Archive for April, 2013

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With four days to go until LE2013 the Sun turns its fire on Farage and Ukip

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Maybe they don’t want the Tories too damaged on Thursday?

Given the sympathetic coverage that Nigel Farage and the purples have had in the run-up to LE2013 today’s coverage in the Sun about their local candidate selection procedures comes as something of a surprise.

The story is over the backgrounds of some of those chosen by the party to be their candidates on Thursday. The report starts:

“UKIP leader Nigel Farage was last night accused of losing control of his party after it emerged they are fielding a string of controversial candidates in next week’s council elections.

The row broke a day after Mr Farage admitted UKIP doesn’t have the “apparatus” to check all those standing….”

Clearly it’s been a massive challenge increase the number of candidates by so many but I just wonder whether the Sun is also trying to assist, a little bit, the blues.

It is after all a rather sensitive time in the press regulation debate and Ukip doesn’t have any MPs.

Mike Smithson

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David Herdson says the LDs will not be able to avoid addressing the GE2015 Mandate question

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

If the circumstances required would they go with the winner on votes or seats?

Prior to the last general election, Nick Clegg stated that in the event of a hung parliament, “the party which has got the strongest mandate from the British people will have the first right to seek to govern … the votes of the British people are what should determine what happens afterwards.  Whichever party have the strongest mandate from the British people … have the first right to seek to try and govern.”  The consequence, as we all know, was that Clegg sought and formed a coalition with the Conservatives.

There was, of course, some wriggle-room in his statement: the right to try or seek to govern is not a carte blanche.  Even so, with the Conservatives winning most seats, most MPs, most MPs in England (where much Westminster legislation only applies), and gaining a very significant number of seats, it would have taken the turning of semantic cartwheels for Clegg to have backed Labour.

That might not have mattered in the heady days of the Rose Garden press conference when all was smiles.  A lot has passed since.  One thing that has not changed, however, is the underlying electoral maths and this provides a problem for left-leaning Lib Dems.

As Mike has frequently pointed out, the Conservatives need a far larger national lead over Labour to form a majority government than is the case the other way round.  It therefore follows that if there is a hung parliament, it is highly likely that the Conservatives will have won most votes.  For a party wedded on principle to PR (even if these days it might adversely affect them), that’s a powerful element of the parties’ respective mandates.

Of course, other elements of the mandate may not be so strong: in all probability, a hung parliament would imply the Tories had lost seats and Labour gained them; the Reds might have more seats in total.

      Even so, the inevitable consequence of the Tories having a harder job of winning outright than Labour is that in the event of a hung parliament, the Blues are likely to have the stronger mandate.

So are we underestimating the chances of a second Con-Lib coalition?  There are many in both parties who would prefer to avoid it but the logic that led to the first would still apply: in a hung parliament, the larger party should prefer the certainty of coalition to the risk of being brought down at a time of maximum opposition benefit.  Whether the smaller would prefer the influence of office or of case-by-case negotiation might be more open to question so is there a third option?

There may be.  The third option would be for the Lib Dems to back Labour if that’s a viable alternative, whatever the national vote shares.  To do so, however, would require Clegg or his successor not to box his party in beforehand, as happened last time.

David Herdson



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Henry G Manson looks at the politics of food banks

Friday, April 26th, 2013


Chart from Left Foot Forward

What should be the best response?

This week Ed Miliband was campaigning in Oxfordshire and visited a food bank in the Prime Minister’s constituency. I was surprised that the people of Witney needed a food bank, but perhaps it’s a sign of the times. It struck me how ‘food banks’ have become a live political issue now and are not just a response to real hardship. How MPs and political parties respond to their growth is important.

One thing that is clear is that they’re growing. And fast. Labour MPs have highlighted this in Parliament and while the Prime Minister has retaliated by illustrating the growth under the previous government, the figures are dwarfed by recent years’ expansion. 61,000 people were fed by food banks in 2010/11 compared with 346,000 in 2012/13. At this rate if nothing changes we could see approaching 1 million people using food banks in the next parliament.

For Labour to simply point to them as proof of government failure overlooks the charitable effort and donations behind them. David Cameron’s reluctance to visit a food bank illustrates the difficulty in getting the response right.

For Tories to praise the arrival of food banks and their ‘big society’ ethos looks crass and insensitive to their cause. Peterborough’s Tory MP Stewart Jackson went further at the launch of a local food banks saying “it shows that the Christian community working with others across our city are directing help to those most in need and supporting the statutory agencies to make a difference and a positive contribution, particularly for families with children.” Shouldn’t Stewart Jackson show some humility at the contribution of his own government’s policies that have affected some of the poorest resulting in people unable to feed their families?

Some of the biggest users of food banks seem to be families who are in the throes of having their benefits changed. This is likely to increase in the coming months. Cuts to housing benefit and freezes to benefits while the cost of living goes up will also make it harder for some. There also appear to be many in rural areas and not just in the inner-cities, perhaps reflecting the higher cost of living. Despite the claims of one young Tory activist from Cameron’s constituency claiming that people are using food banks to save money to spend on alcohol, there clearly is a large degree of desperation involved in those that use them. In one case some walked 20 miles to access food.

    I find the very idea of food banks uncomfortable. I am torn. I don’t want to celebrate them, but I am also relieved they’re there when people are so many people are clearly struggling.

Yet Britain remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world and the fact that so many people need to rely on charity should be a collective source of shame shouldn’t it? Or is it somehow better that people are dependent on charity rather than the state? As is stands it seems it will take a lot for the rise in food banks to slow down, never mind begin falling. They look like they’re here to stay. Politicians from all parties may have to find a different way of responding to them.

Henry G Manson



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My 50-1 shot for the GOP WH2016 nomination moves into the lead in New Hampshire

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Back on November 17th 2012 I backed Ron Paul’s son, at 50/1, to be the WH2016 Republican nominee.

A PPP poll in the first full primary state of New Hampshire had him at just 4%.

Today a new PPP New Hampshire poll is out putting Rand in the lead on 28% – 3% ahead of the betting favourite, Mario Rubio.

My thinking six months ago was that a big thing that Rand Paul’s likely to have going for him is his father’s extraordinarily enthusiastic and well organised supporter base that at one stage during last summer threatened to make life very difficult for the Romney camp.

In many states ostensibly won by Romney Paul supporters managed to get themselves elected as convention delegates and could have been in a powerful position. It was only when Ron himself intervened to call his troops off that Romney looked secure.

Rand Paul will be very strong in the states that have party caucuses rather than primaries and he’s likely to have a well-honed fund-raising machine.

Since November Rand has been more in the public eye following a spectacular 13 hour filibuster in the Senate.

Regular followers of PB will know that I love long-standing at big odds placed years in advance. I backed and tipped Barack Obama at 50/1 in May 2005. Maybe my Rand Paul 50/1 bet will also come good?

Mike Smithson

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Local By-Election Preview : April 25th 2013 (T -7 days and counting until Locals 2013)

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Norden on Rochdale (Con defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Lab 42, Con 13, Lib Dem 5 (Labour overall majority of 24)
Last Electoral Cycle (2010 – 2012)

Local Elections   2010

Local Elections   2011

Local Elections   2012

Name of party

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Con

1,927

36%

1,814

57%

1,624

68%

Lab

839

16%

846

27%

604

25%

Lib Dems

2,240

42%

511

16%

175

7%

BNP

319

6%

Candidates duly nominated: Bennett Anthony Joseph William (Lab), Colclough Patricia Ann (Lib Dem),Greenwood Peter (Nat Front), Winkler Peter Nicholas (Con)

To describe Rochdale as a roller coaster over recent years would be very unfair to rollercoasters. Rochdale has been another example of the swing away from Labour to the Liberal Democrats when Labour were in office and the massive swing back post the general election. Back in 2003 Rochdale was literally hung (Lab 30, Opposition 30). It was the 2004 local elections that the Liberal Democrat advance started as they ended up with the most seats on the council (Lib Dem 25, Lab 24, Con 11) and in 2007 gained overall control of Rochdale with a majority of 4, this was boosted to six the following year but then the reverse happened. The 2010 local elections saw the Lib Dems lose seven seats (in equal measure to both Con and Lab) but it was the first locals post coalition in 2011 where the damage was inflicted. Thirteen net losses with half of those losses going to Labour. This trend continued in 2012 with another eight losses (this time all going to Labour) and allowing Labour to not only gain control themselves, but dominate the council with 42 out of the 60 seats on the council.

Macclesfield, Hurdsfield on Cheshire East (Lab defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Con 52, Lab 15, Ind 11, Lib Dem 4 (Conservative overall majority of 22)
Last Election in ward (2011): Lab 526 (47%), Lib Dem 302 (27%), Con 300 (27%)

Candidates duly nominated: BROADHEAD Stephen (Lib Dem), CARTER Steve (Lab), KENNEDY Alastair Crawford (Con), KNIGHT John Anthony (Green), LONSDALE David (UKIP)

Cheshire East was created ahead of the 2008 local elections when it was decided that Cheshire should lose it’s county council and districts and be replaced by two unitary authorities. Cheshire West and Chester (covering the districts of Ellesmere Port, City of Chester, Crewe and Nantwich and Vale Royal) and Cheshire East (covering the districts of Macclesfield, Congleton and Vale Royal). Given how strong the Conservatives were, it was no huge surprise when the Conservatives won both councils although that fact that the Conservatives racked up a majority of 38 in a council with such key battleground seats as City of Chester and Crewe and Nantwich showed how poorly Labour were polling at the time.

Castle on Newcastle and South Heaton on Newcastle (Lib Dem defence and Lab defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Lab 51, Lib Dem 26, Ind 1 (Labour overall majority of 24)
Last Electoral Cycle (2010 – 2012)

Local Elections   2010

Local Elections   2011

Local Elections   2012

Name of party

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Con

718

14%

476

14%

217

8%

Lab

1,435

28%

1,367

40%

229

8%

Lib Dems

2,451

48%

1,548

46%

1,432

50%

Ind

101

2%

991

35%

BNP

342

7%

Candidates duly nominated: GORDON John It`s Time to Put Newcastle First, JOBE Rory Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts, LOWER Philip George Liberal Democrats, NIXON Jennifer Joan The Conservative Party Candidate, RILEY Ben Labour Party Candidate

South Heaton Ward

Local Elections   2010

Local Elections   2011

Local Elections   2012

Name of party

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Con

289

8%

150

6%

81

5%

Lab

1,735

46%

1,908

72%

1,188

69%

Lib Dems

1,394

37%

311

12%

158

9%

Green

245

7%

293

11%

210

12%

BNP

104

3%

Others

74

4%

Candidates duly nominated: AULD Rachel Sarah Liberal Democrats, BENNETT Katie The Conservative Party Candidate, GILKS Timothy Andrew It`s Time to Put Newcastle First, GRAY Andrew Green Party Candidate,
JONES Denise Labour Party Candidate, PHILLIPS Paul Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts, SIBLEY Reg Independent

Given the fact that I am a Liberal Democrat, you might be surprised to hear that I hold Newcastle in quite high regard. I’ll admit that for the last few years being a Newcastle Liberal Democrat has not been the easiest thing in the world (going from a Liberal Democrat majority of 18 in 2004, peaking at 20 in the 2008 local elections, to seeing Labour gain control in 2011) but the Newcastle I remember is that occupied by a certain super powered pensioner in the form of Supergran who would regularly bounce around Newcastle and the rest of Tyne and Wear (doubling for the fictional town of Chisleton) putting paid to the plans of the “Scunner” Campbell and then a few years later when the BBC invaded Newcastle and hijacked a section of the Great North Run for the Look and Read serial “Geordie Racer” (focusing on the dual interests of people in the North East of England of supporting the Great North Run (second only to the London Marathon in terms of participation) and pigeon racing. And yes, I know it is regularly voted as one of the cheesiest pop songs in the world, and I know it is only really supposed to be loved by people from Newcastle itself, but this Welshman still has a fondness for the rendition of “Fog on the Tyne” by Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne and the boys from Lindasfarne.



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The share of the GB vote required for an overall majority – your interactive checker

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

The above is based on data from Professor John Curtice on what vote leads LAB and CON require to put them over the threshold of 326 to win an overall majority at GE2015.

This is, of course, calculated on a uniform national swing (UNS) in each GB seat. At GE2010 the Tories over-performed UNS by a bit.

For the Tories more than LAB, click the tab on the chart, the LD share is critical. At a 10% yellow share the Tories could theoretically get by with a lead of just 5.9%.

There are several factors that can skew the UNS:-

    Incumbency – where the MP is standing again. All parties saw a benefit at GE2010 with the LDs enjoying the biggest bonus.

    First time incumbency where the sitting MP gets an extra bonus.

    Targeting of marginals by all the parties can see disproportionate changes.

    Tactical voting either increasing or unwinding.

The big message, as I am sure we all know, is that the threshold for Labour is a few points lower than the Tories.

The number crunchers have yet to find a way of including Ukip.

Mike Smithson

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A majority LAB government no longer the preferred GE2015 outcome

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

40% of UKIP voters prefer a CON majority

Today’s YouGov poll sees an MOE change with LAB is increasing its lead over the Tories by 1%.Nothing much there except that once again EdM’s party is in single figures.

Using the interactive chart above you can see how each set of party supporters responded and one that stands out for me is the Ukip split with 40% saying they’d prefer a CON majority.

That still, however, leaves 60% not saying that.

The LD split is, as you’d expect more in favour of coalition with a deal with LAB preferred over one with CON by 45% to 36%.

The big significance of this finding is that for the first time in a year a LAB majority doesn’t come out on top.

Mike Smithson

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Now EdM is in a standoff with the biggest union baron of them all

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013