Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Labour Day ...

Tories, LibDems, DUP ... SNP ??

That got your attention, didn't it? Take a gentle stroll with me down a quaint little yellow-brick path in sleepy Thanet South.
It is the weekend after the Election. Let's assume Nate is right with his figures. We're all aglow with the arrival of the new Princess Diana Elizabeth Anne Carole.
That blasted Election is finally over. We didn't believe a word anyone said anyway. And so, we've quite forgotten what they did say.
All we do know is that David Cameron, as the sitting Prime Minister and still leader of the largest party in Parliament, is now trying to form a government. Good riddance. Get on with it, so we can get back to The Royal Baby.
We all know he'll do anything to cling to power. We don't much care. We might not have voted for him. But we were pretty much holding our noses whoever we voted for. Just keep creating jobs.
Now, we know the figures show Labour-LibDem-SNP as the most likely grouping to get a majority in Parliament. But we also know the LibDems won't work with SNP. Plus they're on record (whatever that's worth) as saying they would prefer to deal with the party with the most seats.
But then there's this strange niggle at the back of the mind. For someone who purportedly wanted to support Miliband, why did Nicola Sturgeon keep going out of her way to denigrate Miliband? And why was there that peculiar report about her telling this French geezer she preferred Cameron?
I mean, we all know Labour will never grant Scotland another independence referendum. If it were to go 'Yes,' Labour would be reduced to almost permanent second-class status in England.
So, what are we missing?
Hmm. Back to Cameron. Who's talking to the LibDems. And to DUP. And then we hear Cameron is going to make a serious announcement.
He does his grave visionary-look thing. And comes up with a formula. Could be a one-step, or a commission with a foregone conclusion, or an invitation to the Scottish Parliament.
But it boils down to this. He claims that he has to recognize the impact of SNP almost sweeping Scotland. And he's prepared to offer Scotland a second independence referendum, if they and the SNP ask for it.
Nate talks about messy. You work out the consequence of such an announcement ...

Ed and David

Attacks on SNP

You know, I too worry about the attacks on the SNP. It's not like Scotland suddenly came into existence only 10 days ago. Some of the UK's finest Parliamentarians and Ministers have come from Scotland.
But this time all the polls are indicating that the SNP may well sweep pretty much all of the Parliamentary seats in Scotland. Furthermore, the SNP have consistently argued that their ambition is independence for Scotland. And they are now boasting that they will use their new leverage at Westminster to do whatever it takes to achieve that ambition.
Actually, there is nothing wrong with that. To be honest, I support independence for Scotland. If the Scots want to send a cudgel-waving mob to Westminster, that is their right. Moreover, Westminster has an obligation to pay heed to what they say.
But that approach is a million miles removed from one of the parties in Westminster saying they will use the SNP to their own ends. Even if that damages the economy.
The Tories are not attacking Scotland or its people. They are attacking Labour and its tawdry scheming.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

YouGov Polling

Meanwhile, I'm bound to say, I am losing all respect for YouGov. One of the things I have learned definitively from the current British General Election (came across hints of it in the US Presidential Election of 2010, and the previous British General Election in 2010), is that polling is really horribly subjective and biased. It is all based upon protocols for sampling and weighting.

And from what I can see, YouGov, by their own admission, changed their protocols in about March of this year, since which time they have almost consistently shown a Labour lead, against the evidence of other polls (which have at least fluctuated between the two main parties), and in conflict with their own in-depth, background analysis. Such as the tracking of peoples' views on the handling of the economy by the Tories.

I truly get that, with the experience of recent electoral results, on both sides of the Atlantic, being out of sync with polling, pollsters (who make their living from commercial polling, not political polling) want to be sure that they get their predictions right. But just how much biased guesswork are you allowed to incorporate into an activity which is supposed to be at least based on some sort of science?

Tories surge, over fears of Labour SNP

Well, I hate to say it (ok, no I don't), but I told you so. Many of my earlier anecdotal predictions seem to be coming true.

The Labour vote is collapsing, and going UKIP. And a goodle chunk of the remaining LibDem support appears to be moving over to the Tories.

And whether we like it or not, the driving influence seems to be fear of a Labour minority government dependent on the Scottish National Party to avoid votes of no confidence.

These points are supported by some more polling of Ashcroft (spit, ptooey, sigh) in some crucial marginal seats.

It really is ridiculous talking heads complaining about the Tory campaign. In the first instance, Ed Miliband is proving no less personal in his attacks than any of the Tories. C'mon, he pretty much accused David Cameron of complicity in the deaths of the Libyan refugees.

Secondly, Truman talked about the heat in the kitchen for a reason., Grow up.

Thirdly, the Tories have, since the beginning of this year, made it very clear that their message is simple and blunt: we got it right, they got it wrong, don't risk it. All that has changed is that the 'risk' now includes dependence on a Scottish political party, which has made it very clear that they will hold England and Wales to ransom.

Why on earth should the Tories talk about vision here, skipping through the daisies there, just to make their message more palatable to an electorate, who increasingly know the message to be true?

We ask out politicians actually to believe in something. To demonstrate genuine passion. Here are the Tories genuinely concerned that Labour-SNP will wreck the UK. And we're saying, um, could you tone down the passion please?

And, for the record, no, I do not like negative campaigns. I hated Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. And I'm none too happy with pounding on Ed the whole time.

But that is the central tenet of the Tory message. It works. And we're buying it. Just like we buy copies of newspapers with intrusive pictures we then condemn.

It ain't the fault of the political parties that, as a species, we really do quite like our lives to be a never-ending soap opera of impending train-wreck ...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rise in numbers who think Miliband and Labour will win

So, YouGov have produced figures apparently demonstrating that the Tories no longer have a clear lead in voter expectations of which party is going to gain the most seats in the current British General Election.

Little nerd-explain. First, no polling firm is 100% objective. There are too many variations for a polling firm to weight its sample.

Secondly, one of the developing themes of this campaign is the whole Nicola Sturgeon is a winner, Ed Miliband has become cool thing.

Before the campaign began, we hardly knew Sturgeon, and the general view of Miliband was that he couldn't govern a bacon butty, let alone a developed nation.

Fast forward a few weeks. Sturgeon is the campaign's star. Solid, capable, a credible threat. Miliband has seen his approval ratings rise out of the basement, as a boring campaign has found release in his nerd-cool.

But most important, whereas before we all believed the Tories would head a minority government, all of the talking heads have finally explained that the rules actually mean that the result in our head (which in terms of seats has not changed) would lead to a Labour-SNP government.

Which, in the past six days, has led to two things becoming demonstrably clear:

1) People now take Sturgeon and Miliband seriously. Even YouGov's own polling still shows that folk think Miliband would be a useless Prime Minister. But they now believe he could be Prime Minister. They finally get the rules. Which even YouGov is quick to point out is not the same as voting intention. I may vote this way, but even so, I see something else as the perceived outcome. And, especially since the minnows' debate last Thursday, the public has come truly to believe that a Labour-SNP government is possible. As a consequence of which ...

2) Voting intention polling (including that of YouGov, for the first time in twelve days) is now showing a drift towards the Tories. Folks are getting scared. Which was always the primary objective of the Tory election campaign.

What is your Tory name?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Labour, SNP, Oops ...

So. Let me get this right. Miliband is complaining that, by highlighting the fact that the SNP will likely enter into a Parliamentary arrangement with Labour, given the chance, in order to kick out the Tories, who are probably going to win the most seats. Cameron's warnings are a cynical attempt to do anything to achieve power?

Yet, announcing that Labour, even if it does not have the largest number of seats, will consider creating that formal arrangement, whereby maybe 50 some Scottish Westminster MP's will hold sway over some 500+ English Westminster MP's, this does not represent a cynical ploy to use any device to achieve power?

And moreover, that Miliband, by choosing to use a major campaign speech to address the issue of SNP, knowing that the speech will attract extensive media coverage, this isn't also 'talking up SNP'?

Glad we cleared that up. Sounds to me like a wee bit of Labour panic.

Meanwhile, along with Google, I prefer to spend 'Scottish Day' in the British media celebrating the famed 'sturgeon's photo' of the Loch Ness Monster.

Oops. Did I say 'sturgeon'? I meant 'surgeon.' Geddit? Sturgeon. Surgeon. Prehistoric dinosaur, forging ahead through calm waters, regardless. Oh why do I bother ... ??

Tories Pulling Ahead?

Ok. I'm weak. Back to the British General Election. And back to more anecdotal evidence that things are not going well for Labour.

First up. Labour finally admitting they would do a deal with the Scottish National Party. The evidence from polling is that the Tories will have the most seats after this election. But that Labour will be better placed to form arrangements commanding a majority in the House of Commons. Primarily with SNP. So, I hear you say, what does it matter if they attest to that publicly?

First, because it is a public surrender to SNP in Scotland. Secondly, because Labour are admitting they can't stop the bleed to UKIP in England. And finally, because it suggests Labour's focus now is solely on defeating apathy in their remaining core vote.

I imagine that Labour's private polling last week told them that their core vote is so disillusioned that it gave rise to worry that Labour might not even win enough seats to do a deal with SNP. So, Labour had publicly to give their core vote a reason to turn out. I know, this is way out there nerdy stuff. I live for it.

Second up, other polling indicates that Green support among students has fallen from 28% to 15%. And that fall would be shifting to Labour, right? Wrong. Apparently Labour and the Tories are now joint favorites among students. What?

Look. I'm a Tory. But even I know that students don't naturally gravitate to the Tories. Especially not when Labour are pledging to cut Tuition Fees from £9,000 to £6,000. A double what gives?

So, two weeks before polling day, Labour return to their core issue of the NHS, where the Tories have already outbid them. And the Conservatives keep running replays of the Nicola Sturgeon speech, where she declares she is going to rule Ed Miliband and England with an iron (and socialist) rod.
None of this is good for Labour ...

UK GE 2015: The Key Marginals

Another smidgeon of Sunday morning UK political geekdom, talking about the crucial marginals to keep an eye on. My especial interest in this article is that it mentions Dudley South, where FB mate Mike Wood is the new Conservative candidate. And Ashcroft polling is currently showing him ahead. Good luck, Mike!

Labour Panic (2)

Yet more evidence that what certain polls (and Labour advisers) are saying about Labour's chances in the UK General Election is not being backed up by experience on the doorstep.

Folks who are embarrassed to say to pollsters they are abandoning Labour for UKIP or the Tories aren't so squeamish when it comes to shutting a door in the face of a Labour canvasser.

Low turnout does not favor Labour. Incumbent governments, unless they are virulently hated by their own supporters, tend to do better at getting out their core voters. Especially if that incumbent government is Tory, whose supporters are always and generally better at turning out than Labour voters.

So, apathy on the doorstep is not good for Labour. Neither is the fact that the new electoral registration system has 'lost' almost a million voters who are natural Labour targets.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Labour in Panic?

Oops. I love The [London] Guardian today. It leads with a story where David Axelrod, the Labour Party's invisible US adviser, is attempting to earn his paycheck by claiming the Tories are in panic mode. While the rest of the same newspaper, Labour's primary media cheerleader, spends its time demonstrating Labour panic.

Since we're on the subject of US advisers in the UK General Election (and the Tories have one too, also from Obama campaigns past, one Jim Messina), there's a little trick to determining the true state of thinking in US Presidential campaigns in the couple of weeks before polling day (and we are two and a half weeks away from polling day in the UK).

If the candidate is shoring up his core vote in supposedly safe states, he's in trouble. If he's in the other candidate's safe states, trawling for extra votes, he or she have it in the bag.

Right now, Ed Miliband should be pitching for swing voters. Comparing himself favorably to the Tories on the economy and spending pledges. But instead, he's attempting to stop seepage to UKIP.

And with good reason. Well-known Tory blogger, but in this election, without too much of a dog in the fight (he's already given a couple of Tory Ministers a good flaying on his radio show), anyways, Iain Dale, shared with us this week the experience of a good mate of his out canvassing in London.

Good canvassing is an art. The truly experienced artists make you beg to be allowed to say how you are going to vote. This mate of Iain's states that he was out canvassing in a top Labour marginal in London this past week. And he couldn't find one person to commit to voting Labour. They were all going UKIP. Ok. Anecdotal. But, hmm.

Further on in The Guardian I find two more telling articles. One baldly claiming that, if the current stalemate in the national polls continues, then the legitimacy of Ed will be in question. Another talks of Labour in Scotland being in 'survival' mode. Um. This does not paint a picture of a party in good spirits.

This past week was crucial for Labour. And it was a disaster. I subscribe to Labour's primary activist blog. Good to keep in touch. Do the same thing with the Tories and the LibDems. All the talk the past few years has been the suppressed joy in anticipation of Jon Cruddas's much-heralded drafting of the Labour Manifesto for 2015. And it was finally launched this past Monday. To an overwhelming chorus of crickets.

Five years resulted in a Manifesto which promised Tory-lite. Front and center. Middle. End. Supporting speeches. T-shirts. And Teddy bears. It all came down to this: don't vote for us unless you believe we can be trusted on the economy. You could actually hear columnists in The Guardian weeping.

Then on Thursday, Ed debated with the minnows. Ed's spin doctors were reduced to boasting that Ed had performed better than the leaders of Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.

So, in summary, this week saw Ed gifting the campaign back to the Tories. Moving the focus entirely back to their strongpoint - the economy. It saw him lose another debate to the leader of the Scottish National Party, who solidified fears that English voters have that she will effectively govern them if they vote Labour in England. And by the end of the week, while the IMF are praising the Tories for their economic record, Ed is out on the stump desperately trying to stop his supporters voting UKIP.

Hmm. Time for an update to the prediction. Come polling day, Tories 35%, Labour 31%, LibDems 10%, UKIP 11%, Green 7%.

Let's break that down a bit, because a lot is changing regionally, most of it in favor of the Tories. SNP have solidified their position in Scotland. Labour will likely see their MP's there reduced from 40 to at best 5. SNP will go from 6 to about 40.

There is underway a phenomenon which no-one else is talking about, but which I first mentioned last summer, during the UKIP By-elections. The lefties in the Liberal Democratic Party left their party in droves in 2011, after the LibDems went into coalition with the Tories. A few are returning. But most aren't. But now, the righties are also abandoning the LibDems, to join the Tories.

In this past week, there was some constituency polling which indicated that this might cause the loss of every LibDem seat in the South-West to the Tories - some 14 seats. I think we might seem similar movement around the rest of England, especially in the north, where Labour voters are moving to UKIP and righty LibDems are moving to the Tories. This may not result in many straight Tory gains from the LibDems. But it might produce some interesting Tory gains from Labour.

All in all, I now predict that we will see a fascinating result in this Election. The Tory and Labour totals changing by as little as 10-15 seats from their 2010 totals. The Tories with the largest haul of seats, but just short of a majority. And Labour nowhere close to being able to form a coalition, without every one of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

At which point, I expect David Cameron to continue as Prime Minister of a minority government, claiming that Labour have no authority to move a vote of no confidence - the latter having just been defeated by popular plebiscite.

Isn't this fun ... ??

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Election Predictions

What I like best about British General Elections is that I can merrily make weirdo predictions on the hour, every hour. If it happens, I'm a genius. If it doesn't, then it's another unfunded Tory spending pledge.

So. You're probably wondering why the Tories appear to be matching Labour, pledge for pledge? Hmm. I wonder. Ok. Predictione du jour.

All the polls suggest the Tories will have the largest number of seats after this election. But without enough seats to command a majority in the House of Commons. At which point, they have to invite Labour to form a government (as a result of the Fixed-terms Parliament Act 2011, which I now think is a daft piece of legislation).

David Cameron will fight tooth and nail not to hand over stewardship of an economy he just spent five years fixing to a nincompoop. So. I predict that, if all else fails, Cameron will offer Miliband a grand coalition deal. With Liam Byrne as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since Byrne is the only Labourite the Tories think can walk and chew gum at the same time.

As for the cartoon? Hilarious ... !!

Elections Are Cruise Ship Holidays

Right about now, your average punter in the UK is totally confused by the General Election campaign. Labour has become Ronald Reagan. And the Tories are now undisputed champions of the unfunded public spending pledge. WTF?

The answer is simple. Do you remember that cruise ship holiday? The convention? Spring break? The holiday romance? Same thing.

We find ourselves in a place we will never revisit. With people we owe nothing. In pursuit of something immediate, heady, intense, almost intoxicating.

Where time is at a premium. And so every nuance. Every look. Every reaction. And every action. Is over-magnified in its importance. Same thing with General Elections in the UK.

All the hard work of the previous five years. Governing. Policy-planning. Not to mention organizing for the campaign itself. All that gets tossed out the window.

All that becomes important is winning the dailies. The social media war. The photo ops. The issue of the day. Each and every day.

Issues which mean nothing normally become blown out of proportion. The whole campaign edifice descends into a mud-wrestling match of competing policy claims. Each major party attempting to outbid the other.

Who cares if a hundred years of policy consistency gets overturned in a month? If it wins the dailies, let the Tories become socialists.

And here's the best part. When it's all over, everyone forgets. We don't remember her name. We don't stay in touch. We lose the address. It was all about those short few weeks.

Anyone remember the UK General Election of 1987? Anyone remember what became the pot-boiler issue? Inner cities.

It was surreal. There was Margaret Thatcher, handmaiden to Lucifer, outbidding Neil Kinnock on what the Tories would do for the deprived inner cities. What happened after the election? Nada.

So, don't take all the pledging too seriously. This election, at the end of the day, is going to be won by those who are currently undecided making up their minds as to who they think is going to be the best steward of the economy.

For the rest, relax, enjoy the soap opera. And hope that whoever wins puts a couple more quid in the pay packet ...

The Fiscal Truth About Labour

What I find truly ... hmm, what? ... startling? ... about the Labour Manifesto is that the entire edifice is precariously balanced on the following shaky challenge: you can only accept the credibility of what we are offering if you believe that we, the Labour Party, can be trusted with the nation's finances. But. Ed. We don't trust you with the nation's finances.


I'm reminded of a former Labour Minister, Gerald Kaufman (who still sits in the House of Commons, and after this Election, will become its Father - the MP with the longest unbroken service), who famously described the 1983 Labour Manifesto as the "longest suicide note in history" ...

Labour Manifesto 2015

Remember this date. This is the day Labour lost the UK General Election of 2015. Either by gross miscalculation, curious happenstance or the greatest piece of political chicanery this side of the Trojan Horse.

For me, it began several weeks ago. When the normally tight-fisted George Osborne, the man responsible for the UK's public finances in the UK LibCon Coalition Government these past five years, suddenly became all fairy godfather.

Previously, George had developed all sorts of reputation for squeezing public spending, cutting this, slashing that, taking milk out of babies' mouths, returning public spending to the days of Richard III. You get the picture.

Then, all of a sudden, using the admittedly rapidly improving UK economy as a foundation, he became the Dark Prince of Largesse. We will create 1,000 jobs a day. Let 2.5 million Housing Association tenants buy their own homes. Freeze rail fares. Cough up £8billion a year extra for the National Health Service. He even wrapped some of this up in something called 'Money-Back Monday.'

Look. Tories don't do things like this. And certainly not George Osborne. Whom everyone has come to hate as the man who, yes, has restored public finances and got the UK economy to the point where it is one of the fastest growing in the world, but who has put every third family into eternal servitude in order to achieve it (as the Opposition would have you believe).

I knew something was wrong. The people in charge of the Tory election campaign are dry and dour. There is a message: 'we got the economy right, Labour are economically illiterate, f**k off.' They have stuck to this message through thick and thin. Gnashing. Wailing. Screams of anguish of biblical proportion notwithstanding.

Why would they suddenly hurl caution to the wind? Toss their hard-earned reputation for fiscal rectitude in the trash can? And do it so egregiously that no-one would believe them? Now we know why. No-one would believe them.

Either someone high up in the Tory high command has an ear in the Labour camp, or someone made a brilliant deduction. That Labour would try to change its colors in the middle of the election campaign.

For, while the Tories have stubbornly stuck to the script of financial correction and economic healing these past five years, Labour, at every turn, have offered only one prescription for the woes following the Great Recession: borrow more and spend our way back to economic growth.

Never once have Labour sought to borrow the clothes of Tory financial prudence - until this morning. And no-one will believe them now.

Miliband is trying to do a Blair, who, in the run-up to the 1997 General Election, attempted (successfully) to undo the harmful reputation Labour had built for itself during the Seventies and Eighties, as being a socialist advocate of near total economic incompetence.

The difference was this. First, Blair achieved his turnaround before the General Election of 1997. Not during it. Secondly, he accompanied the change in tack with apologies for previous Labour mistakes. Miliband has never truly apologized for the mess his party (he was a Cabinet Minister) handed over in 2010.

So, this about-turn by Miliband was likely to be viewed with some suspicion in any event. But, due to the antics of the Tories in the past few weeks, it will now be met with utter ribaldry.

You see, the Tories have it both ways. On the one hand, their mouths have been seen to utter words like 'rail fare freeze,' 'more money for NHS.' People don't forget that. They might disbelieve. But their minds will do that Ricky Gervais thing: no, not the Tories; but they went on telly and said it; no, not George; but he was on Andrew Marr ...

And yet, if you watch the Andrew Marr interview with Osborne very closely, especially now in the context of this morning's Labour Manifesto, you ever so gently begin to wonder if Osborne isn't taking the piss.

So, on the one hand, the Tories uttered the words. For whatever it is worth. At the same time, we all know the Tories have improved the economy. There will be more tax revenues. There have been savings. The money is there. We just all thought they would be putting it in a grand piggy bank. Not giving any back. But they could.

Nevertheless, we're still pretty sure it's unlikely. Oh c'mon. We know our George. Come the day after the election. He'll bury that key to the piggy bank deep in the set of Game of Thrones And we'll never see it again. Gotta love him. But at least Junior's got a job. We all have a good chuckle (maybe?), and move on ...

Then. Boom! Labour come out and do the same thing. Change colors. But in reverse. And the electorate, now primed by the Tories, get the point and collapse in helpless laughter. OMG. They're doing it too. Brilliant!

In other words, by taking the piss (maybe?), by spending a couple of weeks egregiously acting like Labour on steroids, the Tories have completely undermined Miliband's oh-so-serious, seeming conversion to Tory fiscal principles.

But there is one crucial difference between the two parties' respective cross-dressing. George having a tease (maybe?) is sort of harmless fun. If he doesn't do what he says, meh.

Labour's change of clothes is potentially more harmful. Promising fiscal rectitude, and then not delivering (cf. same promise in 1997; fast forward to mess in 2010), could destroy the economy - again. This ain't quite so hilarious. And I think ordinary folk will see the difference.

Plus, add in this bit of electoral calculation. Droves of Tory supporters aren't going to abandon their party because one of their leaders has said they are going to pledge £8billion more to the NHS.
Droves of socialists will desert the Labour Party, for the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru, if they seriously believe Labour just became Tory-lite.

My prediction? As a consequence? Labour's polling figures will now freeze at about 31%. The Tory share will gently rise to about 35%. And that is what the actual vote will show on May 7. As for the rest, only memoirs will tell us if this was an amazing confluence of co-incidence, or a move of pure political genius ...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Could The Election Lead To Constitutional Crisis?

This doesn't happen often. Lap it up. I was wrong. And my good FB Friend, Norman Fraser, was right. Good call, Norman. My apologies.

Somehow, his Liberal Democrat party and my former/current/if-only-they'd-picked-me-as-a-Parliamentary-candidate-in-2009 Tory party managed to dream up a crap piece of legislation called the Fixed-terms Parliament Act 2011.

Norman and I had a bit of a ding-dong about it as commentary to a wonderfully precocious essay I wrote the other day.

Bottom line, I was wrong because I thought there was no way that any half-way sensible mainstream British political party would seriously allow a piece of legislation that would permit a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in the UK government to lead to the opposition parties forming an alternative government, as opposed to such a vote immediately returning matters to the people, in the form of a new election.

Norman was right, because he realized that there was not one, but two mainstream UK political parties that could be so stupid.

Just why this is stupid is best summed up in a very long essay by Simon Heffer, who is more long-winded than me, but less precocious and more accurate.

For me the bottom line is: First, this Act probably represented the largest single transfer of power from monarch to Parliament since Cromwell beheaded Charles I, and it appears to have been drafted on the back of an envelope.

Secondly, and more importantly, how on earth can you completely ignore the just-expressed wished of an electorate, and hand power over to folks who were not elected to lead?

Look, I know people will say that is what the Coalition Government of the last five years represented. But that Government was led by a party which won the largest number of seats in Parliament in the General Election of 2010. That counts as some sort of electoral approbation.

However, the specific circumstances that concern me, and apparently Heffer, too, and which makes such a nonsense of this Act, is what happens if the Conservatives are once again the largest party after this current election, can't get a majority vote in Parliament, the Act kicks in, and Labour (with less seats than the Conservatives) forms a government with the Scottish Nationalists?

Leave aside the mockery of democracy that represents, it would involve England, Wales and Northern Ireland being governed essentially at the whim of a Scottish political party (no offence, Norman), when not one person from England, Wales or Northern Ireland had the opportunity to express their opinion in the ballot box on that party.

Like I say, leave aside democracy, does anyone have any concept of what that would lead to constitutionally and politically in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

A Parliamentary vote of no confidence should always and can only ultimately lead to a new election. What a mess this is going to be ...

Pollsters Predict: Miliband Nudging Ahead

Touch of UK Election geekdom this fine Wednesday morning. Look, I know The Guardian is in full left-wing campaigning mode. But that does not excuse ignorance of demonstrable trends and British constitutional practice. Sigh. By the numbers.

Any halfwit, looking at the trend of polling from last May until now, can see that the position has moved, albeit painfully slowly, from an 8% Labour lead to an average 1% Tory lead. That hardly favors Miliband.

There is nothing to suggest any change to the scenario where the SNP is projected to take about 30 Labour seats in Scotland.

Add the latter to the general polling trend, and every professional election forecast in the UK is predicting the Tories will end up with the most seats in a stalemated Westminster Parliament. Including The Guardian's own forecasting unit.

At which point we move on to a very dry recitation of UK constitutional reality. Grip hot chocolate firmly.

Under UK constitutional practice, the sitting Prime Minister is known as First Agent, and may have first shot at forming a government that can command a winning vote in Parliament. Please note: winning vote, not majority of seats.

If he or she can not do so, under the Gus O'Donnell (Cabinet Secretary at the time) rules, instituted in 2010, if the sitting Prime Minister can not command a winning vote in the new Parliament, he or she must invite the leader of the largest party to attempt to form a government.

There is all this guff about, even if Cameron leads the largest party, Labour will form a government with the SNP. Not only will that not happen (I'll come to that), it can not happen.

As both sitting Prime Minister and as leader of the largest party, the only person calling the shots will be David Cameron. He will be under no obligation to invite Ed Miliband to do anything.

But. But. What will happen to government? Well, nothing. Or rather, nothing will change. The existing government will continue. You see, Cameron knows that stalemate favors him. How so?

The economy will continue to improve. All the major reforms are in place. No more legislation is required. As to Parliament, as and when votes are required, Cameron will forge temporary alliances, and challenge the opposition parties to vote him down.

Aha, that's when Labour/SNP will defeat him and force him to hand over power. Er. Not so fast.
Contrary to all the chit-chat, Labour don't want to be seen dead supporting SNP.

At worst, SNP will demand a new Scottish Referendum. At the very least, SNP will be seen to be imposing policies on the English. Either option would be the kiss of death to Labour in England for a generation.

Besides, under the new Fixed-terms Parliament Act 2011, defeat in Parliament would not hand power to Labour. It would lead to a new election.

If Labour are not the largest party in Parliament after this coming election, there will be a truly ugly battle for the soul of the Labour Party. Add that to an improving economy, and Cameron would love an early second election. Not so much Labour.

So. The constitutional reality is that, if the Tories are the largest party after the coming election, they will remain in office, until such time as Labour feel it is safe for them to test the will of the British people again.

In the meantime, Cameron will preside over an improving economy, and will use his skill at compromise, honed over five years of coalition government, to seek the support of Parliament only for consensual legislation, that does not openly piss off Labour. Indeed, look for Cameron to cherry pick from Labour's wardrobe.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Nick Clegg on course to lose seat at election, according to Lord Ashcroft poll

This is the second of my essays today on 'you see, the system does work' April Fool's Day. This one about the British General Election. In response to an article in The [London] Guardian.

First thing to say is that, even now, after some forty years of being involved in elections on both sides of the Atlantic, I still get a tingle at the beginning of any election, be it for dogcatcher, co-op board director, UK Parliament or US President.

Elections are all about the most basic human choice. At the end of the day, after all the fanfare, millions, billions, slanging, lying, banners, babies and barnstorming, elections are about human beings, each having one vote only, designing their destiny.

The guy who cleans my grocery store bathroom this evening has one vote. I have one vote. The billionaire backing my Republican state governor has one vote. You can make it count. Or you can find some reason not to do so, and whine afterwards about how the result wasn't the one you wanted. It's your choice.

Next point is that a lot of folks in the UK are getting all aerated about the possibility that we may have a Parliament with no one party or even group of parties having an overall majority. So, the argument goes, making stable government an impossibility.

Actually, history has shown that some of the most stable governments have come from parliamentary systems where the party make-up looks like a patchwork quilt.

The reason being that political leaders are constantly having to discuss, negotiate and compromise in order to introduce new legislation. So very little frivolous legislation gets considered. Only the important stuff. Where there is some sort of consensus. Makes sense to me. I'm looking forward to it.

Third point. I hope that Nick Clegg is a part of that negotiating. In the US, I'm a Democrat. In the UK (I'm a dual citizen), I still count myself a Tory - even if a somewhat left-wingish one.

I think that the immediate past LibDem-Tory Coalition Government has been one of the best things to happen to the UK in the past forty years. You got Tory business sense with LibDem compassion. And by and large, they got it right.

The only reason this pact worked was because the leaders of the two component parties exercised good judgment, compromise when it was needed, hard-headedness when it was called for, and incredible courage when it was least expected.

Nick Clegg is the living epitome of a public servant putting the welfare of his people before his own party and his own personal ambition. His party will get a drubbing at this forthcoming election. Nick may well lose his seat. But, for what it is worth, and I may be one of the Tories in the universe to say this, he has my admiration.

I mean, how can you say anything nasty about a political leader whose first election photocall is with a hedgehog and a party of schoolkids? C'mon.

No, I reserve the nasty comments for Lord Ashcroft, whose firm conducted the poll the subject of the attached article.

Elsewhere it is reported that Lord Ashcroft is resigning his seat in the House of Lords. Good. Ashcroft is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. We're not allowed to say that, because he is also very litigious. Bollocks.

He was a very secret member of a group called the Savoy Mafia, which in the Eighties, helped to organize illegal arms deals in the UK, and funnel profits and 'commissions' back to senior folk in the Conservative Party. You remember this. My book. The book, as you also probably know, is due to be published commercially this coming June.

When the dust finally settled at the end of the Eighties, Thatcher had resigned as Prime Minister, and non-Thatcherites got to controlling the Conservative Party, Ashcroft became the keyholder for all the naughty money that had been tucked away in Switzerland. Some $600 million at last count.

His remit was to use that money to influence the Tory Party specifically, and British politics generally, to ensure that we had the 'right' government policies in the UK.

In 2010, Ashcroft funneled millions into a whole swathe of Tory marginals. Now, he produces 'influential' polls once a week, which he quite openly states he hopes will influence the outcome of the current UK General Election.

This would account for what The Guardian cutely describes as 'poor relations' between David Cameron and Ashcroft. Cameron recognizes Ashcroft for the crooked greaser that he is. Notwithstanding the fact that the rest of Westminster and Whitehall cower at his every footfall.

I am also not surprised to learn that Ashcroft is thinking of once again becoming a 'non-dom.' He wants to get back to managing his Belize empire. Where he owns a whole shipping line. And pretty much personally set up its offshore banking industry. All of which proved very useful in his drug-smuggling, money-laundering and arms-dealing operations over the past few decades.

Something you will read little about in UK or US newspapers. Because Ashcroft sued the crap out of The [London] Times when it dared to suggest (accurately - er, I managed to get hold of the redacted documents from the DEA, through several FOIA requests, snigger) that Ashcroft had been the subject of DEA investigations for drug-smuggling and money-laundering.

We also know the latter to be true because the US citizen who was the source of the leak about Ashcroft was later prosecuted by Dubya (Randal; scroll down).

Of course, I open myself to litigation from Lord Ashcroft for saying all of this ... pause, waits ... nope, nada. Shame. I could use the free publicity.

Bottom line? Even if it is in a weird and roundabout way, including citizens like me taking it upon themselves to pay attention, take notice, ask questions and then write down the answers for others, the system works. Happy April Fool's Day!