections contested in a row under the Green Party banner (eight).

Ian Flindall (contested Slough in 1983, Uxbridge in 1987 and 1992): Ian now lives in Cornwall where he has contested the more recent of Cornwall's local elections.

Geoffrey Darnton (contested Reading East in 1983, and earlier he contested Lancaster in 1974 as an independent): Geoffrey now lives in Bournemouth and at this time of writing is currently contesting a local by-election in Kinson, Bournemouth.

Charles Porter (contested Ashford in 1983, 1987 and 1992): I believe he is, or was, a GP in Ashford-I have not heard much about him recently.

David Conder (contested Canterbury in 1983 and North Thanet in 1987): (Unsure)

Martin Sewell (contested Gravesham in 1983): Currently a Church of England minister in Gravesham, and he has spoken out recently about the importance of respecting ecology within the church.

Peter Spurrier (contested Horsham in 1983): (Unsure)

Jonathan Sherlock (contested Chichester in 1983): (Unsure)

Victoria Murray (contested Hereford in 1983): (Unsure)

Felicity Norman (contested Leominster in 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2005 and its successor North Herefordshire in 2010; contested European Parliament elections in 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009): She is currently a Green Party councillor in Leominster, and her daughter, Daisy, has also been a candidate herself in 2010 and 2015.

Nicholas Charlton (contested Warwick & Leamington in 1983): (Unsure)

John Churchman (contested Bromsgrove in 1983 and 1992): (Unsure)

Derek Rudd (contested Halesowen & Stourbridge in 1983): Derek is still an active Green Party member in Stourbridge, having contested local elections there as recently as 2012.

John Hurdley (contested Birmingham Edgbaston in 1983): I believe he is still a Green Party member over in Birmingham, since he signed the nomination papers for one of my Birmingham colleagues in the most recent general election.

Mike Shipley (contested Stockport in 1983 and 1987, Greater Manchester East in 1984 and 1989 European Parliament elections, and Peak District in 1994 European Parliament elections): Mike now lives in High Peak, Derbyshire, and is currently a co-chair of the Green Party's regional council.

Robert Gibson (contested Westmorland & Lonsdale in 1983, Copeland in 1987 and Penrith & the Border in 1992): Not too sure-although I have found out that he did not defect to UKIP at any point (the initials R.A. Gibson of a UKIP candidate in 2005 in Cumbria were purely coincidental).

Frank Smith (contested Hyndburn in 1983 and 1987): (Unsure)

Anthony Holgate (contested Chorley in 1983 and 1987): He defected to the Labour Party at least a few years ago and is currently a Labour councillor in Chorley, where he still lives.

Neil Chantrell (contested Warrington South in 1983, and earlier in Warrington at a 1981 by-election): He is still alive but I do not know whether he is still in the Green Party.

Stephen Tooke (contested Bridlington in 1983): (Unsure)

Stanley Shepherd (contested Shipley in 1983): (Unsure)

Michael Penney (contested Keighley in 1983): (Unsure)

Robert Adsett (contested Bradford South in 1983): (Unsure)

Douglas Jacques (contested Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1983, Sunderland South in 1987, and Brigg & Cleethorpes in 1992): He became a councillor in Glanford until that authority was abolished via the Local Government Act 1994; I am not sure of any recent activity from him.

Alistair Whitelaw (contested Glasgow Hillhead in 1983 and 1987, Glasgow Central in 2010, Glasgow South in 2015, Strathclyde East in 1984 and 1989 European elections, and also Glasgow list in Scottish Parliament elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007): Alistair is still an active Green in Scotland locally and nationally.

Linda Hendry (contested Edinburgh South in 1983 and 2001, Edinburgh Central in 1987 and 1997, Edinburgh West in 1992, European Parliament elections in 1984, 1994, and 1999, and Scottish Parliament elections in 1999 and 2007): Linda is still active in the Scottish Green Party in Edinburgh.

Margaret Harty (contested Aberdeen North in 1983): (Unsure)

Patrick Marks (contested Dundee West in 1983): (Unsure)

Alistair Nicol-Smith (contested Edinburgh Pentlands in 1983): (Unsure)

Nicolette Carlaw (contested Paisley North in 1983, and earlier Glasgow Hillhead by-election of 1982): (Unsure)

David Mellor (contested Paisley South in 1983, and Paisley North in 1992, not to be confused with former Conservative MP David Mellor, by the way): (Unsure)

David Allison (contested Central Fife in 1983, and Dundee West in 2005): Left the Green Party some time ago but I am not sure why, since he contested Dundee West as an independent.

Stuart Dobson (contested Dunfermline West in 1983): (Unsure)

Timothy Flinn (contested North East Fife in 1983): (Unsure)

Pamela Ross (contested Angus East in 1983): (Unsure)

Graham 'Brig' Oubridge (contested Swansea West in 1983, Carmarthen in 1987, and Swansea West in 1992): He now lives in Salisbury, and I have met him and his wife a few times at conferences.

Graham Jones (contested Cardiff West in 1983): (Unsure)

Marylin Smith/Wakefield (contested Ceredigion in 1983 and 1987, and the 1989 Vale of Glamorgan by-election): (Unsure)

David Hoffman (contested Pembroke in 1983): (Unsure)

Noel Thomas (contested Ogmore in 1983): (Unsure)

Alwyn Jones (contested Pontypridd in 1983): (Unsure)

Malcolm Samuel (contested North Antrim in 1983, East Londonderry in 1987, European elections in Northern Ireland in 1989, and East Londonderry as an Independent in 2005): He left the Green Party of Northern Ireland some time ago, but I do not know why.

As with last year's 'where are they now?' post of mine, I have generally only found out this information via internet research or personal meetings with some of the people I have mentioned above who are still in the Green Party, but I do what I can with regards to the history of the Ecology/Green Party.

Regards, Alan.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Why so-called 'safe spaces' are not necessary and can actually be very unsafe

Much in the news recently outside of politics: the creeping danger of so-called 'safe spaces', a phenomenon that has spread across many US universities and is creeping into more prestigious UK universities, unfortunately, and spreading to areas it does not need to be in.

These 'safe spaces', designed supposedly to protect people from oppression, can actually be dangerous to many. Here are some main reasons why:

1. They are out of touch with real life.

The real world (and real life politics, for that matter) is not a safe space, and can never be made a safe space. In order to tackle the oppression and inequality that exists in our world, we need to face it, counter it, and speak out for a better world for everyone, not just for particular groups or individuals. Creating division using safe spaces is not a useful long-term solution to these problems and actually makes them worse in some cases.

2. They are overly intolerant of even minor mistakes or faux pas.

As a person with autism, who has personally felt how badly safe spaces can be misused, and who has had problems with social understanding as a result of my condition, I know how intolerant and aggressive 'safe spaces' can be to people like myself. Even accidentally saying the wrong thing (which you may think is just normal from your perspective and not even supposed to offend) can invite abuse and aggression from others in such a space without good cause, which proponents of safe spaces claim to be preventing.

3. They are overly restrictive of free speech, which is important in a democratic society.

I am not talking about hate speech or shouting 'fire!' in a crowded theatre-I am talking about constructive arguments that advocate a different point of view within a topic, particularly a controversial one. Having a controversial but not intentionally offensive view about something is not an excuse to 'no-platform' someone (who is not advocating hate speech of any type) especially when some people would like to hear them speak even if others do not.  Free speech is a human right-you might not want to come to a particular debate but that is no excuse to shut it down for the people do want to come to it and hear dissenting thoughts.

4. University students and others can get along just fine without them.

When I was studying at the University of Hertfordshire during my undergraduate years, not only was there no 'safe space' policy, but no-one, including myself, even talked about safe spaces. We were a very diverse group of people, taking in all nationalities and cultures (with a wide array of societies to match) and we all interacted well with each other and respected each others' differences remembering that we are all human beings.

Friday, 4 December 2015

My analysis and thoughts on the Oldham West & Royton by-election (and also local by-elections)

Readers, the result at the Oldham West & Royton by-election came in relatively early for a Parliamentary by-election (1.15 am), and it was as follows:

Sir Oink A Lot (real name Sean Alec Jones), Official Monster Raving Loony Party, 141 votes (0.5%).

John Bickley, UKIP, 6487 (23.4%, +2.8%)

Jane Brophy, Liberal Democrats, 1024 (3.7%, +0.0%)

James Daley, Conservative, 2596 (9.4%, -9.6%)

Simeon Hart, Green Party, 249 (0.9%, -1.0%)

Jim McMahon, Labour, 17,209 (62.1%, +7.3%).

All UKIP's campaigning effort, smearing of Labour, and taking advantage of the right-wing media's attacks of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, ultimately came to nothing. UKIP's campaign did have some effect, though-the Conservative vote share was halved and the Liberal Democrats failed to take back protest votes that had gone over to UKIP at the 2015 general election. In fact, Labour increased its majority in percentage terms despite not having significant numbers of Lib Dem or Green voters left to win over tactically. This is probably also attributable to the fact their candidate was local and knew the area well (Jim McMahon is leader of Oldham council, and also has working-class roots being a truck driver's son) whereas John Bickley, despite nearly having won the Heywood & Middleton by-election, is not local and is becoming more of a carpetbagger for UKIP.

Not only did the Lib Dems lose their deposit again, they also made no progress at all in terms of vote share, and this may likely be the case in future by-elections where they are no longer remotely competitive or never really have been. I was particularly disappointed, though, in how we Greens lost half our vote share even though the aforementioned Jim McMahon was not on the left, unlike the late Michael Meacher, his predecessor, and even though we have been doing reasonably well in spite of Labour (or at least that part loyal to Jeremy Corbyn) moving leftwards. Amazingly, despite Oldham West & Royton being a very safe Labour seat and despite the fact it is December and therefore very cold outside, by-election turnout only dropped to 40% from 60% (somewhat below average).

Here are results of local by-elections which featured Green Party candidates which polled on the same day as Oldham West & Royton:

Newham LBC, Boleyn: Lab 1440 (72.1%, +7.9%), Lib Dem 181 (9.1%), Con 171 (8.6%, -12.4%), Green 117 (5.9%), UKIP 78 (3.5%), Independent 10 (0.5%).

Shropshire UA, Meole: Con 490 (43.1%, -11.8%), Lab 303 (26.7%, -11.0%), Lib Dem 223 (19.6%, +12.3%), UKIP 64 (5.6%), Green 56 (4.9%).

We had not stood in either of those wards last time they had an election (which occurred in each case before the Green surge), and neither is particularly favourable territory for us nor are they marginal. I am therefore pleased for our performance there, and it should make up at least a little bit for our lacklustre performance in Oldham West & Royton. I would like to reiterate that we should be present in all parliamentary by-elections whether we are weak or strong in the area, in the same way the other four major parties in the UK do.

Incidentally on the subject of by-elections, it has just been revealed that two current MPs (who have not been named) are facing police investigations over their expenses, so keep a look out for one or two potential by-elections in the coming year.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

That list of 72 and other thoughts

Yesterday, on the debate about whether Britain should stage air strikes on Syria or not (to counter the threat of the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as Daesh), MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of air strikes by 397 to 223.

How did a margin of 174 on that vote emerge with a government majority of only 10, you ask?

The key answer: 72 'opposition' MPs in Britain (66 Labour, 6 Liberal Democrat) ignored voters' pleas not to back air strikes and voted in favour of them, for various reasons. It has been reported that 15 Labour MPs were swayed by just one pro-air strike speech, from Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central.

Here are the 72 MPs in question:

Heidi Alexander (Labour, Lewisham East)
Ian Austin (Labour, Dudley North)
Adrian Bailey (Labour, West Bromwich West)
Kevin Barron (Labour, Rother Valley)
Margaret Beckett (Labour, Derby South)
Hilary Benn (Labour, Leeds Central)
Luciana Berger (Labour, Liverpool Wavertree)
Tom Blenkinsop (Labour, Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland)
Ben Bradshaw (Labour, Exeter)
Tom Brake (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton & Wallington)
Chris Bryant (Labour, Rhondda)
Alan Campbell (Labour, Tynemouth)
Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat, Orkney & Shetland)
Jenny Chapman (Labour, Darlington)
Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat, Sheffield Hallam)
Vernon Coaker (Labour, Gedling)
Ann Coffey (Labour, Stockport)
Yvette Cooper (Labour, Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford)
Neil Coyle (Labour, Bermondsey & Old Southwark)
Mary Creagh (Labour, Wakefield)
Stella Creasy (Labour, Walthamstow)
Simon Danczuk (Labour, Rochdale)
Wayne David (Labour, Llanelli)
Gloria De Piero (Labour, Ashfield)
Stephen Doughty (Labour, Cardiff South & Penarth)

Jim Dowd (Labour, Lewisham West & Penge)
Michael Dugher (Labour, Barnsley East)
Angela Eagle (Labour, Wallasey)
Maria Eagle (Labour, Garston & Halewood)
Louise Ellman (Labour, Liverpool Riverside)
Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat, Westmorland & Lonsdale)
Frank Field (Labour, Birkenhead)
Jim Fitzpatrick (Labour, Poplar & Limehouse)
Colleen Fletcher (Labour, Coventry North East)
Caroline Flint (Labour, Don Valley)
Harriet Harman (Labour, Camberwell & Peckham)
Margaret Hodge (Labour, Barking)
George Howarth (Labour, Knowsley)
Tristram Hunt (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central)

Dan Jarvis (Labour, Barnsley Central)
Alan Johnson (Labour, Hull West & Hessle)
Graham Jones (Labour, Hyndburn)
Helen Jones (Labour, Warrington North)
Kevan Jones (Labour, North Durham)
Susan Elan Jones (Labour, Clwyd South)
Liz Kendall (Labour, Leicester West)
Peter Kyle (Labour, Hove)
Chris Leslie (Labour, Nottingham East)
Holly Lynch (Labour, Halifax)
Siobhain McDonagh (Labour, Mitcham & Morden)
Pat McFadden (Labour, Wolverhampton South East)
Conor McGinn (Labour, St Helens North)
Alison McGovern (Labour, Wirral South)
Greg Mulholland (Liberal Democrat, Leeds North West)

Bridget Phillipson (Labour, Houghton & Sunderland South)
Lucy Powell (Labour, Manchester Central)
John Pugh (Liberal Democrat, Southport)
Jamie Reed (Labour, Copeland)
Emma Reynolds (Labour, Wolverhampton North East)
Geoffrey Robinson (Labour, Coventry North West)
Joan Ryan (Labour, Enfield North)
Ruth Smeeth (Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North)
Angela Smith (Labour, Penistone & Stocksbridge)
John Spellar (Labour, Warley)
Gisela Stuart (Labour, Birmingham Edgbaston)
Gareth Thomas (Labour, Harrow West)
Anna Turley (Labour, Redcar)

Chuka Umunna (Labour, Streatham)
Keith Vaz (Labour, Leicester East)
Tom Watson (Labour, West Bromwich East)
Phil Wilson (Labour, Sedgefield)
John Woodcock (Labour, Barrow-in-Furness)

Are you represented by a non-Conservative MP, and was your MP on that list of 72? If so, please tell me.

It is clear that 12 years on from that vote on the Iraq War, so many MPs have still not learned lessons about needlessly going to war and causing the deaths of innocent people, or about what democracy really means. Democracy actually means rule by the people, not rule by an out-of-touch elite who fail to represent people they are supposed to represent.

The split in Labour over Syria may have a short-term impact on the Oldham West & Royton by-election (and also a long-term impact since future Labour splits on important votes are likely), where polls have just closed and where UKIP have been claiming an ability to make a surprise gain (it must be noted here that UKIP's sole MP, Douglas Carswell, voted for air strikes on Syria as well).