Andy Burnham, then?

Last Friday night, Andy Burnham came to Rugby to speak at the first event being run by the new Warwickshire Fabians. He was much better than I thought he would be, and he’s got a lot of very good ideas. I’m just not sure if I can see him as a Leader though.

As he is currently Health spokesman and his last post in the Labour Government was as Health Secretary, a lot of what he talked about was related to the NHS. Of course, the Tories are making a lot of changes to the NHS while at the same time trying to impose budget restraint, and this means that there’s a lot to talk about. He also outlined his idea for a ‘National Care Service’, to provide free care for the elderly paid for with a 10% tax on your assets.

The tax part may alarm, but his other big idea is to introduce a Land Value Tax which would replace Council Tax, Stamp Duty and Inheritance Tax. If this happened first, then the 10% Care Tax, hypothecated to ensuring that people don’t end up selling their homes just to provide for their own care arrangements, could well be more popular than IHT.

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Party of Five

I’m still not sure who I’m going to be voting for in the Leadership ballot, and so something that isn’t simply about personalities or who got the first contact with the media on today’s Tory / Lib-Dem idiocy is useful.

Harry Barnes has been campaigning for some time to get each of the candidates to provide a ‘Manifesto of Intent’. After months of badgering, he’s succeeded, and they are available at the Dronfield Blather. Definitely worth a read before voting.

In addition, tonight Andy Burnham is coming down to Rugby to speak at the first meeting of the new local branch of the Fabians. I’ll pop along to see what he has to say…

Picking a winner

This week two things started properly. One was the Labour Leadership elections, with five candidate qualifying for the final round. Alas, John McDonnell didn’t make it, but at least people stopped nominating Millibands for the other two to get in. I’ve yet to decide who to support. I would put Diane Abbott in as my no1, but my girlfriend has told me I’m not allowed to (so much for sistahood, eh?). All I know is that Balls is no5 in my book and nothing’s likely to change that unless it turns out that Andy Burnham is even worse.

But for now we have the really important competition down in South Africa. This time I will be backing seven teams in the World Cup:

England
USA (Clint Dempsey & Carlos Bocanegra)
South Africa (Kagisho Dikgacoi)
Nigeria (Dickson Etuhu)
Ghana (John Paintsil)
Australia (Mark Schwarzer)
Japan (Junichi Inamoto)

Obviously England are the main team I’ll be supporting. Not with silly flags or by wearing the shirt, let alone with face paint, but in the time-honoured tradition of watching them on the telly with beers in hand. But all of the others have current or past Fulham players in their squads, so I’d want to see them progress. Besides, Ghana and Australia doing well means Germany doing badly, Nigeria are up against Argentina and South Africa are in a group with France so that’s the main rivals covered. None of those teams are ones that I wouldn’t want to see do well anyway, they are all reasonable footballing sides, with a fair amount of underdog status.

If Fulham had a Uruguayan or Italian international I’d have been mightily torn between backing a Whites player and my loathing of negative sides that cheat their way through. When England play the USA tomorrow I certainly want England to win, if for nothing else other than to shut the Yanks up about 1950. But as long as England look good to get through the group, I will want the Americans to do well against Slovenia and Algeria before shockingly putting the Germans out in Round 2.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the games where Whites players feature. I was at work for the opening game of the tournament, which saw Dikgacoi in action against Mexico, so I am reliant on the highlights and web-reports. 1-1 is a good result for the hosts, and while they were lucky not to concede in the first half they could have nicked the game at the end. The Mexicans are usually a very good side, and are often underestimated at the World Cup. They’ve have made it to the knockout rounds in the last four tournaments, and each time fallen at the first hurdle.

Our lad Kagisho made his mark on the game: booked midway through the first half for fouling the rampant Giovani, failing to convert a headed corner at the end of the first half, and then being involved in the build up play for the South Africa goal in the second half.

I’ll be making with more frequent posts (‘onest!) on how my favoured seven teams and the Fulham contingent are getting on. In the meantime, here’s how I hope the next few games go:

Tonight
Uruguay 0-0 France (with several players sent off and loads of bookings. Any Uruguayan who commits a foul to be injured as a result)

Tomorrow
S Korea 1-0 Greece (The Greeks beaten when their offside trap fails)
Nigeria 2-0 Argentina (Maradona turns purple as Etuhu gets an assist)
England 3-1 USA (Rooney and Defoe goals win the game after Dempsey opens the scoring)

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?

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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).