Friday, 13 July 2018

My analysis of British local by-elections of 12/7/18

Readers, the results of British local by-elections from 12 July 2018 were as follows:

Barnsley MBC, Old Town: Labour 548 (44.2%, -5.9%), Democrats & Veterans Party 338 (27.3%), Conservative 157 (12.7%, -1.8%), Liberal Democrats 124 (10.0%), Yorkshire Party 47 (3.8%), BNP 25 (2.0%). [Barnsley Independent Group did not stand]

Darlington UA,Cockerton: Labour 555 (51.0%,+7.9%), Conservative 239 (22.0%, -2.8%), Liberal Democrats 104 (9.6%, -5.5%), Independent 93 (8.5%), For Britain 63 (5.8%), Green 34 (3.1%, -14.0%).

East Dorset DC, Verwood East: Conservative 706 (75.1%), Labour 234 (24.9%)

Elmbridge BC, Oxshott & Stoke d'Abernon: Conservative 1297 (72.0%, -4.7%), Liberal Democrats 463 (25.7%, +9.7%), UKIP 42 (2.3%, +0.1%). [Labour did not stand]

 Hartlepool UA, Rural West: Conservative 678 (45.4%, -5.2%), Independent 546 (36.5%), Labour 184 (12.3%, -0.2%), Green 87 (5.8%,-5.6%). [UKIP did not stand]

Lewes DC, Chailey & Wivelsfield: Conservative 563 (53.6%, +4.8%), Liberal Democrats 324 (30.8%, +5.0%) Labour 104 (9.9%), Green 60 (5.7%, -6.3%). [UKIP did not stand]

Norfolk CC, Yare & All Saints: Conservative 955 (66.2%, -6.6%), Labour 337 (22.4%,+10.1%), Liberal Democrats 182 (11.4%, -3.5%).

Rutland UA, Oakham South West: Independent 178* (29.8%), Liberal Democrats 177 (29.6%), Conservative 163 (27.3%, -5.7%), Labour 80 (13.4%). Independent gain from Conservative. [Other Independents did not stand]

*The Independent and Liberal Democrat candidates were in fact tied on 177 votes. The returning officer drew lots which ended up in the Independent candidate's favour.

 Waveney BC, Pakefield: Conservative 643 (43.8%,+11.9%) Labour 600 (40.9%, -5.2%), UKIP 116 (7.9%) Green 64 (4.4%, -8.3%), Liberal Democrats 44 (3.0%, -6.3%). Conservative gain from Labour.

Waveney BC, Southwold: Liberal Democrats 1005 (71.8%), Conservative 307 (21.8%, -28.4%), Labour 78 (5.5%, -14.7%), UKIP 18 (1.3%, -13.4%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative. [Greens did not stand].

This week's 10 by-elections came from all over the country and provided fascinating results. The majority of them were in council areas which held full council elections in 2015, on the same day as the 2015 general election.

This particular fact would normally work against the Conservatives, but in Lewes and Waveney the opposite proved to be the case. In Chailey & Wivelsfield, a ward comprising several affluent villages in East Sussex, UKIP's lack of a candidate helped the Conservatives to stem any pro-Liberal Democrat swing that would normally appear in local by-elections in Lewes. A Labour intervention hindered both the Liberal Democrat vote and to a lesser extent the Green vote.

If you read my election analyses regularly, you will notice how far Labour has slipped back considerably in Waveney, focused on the fishing port of Lowestoft, since 2015 when former Labour MP Bob Blizzard tried and failed to regain his seat. No squeeze Labour could exert on the Liberal Democrat and Green votes could prevent a Conservative gain of Pakefield ward, which has otherwise been a reliable Labour ward apart from a solitary Conservative gain in 2004. For a ward that has regularly voted Labour it has very Conservative-friendly demographics at present-a high proportion of owner-occupiers, a high proportion of people with no qualifications, and it has a large proportion of retired and older residents (27% of its population are retired and ~32% of this ward's population are over the age of 65).

The Conservatives crashed heavily in nearby Southwold, however, when the Liberal Democrats, who gained the ward from a standing start on a turnout of as high as 49.2%, capitalised on an issue of empty holiday homes in the area which are being left empty for speculative purposes just like thousands of empty homes in Greater London. This has driven up house prices in Southwold to be on a par with many London boroughs, in a village where the average wage is less than £20,000 per year. The result is also is partly a reaction to the fact Waveney council will disappear next year when it merges with Suffolk Coastal council to become East Suffolk District Council. Both Waveney and Suffolk Coastal councils are firmly in Conservative control and rural areas of Waveney (i.e. those not in Lowestoft) will be hit badly by the merger due to Lowestoft having to share services with Felixstowe down the coast.

The Democrats & Veterans' second place in Barnsley has a good explanation if it seems surprising at first. Their candidate, Gavin Felton, was a former Sergeant Major in the British Army and was well known for charity work, factors which both go down very well in Barnsley as in particular Barnsley Central's Labour MP, Dan Jarvis, knows well being a former military officer himself. The Labour candidate did not have such a notable background and therefore lost support, but not enough to lose the safely Labour ward especially with the Yorkshire Party's Tony Devoy failing to make an impact despite South Yorkshire having relatively decent levels of support for the Yorkshire Party. The other UKIP splinter group, the more extreme For Britain Movement, received a cold reception in Darlington but still managed to beat the Green Party, whose vote share dropped by more than 80% of its 2015 vote share.

The more rural the ward or division, the more your personal vote matters, whichever political colours you stand under. This was aptly demonstrated in Hartlepool Rural West where despite the Conservatives holding the seat, the Independent candidate edged closer to winning the seat than earlier this year, and in Oakham South West, Rutland which retains a strong Independent tradition and regularly elects Independent candidates. Rutland is staunchly Conservative as a county-the smallest in Britain by far- but always elects at least a few Independent candidates, mainly in Oakham.

Monday, 9 July 2018

My analysis of British local by-elections from 5/7/18

Readers, the results of British local by-elections from 5th July 2018 were as follows:

Bath and North East Somerset UA, Kingsmead: Liberal Democrats 545 (41.1%, +12.7%) Labour 326 (24.6%, +10.2%), Conservative 282 (21.3%, -6.4%), Green 172 (13.0%, -10.6%). Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative.

Lichfield DC, Curborough: Labour 309 (60.4%, +27.6%), Conservative 169 (33.0%, -8.6%), Liberal Democrats 34 (6.6%). Labour gain from Conservative.

Shropshire UA, Cosford & Shifnal South: Conservative 362 (38.3%, -18.9%), Independent (Mitchell, ex-UKIP) 210 (22.2%, -9.3%), Independent (Carey, ex-Labour) 207 (21.9%), Liberal Democrats 167 (17.7%, +6.3%).

It must be said that the Conservatives were very lucky to win a seat in Kingsmead ward at the last local elections in Bath and North East Somerset; Kingsmead is a mixed ward which normally votes Liberal Democrat even if not by substantial margins, often due to split opposition. In 2015, the Conservatives had two decisive factors in their favour: a general election in which they were winning and a Liberal Democrat collapse locally and nationally. The spa city of Bath (Bath is the only spa town with a cathedral granting it city status) is one of the most pro-European and progressive areas in England outside London and the Bath constituency featured one of the largest Lib Dem vote increases in the 2017 general election (+17.5%). This was repeated in this by-election, as was the sharp decrease in the Green vote. The Green Party came relatively close to winning a seat in Kingsmead in 2015 but the recovery of the Liberal Democrats resulted in a substantial squeeze of the Green vote, and was also responsible for the Conservatives being pushed into third place behind Labour. Bath and North East Somerset will experience ward boundary changes for next year, and the city of Bath is set to have several marginal wards disappear or be substantially withdrawn, which is particularly concerning for the Green Party who won over 20% of the local votes in the city of Bath and came close to winning many wards in 2015, but won only 2 council seats (one of which was narrowly lost in a by-election last year).

Labour's substantial win in Curborough can be placed down to the recent decision by solidly Conservative-controlled Lichfield council's decision to axe the upcoming Friarsgate development on the outskirts of the city, which would have provided hundreds of new retail jobs in Lichfield had it been able to acquire council funding in the absence of a private backer. Labour's opposition to the decision helped it achieve an 18.1% swing against the Conservatives, who were harmed further by a Liberal Democrat intervention even if the Liberal Democrats polled just 34 votes in that by-election. For a cathedral city, Lichfield's Liberal Democrat vote is relatively weak, although its core Liberal Democrat vote is the strongest in Staffordshire nonetheless, as is its Green vote (it recorded the highest Green vote share in Staffordshire in both the 2015 and 2017 general elections).

Meanwhile, in Cosford and Shifnal South in Shropshire, the only one of the three seats the Conservatives were defending that Thursday in which they succeeded in holding the seat, an Independent candidate who had previously been a Labour candidate was undoubtedly responsible for much of the sharp fall in the Conservative vote in the same way the Liberal Democrats' minor recovery was, the drop in the ex-UKIP candidate's vote not withstanding.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

On the Mexican general election of 2018-el PRI es institucional no mas

The Mexican general election of 2018 resulted in the most wholesale change of power in the history of Mexico, even accounting for the 2000 general election which marked an end to 71 continuous years of power by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which once dominated Mexican politics in a similar way to Fianna Fail dominating Irish politics, but on a greater scale and with even more cronyism (and often electoral fraud).

The PRI slumped to a poor third place in the Presidential election, with its presidential candidate Jose Antonia Meade securing 16.4% and failing to win the vote in any Mexican states, and coming second in only a minority of Mexican states. They also crashed to third place in the Senate, dropping from 55 seats to a lowly 14 out of 128. Even more devastating was their performance in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower chamber of the Mexican Congress), where they won just 42 seats, down from 204 in 2015. This means they lost 80% of their deputies, suffering a loss even larger than that suffered by Fianna Fail in Ireland in 2011. More importantly, they won only 6 of the 300 single member constituencies up for election, which was not significantly compensated by their 36 list seats. Their previous low was 121 deputies in 2006, finishing third behind the Party of the Democratic Revolution, Mexico's main social democratic party. This year, the PRI fell to an even lowlier fifth position in the Chamber of Deputies, with the Christian conservative Social Encounter Party and socialist Labour Party each securing more seats (58 and 61 respectively). The PRI also failed to win a single governorship in Mexico for the first time in its long history.

The left-wing Juntos Haremos Historia (which means "Together We Will Make History" in Spanish) was the decisive winner of this election, with its presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, winning 53.19% of the vote avoiding the need for a runoff; this is the first time in 30 years a candidate has won a Mexican presidential election in the first round. Both the PRI and PAN tried to claim MORENA would turn Mexico into a "second Venezuela", all to no avail. Senor Lopez is the first socialist candidate since Lazaro Cardenas de Rio to win a Mexican presidential election, and his party, MORENA (National Regenerational Movement) is inspired by many of the major reforms President Cardenas carried out during his tenure from 1934 to 1940, and the significant reforms Mexico still needs. President Cardenas' son, Cuahtemoc Cardenas, founded what is now the PRD, and MORENA drew in large numbers of its lapsed supporters. PRD suffered a significant collapse as well, dropping from 53 seats to just 23 seats, or just 4.6% of the 500 seats in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies. It is now only the seventh largest party in the Chamber of Deputies, having in the past consistently finished either second or third. MORENA, meanwhile, won 193 seats, nearly 2 1/2 times that achieved by the main conservative Mexican opposition party, the National Action Party. The Social Encounter Party won over large proportions of its older urban base, especially in smaller towns, meaning the National Action Party lost 28 seats bringing it down to just 79. Nevertheless, due to the rout of the PRI, PAN still finished second in both the national elections and presidential election, although Ricardo Anaya still only polled 22.26%. The reactionary and controversial Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, meanwhile, who notably supported a return of capital punishment and a few other arguably extreme measures, managed only 5.23% as an independent candidate in the presidential election.

The "Ecologist Green Party of Mexico" (in reality a front for the business interests of the Gonzalez family, owner of the Farmacias Similares drugstore franchise; it is not a true Green Party) paid the price for its alliance with the PRI, going down to 17 seats, and Mexicans are now seeing the party for what it really is. Environmentalism has sadly been a neglected issue in Mexico, due to the more pressing social problems of high crime rates, especially relating to violence by drugs gangs, deep-rooted corruption, and worsening poverty in rural areas. The New Alliance Party, founded by the largest Mexican trade union, was almost wiped out, losing all of its list seats with its leader being its only remaining representative.

Many parallels can be drawn between this election and the 2011 Irish election. The PRI has been defeated to such an extent it is unlikely it will recover in the near future, and Mexico has become truly a multi-party state as the Republic of Ireland now has. In 2016, Fianna Fail only recovered 24 of the 57 seats it lost in 2011 and still finished second behind Fine Gael despite the severe unpopularity of the Fine Gael coalition (Fine Gael lost 27 seats out of 76 and Labour 30 out of 37) and its austerity policies. With the PRI being tainted with the reputation of old Mexican cronyism and just being an unprincipled party of power, it is highly unlikely to make a comeback in the near future. The PAN and MORENA, meanwhile, neatly represent both sides of much of the Mexican electorate and will likely result in Mexico transitioning politically to a "red/blue" (i.e. social democratic/moderate conservative) system similar to that found in most European countries with some element of party list proportional representation (Mexico uses a mixed member proportional system, with 300 single member constituencies and 200 list seats). The exciting possibility of very significant change did not greatly enthuse the Mexican electorate, however-turnout was just 63.43%, an increase of a mere 0.35% from the last election. Endemic corruption and misappropriation of public funds by politicians at all levels, as well as repeated violence against political figures (over 130 were killed during the course of the 2017-18 Mexican presidential campaign alone, almost entirely by drug cartels) still deters a large proportion of the Mexican electorate from turning out to cast their ballots.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Why Leslie Rowe should be the next Green Party Leader

With the campaign for the next Green Party Leader and Deputy Leader under way, I will be endorsing Leslie Rowe, who has been the Green Party candidate in Richmond (Yorks) in 2005, 2010 and 2015 and is one of the most dedicated Green activists in North Yorkshire.

Why should you (if you are a member of the Green Party of England and Wales) vote for Leslie?

Leslie is giving the Green Party a choice between ploughing on with a plan that clings on to the idea that Brexit can be completely haltedor accepting that Brexit is going to happen for now and ensuring the Green Party has a strategy to promote an alternative Brexit that can protect the environment, human rights, and animal rights. Such a plan would resonate with a broader spectrum of potential Green voters, who are drawn from a wider spectrum of voters than some conservative political commentators would have you believe.

He will also give Green Party members originating from the rural shires, like myself (I may currently reside in the city of Nottingham, but I was born in Hertfordshire and intend to return to the rural shires as soon as I can) a much needed voice at a time the Green Party is winning much more support in shire counties than in metropolitan areas and progressive university towns. In fact, many of the Green Party's first principal authority councillors were elected in such areas as Rye in East Sussex, Stroud in Gloucestershire, Frome Vale in Herefordshire (then part of Malvern Hills, where the Green Party has had almost continuous council representation since 1987) and Bideford in Devon.

Therefore, vote Leslie Rowe #1 for Green Party Leader this year.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Predictions for round two of the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Normally, I deal with political analysis and psephology (the study of elections, voting patterns, and voter behaviour). However, the globally popular sport of football is definitely worthy of analysis, especially with the shock results we have seen so far in the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the fact it is certainly more competitive than politics in many countries.

The second round of the 2018 World Cup will be one of the tightest in history, and one of the most difficult to predict correctly. Many good teams have not played up to scratch (and two of the best European football teams, from the Netherlands and Italy, did not even qualify this year, and I missed their presence), and several of those eliminated had very good chances but failed to seize the opportunity when they needed to, or failed to bolster their defence strongly enough, as seen by the number of own goals scored in this tournament so far and the number of injury-time goals in the group stage. In fact, of the 122 goals scored in all matches in the first round, 9 (7.4%) were own goals and 17 (14%, notably including every goal scored by South Korea in this tournament) were scored only in injury time (mostly in the second half but sometimes in injury time of the first half as well), including 2 out of the 9 own goals. Also, as many as five group stage matches were decided solely by goals scored in injury time (both halves).

So how will each of the eight second round matches go?

France vs. Argentina (today at 3pm): France have been consistently playing well, if rather steadily, whereas Argentina clearly need to try harder. They only saved themselves from elimination in the last minute of their game against Nigeria last week and their defence leaves much to be desired. France need to play more aggressively, though-they let Denmark off too easily in their last group game knowing both would go through if there was a draw. Nevertheless, France will likely push forward, although the winning margin is not likely to exceed two goals either way. Predicted winner: France.

Uruguay vs Portugal (today at 7pm): Both teams have been playing well and both have excellent strikers. Uruguay has Suarez and Portugal has Ronaldo. This is the most unpredictable of these matches but based on the fact Uruguay's play has been getting better whereas Portugal's has slowed down somewhat since their 3-3 draw against an equally strong Spanish side, I believe Uruguay will win although if it goes to penalties, Portugal will have the advantage. Predicted winner: Uruguay.

Spain vs Russia (1 July, 3pm): Spain have had to work very hard indeed to secure their second round place whereas Russia, the hosts, had a much easier group to deal with, apart from two-time champions Uruguay who thrashed them 3-0 last week. And it appears Russia will be routed by Spain this time. Predicted winner: Spain.

Croatia vs Denmark (1 July, 7pm): Denmark's play so far has been rather lacklustre and too cautious, whereas Croatia have seized the bull by the horns, becoming one of only three teams to win all three of their group stage matches this year. Croatia will likely continue their excellent style of play and push Denmark out of the World Cup without any trouble. Predicted winner: Croatia.

Brazil vs Mexico (2 July, 3pm): Ever since their surprise 1-0 win against Germany, Mexico has been rather overconfident and in their group Sweden taught them a valuable lesson last week with a 3-0 win against them. Brazil may have started off relatively poorly with only a draw against Switzerland but the five-times champions (and the only country to have appeared in every single World Cup finals) picked up the pace from there securing pole position in their group (especially after only winning against Costa Rica in injury time). Predicted winner: Brazil.

Belgium vs Japan (2 July, 7pm): Japan only made it through to the second round by receiving fewer yellow cards than Senegal, who squandered their good chances and paid the penalty. Belgium has done much better, and have for only the second time in their history of participating in finals of the FIFA World Cup won all 3 games in their group. Even against weaker teams they have been determined to try their best, and their game against Japan will prove to be no exception. Predicted winner: Belgium.

Sweden vs Switzerland (3 July, 3pm): Switzerland could have done better in the group stages, especially since it was their fault they only drew against Costa Rica-that injury time goal which secured Costa Rica a consolation point was an own goal by Swiss defender Somner. Sweden have had an excellent performance so far, losing to Germany only in injury time and managing an unexpectedly good win against Mexico. Sweden will likely play hard and secure a good win against the Swiss. Predicted winner: Sweden.

England vs Colombia (3 July, 7pm): England captain and current golden boot holder Harry Kane, having rested for the England vs. Belgium game, will return for this decisive clash which gives England excellent chances. However, England did not seize on a golden opportunity in their game against Belgium which cost them dearly-they must seize every opportunity they can to secure a win, especially with England's terrible record in penalty shootouts at World Cups. Colombia topped their group but have been rather lucky given Poland's poor defence and Senegal's failure to capitalise on their chances. On that basis, the odds are that England will win although the result is by no means assured. Predicted winner: England.

Friday, 29 June 2018

My analysis of British local by-elections of 28/6/18 and why having children is not bad for the environment

The results of this week's British local by-elections were as follows:

Leicestershire CC, Syston Ridgeway: Conservative 810 (59.7%, +2.1%), Labour 251 (18.5%, -2.3%), Liberal Democrats 149 (11.0%,+5.0%), Green 97 (7.2%, -1.3%), UKIP 49 (3.6%, -3.5%).

North Devon DC, Fremington: Independent (Mackie) 577 (50.8%), Conservative 356 (31.3%, +16.6%), Liberal Democrats 119 (10.5%), Labour 65 (5.7%), Green 19 (1.7, -6.1%). Independent gain from former Independent.

North Kesteven DC, North Hykeham Mill: Conservative 376 (49.7%, -9.7%), Lincolnshire Independents 171 (22.6%, -18.1%), Labour 167 (22.1%), Liberal Democrats 43 (5.7%).

North Kesteven DC, Skellingthorpe: Lincolnshire Independents 348 (45.7%) , Conservative 201 (26.4%, +5.3%), Labour 129 (17.0%), Liberal Democrats 83 (10.9%, +5.8%). Lincolnshire Independents gain from Independent.

It was independent candidates and Conservatives who performed well this week, although all four local by-elections this week were in very favourable territory for both where no other political parties were competitive. A low turnout in North Hykeham Mill, where all four candidates lived in the ward becoming increasingly more suburban in nature, can be partly attributed to the Lincolnshire Independents' poor performance. North Hyekham lies within the only Lincolnshire constituency where the Lincolnshire Independents have ever saved their deposit at a parliamentary level-Sleaford & North Hyekham. They had a much better time in the village of Skellingthorpe, notable for its Wikipedia history of unusual stories, partly because their candidate lived there and the Conservatives' candidate did not; also Independent voters in Lincolnshire have shown themselves to be more inclined towards the Lincolnshire Independents than the Conservatives. Despite not having stood in 2015, and despite rural Lincolnshire never having been favourable to Labour in the way Norfolk was half a century ago, Labour managed respectable votes in both local by-elections in North Kesteven. As expected, Syston Ridgeway (whose by-election had no independent or local residents' candidate) a small town whose population mainly commutes to the nearby city of Leicester, returned a Conservative once again and all intra-party swings were below 5%.

This week, you have probably noticed a series of articles claiming that having children is fundamentally bad for the environment, including from women in California who volunteered for sterilisation to supposedly lower their carbon footprint.

However, this line fails to take these factors into account: that how you raise your child(ren) is important, and that a lot of parents do not want to raise their child(ren) in a "standard" and not eco-friendly lifestyle (as described in those articles). A child raised in a green lifestyle will be healthier and happier as well, and will show more love to its parents. Also, few parents in wealthier nations have more than two children, especially well-educated parents, so the birth rate is likely to stay below replacement rate for decades to come, as people are having children later and the effects of environmental damage and diet are reducing human fertility overall; the amount of children a couple has is a major factor in terms of environmental impact. Also, the next generation of children, and the current generation as well, will likely be the ones who will save humanity and the world and undo the mistakes of past generations.