Friday, 27 May 2016

Analysis of by-elections and other thoughts

Readers, the results from local by-elections that featured Green candidates on 19 May and 26 May were as follows:

(19/05/2016)

Merton LBC, St Helier: Labour 1436 (71.0%, +11.5%), Con 282 (13.9%, -1.0%), UKIP 191 (9.4%, -10.2%), Liberal Democrat 59 (2.9%, -3.1%), Green 55 (2.7%).

(26/05/2016)

East Staffordshire DC, Stapenhill: Lab 536 (44.3%, +12.5%), UKIP 348 (28.8%, -2.5%), Con 208 (17.2%, -7.0%), Independent 75 (6.2%), Green 24 (2.0%, -10.4%), Lib Dem 18 (1.5%).

North Yorkshire CC, Northallerton: Con 654 (48.3%, -4.1%), UKIP 278 (20.5%, -10.6%), Lab 233 (17.2%, +0.7%), Yorkshire First 131 (9.7%), Green 58 (4.3%).

It was quite appropriate that our best result in local by-elections this month would be in North Yorkshire, since North Yorkshire County Council recently voted to approve hydraulic fracking in the neighbouring district of Ryedale despite opposition from 99.2% of all residents who were consulted about the planned fracking operation and objections from residents and councillors of Ryedale District Council itself. The majority of Britons oppose fracking wherever they are for many reasons, which notably include: pollution of land, damage to their homes, contamination of water supplies from shale gas by-products, and the very loud and disturbing noise of fracking drills. In any case, as Portugal and South Australia have proved, it is possible to generate vital energy entirely from renewable resources especially as energy demand is declining not just due to conservation of energy but also due to newer technology which uses less energy in its life-cycle.

We must continue to oppose fracking operations wherever they might take place, and at the same time show that there are many cleaner alternatives to increasing energy production which unlike this so-called 'boom' will be useful in the longer-term.





Tuesday, 24 May 2016

My analysis of the Austrian Presidential election of 2016

The historic 2016 Presidential election of Austria finally concluded yesterday, with the Green Party's Alexander van der Bellen the eventual winner in the second round over the Freedom Party's Norbert Hofer, and eventually by a margin of only 0.6%.

With this result, Alexander becomes the first ever Green President of Austria, and only the second President of Austria not endorsed by the social-democratic Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPO) or the conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) elected since 1945.

As a Green, I am particularly pleased with Alexander's win and it shows that green politics and values can win elections nationally as well as locally or regionally. As a political analyst, this election represents the start of a sea of political change in Austria, a nation whose vote on most elections since the end of World War II has resulted in the SPO or OVP, or both, forming the government of Austria, with the notorious exceptions of 1999 and 2002 when an OVP-FPO government took office, resulting in sanctions from the European Union being applied temporarily to Austria during the first term of the OVP-FPO coalition. The SPO and OVP currently hold just 99 seats out of 183 between them, and the next legislative elections in Austria will, on current opinion polling, likely result in less than half of the seats in the National Council being shared by the SPO and OVP for the very first time. In this election, the SPO's Presidential candidate, Rudolf Hunsdorter, and the OVP's Presidential candidate, Andreas Khol, finished fourth and fifth respectively, and between them they polled just 22.4% of the votes cast, not much more than former Supreme Court Justice Irmgard Griss, who by achieving 18.9% was the best performer out of candidates who did not qualify for the second round. Neither Rudolf nor Andreas even came close to qualifying for the nail-biting second round; meanwhile, it was independent candidate Richard Lugner who came last.

Certainly, elections like this one show that it is hope, not fear, that will allow us all to find a new (and hopefully green) way and break the tired old bonds of neoliberalism.

Alan.







Monday, 23 May 2016

My analysis of the Cypriot legislative elections of 2016

Whilst the counting has been going on for the second round of the Austrian Presidential election of 2016 (final result to be announced later today), there was a parliamentary election on the island of Cyprus, although as usual the seats in the north of Cyprus are going unfilled.

Both major parties suffered significant losses in this election, with the moderate conservatives Democratic Rally (DISY) losing 2 seats and the socialist Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) continuing to decline and losing 4 seats, which can be attributed to their perceived faults within Cyprus' economic crisis of 2012-13. There are only 59 seats in southern Cyprus, 3 of which are reserved for economic minorities leaving 56 up for election at any one time. This makes any multiple seat changes in any party's results significant.

The overall mood was for change, with new and minor parties achieving comparatively good results compared to 2011. The Citizens' Alliance gained 3 seats, with its programme sufficiently able to attract dissatisfied voters of AKEL and the social-democratic Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK), and the DISY splinter group Solidarity Movement, similar in many ways to the Independent Greeks, also won 3 seats. I am particularly pleased with the historical best achieved by the Ecological and Environmental Movement, the Cypriot Green Party. They won 3 seats and achieved 4.8% of the votes cast, which proves how everywhere that environmental and green issues are becoming more important and useful to us all, wherever we are; this is also remarkable when the Animal Party Cyprus managed 1.16%; animal rights parties frequently win over portions of green voters because green voters are supportive of animal rights as well as environmental rights and human rights. Worryingly, however, this anti-establishment trend also resulted in election of 2 National Popular Front (ELAM) members to the Cypriot legislature; ELAM is Cyprus' answer to Greece's ultra-nationalist party, Golden Dawn, and not coincidentally ELAM's founder member was himself an active member of Golden Dawn.

This has been one of the most significant elections in Cyprus for many years, even when DISY and AKEL still remain Cyprus' two largest parties. Will the people's desire for change as they expressed in this election be satisfied?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

On the Tooting by-election

It is rather interesting that the Tooting by-election, held due to Sadiq Khan resigning from the House of Commons to take up his post of Mayor of London, has as many as 14 candidates, especially when seven only appeared at the last minute.

This raises some interesting questions about this by-election, which has some similarities to the Henley by-election of 2008 caused by the resignation of Boris Johnson when he became Mayor of London; this by-election was in a safe seat (Tooting is reasonably safe for Labour since it is only marginal at times) and featured as many as 12 candidates from a wide variety of parties (and some independents).

My five key questions for the Tooting by-election, whose polling day is 16th June, are:

1. How high will the winning majority be?
2. With Labour's candidate and the Conservative candidate at the top and bottom of the ballot paper, how much of a difference will the order of the ballot paper make to the candidates' performances?
3. As the Greens finished third in Tooting at the last general election, can they save their deposit this time having firmly established themselves as London's third political party?
4. Can the prominence of this by-election ensure a decent turnout?
5. Who will take the wooden spoon for this by-election?

Thursday, 19 May 2016

On The Queen's Speech of 2016

The Queen's Speech of yesterday outlined some of the most worrying plans the Conservatives have come up with in recent years. Here are 5 key reasons why the Queen's Speech 2016 means danger:

1. They plan to replace the Human Rights Act with a weakened a watered-down British Bill of Rights.

Given how much the Human Rights Act has achieved, with the most recent example being justice for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster of 1989, and the Conservatives' attitude to respect for human rights (nationally and internationally) especially whilst Theresa May has been Home Secretary, this will in all likelihood end up being disastrous in practice. We should instead keep the Human Rights Act and remain part of the European Convention of Human Rights, which Britain helped with the foundations of back in 1948.

2. They have not really U-turned on their 'all schools to become academies' plan after all.

The Conservatives and their Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, still want to achieve a goal of making as many schools academies as possible even if they ever dropped plans to compel them to convert. Also, decisions about what constitutes an 'unviable' authority with regards to plans to convert underperforming schools in unviable authorities to academies will be clearly biased against less affluent areas and smaller councils.

3. Their deregulation of the university 'market' will mean ever-increasing fees and poorer higher education standards.

The barriers on new universities set up exist for a reason-to make sure only genuinely educational institutions can set up an accredited university and offer accredited courses to prospective students. More worryingly, allowing more prestigious universities to set fees as high as they can could create a permanent, class-based two-tier system in university terms akin to the current schools system.

4. The Snoopers' Charter is going to be pushed through, as is a dangerously broad 'Counter-Extremism' Bill.

We already have enough surveillance in our lives as it is, and this proposed Investigatory Powers Bill will allow retention of any of our private communications for investigation even when it is useless to the government. Also, the proposed counter-extremism bill could identify almost anyone involved in politics in some way as an extremist even when they are clearly not.

5. Effective privatisation of prisons is in the works.

Allowing prisons to contract in private suppliers for key areas could substantially lower effectiveness and undermine the main purpose prisons are meant to serve-effective rehabilitation of offenders who have committed serious enough crimes to be imprisoned in the first place. This could also lead to further prison overcrowding which has dangerous consequences; we instead need reform of our justice and prison systems. http://www.thecanary.co/2016/05/18/queen-just-announced-privatisation-prisons-nobody-noticed/






Tuesday, 17 May 2016

I will run for Green Party Deputy Leader this year

Readers, I would first of all like to thank Natalie Bennett, who is standing down after four years as Green Party of England and Wales leader, for all her hard work and for her role in helping transform the party into a real force for change which has established itself well in all corners of England and Wales. I also thank her for helping emphasise the need for British politics to become more open and inclusive, internally and externally.

I would also like to announce, amidst the excitement surrounding who the next Green Party Leader will be, that I will be running for Green Party Deputy Leader in the 2016 leadership elections. I believe green politics can be force for good anywhere in Britain, as recent elections have shown, and that we can all benefit from the four core green pillars, which are grassroots democracy, peace, ecological wisdom (knowledge about how protecting our planet is necessary and in fact beneficial for us all), and social justice which can benefit anyone regardless of who they are or where they are. I furthermore believe that it is time the Green Party moves on to the next level and becomes able to take that message out to all people in all locations, and highlight why a new green consensus will help us all in the short-term and the long-term, economically and socially.

Green values are for everyone, every place, and for all seasons.

Alan.


Friday, 13 May 2016

The cost of defending marginal seats

Investigations into Conservative MPs' (and the Conservative Party's) overspending on election expenses and false declarations of said election expenses in order to overspend without being caught are starting, after police forces wisely asked for extensions to investigate just as the statutory period was running out.

Which begs the question: How much can it cost to defend or take marginal seats or seats that could change hands for another reason?

A by-election will take place in the Tooting constituency next month, since Sadiq Khan has been sworn in as Mayor of London and has officially vacated his seat. Tooting has on several occasions in its recent history been a marginal constituency, including the two last general elections of 2010 and 2015. The Conservatives hoped to take Tooting at the last general election, but failed to do so in spite of being able to keep Labour's majority in check against Greater London's trend of moving towards Labour last year.

In his defence of Tooting, Sadiq Khan reportedly spent £31,732* during the course of the long campaign and short campaign (total: five months), and his Conservative challenger, Dan Watkins, spent £25,613 in his campaign, which was nevertheless a very expensive sum by any standard. Meanwhile, my Green colleague Esther Obiri-Darko finished third in Tooting in the same election with 2,201 votes despite only spending £148 on her campaign. Liberal Democrat candidate Phillip Ling spent nearly 20 times as much as Esther did there by comparison, but he polled only 2,107 votes in Tooting. UKIP candidate Przemek Skwirczynski, who finished bottom, spent £2055 although none of this was on the short campaign (the period between the dissolution of Parliament and polling day).

Of the seats that changed hands at the 2015 general election, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates generally spent at least £25,000 apiece during the total run of the long and short campaigns and sometimes as much as £45,000 and above (a prime example of this is when Paula Sherriff, who won Dewsbury from the Conservatives for Labour, declared a total of £47,120 worth of expenses over the course of her campaign); defending safe seats by comparison often cost less than £10,000 for the incumbent MP or the candidate selected to replace a retiring MP, and for the most part only around £11,000 (e.g. in Eric Pickles' defence of the very safe Conservative seat of Brentwood & Ongar).

Even though the spending limits and actual spending in UK elections are nowhere near the extravagances reported in US elections, winning a constituency, especially a rural one with a large geographical area such as Argyll & Bute, often involves spending more money than most people earn in a year (sometimes as much as two years' salary!), and the lack of an ability to reclaim any election expenses in the UK is a more serious problem in terms of giving all candidates a fair chance of winning even in constituencies likely to change hands. I believe the investigations into election expenses fraud by Conservative MPs will shine light on our current system itself and lead to reforms of it; I also believe it would be easier on all candidates if they were able to reclaim some of their election expenses provided they receive over 5% of the votes cast, a practice that already works well in Ireland and Canada, and if they did not have to pay a £500 deposit. Real democracy and real choice are more important than money.

*Amounts stated here are gathered from data of declared expenses returns, which can be found via this link: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/uk-general-elections/candidate-election-spending/uk-general-election-spending-by-constituency

Sunday, 8 May 2016

My 2016 elections analysis, part 2: The councils and Police & Crime Commissioners

'And finally, FINALLY....nothing much happens.' (Narrator, Space Quest IV game)

This year's council elections were crucial for all major parties in the UK-not just Labour and the Conservatives as the BBC (aka the Biased Brainwashing Corporation) tried to make out, with better organisation from other parties, especially the Green Party, compared to 2012 when those seats were last up for election.

Despite many councils having all-out elections, and with many key marginal seats being up for election, little or no net change happened in the majority of councils, and out of the 124 councils up for election just six changed hands, and then only to or from no overall control. These six councils were Dudley (Labour lose to NOC), Worcester (Conservative lose to NOC), Elmbridge (Conservative lose to NOC), Peterborough (Conservative gain from NOC, with majority of just 2 seats over all other parties), Watford (Liberal Democrat gain from NOC with majority of 14), and finally Bristol (Labour gain from NOC). A Conservative failure to make any real progress on councils covering key electoral battlegrounds, such as Harlow, Lincoln, Reading, and Southampton was also another feature of these elections. Notable failures to progress for Labour, meanwhile, include the areas of Amber Valley, Derby, Pendle, and Stockport.

One unfortunate result from these elections is how the Green Party suffered significant losses or failed to make progress in university cities or towns as a result of the so-called 'Corbyn effect', which notably occurred in Bristol, Cambridge, Colchester, Exeter, Norwich, and Oxford. However, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn actually made overall losses in seat terms, with the Conservatives losing more seats than Labour overall. Notable Conservative losses included 4 seats in Cheltenham, where the current Conservative MP, Alex Chalk, was alleged to have failed to declare election expenses that would have exceeded the allowed local spending limit if they had been declared, and all 5 of their seats in Watford (despite returning their MP Richard Harrington with a much increased majority last year), which the Liberal Democrats recaptured with ease after narrowly losing overall control last year. The Green Party compensated for losses in Bristol, Norwich and Oxford by making some key breakthroughs in these elections, in the councils of Weymouth & Portland and Cannock Chase, and consolidated and improved their representation in Epping Forest, Rochford, Solihull, Stroud, and Worcester; none of these areas have considerable student or intellectual populations at all. UKIP's unfair level of media coverage compared to the Green Party proved to be over-hyped, since they only made 25 gains (compared to the hundreds of council seat gains they made in 2013, 2014, and 2015) although the BBC lauded their gains in Thurrock several times. The Liberal Democrats made the highest net gains in these elections but they slipped back further in such councils as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Portsmouth, Southend-on-Sea, and Worthing, which coincidentally happen to be on the coast (however in Gosport, also on the coast, the reverse happened); the Liberal Democrats have previously polled well in coastal towns and cities; they also notably did not quite gain control of Winchester in its all-out elections. Residents' Associations across the country were also pleased, with Elmbridge's Residents' Association winning enough seats to deprive the Conservatives of overall control of Elmbridge council, which covers some of the most affluent areas in the UK.

The Police and Crime Commissioner elections have also finished, and whilst turnout substantially improved from the dreadful 15% low of 2012, it did not improve very much in police areas with no or few council elections occurring at the same time; some areas had respectable turnouts of 40-45% and others just 20-25%. Improved turnout was enough to defeat many incumbent PCCs, especially Independents who sought re-election (several did not, however). The Conservatives generally benefitted from this but lost several of their positions to Labour candidates, with Bedfordshire's Labour PCC Olly Martins being the only one to lose his job to a Conservative. Plaid Cymru's decision to field candidates for PCC this time proved to be a wise move, since Arfon Jones and Dafydd Llewellyn succeeded in becoming PC's first PCCs in Wales without much trouble in the second round of voting. One major concern in PCC elections remains the lack of real campaigning by candidates offline and on the doorstep; I myself never encountered any of the candidates standing for PCC in Hertfordshire , where I live, or even saw any literature from them despite the fact these elections were much more competitive than the last ones.

These elections, despite not featuring the three-figure overall gains or losses for any party that were expected by pundits and the media, do have important stories to tell. British politics is becoming more heterogeneous and is not turning back towards a two-party system in many places except in tight traditional battlegrounds like Amber Valley (where Labour's loss of Ironville when they simultaenously gained Belper Central and Belper North cost them their recapture of Amber Valley council from the Conservatives by a mere 16 votes). They will also be remembered for lots of things that did not happen rather than for things that did.

Alan.





Saturday, 7 May 2016

My 2016 elections analysis, part 1: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London.

'Super Thursday's results counts are nearly over, although Bristol's will not be released until tomorrow for some reason.

London Assembly and Mayor of London:

Being a London commuter and postgraduate student at London Metropolitan University, this is the election I heard most about and helped the Green Party with on occasion during the campaign. It started off close between Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith before the short campaign kicked off, but it became clear towards the end that Sadiq would score a decisive victory for Labour in the Mayoral election, which is just what he did. He had to wait until the second round to be elected as the new Mayor of London, but in the final round he trounced Zac by a margin of 56.85% to 43.15%, with Labour achieving nearly twice as many second preferences as the Conservatives in round two.

This cannot be attributable merely to London trending towards Labour as a whole (which was shown in the last general election)-the Conservative campaign was lacklustre and resorted to negative and offensive tactics such as playing off Hindu voters against Muslim voters in Outer London; similar scandals over alleged anti-Semitism by prominent Labour figures during the campaign did not do nearly as much damage to Labour as was speculated.

Sian Berry, however, has done well, by becoming the first ever Green Party candidate for Mayor of London to save the £10,000 deposit, which is something that both the Liberal Democrat and UKIP Mayoral candidates failed to do once again. 5.8% is an excellent performance given the tight squeeze between Labour and the Conservatives. As for George Galloway, the voters of London clearly refused to give him or his Respect Party another chance and he finished a poor seventh behind Women's Equality Party candidate Sophie Walker, although at least he was ahead of both Britain First and the BNP.

Meanwhile in the London Assembly with respect to single member constituencies, Labour gained the Merton & Wandsworth Assembly constituency for the first time ever; this covers Tooting, the seat Sadiq is MP for, so he probably played a direct role in that victory, although they did not gain Havering & Redbridge despite UKIP being on the rise (with their well-known candidate, Lawrence Webb) and the marginality of the seat. My Green colleagues performed well despite not finishing first or second in any single member Assembly constituency, although we have clearly established ourselves as London's third party.

Within the list vote, we also finished third, with Labour and Conservatives in first and second as per usual, but we sadly could not gain an extra Assembly seat due to there only being 11 to go round. Nevertheless, congratulations should definitely go to Sian Berry and Caroline Russell on being elected AMs, particularly with their excellent knowledge of local and environmental issues. UKIP re-entered the Assembly with two seats (going to Peter Whittle, UKIP's Mayoral candidate, and David Kurten) and fourth place, doing well enough to deprive the Conservatives of an extra list seat to compensate for their loss of Merton & Wandsworth. The Liberal Democrats lost one by finishing fifth, with only their Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon remaining in the Assembly on their behalf now since Emily Davey, wife of former Lib Dem MP for Kingston & Surbiton Ed Davey, was the one to miss out in that psephological game of musical chairs. The WEP performed the best out of the parties who failed to cross the 5% threshold for list seats, getting 3.5% and more than twice as many votes as Respect. As for other candidates in single member constituencies, candidates for the All People's Party almost always finished bottom (except in Croydon & Sutton where they beat National Front activist Richard Edmonds in the poll) and with less than 1% of the votes cast despite having the most presence out of parties not in the main five i.e. Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP and Green. Respect also performed poorly, losing all three of their deposits in SMCs.

Welsh Assembly:

The results for the Welsh Assembly are the ones I found the most disappointing personally-no constituency changed hands except for Rhondda, which was won spectacularly from Leighton Andrews by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, and no Green Assembly Members were elected. In fact no Green candidate managed to retain their deposit, not even Amelia Womack in Cardiff Central (where UKIP also lost their deposit) or Brian Williams in Ceredigion where we had saved it before, despite the fact the Greens saved three deposits in Wales at the last general election. No list Green AMs were elected either, and somehow the Greens' vote share fell in South Wales Central and slightly so in Mid & West Wales.

Labour were denied a majority, but did not perform nearly as badly as predicted despite nearly losing Cardiff West and Blaenau Gwent to Plaid Cymru, since they held on to both Gower and the Vale of Clwyd and only lost one seat overall. Plaid Cymru only gained one seat but overtook the Conservatives to become the new opposition in the Welsh Assembly; this Assembly elections is more noted for things that did not happen than for things that did; Plaid Cymru's other miss in constituency terms was Aberconwy, where they at least reduced the Conservative majority in a close three-way marginal.

The Conservatives lost out in this election, by finishing third and losing three seats (list seats only); UKIP played a strong part in those losses. UKIP won 7 seats and obtained strong performances in traditional Labour heartlands in the same way Plaid Cymru did (but not nearly as well), with for example 22% in Caerphilly. They also have some responsibility for the electoral stasis that happened in single member constituency terms when they hit the votes of both Labour and Conservative in notable marginal seats such as the Vale of Glamorgan. All this happened in spite of the notoriety over selecting Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless to top UKIP lists, which caused some Welsh UKIP members to publicly resign in disgust over alleged carpet-bagging, and the infighting within UKIP locally and nationally.

The Liberal Democrats nearly got wiped out of the Welsh Assembly in the same way they nearly lost out in the London Assembly, only retaining Kirsty Williams' seat of Brecon & Radnorshire with an increased majority; she resigned as Welsh Lib Dem leader shortly afterwards despite retaining her seat over retaining just 1 seat out of the 5 they had. They slipped back in Montgomeryshire, lost all four of their list seats, and lost more deposits than in 2011, which was one of their worst years elections wise across the UK. Out of the parties who did not win any seats, the Abolish the Welsh Assembly, formed by ex-UKIP members of Wales, did best by passing the threshold in one region (Mid & West Wales). In future, the Welsh Assembly needs more members to function effectively, and there need to be more list seats to make sure it is actually proportional (true proportionality in elections cannot be achieved with only 4 seats in a list constituency!).

Scottish Parliament:

It was a better night for green politics in the Scottish Parliament, though, with 6 Green MSPs elected (2 in Lothians, 1 in Glasgow, 1 in Highlands & Islands, 1 in Mid Scotland & Fife, and 1 in South Scotland) . They were Patrick Harvie, Alison Johnstone, Andy Wightman, Maggie Chapman, Mark Ruskell, and Ross Greer, who at 21 years of age is the youngest MSP to date. The Scottish Greens also saved all three constituency deposits, with Patrick finishing a good second to the SNP in Glasgow Kelvin, Alison achieving 13.6% in key marginal Edinburgh Central, and John Wilson achieving 5.7% in Coatbridge & Chryston, whose closest Westminster equivalent had no Green candidate at all back in 2015. We also came ahead of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who despite recovering two constituency seats (particularly North East Fife by their Scottish leader, Willie Rennie) did not poll well enough to retain the list seats as well, so they remain on five seats.

One major story of that election is that the SNP lost six seats out of 69, and crucially lost their single party majority despite winning many seats from Labour that they could not win back in 2011, including every single seat in Glasgow and their last remaining central belt seats, often with substantial majorities. This was however expected of Labour, having been flattened at the last general election due to their long-term complacency (this will come back to haunt them in their Welsh heartlands as well!) and failing to make any recovery from it.

More importantly overall, Labour lost their status of official opposition to the Conservatives, who more than doubled their seat total under Ruth Davidson, who herself won Edinburgh Central from the SNP; they now have just under half as many seats as the SNP. Their other important gains included Eastwood (with Jackson Carlaw) where the SNP pushed Labour incumbent Ken McIntosh into third place. One surprising Conservative gain was Aberdeenshire West, a stark reminder that the SNP must avoid the same complacency which Labour once fell into.

Anti-SNP voting from voters of 'unionist' political parties in Scotland (Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats) was evident in many places, but most of all in the capital, Edinburgh. Pro-unionist voting has been effective in Northern Ireland before, where Nigel Dodds held on against Sinn Fein's efforts in Belfast North and where a unionist pact unseated Naomi Long in Belfast East last year. Edinburgh Central, Southern, and Western were the clearest examples of this, as those three seats were lost by the SNP to the Conservatives, to Labour (this was in fact the only seat Labour gained from the SNP rather than the reverse), and to the Liberal Democrats respectively. This also helped the Conservatives defend Ayr despite the SNP reducing their majority to just 750 votes and also ensure that they gained Dumfriesshire and Eastwood from Labour instead of the SNP who made a strong effort nevertheless.

Northern Irish Assembly:

Another good result for green politics in the UK-Steven Agnew easily held his seat in North Down despite former Green MLA Brian Wilson also standing as an Independent (he was not eliminated until stage 9, in fact) in North Down. Clare Bailey also became the second Northern Irish Green Assembly member elected, winning the last seat in Belfast South from the SDLP; Ross Brown sadly lost out on the last seat in Belfast East losing only at the very last stage. The Northern Irish Greens also stood in every other constituency in this Assembly election this time, so everyone in the six counties had the opportunity to vote Green.

The nationalists lost out in this Assembly election, particularly to the radical socialists known as People Before Profit, perhaps spurred on by their recent performance in the Republic of Ireland's general election earlier this year. Although PBP only fielded two candidates, Gerry Carroll and Eamonn McCann, both of them were elected as MLAs in Belfast West and Foyle, showing a strong desire for change in traditional nationalist, heavily Catholic areas. Northern Irish politics as a whole is becoming more diverse, with more MLAs outside the DUP, UUP, Alliance, SDLP and SF being elected than ever before, especially in Belfast.
As in Scotland, UKIP found little favour and did not win themselves any seats, or even make it to the last stages of any constituency's STV count. The Northern Ireland Conservatives once again completely flopped just as they did in 2015, usually finishing bottom of the poll.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my 2016 elections analysis-coming tomorrow.

Alan.

















Tuesday, 3 May 2016

My thoughts on the recent Westminster Debate on Autism Awareness

Last week, there was a Hansard debate in Westminster for World Autism Awareness Week, which occurred in the first week of April; what we really need is Autism Acceptance as well as Autism Awareness.

This debate, which lasted 3 hours and 23 minutes, can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-04-28/debates/16042848000001/WorldAutismAwarenessWeek

Much about autism was crucially missing from this debate, however. There was a lot of talk about autism awareness but no mention of specifically autism acceptance, and for that matter, acceptance of neurodiversity (which also covers conditions like ADHD), which is what this country really needs; most people are aware of autism but not many people understand and accept autism for what it is and the contributions autistic people can make for us all. Highlighting the problems we face, such as significant problems with employment (the unemployment rate for autistic adults exceeds 80% and a quarter of all autistic adults holding a university degree are unemployed; I myself have almost entirely been in part-time work since I gained my undergraduate degree) and the need for more adaptations to autistic needs, insufficient public understanding of autism and autism-related issues, and how we may now have a bright future is useful but fundamental means of addressing the struggles we face across the UK and making sure the public are more accepting of us as a whole were not really mentioned in this debate. There was also no real input from organisations dedicated to promoting the rights and wishes of autistic people which are also run by autistic people, such as Autistic UK, and insufficient input from autistic constituents themselves within the debate.

There was also no mention in how the replacement of DLA with PIP, complications with the introduction of Universal Credit, and the overall economic programme are detrimental to the well-being and ambitions of autistic people one way or another; we have suffered a lot under austerity but our specific struggles under it are rarely even mentioned.

For those of you who read my blog and are autistic, the Westminster Autism Commission is still inviting responses: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WestminsterAutismCommmission 
Just remember that the deadline to submit your response is 9th May 2016.

Alan.