A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, the Labour Party and Hackney - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Council by-election results

There were three by-elections yesterday:

Radstock Ward, Bath & NE Somerset UA. LD gain from Ind. LD 542 (40.0%, +40) Lab 386 (28.5%, -18.2) Ind 370 (27.3%, -9.7) Con 55 (4.1%, -12.2). Swing of 29.1% from Lab to LD since 2007. This is in the NE Somerset constituency gained by the Tories from Labour partly as a result of boundary changes.

Haywards Heath Franklands Ward, Mid Sussex DC. Con hold. Con 545 (50.8%, +1.7), LD 464 (43.3%, +27.8), Ind 63 (5.9%, -21.4). Swing of 13.1% from Con to LD since 2007.

Bilston North Ward, Wolverhampton MBC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 1292 (64.9%, +19.6), Con 460 (23.1%, -6.5), BNP 131 (6.6%, -5.2), UKIP 55 (2.8%, +2.8), LD 52 (2.6%, -10.7). Swing of 13.1% from Con to Lab since May this year. This is in Pat McFadden's Wolverhampton SE constituency.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Latest MP support figures

Ed Miliband's campaign have just press released that they have raised £39k in small donations and that seven extra MPs have signed up to Ed's campaign:

Martin Caton MP (did not nominate any candidate)
Cathy Jamieson MSP, MP (nominated Burnham)
Chi Onwurah MP (nominated Abbott)
Linda Riordan MP (nominated Abbott)
Gavin Shuker MP (nominated Abbott)
Jon Trickett MP (nominated Abbott)
Joan Walley MP (nominated Burnham)

I think this is what is known in the trade as momentum.

Given John Mann's switch from Ed to David after the Bassetlaw primary, the running totals in the PLP/EPLP bit of the electoral college are:

David Miliband - 92 MPs + 6 MEPs - 12.08% of electoral college
Ed Miliband - 69 MPs + 6 MEPs - 9.25% of electoral college
Ed Balls - 34 MPs - 4.19% of electoral college
Andy Burnham - 29 MPs + 1 MEP - 3.7% of electoral college
Diane Abbott - 20 MPs - 2.5% of electoral college
Not declared, undecided or not voting - 13 MPs - 1.6% of electoral college

UPDATE:

Slight change to the figures above. I now make it:
David Miliband - 95 MPs + 6 MEPs
Ed Miliband - 69 MPs + 6 MEPs
Ed Balls - 34 MPs
Andy Burnham - 29 MPs + 1 MEP
Diane Abbott - 19 MPs (of whom I think at least 4 may not end up voting for her)
Not declared, undecided or not voting - 11 MPs

Labour's positioning on the deficit

Dan Hodges has written an interesting piece on Labour Uncut (http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/07/29/dont-go-to-war-over-the-deficit-says-dan-hodges/#more-2119) about how Labour can get the balance right on being seen to fight unpopular cuts without being seen as irresponsible "deficit deniers". I'm trying to mull this over but with more numbers!

I'm concious that I may have mangled the numbers a bit - if anyone from the IFS or any other economist is reading this and spots any double counting please shout in the comments and I'll correct my figures.

At the General Election we were only proposing to fill 70% of the budget gap by 2016/17. There's an important choice to be made by the new Leader and Shadow Chancellor about whether we need to go for a 100% fill now (the maximising prudence and pain position) or stick with 70% or go somewhere in between. If we shift from 70% we need a good explanation why we now disagree with our own previous stance. If we stick at 70% we have £25.8bn (30% of the gap) of Coalition cuts we can credibly oppose (in addition to the £8.2bn explained below) but the public might not wear that as credible.

Putting that big question to one side the rest of the line we had at the General Election which was fiscally prudent but a long way from the carnage the Coalition are going in for.

The essentials were:
  • We wouldn't have made any cuts this year as that endangers the fragile economic recovery. The extra growth this would have created would have generated more tax and entailed fewer people on the dole, thus partly paying for itself (I've not seen estimates of the numbers involved in this, would welcome being pointed to them).
  • We would only be seeking to deal with the deficit - not overachieve/over cut and make cuts that are greater than the size of the deficit. Institute of Fiscal Studies numbers put the budget gap at £86bn but the Coalition cuts total £91bn.
  • We promoted a 30%-70% mix between tax increases and spending cuts to bridge the gap (£25.8bn vs £60.2bn) whilst the Coalition package is 26%-74% after being softened from an intended 20%-80% by the retention of measures from our last Budget (£22.36bn vs £63.64bn).

So the "cuts difference" between our existing policy (ignoring the 70% fill of the gap and assuming we fill it 100%) and the Coalition's is £3.2bn + £5bn (£8.2bn) + whatever the increase in tax take and reduction in benefit spend is projected as from us having kept the fiscal stimulus going for an extra year.

The incoming Leader and Shadow Cabinet should produce a shadow spending review report to come out when Osborne's does on 20th October which would set out in absolutely clear terms:

  • The projected impact of starting cutting a year later
  • What our £25.8bn of tax increases would look like and how they would be more progressive than the Coalition's regressive VAT increase
  • Where our £60.2bn of spending cuts would fall
  • What the £8.2bn (plus?) of Coalition cuts that we wouldn't do would be
  • Any other differences i.e. things we would cut that the Coalition isn't going to, which therefore enables us to reject other of their cuts

£8.2 bn is not peanuts. It's 9% of their total package. Assuming a public sector employee might cost £30k a year including employer's on costs, it's 273,333 jobs saved - without quantifying the impact of those 273,333 people still paying tax and not receiving dole, and the social impact on them and their families of them still being in work, and the wider benefits to society of whatever public service they were providing. Or looked at another way its over £136 of cuts not happening per person who lives in the UK.

As Bob Hawke once said "the difference between a Labor government and a Coalition government may only be an inch [or £8.2bn] but if you live in that inch it is a very important difference".

Assuming we go for a 100% fill of the budget gap, it's that £8.2bn that the political battle needs to be around. We need to define what's in it and fight those cuts - condemning every cut when we accept £60.2bn of them are necessary will make us look irresponsible and not serious about being a party of government again.

Why?

Another day brings another bizarre email piece of muppetry from Compass.

Why are they running a "Labour Leadership Ballot"?

They are not an affiliate so have no nomination rights.

I presume that like all the other campaigning groups within the Party they have supporters of different leadership candidates in their ranks - in Compass' case quite likely all five. What does measuring the support do? Will they be issuing a line to their members demanding they back the winner of this internal ballot?

And why make a big deal of encouraging people to join Compass to take part in this ballot which has not a lot of impact or meaning? ("You have until 6pm today (Thursday 29 July) to become a member in order to take part in these important elections.")

If they wanted to maximise their influence in the party wouldn't they be better off emailing their list recommending people who aren't party members yet join the Labour Party so they can vote in the real leadership ballot not a mickey mouse one?

As Compass may be unfamiliar with the Labour Party website, here's the link: https://secure2.labour.org.uk/join/

I live in hope that someone on planet Compass actually understands that getting involved in the Labour Party and its "actually existing" structures is more important than getting involved in their own think-tank/faction/parallel party.

Monday, July 26, 2010

CLP Nominations - some analysis

Some geeky stuff about the CLP nominations for Leader:

By membership size of CLPs (2008 figures as these are the most recent available):

Ed Balls got nominations from CLPs with a total 2008 membership of 3,985
Diane Abbott got nominations from CLPs with a total 2008 membership of 4,861
Andy Burnham got nominations from CLPs with a total 2008 membership of 9,670
Ed Miliband got nominations from CLPs with a total 2008 membership of 37,766
David Miliband got nominations from CLPs with a total 2008 membership of 43,614

Of the 20 largest CLPs in the country David Miliband got 5, Ed Miliband got 3, Abbott got 2, Burnham got 1 and the remaining 9 did not nominate.

By region:

Scotland - 18 CLP nominations for David Miliband, 14 for Ed Miliband, 4 for Burnham, 2 for Abbott, 2 for Balls. 20 did not nominate.
Wales - 10 for Ed Miliband, 8 for David Miliband, 1 for Balls. 21 did not nominate.
East Midlands - 12 for David Miliband, 9 for Ed Miliband, 4 for Abbott, 1 for Burnham. 20 did not nominate.
Eastern - 19 for Ed Miliband, 11 for David Miliband, 4 for Abbott. 24 did not nominate.
London - 24 for Ed Miliband, 19 for David Miliband, 4 for Abbott, 3 for Burnham, 1 for Balls. 22 did not nominate.
North - 14 for David Miliband, 5 for Ed Miliband, 2 for Burnham, 1 for Balls. 11 did not nominate. North West - 21 for David Miliband, 18 for Burnham, 12 for Ed Miliband, 2 for Abbott, 2 for Balls. 16 did not nominate.
South East - 23 for David Miliband, 17 for Ed Miliband, 7 for Burnham, 2 for Balls, 1 for Abbott. 34 did not nominate.
South West - 11 for Ed Miliband, 10 for David Miliband, 2 for Burnham, 1 for Abbott. 30 did not nominate.
West Midlands - 15 for David Miliband, 11 for Ed Miliband, 5 for Balls, 2 for Burnham, 2 for Abbott. 24 did not nominate.
Yorkshire - 14 for Ed Miliband, 12 for David Miliband, 4 for Burnham, 3 for Balls. 21 did not nominate.


UPDATE: According to labourlist, "Bethnal Green & Bow, Hampstead & Kilburn, Poplar & Lime house and South Dorset all voted to nominate Ed Miliband but are not included here due to problems with their paperwork." This would have taken Ed M up to nominations from CLPs witha total membership of 40,174 as 3 of these are very large CLPs. It would have given him an increased lead in London (27 CLPs) and 5 rather than 3 of the top 20, equalling his brother.

Nominations Close

Labour Party Leadership supporting nominations closed at 1pm today:

CLPs
David Miliband – 165
Ed Miliband – 148
Andy Burnham – 44
Diane Abbott – 20
Ed Balls – 17

Trade Unions (in approx size order)

Unite – Ed Miliband
Unison - Ed Miliband
GMB - Ed Miliband
USDAW - David Miliband
CWU - Ed Balls
Community - David Miliband
UCATT - Ed Miliband
TSSA - Diane Abbott
ASLEF - Diane Abbott
NUM – Ed Miliband
Unity - Ed Miliband

Socialist Societies (in approx size order)

Labour & Socialist Clubs – Andy Burnham
BAME Members – Diane Abbott
Labour Students – David Miliband
Disabled Members Group – Ed Miliband
Socialist Health Association – Ed Miliband
Labour Lawyers – Ed Miliband

Friday, July 23, 2010

The most extraordinary Focus leaflet ever?

This is probably the most extraordinary Lib Dem leaflet I've ever seen:


The key bit reads: "“The main reason we are writing to you is to ask what you would like us to do, seeing as the Liberal Democrats have chosen to form a coalition with the Conservatives, never considering the people in the deprived north.
...
We are ashamed, as you are, of what the National Lib Dems have done in joining the Conservatives.”


Ed Miliband

I have some very good friends involved in David Miliband's campaign. Generally they are my allies on the policy issues and internal elections facing Labour and I am very grateful that many of them have helped me get nominated for the NEC.

Whilst the campaign is being fought without the acrimony that has characterised some Labour leadership elections, the likely very tight result between the two Milibands is causing a bit of what I can only describe as naughtiness in the David camp in terms of how they are trying to portray Ed (and indeed Ed Balls).

There seems to be a concerted effort to paint Ed (and Ed) as wild-eyed leftists. This was evident in recent commentary by my friend Paul Richards (http://www.labourlist.org/paul-richards-leadership-half-way-state-race) and by Dan Hodges (http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/07/22/were-finally-starting-to-see-who-should-lead-the-labour-party-observes-dan-hodges/) and in press articles by Phil Collins and Anne McElvoy.

The charge sheet seems to be that if you have secured the support of major trade unions, and you are trying to develop a policy agenda that moves us forward from where we have been, if you don't believe in a high-Blairite marketisation agenda, and you want to take the fight to the Tories on cuts QED you are the spawn of Trotsky. We've come to a bizarre state of affairs when being supported by pragmatic trade unionists like the GMB (basically the industrial wing of the North East Labour Right) and Unison Labour Link (the hardest-line bashers of the SWP and Respect in the business) is something to be attacked for in a Labour leadership election. On policy, I think if Blair was running now he'd be more likely to do what Ed M is doing - look for ways to modernise our approach in light of the objectively changed circumstances of economic crisis and climate change, than to think that the market-orientated approach which made sense in 1994-1997 still represented modernisation now. Real revisionists don't stick to a stale formula - they constantly try to be radical and move with the times.

These attempts to paint Ed M into a left corner aren't in the interests of the Party because if Ed wins the Tories will use these caricatures as ammo to attack him and the whole party as having moved to the left, which it won't have done. They don't even make sense in terms of David's campaign strategy - there's something heroically kamikaze about trying to get votes from Labour and trade union members by hailing how ideologically pure a New Labourite your man is and accusing his opponents of pandering to ... er ... oh yes the party they are trying to get elected leader of.

The same mistake was made by Hilary Clinton's supporters against Obama in the primaries. They misread and misrepresented his radicalism and profile as the change candidate as being on the left on a traditional left-right spectrum. They were wrong about Obama and the Davidistas are wrong about Ed Miliband.

Frankly I find the whole proposition that Ed Miliband is the left candidate laughable and ludicrous based on my own contact with him. I decided to back him after hearing him speak at the Labour First fringe meeting at Birmingham Spring Conference 2008 and the Labour First AGM at Brandhall Labour Club this year. His willingness to engage with a group of people who are the organisational descendants of 1980s Solidarity Group of MPs (in some cases the same people) doesn't really put him on the left of the Labour spectrum. We put out leaflets backing NATO and the nuclear deterrent. He seems quite comfortable addressing our gatherings and got a fantastic reception. Ed Balls - equally maligned during this campaign as pandering to the left (for what, opposing cuts to BSF?) - has also addressed Labour First's AGM and was nominated by MPs who have been attacked as "on the right" for decades.

Ed Miliband's parliamentary supporters aren't dismissible as leftie rebels. They include some of the brightest young modernisers in the party like Luciana Berger and Rachel Reeves.

Ed M has also been attacked because he might get elected on second preference transfers. But this is not a first-past-the-post election. The whole point of Labour's electoral system is that you are supposed to get second preference transfers from other candidates. It is irrelevant who wins on first preferences because it is not a FPTP election. If you can't get transfers you need to ask yourselves why and whether you should be running.

If Ed Miliband wins it will be because he has proved he can transcend the ridiculous Blair/Brown divisions of recent years and unite the party. Because he is acceptable to almost everyone and does not alienate people we need to motivate, enthuse and unite in the campaign to return us to government. Because he is as relaxed about going to talk with a Progress or Labour First audience as a Compass one. Because he can get people as diverse as me and Mark Seddon working together on his campaign.

I've been involved at the sharp end in the CLPs of every major struggle to drag the Labour Party onto the centre ground and defeat both the hard and soft left since I joined in 1988. I would not throw away 22 years of fighting to make Labour electable on a whim to back a candidate who would reverse that progress. I have spoken at GC after GC about the need to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent. I would not back a candidate who put our strategic defence at risk.

Disparaging comparisons are made with Neil Kinnock - not least because Neil is backing Ed. I can't buy into some Year Zero 1994 analysis of Labour history that plays down Neil's role in modernising the party. Tony Blair only achieved what he did because of the heroism of Neil Kinnock in taking on Militant and ditching unilateralism. If he had inherited 260 or 270 seats like Blair did, or like either Miliband will, he would have become PM. It is an honour not an insult to compare Ed Miliband to Kinnock.

I am proud to be on the moderate wing of the Labour Party and I am proud to support Ed Miliband as a candidate who understands that for Labour to be electable we need to re-modernise our policies for a new era, rebuild the 1997 coalition of core vote and swing vote in the marginals and retake the South from the Tories.

I respect colleagues whose judgement is that David can better do those things, but I would urge them to campaign for David on his merits, not to target Ed with silly smears that misrepresent his politics.

All of us on the centre and right of the party should be celebrating that we have four good candidates running from broadly our tradition and that there is no prospect of the hard left's candidate, Diane, winning. Trying to artificially drive wedges between the four when they will have to work together under whoever wins is not a clever way forward and it needs to stop now.

Over the years I've been called a Kinnockite, a Blairite and a Brownite. I've been relaxed about all those labels and I intend to be equally relaxed after 25 September if accused of being a Milibandite - whether that's under Miliband D or Miliband E.

A Labour candidate in every by-election

The fly in the ointment in the otherwise good council by-election results is that we did not field a candidate in the by-election in Kensington. I understand this was a local decision by the CLP with some members wanting to stand someone and the majority feeling it was such a safe Tory ward and so soon after the May elections that it wasn't worth it.

I don’t think it’s acceptable for them to have done this, particularly when the voters have had to choose between two parties now in national Coalition together. The Coalition gives us a clear way back in in places that have been Con vs LD fights, but to capitalise on that we have to be on the ballot paper.

I will be using my position on the London Regional Board, and if elected to the NEC my position there, to push for Labour's HQ and regions to make it an absolute priority to field candidates in every single council by-election going forward - and in every ward that we possibly can in the main council elections each May. This will require considerable organisational support and a good deal of friendly persuasion for weaker CLPs but it is vital to getting us back into power that we show we are a national party with no "no-go" areas for our candidates.

Council by-election results

Last night's results, good performances from Labour in lots of places, particularly a gain in Suffolk on a council where we previously had no representation. The results in seats last contested in 2007, which are up for election next May, suggests heavy Labour gains are likely then.

Great Cornard North Ward, Babergh DC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 340 (45.1%, +3.2), Con 201 (26.7%, -31.4), LD 141 (18.7%, +18.7), UKIP 72 (9.5%, +9.5). Swing of 17.3% from Con to Lab since 2007. This is in Sudbury, a London overspill town in the midst of rural Suffolk.

Nethermayne Ward, Basildon BC. LD hold. LD 605 (33.5%, -2.9), Lab 461 (25.5%, +1.9), Con 372 (20.6%, -10.6), UKIP 280 (15.5%, +15.5) BNP 70 (3.9%, -4.9) Ind 18 (1.0%, +1). Swing of 2.4% from LD to Lab since May this year.

Frognal & Fitzjohns Ward, LB Camden. Con hold. Con 1061 (62.6%, +9.4), LD 329 (19.4%, -2.3), Lab 235 (13.9%, -3.9), Green 71 (4.2%, -3.2). Swing of 6.4% from LD to Con since May this year.

Kidlington North Ward, Cherwell DC. LD hold. LD 526 (42.2%, -10.9), Con 419 (33.6%, -12.4), Lab 216 (17.3%, +17.3), UKIP 86 (6.9%, +6.9). Swing of 0.8% from Con to LD since May this year.

Holland Ward, RB Kensington and Chelsea. Con hold. Con 649 (75.0%, +17.4), LD 146 (16.9%, -1)Ind 70 (8.1%, +8.1). Swing of 9.2% from LD to Con since May this year.

Cymmer Ward, Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC. Lab hold. Lab 740 (52.2%, +0.3), PC 470 (33.2%, -14.9), Ind 142 (10.0%, +10), Con 42 (3.0%, +3), Green 23 (1.6%, +1.6). Swing of 7.6% from PC to Lab since 2008.

St Marys and Summercote Ward, Torbay UA. LD gain from Con. LD 801 (52.7%, +17.9), Con 365 (24.0%, -25.0), Lab 195 (12.8%, +12.8), UKIP 159 (10.5%, +10.5). Swing of 21.5% from Con to LD since 2007.

Warwick South Ward, Warwick DC. Con hold. Con 1107 (53.9%, -1.4), Lab 648 (31.6%, +14.7), LD 298 (14.5%, +0.1). Swing of 8.1% from Con to Lab since 2007.

Thatcham South & Crookham Ward, West Berks UA. LD hold. LD 936 (54.3%, -3.1), Con 787 (45.7%, +3.1). Swing of 3.1% from LD to Con since 2007.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Leadership nominations

The news that Unison has decided to back Ed Miliband must make it very likely he can beat his brother as many insiders had assumed Unison would back Burnham.

Current state of play on unions and affiliates is as follows:

Unions - ranked by size of affiliation:

Unite - not nominated yet
Unison - Ed Miliband
GMB - Ed Miliband
USDAW - David Miliband
CWU - Ed Balls
Community - David Miliband
UCATT - Ed Miliband
TSSA - Diane Abbott
ASLEF - Diane Abbott
MU - not nominated yet
BECTU - not nominated yet
BFAWU - not nominated yet
NUM - not nominated yet
Unity - Ed Miliband
NACODS - not nominated yet

Of course, not all union members vote the way they are recommended to by their national leaderships, but about 40-50% did in the 2007 Deputy race.

Of the socialist societies I have only heard about NULSC (Burnham) and SHA (Ed Miliband), this leaves 13 or 14 nominations going spare (I can't remember if Co-Op have nomination rights, and the Fabians I think don't take sides), but in any case these are very small organisations compared to the top half dozen unions, and their members are mainly party activists who will vote their original preference rather than be swayed by a nomination.

On the CLP side, labourlist's unofficial tally seems to suggest Ed Miliband has started to catch up with David in the last few days:

David Miliband - 112 CLPs
Ed Miliband - 94 CLPs
Andy Burnham - 24 CLPs
Diane Abbott - 16 CLPs
Ed Balls - 9 CLPs

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The end of the honeymoon

Didn't last long did it? http://today.yougov.co.uk/commentaries/peter-kellner/honeymoon-over

Monday, July 19, 2010

Election time Down Under

For those of you suffering withdrawal symptoms from all the excitement of the UK General Election, or interested in the parallels of a same-but-different political culture, or hoping for a Labor win to compensate for the lack of a Labour one, or wanting to know what an AV system election looks like, or just sad enough to want to memorise the two-party preferred swing in the Eden-Monaro electorate, literally everything you might want to know about the 2010 Australian Federal Election is online here: http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/guide/

A surfeit of Chairs

Jon Cruddas has announced that Labour should have an elected Chair: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10676702

I'm not sure I understand why we need the "Party Chair" role at all. It was set up by Tony Blair, presumably because he wanted greater control over the party machine but was not much interested in his later period in getting involved in organisational matters himself. This was amid some controversy as the new post was a) appointed by the party leader, not elected and b) there was already a Labour Party Chair, a post held for one year at a time in rotation based usually on seniority by a member of the NEC (currently Ann Black).

My memory is of all the incumbents of the post Blair created actually doing the job of being campaigner-in-chief rather well despite the lack of legitimacy implicit in the way they were appointed.

The situation has since been muddled as Harriet Harman is both the elected Deputy Leader and the appointed Party Chair.

My feeling is that this is one position more than we as a Party need. It's existence as an appointed position undermines the authority and status of the General Secretary, who should be in full command of Labour's campaign machine - the way in which we have repeatedly had cabinet ministers trying to run General Election campaigns in their spare time is ridiculous - as politicians they are (often talented and experienced) amateurs who should stick to being the public face of the campaign, not be interfering in the running of it which should be left to the professional staff.

If it was an elected position it would undermine the political authority of the Leader and Deputy Leader as the holder could claim they had an alternative and rival mandate, or the election for it could be used as a dress rehearsal for future leadership elections, as the Treasurer post was in the 1950s and 1960s. The only way round this would be to ban MPs from holding the post of Chair.

As I cannot think of any value that would be added by the creation of this new elected position, and the old appointed one is clearly undemocratic, I would suggest that the post of Party Chair be abolished and it's responsibilities divided up as follows:
  • General Secretary to have their control over election campaigns and organisation reasserted
  • Leader and Deputy Leader to focus more on building the party and campaigning, as we are not in power so presumably they don't have to spend time running the country
  • Chair of the NEC to take on any literal chairing functions and be voice of the party to the Leadership

Those MPs like Jon who are keen to contribute to the party's wider campaigning should be given a role encouraging and leading activity in groups of non-Labour-held seats - there is no need for them to take part in expensive OMOV ballots or be given fancy titles to enable them to do that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Council by-election results

Yesterday's by-elections, 3 Labour gains in Leicester, Preston and Walsall:

Corfe Mullen South Ward, East Dorset DC. LD hold. LD 478 (55.3%, -1.2), Con 350 (40.5%, -3) UKIP 36 (4.2%, +4.2). Swing of 0.9% from Con to LD since 2007.

Pirbright Ward, Guildford BC. Con hold. Con 364 (64.7%, -1.6) LD 199 (35.3%, +1.6). Swing of 1.6% from Con to LD since 2007.

Diffwtn & Maenofferen Ward, Gwynnedd CBC. Llais Gwynedd hold. Llais Gwynedd 185 (50.5%, +1.2), Plaid Cymru (49.5%, +8.3%). Swing of 3.6% from LG to PC since 2008.

Castle Green Ward, Leicester City Council. Lab gain from Green. Lab 766 (38.1%, +6.5), Green 625 (31.1%, +4.3), Con 411 (20.5%, -2), LD 151 (7.5%, -7.6), Eng Dem 33 (1.6%, +1.6), Lib 11 (0.5%, -1.5), Ind 11 (0.5%, +0.5). Swing of 1.1% from Green to Lab since 2009.

Riversway Ward, Preston BC. Lab gain. Lab 890 (66.7%, +19.5), LD 388 (29.1%, -4.3), Green 56 (4.2%, +4.2). Swing of 11.9% from LD to Lab since May this year. Note absence of Tory candidate.

Wheatley Ward, Rochford DC. Con hold. Con 417 (61%, -7.8), Eng Dem 142 (20.8%, -10.4), LD 78 (11.4%, +11.4), Lab 47 (6.9%, +6.9). Swing of 1.3% from Eng Dem to Con since May this year.

Worplesdon Division, Surrey CC. Con hold. Con 1844 (53.6%, +5.1), LD 1286 (37.4%, +2.3), Lab 193 (5.6%, +1.4), UKIP 78 (2.3%, -9.9), Peace 39 (1.1%, +1.1). Swing of 1.4% from LD to Con since 2009.

Bloxwich West Ward, Walsall MBC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 1142 (53.6%, +18.5), Con 800 (37.5%, -3.2), UKIP 91 (4.3%, +4.3), LD 71 (3.3%, -6.6), Green 28 (1.3%, -0.4). Swing of 10.9% from Con to Lab since May this year. The BSF cuts will have been a major factor in this result.

Greater Marlow Ward, Wycombe BC. Con hold. Con 609 (52.9%, +17.1), Ind 348 (30.2%, -10.8), LD 195 (16.9%, 0). Swing of 14% from Ind to Con since 2007.

NEC Nominations

I'm now aware of 39 CLPs who have nominated me for the NEC. This is an incomplete list as unlike in the leadership election Party HQ aren't disclosing the full list they have received until close of nominations. I'm still waiting for my first Scottish or Welsh ones.

Many thanks to the following for their nominations:

Aldershot
Aylesbury
Barrow & Furness
Bassetlaw
Bethnal Green & Bow
Brentwood & Ongar
Brighton Kemptown
Bromley & Chislehurst
Camborne & Redruth
Castle Point
Chelsea & Fulham
Croydon South
Doncaster North
Dulwich & West Norwood
Eastbourne
Guildford
Hackney North & Stoke Newington
Hackney South & Shoreditch
Hornsey & Wood Green
Labour International
Lancaster & Fleetwood
Leeds North East
Leeds West
Lewisham East
Lewisham West & Penge
Liverpool Riverside
Hull North
Newark
Northampton South
Poplar & Limehouse
Pudsey
Salford & Eccles
Somerton & Frome
Stevenage
Taunton Deane
Tooting
Vauxhall
Walthamstow
Watford

Update on leadership election

My post on Monday already needs updating. Key changes since then:

Ballot papers for all the internal Labour elections are now going out a bit later - starting on 1 September, with a second batch after the deadline for new members to join and participate, which is 8 September.

Several TUs and socialist societies nominated this week - listed in size order:
GMB - Ed Miliband
CWU - Ed Balls, with Ed M as second preference
UCATT - Ed Miliband, with Ed B as second preference
ASLEF - Diane Abbott
Socialist Health Association - Ed Miliband

CLP nominations (the ones received by the party - lots of CLPs met this week and are not included in these figures) now stand at:

David Miliband - 56
Ed Miliband - 46
Andy Burnham - 15
Diane Abbott - 11
Ed Balls - 5

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Winning back the South

This article by Ed Miliband about how Labour might address winning back the South is in the Times today. I'm assuming like me that most of you can no longer read the Times online as it is behind a paywall. Fortunately Ed has reproduced it on his website: http://edmiliband.org/2010/07/15/change-to-win-in-the-south/

As someone who grew up in Kent and has fought parliamentary seats in Hampshire and Essex I am glad to see Ed is doing some thinking about winning back voters in these areas.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Labour's choices

Labour members are nearing the half way stage in a big set of internal party elections. At the moment members who sit on constituency General Committees are voting on nominations for Leader, Mayor of London candidate (if they are in London), Treasurer, 6 constituency reps on the NEC (National Executive Committee), and 4 and a youth rep from each region on the NPF (National Policy Forum).

In August and September, ballot papers go out. It's going to be a complex ballot paper, with 13 votes to be cast (14 for Londoners) and preferential voting for the leader.

My perspective as someone on the moderate wing of the Party is that it looks like we are avoiding a repetition of the mistakes we have made every previous time we have gone into opposition. In 1931, 1951, 1970 and 1979 the party moved violently to the left after leaving office, with members blaming the parliamentary leadership for defeat, demanding a move towards full-blooded socialism and trashing our record in office. This time the mood is a lot less knee-jerk and a lot more considered. Every Labour member has policies we implemented that they didn't like, but the overall record of the 1997-2010 government is viewed as on balance a positive one, and Gordon Brown's departure from the scene means that unlike the previous defeats when Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan stayed on as leader, someone has very quickly been seen, with great dignity, to take personal responsibility and the party has been able to move on to a debate about the future.

I don't think members are going to get excited about the Mandelson memoirs. Personally, I'll buy them because I enjoy reading gossip about the interplay between personalities. But I'll read them in a similar vein to reading a book about infighting between Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin: of historical interest but not really relevant to what happens in the future, other than as a lesson in how not to behave. I'm far more interested in what the relationships are between the coming generation of Labour's senior figures, and whether David, Ed, Ed and Andy get on with each other and can work together, than in what the previous generation of leaders said about or to each other. I also suggest this new book isn't going to tell us much we hadn't already heard in numerous other memoirs, diaries and blog posts over the last ten years. You would really have to have been living on the moon to not know already that Blair and Brown had a tense relationship.

As for the current races, the supporting nominations for Leader provide an idea of how each candidate is doing.

We already know how they are likely to do amongst MPs as nominations have closed. Taking into account those MPs who have openly expressed an intention to vote for a different MP to the one they nominated (as their nominations were tactical ones to get someone on the ballot) this third of the electoral college splits as follows on first preferences:

David Miliband - 90 MPs + 6 MEPs - 11.84% of electoral college
Ed Miliband - 63 MPs + 6 MEPs - 8.51% of electoral college
Ed Balls - 34 MPs - 4.19% of electoral college
Andy Burnham - 31 MPs + 1 MEP - 3.95% of electoral college
Diane Abbott - 24 MPs - 2.96% of electoral college (this may overestimate her support)
Not declared, undecided or not voting - 15 MPs - 1.85% of electoral college

If any MPs don't vote (presumably Brown, Harman and possibly Straw and the Chief Whip won't) the share of the electoral college each MP and MP who does vote is worth goes up slightly.
In the CLPs only 98 supporting nominations have come in out of a possible 635 (633 GB constituencies, Labour International and Northern Ireland) according to the party website, though more are anecdotally reported. Lots are meeting at the end of July just before the deadline, and others won't bother nominating as the supporting nominations don't have any real impact other than to demonstrate momentum. On this basis then - that they just illustrate the strength of the candidates' ground campaigns, the ones received to date are:

David Miliband - 40
Ed Miliband - 37
Andy Burnham - 11
Diane Abbott - 9
Ed Balls - 4

It's obvious that both Milibands have a very serious field operation going and that they are running a lot closer to each other in this section of the electoral college than in the PLP. It's surprising that Ed Balls has so few so far given the strong campaign he is running - he may pick up more at the end as some of the CLPs of MPs that nominated him haven't met yet and his high-profile attacks on Michael Gove over BSF were very recent. Also surprising is that the organised hard left has not delivered more CLPs for Diane - she is running well behind the nominations their NEC slate is getting. There are some regional clusters - 6 of Burnham's 11 are in the North West where he is an MP, 12 of David Miliband's are from Scotland where his campaign manager Jim Murphy is based and 5 are from the North East where he is an MP.

The unions and socialist societies are the third of the electoral college where we know least. When a union nominates someone their endorsement has in the past persuaded about 50% of voting members to go the way advised. So far only 4 organisations have nominated. NULSC (Labour social clubs) has backed Burnham, perhaps unsurprisingly as they are concentrated in his home region of the North West. They are usually one of the largest of the non-union affiliates. Two mid-sized unions USDAW (shop workers) and Community (steel workers and former steel communities) have backed David Miliband but that's about as surprising as Massachusetts and Rhode Island voting Democrat, as these unions have always been the most Blairite ones. The small TSSA (transport salaried staff) has backed Abbott, which surprises me as they were historically to the right of the other transport unions - I've obviously not kept pace with their internal politics. We have yet to see decisions from any of the big players: Unite, Unison, GMB and CWU. These nominations will come at the end of this month when various national political committees and national execs have met - I'm guessing there is a fight between the two Eds for the extremely important Unite nomination.

I would stand by my earlier prediction that David M will lead on the first ballot and be overtaken by his brother after other candidates are knocked out and their second preferences reallocated.

Treasurer is an interesting battle this time though not quite on the epic scale of Bevan versus Gaitskell, Callaghan versus Foot, Greenwood versus Morrison, or Bevan versus George Brown. In one corner is former Deputy Leader John Prescott. In the other, backed by the major trade unions (who have 50% of the vote) and the left is Diana Holland, veteran TGWU member of the NEC. An odd position for JP to be in - not the candidate of the unions and the left. Rather different to his initial 1988 bid for Deputy Leader.

Unlike Gaby Hinscliff ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/12/labour-london-mayor-king-livingstone) I don't see the Ken vs Oona contest for Mayor of London candidate as revealing much about Labour's direction. It's actually more about running with a familiar candidate with known strengths and flaws or a more youthful insurgent. My hunch is that Ken will win relatively easily because 50% of the vote is held by the unions and the London TULO (trade unions for Labour) committee strongly back him, and because key regional players who are not ideologically close to him are backing him on grounds of experience and their views probably reflect grassroots opinion. Livingstone nowadays is not quite the divisive character inside London Labour that he was in 1981 or 1990 because his record as Mayor on his actual responsibilities was mainstream (as opposed to some of his views on international issues). He seems to be conducting some sort of long-term realignment - his Socialist Action support group are increasingly close to the soft left Compass rather than the ultra left Labour Briefing - and has endorsed Balls for Leader which must have hurt his longtime ally Abbott.

I won't say much about the NEC as I'm a candidate and thus have an interest to declare. I think it's an exciting race though. There may be as many as 17 or 18 candidates on the ballot paper for six places depending on whether the left Grassroots Alliance can get all its candidates validly nominated and decide which of them it wants to run. My guess is that two candidates from their slate and two of their opponents will get on fairly easily through name recognition, and then there are four or five others including me battling it out for the final two places. I'm on 34 CLP nominations and counting.

The regional CLP reps on the NPF will be fascinating as they have never been elected by One Member One Vote before but rather were previously elected by annual conference delegates, which was seen as helpful to pro-leadership candidates. The basic story will be of moderate incumbents facing a left challenge as there are only a handful of left-backed incumbents. Those incumbents who have been active in reporting back to and consulting members in their regions should get re-elected as they may have name recognition amongst longer-serving and more active members.

Whether most members will get to the bottom of their 13 or 14 vote-long ballot paper and bother with us "down ticket" candidates is of course open to question.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Council by-election results

Last night's results - some very pleasing ones for Labour in London (suggesting the good borough results in May were not just down to the General Election high turnout) and Wales:

Goresbrook Ward, LB Barking & Dagenham. Lab hold. Lab 881 (46.6%, +3), BNP 642 (34.0%, +6.8), LD 136 (7.2%, -2.1), Con 108 (5.7%, -7.4), Ind 63 (3.3%, -3.5), UKIP 50 (2.6%, +2.6), Ind 11 (0.6%, +0.6). Swing of 1.7% from Lab to BNP since May this year. This ward returned 2 BNP councillors in 2006.

Tredegar Central and West Ward, Blaenau-Gwent CBC. Lab hold. Lab 797 (70.5%, +37.9), Ind 334 (29.5%, +7.5). Swing of 15.2% from Ind to Lab since 2008.

St Peter's and North Laines Ward, Brighton & Hove UA. Green hold. Green 1816 (56.8%, +5), Lab 880 (27.5%, +5.5), Con 365 (11.4%, +0), LD 103 (3.2%, -5.1), Ind 32 (1.0%, -5.4). Swing of 0.3% from Green to Lab since 2007.

Blackwood Ward, Caerphilly CBC. Lab gain from Ind. Lab 545 (35.4%, +13.6), Ind 469 (30.5%, -25.2), PC 355 (23.1%, +7.4), Con 170 (11.0%, +4.2). Swing of 19.4% from Ind to Lab since 2008.

Cockerton West Ward, Darlington UA. Lab hold. Lab 388 (45.1%, +4), LD 347 (40.3%, +19.3), Con 84 (9.8%, -14.8), BNP 41 (4.8%, -8.5). Swing of 7.7% from Lab to LD since 2007.

Chadwell Ward, LB Redbridge. Lab hold. Lab 800 (31.5%, +1.2), Con 580 (22.9%, +0), LD 576 (22.7%, -2.8), Green 413 (16.3%, +2.4), BNP 115 (4.5%, +4.5), UKIP 54 (2.1%, -5.4). Swing of 0.6% from Con to Lab since May this year. Ward returned 3 LDs in 2006, with Labour in third place.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The limits of localism

Joined-up thinking Eric Pickles style:

"We Tories are the party of localism. We want councils taking decisions, not Whitehall.

But if you as as elected local councillors want to run a local council newspaper because your local paper is rubbish, has a very low circulation, and doesn't tell people anything about council services, local events or good news because it's editor thinks only crime shifts copies, you can't. Because I say so. Independent local newspapers are so essential we are going to force local councils to subsidise them through sticking statutory notices and job adverts in them even if that doesn't represent best value for money because fewer people read it than would a council freesheet delivered to every home.

Moreover, please don't let yourselves think that you as elected local councillors can decide what jobs you'd like your council staff to include. Particularly if they have the kind of silly pseudy job titles the Daily Mail and bluff Yorkshiremen like me find wildly amusing - you know, anything with the word "co-ordinator" or "communications" in it. Even if posh job titles help get people to apply to do what are actually worthy but dull jobs, usually about encouraging your residents to hit the targets set by me in Whitehall. I reserve the right as Secretary of State to interfere in the titles given by individual councils to very junior staff and make knee-jerk judgements about the value to the public purse of roles I've not bothered to look into, whilst pulverising the morale of some poor graduate trying to encourage more recycling or get the local youths to play football instead of shooting each other. Clearly this is a priority for me as a Cabinet Minister.

And please don't let yourselves think that you as elected local councillors can decide to place adverts for jobs in the Society section of the Guardian, even though everyone looking for that kind of job knows that's where you look. An independent press at a national level which might scrutinise us as a government is definitely a luxury not a necessity and there is no way we are prepared to see it being kept commercially viable through you lot advertising jobs with silly posh job titles in it. Instead we will make you all put adverts on a big website featuring a big picture of big Eric.

I hope that is now clear and you will now obey our national instructions to implement our new localist philosophy."

From 650 to 600

Anthony Wells has an excellent post looking at where parliamentary seats will be cut if the Coalition proposal to reduce the Commons to 600 based on seats with a maximum 5% variation in size of electorate: http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/2740

I thought I'd take Anthony's projections and make some rough guesses about the likely partisan impact:

The North East - no way of avoiding it, this will produce 3 fewer Lab seats
Yorkshire - probably 3 fewer Labour seats
North West - 1 fewer Tory seat in Cheshire, Lancashire I'm guessing it might be a Tory seat that goes too, Gtr Manchester and Cumbria would both lose a Lab seat, Merseyside loses 1 Lab seat but the second one might be a Tory loss on Wirral.
East Mids - 1 fewer Tory seat in Derbyshire, 1 fewer Lab one in Notts, 1 fewer Tory one in Beds/Northants
Eastern - 1 fewer Tory seat in Essex
West Mids - 1 fewer Tory seat in Staffs, 3 fewer - probably all Lab - in the old West Mids County, 1 fewer Tory seat in Shrops/Worcs/Herefordshire
SE - 1 fewer Tory seat in Kent
SW - 1 fewer Tory seat in Devon/Cornwall, 1 fewer LD seat in Avon/Somerset, 1 fewer Tory seat in Dorset/Wilts
London - the most difficult to predict but let's assume the 3 fewer seats takes out 2 Lab and 1 Con
NI - 2 fewer DUP, 1 fewer SF
Wales - 1 fewer each for Con, Plaid Cymru and Lab in Gwynned/Clwyd, guess of 6 fewer Lab, 1 fewer Con in mid and south Wales
Scotland - maybe 6 fewer Lab seats, 1 fewer SNP, 1 fewer LD

So that produces a net impact of:
Lab - 28 fewer MPs
Tory - 14 fewer MPs
LD - 2 fewer
DUP - 2 fewer
SF - 1 fewer
PC - 1 fewer
SNP - 1 fewer

I make that 49 so there's 1 missing somewhere, but the general picture is apparent!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cancelling Schools for the Tory Future

Read this list and weep: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/interactive/2010/jul/05/building-schools-for-the-future-michael-gove

Every name with the word "stopped" next to it is the snuffing out of a brighter future for kids from an entire community. It's children condemned to learning in, and teachers to teaching in, an environment that's not fit for purpose. It's the difference between having a local school where the buildings and facilities are a source of pride to one where they are a source of embarrassment. And it's the economic madness of a country emerging in a fragile state from a recession and throwing construction workers on the dole when they could be building new schools we need, earning good money, paying taxes, and sustaining the jobs of other people they buy goods and services from.

I feared that a Cameron-led government, particularly one propped up by the Lib Dems, would be an impossible opponent for Labour - a mushy force on the middle-ground, crowding us out with crowd-pleasing centrist policies and smothering debate in the warm duvet of "compassionate conservatism", hoodie-hugging and proclamations of bring the "heir to Blair".

Now I just fear for the benighted people of this country. What crime did we commit to deserve to
have our society and communities trashed twice in 30 years by the governmental equivalent of the Vandals and Visigoths?

I fear that this Coalition of economic wolves backed by 22 of the meekest, stupidest and most easily placated by high office political sheep will create such anger and disgust that meaningful debate with it won't be possible.

I want to scream at them. I want to cry. I want to shake them and ask what pathetic lack of imagination it is that leads them to think this is what 21st century Britain needs or deserves.

No doubt they'll say we can't afford new schools. I don't quite get the maths of that when we're the 22nd richest country in the world by GDP per capita. I don't imagine we'll be seeing the schools that the PM or the Deputy PM or the Chancellor attended stopping any building projects or putting up with teaching in portakabins.

I'm not sure we can afford not to have our construction workers working, and instead to be paying them benefit.

I'm not sure we can afford to try to compete in a globalised knowledge-based economy on the basis of a half-complete school building programme and billions in cuts to our education budget.

I'm waiting for someone to pinch me and say this is all a really, really bad dream. But I know I'm going to wake up and the lunatics will still be running the asylum for at least another four years and ten months. Lord knows what damage they will do in that much time given the destruction they have caused in just two months.

I hate it. I hate living in a country led by people whose political and economic views are so extreme, irrational and reactionary. I wish they'd just all get on a boat and go and establish some free market experimental laboratory on an island in mid-Atlantic, and leave the UK to the rest of us who want to live in a normal West European social democracy that does normal things like fund normal public services, keep people in normal jobs rather than on the dole, guarantee the weakest in society a normal civilised existence, build schools not cancel them. It's not too much of a dream is it?

No quarter to the LDs

Luke Pollard, who fought an excellent campaign as PPC for SW Devon, has an interesting post on labourlist today: http://www.labourlist.org/a-west-country-balancing-act-luke-pollard

He warns that

"in Labour’s haste to highlight Lib Dem errors and poor judgment let’s also be mindful that for many years the Liberal Democrats were the only party stopping the Tories sweeping the West county. This is important because an outright Tory majority might well be aided by gains west of Bristol.

Labour must find a careful balance between winning more votes and activists and letting the Tories in by the back door. If Cameron is indeed setting the Liberal Democrats up as scapegoats for the coalition’s progressive agenda then it will be in places like the West country where he hopes to complete the deal by winning Lib Dem seats.

Labour has our own fights in the West county and in many Tory/Lib Dem battleground seats frankly we can do little to influence the final outcome. Should that stop us from fighting and highlighting the Lib Dem’s betrayal of ordinary West country folk? Absolutely not. As far as I’m concerned they’re fair game but let’s remember for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - and we might not always like the consequences."

I don't share his concerns about a Labour boost in the South West gifting current LD seats to the Tories.

This is for three reasons:

1) If we use the referendum next year to switch to Alternative Vote, all such "tactical" voting and campaigning becomes a thing of the past. All voters can use their first preference to vote with their heart for the party they really back, then use their second preference to vote tactically for say the LDs if the seat is an LD vs Con marginal. There is no possibility of the Tories winning seats on a split centre-left vote because AV requires every winner to have 50%+ of the votes cast, after transfers. Thus we'd get to see the real level of Labour support in rural southern seats, not the level after it has been depressed by Lib Dem tactical voting squeeze messages. In some seats it might turn out that the LDs are not even in second place once tactical voting is stripped out.

2) So what if the LDs do lose some seats to the Tories? Pre-Coalition anyone on the centre-left would clearly rationally prefer a Lib Dem MP to a Tory one but it is very difficult to see what the great advantage is, if they are signed up to a common five-year programme with a joint whips' office, which on the evidence of the last two months is positioned somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. To be worthy of being lent tactical votes by Labour supporters, or of Labour backing off and not campaigning hard in their constituencies, Lib Dem MPs and PPCs need to actually vote in the Commons in a leftwing way. Voting for cuts and VAT rises on a scale Thatcher would have been embarrassed about leaves me unable to see why the presence of extra Lib Dem MPs in the Commons is in any meaningful way preferable to the presence of extra Tories.

3) The starting point for winning any seat is to believe your party has a right to challenge to win in that area. If we write-off the rural south as a no-go zone it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. You would never catch the Lib Dems looking at an area and saying "we don't belong there, it's a Con vs Lab fight". They find a ward or two where there is some demographic hope for them and work it like crazy until they get a toehold on a council, then build that into a wedge of council seats, then put out some barcharts saying they are in second place even when they are a weak third, and the next thing you know they are the actual challenger, have squeezed the third party, and won. We need to be just as ruthless and long-termist - but without the fibs in our barcharts.

Labour needs to use the LDs' realignment through the Coalition to occupy the centre-left territory they have vacated. We need to exploit the fact that voters in LD vs Con seats to longer have a meaningful political choice presented to them. We need to get over the cultural cringe that says there are no-go areas for us where we don't run council candidates and have only paper candidates in general elections.

This moment needs to be our equivalent of Howard Dean's 50 state strategy which was one of the building blocks of Obama's victory. It doesn't mean ditching ruthless targeting and focusing of resources on marginal seats when things get down to hard tacks in the run-up to the next election. It does mean using the early part of the electoral cycle to rebuild our organisation in all 650 seats, replicate the 1995 "Operation Toehold" when we seconded staff to help get a Labour Group of councillors on every council in the country, and prove we are the only truly national party. With a boundary review and possibly a new electoral system coming the list of marginal seats is being thrown up in the air. By getting stuck in to areas that are not in Labour's comfort zone but where there is an anti-Tory tradition that has been let down by the LDs, we might just create the kind of unexpected long-shot gains that were so pleasing in 1997 - or lay the groundwork for gaining those seats Lib Dem style over several elections.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Stats

For election geeks only:

Commons library analysis of 2010 local elections: http://www.parliament.uk/briefingpapers/commons/lib/research/rp2010/RP10-044.pdf

and their preliminary national analysis: http://www.parliament.uk/briefingpapers/commons/lib/research/rp2010/RP10-036.pdf

Another good reason to support Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband said today:

"I strongly support the case for introducing the Alternative Vote, to ensure greater fairness for voters and greater legitimacy for our MPs in Westminster. Whenever the referendum takes place, I will campaign with other supporters across the political spectrum for this important change."

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results - general pattern of Tories losing vote share compared to their high water mark in 2007 and subsequent local elections, oddly a couple where LDs have picked up stunning wins against their national coalition partners:

Ribby with Wrea Ward, Fylde DC. Con gain from Ind. Con 292 (52.2%, +6.7), Ind 256 (45.8%, -8.7), 11 (2.0%, +2). Swing of 7.7% from Ind to Con since 2007.

Peel Ward, Hyndburn DC. Lab hold. Lab 596 (75.9%, +4.6), Con 189 (24.1%, -4.6). Swing of 4.6% from Con to Lab since May this year.

Tulse Hill Ward, LB Lambeth. Lab hold. Lab 1235 (52.2%, +1.4), LD 745 (31.5%, +3.8), Green 256 (10.8%, -1.1), Con 94 (4.0%, -5.6), UKIP 36 (1.5%, +1.5). Swing of 1.2% from Lab to LD since May this year.

Shepton West Ward, Mendip DC. LD gain from Con. LD 459 (41.7%, +17.8), Con 358 (32.5%, -12.8), Lab 241 (21.9%, -8.9), Green 44 (4.0%, +4). Swing of 15.3% from Con to LD since 2007. This result means the Tories have lost control of Mendip District Council.

Rainworth Ward, Newark and Sherwood DC. Lab hold. Lab 735 (66.9%, +33.9), Con 219 (19.9%, -6.7), Ind 144 (13.1%, -27.3). Swing of 20.3% from Con to Lab since 2007. This is in Sherwood constituency, a very narrow Tory gain in May.

Clee Ward, Shropshire UA. LD gain from Con. LD 946 (60.3%, +23.4), Con 506 (32.3%, -5.7), Ind 116 (7.4%, -17.7). Swing of 14.6% from Con to LD since 2009.

Huntington and Hatherton Ward, South Staffs DC. Con hold. Con 237 (44.2%, -10.3), Lab 235 (43.8%, -1.7), Ind 64 (11.9%, +11.9). Swing of 4.3% from Con to Lab since 2007.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Book Review: Times Guide 2010

I got home today from a tiring day of hospital appointments - in different hospitals - with my haematologist and neurologist (where I learnt that "you are in remission" are four of the nicest words in the English language) to find a parcel from Amazon.

Contents: Times Guide to the House of Commons 2010, hardback, £55. Unfortunately even at this obscene price I am addicted to the Times Guide. I feel a strange compulsion to buy it after every General Election, and to back fill my collection via second-hand bookshops, the internet and Politico's reprints of the really old ones (where you get to find out entirely useless gems of trivia like the current 2-seat Hackney having had seven MPs, including separate ones for Hoxton and Haggerston, back in 1910, and how many votes the Unionists got in Dublin before Irish independence).

Unfortunately the Guide is on a downward slide. It has always had a few mistakes as it is rushed out soon after each election. But over the years the amount of statistical analysis has been slashed both in the constituency profiles and in the tables at the back, or rather lack of them. Once upon a time there were county by county breakdowns and percentages, useful lists of the oldest MPs, the biggest swings, the safest and most marginal seats, the background of MPs, the seats changing hands. Now you get a wholly useless page listing the MPs with small majorities without even the seat names. And nowt else. Inexcusable in an age when excel spreadsheets means the Times staffers could have compiled useful lists in rank order very easily. In the constituency profiles you get a couple of lines on each losing candidate (which from memory is an improvement since 2005) a pen-portrait of the seat (this never used to be in the Guide in the good old days and is a nice addition but you can get far better ones in other publications or on the web), and basically the raw result with the percentage change since the 2005 notionals. Not even any swing calculation, which is just idle. Why don't the Times invest in a few pocket calculators?

The manifestos are reproduced in full, which in the pre-internet age was a useful resource but is now a) a waste of paper as they are on the web and b) just evidence that the Times has mastered cutting and pasting.

Visually the new Guide looks great. There are some colour photos of key moments in the campaign for the first time and a series of nice colour regional maps where once you got a fold-out large map at the back which was liable to tear. The cover could have been classy - it's in a nice black, gold and white colour scheme, but has been ruined by a silly cartoon of Clegg and Cameron.

The MP biogs are good in that they make mainly well-informed judgements on the political orientation of each MP within their party, but rubbish in that they are littered with sloppy factual errors. I have only bothered to check a few but already found Michael Dugher illustrated with a picture of the decades older Mike Clapham, Tom Harris' picture shows an Asian man, which Tom definitely is not, the marital status of another MP ignoring his second marriage several years ago, a former Campaigns Officer of NOLS described as its Chair. And some of the profiles are gratuitously offensive - one Labour MP well-regarded enough by his peers to have just been elected a select committee chair is described as "Unimpressive backbencher. Dull, even by the standards of librarians."

So a book that on its cover describes itself as "the definitive record" but is free of statistical analysis, full of mistakes, and full of unsubstantiated subjective opinions. And costs £55 in an age of austerity.

Buy it if like me you feel a compulsion to complete the set, but don't expect to use it as a work of reference. You may be better off waiting to get it at a jumble sale, which may come back into fashion as a way of funding schools and hospitals now the Tories are back in.

 
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