Friday, 23 August 2019

My analysis of British local by-elections from 15/8/19 and 22/8/19

Readers, the results of British local by-elections on 15 August 2019 and 22 August 2019 (one apiece) were as follows:

(15/08/19):

Shropshire UA, Meole: Conservative 438 (37.6%, -17.8%), Liberal Democrats 309 (26.5%, +14.4%), Labour 286 (24.6%, -2.9%), Green 131 (11.3%, +6.3%).

(22/08/19):

Rugby BC, Rokeby & Overslade: Liberal Democrats 963 (56.1%, -7.0%), Conservative 346 (20.1%, +1.8%), Labour 165 (9.6%, -8.8%), Brexit 163 (9.5%), Green 79 (4.6%). All changes are since May 2019.

The county council elections of 2017, and unitary authority elections for former county councils of which Shropshire is one (alongside Cornwall, Durham, Northumberland and Wiltshire) were good for the Conservatives generally, so the 16% swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat in the prosperous and well-educated Meole ward is not surprising, since these types of wards will experience the strongest swings away from the Conservatives in the current political climate.

Meanwhile in Rugby, the small swing to the Conservatives was blunted to 4.4% by the Brexit Party even though that party came a poor fourth behind Labour. It is mainly a recovery from the low point in May 2019, where as I mentioned earlier the Conservatives lost more than 1800 council seats and strongholds such as Arun and Cheshire East. Turnout remained buoyant despite many voters being on holiday; in fact I was on holiday last week myself.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

A possible early general election: most likely gains for each party

Lately, it has been predicted that there will be an early general election this autumn, which is likely to be triggered by a vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson, although this is not guaranteed to succeed and since the Conservatives still have a working majority of one, there will need to be rebellion by a few Conservative MPs for it to succeed. Claims that it will be held on 1st November, the day after Britain is due to leave the European Union, are spurious not only due to the timing being unworkable in practice but also because general elections in Britain are always held on Thursdays; 1st November 2019 is a Friday.

With the vote likely to be more fragmented than ever before in such a scenario, and with the spate of defections, making plausible predictions is very difficult. Nevertheless, with the Remain/Leave divide remaining the strongest factor, and taking into account the effects of the Change UK split and subsequent developments, I can list what seats each party would gain in such an early general election if it happened this year (comparisons are with 2017 general election):

Labour gain from Conservative (31):

Worthing East & Shoreham, Southport, Southampton Itchen, Hastings & Rye, Pendle, Morecambe & Lunesdale, Camborne & Redruth, Harrow East, Chingford & Woodford Green, Reading West, Milton Keynes North, Milton Keynes South, Vale of Glamorgan, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Clwyd West, Aberconwy, Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Broxtowe, Norwich North, Watford, Colchester, Calder Valley, Scarborough & Whitby, Shipley, Northampton North, Northampton South, Chipping Barnet, Wimbledon, Harrow East, Putney, Wycombe.

Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative (11):

Cheltenham, Richmond Park, Guildford, Cheadle, Hazel Grove, Lewes, Brecon & Radnorshire (gained via by-election earlier this month), St Ives, Wells, St Albans, Winchester.

Green gain from Conservative (1):

Isle of Wight.

SNP gain from Conservative (10):

All Scottish Conservative seats except Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine, Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale (10 gains in total)

Brexit gain from Conservative (2):

Mansfield, Thurrock.

Independent gain from Conservative (1):

East Devon.

Liberal Democrat gain from Labour (3):

Cambridge, Leeds North West, Sheffield Hallam.

Conservative gain from Labour (5):

Newcastle-under-Lyme, Dudley North, Barrow-in-Furness, Bishop Auckland, Penistone & Stocksbridge.

SNP gain from Labour (6):

All Scottish Labour seats except Edinburgh South (6 gains in total).

Ashfield Independents gain from Labour (1):

Ashfield.

Liberal Democrat gain from SNP (1):


North East Fife. 

Too close to call (17):
Ceredigion, Shrewsbury & Atcham, Telford, Bolton West, Derby North, Crewe & Nantwich, North Devon, Great Grimsby, Rochford & Southend East, Rushcliffe, Rother Valley, Gloucester, Filton & Bradley Stoke, Cities of London & Westminster, Morley & Outwood, South Cambridgeshire, Streatham, Totnes.

In a considerable number of these predictions constituency-specific circumstances have been accounted for significantly. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are likely to win a majority at present given recent opinion polls, even with the Brexit Party waning since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. The Conservatives' current Brexit stance under Boris Johnson will mainly seal off many marginal seats they already hold, and with the possible exceptions of Crewe & Nantwich and Derby North a desire for a no-deal Brexit will prevent them gaining any of the seats they lost to Labour in 2017; in most of them a strong Remain vote was a key factor. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn's calls for a second referendum made earlier this year will not endear Labour to swing voters, so the rise of the Liberal Democrats, Greens, and Brexit Party is what is most likely to decide the outcome of many bellwether seats and safe seats that have become marginal as a result of demographic change and the correlating Remain/Leave divide.



Friday, 9 August 2019

My analysis of local by-elections from 8/8/19

Readers, the results of British local by-elections from 8th August 2019 were as follows:

Cambridge BC, Newnham: Liberal Democrats 774 (59.5%, +16.3%), Labour 235 (18.1%, -18.1%), Green 149 (11.5%, +1.5%), Conservative 143 (11.0%, +0.2%). All changes are since May 2019.

East Northamptonshire DC, Irthlingborough Waterloo: Conservative 542 (53.1%, -2.2%), Labour 478 (46.9%, +11.6%).[BNP did not stand]

Worcester BC, Claines: Liberal Democrats 1307 (47.6%, +8.2%), Conservative 1252 (45.6%, +3.0%), Green 125 (4.6%, -3.7%), Labour 60 (2.2%, -2.7%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Meanwhile in town council elections, not often covered on this blog, the Green Party won their first ever town council seat in the seaside town of Lyme Regis, Dorset. The Greens' potential is growing strongly in Dorset as a whole, especially in the west of that county.

The spectre of a snap general election close to the Brexit date of 31st October looms ever closer, and it was no surprise that the Liberal Democrats managed a swing of 17.2% against Labour in marginal Newnham ward, in heavily pro-Remain and intellectual Cambridge. Despite the fact the ward is a tight Liberal Democrat-Labour marginal, the Greens nevertheless managed to improve their vote share and overtake the Conservatives. The fact it was holiday season indirectly hurt Labour, given Jeremy Corbyn's strong support amongst student voters.

In East Northamptonshire, Labour's failure to gain a marginal small town ward will not bode well for them in traditional bellwether seats in the event of such a snap general election, many of which are large towns or groupings of small to medium-sized towns. Irthlingborough is located in the key marginal seat of Corby, with the Conservative-leaning East Northamptonshire parts usually proving decisive to the overall result of that seat. It is the towns, not the cities, that decide British elections.

The Liberal Democrat gain in Worcester relied on tactical voting and candidate recognition more than any other factors; Claines' demographic statistics are relatively average by Worcester standards apart from having the highest number of owner occupiers. Tactical voting is less likely to play a part in the event of an early election at present due to the vote being so fragmented, except in a few specific constituencies which clearly both locally and nationally will still only be competitive between two parties.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Dodds dislodges daft Davies in Brecon and Radnorshire by-election

Readers, the results of the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election were as follows:

Chris Davies, Conservative, 12,401 (38.9%, -9.6%)

Tom Davies, Labour, 1,680 (5.3%, -12.5%)

Jane Dodds, Liberal Democrats, 13,826 (43.5%, +14.4%)

Des Parkinson, Brexit Party, 3,331 (10.5%)

Liz Phillips, UKIP, 242 (0.8%, -0.6%)

Lady Lily the Pink, OMRLP, 334 (1.0%).

Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative.

It is clear that the Conservatives brought this by-election loss on themselves, irrespective of any "Boris bounce" hype, which proved to be just hype. It was Chris Davies' conviction for false expenses claims that caused this by-election to happen at all, and reselecting him after he had been successfully recalled doomed the Conservatives from the outset.

Brexit became the overriding issue in this by-election, mainly due to Brecon & Radnorshire being the most rural and agricultural constituency in England & Wales, with no towns having a population of 10,000 people or more. A no-deal Brexit will cause commensurate damage to the livelihoods of farmers in this constituency since it will result in unfavourable tariffs from the EU, potentially making agricultural exports unviable. If you want to find evidence of the "Bregretter" phenomenon, you can find it here. This not only helped the Liberal Democrats to win despite the fact Jane Dodds did not live in the constituency (but rather in neighbouring Montgomeryshire, which has similar characteristics to Brecon & Radnorshire), but it also depressed the Brexit Party, although in 2015 Brecon & Radnorshire also recorded the third lowest UKIP vote share in Wales, and the lowest outside Cardiff that year.

The Labour squeeze was as expected, given how strongly tactical voting played its part in this by-election, to the point where neither the Green Party nor Plaid Cymru fielded a candidate in this by-election; this was the first Welsh by-election without any Plaid Cymru candidate since the Abertillery by-election of 1950. Also, Labour have not been competitive in this constituency for many years. UKIP, meanwhile, essentially made redundant by the Brexit Party, finished in last place and 92 votes behind the Monster Raving Loony Party. This could prove to be their continuity SDP moment-when the continuity SDP famously finished 257 votes behind Screaming Lord Sutch in the 1990 Bootle by-election, they dissolved just days later. Unlike the continuity SDP of the day, which had 3 MPs at the time of the Bootle by-election, UKIP has no MPs, no MEPs, and barely a handful of councillors. There is a chance UKIP may simply fold into the Brexit Party by the end of the year.

I predicted a Liberal Democrat majority of approximately 2000 and in the end it was only 1,425, despite a Liberal Democrat gain being cited as a foregone conclusion by almost every political commentator, and the swing to the Liberal Democrats was only 12% although rural constituencies usually have lower swings than urban constituencies. The low turnout can be attributed to not only the fact that it is holiday season but also the downpour and abstentions from some Plaid Cymru and Green voters in a by-election where neither of those parties was standing, even accounting for the fact Plaid Cymru have never even saved their deposit in Brecon & Radnorshire. The Conservatives' ability to blunt the hard Brexit vote upon Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister only narrowed the margin of the Liberal Democrats' victory. This by-election has not only given the Liberal Democrats parliamentary representation in Wales again (which they lost in 2017 when they lost Ceredigion to Plaid Cymru) but more importantly it has reduced the working government majority to just 1, and it is highly probable that at least one Conservative MP will defect to the Liberal Democrats in the next few months, meaning that Boris Johnson's tenure as Prime Minister may be shorter than that of Alec Douglas-Home, so far the only Prime Minister in the era of universal suffrage in Britain to have been PM for less than one year.

There were also two local by-elections happening elsewhere on the same day, and these were the results:

Huntingdonshire DC, Godmanchester & Hemingford Abbots: Liberal Democrats 929 (48.2%, -3.5%), Conservative 666 (34.5%, +2.9%), Independent 333 (17.3%). [Labour did not stand]

Stockport MBC, Hazel Grove: Liberal Democrats 1401 (45.7%, -2.0%), Conservative 1194 (38.9%, +9.6%), Labour 329 (10.7%, -0.2%), Green 142 (4.6%, +0.3%). All changes are since May 2019 [UKIP did not stand].

In contrast to the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election, both local by-elections showed swings to the Conservatives and not to the Liberal Democrats, despite both of the wards in question being competitive only between those two parties, even if the swings were only 3.2% and 5.8% respectively. Unlike last week, the Brexit Party did not stand in either by-election, indirectly helping the Conservatives since there were also no UKIP candidates. Also, since many electors are on holiday at the moment, low turnouts impact on the by-election swings. There is clearly neither a Boris bounce nor a Swinson bounce of any significance.


Saturday, 27 July 2019

My analysis of British local by-elections in July

Readers, the results of British local by-elections from the last 3 weeks of July are as follows:

(11/7/19):

East Riding of Yorkshire UA, Bridlington North: Liberal Democrats 1308 (42.7%), Conservative 815 (26.6%, -43.7%), Yorkshire Party 349 (11.4%), UKIP 196 (6.4%), Labour 135 (4.4%, -25.3%), Independent (Dixon) 125 (4.1%), Independent (Robson) 76 (2.5%), Independent (Milns) 58 (1.9%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Herefordshire UA, Whitecross: It's Our County 304 (60.7%, +13.0%), Liberal Democrats 141 (28.1%, +10.5%), Conservative 58 (11.2%, -3.4%). [UKIP did not stand]

(16/7/19):

Cardiff UA, Cyncoed: Liberal Democrats 1920 (55.3%, +18.0%), Conservative 838 (24.1%, -12.8%), Labour 560 (16.1%, -1.0%), Plaid Cymru 152 (4.4%). [Greens did not stand]

(18/7/19):

Ashford BC, Downs North: Conservative 229 (37.4%, -10.0%), Green 190 (31.0%, +7.5%), Liberal Democrats 70 (11.4%, -7.3%), Ashford Independents 67 (10.9%), UKIP 22(3.6%), Labour 17 (2.8%, -7.5%), Independent 17 (2.8%).

Ceredigion UA, Llanbadarn Fawr Sulien: Plaid Cymru 186 (63.3%, -7.4%), Liberal Democrats 93 (31.6%, +15.6%), Labour 15 (5.3%, -3.8%).

Daventry DC, Brixworth: Liberal Democrats 817 (49.5%, +38.5%), Conservative 615 (37.3%, -27.8%), Labour 218 (13.2%, -10.7%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative; all changes are since May 2018.

Richmond-upon-Thames LBC, East Sheen: Liberal Democrats 1809 (58.9%, +13.0%), Conservative 1090 (35.5%, -12.9%), WEP 90 (2.9%), Labour 82 (2.7%, -3.0%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Wiltshire UA, Westbury North: Liberal Democrats 488 (52.4%, -5.6%), Independent (Cunningham) 231 (24.8%), Conservative 140 (15.0%, -14.0%), Labour 57 (6.1%, -6.9%), Independent (Moreland) 16 (1.7%).

(25/7/19):

Gloucester BC, Barnwood: Liberal Democrats 676 (46.5%, +15.1%), Conservative 496 (34.1%, -6.0%), Brexit 152 (10.5%), Labour 64 (4.4%, -6.9%), Green 59 (4.1%), UKIP 6 (0.4%, -11.2%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Gloucester BC, Podsmead: Liberal Democrats 203 (30.0%), Conservative 200 (29.6%, -18.5%), Labour 122 (18.0%, -33.9%), Brexit 111 (16.4%), Green 29 (4.3%), UKIP 11 (1.6%). Liberal Democrat gain from Labour.

Hartlepool UA, Hart: Labour 366 (30.5%, +1.3%), Independent Union 358 (29.8%), Green 196 (16.3%, +12.7%), For Britain 166 (13.8%), UKIP 114 (9.5%, -17.7%). [Independents and Conservatives did not stand]

There was also a by-election for the Northumbrian Police and Crime Commissioner post, which Labour narrowly won over an Independent, despite being 15.7% ahead on 1st preferences.

Yesterday's by-elections were the first local venture for the Brexit Party, and in comparison to their European election performance they flopped, finishing a poor third and fourth in the two Gloucester by-elections they contested. Both wards are key marginal in the city of Gloucester, and the supposedly surprising results reflect this. UKIP's derisory vote in both by-elections is a clear sign that the Brexit Party has made UKIP completely redundant, especially with Britain only three months away from Brexit as the situation currently stands.

This week, Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and Jo Swinson became the first female leader of the Liberal Democrats, but comparisons of local by-elections in the two weeks preceding the two in Gloucester and the one in Hartlepool show no evidence of a "Swinson bounce"; the Barnwood ward was already marginal between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives and Podsmead could have had any plausible outcome, given that the Liberal Democrats won a Labour-Conservative marginal from nowhere. Furthermore, the clear Liberal Democrat gain in East Sheen, the wealthiest and safest Conservative ward in Richmond-upon-Thames, was a foregone conclusion given the highly educated pro-Remain demographic of Richmond-upon-Thames as a whole,

Having won their first two seats ever in Ashford, the Greens were unlucky to miss out on a third by just 39 votes in the Downs North by-election, although the rural Downs North ward was previously safely Conservative and there is a limit to how low the Conservative vote can go. This was ironically also shown in Bridlington where the ballot paper was much longer and where the Conservative vote splintered much more easily, although in this case the Liberal Democrats had not stood in May, whereas in May the Greens had stood in Downs North.

Electorally speaking, Labour has been faring poorly in the northeast port of Hartlepool for years, and a split in the pro-Brexit vote was what prevented their loss of the Hart by-election, where the Greens achieved one of their best ever results in the borough.

The summer is generally a quiet time for politics with Parliament going into recess from the last week of July to the first week of September, but this year is an exception, with next week playing host to the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election at a time when the current government's working majority could disappear soon.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

How the seven holy virtues connect to green politics and green living

As a practising Roman Catholic who has been a Green Party activist since 2012, it has interested me to see how, despite Green Parties across Europe having a stronger base than average in progressive cities with a high proportion of people identifying as having no religion or not stating their religion, green politics and values actually align very well with the seven holy virtues of Christianity, the cardinal virtues being affirmed by Saint Ambrose and the theological virtues being affirmed by Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Here is how:

Prudence: Reason and thought are not only desirable, but essential in ensuring we can protect and respect our planet's needs and fairly explain why we need to take measures in ensuring this; we are living things and depend on a stable planet to survive. Ecological wisdom is based on the importance of demonstrating such prudence.

Justice: Green politics has social justice as one of its four core pillars. A sustainable future not only requires conserving resources and respecting our planet but also equitable and fair redistribution of those resources, as well as equal opportunities for everyone in society whatever barriers they may face and regardless of any protected characteristic. Acting fairly and without prejudice, and being inclusive, is also critical to achieving green aims.

Fortitude:  Green politics values perseverance for green-minded goals, and when we persevere we achieve those goals. By taking action earlier, fortitude in achieving green aims like saving trees and stopping unnecessary developments will be more easily attained.

Temperance: We should, to the fullest practicable extent, resist consumerist vices, especially those that have been shown to be bad for us, and value things that you cannot put a price on-including cleaner air and nature everyone can enjoy. A lot of food and drink bad for the environment is bad for our health as well, however tempting it is initially.

Faith: Keeping faith in the four green pillars of ecological wisdom, grassroots democracy, peace, and social justice helps us achieve what is right and just, and faith is important for achieving and maintaining a sustainable future for everyone.

Hope: In a world still beset by consumerism and becoming more divided, hope needs to be maintained throughout within green politics, knowing that there is always a silver lining somewhere and that if we act, we can tackle man-made climate change.

Charity: Green activism asks that we make small but nevertheless significant personal sacrifices for the sake of our future and that of future generations, and in particular to help those in need, not just within one's own country but around the world.

And these all tie in well with core green values because of human interdependence with Earth.