Sillibands

This is getting really silly now. A week ago, Jako of Frank Owen’s Paintbrush pleaded with Labour MPs to stop nominating Milibands. But have they? Nope. They carry right on. David Milliband and Ed Milliband only needed 33 nominations to go through to the full ballot. The former now has 66, and the latter 47. So, 47 MPs have voted for a Milliband who didn’t need their vote. The Ed Balls supporters have stopped at 33.

For all six candidates to get the required nominations, 70 of the remaining 82 MPs would have to vote for them. Once 13 more MPs nominate a Milliband, the field will definitely start to be restricted.

So why do it?

The only reason I can think of is toadyism. If you, as a Labour MP, can’t support any of the others, you can simply not nominate any of them. You can go to your chosen Milliband and promise to vote for them in the upcoming full ballot.

However, if as a Labour MP you figure that your chosen Milliband is the best one, but want them to win in an open competitive process, with as many views as possible being put forward, you should nominate one of the remaining three: Diane Abbott, Andy Burnham or John McDonnell. You can always go back to your chosen Milliband and promise them your vote, or even make a public statement to the effect of:

“I think that (insert Milliband’s name) would be the best choice for leader, but as they have already reached the necessary number of nominations, it would be a waste for mine to be added to theirs. So, I have nominated (insert gallant outsider’s name) because I believe that as many candidates as possible should be in the final ballot”

Not hard, is it?

Posted in Politics. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

Rugby Psephology

I used to do this for Crawley, so following the latest local elections, I’ve compared the results in all of the May Borough elections (I’ve not done any by-elections) to see if there are any patterns and trends by ward (with whether it is in the Town or a rural area in brackets) and by party. It is a little long…

By Ward

The general case over the past five years seems to be consistency. Results have the same each time across all wards, with the only exception being Dunchurch & Knightlow where anti-development Lib Dem Ron Ravenhall and his wife Sally have taken seats the Tories would probably usually win. Because this year’s General Election drew out nearly twice as many voters, the results are somewhat skewed when looking at the details, but even then the winners were pretty much in line with previous years, even if the share of the vote varied in places.

Admirals (Town)

3T, Safe. Usually get 50%, did better last year with Peter Butlin. Labour second, trend is generally down, from 38% in 2006 to 28% last year. Contains new estate of Cawston Grange.

Avon & Swift (Rural)

2T. Very Safe. Consistently 65-68%. Labour slightly ahead of the LDs, when the latter stand.

Benn (Town)

3L. Usually 43-44%, lower this year. LDs just ahead of Tories in second. Greens sometimes stand, only place where vote share went up for them.

Bilton (Town)

3T Safe. 60-66% usually, but lower when David Wright stood, and this year only 49%. LDs have been overtaken by Labour into second recently.

Brownsover N (Town)

2T. Becoming closer. 58% in 2006, 52% in 2008, 46% in 2010. LDs & Lab vie for second place, LDs only 38 votes ahead this year.

Brownsover S (Town)

2L Marginal. 44% in past years, 38% this year. Majorities all less than 50 over Ts. LDs a fair way back in 3rd.

Caldecott (Town)

3LD Marginal, going safe? 44% consistently, Cons usually on 40-42%, slumped to 31% this year. Turnout or forrun name? Lab 3rd,

Dunchurch & Knightlow (Mixed)

2T 1LD. Marginal, going T. Ravenhall name seems to have given LDs seats, otherwise Ts on about 50%. Now Ron has passed on, could well see LDs recede. Lab distant 3rd, Greens even more distant 4th

Earl Craven & Wolston (Rural)

3T. Safe usually 70%. Lower this year, perhaps result of proposal to close local Fire Station. Lab main second party. LDs or Greens get about 10% if they stand

Eastlands (Town)

3LD Safe. Usually 60-70%. Cons second on 20-25%, Lab usually on 11-12% but turnout improved result this year.

Fosse (Rural)

2T. Safe. 70-75% usually lower this year – perhaps turnout, perhaps Fire Station. LDs second by a few percent

Hillmorton (Town)

3T. Usually 44%, but Bill Sewell seems to have large personal vote. LDs have replaced Lab as second place, but they are very close.

Lawford & Kings Newham (Mixed)

2T. Marginal, becoming safer. Was seat of anti-Cement Works campaigner Patricia Wyatt, and she comes second here as an Independent. Lab usually 3rd, but in 2008 BN stood (only time in Borough elections since 2006)

Leam Valley (Rural)

1T. Safe – 80% in 2007, LD stood, but not Lab.

New Bilton (Town)

3L usually about 50% but lower this year, with Cons usually on 30%, LDs up to 22%. In 2008, no T stood, and Greens took 27%. This year both stood, and Greens 4th on 6%.

Newbold (Town)

3L usually 47-48%, 43% this year. Cons slipping from 35% to 30%, LDs usually on about 20% – Greens came 3rd in 2008 taking most of LD vote, this year collapsed to under 5%

Overslade (Town)

3T usually 50-57%, 44% this year. Lad around 25-30%, LDs usually 11-13%, but nearly 20% this year. Greens 5-7% (seem to take votes from LDs)

Paddox (Town)

2LD safe 53-61%. Cons on about 30%, Lab on 10-12%

Ryton-on-Dunsmore (Rural)

1T safe 59%. Lab second on 22%. Patricia Wyatt stood when no election in Lawford, came 3rd on 19%

Wolvey

1T ultra-safe. Over 90%, only challenger was Labour

By Party

Tories – dominate the rural areas, where once Independents used to have a chance. Also do well on the outskirts of town – Hillmorton and Admirals, Bilton and Brownsover North. Also win in the central ward of Overslade. 28 councillors

Labour – based in the north and west part of the core town area – Brownsover South, Newbold, New Bilton & Benn. 10 councillors

Lib Dems – have a clump of wards to the south and easy of the town centre – Caldecott, Eastlands & Paddox. Losing ground in Dunchurch & Knightlow. 9 councillors

Greens – Sometimes can get a good 3rd place, but generally seem to split the vote. It’s not consistent where the split comes from – Labour, Lib Dems or even Tories. Generally losing support since 2007.

BNP – stood once in Lawford & Kings Newham, got 16% (which seems to be the usual peak across the country when they first stand). Hopefully will not stand again

Independents – There used to be four Ind councillors, now none are left. Patricia Wyatt is the only one consistently trying to get back in. Dave Elsom stood as an Independent in Hillmorton in 2008, but for the LDs there this year. He was a Tory some years ago (assuming it’s the same Mr Elsom as I saw on an old report about 2002 elections).

Overall

I can’t see many changing trends at all, the past few years has seen very consistent results over time. I expect that the Tories will get the last seat in Dunchurch when it’s up next (2011?) all else being equal. They could also take Brownsover South from Labour with a small swing. Benn could become a 3-way marginal if the Labour vote slips. However, Labour’s vote was already probably at a low in this period, and certainly they were losing seats that had been won in the 2002-2004 election cycle. So if Labour starts to recover generally, and if people want to protest against a Tory-Lib Dem coalition, chances are that local results will move towards Labour. Of course, we won’t see that until next year at the earliest, and there may be a honeymoon effect for one or other coalition party.

In terms of personal votes, I detect positive ones for Bill Sewell and Peter Butlin of the Tories and the Ravenhalls for the Lib Dems. On the other hand, David Wright seems to be unpopular for the Tories. Other than that, there isn’t much variation in each ward, so for the most part it looks like people are voting by party.

So what now?

The election is over, and so is my recovery period. My blisters have stopped throbbing and I’ve caught up on the lost sleep. And now we have… um… no real certainty.

First off, my result:

  • NEWSOME Paul Michael Samuel – The Conservative Party Candidate – 861 (25%)
  • RICHARDS Owen Keir – The Labour Party Candidate – 706 (21%)
  • ROODHOUSE Jerry – Liberal Democrat – 1,818 (54%) ELECTED

It’s not a huge surprise. At the last borough election in 2008, the results were:

  • Malcolm Bassan (Con)…368 (21%)
  • *SUE PEACH (LibDem)…1,168 (67%)
  • Kathleen Yu (Lab)…214 (12%)

Turnout was nearly doubled, but Labour’s vote trebled, the greatest proportional increase. Of course, even then I was still about 150 votes behind the Tory and 1000 voted behind the winning Lib Dem, just as my predecessor was. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me for their support, and especially to those who helped in the campaign.

Elsewhere in the Borough, the only east to change hands was Dunchurch and Knightlow. The Lib Dems were defending after the death of Ron Ravenhall, but the Tories won. As a result, the Tories now have a majority of 9 and Labour are the second-largest party.

I was very disappointed to see the swing across Rugby in the General Election. Andy King was, by all accounts, a great MP and he and the local party put a lot of effort in. I met spoke to quite a few people who said they were voting for him personally. I hope that he’s not too upset with the outcome.

But the main question is what is the actual outcome. Labour lost, of course. But not by as much as many thought, and we did far better than the opinion polls of only a few months ago would have suggested. The Conservatives failed to win. They should have been able to capitalise on the economy, on Brown’s unpopularity, and on the niceness of their leader, but they couldn’t. They came close, but clearly do not have a mandate to govern, at least not alone. The Lib Dems somehow managed to lose seats while gaining votes. One thing of note that some high-profile MPs lost – Lembit Opik and Dr Evan Harris among them.

Labour can possibly form a coalition with the Lib Dems, but would need more suppport. Even with the allied Northern Ireland parties (the SDLP with Labour and the Alliance with the Lib Dems), there would only be a total of 317 seats, several short of a majority. It would be unstable and would rely on more support from small parties such as the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, DUP or Greens. So it makes sense for the Liberals to see what they can get from the Tories first.

Of course, that means a fair bit of compromise. The Lib Dems have a strong case to press for electoral reform – they had 23% of the vote and less than 9% of the seats. The Tories will not want to be seen to concede too much as they feel they should have won outright.

A coalition can damage at least one of the parties in it. On that basis, it may well be best for Labour to wait and see if a Lib/Con alliance can be formed and if so, accept the Opposition role. If it cannot, then that’s the time to make a strong offer to the Liberals. Say, a referendum on PR and other reforms. If such a referendum were to take place and pass, an election would have to be held as soon as practical afterwards anyway.

Knights who say NI

On the national campaign, this NI thing is a bizarre one. It’s not that big a shift, but it does contribute to the long term need to narrow the budget deficit.  As NI is supposed to cover unemployment benefit, state pensions and the NHS, it makes sense for a marginal increase given that all of them have increased over time and are resistant to cuts. The Tory argument (as exemplified by Duncan Crow, who thinks that personal abuse and ignorance combined make a reasonable political argument) ignores a key element, one which the government find hard to express and is not easily demonstrated over a sound-bite driven media, but is important nevertheless:

The Tory plan is to make deeper cuts in 2010 in order to pay for not increasing NI from 2011. Those cuts in spending would inevitably mean the loss of public sector jobs. This would mean less money going into the economy via their wages (even public employees need to use the private sector to buy food and other goods) and would increase pressure on unemployment. It would also mean less money going to private companies who supply the public sector. The next six-nine months are pretty important for the UK economy in terms of the recovery. Germany could slip into recession again, and so could other countries which have cut early. By April 2011 we should be through that crucial period when the recovery needs to be nurtured and the private sector is able to grow naturally, and can better absorb a marginal tax increase. It also seems to me that a mixture of measures designed to increase revenue as well as control spending are more likely to be effective than to simply try and control spending.

No-one denies that the current budget deficit is unsustainable. Most of it is caused by the recession, of course, and so the end of that will see it come down quickly – it’s already lower than expected by £11bn. However, the question that is crucial is how fast and how early we take action to further reduce it. If we don’t act at all, or act too late, then there will be more long term debt to pay off, which isn’t great. If we act too fast or too drastically, the effects on the wider economy can damage it’s capacity to recover. The problem with pretending that the public sector is separate from the ‘real’ economy is that it isn’t – they are inextricably linked. Public debt is a private asset (ie: governments borrow by selling bonds that investors buy); money that is paid to employees, public or private, goes into the cash economy as it is spent; Things that the public sector doesn’t do can have an effect on the private sector, or can draw activity into an already hard-pressed voluntary sector.

What’s more this false dichotomy doesn’t chime with the same Tory propaganda that equates the public debt issue with the national economy – it’s perfectly possible to have a large public debt and a strong economy or a low debt and a weak economy, but they seem to bang on as if they are the same thing.

My belief is that a reluctance to be seen to increase taxes is the main reason that the deficit started to grow in the years before the recession. No-one complained when new schools were being built, when NHS waiting lists came down from many months to a matter of weeks, when OAPs were given a guaranteed minimum income. But at the same time, no-one wanted to pay for those things, it seems. The tax burden has not really changed much since 1997 (indeed, it hasn’t changed much since the late 1980s), but we still have the basic problem with democracy – people will vote for more spending or lower taxes, and choose between them, but they are reluctant to vote explicitly for spending cuts or higher taxes. I’d prefer that the government had been bolder in the second term and established the principle of ‘you want it? you pay for it’. Mind you, at least we did better than the US government which slashed taxes are probably the worst time possible (as the economy was peaking and they were trying to fight two wars). In the first term, there was a budget surplus, and the long term debt was being drawn down. Keynesian principles should have been kept up, and an open means of tax increase (the 50% band, full NI on higher incomes?). Mind you, the whole of the second term was an opportunity lost – especially after 9/11.

But still, a bunch of business leaders don’t like NI going up? Not a huge surprise. Perhaps we could see what their profits are doing at the moment – M&S for example are seeing profits rise as many of us struggle, and CEO Sir Stuart Rose is very well remunerated and his successor will come in with an even higher package this summer. I’m not sure that these same businessmen would like to see VAT go up by 2.5% instead (which is what the Lib Dems allege the Tories will do if they win power).

Busy busy busy…

I haven’t really much time for writing at the moment, as the General Election means loads of leaflets to deliver. On top of campaigning for Andy King, I’ll be running for Eastlands ward in the RBC (it’s a solid Lib Dem seat, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to win). The evenings when I’m not trudging the streets of Rugby will be spent with my feet in a bath of ice at this rate.

Election campaigns are hard work, and frustrating in that often the main factors are out of the control of those on the ground. Of course, that doesn’t mean that work at the local level can’t have an effect. I saw a group of Tories last night delivering in Southfields. I saw them making two basic errors as they did. Firstly, they didn’t push their leaflets all the way through the letterboxes, which is not really in keeping with the ‘law and order’ stance as it can indicate to a potential burglar that people aren’t in. Secondly, they put leaflets about the Eastlands ward through doors that are in the Caldecott ward. That one is easy to make as the borders in Rugby are somewhat bizarre in places, but an organised party would check these things and have maps and stuff, I’d have thought. I had a quick chat with them, and they didn’t appear to be very local. As I went round, in the space of a couple of minutes I had two blokes open their doors and make a point of giving me (and so Andy I think) the thumbs up. I’ve not had one hostile reaction either so far – mind you, after a few more weeks’ most people might be getting sick of leaflets and PPBs and media reporting and door knocking.

Hopefully though, we can end up in a month’s time with a Labour government – or at the very least not a Tory one, a Labour MP in Rugby and even a Labour councillor in Eastlands.

Interesting Times

Mondays are usually a bit of a blur for me. Today was worse than usual because the M1 was stuffed up and I ended up trying to get to work through the backroads of Northamptonshire to make a meeting at 9:30 – only to get there and realise I’d left my pass at home so would have to go through the security palaver, making me five minutes late.

Harumph! But then a bit of news from the homeland came my way – Laura Moffatt has decided not to stand for another term as MP for Crawley. Only last week she was making a public point of refusing her pay increase and next week was due to debate with the other candidates next Thursday. The seat was about the most marginal in the country, with a majority of 37 over the Tories, and so with no swing it was vulnerable *and everyone has known that for nearly 5 years*. With the Tories making gains in the polls between 2007 and 2009, the seat looked lost (although it’s hard for an insider to accept such things as certain), and Laura did not stand down. Now that the polls are narrowing, the race would be tighter but still a very tough one to win. I get the impression that this was a personal decision, not one force on her, but I don’t know what it is, beyond the stated one: “The work of an MP is challenging and exciting but it takes its toll on family life which is why I have taken this difficult decision.” One theory I heard today was that she was worried she might win.

The timing is awful for the local party though. There’s very little time to organise a selection before the campaign officially starts (which could well be soon after next week’s budget), and a candidate would need to be in place ready. The seat was an All-Woman-Shortlist for 1997, so there could be pressure for it to be so again. There are a load of people on the national shortlist who could go for it, but it may be that a local person would be better placed – and would avoid accusations of being a parachute. Of course the question then would be who locally would be a good candidate.

When is local not local?

In my home town, they recently had a by-election. The ward in question, Northgate, had been Labour for a long time, until in the mid-eighties the Lib Dems, through a particularly active and dedicated couple, took one and then the other seat. The two of them held on for all this time, but the husband stood down in the summer due to a personal matter.

Both Labour and the Tories had been vying for contention over the years, and by-elections for local councils tend to be low turnout affairs, so the seat was always know to be up for grabs.

The Tories had been putting leaflets out, but apparently hadn’t wanted an early poll – I’ve heard a rumour that they wanted to wait until the clocks went back so that evenings were less in inviting for canvassing. Labour not having the Ashcroft and Horsham financial backing had people on the ground to campaign instead.

The only things I saw about the campaign were on a couple of blogs. Duncan Crow, a local Tory councillor had two posts, pointing at errors in the other main parties’ leaflet. Andrew Skudder, a Labour ex-councillor, mentioned the feeling in the campaign and then the Tory reaction to it.

In the second of Skuds’ posts, he mentioned one of the things in the Tory leaflets that may have counted against them. They claimed that their candidate was “the only local candidate”. Fine, but as it is, none of the candidates were from Northgate. The Tory’s address was given in Three Bridges, which is near Northgate, but with Crawley’s easily demarcated neighbourhoods, it would be obvious that he was from a different area.

It strikes me as odd, that when one Tory is picking at minor errors in other party’s leaflets (in both cases probably down to slips in copy editing), their own leaflets contain a stonking falsehood that any voter can see is such when they come to read the ballot paper.

The result?

THOMAS, Geraint (Labour) 527
SMITH, Ryan (Conservative) 446
WISE, Darren (Liberal Democrat) 230
KHAN, Arshad (Justice) 13

Bottler Cameron

You know how the Tories keep calling Brown a ‘bottler’ for not calling an election when he didn’t need to? Well now Dave Cameron has showed how much of a coward he is:

Cameron rejects televised debates

You see, Cameron is all in favour of one debate, held on Sky News, which he can bone up for and come out looking great. He’s not in favour of a series of debates held across the terrestrial broadcasters as well as Sky, to include the Cabinet/Shadow Cabinet/Lib Dem leadership team members for particular policy areas such as Foreign Affairs or (and this is the one that probably scares Dave the most) the Exchequer.

I can see why one debate is much easier to prepare for than a series of them. I mean, it allows for a bit more accountability, and gives voters more opportunity to see how the politicians perform. I can also see why Dave only wants a leader debate, because it’s all about ‘Dave’, and it may be that he doesn’t want Osborne making the Tories look like morons on what should be their strongest policy area*

But if the Tories really do think that they are the best party to run the country, they should have able to see through a proper series of debates – especially if, as they claim, it was their idea to hold the things.

Cowards.

* Of course, it’s my contention that while everyone thinks that the Tories are better at running the economy and the Treasury, they don’t actually understand capitalist economics and they can’t tell the difference between a government’s budget and that of the wider economy.

Bad day to go back to work

Mondays are bad enough for most people. I’m not too keen on them, myself. For MPs, today must have been a day full of dread. After a long recess in the summer, and the seaside shindigs of Conference season, they came back to the new session of Parliament. To add to the Monday feeling, most of them will have had a letter from Sir Thomas Legg regarding expenses that they’ve been claiming over the past five years.

Some will have been given a clean bill of health. Some will be asked to provide more information on particular claims or pay back the money relating to them. We don’t yet know which MPs have has which, or how all of the latter group will be responding – there have been hints that some MPs will resent the retrospective application of limits that were not in place when the claims were made.

So far, we know that Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been asked to pay back £910 because he claimed over £1000 in some years for gardening. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister and leader of Labour, has been asked to pay back £12,45.10, mostly because he claimed more that £2000 a year for cleaning, but includes £302.50 for gardening in the same way as Clegg, and £1396 for a bill that was mistakenly paid  twice.

I have to say that I was surprised at the amounts that Brown is being asked to pay back. On the one hand, there were no stated limits for cleaning or gardening claims, but on the other hand, the £1000 and £2000 being retroactively used are not unreasonable. Certainly this is politically very bad for the government, and for the PM personally.

However, the Tories should not be quick to condemn. Firstly, because Cameron is in the category of having questions to answer, and secondly because until we have a picture of how all MPs have acted, they can’t be sure that there are no prominent Conservatives with major problems. Some of the ‘questions’ may lead to more than just a request to repay.

This is going to rumble on for some time yet.

Spare us the cutter

The major parties are competing in earnest to see who can cut most from public spending. The Lib Dems have performed a massive volte-face and where a few years ago they positioned themselves as to the left of New Labour on some things, they now have a leadership who promise ‘savage cuts’. The Tories are trying very hard to conceal their glee at the prospect of being able to slash budgets, particularly where their favourite bugbears are concerned – benefits, social care, etc. Labour are also talking about savings that can be made.

Now, of course, there is always a good case for trimming fat in public services. Large organisations tend to ossify over time, leading to waste. Poor management (the British disease, and which afflicts the private sector too) needs to be challenged. Providers should be kept on their toes.

However, the media and a lot of politicians seem to assume that cuts (and drastic ones at that) are necessary. The right wing are selling the line that the country is ‘bankrupt’, or almost there, and that the sooner the knife is wielded, the better.

I disagree. What’s more quite a few others, who are more expert in economics than I am, disagree. Duncan Weldon, for example, points out in a recent post on George Osborne’s speech that demanding lower spending across the board appeared to make the 1930s depression far worse and last far longer.

The figure most often used is that we are facing a budget deficit of £175bn. Sure, that’s a lot of money for the government to be spending over its income. But this deficit is made up of four factors:

1) Because there’s a recession, tax intake is lower.

2) Because there’s a recession, spending on things like benefits is higher

3) In order to stabilise the economy, and with the hope of stimulating growth, the government has spent billions on on-off measures and cut some taxes temporarily.

4) There is an underlying deficit

(1) – (3) will all end soon. With a return to growth, tax revenues will increase. As that growth beds in, the stimulus spending can be reined back. When that growth starts to create new jobs, spending pressures will decrease.

What’s more, a large part of the extra spending was to buy bits of failing banks. The shares were priced very low when bought (because bank stocks were understandably pretty undesirable in late 2008, especially those of banks liable to go under), but of course a recovery – and particularly even a moderate one for banking – will see the value of those shares rise. Not only will loans be repaid, but the Government could end up making a pretty good profit.

Additionally, the problem with cutting public spending while the private sector has not fully recovered is that the two ‘sides’ are not unrelated. Public spending largely means people in jobs, who end up with some money to spend. They will use that money to buy stuff, from the private sector largely. Cut job, or freeze wages, and discretionary spending goes down. Not a problem if the private sector is healthy and has solid growth. Potentially disastrous if the private sector is at the bottom of a recessionary curve and any growth is weak.

Keynes is still relevant today. You borrow to spend in a recession, to limit and mitigate the effects. You don’t start trying to pay that back until you are in growth. The fact that during the last period of growth we did not draw down much of the debt (although it was about the same as a proportion of GDP in 2007 as it was in 1997) does not alter the principle – growth is the best way to curb public debt, but cuts in spending can negatively affect growth.