Friday, 30 September 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 29/9/16

Readers, the results of this week's local by-elections which featured Green candidates were as follows:

Dacorum BC, Adeyfield West: Liberal Democrats 520 (49.5%, +26.5%), Conservative 233 (22.2%, -6.4%), Labour 166 (15.8%, -6.5%), UKIP 115 (10.9%, -15.2%), Green 17 (1.6%)

North Norfolk, Glaven Valley: Lib Dem 429 (55.2%, +8.5%), Con 281 (36,2%, +3.7%), UKIP 32 (4.1%, -6.8%), Lab 23 (3.0%, -2.8%), Green 12 (1.4%, -2.5%).

Derby UA, Allestree:  Con 2006 (54.6%, -6.1%), Lib Dem 1053 (28.7%, +17.2%), Lab 409 (11.1%, -5.8%), Green 115 (3.1%), UKIP 91 (2.5%, -8.5%).

The poor Labour result in Adeyfield, where until recently they had consistent representation, is not actually that surprising-Labour is in long-term decline in the Dacorum area. They have only 1 remaining councillor in Dacorum, a council where they won overall control in 1973 and in the late 1990s, their vote share declined almost everywhere in Dacorum in the 2015 elections, which culminated with them making no headway against Conservative MP Mike Penning in the Hemel Hempstead constituency (where I stood in 2015, as you probably already know).

I am pleased we beat UKIP in Allestree even though this is more down to UKIP's decline, since Allestree is a safe Conservative ward and has been since it was created in 1996 upon Derby becoming a unitary authority (that year, it was in fact the only Derby ward to elect solely Conservative councillors, with even Spondon only electing one out of three). The interesting thing is that a by-election was held there in the first place because the sitting Conservative councillor falsely claimed to live in Derby so he could win the safest Conservative ward in the city of Derby. He was quickly caught after only 10 days as a councillor. In light of this scandal, the Liberal Democrats claimed an 11.6% swing, but Allestree remained in Conservative hands as always.

Coming up-my alternative boundaries for those 2018 Review constituencies.









Thursday, 29 September 2016

The 2018 review: which Conservative MPs could be ousted due to the 2018 Review's boundary changes?

With regards to the 2018 review of parliamentary constituencies, there has been a high amount of media focus of selection battles of Labour MPs that will result from abolition of or changes to existing constituencies. It can already be predicted for example that the safe Labour seats of Lewisham Deptford, Birmingham Hall Green (really Birmingham Hall Green & Sparkbrook), Bradford South, Islwyn, Newport East, Stoke-on-Trent Central, Workington and Wansbeck will almost certainly be abolished by being divided up among other constituencies; others will be changed substantially such that they are notionally Conservative, such as Barrow-on-Furness and Southampton Test.

However, some Conservative MPs will also have to face their own selection and election battles amidst the whole process just as other MPs will, and here are they:

Priti Patel (Witham): There is little if any chance of Priti's constituency being saved, given that its Maldon and Colchester wards need to be joined with nearby constituencies for quota purposes and to restore links broken when Essex gained an extra seat in 2010. The fact that Chelmsford's Conservative MP Sir Simon Burns is already retiring will likely not help her even though Chelmsford is not far at all from Witham.

David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate): His Enfield Southgate seat is likely to be abolished, and as North London is generally trending towards Labour in the long-term he will have difficulty winning over the proposed Finchley & Southgate even if he defeats Mike Freer (Finchley & Golders Green) for that nomination.

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle): The towns of Nelson and Colne within Pendle (which until the addition of some villages formerly in Yorkshire in 1983 was called Nelson & Colne) will likely be divided between much of Ribble Valley (formerly known as Clitheroe) and a redrawn Burnley constituency, as this is less objectionable in boundary terms (if only slightly so) than splitting the town of Accrington which forms the majority of Hyndburn. If this goes ahead, Andrew will have to defeat Nigel Evans for the nomination of Ribble Valley's successor seat or try (and almost certainly fail) to win 'Burnley & Nelson' from Labour.

George Osborne (Tatton): Interestingly, Tatton itself was a new seat when it was created in 1983, formed from parts of Cheadle, Knutsford, and Macclesfield mainly due to structural local government changes which caused the northern part of the Knutsford constituency to be moved into Greater Manchester and the southern part of the Cheadle constituency to be moved out of Greater Manchester. George Osborne was once Chancellor of the Exchequer and his seat is likely to be broken up; the last Cheshire Conservative MP to lose his seat as a result of boundary changes was also involved in the Treasury department-his name was Jock Bruce-Gardyne, briefly Economic Secretary to the Treasury under Margaret Thatcher's first term as PM.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed): Berwick-upon-Tweed will likely be merged with Ashington or Morpeth, which will place it firmly in the list of Labour targets for the very first time in the history of the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The initial proposal for 'Berwick & Ashington' is notionally Labour, and the available Liberal Democrat votes may hinder more than help Anne-Marie.

Helen Whately (Faversham & Mid Kent): Whether or not Kent is linked with East Sussex in the context of these boundary changes (which I seriously hope it will not be, given the poor links between these two counties), Faversham & Mid Kent is basically unsaveable as a constituency; Maidstone and Ashford will divide up the 'Mid Kent' part in all likelihood and Faversham will almost certainly be joined with Canterbury.

George Hollingberry (Meon Valley): Meon Valley is poorly connected and Hampshire has to lose one seat so Meon Valley, which was itself a new seat when created in 2010, will likely be split up. George Hollingberry, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the current Prime Minister, Theresa May (he was also her PPS back when she was Home Secretary) will likely lose out as a result.

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West): Even if the successor to the current Bournemouth West constituency still ends up being called Bournemouth West officially, it will not be the same at all. Conor will likely face a selection battle with Bournemouth East's Conservative MP, Tobias Ellwood, if he cannot move elsewhere as many other Conservative MPs have done (or failed to do) in the past.

Scott Mann (Cornwall North): The fact that the Liberal Democrats lost every single 'West Country' seat in 2015 (14 to the Conservatives and Bristol West to Labour) means that inevitably a few Conservative MPs would find themselves with nowhere to go following this review, and it seems here Scott will end up the most likely loser of this political musical chairs game, as his seat will be broken up completely.

Craig Williams (Cardiff North): His Cardiff North seat will not be split up but it will have to expand to include Labour/Liberal Democrat-inclined territory from Cardiff Central (which will be abolished) making Cardiff North notionally Labour. He was probably quite relieved when he defended Cardiff North successfully last year despite a majority of only 194 over Labour, the incumbent retiring after only one term, and an increase in the Labour vote share (Labour was losing support in Wales overall in 2015); he may not be so lucky next time.

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire): There is no real merit in trying to save Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, because Carmarthen town should be in a Carmarthenshire constituency anyway; the same logic applies for South Pembrokeshire. Given that Simon has no ministerial experience at all when his neighbour, Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) has been in the Cabinet (first as Welsh Secretary and then briefly as Work & Pensions Secretary), he will likely be forced out of Parliament as a result of the abolition of this constituency.

Byron Davies (Gower): Even if Byron's Gower seat is not split in the end, Gower will have to expand to include Labour-inclined territory in the current Swansea West, making it notionally Labour by a wide margin (the Conservative majority in Gower in 2015 was only 27 votes!) Wales faces the largest seat reduction (11 seats).

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire): Brecon & Radnorshire needs at least 22,000 more electors to meet the statutory minimum number of electors, and it can only move upwards towards Montgomeryshire, covering the northern part of Powys. This means Montgomeryshire has no chance of being saved and that Christopher Davies (no relation to Glyn) could push Glyn out in the ensuing selection battle.

James Davies (Vale of Clwyd): The initial proposal is to merge most of the Vale of Clwyd (in practice 'East Denbighshire') with what remains of Delyn ('West Flintshire') into a safe Labour seat called Flint & Rhuddlan. Even if nothing of the Vale of Clwyd gets merged with any part of Gwynedd, for example, James could still end up being ousted merely due to his seat being merged with much of a presently Labour seat.

Bill Wiggin (Herefordshire North): Herefordshire North has no realistic chance of being saved due to it being necessary to create two Herefordshire cross-county seats under the Boundary Review's parameters. It will almost certainly be split between 'Ludlow & Leominster' and 'Malvern & Ledbury'.

Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth & Southam): Like Meon Valley in the South East, this poorly connected constituency only came into existence as a result of seat entitlement increases for the 2010 general election, and therefore is a prime candidate for abolition in this review (and no, no part of it needs to be placed together with either town of Warwick & Leamington!) especially when all other Warwickshire constituencies are currently too small.

Lucy Allan (Telford): Telford will end up being notionally Labour after it has expanded, and Lucy has already acquired a relatively poor reputation in her first term as Conservative MP for Telford, which will not endear her to new voters her seat ends up acquiring after this Boundary Review is complete.

David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden): After George Osborne, David Davis will almost certainly be the next highest-profile Conservative casualty of this boundary review; this constituency's wards will go to Kingston-Upon-Hull West & Hessle and thus join a Labour seat and westwards to the largest remains of Brigg & Goole, which Andrew Percy has a stronger claim to.

Andrea Jenkyns (Morley & Outwood): Whatever becomes of Morley & Outwood, Morley will find itself in a notionally safe Labour seat, and so could Outwood. Andrea, who notably ousted Ed Balls last year, could herself end up being out of a job since its likely successor, Batley & Morley, will have a substantial Labour majority.
























Friday, 23 September 2016

My analysis of this week's by-elections and why ward-splitting is necessary in the 2018 Boundary Review

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

(20/9/16):

Cardiff UA, Plasnewydd: Liberal Democrats 1258 (48.1%, +14.4%), Labour 910 (34.8%, -2.5%), Plaid Cymru 177 (6.8%, -3.6%), Conservative 115 (4.4%, -0.5%), Green 93 (3.6%, -10.2%), UKIP 62 (2.4%).

(22/9/16):

Cherwell DC, Adderbury, Bloxham & Bodicote: Con 1015 (57.4%, +7.0%), Lab 286 (16.2%, +0%), Green 278 (15.5%, -3.7%), Lib Dem 189 (10.7%, -3.3%).

Gateshead MBC, Chopwell & Rowlands Gill: Lab 1066 (59.1%, -3.7%), UKIP 282 (15.6%, +1.3%), Lib Dem 221 (12.3%, +7.9%), Con 156 (8.6%, -2.3%), Green 79 (4.4%, -3.2%).

North Lanarkshire UA, Coatbridge North & Glenboig (1st preference votes): Lab 1350 (41.7%, -11.3%), SNP 1261 (39.0%, +8.2%), Con 366 (11.3%, +5.3%), Green 195 (6.0%), UKIP 63 (1.9%). Labour gain from SNP.

Suffolk CC, Hadleigh: Lib Dem 642 (36.2%, +12.8%), Con 460 (25.9%, -5.6%), Lab 397 (22.4%, +5.8%), UKIP 204 (11.5%, -11.3%), Green 70 (3.9%, -0.9%).

Local by-elections these may be, they had some notable consequences-the Liberal Democrats' gain of the rural Hadleigh ward caused the Conservatives to lose overall control of Suffolk County Council, and a Labour gain of the reliably Conservative Christchurch ward in Cockermouth, Cumbria, gained Labour overall control of Allerdale council (where Cockermouth is situated in) with a majority of 2.

I am pleased that our candidate for the Witney by-election on 20th October will be Larry Sanders, brother of US Senator Bernie Sanders and 2015 candidate for Oxford West & Abingdon. I wish Larry the very best, even if it looks very unlikely indeed that the Conservatives will lose the Witney by-election.

I would like to hint on the subject of the 2018 Boundary Review for Parliamentary Constituencies that ward splitting is necessary in some places, for many reasons:

1. Keeping communities together is vital when creating any new constituency, especially if those communities are relatively small.
2. There is no need to combine cities with hinterland that has no real connection that city (e.g. 'Halesowen & Birmingham Selly Oak', a 'Blaydon' constituency containing part of Ponteland)
3. Some large city wards already contain more than one community anyway e.g. Otley & Yeadon in Leeds, Lozells & East Handsworth in Birmingham, and Moulsecoomb & Bevendean in Brighton & Hove. Therefore to create coherent constituencies that are within quota, ward-splitting should be acceptable when it is convenient to do so and where the ward to be split contains more than one distinct parish/community.
4. The limited range for manoeuvre in electorate terms (71,030 to 78,507, giving a range of 7,477; some inner-city wards have electorates at least 1 1/2 times that range) will necessitate it in the larger cities and in some London boroughs.

As long as the wards need to be split are split carefully, and as long as it is not done indiscriminately, I believe it will work out, particularly in Leeds and Birmingham which have the largest average ward size in electorate terms in the whole of England.

Monday, 19 September 2016

My analysis of recent international elections of September 2016

Whilst I have been busy, the German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (home to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who represents the northern half of the state in the Bundestag) and Berlin, the federal capital, held their 2016 landtag elections; the nation of Croatia held its parliamentary election just ten months on from the previous one, caused by a vote of no confidence in Tihomir Oreskovic and his cabinet; and there was the 2016 election for Russia's State Duma (parliament).

As expected from this Croatian election, turnout decreased significantly, from nearly 61% to just over 54%; just because a nation has fair proportional representation does not mean that turnout will be particularly high. It nevertheless saw substantial change, with the moderately conservative Croatian Democratic Union alliance gaining 3 extra seats with the SDP-led People's Coalition losing two from 2015, giving HDZ and its leader Andrej Plenkovic a critical lead. However, the kingmakers from last year, the liberal Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) party, lost 6 of their 19 seats meaning that if Andrej Plenkovic wishes to become Croatia's next Prime Minister, he will have to seek help from regionalists as well as Most to gain power. The anti-establishment Human Blockade Party meanwhile won 8 seats, and importantly in government formation in Croatia is unwilling to cooperate with any coalition containing 'establishment' parties. It was meanwhile an unfortunate day for progressive politics in Croatia, with its main green party, ORaH, not securing even 1% of the vote in spite of entering an alliance, and with the Croatian Labourists paying the price for their previous alliance with the SDP by polling worse still.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was another low for progressive politics in Germany. For the first time in five years, the state Green Party failed to pass the 5% threshold, and they only missed it by 3000 votes. Die Linke lost five seats and finished fourth, and the Pirate Party dropped back into political irrelevance by polling a dismal 0.5%; even with Mecklenburg-Vorpommern being the weakest German state for liberal and progressive parties that is a bad result. The UKIP-like Alternative fur Deutschland scored another strong second place, with their 20.8% vote share enough to beat the CDU into third place and this strong showing is second only to their performance in Lower Saxony earlier this year, and a critical blow to Angela personally even though CDU support held up considerably better in the north of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern who she is MP for. Like UKIP in Britain, they have been able to win over poorer and less well-educated supporters who traditionally either voted for the SPD or CDU, especially in former industrial areas and rural areas in the East/Ost, and they are becoming a functional party of protest despite their new leader Frauke Petry's more hardline and Islamophobic views compared to her predecessor, Bernd Lucke, who left AfD after Frauke's successful leadership bid. (Incidentally, UKIP last week also elected a woman, Diane James, as their new leader)

Meanwhile in Berlin, where at Wahlkreis (single member constituency) level three-way marginal constituencies are becoming the norm instead of the exception, the SPD set a Landtag record in modern German history for the lowest winning percentage-they polled just 21.6% of the vote but still came top of the poll in erststimmen (constituency vote) as well as zweistimmen (list vote) terms. Despite AfD winning 25 seats with 14.2% of the vote, Die Linke actually increased their seat total to tie with the Greens on 27 (and Die Linke won a few more votes than the Greens as well); usually, AfD has been eroding Die Linke's support especially in the poorer industrial parts of the former East Germany. The collapse of Die PIRATEN (the German Pirate Party)'s share of the vote, with the consequential loss of all of their 15 seats, is very significant and shows how far they have fallen from their initial bursts of glory in 2011 and 2012, where they frequently won at least a few Landtag seats per Landtag, and their agenda of copyright reform and internet freedom is appearing less and less in offline and online media. This is in stark contrast to Iceland (whose parliamentary election comes next month) where their Pirate Party could top the poll. The Free Democrats also re-entered the Berlin Abgeordnetenhaus but with the distinction of being the only party there not to win, or come close to winning, a single direct mandate; they generally performed best in the outer suburbs. The Greens did much better in the centre of Berlin than in the outer reaches by contrast, with the CDU and SPD performing best in the western suburbs and AfD and Die Linke fighting hard over the eastern suburbs, frequently winning direct mandates with less than 30% of the vote for their respective candidate.

On the same day, the United Russia Party, devoted as ever to maintaining President Vladimir Putin's power and influence in Russia, won Russia's parliamentary elections yet again, this time with an enormous increase of 105 seats, bringing their total to 343, although given how frequent election irregularities and fraud occur in Russia, in addition to suppression of opposition parties by various means, this particular election cannot be considered truly free and fair. The only opposition parties in the Duma are tired and old and fading (Communist), extremist and racist ('Liberal Democratic Party of Russia', so badly named, and Rodina), or not really an opposition at all (A Just Russia and Civic Platform). The Russian Green Party did not even get a look in, polling only 0.76% of the list vote; the threshold is very strict at 7%.











Friday, 16 September 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 15/9/16 and why it was a bad decision to approve Hinkley Point

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

Carlisle CC, Castle: Labour 398 (46.5%, -3.3%), Conservative 228 (26.7%, +3.0%), UKIP 107 (12.5%, -1.2%), Liberal Democrats 88 (10.3%, +2.1%), Green 34 (4.0%, -0.8%). All changes are since this May.

East Hertfordshire DC, Puckeridge: Con  179 (42.6%, -24.6%), UKIP 79 (18.9%), Lib Dem 75 (18.0%), Lab 46 (11.0%, -8.9%), Green 38 (9.1%, -3.5%)

Newcastle-upon-Tyne MBC, Blakelaw:  Lab 1004 (43.2%, -20.0%), Lib Dem 654 (28.1%, +19.0%), UKIP 443 (19.1%, +3.0%), Con 119 (5.1%, -2.4%), Green 105 (4.5%, +0.5%)

Shropshire UA, Bishop's Castle: Lib Dem 862 (60.5%, -1.5%), Con 430 (30.2%, -0.5%), Lab 95 (6.7%), Green 37 (2.6%, -4.7%)

I personally find the result of the Puckeridge by-election most disappointing, since my good friend Tabitha had actually worked on her campaign (which I came to help) when other opposing candidates did not. The intervention of UKIP and the Liberal Democrats alone, however, was enough to cause a steep drop in the Conservatives' vote share, and we held up better than Labour did.

Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats have been performing well in local by-elections once again, their only downside being a 1% swing against them in Bishop's Castle in southern Shropshire. Their unexpected gain of Tupton, a small village in North East Derbyshire which contains many old mining communities and whose schools' alumni include Dennis Skinner MP, on a swing of over 35% from a standing start, is a case in point.

On the same day, the controversial and damaging Hinkley Point nuclear plant was finally approved even though it will greatly increase the price of UK electricity, even though it is already clear we need to move away from nuclear energy and towards actual renewable energy, and with evidence that similar power plants in France and Finland are years behind schedule and their construction costs have ended up as much as 60% over budget. Of all people, Lord (Nigel) Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and an infamous climate change denier, has slammed the project as a 'pretty lousy deal', especially given that the French state electricity operator, EDF, will have control over the plant, and we will not. As I have said before, this plant will also be potentially dangerous, like any nuclear power plant, and I know of no coherent plans to safely store that plant's nuclear waste.

Britain can meet its needs without nuclear energy or fossil fuel reliant energy-we just need more backing and better green infrastructure, and better investment in new renewable technological research and designs of renewable energy devices.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Boundary Commission's initial proposals-and what is wrong with them

Readers, the Boundary Commissions for England and for Wales have just released their initial proposals for the 600 new constituencies they need to create under the Parliamentary Constituencies and Voting Reforms Act 2011, which also mandates that these constituencies' electorates must be within 5% of the electoral quota, based on the December 2015 electoral register.

Their initial proposals can be found here: www.bce2018.org.uk and www.bcw2018.org.uk

In their quest for minimum change, they have come up with many incongruous, unstable, and generally terrible new proposals. In my home county of Hertfordshire, they are proposing to link villages like Bassingbourn (which are in Cambridgeshire!) to North East Hertfordshire, and to connect Welwyn Hatfield with Hertford villages even though those have far better connections to Hertford. They are also trying to continue with the Basildon (North) & Billericay constituency (which in my opinion deserves to be abolished) to the detriment of other Essex constituencies, create two cross-county constituencies in the East Midlands when only one is really necessary (not to mention the mess this will cause in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire), and causing a mess in Sheffield because of their refusal to split wards when in many urban scenarios it is desirable to do so (especially in the urban West Midlands). Their proposal to reunite the old Harwich constituency and recreate North Essex, to make Staffordshire Moorlands coterminous with the district, and the way they have handled the inevitable cross-Tamar constituency and two cross-county constituencies in Herefordshire do impress me nonetheless. It is coincidentally convenient that constituencies of prominent Conservative MPs, namely Prime Minister Theresa May's constituency of Maidenhead, Witney (until yesterday represented by David Cameron), and Weston-Super-Mare, represented by John Penrose who pushed for December 2015 registers instead of December 2016 registers to be used despite serious concerns about councils not being entirely ready for such an individual registration exercise (particularly with their own concerns about cuts to statutory services), remain completely intact.

In the seven months in the run-up to the release of these initial proposals, I have been steadily working on my own counter-proposals to many of the more offending constituencies the Boundary Commissions have managed to create.

For now, here are in my opinion the 10 worst 2018 proposals across England and Wales, which have come courtesy of Sir Gerry Mandering and which are avoidable in some way.

10. Splitting Hazel Grove. Marple has no real connections to Hyde at all, and 'Marple & Hyde' disconnects Hyde from Stalybridge with which it has been in parliamentary and local government terms for decades, and rightly so. I do appreciate that Hazel Grove is more than 10,000 voters under quota, but Marple and the other constituent parts of Hazel Grove need to be kept together. In my honest opinion this is an example of gerrymandering for no good reason and of the hint that the Boundary Commissioners are not as impartial as they claim to be. Adding the Cheshire village of Disley and the Stockport ward of Stepping Hill instead helps avoid this problem.

9. Adding Littleport to minimise change in South West Norfolk: The small town of Littleport is obviously part of Cambridgeshire and connected only to Cambridgeshire towns and villages, particularly the city of Cambridge. Downham Market and Thetford, the two largest towns of South West Norfolk, are poorly connected anyway and therefore there is no reason to keep pairing them together. This proposal would cut off vital connections between the city of Ely and surrounding villages and the market towns of March and Wisbech. Recreating the old Isle of Ely seat, albeit without Wisbech, and instead making the unfortunately inevitable cross-county constituency 'Wisbech & Downham Market', makes for more accessible constituencies in Cambridgeshire; Thetford should instead be paired with Wymondham with which it has a railway link to. Public transport connections are very important to consider when drawing new constituencies!

8. Bodmin & St Austell/Truro & Newquay: The key links run along the coasts in Cornwall, not from north coast to south coast except in the furthest reaches of St Ives Bay. Truro and St Austell are almost next to each other and that is why they should form a pair, as they did from 1950 to 2010. Bodmin has better community links with the south east of Cornwall than it ever will with St Austell or any Cornish town or villages that are westwards of Bodmin. The Boundary Commission were clearly being economical with the truth when they said they were starting afresh with the 2018 review of parliamentary constituencies (if you do not remember, both of these proposals appeared for the abandoned 2013 review).

7. Splitting towns like Penistone and Grimsby simply to avoid splitting rural or compact wards. If a ward has a name like 'Penistone West' that clearly indicates it is part of an actual town, especially a large one. These wards should be kept together to preserve community integrity, which people in Britain value particularly. Rural wards are easier to split due to them containing more than one parish (e.g. Otley & Yeadon), as are compact and densely populated wards like 'Central' (several British cities have a ward named Central). It might not be neat, but I believe keeping towns and cities intact wherever allowable is paramount.

6. High Weald. Connections between Kent and Sussex are poor and there appear to be no shared interests between Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, and any of the easternmost East Sussex villages which are in the Weald forest (hence the Wealden name of their district council). It is instead possible to avoid crossing this county boundary and create sensible constituencies for Kent and the two parts of Sussex whilst still leaving several Sussex and two Kent constituencies completely intact; recreating East Grinstead is the key to achieving this.

5. Their proposals for three Middlesbrough constituencies. Such a constituency as 'Middlesbrough North East & Redcar' has no good reason to exist, particularly when Redcar would rather be with nearby towns than with Middlesbrough, which only needs two constituencies. 'Middlesbrough West & Stockton East' is unnecessary and is more trouble to create than it is worth. Milder adjustments are needed here, and ones which do not cause too much alterations to Stockton North or Stockton South, both of which are generally representative of proper communities.

4. North Clwyd & Gwynedd. Merionethshire should generally be paired with Caernarfonshire as much as possible (since Gwynedd encompasses both of these counties), and it can be drawn as such without having to intrude too much into Denbighshire with which it has little to no real connection. Also, the 'North Clwyd' part is very poorly linked with Gwynedd; this is a clear example of why it is much easier and fairer to redraw urban constituencies than rural constituencies, especially in Wales which is not only facing the largest reduction in seat numbers (from 40 to 29) but which also has particularly poor transport infrastructure in Clwyd a Gwynedd (North Wales).

3. Bromsgrove & Droitwich. Bromsgrove is in quota and should therefore be unchanged, and Droitwich looks south not north in Worcestershire terms. Although this makes changes in Redditch fairer, Droitwich is better linked with Evesham. The mess this proposed constituency will make of the rest of Worcestershire (their version of Evesham even includes Warwickshire villages; no need for this at all!) is the worst aspect.

2. Finsbury Park & Stoke Newington. Already infamous due to the coverage it was given by the Evening Standard and the Metro and because it carves up Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's seat of Islington North. Islington has never been paired with Hackney for the simple reason that they are separate parts of London with no shared interests. The major disruptions it causes to other parliamentary constituencies in east London are unjustified when they should be kept intact or subject only to minimal change.

1. Brighton Central & Hove/Brighton North: This does not even constitute minimum change, breaks important transport links, and was clearly devised by a commissioner with a personal dislike of Green MP Caroline Lucas. I have therefore rated this as my number 1 worst initial proposal. Hove Park is an integral part of Hove and should stay with Hove. There are no good transport links at all linking the west and east parts of the proposed Brighton North constituency either; the rail links emanate from the centre of Brighton (covered by St Peters & North Laine). The addition of Moulsecoomb & Bevendean instead of Queen's Park is clearly an attempt to weaken the Green vote in Brighton Pavilion without good cause. Hove only needs to add Regency ward, and Brighton Pavilion only needs Queen's Park ward next door. This preserves community links and is far less open to accusations of gerrymandering, which these two proposals very much are.

Further boundary analyses with alternative proposals coming soon.












Friday, 9 September 2016

My analysis of by-elections from 25/8/16 to 8/9/16

The results of the few by-elections from the last three weeks that featured Green Party candidates were as follows:

25/8/16:

Fife UA, The Lochs: Labour 1318 (47.1%, +0.7%), SNP 1079 (38.6%, +19.6%), Con 270 (9.6%, +6.9%), Communist 86 (3.1%), Green 45 (1.6%). Labour elected at stage 2; Labour gain from Independent Communist.

1/9/16:

Bournemouth UA, Kinson North: Con 556 (34.7%, +2.3%), Lab 517 (32.2%, +12.9%), UKIP 313 (19.5%, -8.8%), Liberal Democrats 116 (7.2%, -2.2%), Green 102 (6.4%, -4.2%)

8/9/16:

Sheffield MBC, Mosborough: Lib Dem 1711 (45.6%, +31.8%), Lab 1279 (34.1%, -9.2%), UKIP 466 (12.4%, -9.8%), Con 229 (6.1%, -7.9%), Green 67 (1.9%, -1.8%) Liberal Democrat gain from Labour.

With that by-election in Fife, the last piece of Communist representation in Britain disappears; the former councillor, elected in 1973, was the last remaining Communist councillor in Britain anywhere from 1991 onwards, when the original Communist Party of Great Britain disbanded. However, it is a hollow victory for Labour, as The Lochs ward will be abolished in Fife's next round of boundary changes; Fife will lose 3 councillors overall and this ward will be split asunder.

Labour also found themselves out of luck in trying to regain representation on Bournemouth council (Kinson North is their strongest point in Bournemouth), although by squeezing the Green vote they came rather close; the Conservatives were however able to capture falling votes from UKIP to negate Labour's advance. Elsewhere that week, Labour lost a local by-election in Grangefield ward to the Conservatives, which is notably located in the North East's only bellwether constituency, Stockton South; the ward's demographics mean it frequently changes hands. One week later, Labour lost a normally safe council seat in Mosborough to the Liberal Democrats on a swing of 20.5%, which is attributable to the successful Lib Dem candidate having worked the ward before and the fact it is only solidly Labour when a challenge fails to be presented. This same factor applies to villages which are generally thought of as safely Conservative by psephologists; my Green colleagues prove this wrong frequently.

The Boundary Commission will soon be releasing its initial proposals for English, Scottish, and Welsh constituencies regarding the crucial Sixth Review (which reduces the number of parliamentary seats from 650 to 600 and requires them all to have electorates within 5% of the national average), as it has done for Northern Ireland earlier this week-watch this space.







Monday, 5 September 2016

My thoughts on the Autumn 2016 Green Party conference

This weekend, Green Party conference occurred at Birmingham for the second time since 2013 when I first attended Green Party conference, albeit in Edgbaston rather than Aston. I had learned that I failed to be elected as Deputy Leader of the Green Party; Amelia Womack won re-election easily, with Andrew Cooper finishing a strong second and incumbent Shahrar Ali finishing only third. The strong outside contender who finished fourth proved to be Kat Boettge, who was going to be the Green Party's lead candidate for the East Midlands region until Britain voted to exit the EU.

As for Green Party leader, the election proved to be a foregone conclusion, with Caroline Lucas MP and Jonathan Bartley, our Work & Pensions Spokesperson, jointly winning with 87.7% of the 1st preference votes (if RON's votes are not included) and a majority of 12,614 votes; hundreds of MPs in Britain have majorities less than that and they have to convince sometimes as many as 80,000 voters, not the 43,000 Green Party members who were registered at election time. David Malone proved to be the only losing contender to 'save his deposit', with 6.1% of 1st preferences. Meanwhile, two of my three favourites for the contest, Simon Cross and Martie Warin, only polled 108 and 133 1st preferences respectively, considerably less than the 179 I received in the Deputy Leader contest; David Williams managed a respectable 527 votes. The RON campaign, sponsored by some Young Greens unhappy with Sian Berry being ineligible to stand and a lack of candidate diversity, proved to be more talk than trousers, as only 306 votes were cast for re-open nominations in the leader contest. This was however more than the 173 polled by Citizens' Income activist and Green Party veteran Clive Lord.

On a happy note, almost every candidate I endorsed for GPEx (except John Coyne) won election to their respective GPEx post. One incumbent was defeated (Chris Jarvis, who stood on a job-share platform with Cadi Cliff) but my good friend Judy Maciejowska had to go through an extra round to win re-election to her post.

The Birmingham conference could have been livelier, but we never managed to reach the more contentious motions, and the most controversial by far (a motion to repeal anti-GMO policies) was referred back instead of being heard. The committee elections were more competitive than last year as well, especially with a shorter window in which to vote.

Here are my good points about this Green Party conference:

1. Many attendees who I had never met commended me for standing for Deputy Leader even though I did not actually win the contest.
2. Important motions on reviewing voting at conference and the policy process were passed, as were motions opposing the 2016 Trade Union Act, proposing a statutory right of access for trade union representatives, and foundations for a heritage policy.
3. My Green Politics for Everyone session on Saturday 3rd proved to be a success in spite of a not particularly high attendance, with some excellent if short discussions and a blast from the past with our 1989 election broadcast.
4. I enjoyed an excellent meal with my comrades Martin, Malcolm, Jay, Jim, Sue, Peter M, Peter A, Tony, and Jane on the night of Saturday 3rd; it was certainly worth giving up being at the Green Party Quiz for.
5. I managed to make a good speech about why the Green Party should not ally with Labour at the panel on 'Progressive Alliances'.

And here are my not-so-good points:

1. I failed to be elected onto the Green Party's Standing Orders Committee despite my best efforts and recommendations from friends of mine, including Jill Mills who was re-elected. I am pleased about my friend Kat being elected onto SOC even though she was one of my rivals in the Deputy Leadership election. My friends Ben Samuel and David Raby also lost their places on Policy Committee and the International Committee; also Simon Hales did not win a seat on the Green World Editorial Board and Jemima Luanga did not defend her seat on the E&D committee. However, Bernard Ekbery retained his seat on the Disputes Resolution Committee, Ricky Knight retained his seat on the Conferences Committee, and pro-GMO advocate Andrew Donegan was defeated in his bid for Policy Committee, so I do have something to be pleased about
2. The heavy doors and steps presented significant accessibility issues for disabled members, especially given the layout of the Edgbaston campus.
3. None of the three motions I proposed got heard at conference (although after much discussion on one of them, I would have requested its referral back)
4. An emergency motion for a proper democratic debate on Progressive Alliances failed to pass for lack of a 2/3 majority.
5. I felt rather unwell on the morning of the last day of conference-of all days (sigh) and could not work out how.

Let the Green Flag keep flying across Britain, for we, not Labour, will prove ourselves to be the real opposition to the Conservatives and Theresa May's regime.

Alan.