Archive for the ' General Election' Category

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English votes for English laws (EV4EL) – the question is whether Cameron is able to deliver

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Election pledges won’t count after the Lisbon Treaty experience

In 1787, a group of Americans came together and wrote a whole new constitution for their country from scratch in the space of four hot and humid months.  Two and a quarter centuries later, it’s still going strong.  True, they didn’t have the complicating factors of histories and traditions or established institutions that the UK has now but they did have to contend with other barriers to success, perhaps at least as high.  There is absolutely no reason why Westminster cannot resolve the West Lothian Question between now and April, if it has a mind to.

That David Cameron has placed that question centre-stage, linked to the issue of greater fiscal autonomy for the Scottish parliament, is both just and prudent.  The unfairness giving rise to the question has lingered far too long and tensions within the Union should be reduced if some parts are not given preferential treatment.  On the other hand, linking the two issues – when the Scottish one is a matter of honour for all three leaders – does as much as possible to ensure it’ll be addressed.

What is lacking is urgency.  Considering how little else parliament has to do in what remains of its time, that’s not good enough.  Never mind a draft bill; Westminster should pass a full Act by the dissolution.  That is the only guarantee that it won’t renege on the vow made by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg – a suspicion Scots could justifiably hold were nothing done beforehand given the experience of 1979.  After the more recent ‘cast iron’ promise Cameron made on the Lisbon Treaty , many might also be sceptical of his word if nothing’s done beforehand having had the chance to do so (unlike Lisbon, it has to be said, where Cameron couldn’t meaningfully deliver).

Dealing with the Question now also removes the possibility that a future different government might choose not to act.  After all, no parliament can bind its successor (nor, for that matter can any group of party leaders bind their current parliament without its consent), and one of the reasons the Question has lain unaddressed since 1999 is that it wasn’t in Labour’s interest to do so.  Already, Miliband is making sceptical noises but that shouldn’t stop the government putting legislation forward.  Much louder noises may come from behind the PM if he doesn’t.

What form that legislation should take is another matter – though determining that is precisely what parliament’s supposed to be there for.  The simplest solution of banning MPs from voting on matters that are not applicable to their constituents brings its own problems.  For example, there’d be multiple majorities in the Commons, potentially leading to gridlock if a government had an overall majority, so could decide how to raise the money to be spent on a service but not how to spend it.  It would also mean that England would still share its government with the UK, unlike any other component country of the UK: the same ministers (some perhaps from Wales or Scotland), and the same civil service.

As a first and immediate step, that might still be the best option and perhaps the only one that could be agreed by April next year, preferably with all-party support but by majority if necessary.  Nonetheless, it would still be a second-class resolution and would do little to address the disparity in the distribution of power and spending within England.  Some favour a full English parliament (and, presumably, government), but that would look too much like duplication with Westminster, leading to inevitable rivalry.

Regional parliaments and governments, on the other hand, with similar powers to that enjoyed by Holyrood, would bring greater equality in spending as well as (one would hope) more responsive government and greater diversity of policy.  Some would argue that such a move would merely produce local fiefdoms to be controlled by one party or another but the nature of politics is that opposition always finds a way.  Labour dreamed of Scotland being theirs forever, likewise London.  At some point there’ll be a non-Labour First Minister of Wales.

That, however, is for the future.  Now is the time to make good on the promise to Scotland, and to make good the democratic deficit to England.

David Herdson



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Survation finds that the Tories would be 3% closer without Scotland

Monday, September 15th, 2014

The shape of polling to come post referendum?

Interesting new Survation poll published overnight by Survation with new Westminster numbers showing for the first time two sets of numbers – both with Scotland and without.

The outcome is not surprising but it is good to measure it. Given that generally Survation tends to show higher UKIP figures than most other firms and lower CON ones then the one percent CON deficit should be encouraging.

    But inevitably the whole political environment will look totally different if Scotland does vote for separation on Thursday. Would Cameron still be there for instance?

It was the PM, of course, who was opposed to including a “devomax option” on the ballot making the Scottish people decide between separation from the rest of the UK or not.

Other findings from the poll:-

  • 61% say the UK should not agree to a currency union with an independent Scotland compared to 21% who say they should.
  • 59% say Trident nuclear weapons should be removed from an independent Scotland compared to only 21% who say they should be shared
  • 48% say there should be a guarded border between England and Scotland if Scotland joins the Schengen area.
  • 77% say the UK should give no financial help to an independent Scotland compared to just 12% who say it should
  • 56% do not think the 2015 general election should be delayed if Scotland becomes independent compared to 31%.
  • The campaign for separation hasn’t had a huge impact on cultural relations between Scotland and the UK. Just 11% say they are less likely to support Andy Murray, 12% less likely to celebrate Hogmanay and 10% less likely to drink Scottish whisky.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    David Herdson says “LAB most votes – CON most seats” is a good bet at 66-1

    Saturday, September 13th, 2014

    Collage-DC-EM-NC-NF (1)

    Why the “impossible” could happen

    Labour has won most votes at a general election before and come out behind on seats.  It happened in 1951, when Attlee’s Labour polled over 13.9m votes: around a quarter of a million more than Churchill’s Conservatives, who nonetheless formed a majority government (and for that matter, more than Labour has ever polled in any other election).  A lot has changed since then and the conventional wisdom is that such an outcome is no longer possible.  And indeed, without great change, it’s not – but great change is happening and greater change still could be just around the corner.

    The reasons why it shouldn’t be possible are simple enough: the turnout in Labour’s safe seats is much lower than equivalent Conservative ones, Labour’s seats are on average slightly smaller, and Labour has fewer seats where it is a moderate third, winning a decent number of votes without being in sight of winning.  There is a fourth reason: Scotland.  In 2010, Labour won one MP for every 25,000 votes north of the border; the Tories won one for over 400,000 votes.

    For the bet to come in, three things would need to happen: firstly, Yes would have to win the referendum on Thursday; secondly, Lab would have to have a narrow lead on polling day; and thirdly, there’d need to be a differential impact in the two big polling shifts during this parliament.  Taken together, I think the chances of that happening are better than the 66/1 Ladbrokes are offering.

    To take Scotland first, I’m surprised at how long the odds on Yes are.  True, the polls mostly have No ahead but only by a few points.  I’ve written before about why I’m not putting too much faith in the polling and the sudden clustering around 52-48 doesn’t give me any reassurance: are they all more-or-less accurate or are they finding comfort in each other’s company?  Even if they are right today, it wouldn’t take much of a swing for Yes to be ahead on Thursday.

    Of course, should Yes does win, Scotland will still be a part of the UK in May 2015 but we could expect very different election results from a soon-to-be-independent Scotland compared with one with a future in the UK.  The three GB-wide parties are likely to be in a state of shock and the SNP riding a wave, Labour’s battle-cry, to ‘protect’ against evil English Tories would be obsolete, and most of all, the voters would be unlikely to wish to send mixed messages about the independence negotiations.  In 2011, the SNP won 53 constituency seats to Labour’s 15 and the Tories’ 3.  That’s probably not a bad guide to what might be expected should Yes prevail.

    The second condition, of Labour being narrowly ahead can be quickly dealt with: it’s where we are now and although a Scottish Yes might shake up politics in England and Wales, there’s no reason to assume that it would substantially benefit either Labour or the Conservatives’ relative to the other.  There may be Black Swans between now and then, including possible leadership changes, but this is a probabilities game and the probability to my mind is for little change in that lead.

    The third factor is more interesting.  For Labour to win most votes but fewer seats, their vote would have to become less efficient, even if the Scottish effect is substantially reduced.  That might well happen too.  We know that the two main polling movements since 2010 have been a big shift from Lib Dem to Lab, and the rise of UKIP at the expense of all the others but principally the Tories.  The question here is whether those movements will occur disproportionately in safe seats as against marginals.

    In theory, this is what you’d expect to happen.  Where the results were close in 2010, you’d expect tactical votes to have already been substantially squeezed so there’d be fewer Lib Dems to move across.  Likewise, although UKIP voters as a whole may be relatively ambivalent about the alternative prospects of Miliband and Cameron as PM, there are still plenty to be pressured in the marginals, whereas ‘safe’ seats (I write this in advance of Clacton!), may offer a more cost-free protest vote, reducing Tory majorities and votes while still returning MPs.  In reality, the constituency polls don’t particularly bear this out but there are still nearly eight months to polling day and a lot of hard campaigning to go between now and then.

    As with all long-odds bets, I’m not suggesting that this scenario is going to happen.  What I do think is that there’s a better than 1 in 67 chance that it will – and on that basis, there’s value.

    David Herdson



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    …meanwhile in the race to win GE2015 now less than seven months away….

    Friday, September 12th, 2014



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    The devastating detail from the Survation Clacton by-election poll

    Sunday, August 31st, 2014

    The constituency, though, is a one-off

    In all the time I have been following and analysing polls there has never been anything as sensational as the Survation Clacton poll for the Mail on Sunday published overnight. The figures are extraordinary and point to an overwhelming victory for Douglas Carswell in his new colours.

    The thing we must remember is – as Rob Ford and Matt Goodwin the leading academics who have studied the UKIP surge, will tell you – that the demographics of Clacton make it in theory at least the best of all of the 650 commons seats, for Farage’s party.

    In the May 22nd Euro election the Tendring Council area saw a vote split of UKIP 48%: CON 25: LAB 13: LD 2: OTH 12. The Clacton seat covers 21 of the 35 wards in the council area.

    Clearly there’s speculation over where this could happen next. The main consolation for the Tories is that in any other seat conditions would not be as favourable though that doesn’t meant it won’t happen.

    The dramatic UKIP victory that Survation is pointing to will make waves throughout UK politics and other CON MPs, surely, will be considering their positions. I reckon that Kettering MP, Mr Philip Hollobone, might be a possible and I’ve had a small bet at 12/1 that the seat will go UKIP next May.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    David Herdson on what Carswell’s defection could mean for 2015

    Saturday, August 30th, 2014

    carswell

    A by-election victory could secure a TV debate place for Farage

    The defection of one MP or another towards the end of a parliament is nothing particularly unusual.  The decision of one to resign and re-contest his or her seat is.  Were it not for the vote of even greater significance taking place in Scotland next month, the Clacton by-election could have been the seminal political moment of the parliament.  Depending on the two results, it still might be.

    A Scottish Yes would have such profound implications it deserves a thread of its own (before the vote), to game the likely effects on the parties, their leaders and the reaction in the country at large, to work out where any betting value may lie.  The effect of a No would be less significant though the last time the SNP failed in a referendum, they parliamentary party took a hammering at the next election.  It’s also perhaps worth noting that Alistair Darling is 11/1 with Paddy Power to be the next Chancellor and 20/1 to be next Labour leader.

    If we assume a No for these purposes, then the attention of the media and of Westminster will rapidly move on to the Essex coastal constituency of Clacton.  It’s a measure of how rapidly UK politics is changing that the best odds available on UKIP at the time of writing were 1/4.  Only twice since WWII has a party other than the Tories, Labour or Lib Dems (or their predecessors) won an English by-election: George Galloway was one, earlier this parliament; Dick Taverne the other, who held his seat at the 1973 Lincoln by-election after his parting of the ways with Labour.

    Those odds don’t look tempting to me.  UKIP has not made the most sure-footed of starts to their campaign with their previously selected candidate refusing to stand down.  While it’s right that they’re odds-on favourites at the moment, it wouldn’t take much to turn a spat into a shambles if they can’t sort their local aspect quickly.  Indeed, much will turn on local matters: how seriously Labour tries (both for their own sake and the indirect effect their campaign, or non-campaign, has on the Blue and Purple camps), how many of Carswell’s activists follow him across, how many UKIP activists are willing to campaign for their erstwhile opponent – and so on.

      Even so, Clacton has been described by the most favourable seat for UKIP in the country, an assertion that the European election results reinforce. 

    That’s a huge advantage in this election but it’s also a huge risk: if they don’t win, it undermines any claim they have to be taken seriously next year, it would halt their current momentum and would put a hefty spring in the stride of their conquerors.  On the other hand, if they do make history and gain their first elected MP, then that removes another obstacle to Farage appearing in the leaders’ debates next year – an aspiration that should be UKIP’s number one campaign objective given UKIP’s still-developing activist base, the impact the debates had in 2010 and Farage’s distinctiveness.  For that reason alone, the odds of debates happening at all should lengthen if UKIP wins.

    There is another angle to consider, that of electoral fairness.  A UKIP win, consolidating their position as the fourth major national party, would go still further to undermining the legitimacy of FPTP; a system that only really works well with two dominant parties.  I wrote in March that the Tories’ 2015 manifesto should include a commitment to introducing PR (open lists in constituencies of about five MPs would be best).  The events this week have made that all the more necessary.

    David Herdson



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    Carswell seems to have had an impact on the GE2015 betting markets but not Rotherham

    Friday, August 29th, 2014

    Maybe the weekend polls will change that?



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    Away from the IndyRef – today’s Populus poll sees UKIP up 4% to a record high for the firm

    Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

    This follows an increase in the UKIP share in the ComRes online poll for IoS/S Mirror – published at the weekend and the last YouGov poll have Farage’s party up from its average for the month of about 12% to 14%.

    We need to see more polls, of course, but the theory was that UKIP would fade after the May Euros and headed for GE2015.

    Well these numbers suggest that that is not happening.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble