Saturday, 25 February 2017

My analysis of local by-election results from 23/2/17 and 5 other reliable Labour seats that could fall at the next election

Whilst the two parliamentary by-elections of Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland went on, four local by-elections went on this week. Here are their results:


 Basingstoke & Deane BC, Winklebury: Labour 824 (61.6%, +31.1%), Conservative 472 (35.3%, -10.1%), Liberal Democrats 42 (3.1%, -2.7%). Labour gain from Conservative; all changes are since May 2015.


Epping Forest DC, Chigwell Village: Conservative 453 (76.0%, +1.0%), Liberal Democrats 143 (24.0%). All changes are since May 2016.

Kettering BC, Barton: Liberal Democrats 644 (57.0%), Conservative 337 (29.8%,-19.3%),UKIP 106 (9.4%, -14.0%), Green 42 (3.7%, -3.5%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

South Hams DC, Charterlands: Liberal Democrats 473 (46.1%), Conservative 404 (39.3%, -25.0%), Labour 110 (10.7%), Green 40 (3.9%, -15.6%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Those three local by-election Conservative losses mar their otherwise good night in the two parliamentary by-elections mentioned above, especially when in both the cases of Barton and Charterlands, the Liberal Democrats did not even stand last time. Localism proved to be the name of the game again, with the newly-elected Liberal Democrat councillor opposing planned developments in the west of South Hams (close to the city of Plymouth) and winning as a result. In both cases, my fellow Greens were heavily squeezed as a direct result. Whether results like these will precipitate some surprise Liberal Democrat comebacks at parliamentary level where they lost to the Conservatives in 2015 remains to be seen.

Labour is in bigger trouble than ever before, and Copeland is not the only seat of its kind they are likely to lose in the near future. Here are the top five otherwise reliably held Labour seats (since 1935/1945/1950 continuously) with relatively similar demographics to Copeland most likely to fall to the Conservatives at the next general election (not usually accounting for upcoming major boundary changes):

North East Derbyshire (held by Labour since 1935): Once a safely Labour mining constituency, but now increasingly becoming a commuter belt to the nearby city of Sheffield, especially in the town of Dromfield. The Labour majority at the last general election is the lowest in this seat's history at just 1,883 (and equal in percentage terms to the 3.9% low they hit in 1983) and the demographics are turning against them.

Newcastle-under-Lyme (held by Labour since 1919): Admittedly, Newcastle-under-Lyme has never been safe for Labour, but has continuously evaded opposition attempts to snatch it. The Labour majority achieved in this seat in 2015 was the lowest ever at 650, lower even than the majority of 796 they managed against Liberal Alan Thomas' best efforts in the by-election of 1986. The town is getting more Conservative with the decline of the nearby pottery industry and with more middle-class commuters to Stoke-on-Trent settling there.

Bishop Auckland (held by Labour since 1935): The only seat in County Durham's remit to contain any solidly Conservative places (Barnard Castle, which in 2013 elected the only four Conservative councillors currently sitting on Durham Council) and with the Labour majority almost as low as that in 1983. Tactical voting by UKIP could easily cause a Conservative victory just as it did in Copeland on Thursday.

Wrexham (held by Labour since 1935, barring Tom Ellis' brief SDP period of 1981-83): This very nearly went Conservative in 1983 in a three-way contest between Labour, the Conservatives, and SDP-Liberal Alliance. The economic transition it has been making since the loss of its coalfields has brought about considerable changes meaning it must now be considered a key Labour marginal than the safe Labour seat it once was.

Wakefield (held by Labour since 1932): This was marginal throughout the 1980s and has become so again. Even though it actually swung against the Conservatives in 2015 by 1.2%, it is still marginal and Labour are unlikely to be so lucky next time, especially with its prosperity compared to other seats I have mentioned above.

The Conservative gains of Morley & Outwood (partly also attributable to Ed Balls, of course), Telford, and Gower in 2015 were just the start of this trend (even accounting for substantial boundary changes in the past, none of these three seats would have gone to the Conservatives in 1983 based on their current boundaries) where Labour is in long-term decline in many of its semi-rural/urban heartlands located outside metropolitan areas (and sometimes close to them).

Friday, 24 February 2017

Labour stay steady in Stoke-but can't cope in Copeland

In case you have not heard, the results for the Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland parliamentary by-elections were as follows (Stoke declared first):

Stoke-on-Trent Central:

Mohammed Akram, Independent, 56 (0.3%)

Zufliqar Ali, Liberal Democrats, 2,083 (9.8%, +5.7%)

Jack Brereton, Conservative, 5,154 (24.3%, +1.8%)

Adam Colclough, Green Party, 294 (1.4%, -2.2%)

Godfrey Davies, Christian Peoples' Alliance, 109 (0.5%)

Nick 'The Flying Brick' Delves, OMRLP, 127 (0.6%)

Barbara Fielding-Morriss, Independent, 137 (0.7%)

David Furness, BNP, 124 (0.6%)

Paul Nuttall, UKIP, 5,233 (24.7%, +2.1%)

Gareth Snell, Labour, 7,853 (37.1%, -2.2%)

Labour HOLD.


Michael Guest, Independent, 811 (2.6%)

Rebecca Hanson, Liberal Democrats, 2,252 (7.2%, +3.7%)

Trudy Harrison, Conservative, 13,784 (44.2%, +8.5%)

Roy Ivinson, Independent, 116 (0.4%)

Jack Lenox, Green Party, 515 (1.7%, -1.3%)

Fiona Mills, UKIP, 2,025 (6.5%, -9.0%)

Gillian Troughton, Labour, 11,601 (37.3%, -4.9%)

Conservative GAIN from Labour.

Despite the fact that the media paid much more attention to the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, partly due to UKIP's leader Paul Nuttall standing, and then failing mainly because of the lies he told on his website and internal ructions within UKIP during the campaign. For all that effort, Paul only achieved a pathetic 2.1% swing from Labour to UKIP in a city known for increasing political volatility, in a constituency that voted Leave by a margin of 70-30 last year, which is one of UKIP's best prospects demographically, and in a constituency which was looking more vulnerable than it had been in history. Labour's campaign there had not exactly started off well either with criticism over sexist tweets that the victorious Labour candidate, Gareth Snell, had made in the past. Meanwhile, even though the Liberal Democrats did not really have a chance of winning, Dr Zulfiqar Ali's local profile helped him make sure the Liberal Democrats did not lose their deposit this time around, even though they were unable to better 4th place and were never going to be able to in the tight contest between Labour and UKIP (and the Conservatives, to a lesser extent, whose local group help the City Independents administration run Stoke). Unfortunately, the Greens were squeezed in the process even though our candidate, Adam Colclough, has lived in Stoke all his life and therefore knows what Stoke really needs.

As for the minor candidates, Barbara Fielding-Morriss ironically did much better than expected due to the negative media coverage she received-she is a vexatious litigant (she kept suing the BBC over beliefs that radio waves were interfering with her mind) and her policies were the most extreme even compared to those of the BNP; she was also arrested over a public order offence during the campaign because of the material she posted on her website. The BNP suffered another humiliation when they were beaten by perennial Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate Nick 'The Flying Brick' Delves. The Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election wooden spoon award goes to Independent Mohammed Akram, who received almost no coverage during the campaign and almost no-one knew what he was actually standing for.

The Copeland by-election shall go down in British political history for a wide variety of reasons. It was the first by-election gain by a Conservative government since the infamous Mitcham & Morden by-election of 1982. More importantly, Copeland (fka Whitehaven) was never a knife-edge marginal by any standards and the victory by Trudy Harrison was much more decisive than in Brighouse & Spenborough back in 1960. Copeland also voted Leave heavily (60-40) and with its industrial base and rural/small town profile is exactly the kind of constituency that Labour are losing their grip on week by week. Having a local profile was not a usable advantage for any candidate in Copeland, since the only candidate not to live in the constituency, Rebecca Hanson of the Liberal Democrats, lived only a few miles outside the constituency boundaries in the town of Cockermouth, and therefore knew how to get around. Nuclear power proved the vital issue in this campaign, as did the potential aftermath of Brexit, with Trudy taking the pro-Brexit line and Labour candidate Gillian Troughton (a local county councillor) highlighting the fact she was a Remain campaigner. Trudy's connections with Sellafield, as well as the anti-nuclear stance of prominent Labour figures, helped seal the by-election for the Conservatives. UKIP's heavy vote loss, with a consequent slip to fourth place behind the Liberal Democrats in what has always been one of the worst constituencies for the latter, was almost certainly due to tactical voting for the Conservatives to oust Labour-and clearly, it worked. It also accounts for the large increase in vote share managed by the Conservatives; the Liberal Democrats meanwhile did more damage to Labour and the Green Party, in their successful bid to get their deposit returned (they lost it badly in 2015) and regain third place. Our anti-nuclear stance failed to gain sufficient traction as I hoped it would, although we did do better than in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election. An untold story is the surprisingly good performance of Independent candidate and Whitehaven town council chairman Michael Guest, who despite only having a strictly local profile managed to at least beat our own candidate, Jack Lenox. All Independent candidate Roy Ivinson did, meanwhile, was split the Green vote (he stood on an anti-global warming ticket)-if he is that concerned about other environmental issues as well he should just join the Green Party.

Because of the critical importance of each by-election, and the resulting media attention and speculation as to how well Labour would perform in both, turnout remained respectable by the standards of each constituency; Stoke-on-Trent Central's by-election turnout dropped by a modest 11.7% to 38.2%, which was better than in Sleaford & North Hykeham, a constituency that normally records far better turnouts  than Stoke-on-Trent Central at election time. Copeland, meanwhile, recorded a 51.3% turnout (and a turnout drop similar to that of Stoke's), almost as good as that in the vaunted by-election of Richmond Park. Storm Doris, whose winds were particularly fierce in the west of England as opposed to the east (although I still felt their effects in North London/Hertfordshire, especially when they caused some overhead wires to be knocked down delaying my journey home by an hour), did not have the detrimental effect on turnout as speculated even though both constituencies were close to its eye.

However, both constituencies will be subject to substantial boundary changes in the lifetime of this Parliament. Stoke on Trent Central faces potential abolition or at least will have to absorb several wards of Stoke-on-Trent South. If the latter occurs, Stoke-on-Trent South's Labour MP Robert Flello will end up having to fend off a very difficult challenge from Conservative MP Sir William Cash who currently represents Stone, which will be abolished if Stoke-on-Trent Central survives (or whichever Conservative candidate stands in his place as Sir William will likely retire due to old age anyway).

Meanwhile, Copeland faces having to expand to absorb the Workington parts of Workington, leaving the latter constituency to be torn in half between Copeland and a redrawn Penrith & The Border, which will make Copeland's successor a very safe Labour seat indeed. This means that Workington MP Sue Hayman can likely just push out Trudy Harrison to remain in Parliament in 2020, even if Labour does badly; however, Trudy, who once worked in Sellafield and whose husband still does, could in theory try and take Barrow-in-Furness from Labour, which will become notionally Conservative when it expands in said boundary changes.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

My questions for the Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central by-elections

Tomorrow, voters will go to the polls in places that are in two very different environments: Copeland (rural/small town) and Stoke-on-Trent Central (inner city). These two different environments have key similarities: both are Labour seats that have been held continuously since 1935 (Copeland was called Whitehaven until 1983 and Stoke-on-Trent Central was simply called Stoke until 1950, but the areas they cover are essentially the same), both heavily voted to leave the EU last year, both had once-proud industries which have largely disappeared and been replaced (somewhat), and both contain significant sectors of working-class voters who are gradually shifting away from Labour in different directions.

Both of these by-elections will prove critical tests for Labour, given that since Theresa May took office as Prime Minister last year, they have almost always been at least 10 percentage points behind the Conservatives in opinion polls of varying kinds. However, opinion polls are arguably becoming less reliable, especially with most of the mainstream media cottoning onto the anti-Corbyn narrative irrespective of the truth. 'Fake news' (or at least, unreliable news), is not confined to spoof websites.

Here are my five questions for these two by-elections?

1. To what extent will the high Leave vote in each of the two constituencies have an impact on the overall result?

Not as much as commentators and the media would have us believe. The aftermath of Brexit is an area of concern for many voters, but pressing local issues particularly in Copeland will almost certainly be a bigger factor. West Cumberland Hospital is under threat (and the nearest other hospital is 40 miles away in Carlisle) and the Conservatives have been doing major damage to the NHS since they took office, and the geographical isolation of Copeland exacerbates the problems this will cause. The high Brexit vote will likely not be enough to help Paul Nuttall due to the many lies of his that have been exposed throughout his campaign in Stoke-on-Trent Central, not to mention internal problems with UKIP that came out during the campaign.

2. Given the issues at hand, could the Green Party save their deposit in at least one of the two by-elections?

Yes, but more likely this will happen in Copeland due to the presence of the Sellafield nuclear plant, which will draw out many anti-nuclear Green voters in particular. Copeland is also more rural so environmental issues will be of strong importance. However, the Green Party did not save its deposit in either constituency in the 2015 general election, and neither did the Liberal Democrats where in said 2015 general election they took the most extra votes from. The Green Party sadly is not overall polling better than its 2015 result, either.

3. Could candidates from minor parties or Independent candidates have an impact?

Apart from Michael Guest (chairman of Whitehaven town council) in Copeland, not much. Although Stoke-on-Trent is a particularly volatile place psephologically, none of the four 'serious' (i.e. non-OMRLP) candidates have any real credibility, especially not vexatious litigant Barbara Fielding-Morriss (one of the Independent candidates in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election).

4. Will 'Storm Doris' actually affect turnout enough in Stoke-on-Trent to cause a surprise Labour loss, as the media have speculated?

In all likelihood, the answer is no. Bad weather deters turnout from voters of all kinds, particularly more passive voters. Although transport services will be disrupted by Storm Doris in many parts of Britain, this will likely not cause significant disruption to turnout on the levels speculated because polling stations are generally designed to be as within walking distance to electors as possible, especially in cities like Stoke-on-Trent where the polling districts are much smaller geographically. Also, parliamentary by-elections, with rare exceptions, always have lower turnouts than at the preceding general election, and Stoke-on-Trent Central's turnout was notoriously the lowest in the nation in 2015 anyway at 49.9%. Only time will tell if turnout there will beat the record low peacetime turnout set by the Manchester Central by-election of 2012 (turnout: a dismal 18.2%).

5. Which one is Labour most likely to lose out of the two if it does not hold both-Copeland or Stoke?

Copeland, on balance. The Conservative candidate, Trudy Harrison, despite having been selected much later than Labour's candidate, Gillian Troughton, has not received the torrent of bad publicity that UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has received in Stoke-on-Trent Central, irrespective of the criticism of tweets by Labour candidate Gareth Snell. Also, the anti-nuclear Labour leadership will likely have a detrimental effect on the Labour vote in Copeland the same way it did in the 1980s.

Friday, 17 February 2017

My analysis of by-elections from 16/2/17 and commending those opposed to CETA

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

Cheshire East UA, Bollington: Bollington First 939 (50.6%, +15.5%), Conservative 319 (17.2%, -14.7%), Labour 239 (12.9%, -9.7%), Liberal Democrats 198 (10.7%, +0.1%), Green 162 (8.7%). Bollington First gain from Conservative.

Dudley MBC, St Thomas's: Labour 1466 (60.6%, +0.3%), UKIP 653 (27.0%, -2.0%),Conservative 249 (10.3%, -0.2%), Green 52 (2.1%). All changes are since May 2016.

East Staffordshire DC, Burton: Liberal Democrats 271 (52.7%, +5.2%), Labour 127 (24.7%, -5.4%), UKIP 60 (11.7%), Conservative 56 (10.9%, -11.9%).

Forest of Dean DC, Lydbrook & Ruardean: Green 360 (35.3%, +18.4%), Conservative 248 (24.3%, +7.6%), Labour 231 (22.7%, +2.5%), UKIP 113 (11.1%, -9.7%), Liberal Democrats 67 (6.6%). Green gain from UKIP.

Oldham MBC, Failsworth East: Labour 829 (58.4%, -7.3%), Conservative 360 (25.4%, -1.6%), UKIP 166 (11.7%), Green 49 (3.5%, -4.1%), Liberal Democrats 16 (1.1%, -1.8%). All changes are since May 2016.

Uttlesford DC, Elsenham & Hadenham: (rare double by-election): Residents for Uttlesford 824/716 (59.6%, +31.5%**), Liberal Democrats 316/259 (22.1%, -23.5%), Conservative 141/120 (10.0%, -11.3%), UKIP 68/64 (5.1%), Labour 39/28 (2.6%, -2.5%), Green 8/6 (0.6%). Two Residents for Uttlesford gains from Liberal Democrat. **One of the successful Residents for Uttlesford candidates was the highest-polling Independent candidate for this ward in 2015.

This has been by some measure the most interesting local by-election week this year, and it ends the run of Liberal Democrat surprises and surges that local by-elections across England have experienced. It must be said that the Green gain in Forest of Dean owes itself to personal votes and demographic changes in the Forest of Dean area in addition to rising Green Party support in the West of England in general. Our new councillor there, Sid Phelps, is chairman of the nearby parish council of Rushbridge & Soudley and he does his job well as he did when he was a Green councillor in Oxford. It has often been the case in the West of England that character and profile matter more than the colour of your rosette, particularly in rural and small-town areas, but nonetheless the West of England is very promising for the Green Party overall, as has been shown in the last two years alone. The Forest of Dean, once a West Country heartland of mining and industry, transitioned away from its traditional industry earlier than many ex-mining areas, meaning that whilst it was solidly Labour for many decades, it elected a Conservative MP as early as 1979 (many similar constituencies arguably trending towards the Conservatives away from Labour, such as North East Derbyshire and Bishop Auckland, have nevertheless elected Labour MPs continuously since 1935, and were reliably Labour throughout the 1980s) and, since Labour's decline there long-term, can now be considered to be a safe Conservative seat with increasing Green potential.

Elsewhere, localist associations are becoming more popular particularly in more rural areas, as decisive localist wins in the Cheshire village of Bollington and the rural district of Uttlesford (covering Saffron Walden and surrounding villages) in northwest Essex showed, on swings of 15.1% from the Conservatives and 27.5% from the Liberal Democrats. Before the 1970s, villages and small towns were often independent/non-partisan at a local level and there is a trend back towards this particularly in areas which feel that their distinct identity is being threatened. The Residents for Uttlesford victory (which partly accounts for our bottom placed finish there, since many green-minded residents almost certainly voted tactically for the Residents' candidates to oust the Liberal Democrats) came in light of planned developments around the Elsenham area, which are strongly opposed by residents there (especially since the majority of these developments are mainly planned to line property developers' pockets) and there is a lot of rural land in the Uttlesford area which should be left unspoiled. Labour has generally had a poor week in by-election terms, with their holds unlikely to change hands anytime soon anyway and with them being knocked back elsewhere.

In the midst of all this, the dangerous trade agreement known as CETA was unfortunately passed by the European Parliament on Wednesday 15th February, by a margin of 408 votes to 254, with 33 abstentions (which included many S&D MEPs). As expected, the EPP, ECR, and ALDE groups were all in favour of it (and arch-liberal Guy Verhofstadt was particularly pleased with the result), but the split amongst the Socialists & Democrats group of MEPs (including the Labour Party) was what proved decisive to the vote. Many were in favour, many were against, and many abstained altogether, and the Labour Party proved no exception to this with 7 Labour MEPs supporting CETA and 10 Labour MEPs voting against it. This is a dark moment in international politics and social justice, as CETA is almost as dangerous as the aborted TTIP/TPP agreements, and contains the infamous ISDS clause that could lead to potentially irreversible wholescale privatisation of the public sector, especially regarding health and the environment. The Green-EFA group and United Left group, however, remained unanimously opposed, and I commend them (and particularly the UK's Green MEPs, Jean Lambert, Molly Scott-Cato, and Keith Taylor) for their opposition to this dangerous deal. The only realistic chance of stopping it now is if the Netherlands require a referendum to be held on it, which could result in them blocking the deal; Ireland will likely require one as well just as they did on the Lisbon Treaty six years ago.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Why whistleblowing is an essential part of a fair and democratic society

Government advisers have recently floated plans to make distributing material that 'is capable of benefitting a foreign power' (a very vague definition indeed) punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment:

This same proposed legislation would also remove a critical public interest defence for finding, handling, and releasing this critical information.

This would be chilling to whistleblowers, journalists, and upholders of fair justice and free speech everywhere. Even elected politicians could be caught out. Only through whistleblowing and risk have we been able to expose such things as the Panama Papers and real causes behind the financial crisis that we are still suffering the effects of today.

Whistleblowing is an essential part of a free, fair and democratic society for a variety of important reasons. Firstly, we must be free to alert the public to wrongdoing and law-breaking that goes on behind closed doors, to make it clear that laws and morals need to apply to everyone fairly, irrespective of whatever shadowy connections they may have. Secondly, whistleblowing often helps with problem-solving of fundamental issues within organisations or companies, so it is a useful tool. Thirdly, it is important that a decent society has as much knowledge of what is really going on as possible, for the truth is one of the most important things we need today. And finally, whistleblowing helps make sure society will not be constantly dominated by a secret elite and that we are able to hold the government of the day, as well as corporations, banks etc. to account.

Please sign and share 38 Degrees' petition here and make sure this legislation never passes:

Friday, 10 February 2017

My analysis of by-elections from 9/2/17 plus a postcard from Liechtenstein

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

Corby BC, Kingswood & Hazel Leys: Labour 610 (64.6%, +9.2%), Conservative 252 (26.2%, +14.0%), Green 82 (8.7%, -0.5%).

Cotswold DC, Fairford North: Liberal Democrats 610 (68.1%, +40.2%), Conservative 270 (30.1%, -20.9%), Green 16 (1.8%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Fylde DC, St John's: Fylde Ratepayers 564 (60.8%, +19.1%), Conservative 278 (30.0%, +5.1%), Labour 45 (4.9%, -10.1%), Green 40 (4.3%).

North Norfolk DC, Waterside: Liberal Democrats 649 (55.1%, +30.5%), Conservative 410 (34.8%, -4.7%), UKIP 77 (6.5%, -14.8%), Labour 41 (3.5%, -5.0%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Tendring DC, Great & Little Oakley: UKIP 210 (36.8%, +14.1%), Conservative 171 (29.1%, +1.4%), Labour 117 (19.9%, +5.5%), Liberal Democrats 83 (14.1%). UKIP gain from Independent.

And one particular town council by-election:

Prescot TC, Prescot East: Green 270 (44.9%), Liberal Democrats 211 (35.4%, +6.4%), Labour 138.(19.7%, -51.3%). Green gain from Labour.

This particular result unsurprisingly celebrated by fellow Greens like myself across England and Wales, given how we managed to elect the first ever Green councillor anywhere in the borough of Knowsley (even if at town council level rather than district level) on a 48.1% swing, and how rock-solidly Labour nearly every part of Knowsley is, Prescot being the notable exception (although our seat on Prescot town council is in fact the only non-Labour seat on said town council) having elected 3 Liberal Democrats last year in Prescot East. However, with fewer electors, it is usually easier (or harder, or impossible, depending on demographics) for town council seats to change hands, although local issues have a far greater impact in town/parish elections than in district elections in practice. Opposition to planned developments on the Knowsley greenbelt between Prescot and neighbouring St Helens proved decisive to a Green victory.

Within the district council by-elections, most of them were caused by disqualification of the sitting councillor for not attending enough meetings (under the Local Government Act, councillors must attend at least one meeting every six months or be disqualified from office). Interestingly, even though the Fylde Ratepayers candidate in St John's was the same councillor who had recently been disqualified for that specific reason, this had no bearing in the end as he was re-elected with a much increased majority, which is likely to do with the unpopularity of the Conservatives in many parts of Fylde due to fracking (an Independent anti-fracking candidate, Mike Hill, achieved 11.9% of the vote in the Fylde constituency in 2015). The absence of UKIP in the by-election of Kingswood & Hazel Leys (the most solidly Labour part of the rock-solidly Labour town of Corby) helped both the Conservatives and Labour but not the Greens, which can be expected of industrial towns like Corby where UKIP had (and still have) high hopes. The Liberal Democrats proved that the Brexit bill and the Brexit issue is just a sideshow when it comes to local campaigning, as their spectacular wins of prosperous Fairford North in the Cotswolds (pro-Remain) and the villages of Waterside (in pro-Leave North Norfolk) showed, with UKIP collapsing heavily in the latter. UKIP made up for this with their gain of Great & Little Oakleys, their first local by-election gain in months, although this likely only happened in the absence of a suitable Independent candidate (or any for that matter!). Like in Thanet, UKIP is falling apart piece by piece in Tendring, since only 12 of their 2015 cohort of 22 remain in Tendring's UKIP group.

Four days ago, the small principality of Liechtenstein became the first nation this year to hold Parliamentary elections. This is particularly notable since Liechtenstein has only 19,806 registered electors, fewer than even Na h-Eileanan an lar in Scotland, and therefore only has 25 seats to go around. The high threshold of 8% makes challenges from newcomers very difficult. The two major parties, the Progressive Citizens' Party (FBP) and the Patriotic Union (VU), got less popular than last time, as expected, but this resulted in only one seat changing hands, from the FBP to The Independents list (DU). The Free list, the most progressive party in Liechtenstein, also improved their vote share, by 1.5%, but it did not garner them extra seats. No other parties contested this election, not surprising given how few eligible voters there are in Liechtenstein (which also only has 37,400 people, full stop).

Next month come two important elections: the Dutch general election and the snap Northern Ireland Assembly election, both of which now have had their candidate lists finalised.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Why there must be a Commons debate on CETA

The dangerous CETA (Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement) between the European Union and Canada will be voted on by the European Parliament next week, and given the current make-up and the positions of the largest political groups, it is likely to be approved. Currently, many EU member states are in favour of this deal, which like the aborted TTIP/TPP deals, will give unprecedented and dangerous power to multinational corporations, and will benefit Canada far more than it will benefit Europe in any case.

The Conservative government is attempting to push this through without any parliamentary debate, even though it granted one (reluctantly) for the Article 50 trigger; both have serious consequences for the people of Britain. If it passes, increasing privatisation of our NHS will be effectively irreversible (as will a number of other things) due to the fact that CETA has the dangerous Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in the same way that TTIP and TPP did before they foundered. Also, if CETA passes, many critical protections will be weakened or will effectively disappear due to greater entrenchment of corporate power. CETA is as equally bad as those two deals and it needs to be prevented from ever being implemented.

I call on those of you reading my blog to as much as you can make sure that this deal is debated in Parliament-and then defeated both in Westminster and in the European Parliament.

Friday, 3 February 2017

My by-election analysis of 2/2/17 and MPs for 'Remain' constituencies who nevertheless voted for the Article 50 Bill

Readers, the results from the two local Rotherham by-elections that featured Green candidates were as follows:

Rotherham MBC, Brinsworth & Catcliffe: Liberal Democrats 2000 (66.0%, +48.7%), Labour 519 (17.1%, -20.2%), UKIP 389 (12.8%, -19.5%), Conservative 91 (3.0%, -10.0%), Green 30 (1.0%)

Rotherham MBC, Dinnington: Labour 670 (36.1%, +9.0%), UKIP 303 (16.3%, -10.6%), Conservative 238 (12.8%, -1.7%), Independent (Smith) 232 (12.5%, -7.9%), Independent (Hart) 180 (9.7%), Independent (Scott) 81 (4.4%), Green 78 (4.2%, -7.0%), Liberal Democrats 75 (4.0%).

With UKIP continuing to fall, the Liberal Democrats are once again acting as a protest vote in working-class areas, despite bad memories of the Con-Dem coalition. The Brexit issue, which opinion polls are currently claiming is the #1 issue in British politics today, was also a factor in the Brinsworth & Catcliffe by-election in particular and accounts for the enormous surge in the Liberal Democrats' vote, and in Rotherham, where they had not won any council seats for more than a decade. Meanwhile, a backlash against Brexit is taking place and UKIP continued their poor run in local by-elections in Dinnington with a decisive loss to Labour. We were hit badly in both by-elections as a direct result of such squeezes.

On Brexit itself, the 'Article 50 Bill' which will start the formal process for Britain to leave the EU when it achieves Royal Assent (it is practically certain to do so at present), was yesterday approved by an enormous margin of 498 votes to 114. This represents a margin of more than 4-1 and is far greater in percentage terms than the actual referendum result (51.9% to 48.1%; this vote gives percentage margins of 82% to 18% in Aye-No terms). Surprisingly, only one Conservative MP (which unsurprisingly was Kenneth Clarke) voted against the bill, along with just 47 Labour MPs out of 232 (160 voted for).

It must be noted that overall, a majority of UK constituencies voted Leave overall, but many, particularly metropolitan and affluent constituencies within England (not to mention Scotland as a whole, Welsh-speaking areas in Wales and Catholic-dominated areas of Northern Ireland), voted Remain, even if by small margins. (The constituency I live in, Hertford & Stortford, was split 50-50 on the referendum vote)

Here are a list of MPs who voted Aye to the Article 50 Bill despite representing constituencies with Remain margins of 10% or more:

Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire)
Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley)
James Berry (Kingston & Surbiton)
Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon)
Victoria Borwick (Kensington)

Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West)
Steve Brine (Winchester)
David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate)
Maria Caulfield (Lewes)
Alex Chalk (Cheltenham)

Jane Ellison (Battersea)
Mark Field (Cities of London & Westminster)

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire)
Mike Freer (Finchley & Golders Green)
Cheryl Gillian (Chesham & Amersham)
Justine Greening (Putney)
Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon)
Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham)
John Howell (Henley)

Ben Howlett (Bath)
Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey)
Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West)
Peter Lilley (Hitchin & Harpenden)

Anne Main (St Albans)
Tania Mathias (Twickenham)
Theresa May (Maidenhead)
Anne Milton (Guildford)
Matthew Offord (Hendon)
Dominic Raab (Esher & Walton)
Julian Sturdy (York Outer)
Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet)
Chris White (Warwick & Leamington)
Rob Wilson (Reading East)
Craig Williams (Cardiff North)

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South)
Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central)
Nick Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne East)
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central)

Barry Gardner (Brent North)
Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East)

Harriet Harman (Camberwell & Peckham)
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
Clive Lewis (Norwich South)
Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham Ladywood)
Lucy Powell (Manchester Central)
Steve Reed (Croydon North)

Andrew Smith (Oxford East)
Keir Starmer (Holborn & St Pancras)
Gareth Thomas (Harrow West)
Emily Thornberry (Islington South & Finsbury)
Chuka Umunna (Streatham)

Meanwhile, two of the 47 Labour rebels, Graham Allen, and Paul Farrelly, represent constituencies that decisively voted Leave by large margins (65-35 and 64-36 i.e. Nottingham North and Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Green songs and poetry: The Green Flag (official and international lyrics)

With the next Green Party conference to coincide with the European Greens and Global Greens Congresses, it is time I released a fuller, modern version of The Green Flag:

1. The people's flag is brightest green,
Let's emblazon its verdant sheen!
For here those trees grew stiff and cold,
Their sap dyed our flag's every fold.
Let's raise the emerald standard high,
Within its shade, we'll live and die!
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the green flag flying here!

2. Look round, the French do chant its praise,
The modern Germans know its place
On Bristol harbour, its hymns were sung,
Round Amsterdam our flag was hung,
Let's raise the emerald standard high,
Within its shade, we'll live and die!

Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the green flag flying here!

3. Our flag shall fly with this strong breeze,
Across the land, the air, and our seas,
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We must not change its colour now.
Let's raise the emerald standard high,
Within its shade, we'll live and die!
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the green flag flying here!

4. We'll march onward and sound our horn,
To bring to our world a green dawn!
A dawn that brings prosperity,
Fair justice and equality!
Let's raise the emerald standard high,
Within its shade, we'll live and die!
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the green flag flying here!