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Local By-Election Preview : June 30th 2015

June 30th, 2015

Pentyrch on Cardiff (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 46, Liberal Democrats 16, Conservatives 7, Independents 4, Plaid Cymru 2 (Labour majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 772 (54%), Labour 413 (29%), Plaid Cymru 171 (12%), Green 40 (3%), Liberal Democrat 22 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: Cadan ap Tomos (Lib Dem), Paul Fisher (Lab), Gavin Hill (Con), Munawar Mughal (Ind), Ruth Osner (Green), Hywel Wigley (Plaid)

Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, has always had a local council and it has followed the twists and turns of Welsh politics over the years in more or less the same way as the national picture. When the council was created in 1973, during the oil crisis and the lack of confidence in Edward Heath’s administration, Labour won control of the new council, however not by the margin you might think.

They only had a 3% popular vote lead and a majority of nine in the council chamber so it should come as no suprise that in 1976, the Conservatives romped house with a popular vote lead of 24% (on a 13.5% swing) and getting an overall majority of 13.

But, as we have seen in recent elections held on general election day, Labour voters always come back and in 1979, Labour regained control (despite losing the popular vote by 3%) but it’s the council members that matter and with 41 to the Conservatives 34, Labour were back in charge but it all flipped around in 1983 when the Conservative regained control with a majority of 3 (helped by the newly found Alliance who polled 19% of the vote and causing the Labour vote to fall by 10%) but even that didn’t last long as in 1987, Cardiff became hung.

The Conservatives won 25 councillors (36% vote share), Labour won 29 councillors (35% vote share) and the Alliance won 11 councillors (27% vote share) but in 1991 it was Labour who had the smiles and the majority as they polled 44% of the vote and won an overall majority of 16 as the Conservatives plunged and Labour became confident of winning every seat in Cardiff in 1992.

Sadly for them that didn’t happen, and in 1993 John Redwood announced that Cardiff would become a unitary authority with the first elections being held in 1995. And my word, talk about a landslide. Labour polled 57% of the vote and won 56 out of 67 seats with the Liberal Democrats taking their position as the first ever non Conservative opposition on the council.

And what of the Conservatives you ask? 16% vote share and just one lowly councillor. In 1999, it was clear that the Liberal Democrats were the party making inroads. In those Assembly elections they won Cardiff Central and in the locals polled 28% of the vote (higher than in 1987) and won 17 councillors and they sensed that take off was happening, confirmed in 2004 when the unthinkable happened.

The Liberal Democrats became the largest party on the council with 32 seats and a 33% vote share and although all the parties were equal in the 2008 local elections (Con 28%, Lab 27%, Lib Dem 26%) the Lib Dems remained the largest party just three short of an overall majority. Then came 2012. Labour 40%, Conservatives 18%, Liberal Democrats 18% electing a Labour majority suggesting that Cardiff had come full circle once again and was now as perhaps it always had been a Labour heartland.

Harry Hayfield




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Betting on when the Greek banks reopen

June 30th, 2015

Banking 2

For the Greek people, it appears this tragedy has been going on longer than it took Odysseus reach home after the fall of Troy, but looking at the above tweets, it is looking like that we are approaching the end phase of Grexit. Last night, the Greek Prime Minister indicated he would resign if the Greek’s voted yes in Sunday’s referendum.

So on that basis the 1/2 on the banks opening on July 8th or later might be the way to go, right now, we don’t know what the Greek currency or government will be in a week’s time, until we do, the banks will remain closed is my thinking.

The link to the Paddy Power market is here.

TSE

Note – This thread was written around 12.15pm BST, so the situation might have changed since then please check the news before you place any bets, the Greek government’s approach indicates they have lost their marbles, or will the EU delay Acropolis Now, either way, the Greek banks are going  to be the centaur of attention for the next few days.



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How the economic case for Scottish Independence was weakened in the last week

June 30th, 2015

Oil figures

Picture credit: Twitter

How opponents of Scottish independence may have struck metaphorical oil in the last week.

The top table (table 5) is taken from the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence published in late 2013, whilst the bottom table (table 1) is from the Scottish Government’s Oil & Gas bulletin published last week. As the Guardian notes

The Scottish government has been accused of trying to bury a report that predicts North Sea oil revenues could be £40bn less than the SNP’s most optimistic forecasts by releasing it the day before Holyrood’s summer recess – and after the deadline for emergency questions.

The oil and gas bulletin published by John Swinney, Scotland’s finance minister, reveals that revenues are expected to plummet to well under a quarter of recent forecasts, falling to as low as £2.4bn in total over the next four years.

The bulletin shows a vast gulf between the most optimistic figures given to Scottish voters before last year’s independence referendum by Alex Salmond – then the Scottish National party leader and first minister – who said a future oil boom would underpin a surge in productivity and national wealth after a yes vote.

It will be difficult for supporters of Scottish independence to attack these figures, as they were produced by their own side, no wonder the Scottish government released them on the last day before Holyrood’s summer recess.

I’ve always proceeded on the premise that the Scots will never vote for independence if it leads to them becoming poorer nor will they vote for independence if it leads to economic uncertainty.

Coupled with the Scottish independence movement’s lack of definitive answers on a currency union or the currency an independent Scotland would use, as Greece may well provide a real life example of a country with debt/deficit problems and issues over the currency they may use, might prove to be alarming and illuminating to Scots contemplating Scottish independence.

In any future independence referendum, with the substantial role the oil industry has in the Scottish economy, you can be sure opponents of independence will be reminding the advocates of Scottish independence of their terrible forecasts on oil in the past.

TSE



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How the voters moved on May 7th

June 29th, 2015

This is a great bit of analysis of how the voters moved on election day from the previous general election, Martin Baxter explains

The graphic shows the various migrations of one hundred typical voters from 2010 to now. Voters who have switched from one party to another are shown moving along the corresponding arrow. “Lost” supporters are shown in grey, and “gained” supporters carry a white plus sign.

There are four key changes: the collapse of the Liberal Democrats; the rise of UKIP; the SNP surge in Scotland; and the growth of the Greens. On the graphic, we see five outbound arrows from the Lib Dems, and several inbound arrows into the three insurgents.

Compared with the pre-election estimates, there are the following differences:

  • The Conservatives gained one per cent support, rather than losing three per cent, and only have four voters going to UKIP rather than five. They effectively lose none to the Greens.
  • There is a net two per cent swing of voters from Labour to Conservatives.
  • The Lib Dem flow to UKIP is two rather than three
  • The Lib Dem to Conservative flow is three rather than two
  • The Lib Dem flow to Labour is seven rather than six
  • Two voters rather than one move from Labour to SNP
  • UKIP gain three voters from “Other” parties, such as the BNP (not shown)

These are direct transitions from 2010 voting choice to 2015 voting. For example, the two voters moving from Lib Dem to UKIP represent the fact that two per cent of the GB electorate chose to vote Lib Dem in 2010 and then switched their votes to UKIP in 2015. In other words, less than one tenth of 2010 Lib Dem supporters defected to UKIP in 2015 (two out of twenty-four).

The full explanation is available here.

TSE



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Electoral analysis: The art of changing boundaries

June 29th, 2015

Antifrank looks at the art of changing boundaries

In my last post I spent some time looking at the likely impact of the impending boundary changes on the numbers of seats in different regions and the potential impact on the seat numbers of different parties.  In this post I shall look at how the detail of the boundary review might assist or hinder the different parties.

National party strategic considerations

In the boundary commission review in the mid-1990s the Conservatives were widely expected to benefit from the review.  It didn’t work out that way: the 1997 election was of course a landslide for Labour. What happened?

To answer this, we need to think about what the parties need.  They will simultaneously wish to:

1) Maximise their current notional seat count

2) Maximise their chances of taking new seats

3) Minimise their chances of losing seats

4) Keep incumbents happy

But these aims are inconsistent, so the parties will need to choose which are most important to them.  This will vary for each party.

Right now the Conservatives are fairly content with how things stand.  They have an overall majority on a lead of 6.5% of the national vote share.  They will retain power, however, only if they have a substantial seat lead over Labour so they need to ensure first of all that the smallest possible poll lead will produce the most seats possible.  If they go below that level they’re expecting defeat anyway so the margin of defeat is less important than maximising the chances of success at or above that level.

Labour, by contrast, are already in a losing position.  The current shares of votes are unacceptable to Labour and they need to plan on the basis that they are going to do better.  They will want to ensure that small improvements in their vote share will result in as many extra seats as possible.

From Labour’s perspective a reduction in their notional seat count now following a boundary review may not necessarily be bad news if the result is to bring the possibility of winning more seats in play in 2020 should their vote share improve.  They shouldn’t be planning on the basis of their current vote share: that is a losing proposition, as we saw in May.

For example, York Central and York Outer are respectively a safe Labour and safe Conservative seat.  If they were combined and then divided on a homogeneous basis, the Conservatives would have two marginal seats that would both fall on a swing of just over 3% to Labour.  Labour might conclude that such a reorganisation might suit them if they were working on the basis that a swing of 3% was the minimum that they were targeting.

So each party needs to identify a vote share that they regard as the minimum acceptable and then take positions on the boundary review with that in mind.  There is no point in Labour seeking to give up a seat in the manner described above if it is not going to be recouped on a smaller swing than that presently required for their target number of gains.  And there is no point in the Conservatives seeking a redistricting that results in a notional gain on current vote shares if it makes retaining power on a slightly lower vote share harder.

Selling the strategy to incumbents may on occasion prove difficult and that cannot be overlooked.  In particular, the Conservatives want to get the boundary changes through if they can since it will in general benefit them.  So they don’t want to upset incumbents unduly: they have a vote on the matter.  It may be better to get an arrangement that isn’t the very best for the national party if it is decent enough and keeps an incumbent happy.

As for the best tactic for each party in a given area, much will depend on the detail of local voting patterns.

Developing strategy into tactics

But some general tactics are apparent.

For now, let’s work on the basis that the reduction in seats to 600 takes place.  Based on the national total of registered voters in the May 2015 of 46,425,476, that would produce a range of possible seat sizes of 73,508 to 81,244 registered voters with a par of 77,376 voters.

In the south of England, Labour’s weakness actually simplifies their strategy.  Some seats will look likely to drift out further of Labour’s reach as a result of the reduction in seat numbers and these strict limits on seat sizes – larger seats will generally favour the party that is dominant in the area still further.

The process will be uneven.  For example, on the general election registered voter numbers Cambridgeshire and Suffolk would be due an additional seat between them even with a seat reduction from 650 to 600.  Meanwhile, Peterborough is below the minimum number of registered voters so it will need to take on more rural (and presumably Conservative-voting) voters from an adjoining constituency.  Ipswich, another constituency where Labour has a keen interest, is likely to suffer the same fate, being a constituency only just above the minimum threshold for registered voters in a county which elsewhere has oversized constituencies.

But some seats where Labour are interested will actually need to be reduced in size.  In more populous seats in which Labour have some strength, like Watford and Waveney, Labour will be looking to shed outlying rural districts from the constituency which will be presumed to be more Conservative in the hope of creating a Labour seat.

In less populous adjacent constituencies with Labour strength, Labour will seek to construct a new seat which takes the best of their support from both.  The tactics here can be trickier.  Both Luton seats are undersized.  Do Labour seek to have the core made into a single seat, accepting the loss of a single seat but creating a single Labour stronghold, or do they accept the attachment of large rural areas to each in the hope of getting both but risking losing both?  Given their current seat tally, they need to take the chance, I think.  This gives the concept of political betting a whole new meaning.

Minor problems

So far I have mainly looked at Labour/Conservative turf wars in the south.  But the smaller parties need to watch out.  For example, the Conservatives will be keen to disrupt UKIP so far as possible.  It would be utterly unsurprising if the Conservatives proposed an arrangement in Essex which left the current Clacton constituency bisected, halving the effect of Douglas Carswell’s formidable incumbency and swamping both new constituencies with Conservative voters.  His existing constituency is going to need some adjustment, being underweight in registered voters, and the Conservatives will want to make it as difficult as possible for him.

I expect that Labour will have similar thoughts about Brighton Pavilion and may well seek to despatch Caroline Lucas by providing her with a new cohort of Labour voters to challenge her grip on her seat or partitioning the seat out of existence.  And both main parties may well seek to partition isolated Lib Dem constituencies like Southport, Sheffield Hallam, North Norfolk and Leeds North West.  Even as the electorate becomes less and less inclined to vote for one of the two main parties, the minor parties will find it harder to get or keep Parliamentary representation.

Major problems

By means such as those I described above, Labour managed in the mid-1990s to get a boundary review that actually worked against the Conservatives by bringing into play seats that would not previously have fallen on a landslide. Might such tactics work again?  It would be much harder this time, as can be illustrated with four pictures:

AF 1 AF 2 AF 3 AF 4
In these four areas, Labour have over 100 seats in solid blocks.  All four blocks will suffer substantial reductions in seats under the review. If the seat count is reduced to 600, three of the 18 Labour seats in Birmingham and the Black Country, one of the four Labour north east Welsh seats, two of the 18 English Labour seats in and around Merseyside, two of the 22 Labour seats in and around Manchester, three of the 26 Labour seats in the north east and four of the 19 Labour South Wales seats look set to go.  That’s nearly a third of the seat count reduction accounted for already (and the seven seat reduction in Scotland and two seat reduction in Northern Ireland will do the Conservatives no harm either, taking us up to 24 seats lost from Parliament without the Conservatives having to leave the sofa).

The chances of offloading any of these 15 seat losses in Labour heartlands onto other parties looks limited, given the solid nature of these Labour blocks, painstakingly built over a generation.  Labour will be doing well if it avoids a dozen notional seat losses in their heartlands before they get started.

Conclusions

A reduction in seat count to 600, if achieved, is likely to benefit the Conservatives nationally considerably.  It would be bad for Labour and particularly bad for the Lib Dems, with serious challenges for both the Greens and UKIP.  Each party would need to think carefully about how best to protect their position, bearing in mind what they are trying to achieve in 2020 rather than focussing on what the reorganisation would mean in the context of the May 2015 result.

But will it be achieved?  Conservative incumbents are going to need a lot of reassurance before they are going to feel able to support it because their seats are likely to be chopped and changed a lot.  That process of reassurance hasn’t started yet.  The Conservatives need to decide whether they want to try to get this through.  If they do, they need to start laying the ground right away.

Antifrank



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Why you should be backing Jeremy Hunt as next PM

June 29th, 2015

slip 2

A betting slip from a few days ago.

Despite their very best efforts, Labour wasn’t able to weaponise the NHS to their advantage or damage the Tories on the NHS in the election campaign (nor in the run up to the election.) The NHS is an issue that has been traditionally perceived to be one of Labour’s strongest areas, Labour’s failure to make the NHS an election issue says a lot about Hunt’s abilities as a Minister and to deal with his opponents & the media, something which is a pre-requisite for any successful party leader.

At the time of writing, the best price you can get on Jeremy Hunt as next Prime Minister is 50/1 with Corals, when Sajid Javid’s best price is 14/1, then in my opinion, there’s something wrong with Hunt’s price, as I think both should be similarly priced and Javid’s price is about right.

Another advantage for Hunt is, that the NHS is one of the very few government departments that has its budget ring-fenced from cuts, and is expected to receive increased funding, so whilst other ministers struggle with departmental spending cuts, Hunt’s department, which is arguably the most high profile public service government department, won’t be dealing with such issues, which should theoretically help him politically.

If Andy Burnham, as expected, does become the next Labour leader, then Hunt can point to his his record vis-à-vis Burnham why the Tories should elect him leader. The fact that Andy Burnham couldn’t use the NHS to Labour’s advantage, especially after the widely criticised Lansley reforms, is a story for another thread. No wonder a few weeks ago, Jeremy Hunt publicly declared that he wanted Andy Burnham to become Labour leader.

TSE



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How winning a political bet can get you into trouble

June 28th, 2015

Just don’t tell anyone you bet on your own side losing

I like this story in the Mail on Sunday, Frank Field the Labour MP for Birkenhead and Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair’s former head of policy and who wrote the 2005 Labour manifesto both bet on the Tories winning a majority in May. This has understandably earned the ire of some in the Labour party, who said

‘It is gross disloyalty and they should be ashamed of themselves…..To criticise openly is one thing, but to go out and bet on us losing is appalling.’

We should have paid more attention, when Frank Field said last year of Ed Miliband, voters were ‘repelled’ by the policies of Miliband who was ‘pissing while Rome burns.’

The Mail on Sunday story can be viewed here.

TSE



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Schrödinger’s referendum as Boris wants voters to vote both Yes and No to leaving the EU

June 28th, 2015

Boris for PB

Today’s Sunday Times is reporting (££)

BORIS JOHNSON is preparing to call for a “no” vote in Britain’s referendum on the European Union in an attempt to extract greater concessions from Brussels than David Cameron is demanding.

In a stance that puts him on a collision course with the prime minister, the mayor of London believes Britain should reject any deal Cameron puts forward because the EU will not give enough ground.

Johnson has told friends that a “no” vote is desirable because it would prompt Brussels to offer a much better deal, which the public could then support in a second referendum.

Johnson said: “We need to be bold. You have to show them that you are serious.”

The mayor’s views, shared with friends last week, will send shockwaves through Downing Street. Both the “yes” and “no” camps had assumed that he would support Cameron in arguing for Britain to vote yes.

This strategy by Boris is fraught with risks for him, were IN to win, particularly comfortably, then he will lose some of his electoral lustre. It is also likely to anger David Cameron no end, when Boris ceases to be Mayor next May, it is anticipated he would get a senior cabinet role, Cameron might punish Boris for this, which might impact negatively on Boris’ political future.

His strategy is also likely to annoy the OUT movement, what he is effectively telling them is, if we vote to leave the EU, I’m going to try and re-run the referendum to keep us in the EU, which seems very undemocratic and realise all their worst fears about the EU and this referendum process. But on one level, the OUT movement will be delighted to have a popular big hitter on their side, who may well end being the face of OUT.

Overall, I read this intervention by Boris as him seeing his chances of succeeding David Cameron diminishing and is a transparent and cynical attempt to increase his chances by appealing to the Outers in the Tory party, who will form a substantial part of the voters who will elect the next Tory leader.

Plus, were the UK to vote to leave the EU, that would almost certainly trigger Cameron’s resignation and Boris might also benefit from that, as Mike and others have speculated, Cameron going at time of his own choosing benefits George Osborne in the succession, Cameron being forced out at a time not of his choosing, doesn’t help Osborne.

TSE

PS – The Sunday Times say Boris made his comments, after reading a blog by Dominic Cummings, the former Tory aide who is organising the “no” campaign, which is discussed here on the Spectator Coffee House Blog, link is here and is well worth reading.