Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beware the CyberNats – they point to a very dark place.

“In extreme situations nationalism appears to neutralise that part of the mind which is able to fathom complex equations. Instead, action is motivated by a single Leninist principle: “Those who are not for us are against us”

Misha Glenny

Mr Glenny was writing about The Balkans where nationalism was the driver of that most bloody of wars as Yugoslavia collapsed into lethal chaos in the early 1990s. But his words will also ring a bell with observers of present-day Scotland where sufficient numbers have given up trying to fathom anything and have descended into crude nationalistic abuse of those who are not “for” them. I use the word “sufficient” advisedly – it is not the majority who are standing screaming abuse on these particular soapboxes but those who spew their bile especially on social media. The so-called “CyberNats”.

I am neither famous enough nor controversial enough to get much abuse on Twitter. Some of my 2600 followers often disagree with me, but politely! But if I make any mildly critical remark of the Scottish National Party or the fanaticism of some of their supporters then the Twitter feed becomes X-rated! All that is of little consequence – I block abusers (including one deeply unpleasant SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament!) and that is that. But what is of consequence is the distorting effect that the “Those who are not for us are against us” mind-set in Scotland has had on British politics. I was told in all seriousness that the Scottish Labour Party should have supported the “Yes” vote in the Independence Referendum and it was because they didn't that Scotland turned against Labour. I would like to address that view here.

On the night of Labour’s General Election defeat Ed Milliband said this:

...in Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party,"

He was right - that is exactly what happened. History tells us that nationalism can force out tyrants and replace dictatorships with democrats – or it can have the reverse effect. (In the Balkans it did both simultaneously depending where you were). In Scotland there were no tyrants to be deposed and no dictators to be sent packing. What there was was firstly a concern about the established British political order and its power and secondly a view that to secede from the Union was the solution. But the truth was that Scotland was not being governed by the people-oppressing English at all and arguably never had been since the Act of Union in 1707! (The Jacobites thought differently, but they were as much opposed by fellow Scots as by the English)

The rebellion of 2015 North of the Border was a mass protest by half of those who voted and the electoral system meant that this 50% got a wholly disproportionate 95% of the seats. This was the “surge of nationalism” Milliband referred to. The momentum towards secession, briefly halted by the referendum defeat, was given a possibly unstoppable push.

The minds that were and are able to “fathom complex equations” want nothing to do with Scottish independence and the break-up of the United Kingdom. To be proud to be British (I am) is in no way incompatible with a pride in being Scottish (which I would be, if I was!). My Britishness incorporates the heartfelt conviction that Scotland is an indissoluble part of it. Having lived in Scotland permanently for three years, owned a house there for twenty and visited the country frequently I relate to it as being part of me. The idea that I would be visiting a foreign country if Scotland became independent is deeply repellent.

So let me say to the CyberNats who occasionally abuse me (including that MSP!) you have fallen into the trap of flaying your arms in a random way and catching innocent people in your trauma. You don't have to be Scottish to love Scotland and you don't have to be a Nationalist to protect your country. The modern world encourages breakaway as the last resort to combat evil or repression – but by no stretch of the imagination can that be said to apply to Scotland. After 300 years of Britishness which has been a great success story - and in which the Scots fully played their part - please don't go into denial because a new paradigm (a Federal Britain for example) is too difficult to fathom. Better Together!   

Monday, June 15, 2015

UK Energy consumption - We'll be using oil and gas for a long time !




To call, as the G7 has, for a non fossil fuel world by the end of the century is all very well. But it needs technology advances that are not in the pipeline.

Energy use can conveniently be divided between that which is competitive between primary energy alternatives and that which is not. Electricity generation is a classic example of the former. You can generate electricity from Coal, Oil, Gas, Wind, Nuclear,  Solar, Hydro...etc etc. To have all our electricity from renewable resources is technically feasible. Which does not mean that it is affordable, practical or the best of choices in all cases.

In the non fuel competitive category are the Oil specific uses. Primarily in Transport. Here it is either technically non feasible to use anything but oil (Aircraft), or has a hugely negative economic consequence. Shipping is presently 99% oil reliant. Road transport (Cars and trucks and buses etc) not much less. You can use electricity to move cars (etc.) but until there is a technology breakthrough which gives cost and range parity with petrol/diesel it will not happen to any significant extent.

In the UK and across the rest of Europe we substantially use Natural Gas as our domestic fuel - in the home.  We heat our homes with Gas and cook with it. These applications are not hydrocarbons specific - you could use Electricity as an alternative and many homes do. But to switch existing gas-using homes to electricity would requirement a truly enormous capital investment. Who would pay, and would it be worth it? And to generate the necessary electricity from renewable sources would also require a huge capital investment in (mainly) wind turbines - where would we locate them, and where would the money come from?  Alternatively it would require many new Nuclear plants to which we could apply the same question.

The reality of our primary energy use shown in the pie chart above is that over time there is potential to shift it substantially from hydrocarbons. But to predicate a "non fossil fuel world" by the end of the century is pie in the sky...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Lucky Dave could stop the Eurosceptics, and for that at least we should be grateful.

In an article in The Times today Tim Montgomerie praises David Cameron - not something that comes naturally to him! Fair's fair! In my view Cameron has been lucky - but then Napoleon (and Montgomery) wanted lucky Generals above all else. His is the Tale of Two Referenda. The Scottish one destroyed Labour's power base in Scotland completely. This was luck for Dave, he can claim no credit for it. Labour fought an honourable and right campaign for a "No" vote in Scotland - won, and were punished for their victory. It really was an astonishing fall from grace. And Cameron was the main beneficiary as Tim correctly points out.

And the EU Referendum? Well here Dave has used his unexpected strength to play a political game Machiavelli , or his representative on Planet Earth Peter Mandelson, would have been proud of! The "Outers" are probably a majority in the Parliamentary party. The Fury of the Hannans and their ilk at the moment is palpable. (Even Tim and the ConHome lot are fuming, albeit slightly more rationally than the Hannanites). As ever the Europhobic wing of the Party is an existential threat. But Dave has power and patronage. A new MP with hopes for a job won't want to blot his/her copybook. The payroll vote will mostly do what they are told. Boris is mumbling but will come into line. We all, from both sides of the EU debate, know that the "negotiations" are all smoke and mirrors. There will be a bit of window dressing signifying little, but capable of being sold as a good outcome for Britain. And Dave will sell it. End of Story!

A few short weeks ago a united Labour Party seemed to be en route for victory. Even Dave thought so - and had written the speech. But the Great British People (GBP) thought otherwise. They probably surprised themselves with what they did. Dave was the least worst choice - he still is. The GBP has got over its flirtation with the shallow and frankly lightweight souls of UKIP. Farage has had his day. Labour is leaderless and all the old Blairite v Brownite battles are being fought anew. And Teflon Dave smiles his way onwards and upwards. And if he delivers an emphatic "Yes" vote in the EU referendum even this ageing Fabian will settle for that !

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The technology advances required to eliminate Fossil Fuels as G7 wantsare not on the horizon.




To call, as the G7 has, for a non fossil fuel world by the end of the century is all very well. But it needs technology advances that are not in the pipeline.

Energy use can be conveniently be divided between that which is competitive between primary energy alternatives and that which is not. Electricity generation is a classic example of the former. You can generate electricity from Coal, Oil, Gas, Wind, Solar, Nuclear, Hydro...etc etc. To have all our electricity from renewable and non carbon resources is technically feasible although, of course, some very large investments would be required to make the switch possible in a world in which energy demand is inextricably rising. 

However much of our primary energy consumption is in the "non competitive" category - mainly all the "Oil specific" use in transport. Here it is neither technically feasible to use anything but oil  or there is a hugely negative economic consequence. Aircraft can only fly on oil and there is no alternative (outside Science Fiction!) to this. Shipping is presently 99% oil reliant. Road transport (Cars and trucks and buses etc) not much less. You can use electricity to move cars (etc.) but until there is a technology breakthrough which gives cost and range parity with petrol/diesel it will not happen to any significant extent.



Saturday, June 06, 2015

There isn't a "Labour case for Europe". There is a "Case for Europe" PERIOD

Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham is apparently saying there should be a "Labour YES to Europe" campaign. He is wrong. Here's why.

In my response to a recent article by Tory arch Eurosecptic Tim Montgomerie I argued the case for Britain in the EU as follows:

(1). Every European nation, even Germany, cannot expect to compete and have influence on its own. The power blocks of the U.S., China, Russia,  ASEAN etc. will have respect for and have self-interest in dealing with a strong United Europe. Britain alone would be just another player. Large yes, but cast adrift from Europe without bargaining power or even an automatic right to be at the table. We'd be like some embarrassing old Uncle clutching gamely on to the nobility of our history and our once achievements but in reality mumbling on impotently on the sidelines whilst the younger, brighter more forward looking members of our once family get on with managing today and tomorrow.

(2). The undeniable fact that peace in Europe since 1945 did not happen by chance. I'm actually in Croatia as I write this and not one Croatian I've spoken to would argue that their membership of the EU was not strongly predicated on the peace dividend it brings. When I visit Mostar in a day's time I will see the rebuilt bridge which replaced the one destroyed by conflict a few short decades ago. That bridge is a handy metaphor for the wider cooperative benefits of cooperation - Jaw Jaw rather than War War. Churchill was right.

(3)  The EU has its problems and yes twenty plus years after Maastricht it's right that the precise basis of individual nations' membership (not just Britain) should be reviewed. But in my lifetime - precisely coinciding (so far!) with the post war era of cooperation not conflict - nothing has been as uplifting as the removal of barriers across Europe. The free movement of labour and capital, the elimination of tariff and other barriers. The common currency. But above all the recognition that in return for a modest surrender of sovereignty you can be part of strong, credible, multinational Union and you can add to the pride you feel for your own nation a parallel pride in being a European. We must, as Britons, never give up this privilege.

I could add other points to these and I will. But at the highest level of abstraction this are key messages. To be competitive. To build together on post-war peace. To manage change whilst acknowledging the core economic advantages of union.

These things transcend Party. There isn't a Labour (or a Conservative)  case for Britian in Europe there is a British case. The more divided the "Yes" campaign is the more confused the electorate will be and the Party neutrality of the campaign will be lost - a potentially disastrous outcome. 

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Sad, Myopic and wrong - Tim Montgomerie on Britain and Europe.


The above are the first three paragraphs in Tim Montgomerie's deeply sad article in The Times today. The rest of it carries on in the same vein. It is sad in so many ways. First a personal observation. I know and like Tim. I strongly relate to and have sympathy for his "The Good Right" initiative. I am no Conservative but I have respect for the post war One Nation Tory era to which it strongly relates. What is forgotten by Tim is that this era was also internationalist and European. Macmillan knew, in part because Churchill and Eden had taught him, that Britain's only future was as an active and wholehearted participant in Europe. The baton passed to Heath who to his great credit overcome the obstacles that De Gaulle had put in Macmillan's way and took Britain formally and rightly into the European Community. After Harold Wilson with characteristic political skill arranged and won a referendum the deal was done. Margaret Thatcher in her Prime Ministerial years sorted out some anomalies of this membership and post Maastricht, and certainly during the Blair/Brown years, the Thatcher outcome was consolidated. That's the history, and it's one that we can all be proud of.

If this first sadness is Tim ignoring history and achievement the next is the myopia that his arguments have to the realities of the modern world. Every European nation, even Germany, cannot expect to compete and have influence on its own. The power blocks of the U.S., China, Russia,  ASEAN etc. will have respect for and have self-interest in dealing with a strong United Europe. Britain alone would be just another player. Large yes, but cast adrift from Europe without bargaining power or even an automatic right to be at the table. We'd be like some embarrassing old Uncle clutching gamely on to the nobility of our history and our once achievements but in reality mumbling on impotently on the sidelines whilst the younger, brighter more forward looking members of our once family get on with managing today and tomorrow.

The next sadness is the lack of robust logic that Brexit has. Tim has a fine mind so I'm certain that he sees the flaws in his own arguments. But, of course and here's the heart of it, he is playing dangerous games with the soul of the Conservative Party. Tim wants a Party largely modelled on the U.S. Republicans. "The Good Right" is clever and decent, but it is in part window dressing for a very different Conservative Party than the present Cameroon one. Tim these days hides that fact that he is a "NeoCon" - something he used to be more open about. But Republican NeoCons, Free Enterprse worshippers, proud Nationalists - all with an underpinning of Christian values is precisely the group with which Tim has most in common - on all counts. This Nationalism is deeply sceptical of all international groupings - the UN and international courts (etc.) among them. Wrong though it would be the U.S. could be more separatist if it wanted to - it's big enough. The UK is emphatically not.

The area where the Europhobes are most exposed is the undeniable fact that peace in Europe since 1945 did not happen by chance. In 1918 the European nations said "Never Again". In 1945 they said the same - and did something about it.  I'm actually in Croatia as I write this and not one Croatian I've spoken to would argue that their membership of the EU was not strongly predicated on the peace dividend it brings. When I visit Mostar in a day's time I will see the rebuilt bridge which replaced the one destroyed by conflict a few short decades ago. That bridge is a handy metaphor for the wider cooperative benefits of cooperation - Jaw Jaw rather than War War. Churchill was right.

Yes the EU has its problems and yes twenty plus years after Maastricht it's right that the precise basis of individual nations' membership (not just Britain) should be reviewed. But in my lifetime - precisely coinciding (so far!) with the post war era of cooperation not conflict - nothing has been as uplifting as the removal of barriers across Europe. The free movement of labour and capital, the elimination of tariff and other barriers. The common currency. But above all the recognition that in return for a modest surrender of sovereignty you can be part of strong, credible, multinational Union and you can add to the pride you feel for your own nation a parallel pride in being a European. We must, as Britons, never give up this privilege.



Tuesday, June 02, 2015

My argument against Daniel Hannan's "Fantasy" anti EU rant in theTelegraph today



Fantasy stuff. Useful though, on  "Know your enemy" grounds. Political obsessives are usually laughing-stocks, or dangerous. I haven't quite decided which Mr Hannan is - maybe a bit of both. The Europhobes are either ignorant, rude bigots like Farage or pseudo-intellectual bores like Hannan. His life long (it seems) obsession about the EU has blighted his career. "Oh that's just old Dan banging on again". So how do I know that Hannan is wrong, culpably wrong? Well I can work it out for myself because there is no quantified case for Britain to leave the EU - indeed it is absolutely the reverse. Were the case even slightly as Hannan would like us to believe it was don't you think that the serious commentators in the media would have said so, and that a major political Party at some point in the last 40 years would also have said it? 

I intend to play personally an active part in the EU Referendum campaign when I hope those of us campaigning for a "Yes" vote will organise ourselves properly to rebut the likes of Hannan with facts and arguments. It's not difficult. And I hope that we will challenge not just Hannan's lies but the gross jingoism and faux-patriotism (seasoned with bigotry and prejudice ) of the Farage wing of the "Out" movement. A senior LibDem politician said to me yesterday that her absolute pro-EU position was "for her children". Exactly. Let's look FORWARD not BACKWARDS - the challenges of the modern world demand cooperation not retreat. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Time to fight back against the Europhobes...

"For almost forty years, we Brits have complained about Europe."
Douglas Carswell. 



Well you have Douglas and your fellow travellers that's for sure. But not this Brit nor anyone else who can see about the parapet of their own prejudice. Let’s look for a moment at what you are proposing. Basically it’s back to the pre War era before Europeans didn’t just say “Never again” but created the institutions to put it into effect. You see that first half of the 20th century when Nations stood apart and Nationalism reigned wasn’t really very good was it? A little local difficulty in Italy, Spain, Germany… The odd battle or two. And where were we the standalone Brits? Clutching on to our British Empire and special relationship. And yes both did come to our rescue. But then, post war, both crumbled as inevitably they were going to.

Take a look at the map Douglas. See that little group of islands off the west coast of the European land mass? That’s us. And that’s all we have. History, traditions and a decent-sized economy of course and hard-working and decent people as well. But to stand alone, like we did once or twice before? No thanks.

Fortunately the call for European cooperation made in the ruins of Europe was heeded. And gradually, from small beginnings, man’s greatest ever achievement in transnational political and economic cooperation was created. A Union of 28 nations with a common purpose and a basis of unity. And Britain has played its proud part in creating it. “There Is No Alternative”, as someone once said in another context. The “Anglosphere” beloved of the Europhobic Right? Don’t make me laugh. If it was a good idea don’t you think just one of the prospective members of it might say so? Dream on. It ain’t going to happen. Fantasy politics.

For twenty or more years our politics has been blighted by those who obsessively want to retreat from Europe. John Major’s “men in white coats” didn’t, sadly, take them away and lock them up. These are the people who at their most venal get elected to the European Parliament and then turn their fat arses towards it. They are the people who peddle simplistic lies about sovereignty and governance – as if the British Parliament had conceded all to Brussels. Not true. Unlike in Britain the EU is committed to subsidiarity and processes are continually underway to encourage decision-making not at the highest level, but at the lowest practicable.

I think that a referendum is a lousy idea but I suppose if we have to have one we might as well get it out of the way as soon as possible. I doubt that it will solve anything. If we stay in the EU will that stop the Douglas Carswells of this world from ranting on? Of course not. Like the mad people with megaphones who are always with us telling us we are doomed they’ll carry on. And if the antis win? Well we really will become second rate as a nation and a people. And that is not going to happen. The one good thing about the referendum is that it will galvanise those of us who see our future as a full, and effective member of the European Union to come out fighting. The gloves need to be off. We need to expose the dangerous bigots like Douglas Carswell for what they are. A grave threat to our nation – lets be gone with them.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tendentious nonsense about an EU referendum on the front page of the "Sunday Times"


Front page of "The Sunday Times" today. Tendentious nonsense - purporting to be news reporting but actually it should be in the "comment" section. The key phrase is this:

"Ed Miliband crashed to defeat refusing to give the public a say on the EU"

1. There is not the slightest bit of evidence that Labour's position on an in/out referendum  contributed to their defeat. The issue was on the margins throughout the campaign.

2. Labour's highly credible position was that if there were to be significant changes to the EU and Britain's membership of it (e.g. A Treaty change)  that would be put to the people in a referendum.

3. There was no "refusal to give the public a say" - how could there be? As with any other issue the public has every right, in a democracy! to engage in a debate on the subject.

4. The public has a "say" through the democratic process of parliamentary democracy. We elect representatives called MPs to debate and vote in Parliament. That is the right way, tested over centuries, and to play the referendum card in these circumstances is contrary to our traditions and our history, and playing with politics.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The LibDems are dead in the water and there is no way back for them

I have argued here that there are four distinct streams in English politics (the Scots and the Welsh and the Irish are different!) and that the Liberal Democrats are not one of them. Whilst I do not believe that the lack of a coherent political offer was the main reason for the debacle of the LibDems performance in the recent General Election I think that it was a contributory factor and that it is the main reason why there will be no comeback for them – ever.

The LibDems were always a strange construct merging as they did two rather different political philosophies. The Liberal Party became redundant in the post war years hanging on to a few seats for nostalgic reasons, but little more. Labour had replaced the Liberals as the alternative to the Conservatives in the first half of the twentieth century and the Liberals were reduced to a largely irrelevant rump in Parliament. They won only six seats in each of the General Elections in the 1950s. Then a “Liberal revival” of sorts happened and they went to 12 seats in 1966, only to fall back to 6 again in 1970. But under the charismatic Jeremy Thorpe they gained 14 seats and 6m votes in the February 1974 election – the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system denied them anything like fair representation.  This “revival” was arguably not because they had an attractive alternative political pitch to the Conservatives or Labour but because they (and Thorpe) were the “neither of the above” alternative to Heath and Wilson.

In the early 1980s it was not mainly the Liberals who made progress as a moderate alternative to Thatcher or Foot but the “Social Democratic Party” (SDP) of the Gang of Four led by Roy Jenkins.

A pragmatic electoral Alliance between the Liberals and the SDP happened but again, despite gaining 8m votes in the 1983 General Election (only 2% behind Labour) the FPTP system gave them only 23 seats. They slipped back a little in 1987 and then the two parties merged to form the Liberal Democrats.

Over its twenty-seven years as a distinct party the LibDems made steady progress up to and including the 2010 Election when they polled nearly 7m votes – the highest for a third party since 1983. Hard work on the ground at constituency level had given them a high of 62 seats in 2005 which reduced to 57 in 2010. Then Armageddon !

The essential thing about The Liberals, the Alliance and the LibDems was that they were an alternative to the Conservatives. True they were an alternative to Labour as well, but nearly all the seats that were won were where they managed to drive the Tories into second place. This brought with it a tactical voting benefit  - left-leaning voters who might have voted Labour instead voted LibDem where they had a better chance of keeping the Tories out. In the West Country and in South West London particularly you were often either a Conservative or you were LibDem.

When the LibDems went into Coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 there was a reasonably credible case for them to do this in the “national interest” – but for millions of LibDem voters it was a betrayal. If we had wanted a Conservative Government we would have voted Conservative! From that moment on the LibDems goose was well and truly cooked. They slipped to almost nowhere in the opinion polls over the course of the Parliament. Many of us felt that despite this they would hold on to 20-30 seats in the General Election but in fact they fell to a derisory eight. In the seats where the Tories were second the Tories mostly won, and in Scotland they, like the other parties, were all but wiped out by the SNP.

So what now? Why do I say that there is no way back. Well take Richmond Park, a seat that the LibDems won with a majority of nearly 5,000 as recently as 2001. This year the Conservatives had a majority of 23,000. And although other losses were not as drastic as this (Richmond had actually already been narrowly lost in 2010) there is no way that that Constituency is going to come back. And nor will any of the others.

Nick Clegg’s disastrous decision to go into Coalition has destroyed his Party. In England the third Party is now UKIP not the LibDems and whilst a few seats have been held – which broadly takes the Party back to the 1950s - the electoral map has been re-written, and they have been written out. Rural England is almost completely Conservative. Urban England is mostly Labour. Scotland is almost completely SNP. In terms of seats we have a two-party system again in England for the first time for decades – and a one party system in Scotland.

Finally to return to the substantive point. The LibDems are not the “neither of the above” Party any more. UKIP, the Greens are now that (whether this will give them any more seats under FPTP is entirely dependent on whether they select a few seats to work on as the Liberals once did and as the Greens succeeded in doing in Brighton). UKIP and the Greens do have a distinctive offer and most people could describe what it is. The LibDems do not and they will fade away fast.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

As the pollsters gave us the numbers my guess is that the Tories were drilling down to the "Why" of voter attitudes - and that's why they won the Election.

I did Market Research as a special subject in my degree Finals and practised it from time to time in my long Shell career - I was the "client" briefing the research agencies. One huge project I managed involved quantitative and qualitative research in twelve countries around the world. I mention this, I suppose, to give a bit of "been there, done that" credibility to what I want to say about Opinion Polls.

The Opinion Polls in the run up to the General Election were a long-running and important news story. There were a lot of them - seven or eight companies - and they reported very regularly. Hardly a day passed without one or two new polls being published. The most notable characteristics of the polls were their consistency one with another and how little they varied over time.  Over the course of this year, in the four months or so up to May 7th, the trend line showed the two main parties neck and neck with few polls deviating from this trend. This meant that if a poll did show one or the other with a (say) three point lead it tended to be dismissed as an "outlier" - and there weren't many of these. 

The polling companies who translated vote share numbers into seats all pointed to a hung Parliament - neither the Conservatives nor Labour would come close to the around 323 seats needed for a Majority in the House of Commons. The numbers were finessed to take account of the exceptional situation in Scotland where it began to be clear that the Scottish National Party was going to come close to a clean sweep of seats. And there was also a common view (which, for the record, I shared) that the Liberal Democrats would hold onto far more seats than their woeful national poll numbers suggested. Around 30 "holds" was a common view.


In the table above we see seat "forecasts" the day before Election Day (and just before) based on the latest polls. We also see the "Exit" poll and the final result. If we take "The Guardian" as an example (and the other polls were only marginally different) on 7th May, Election Day, they forecast an equal number of seats for Labour and the Conservatives and 27 for the LibDems. In fact the Tories got 99 seats more than Labour and the LibDems only 8. It was an almost unbelievable and unprecedented polling failure.

Over the course of the election campaign the opinion polls dominated political commentary and the media. It is almost impossible to find anyone who expected anything but a hung parliament. So the commentaries were dictated by this. Possible coalitions, arrangements etc. were explored ad nauseam. And this played back into the party campaigns - not least with the Conservatives warning of a possible Labour/SNP deal. 

With the benefit of hindsight we can now see that much of the debate, predicated as it was on a hung parliament, was specious nonsense. The polls were believed - and that was the starting point for everything. 

The polling companies have started to analyse and explain what went wrong. Maybe there was a "late swing"  (unlikely). Maybe some Conservative voters were "shy" to admit that they were going to vote Conservative (unconvincing). Maybe there was a differential turnout with Labour potential voters staying at home more than the Tory ones (some evidence for this). And maybe quantitative polls no longer really work on their own - which is my view.

A poll is not a forecast it is a snapshot. On the day it comes down to the floating voter deciding whether or not to vote and then, if he does go to the polling station, pausing with his pencil over the ballot paper before making his choice. The factors influencing that choice are many and varied. But those factors can be explored, and that is where qualitative research comes in. There was little or no analysis and/or presentation of focus group results during this election - or of any other qualitative research. Maybe this was because all the "Qual" research was private and not intended for public consumption.

My theory is this. The outcome of the election was heavily influenced by Conservative focus group (etc.) research in the final month or so and its translation into communications messages. With the Conservatives having sympathetic newspaper proprietors on their side (The Times, the Telegraph, The Sun, the Mail...) the qualitative research based messages could be widely communicated. So when on the day before the election the Sun had on its front page a large photograph of Ed Miliband eating a sandwich awkwardly there was no randomness to this at all. It was carefully calculated. My guess is that Conservative focus groups showed that some voters found Miliband "weird" and that his "sarnie" struggle was illustrative of this. Daft, offensive, dim-witted - yes. Effective? Probably.

The anti Miliband position had been created successfully over months and years. The "Red Ed" sobriquet was all part of this. Again I'm guessing here but I think the Conservative campaign against Miliband was firmly based on research telling them that he was a weak link for Labour. In fact Miliband ran a good campaign in the main and raised his profile. But probably not enough among the crucial floating voters. So, like it or not, Ed with his Sarnie may well have lost Labour the election. (I'm being metaphorical here,mod course, but the sarnie is a symbol of discomfort felt by sufficient voters enough to tip the balance).

Back to the pollsters. Asking respondents HOW  they would vote at any moment in time is still important - but asking WHY they made that choice more so. There has been too much reliance on the How this year and insufficient on the Why. Except, it's my guess, in the Conservative campaign headquarters. Don't confuse voters with too much detail - give them a small number of reasons to prefer you and a couple of powerful reasons not to choose your opponent. Reduce that to a slogan or two - "Red Ed" , for example. Provide a powerful visual image to back it up and get your friends in the media to give it prominence. All is fair in love, war - and politics!



Monday, May 11, 2015

Time for the pro Union Scots to fight back–with a new Party?

With a faint tinge of symbolism, perhaps, the vote for the SNP in the General Election in Scotland was exactly 50%. That means then that the country is equally divided between those (the SNP) who want independence and those that don’t. The latter half must, however, be content to have their position represented by just three MPs in Westminster (One each for Labour, the Conservatives and the LibDems) to the SNP’s 56! That's the “First Past the Post” (FPTP) voting system for you in stark relief.

So what do the 55% (The Independence Referendum) or 50% (General Election) of Scots opposed to Scottish Independence do? Their voice in Westminster will be almost silent. Here’s a radical suggestion. In Northern Ireland the UK-wide political parties have no representatives at either Stormont or Westminster. The 18 MPs are all from local parties. Scotland has rejected all the UK-wide parties almost completely and chosen also to have 56 0f the 59 MPs from a local party – the SNP. Having failed abysmally is it not now time for the Labour, LibDems and Conservatives to withdraw completely from Scotland? And, if so, what should replace them…?

The issue of Independence is by far the most important and divisive issue in Scotland and, as we have seen, the country is almost evenly split on the issue. Is it time for a new “Scottish Unionist Party” (SUP) to be formed. It’s pro Union stance would be at its core and politically if it was Centrist then it would be a counter to the very Left Wing SNP. A moderate pro-Union party could command significant support across the country and even under FPTP it should win a good number of seats both at Westminster and at Holyrood. There is already a small Party with the SUP name (that’s their emblem above) so some finessing might be necessary!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

For the Left the Election was bad, but all is not lost !



Well how bad was that ? Unless you are a Conservative it couldn't have been much worse. And if you are an opinion pollster you should hang your head in shame. The idea that the Tories could have a majority over Labour of 99 Seats was inconceivable. It wasn't just that over the many weeks of the campaign not one of the hundreds of polls suggested such an outcome. It was that not one of them picked up trends in voter attitudes that made it plausible. They were, in a short phrase, a complete waste of time. With one exception. Most of the polls did pick up what was underway in Scotland which perhaps helped make it happen. Certainly the SNP sailed with that particular wind and the voters followed them.

So what now? It is extraordinary that a campaign dominated by the idea that the UK has become a multi party democracy should deliver the opposite! In Scotland there is really only One party - and in England only two. The traditional third party has been destroyed and has been reduced to the statistical irrelevance they were back in the 1960s when they could last fit their contingent in a taxi. The First Past The Post voting system has been cruel to the LibDems, and catastrophic for the Greens and UKIP. To get 3.8m votes as the latter did and only one MP is scandalous - and I say that as someone who despises everything that UKIP stands for!

The minor parties can play a small part in Parliament, but the real action will be around the big two, and of course the SNP. Labour plus the Scottish Nationalists (their ideological cousins, Independence aside) have a total of 288 seats. Add in the eight LibDems, the Green and a few sympathisers from the "others" column and you could muster 300 or so in a vote. This means that if there is an issue on which just 15 or so Tories could be persuaded to vote against their Government it could be defeated. 

In the recent Parliament Tory revolts came mainly from their Right. The awkward squad of Eurosceptics and NeoCons. That may happen again, of course, but such a revolt would be easily defeated as it would gather no support from opposition party members. A much more likely, and intriguing, possibility would be a revolt for the Tory Left. They really could come into their own, and liberals of all parties will hope they do. Tory grandee Ken Clarke is back for, perhaps, a last hurrah. Free of the burdens of office he will, I guess, vote with his conscience and together with like-minded Conservatives such as Domininc Grieve he could stop illiberal policies such as the withdrawal of the UK from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). I doubt that pro EU Tories like Clarke would try and stop an EU Referendum Bill being passed, but the arithmetic might be there for them if they chose to do so. 

The Left was roundly defeated in the General Election (except in Scotland) and the Conservatives have a clear mandate to govern. But there are issues, such as ECHR, fox-hunting, the badger cull and social/fiscal policy (the Bedroom Tax) where David Cameron may struggle to get a majority in Parliament. Yes the election was bad, but all is not lost !

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Is this Dave and Nick's cunning plan to walk back into Number 10?



Do Dave and Nick have a cunning plan? The happenings in Clegg's Sheffield Hallam constituency suggest that they might have. In Sheffield there has apparently been a surge of support for Clegg from previous Conservative voters. Quite what the Tory candidate Ian Geoffrey Walker thinks about this I've no idea but to stop Labour (third last time) it would only take a few thousand Tory switchers despite the desertion of many previous LibDem to Labour. It could work.

Let's now explore what a new Con/LibDem "Kissy, Kissy" might lead to. And let's take YouGov's latest poll-based seat forecast as starters:


CON - 283
LAB - 261
SNP - 50
LIB DEM - 32
OTHERS - 22


If you add the Tories 283 to the LibDems 32 you get 315. Short of the 323 that you need to govern, but not by much. Labour plus SNP gives you 311, add in a few other fellow travellers and you would probably have enough to succeed in a vote of no confidence against a new Conservative/LibDem Coalition. Probably!

Right, here's the cunning plan in the words of a joint Tory/LibDem (Coalition) statement after that confidence defeat:

"Following the defeat in the House yesterday the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have tendered their resignations to Her Majesty the Queen. Her Majesty, following consultations with the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband, has said that Mr Miliband has confirmed that there is no basis for a stable formal Coalition between Labour and other parties which would command support in the House. In the circumstances Her Majesty has confirmed the dissolution of Parliament and that a new General Election will take place in three weeks time.

The Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats believe that it is essential that a stable Government be formed after the Election in the National interest. They have therefore agreed to the continuation of the current Coalition and also that the two parties will not campaign against one another at the Election. Accordingly the Conservatives  will not put forward candidates in LibDem held seats, and vice versa. Further in seats currently not held by either of the two Coalition parties the Party which finished ahead of the other will put forward a candidate, and the other will not contest the seat.

In these extraordinary times the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats call upon their supporters to vote for the continuance of the Coalition and we are confident not only that they will do so but that this electoral arrangement will deliver to the Coalition a workable majority for a full five year term of office"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"The Good Right" is a symptom of Conservative malaise. Well meaning, thoughtful. But doomed without Leadership.

I always thought that the oft-quoted remark of Aneurin Bevan's :

"No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin."

a little over the top! But I am not alone in having consistently opposed and voted against Conservatives ever since I first got the vote. Vermin they may not be, though some are pretty nasty, but most Conservatives seem utterly different in the way they approach Society, and some believe that there is no such thing of course.

A few weeks ago I attended the launch of "The Good Right" - an attempt by Tim Montgomerie, Stephan Shakespeare and others to achieve a conservatism which is "compassionate and electorally successful". Oddly they chose Michael Gove to launch their initiative and he gave a speech which seemd to me to be old-fashioned tub-thumping Conservatism. In it he said this:

"Inequality remains the great social and political challenge of our time. Fighting it is central to our mission in Government."

It won't be just Lefties like me who see this as ringing hypocrisy. And that brings us to the heart of what Conservatives are really about. Let me give you a couple of quotes:

"No one seems to care anything but about money today. Nothing is held of account except the bank account. Quality, education, civic distinction, public virtue seem each year to be valued less and less. Riches unadorned seem to be valued more and more. We have in London an important section of people who go about preaching the the gospel of Mammon... who raise each day the inspiring prayer "Give cash in our time , O Lord"

and then this one:

"I hate the Tory party, their men, their words and their methods. I feel no sort of sympathy with them..."

You can perhaps tell from the language that these are historic quotes - in fact both one hundred years old. And both by Winston Spencer Churchill ! Churchill was at that time ratting to the Liberal Party where he became a successul early practitioner of a nascent Welfare State. Later he was to double-rat back to the Tories of course and later still he was to be an outspoken opponent of Socialism and of the Attlee government. But on his return to power in 1951 and during the administrations of his Conservative successors Eden, Macmillan and briefly Home, there was to be little in the way of unravelling of the 1945-1951 Labour government's model. The Welfare State was here to stay.

The thirteen years of Tory Government 1951-1964 can be seen as compassionate Conservatism in action - although there were few revolutionary changes. Socially liberal progress had to await the Wilson and Callaghan Labour governments during which, among many other moves forward, Capital Punishment was finally abolished and the beginnings of acceptance of homosexuality was legislated for.

Modern 21st Century conservatism was set in position not by the post war Butskellite middle ground or by Macmillan and Heath and co. When Margaret Thatcher died she was hailed by just about every Conservative Grandee and commentaator and all of the current cabinet. And Michael Gove, at the launch of "The Good Right" name-checked not Macmillan (other than for his house building programme) but, at length, Thatcher:

"The leadership of Margaret Thatcher...led to the liberation of billions - and not just from political tyranny but also from poverty." 

This is the conceit that the free market will create wealth for all (a hyperbolic "billions" in Gove's argument) - trickle down time! But actually the world that Thatcher created has far more in common with the world of the "gospel of Mammon" that Churchill condemned than with the compassionate world that Macmillan and all the post war Prime Ministers presided over.

The Tories do have a dilemma. They do not want to concede compassion to their opponents, fair enough if you want electoral success. But equally their ranks are full of passionate neo-liberal free marketeers and to be accused of being "Statist" is the ultimate crime. I have no idea what, if anything, David Cameron stands for. But I know exactly what the Tory Right wants. During the Blair years they had in Hague, Howard and Duncan Smith three standard bearers of that Right. They got nowhere. But notwithstanding this much of the rhetoric is not for middle-of-the-road Conservatism but for another swing to the Right post Cameron. 

"The Good Right" is a welcome corrective but in truth it is a touch on the tiller not a major tack. There are some decent people in the Conservative Party but until there is a credible, strong leader who can do for the Tories what Blair did for Labour (Clause Four, et al) they are condemned either to opposition or to the shifting to the Thatcherite Right. Leadership is the key, strong decisive and compassionate. Is it there?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The lottery of education in Britain


The Education system in the United Kingdom is the most diverse and divisive in the free world. It almost defies belief the extent to which the haves can assure that their children go to good schools and the have-nots have to take pot luck. The richest haves can buy privilege at independent schools many of which are truly outstanding and all of which are very good. The next tier down in the haves heirarchy comprises the comfortably off with a decent family income who can convert a proportion of that income into the purchase of a family home in an area with good State schools. There is a precise correlation between income demographics and school performance. For most of the rest parents are subject to the serendipity of school standards which vary from the good to the appalling. 

I would never argue for levelling down. I support independent schools, academies, free schools ... indeed any school which educates our children well. But let us not delude ourselves that the existence of these good schools means that we have a good general system of education in Britain. We will only do that if we have education for all that gives genuine equality of opportunity. That is my objection to Labour's Academies and the Conservative's Free Schools. They both ( and they are very similar) took the eye of successive Education ministers off the ball of their primary task, which is to raise education standards across the board. 

Our education system needs a radical review. Boasting of the success of a Free School is one thing (and not all have been successful) but that is window dressing. This Government has added to the diversity of our system and frankly done little to raise overall standards. Many of the Free Scools are religious institutions adding to the already grotesque fact that all too many schools are religion-based and indoctrinate as well as teach. 

I want an education system that is fair. That has choice within it, but where choice is not a shibboleth to be pursued at the cost of ignoring the general but improving the particular. As with the Health Service education is a Public/Private partnership and you don't improve the quality of public provision by removing or inhibiting the private sector or by closing other good schools . But it is simply unacceptable in a civilised State (and a wealthy one) that the postcode determines the quality of our schools and that the average standard is so far behind the best. If Labour believes that it can raise the average standard by concentrating efforts on ways and means other than the establishment of more elitist schools for the lucky that's fine by me.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

On Love !



"Romantic Love" is the favourite subject of creative writers in every medium and every culture. Indeed such love is crucial to all or part of the vast majority of plays, novels, poems and the rest. It dominates popular song and Grand Opera alike. It inspires sculptors and artists even composers of orchestral music. It is all around, and it's wonderful.

So what is "Romantic Love" ? Is it a phenomenon that cannot be defined, but you know it when you see it or better still experience it? And how do we separate it from related ideas like, physical attraction, lust and friendship? How do we know when we're "in love"? Indeed is that very idea more than an abstract and a sentimental one? 

As human beings we are separated from the rest of the animal kingdom by many things, and love is one of them. It's perhaps marginal, some creatures other than man do establish monogamous lifetime bonds but that is comparatively rare. And evolution tends to favour those with practical benefits and who look to be good breeding material. This is the antithesis of love.

In Jane Austen there is a clear distinction made between those who will make good husbands (occasionally wives) because of their wealth and status and those who have romantic potential. When the two combine that is the perfect situation. How many young men and women in our times have fallen for what they are told are "unsuitable" men or women? The courageous ones ignore the advice of others and let "Amor vincit omnia" - but how many bow to convention and deny themselves and their prospective partner happiness? And how many drift into loveless marraiges with "suitable" partners who turn out to be someone else's choice rather than their own - often in more ways than one.

The thing about "true love" is that it's unpredictable. This worries me a bit about dating agencies. They seem to bring "compatible" people together but isn't it all a bit soulless? You can love somebody who is by any conventional measure not "suitable" and with whom the data suggests you will not be compatible. Indeed these are often the strongest love matches of all. I knew one senior executive in Shell who was, you would think, your archetypical pin suited bore. His wife was extrovert, noisy, gossipy and fun. Was she the classic Director's partner? Not really. Was it a successful marriage. Absolutely!

When you look at the extraordinary love match between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who see that love is not always easy. In that extraordinary union with its on-off character and its uber-powerful sexual element you see a wonderful real life love story played out in the bright light of the public eye. This was as far removed from some phoney Hollywood romance as you could imagine. 

I have no doubt that the words "I love you" have been used and abused since the beginning of time. But when they are said with sincerity and when they are accompanied by that tightness across the chest and that shortness of breath that signifies "Love" - that moment of sublimation of everything else (including perhaps reason !) - well that's rather special isn't it?


Monday, April 06, 2015

The melting pot, and the Tebbit "cricket test" in modern Britain









"Take a pinch of white man
Wrap it up in black skin
Add a touch of blue blood
And a little bitty bit of Red Indian boy

Curly Latin kinkies
Mixed with yellow Chinkees
If you lump it all together
Well, you got a recipe for a get along scene
Oh, what a beautiful dream
If it could only come true, you know, you know

What we need is a great big melting pot..."


Blue Mink's song "Melting Pot" dates back to 1969 a time when a solution to lack of racial harmony and tolerance was seen to be greater assimilation of non majority communities in society. The admirable starting point was the obvious, but not always believed or accepted, premise that under our skins we are all the same. Nearly 50 years on the melting pot idea has not vanished. Take this from David Cameron: 

"Our [British] values have a vital role to play in uniting us. They should help to ensure that Britain not only brings together people from different countries, cultures and ethnicities, but also ensures that, together, we build a common home...We are making sure new immigrants can speak English, because it will be more difficult for them to understand these values, and the history of our institutions, if they can’t speak our language...We are bringing proper narrative history back to the curriculum, so our children really learn our island’s story – and where our freedoms and things like our Parliament and constitutional monarchy came from...Britain has a lot to be proud of, and our values and institutions are right at the top of that list. It’s not just important to promote, understand and celebrate these things for their own sake; it is absolutely vital to our future. And that is why I’m absolutely committed to doing  in so."
Fair enough you might say. But what about the cultural heritage, language and traditions of the immigrant  communities? Are they not worth preserving as well? If I was of, say, Indian heritage and a Hindu I would, perhaps, want to maintain my religion and that heritage. Does it make me less British if I worship in a temple and speak Hindi at home ? Clearly no British citizen should act in a way that is contrary to the mores of the majority of British people. But that "common home" Cameron speaks of does not have to be uniform and monocultural. If a second or third generation immigrant wishes to assimilate and adopt a lifestyle indistinguishable from that of his white Anglo-Saxon neighbours that's his choice. But is that in some way more admirable than the individual who prefers to retain his heritage lifestyle, language, religion and dress? Providing in doing this he stays within the law I would say not.
There are elements of the "melting pot" in multicultural Britain, but there is also plenty of continuing cultural diversity as well. And if a young third generation Indian, born and bred in Bradford chooses Virat Kohli as his cricketing role model rather than Joe Root does it matter? Of course not. 


Friday, April 03, 2015

Political murmurings.....

Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, was impressive in the Leaders' televised debate. What she said made a lot of sense to anyone whose politics are progressive. My reaction is I suspect typical of English liberals unattached to any nationalist sentiments. She was smart enough to keep her "Independece for Scotland" agenda well buried (one brief mention). And her fellow leaders, amazingly, didn't try and expose Ms Sturgeon for her and her Party's raison d'être - the break up of the United Kingdom.

Ms Strurgeon is playing a long game. Her predecessor, in his cups after the emphatic win for the "No" campaign in the referendum, said that the matter was settled for a "generation". Then something remarkable happened. The "45" - as they christened themselves - instead of fading away got a new strength from somewhere. They focused not directly on Independence, per se, but on the Westminster elite who - as they saw it - conspired to deny them. Labour were the main casualties of this though the Liberal Democrats seem to have been mortally wounded in Scotland as well.

Electoral Reform

Scots in large numbers flooded to join the SNP. And the polls moved so emphatically in the Party's direction that a near wipe out for Labour and the LibDems seems likely at the General Election. With the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system there is a breakthrough zone at which under-representation becomes over-representation. The SNP has passed this comfortably in the polls and they could have as many as 50 MPs (out of 59) for just under 50% of the vote. 

Meanwhile down South we have UKIP likely to get 10-15% of the English vote but no more than one or two MPs. The Greens will be similiarly grossly under-represented in Parliament. About the only issue on my I agree with Nigel Farage is electoral reform. FPTP is simply undemocratic. Which is why it is not used in Scotland, a Northern Ireland or Wales for their own legislatures. And why it's not used for the European Parliament elections either. 

One thing that might happen after the election is a demand for PR. A multi-party system, which we now have, requires a fair voting system. The SNP should not have 85% of the seats for 50% of the vote. And UKIP should not have perhaps less than 1% of the seats for maybe 15% of the vote. 


The Media

Ed Miliband did pretty well in the debate - no gaffes and an engagingly strong performance. Theost debate polls, though they varied a bit, confirmed this. So what about The Sun and the Daily Telegraph front pages ?


It's hard to be sanguine about this sort of thing. It brings the media into disrepute when to large circulation newspapers lie so outrageously. It won't, sadly, be a one off! 









Thursday, April 02, 2015

For me Tactical voting in Twickenham this time around won’t do!

In the first General Election of 1974 the Liberal Party gained 19.3% of the vote – their highest since Lloyd George in 1929. But they only won 14 seats – a hugely disproportionate number. Over the next five elections they ( and their successors) ranged from 13.8% (1979) to 25.4% (1983) but their seat total never exceeded the 23 they secured in 1983. Then, in 1997, a breakthrough occurred. Although in that Labour landslide year the (now) Liberal Democrats vote fell to 16.8% they more than doubled their seats to 46 – and this was to rise to 62 in 2005 against 22% of the vote that year. What was happening?

The answer to the question as to how the LibDems improved their seat numbers even though their percentage of the votes only went up a few percentage points is twofold. Firstly excellent organisation on the ground. Second tactical voting.

 

Percentage votes:

LibDem

Conservative

Labour

1992

39.7

50.4

9.3

1997

45.1

37.8

15.6

2001

48.7

33.4

13.8

2005

51.6

32.4

11.4

2010

54.4

34.1

7.7

In my Constituency of Twickenham (see above)  the breakthrough came in 1997 when, despite the Labour vote rising on Tony Blair’s coattails, Vince Cable won the seat for the LibDems for the first time (they had been in second place since 1974). At the next three elections the Labour vote fell with the Conservative vote shifting little. Significant numbers of Labour tactical voters almost certainly voted for Cable to block the possibility of the Conservatives regaining the seat. Between 1997 and 2010 the Labour vote fell from 9065 to 4583 (-4482) while the LibDem vote increased from 26237 to 32483 (+6246). Cause and effect.

The point here is that not all voters voted tactically – Labour had a residue of 4583 votes in 2010 – but that sufficient did to help Vince Cable turn Twickenham into a “safe” LibDem seat

The First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system makes some people do strange things! I am a natural Labour supporter, but I haven't voted Labour for more than fifteen years! It seemed to me that in Twickenham the best anti Conservative option was to vote for Cable, a good constituency member and as an ex Labour and SDP man - my sort of person. Or so I thought!

Vince Cable has been a Cabinet Minister throughout the Cameron years. He has been loyal (good, I suppose) but hardly a force for liberalism (except, perhaps, economic neo-liberalism). Cable contributed to the 2004 LibDem “Orange Book” and while to the Left of other contributors like David Laws and Nick Clegg he remains in that broad neo-liberal economic consensus that many if not all Conservatives share. In 2010 Cable said:

"The Lib Dems never were and aren't a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour party. There is no future for that; there never was."

As I have hinted I voted tactically in 2010 and in previous General Elections. Labour was not going to win in Twickenham and frankly Vince was the next best thing. So what about the 2015 General Election next month?

NIckGrant3

I don't want the Conservatives to be in Government but with The national LibDem vote falling spectacularly (possibly to the lowest level since 1959 when the Liberals got 5.9%) they are under pressure - here in Twickenham as well. The Labour Candidate Nick Grant (in the picture with me above) seems a good man but the hill he has to climb from the 7.7% Labour got in 2010 is steep. But a recent poll (below) suggests that he is climbing it. It also suggests that the Tories have overtaken the LibDems. Cable has a fight on his hands!

 

twick

 

So what to do? My tactical vote for Vince Cable in 2005 and 2010 wasn't really necessary but this time around he might need it. And yet I’ve decided he hasn't earned it (please excuse the personalisation of the argument!). I'm going to vote Labour. If Nick Grant over the rest of the campaign can prise a few more percentage points away from Cable it could be interesting. On the other hand in doing so he could let the Conservatives slip in!

When I met Grant recently he argued rather well that we should do what our consciences tell us, and see what happens. This resonates with me. Tactical voting is all very well but in truth voting tactically for Vince Cable in 2010 didn't really work did it? He was part of a Tory dominated Cabinet - so why should I vote for him potentially to do this again? And if others in sufficient numbers think like me well we may get a Conservative MP in Twickenham for the first time for nearly twenty years. Or we might, just, get a Labour MP – well that would be a turn-up for the book wouldn't it!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

General Election 2015–First thoughts on the likely outcome

election_1612427c

Cameron's "Sneering socialists" was a big mistake. Those of us who won't be voting Conservative generally don't sneer (though some do!) and are not Socialists (though some may be). What we are is a mixed bag of people who see the Tories as the problem not the solution. That's a done deal. What for some is not yet done is the anti-Conservative choice we make.

I doubt that there will be many Labour ->Conservative switchers in this election and not many in the other direction either. The battle ground is for the Tories (and Labour to a lesser extent) to haul support back from UKIP. For Labour to persuade previous LibDem voters to support them this time. And for Labour somehow to make the likely disaster in Scotland not TOO disastrous.

I have a feeling that the LibDems will lose support across the board, but hang on in many seats in England where they have a sitting MP and/or a very good operation on the ground. Away from their incumbency seats I expect the LibDems to collapse and for most of their votes to go to Labour. This will give Labour many gains from Tories as the LibDem vote moves not to them.

I do not expect Labour ->UKIP switchers to damage Labour much. In seats where it happens the Tories are weak so despite some loss of votes Labour should hold on.

The Tory ->UKIP switch is potentially damaging to the Conservatives in seats where Labour was a good second last time. This is the second good source of Labour gains.

In the campaign these are the Party priorities:

  • LibDems: Hold on for dear life where they currently have an MP. Forget the rest.
  • Tories: Persuade UKIP defectors to return to the fold
  • Labour: Claw back in Scotland. Make sure ex LibDem voters turn to you not anyone else.