The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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On the Churches Together Southend West hustings…

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Last night was the big Churches Together hustings in Southend West and I toddled along (mainly to take my mind off of other things – seriously what an emotional roller-coaster this weekend has been) but I have to say it was both extremely well attended and also extremely well run. A strong chair who seemed to have both the candidates and audience under control and the addition of a microphone meant that even people at the very back could hear comfortably.

So big props to the organisers, I genuinely thought it was spot on and if all hustings were run like that then they would be better attended as I felt people would be able to come away from it feeling that they knew more about both a) the candidates and b) their policies. It was very worthwhile.

I tweeted the whole thing again and the storify is embedded below. There are a couple of typos which isn’t a shock because I was on my phone and have fat fingers and a hurty brain. So when I said, ‘JWL with a sky at Sir David on the NHS…’ I meant a sly dig and a ‘fully coated 8bn plan for this’ is obviously a ‘fully-costed…’ but I think that is it.

Before you get stuck in I will say that this storify is far less amusing than the last one. I wasn’t on top form last night so this is more of a bunch of tweets about actual question and answers and very few tweets about food or anything extra-curricular. My battery was dying so towards the end there were fewer tweets. I had completely forgotten about the hustings and remembered just before six so didn’t have time to fully charge the phone before I left.

Anyway enjoy and wherever you live, whether these hustings are revealing or not. Do some research and go out and vote on May 7. Even if the Lib Dems aren’t the party for you and you don’t want to vote for them, go out and vote for the person who you think is best to represent you in your constituency (or ward in local elections). People died for the vote and democracy is an important part of our world so use your vote and use your voice.

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April 27th, 2015 at 9:27 am

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On Tristham Hunt’s refreshingly open views on education…

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I’m not a parent and I haven’t seen the inside of a school in over a decade. However I have long held views on our education system and believe that it needs a completely different approach. I wrote about it last year in a piece entitled, It is time for the Lib Dems to be truly radical on education and back in 2010, one of my very first articles on this here blog was on education – My rambles on education.

The long and short of it is I believe education is too rigid and too much a ‘one size fits all’ system and that isn’t right for many young people and their aspirations and goals in life. Not all young people want to get into academia. Our education system is geared strongly towards exams and progressing with certain academic skills. Also I find schools care about exam results first and foremost and that isn’t the be all and end all of a child’s time in our education system.

So I was heartened by Tristham Hunt’s comments in the Guardian today. Education is the poisoned chalice that no-one wants to really take on. People don’t like change let alone change for change sake. So being open and honest about a radical change in education policy is refreshing.

There is one quote that made me whoop and holler in delight:

‘It drives me mad when we see the school gates closing at 2.55pm when you have this amazing piece of the public realm in communities paid for by the taxes of the parents. The notion of a school as a fortress needs to be broken down, so as part of schooling 8am-6pm, I would love to see more cookery courses, dance clubs, competitive sports and chess clubs. Parents will have a right to have access to this kind of provision’.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

This is something that I’ve said for a long, long time. Schools are a great resource and I understand the need for academics as a big part of schooling but also these resources need to be used to allow children to express themselves and find non academic pursuits that they would enjoy. As Tristham says above cookery courses, dance clubs, competitive sports, chess clubs but of course there are so much more that young people would be interested in.

The time between leaving school and dinner is generally wasted time. I’m not proposing school kids have academic classic for ten hours a day but what I do think is schools should be open and used for a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. The formative years of schooling scope and mould us to a significant degree and we should be encouraging our young people to enjoy their school days and get as much from it as possible.

At the moment out of school clubs depend both on money and on teachers to staff them out of hours as it were. As far as I understand it, teaching staff do not get paid if say they oversee a cricket team and drive them to matches after school or umpire games or whatever. This is not right and relies on the goodness of teaching staff to believe that their job is not a job but more of a vocation. This is why the education system needs a complete rework to pay teachers a fair wage to oversee these extra activities. If the school day was longer then we as tax payers will have to pay for it but it is a great investment into the next generations.

On his point about a new single baccalaureate that will change our view point in the difference between academic and vocational qualifications, I am less convinced but certainly would want to hear more. Schools do care more about academic children because it makes them look better in exam league tables and we are trained to think that the more A*-C grades at GCSE a school has then the better the school is, the same is true of children, those with higher GCSE grades are considered smarter but that isn’t necessarily the case.

I know of parents who pushed kids into following more academic pursuits because they believed it would open up better doors for them, even if the child wasn’t academic and preferred to do other things. We have this view that those who sit down to work have it better than those who work with their hands. That isn’t completely true. With more people going into academia, trades are becoming more rare and therefore the rarer the trade then the more valuable it becomes. If you are a good plumber then you’ll live a good life, the same is true for many other trades because people give great word of mouth if they’ve found a good tradesman (or woman).

Education is a tough one and everyone has their views and many will say I shouldn’t be allowed one because my lions haven’t fertilised any eggs to produce a small person. I disagree but people are entitled to their opinions. Yet I think it is a conversation that needs to happen. Just because our schooling system has always been the way it has, it doesn’t mean it is the best way forward. Education needs to be flexible and have the scope to adjust to an individuals needs. At the moment education works more for one set of pupils than another and that isn’t right but even for the lucky ones – it could be so much more and that is a goal we should all aspire to.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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April 23rd, 2015 at 12:22 pm

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On the Southend West hustings as organised by the Southend Echo…

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I know I said I was disengaging with blogging on the elections locally but I did go to the Southend West Hustings as organised by the Southend Echo this evening and I tweeted the whole thing so I thought I’d share it with you.

Please start from the bottom and work your way up (ooo err…) to read my take on the hustings…

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April 9th, 2015 at 9:28 pm

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On Lord Ashcroft Polling, Iain Dale’s Predictions & Odds – Sheffield Hallam Special Edition

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STOP THE PRESSES. The Big Cheese is going down. After a dramatic new poll Nick Clegg’s defeat in Sheffield Hallam is all but certain. Yes in the biggest shock since me going through a whole Marks & Spencer food shop without anyone looking down on me, Clegg is going down in one of the most affluent constituencies in the country to a Labour Party who aren’t even campaigning, are generally hated in that part of the country and aren’t trusted to run the economy. You’d have thought well-off people would care about this kind of thing but apparently not. Go unknown guy whose standing for Labour, your dreams are coming true.

This though relies on a poll of 1001 people and takes into account some ‘interesting’ findings the closer you look into it. I have looked deep into the Lord Ashcroft polling several times in recent weeks and I find that the deeper you look, the more information you get that doesn’t back-up the headline numbers.

For example, they are using the understanding that 23% of the electorate will be over 65 compared to 17% in the 18-24 age-range. We all know that the retired age range vote far more than younger people and of course they have a much large expanse of ages to come from. The likelihood that the 18-24 age range provides 75% of the votes compared to over 65 is low. It is much more likely that the retired generation will at least double the amount of votes that the 18-24 age range provides. Why is this important?

Well the 65+ age range is the best for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, 47% of 65+ year-olds in this poll say that will vote for the Lib Dems compared to 23% who say this will vote for Labour. This isn’t a surprise as the older generation will remember the days when Labour were really disliked in these parts. The 18-24 age range has Labour up big (49-17) and if you look at that data list, you’ll see that the older you are, the more likely it is you’ll vote LD and the less likely it is you’ll vote Labour. This is very good news for the big cheese.

Another surprise in the polling is that men are more likely to vote Labour than women. This goes against the popular theory that women are more likely to lean Labour than men but actually backs up Lib Dem internal polling that says that women are coming back into the fold at a faster rate than men. This is thought to be because women look more logically at where to place their vote and less emotionally. Men feel betrayed by Clegg and the Lib Dems and refuse to consider them more than women, who whilst feeling betrayed are more willing to give them a second chance.

One last thing to note from this poll – the vast majority of respondents believe that the economy is on the right track at the moment. 75% of people believe the economy will do very well or quite well over the course of the next year for them and their families. This again looks good for Clegg as he’s part of the reason the economy is going the way it is.

So whilst the politicos and the twitterati and of course journalists are all looking at the headline number and getting a little bit too excited, not all the facts support the headline results.

Lets look at what Iain Dale has to say on Sheffield Hallam…

Sitting MP: Nick Clegg (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

This used to be a Tory seat, but it would take a political earthquake for them to take it off Nick Clegg. Interestingly the Labour vote has started to rise, but not enough to cause the LibDems to panic. Yet. If the LibDems are obliterated, then Clegg will probably be obliterated too, but if they retain around half their seats, this ought to be one of them. Or will there be a Clegg effect, which means the LibDems will fare worse here than elsewhere.

So Iain is sticking with the Lib Dem hold line and that seems to be a constant throughout most people who are actually predicting the seat. I did read a post earlier that was dated just a couple of weeks back that said this was a genuine three-way marginal and the Tories were in play. Boy and some people think I have tinted specs…

Betfair still have the Lib Dems as the favourite at a 60% chance to win the seat with Labour on 37%. This is a high number for Labour and takes into account very much the headline numbers from the latest LA poll. However when it comes to the actual odds, the Lib Dems and Clegg are still sitting at shorter than 1/2 at most places with Labour edging in towards 6/4. I have to say there are far better 6/4 shots around in this election than putting your money down on a Labour win here. I remember Julian Huppert at 9/2 to hold in Cambridge and you can’t even get him at evens any more…

All the talk on the front line is that Nick is looking good. Labour are putting up a skeleton campaign and the Tories aren’t going hard after Clegg believing that their time and money are best used in genuine marginals. Nick is having to work harder than many expected and his margin of victory will drop considerably. Yet still the polling and those who get excited about Nick’s potential defeat in Hallam keeps this story in the news. I genuinely wonder why. If you are looking for a big wig to go down then look at Danny Alexander, Caroline Lucas, Alex Salmond, Nigel Farage, they are all a far better chance at losing than Nick Clegg.

Still I could be wrong and the affluent people of Sheffield Hallam are going to vote for a party that wants to crush well-off people just to spite Nick Clegg. It could happen but I could also open a packet of M&S Triple Chocolate Cookies and not eat the whole packet in one sitting. Both are as likely as each other.

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April 1st, 2015 at 2:09 pm

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On Lord Ashcroft Polling, Iain Dale’s Predictions and Odds – Portsmouth South edition

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Ah Pompey South. My old stomping grounds. Yes I know I never lived in the constituency but anyone who was brought up a liberal in the area would always gaze wistfully at the seat. Being brought up in the Havant constituency, you knew David Willetts was waltzing in without too much drama.

Mike Hancock, old scuffball himself, has held on by his fingernails in this seat for a generation. Still his time is up and whilst he is standing as an independent, his odds of being sensationally returned to the seat as the MP are long, real long. They are longer than me scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final for Pompey next season and if anyone has seen Pompey (or me) play football recently then you know that you shouldn’t be taking the 50/1 on offer from the bookies for Mike Hancock to win here (seriously, 50/1? How tight are bookies being?)

Lets look at Iain Dale’s prediction first for this seat:

Sitting MP: Mike Hancock (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain

This seat is now a genuine three way marginal. The LibDems are confident of retaining it despite the Hancock scandal. His successor is the former LibDem leader of the local council. That is a double edged sword as council leaders generally have a lot of enemies.This seat has never had a huge LibDem majority since it was won by Mike Hancock in 1997. It’s always ranged between three and six thousand. It’s difficult to assess the impact of the groping scandal, but on top of their national woes, it could be that the Tories win back what was once for them a safe seat.

Hancock has failed to squeeze the Labour vote as much as some of his colleagues, and not so long ago they managed a healthy 25%. If they return to those levels the Tories will win, unless Labour do incredibly well nationally. In that case a Labour gain isn’t out of the question.

I’d very much contest the notion of this being a three-way marginal. This is a two-way seat. It is blue or it is orange. Labour have never won this seat and in all honesty they’ve never been close. In the Blair landslide of 1997, they were still 15% shy and third behind the Lib Dems and the Tories. Portsmouth South just isn’t Labour territory, the anti-Tory vote has been encircled by the Lib Dems and whilst some of these votes will drift away because of both the Hancock saga and the national issue, that vote will go to UKIP. So lets scratch Labour off the potential winners here despite Lord Ashcroft’s constituency poll of November 2014.

In said poll, Labour were third on 20% behind the Tories (30%), Lib Dems (25%) and just ahead of UKIP (17%). On the surface that looks encouraging for three of the four parties and not so for the Lib Dems. Yet when it comes to casting a ballot at the ballot box, the people of Portsmouth South know they have three real options. Firstly the Tories, secondly the Lib Dems and thirdly the protest vote and that would go to UKIP.

The headline number of the Lib Dems being 5% behind in the Ashcroft Poll was actually not half as bad as it could have been. I do hear things from the ground in the constituency because I still know a lot of people in the area. The support for UKIP is significant but not enough to really contemplate a win. They are looking to act as a spoiler and build for the future. So this election will come down to whether the Lib Dems can keep most of the anti-Tory vote or whether that drifts to the Greens, UKIP or even Labour. The Lib Dems need to retain 80% of the vote that was purely Anti-Tory to win. A tough ask.

Flick Drummond is the Conservative candidate who has good local credentials. The Tories are really attacking this seat and you can see why they are the favourites across the board. However I am surprised that aren’t shorter than they are. On the exchanges they are available at 8/11 and are rated as a 42% chance of winning by Betfair. The Lib Dems have a 27% chance of winning with UKIP and Labour sub 10% (with again the ‘others’ at 17% – others in this instance being the Greens – I am thinking Betfair are overcompensating for the Greens in Lib Dem held seats).

I think Mike Hancock standing is a much bigger blow than Gerald Vernon-Jackson was saying on South Today this evening. He is saying internal polling says it makes little difference and whilst it might not, there will be people who go into the ballot box on May 7 and put their x next to Mike Hancock without thinking.

The Tories are available at Evens if you look around and that is a cracking price. I’d like to see GVJ pull through but I think it’s a real tough one. The Lib Dems are available at 6/4 and that is too short. I think Ashcroft’s polling is wrong in that the Labour vote will drop significantly as Labour voters in Pompey South will lend their vote but I really do expect the Tories to squeak this one out by 2,000 or so. For GVJ to pull through then the UKIP vote has to come from over 50% ex Tory voters and I think it’ll be smaller than that, with a smattering of LDs, Lab and former non-voters making up the majority of UKIP’s vote.

I do hope I’m wrong on this one but I think the Tories finally wrestle back Portsmouth South but it is a seat that will go down to the final days of campaigning and if Nick Clegg performs well in that final Question Time seven days out from voting day then that alone could sway it but the smart money is on the blues (which is very rare to say in Pompey these days – I’m still backing you Andy – you can turn things around!)

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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March 30th, 2015 at 6:31 pm

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On comparing Lord Ashcroft, Iain Dale, Lib Dem Polling & Odds – Hornsey & Wood Green Edition

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Lynne Featherstone. Known to most as a fantastic grass roots campaigner and a passionate women’s rights activist. Known to me as someone who stopped following me on twitter (boo…). Yet still I’m not bitter, a load of Lib Dems have stopped following me on twitter including the DPM and the @LibDems account themselves. What have I done to you guys…?

Still lets not talk about the distinct dislike that other Lib Dems have for me on social media, lets look at Lynne Featherstone and whether she’s going to be representing the people of Hornsey & Wood Green for another term.

First things first, look at the way she has improved her vote since she first fought the seat in 1997. 5,794 people put an x next to her name that year, just 25,998 behind the victorious Labour candidate. Four years later and she had doubled her vote total to 11,353 and elbowed the Tories into a distant second and had ate into Labour’s lead, which now sat at just over 10,000.

After the Iraq war the Lib Dems took the seat with a 5% majority and another 10,000 votes before extending that lead in 2010 to 6,600 odd. The thing to note here is the Labour vote didn’t drift in 2010, the extra votes for the Lib Dems came from the 8,000 more votes cast.

So Lynne’s grass roots campaigning has been first rate to turn what was a pretty safe Labour seat into what was a relatively safe Lib Dem seat. Yet the coalition issue is glaring and in Labour facing seats, certainly those in London, that is a big issue. Outside of London the UKIP factor is far more significant but in London less so. So we know Lynne’s qualities.

Lord Ashcroft polled the seat in September 2014 and had Labour ahead by 13%, which pretty much went with the conventional wisdom in this seat. Still the Lib Dems grasped on to the notion that Lord Ashcroft’s polling didn’t name names and in certain seats, this would keep the seat in play as it were.

Iain Dale wasn’t confident about Lynne’s chances:

Sitting MP: Lynne Featherstone (LibDem)
Prediction: Labour gain

Labour has a massive majority to overcome here, but they are pouring huge resources into this seat to win it back. Lynne Featherstone is a doughty campaigner and won’t be easy to shift, but if she is beaten it will be because of the collapse in LibDem support nationally.

So things are looking grim for a well-liked and well-respected MP. Yet news came out earlier of this month that the Lib Dems had done some internal polling in the seat and things weren’t so bad, in fact they looked rather promising. The headline numbers put the Lib Dems 1% behind Labour (despite the headline calling it a dead heat – that was cheeky).

Some of the other key things to note from this piece of polling is that Lynne has been heard of by 84% of those asked with a +34 favourability rating. The Labour candidate has only been of by 34% of voters with even 49% of those who say they are going to vote Labour admitting that they are voting for the party without even knowing who the candidate was.

The last key piece of information is that amongst those key undecided voters (and if this polling is to be believed then the undecided’s are very much in play) then Lynne’s favourability is +33% whilst Labour’s Catherine West is at -8%.

The excellent new Betfair Predicts website says that Labour are going to win Hornsey & Wood Green. They give Labour a 56% chance to win the seat with the Lib Dems at 25%. The weird thing is they give the Green Party an 18% chance in this seat and that quite simply isn’t going to happen. So the statistics in this seat seem a bit skewed. It isn’t even on their target list and they may only win one of their target list so to give them an 18% chance to win this seat, nah…

Hornsey & Wood Green is a two-horse race (and I hate that term but it is). The Lib Dems are just shy of 2/1 on the exchanges whilst Labour are 1/4. If you like to roll the dice then that is a great price. Headline polls and conventional wisdom say that Labour will win this seat back after losing it ten years ago but the peripherals hint that it is a much tighter seat to call.

I’d have the odds much tighter and Lab at 4/6 and LD at 5/4 which be a far better representation so the value bet is on a Lib Dem hold. Lynne needs to squeeze that 9,000 Tory vote to win and that will be the key to this particular constituency. If she squeezes 3,000 of those voters then she will hold on, if she doesn’t then she’ll be fighting a very tough battle.

A Lynne loss wouldn’t be a shock but a Lynne win most certainly wouldn’t be either. This is a classic seat of a popular incumbent being an MP of an unpopular party nationally. We’ll see if party or person wins out. I know I expect to see more of Lynne on the green benches, even if her (or her social media team) aren’t big fans of me any more…

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March 26th, 2015 at 4:48 pm

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On comparing Lord Ashcroft Polling, Iain Dale predictions & odds for Lib Dem seats – Part I

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Lets look at a few of the seats where Lord Ashcroft has done some constituency polling and compare them to how Iain Dale thinks that the seat will go before throwing in the latest odds for the seats. Politicos seem to think that Iain Dale is pretty darn good and believe his predictions are pretty accurate. We know the pitfalls of Ashcroft polling (it doesn’t name the candidates and for sitting MPs of all parties – this is often to the detriment of the sitting MPs) and well you never see a poor bookie, do you? I’ll be using the odds from Betfair for these odds.

Note: Iain Dale has got in touch to point out that he made some revisions last week, which are on a different link to the full list that I was working from. I have added to this article to reflect this and it effects Carshalton & Wallington

We’ll start with the biggest difference between Iain Dale and Lord Ashcroft – Carshalton & Wallington

What does Iain Dale say about Carshalton & Wallington?

Sitting MP: Tom Brake (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain

Somewhat charismatically challenged Brake is nevertheless a very good constituency MP and this could seem him through, but the Labour vote here is bound to recover. However, I’d say this was a 50/50 prediction and could easily go the other way. This would be the sixth time Brake has fought the seat and that counts for a lot.

Wow. Bit of a blow there for Tom Brake. He won by 11% in 2010 so that would be a big defeat for the Lib Dems. Lord Ashcroft polled the seat in November 2014 and his polling resulted in a Lib Dem hold but not only a Lib Dem hold – he had the Lib Dems stretching their lead and taking the seat by 20%. Lib Dems on 43%, Conservatives on 23% with UKIP up to 17% and Labour on 12% with a few others.

Odds: Lib Dem 2/7, Cons 5/2

Iain has pointed out that in his updated version it is rather different – which pretty much kills this part of the piece but…

Sitting MP: Tom Brake (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain
Revised Prediction: LibDem gain (I assume he means hold)

Somewhat charismatically challenged Brake is nevertheless a very good constituency MP and this could seem him through, but the Labour vote here is bound to recover. However, I’d say this was a 50/50 prediction and could easily go the other way. This would be the sixth time Brake has fought the seat and that counts for a lot. UPDATE: The Ashcroft poll is even more conclusive than the one above 43-23.

So Tom seems like he’s in a much better position now according to both Iain and the LA polling…

Next up we’ll stay in London where things look tight for Simon Hughes in Bermondsey & Old Southwark if you believe Lord Ashcroft but Iain Dale thinks he’ll hold on.

Sitting MP: Simon Hughes (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

I had thought this would be a dead cert hold for Simon Hughes but increasingly I am wondering if I am right. Labour seem very confident they can take this. However, if you look at the electoral hurdles Labour would have to overcome to win this, I think they’re going to have a tough task. They might also be hindered by a number of coalition-friendly Tories lending Simon Hughes their votes. Or they might not :)

I was out doing some campaigning in Guildford at the weekend and one of the chaps I was with was going to Bermondsey on the Sunday. The campaign seems active and Simon Hughes has been a local MP since 1983 in the guises of several different boundaries. Yet Lord Ashcroft in September had Labour within a point of Simon Hughes in a seat where he’s held on with relative ease for quite a while. I’m a big demographics guy and I can see why Labour think they can do well here. Simon has a huge personal vote and I suspect when he stands down it’ll be a very tough hold for the Lib Dems but this time around, Simon could well hang on but I can see why Labour are shorter than 2/1.

Odds: Lib Dems 4/9, Lab 7/4

Next up we’ll go to a seat where the public perception is clear, the Lib Dems are toast in Cardiff Central.

Sitting MP: Jenny Willott (LibDem)
Prediction: Labour gain

Most pundits seem convinced this is a surefire Labour gain. I’m going with the flow here, but I am not 100% sure. Willott could benefit from some Tory tactical voting to keep Labour out. In addition, although UKIP aren’t strong in Cardiff, they could take votes away from Labour as well as the Tories, just as they are sure to do in North Wales. Jenny Willott shouldn’t give up the day job quite yet, but she’s in for the fight of her life.

Lord Ashcroft agrees with the Lib Dems winning by 12% in 2010 but losing by 12% next year. The polling was done in September 2014. Yet there has also been some polling done by the Lib Dems which has her within 1%. As a punter the value is with the Lib Dems but I certainly wouldn’t put it in any accumulator, that is for sure. This is the type of seat where the Lib Dems should lose according to conventional wisdom so a win here and it’ll be a huge win. It will probably need tactical voting to help bring back an excellent MP but it should be noted that more bets have been placed on an LD hold than a Labour win here.

Odds: Lab 1/3, Lib Dem 9/4

Lastly in the first post of this sort (I say first – obviously depending on time etc.) is the one I’m looking at closer than any other seat, Cambridge.

Sitting MP: Julian Huppert (LibDem)
Prediction: Narrow LibDem hold

A genuine three way marginal, this seat has been held by all three parties in recent memory. It went LibDem in 2005. If you look at the size of the LibDem majority here, Julian Huppert ought to be considered very safe, but this is a seat which swings with the wind, and if the wind is blowing towards Labour you can see it returning to them. It obviously has a high student vote and this may determine the outcome. However Huppert has been a strong performer both locally in Parliament and if anyone can hold this seat for the LibDems, he can. But bearing in mind the LibDems’ calamitous results in May I’ve now changed my mind and think Labour will win here.

UPDATE: 16/1/14 And I’ve now changed it back due to more information received about the Labour campaign and candidate, as well as the efforts the LibDems are making here. I now think the odds may be marginally in favour of Julian Huppert.

So Iain Dale has flip-flopped and Lord Ashcroft polled this seat in September 2014 and had Julian Huppert losing by 1% to Labour. The reason I think this seat is one to watch is because Julian is fucking fantastic. He is everything you could want from a Lib Dem MP.

He has a passion for his constituency, he has very green credentials, interacts well and also is constantly being seen and heard in parliament. The Tories seem to not like him and that is probably a good thing. I’m a big Julian fan and if he can’t win in Cambridge then I just wonder what the electorate are on. Regardless of your political allegiance, you have to say he’s an excellent MP and can do great things both for the Lib Dems but more importantly for the people of Cambridge.

The bookies have no idea what to make of Cambridge. Labour were the favourites for a long time but the sheer weight of bets on Julian have seen him become the favourite. This seat has seen representation of all three parties of recent government in the past three decades. It was a Tory seat that went red in 1992 and became super safe Labour in the Tony Blair landslide, however they lost big in 2005 and Julian rolled in 2010.

Obviously the university is a huge issue here and that is not great for the Lib Dems but Julian has always been a strong voice against tuition fees and voted against any increase. It will eat into his vote but he has very quickly become one of the most recognisable faces the Lib Dems have and he has a very high personal rating. I think (and hope) he holds on and if he does – he can hold on to that seat for decades should he want to.

Odds: Lib Dems 8/11, Labour 11/10

More to come…probably.

Iain Dale predictions come from here, Lord Ashcroft polling from here and the odds are from Betfair.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 23rd, 2015 at 6:56 pm

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On UKIP’s new alternative European Football proposals…

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It has been a bad fortnight for English teams (and British – poor Celtic…) in European competition and after Everton’s shambolic defending against Dynamo Kiev tonight, the hopes of a British team lifting silverware in Europe is over for another season.

Both Chelsea and Arsenal dropped out of the Champions League following a defeat on the away goals rule. The rule has been about for ages and most competitions use it to some degree. I’m a fan of having no away goals in use at all, like the football league playoffs, but can also see the way that CONCACAF Champions League, MLS Cup Playoffs, AFC Champions League and AFC Cup use it, where away goals only count after ninety minutes and not after extra time, has its merits (in this scenario no team is penalised/advantaged by playing an extra thirty minutes at home/away from home).

Still the fact that two English sides went out of the Champions League on this rule has caused a stir. If it wasn’t for those peaky Europeans using the rules of the game against the good old English then all would be good with the world. Something had to be done. Well luckily for us UKIP appointed their very own football spokesman and used the position to show that they are a diverse group of people.

Welsh born but of Italian descent UKIP PPC for Fucking Britain, Gethin Da Netti (I know, its a stretch, I’m just not that imaginative) said that rules needed to be changed and under a UKIP led government, the away goals rule would be scraped. ‘After seeing the heroic departures of the gallant English sides (led by a Voyeur Frenchman and an angry Portuguese man – but still English damnit, they play in London), UKIP can now announce that they’ll be lobbying UEFA for a change in the away goals rule to ensure that away goals only count double for English teams and should that still not be enough, any English team that can recite the National Anthem will also get a bonus National Anthem goal in the event of ties.’

We believe that this proposal will ensure that fairness is applied to English teams in Europe because at the moment the situation is grossly unfair because English teams are forced to play in front of foreign crowds who chant in foreign languages and it is putting off the English players as they are trying to decode what these people are saying about their mothers.’

Wanting equality in European football isn’t a new thing for UKIP who even as far back as 1982, even before they existed, campaigned that Aston Villa should win the European Cup because they knew in the future they would become top flight also rans who were an afterthought and the people of Birmingham needed something to get them through what would be known as the ‘Paul Lambert years’.

In 1999 UKIP successfully argued that Manchester United should be allowed to score twice in injury time against Bayern Munich, because it would give Clive Tyldesley a chance to mention to Andy Townsend repeatedly about the Nou Camp in 1999 only to hear Andy remind Clive that it was actually Ron Atkinson who was along him that night as he was still playing, completing his second season at Middlesbrough.

UKIP have always sought to protect English teams in Europe. They were unsuccessful in their proposal to the European Parliament that only players who could down a Pie, Chips and Beans dinner with a pint of Guinness in five minutes should be allowed to play in the Champions League bill and were also unsuccessful when they lobbied UEFA to have all players tested for traces of paella before a match. They were close to getting through a law to ensure all Champions League players could name five words where the, ‘i before e except after c’ rule didn’t apply but then realised no English player would pass and quickly pulled it back off of the table.

Football is important and getting British teams further in European competitions is good for business and good for national pride. UKIP don’t care about the former because who gives a shit about business and the economy but ensuring that English people can go to foreign lands and act like prats to show Europeans whose boss, well that is ok.

It is yet to be seen whether or not this manifesto promise will lead to a sway in votes and a boost for the UKIP poll rating but it is also probably not the daftest (or most unbelievable) thing that has been associated with UKIP that you’ve read today – or any other day – and that my friend (or foes) is almighty depressing.

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March 19th, 2015 at 10:01 pm

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On the term, ‘hard working families’ and why it is diluting Labour’s message…

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Ah ‘hard working families’ – they are the important ones. Hard working single people, fuck them. Stay at home parents, fuck them. People that work but don’t put in a full shift, fuck them. Unemployed people, fuck them. You get my drift. It is a buzz term that has taken off and indeed has got to a point where even Labour don’t seem to want to represent anyone who don’t fulfil the hard working families criteria.

Speaking in The Guardian, Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves says that Labour are not the party for people on benefits. ‘We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work, Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people.’

This seems to me to be exactly the issue that Labour are facing at the moment. They don’t know exactly who and what they stand for. They believe that the country wants a stronger stance against immigration and a tougher stance on benefit scroungers. This is all trumped up by the media who are fuelling this rhetoric in this country and both the written and broadcast media are to blame.

The facts are that immigration is good for the country and those who abuse the benefit system pale into insignificance compared to those who rely on it for a variety of very legitimate reasons. People shouldn’t be chastised or pilloried for being on benefits. To say that a party doesn’t represent those people is not a great place to be.

Labour want to win an election (well, who doesn’t?) but they seem to have a plan of winning the election by putting their stall in whatever place they believe will get the most votes. If that means attacking the benefit system then seemingly so be it. Isn’t that where the Tories want to stand? Isn’t it middle England who apparently look down on those on benefits whilst shopping at Waitrose and cooking on or in an aga? (what is an aga?) Polling though seems to indicate that there is a movement against those on benefits and that means that if you are pro-benefits then there might be votes to be lost.

18 months ago Reeves announced that Labour would be tougher than the Tories when it came to cutting the benefits bill. Wow. ‘It is not an either/or question. We would be tougher [than the Conservatives]. If they don’t take it [the offer of a job] they will forfeit their benefit. But there will also be the opportunities there under a Labour government.’

She speaks about reducing the amount of food banks, which is something I think we all want to see, but only because we want to see the need for them reduce and end entirely. She blames the rise of food banks on the benefit system and delays and the tightening of sanctions against those who abuse the system/get trapped in the system. That isn’t an unfair point but she argues that she’ll be even tougher on benefits and cutting the welfare bill. Which is it? It can’t be both…

Either Labour are the party who’ll be tough on welfare or they’ll be the party who understands the importance of the benefits system. You can’t have fingers in both pies and give a different version of events depending on which section of the electorate that you want to talk to that day.

The truth is Labour should win this election outright but they aren’t going to do so. Ed Miliband is an issue as is Ed Balls. People don’t trust them on the economy and that is always a big issue when it comes to elections but whilst the economy is turning around and growing, the benefits of that are only just starting to filter through.

Many people aren’t feeling the benefits at all and they are the people that need a helping hand and not condemnation for the situation that they find themselves in. The cutting of council budgets is hitting hard and that should be a key issue this election but it is being shunned for reasons that I can’t really fathom.

If though your whole pitch is geared for ‘hard working families’ and the grey vote then you might struggle to get over the 325 MP threshold. If Labour went down the line of old Labour and made this election more of an ideological battle then they would arguably be in a better position than they are right now. The Green Party have long be seen as the home of disaffected Lib Dem voters but they are really ‘Old Labour’ in all but name and they will appeal to old school socialists.

I know exactly what the Lib Dems stand for. I know what the Tories stand for. I know what UKIP stand for. I even know what the Green’s stand for but I don’t know exactly what or who Labour stand for. It seems to be different depending on what vote they are courting that day and that is no way to run a campaign let alone a country.

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March 17th, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Politics

On why Stephen Lloyd should win a second term in Eastbourne…

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I’ll preface this by saying that I have never spoken to nor met Mr Lloyd and until a few hours ago I wouldn’t have been able to name him as the Eastbourne MP. So it seems a bit daft that I should be writing a blog with such a title but this piece is actually based on the words of another.

In a piece by Cole Moreton in The Independent entitled, Stephen Lloyd: The Lib Dems ‘saved the country, but we destroyed ourselves,’ the journalist speaks about how when the Lib Dems pulled off what was a bit of an upset by taking Eastbourne in 2010, it was the Anti-Tory vote that won him the seat and the fact that the party then went into coalition with the Tories then he felt (like many others) that it was an act of betrayal.

This sums up one of the core issues with the political system that we have. When no party wins outright and a coalition or indeed supply/confidence is in place then many voters will not be happy with what happens. The most likely example going into 2015 is if the SNP go into coalition with the Labour Party that they are fighting a bitter and nasty battle with. If the SNP do get together with Labour then will SNP voters be betrayed because they actively voted against the Labour Party and not for the SNP? It is one to ponder and one that we may well come across in the coming months.

Back to the matter in hand. The journalist feels betrayed as he voted for Mr Lloyd primarily as he was the Anti-Tory ticket that could actually beat the Tories. This is a scenario up and down the country, there are many seats where because of demographics, historical voting patterns and the like that it will only be a two-horse race in the running to actually win the seat. So the electorate have to decide whether they are going to vote with the party they feel the most comfortable with or whether they are going to vote for the party they prefer out of the two that can actually win.

He was initially happy that the Tory was beaten but then he wasn’t so sure. ‘I put his big yellow board up in my garden last time because I wanted anyone but Nigel Waterson, the veteran Conservative MP who, I felt, was taking the mickey by living far away and popping down for visits like a minor royal,’ says Mr Moreton. He goes on to say a couple of paragraphs later, ‘He’s (Stephen Lloyd) not slick and says he has never been trendy. People like him, though, because he works like a devil for the town and obviously really cares.’

This my friends (and I suppose foes who are reading this for some unknown reason) is in large part why I think the Presidential style of politics that we are moving towards in a fallacy. People aren’t voting for Ed Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, Natalie Bennett et al unless they live in a constituency where they are a candidate to become an MP. People are voting for a person who they feel will best represent their values and make the best decisions on their behalf in parliament.

I maybe a card carrying (well actually I’m not, my membership card is probably in a drawer or something) but I am a member of the Lib Dems but if I lived in a constituency where the Lib Dems weren’t a realistic player and I truly believed a candidate from another party who could realistically win would be much better than the alternative then I would tactically vote. The fact is I don’t, I live in a safe Conservative seat with an MP who apparently had the idea that I was going to his the Lib Dem candidate here (this actually happened). So my vote here will be relatively pointless and I know that.

In the council election last year I voted Lib Dem but only because I knew the Independent was winning waltzing away. Had it actually been a tight Tory/Indy battle I may well have lent my vote to the Indy as I believe Martin Terry is actually a decent hard-working councillor. You see that is the thing, you aren’t just voting for a party but you are also voting for the person on the ballot. This is why MPs such as Mr Lloyd should get another term. The general consensus is that he is a good hard-working local MP who has constantly fought the battle for Eastbourne both in the House of Commons and in the media. Isn’t that exactly what an MP is supposed to do?

Iain Dale has him losing his seat with it being a Probable Conservative Gain. On his predictions blog he writes, ‘Won in 2010 from Nigel Waterson, Stephen Lloyd may hang on, but I’d expect the Labour vote to at least double at the expense of the LibDems, so yet again, a lot depends on how many votes the Tories lose to UKIP. Lloyd has been a hardworking MP but rather preposterously resigned as a government PPS as his constituency didn’t get enough ‘pork’ in the autumn statement.’

The bookies though, they disagree, with the Lib Dems odds on everywhere to retain the seat, mostly around the 2/1 on mark with the Tories floating between 11/8 and 13/8. This is the type of seat where we’ll see whether national disenfranchisement with the Lib Dems will lead to the Tories winning. Some people won’t vote Lib Dem because they didn’t like the fact they joined the Tories in coalition but by doing so will only heighten the chances of getting a Tory MP. It is very much like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

My point though is thus (and it isn’t just to do with Lib Dem incumbents), if your MP is doing a good job in your eyes both representing your views and representing the area which they represent then vote for them to continue doing their job. so many seats are ‘safe seats’ but if you live in a seat which is live then look both as the party and the person. It is better to have a good MP from a party that you may not fully agree with than to have a poor MP who represents the party that you identify with.

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Written by neilmonnery

March 16th, 2015 at 8:00 am

Posted in Politics

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