The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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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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Written by neilmonnery

March 26th, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Politics

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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

Posted in Politics

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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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Written by neilmonnery

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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Written by neilmonnery

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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On the sheer arrogance and attack on democracy by the broadcasters…

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It’s The Sun Wot Won It,’ was the infamous headline of The Sun newspaper when John Major shocked the world (well maybe that is slightly over the top) and pulled off victory in the 1992 General Election. The sheer arrogance of the editor to believe that their endorsement was the decisive factor in the outcome of the election is disgusting but 23 years later and the broadcasters are attempting to do the same.

The broadcasters have fucked up pretty badly if we are being honest. The whole format of the debates has been debated at length and several different proposals have come and gone. They believe that they have the right to decide who gets free air time in prime time, which flies against the rules of equal opportunity for ‘major’ parties in election time but who cares about rules and fairness, they have an election to decide!

I’ve long said that any party who is fielding enough candidates to potentially form a government deserve to be involved and given equal billing. That means UKIP and the Greens should get the same air time as the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems in this regard. The moment they decided for some unknown reason that United Kingdom broadcasters should give national parties as much of a platform on channels that broadcast primarily in areas where people can’t actually vote for them is bonkers but they are desperate.

The broadcasters are desperate to be seen to be doing the right and fair thing, even if it leads to even more unfairness. Either the leader of every freaking party gets in or those who are fielding enough candidates to form a government. Having a mish-mash is stupid but the broadcasters know this, they aren’t stupid.

So now we have a situation where the broadcasters are dictating the whole flow of the election, which is nothing short of a disgrace. I’m not defending the Prime Minister, I’ll get to him later, but for the broadcasters to believe that they have the right to decide how the timetable and attention of the General Election goes flies in the face of fairness and democracy. Yes, the broadcasters are attacking democracy.

They and they alone are dictating the terms of what will be the most watched and the most important national moments in the General Election (unless of course something dramatic happens on the election trail). It isn’t the broadcasters job to decide who gets what air time, they should give everyone who can form a government exactly the same time.

Now we have a position where they want to give Ed Miliband 90 minutes of uninterrupted air time in prime time on both Sky News and Channel 4. Essentially ensuring victory for the Labour party unless Ed Miliband screws up spectacularly, which isn’t out of the question. It would probably be a decent thing for my lot as the Lib Dems are in mostly Tory facing seats and the Prime Minister will look weak and a coward and that can’t hurt, still doesn’t make it fair though.

Now turning my attention to the PM. He doesn’t want the debates as he has nothing to gain and everything to lose. In 2010 all the party leaders involved and deemed as ‘major’ parties had things to gain by having the debates, hence why they took place. They all had a common goal and potential ground to make up. It is why Tony Blair didn’t want them in 2001 & 2005, he had nothing to gain and was cruising to victory. Cameron might not be cruising to victory but when you are seen as a better public speaker than your primary opponent and he is seen as actually very poor, if you win then you do what you are expected so you gain nothing, if you don’t win convincingly then it will be spun as a defeat. So I can see why he doesn’t want them.

My issue is how he bleated about having the Greens involved and now they are and the proposals are out there he doesn’t want them at all. Had he drawn a line in the sand at the start and said that he didn’t want the debates and thought they distracted from the actual campaign in 2010 then I’d be more comfortable with his stance. Had he said that all along it is highly unlikely that the broadcasters would have gone ahead but he gave them an in and now he is either running scared or more likely, knows he has nothing to gain.

Personally I liked the debates last time and I would like them again but the proposals from the broadcasters is poor and not well thought out. Essentially we have four broadcasters who all want a share of the pie and that has led to what we have. The best solution would be to have it sorted that every year we have whatever debates but it is the same format every election. That would be fair and the same for all parties going forward.

Have it always x amount of weeks before the election, have it on x channel and involving all the leaders from parties that are deemed as ‘major’ by OfCom. For national parties, they should get the same air time on BBC Wales, BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland and commercial terrestrial broadcast partners. If Westminster leaders wanted to go to a Scottish debate or whether they wanted to send the leaders of their parties in those countries, either/or. That would be fair.

If the broadcasters got pissy then have it on a rotation. One year ITV gets the first, then the next the second, the next the last and so on. We can’t have a situation like we have now where a leader is dictating terms (like Blair) or where certain parties get preferential treatment from the broadcasters.

The whole thing has been a fuck up from start to finish. If the broadcasters empty chair Cameron and actually go ahead with the debates without the Tories then fuck me, they will have helped directly decide the outcome of the election (as they would anyway with the current proposal – a party of government isn’t allows in one debate and a party who are riding at around one sixth of the votes in national polls are also frozen out of one – that isn’t right nor fair).

This is now a game of chicken where David Cameron can’t win. He’s put himself in that position but the broadcasters haven’t exactly helped things. The electorate of the United Kingdom deserve better of their Prime Minister but also deserve better from their broadcasters. They should be fair and impartial but instead they’ve decided that they are more important than fairness and democracy and that stinks. The General Election outcome should not be influenced by the selfishness of broadcasters but now we are in a position where whatever they do, they are essentially influencing how people will vote and that my friends isn’t how it should be.

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March 6th, 2015 at 5:39 pm

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On the Greens wanting to remove Natalie Bennett from a TV debate…

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It is billed as a leaders debate but the Greens want(ed) Caroline Lucas to appear instead of Natalie Bennett for one of the two debates. This was requested a good while ago, before Natalie Bennett’s shall we say, disappointing, performance on LBC a while back but it does go to show that the Green Party has a legitimate issue, one that the Lib Dems had five years ago.

Five years back the Lib Dems most well known MP was Vince Cable. He was pretty well liked and respected. Nick Clegg was an upstart that no-one really knew. He was the butt of jokes on most of the panel shows and then suddenly the first debate happened and everything changed. Nick Clegg ‘won’ the first debate and suddenly his profile was transformed overnight. He shared a stage with just two other people and he sounded different, people liked this and the election campaign changed.

This time around the stage will be more diluted due to the TV companies seemingly bizarre ideas of what the debates should actually be. It is about who can have the most MPs to form a government. When the SNP and Plaid Cymru (which I spelled correctly first time – result) start fielding enough MPs to lead a coalition then bring them to the table. They don’t but the TV companies in reality have no idea what their remit is here and are just making it up as they go along.

So we turn our attentions back to Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here in saying that Caroline Lucas is the most recognisable face the Green Party have. She is certainly far more media savvy than Natalie Bennett and I think would perform better in these prime time debates than her party leader. Getting Lucas the air time would really help her in her Brighton Pavilion dogfight with Labour.

I’ve just looked at the betting markets and across the board they have the Green Party as odds on favourites, all of them shorter than 1/2, which I find slightly surprising. I think Labour and the Greens are nip/tick and would expect the Greens to be 5/6 and Labour 7/4 – something around there so I’d certainly be laying the Greens at that price. Labour are Evens in a couple of places but shorter than 2/1 everywhere else. Getting Caroline some prime time exposure (and if she performs well) would probably have tipped her over the edge to a gritty victory. If Natalie Bennett flops though then it could really hurt her.

This issue goes back to the decision by Caroline Lucas to step down in an attempt to get another well known face for the Green Party. It was a good idea at the time but the problem is they decided to unleash someone who quite simply struggles with performing well in the media. The ‘Green Surge’ has stagnated, in no small part due to some of her policies being ridiculed and not well costed but also when you are riding a wave of momentum then suddenly the media will notice you and report not only the momentum but also start to be critical of your policies and performances.

I think there is little doubt the Green Party will have a decent national vote share on May 7 but if Natalie Bennett performs badly in her two big TV moments then that national vote share may not translate into any MPs. They believe they can win Norwich South and Bristol West to add to Brighton Pavilion. They are not favoured in either seat, indeed in Bristol West they are behind both the Lib Dems and Labour in the odds, in Norwich South they are ahead of the defending Lib Dems but Labour are extremely strong favourites. Bristol West is more three-way with LD around Evens and Lab just beyond and Greens around 3s.

Natalie Bennett has quickly become a liability and the Green Party know it. This was the opportunity to treble their MPs and they look likely to fall short. I wonder if Caroline Lucas regrets giving up the leadership if she knew then what she know now? The TV companies are certainly right to refuse this request from the Greens because this isn’t a TV event to put on who you want, it is for the leaders to debate. These are meant to be the people who can run our country.

I doubt many of you are fans of baseball but every so often people talk about a six-man rotation and every time people say the same thing, if you have six starting pitchers what you are really saying is you don’t have four. The Green Party have hitched their wagon to Natalie Bennett and whilst it seems like a poor move, they have to roll with her and see what happens.

The only way to get Caroline Lucas into the TV debates is for Natalie Bennett to step down as leader and Caroline to takeover. It would probably be a good short-term move but is it too late in the day for such a dramatic change? I suspect in one parallel (which I also spelled right first time – result as I always get that word wrong) universe it will happen, I doubt though that it will be this one.

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March 2nd, 2015 at 1:53 pm

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On the £6,000 tuition fees that Labour are proposing…

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Well the NHS won’t win them the election so now it is time to pull at the heartstrings against the other party.

So Ed Miliband says that under a Labour government, they’ll reduce tuition fees to a top level of £6,000. Hurray, Hurrah etc…. This sounds great and I have no doubt that when I watch the six o’clock news tonight it will be the lead story and it will sound great. The problem (as it often is) is that is you go beyond the headline, you’ll notice that actually this tuition fees drop would actually most effect the rich and actually do very little for the poorer people in society when it comes to how much they repay in terms of tuition fees. This is part of the total misconception about tuition fees that Labour have pandered to and fanned the flames of.

Tuition fees are without a doubt the most popular policy that most people simply do not understand. I was once told that actual finances and the reality meant nothing when it came to politics, all people want are the headlines and those with the loudest voices get the headlines. Oh joy.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has an excellent breakdown of the policy and why it will actually only effect those who earn above £35,000 per year. You can read it in his article entitled, Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees to £6,000 is a financially illiterate policy. In it you’ll actually get some sense and some detail behind the headline grabbing policy.

The key line is thus, ‘It shows that only those with a STARTING SALARY of at least £35,000 – and then rising by above inflation each year after – would pay less if you cut tuition fees (we have assumed the student also takes out £5,555 in maintenance loans per year). Now £35,000 is a solid income but many people in their 20s won’t reach that type of level, in fact many people won’t throughout their lives. So why would Labour want to push ahead with a policy that in effect actually doesn’t help those they are saying they are trying to help?

The fact is simple. Politics isn’t about substance. Politicians don’t actually want to do the right thing, they want to sound like they are doing the right thing. I don’t include all politicians in here obviously but it is something that if you read policies and go beyond the stories in the newspapers and on the TV news, you’ll start to learn this more and more. If you want a complete story then you have to read beyond the headlines and beyond whatever bias a media firm has (more so with print that broadcast media).

This isn’t about actually helping students, it is politics, pure and simple. It is a great sound bite that evokes an emotional response. Labour had been pinning their hopes on making this election over saving the NHS but that hasn’t done much in the polls. Now it is time to do a populist attack on the Lib Dems on a policy that the Lib Dems won’t be too proud of. Not because the policy is bad per se but it goes against what they wanted (and still actually want) to do.

Coalition politics, when Labour have to do it with the SNP for the next five years you can bet the Lib Dems will jump on any policy Labour don’t get through that is on their manifesto.

The facts are that more people from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university than ever before. Once people get their head around the system and realise that you only start paying the fees/loan back when you are earning £21,000 a year and not a penny more, people are understanding that they indeed can afford to go to university because the fees don’t actually cost them a penny until they are earning a decent salary.

Labour introduced tuition fees, then they trebled them, now they want to double them from where they were when they were in power and in doing so only help those that are most well-off and I thought Ed Miliband was trying to take Labour back to their ideological roots, in fact either he’s a) chasing headlines or b) going for the middle class vote.

Either way it will be popular with many people, the problem for Labour is it’ll be popular to those people who are already intending to vote for them. You see the Lib Dem emotional vote has gone and it isn’t coming back this year but it has already gone, putting the squeeze on a vote that has already disappeared seems relatively pointless. It puts Ed out there but if enough people read beyond the headlines and look at the finances behind the plan they’ll realise who it benefits. The question is will the electorate do such a thing? Time as they will tell all…

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February 27th, 2015 at 2:37 pm

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On Danny Alexander’s chances in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey…

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The media and activists are obsessed with Nick Clegg potentially going down in Sheffield Hallam despite all the signs pointing towards a Lib Dem win. If they really wanted to get excited about a potential cabinet big-wig going down though then they should go into the Scottish highlands where a real interesting battle will play out between the SNP and the Lib Dems.

Whilst the public polling has Nick Clegg in a nip/tuck battle in his seat, the public polling has Danny Alexander getting a right mullering in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. As we all know, the public polls don’t generally name a candidate and the power of incumbency is diluted. Still though this wouldn’t account for the seemingly big hole than Danny Alexander finds himself in.

Still the so called, ‘ginger rodent’ seems cheerful enough and doesn’t think it is such a foregone conclusion. In what I have to say is one of the rare pretty fair long political pieces I’ve read in a while, BuzzFeed followed Danny Alexander around for a day in a piece published today entitled, Danny Alexander Fights To Save His Political Career: “The Tories Piss Me Off”.

The key for Danny is clearly to paint himself (as is the case with many Liberal Democrats MPs across the country) as not being Tories and that being in government has helped stop the Tories from pursuing their own agenda. This is not an easy sell and many will just not buy into it but the key will be to get a proportion to do so. Also of course trying to squeeze the Labour and Tory votes as he’ll try and make it an SNP v the world argument.

Speaking about the Tories taking full credit for the turnaround in the economy, Alexander said, ‘It sticks in the craw. It really pisses me off that the Tories try to claim credit for everything we’ve done in government. Tax cuts – none of that would be happening if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats in government. If we allow the Tories to govern by themselves, it frightens me actually, because I think it’s a wrecking approach. Beyond a certain point it becomes ideology.

This is going to be a key issue across the country. The coalition has turned the economy around, unemployment is down and continues to drop with every set of results, employment is unsurprisingly up as well along the same lines. The economy will always be the biggest issue in any election. Other factors will come and go but the economy is key and if the public believe that a party can improve the economy then that will often the key issue – especially for swing voters.

So the fact the public as a whole do not give the Lib Dems credit for things like the rise in the Income Tax threshold, something which David Cameron said we couldn’t afford to do in the first leaders debate in 2010, is something which sticks in the throats of many. This policy effects more people directly than any other policy in the coalition government because it effects everyone who earns more than £6,475, which was the personal income threshold under the last government.

If Danny can persuade enough voters that he (and his party) should take just as much credit for the economic recovery as the Tories, then the party will do ok on May 7. Danny’s issues in Scotland are not helped by the collapse of the Labour vote, which is drifting to the SNP in droves. Having two strong opponents is something you can feel comfortable with in our FPTP system but when one of those strong opponents loses a significant proportion of their vote to the other strong opponent then you have issues.

Looking at the betting trends and the SNP are very strong favourites ranging from 1/12 to 1/3 depending on your bookies of choice. Danny and the Lib Dems are between 9/4 and 11/2. The other parties are all beyond 10/1. Most of these betting movements have been predicated on the seeming strength of the SNP in Scotland coupled with Labour’s fall.

I was looking at some ICM fieldwork from the constituency taken in May last year and one table I found more interesting than others. According to the fieldwork, more of the responders voted SNP than Lib Dem in 2010, despite their being an 22% difference in the actual result (19% SNP, 41% Lib Dem) but according to this poll, of those who responded, 19% voted LD whereas 22% voted SNP. The fieldwork also didn’t take into account the likelihood of voting.

It all makes is rather interesting. The SNP are favourites and rightly so but Danny isn’t out of it just yet. If Danny Alexander holds on in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey then the Lib Dems will probably be in for a good night. If he loses then it means that Scotland will be voting very strongly for the SNP, leaving maybe only 10-15 non SNP seats across the country.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey is more of a bellwether seat for the SNP than it is for the Lib Dems but it is certainly one more media folk should be paying attention to, it will be a very good indicator for how the SNP and the Lib Dems are doing and how they’ll do on May 7.

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February 24th, 2015 at 4:51 pm

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On needing a thick skin in politics and why it isn’t for many of us…

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I was reminded by someone the other day that to be involved in politics, to whatever degree, you need a thick skin. You put yourself out there and people will take shots at you and think that pretty much everything is fair game. The line seems not only be be blurred but indeed it doesn’t exist at all.

Indeed I’ve seen people go trawling through others social media accounts from months and years previously to when they were adopted as candidates to try and find something to trip them up. Some will call this good thorough journalism, I call it cheap. In this social media era, so much of what we say is recorded for everyone to read, years later in some instances and people change, circumstances change, yet people will find whatever they can to use against them, is this the world I want to live in?

For months I have told family members that in my next stop it is very unlikely that I’ll get actively involved in local politics. That sense has only become more hardened in recent times.

I’m reminded of an MP, I can’t remember who off hand who was going hammer and tongs with one of the ‘celebrity’ panellists on Question Time one week. The MP was a Tory and the ‘celebrity’ was well known for their left wing views. After recording he turned round and said to them that it was all part of the show and a bit of fun and walked off. It just goes to prove that politicians are often playing characters and aren’t being totally open and honest. They are playing up to their core vote.

Ian Swales, Lib Dem MP for Redcar didn’t plan on winning in 2010, deep down he didn’t even want to. He is a one-term MP who is standing down. He called the thrill of it all a bit like a game, you want to win because winning is good but winning means you have to do your best to represent your electorate. He said his ideal result was to lose but closely, then hand over to a younger person to win the next time round. Having spoken to people from all parties, this isn’t a totally isolated viewpoint. Winning is like a drug and winning is great but with winning comes long-term responsibilities.

On the other side of the ledger is losing. Losing is not fun, most people don’t want to lose but losing badly is a different thing altogether. The only time I’ve personally stood I got a battering and in all honesty it was mostly fair. I also knew it was coming and it didn’t effect me one jot.

The only thing from the campaign that jawed with me externally was being woken up at stupid o’clock by someone demanding to know why I thought the hustings should have free for all entrants. After the best part of half an hour of pretty much being shouted at I told her that it didn’t matter, I was going to lose handsomely anyway and she really shouldn’t worry too much about my thoughts that the ability to hear politicians speak should not be influenced by having to pay money to do so. I stand by my PoV that all hustings events be free but I know it cost me not only votes (I might have broken 100!) but it also cost the party some good will.

Thinking about it, I also recall an incident where at the hustings I was asked a question, I can’t remember exactly what it was about but I think the crux of it was along the lines of some children get cheaper bus travel than others and some poorer kids were being disadvantaged by this. It was something along those lines. I said that a possible answer was to make the discounted rate for the journey higher by 10p or 20p a journey but allow all students to get the discounted rate.

Another candidate from another party and ward came up to me afterwards and wasn’t happy with my suggestion as they had kids and get the discounted rate and that would make that family worse of and they couldn’t afford anything extra. Interestingly enough I have seen that person buying their groceries in M&S on many an occasion. That same person offered me ‘information’ on a Tory candidate in last years elections but didn’t want their hands on it but wanted me to run with it. I declined the offer. This is the way politics works folks. In all fairness the Lib Dem candidate had the information as well but also declined to use it and for that, I applaud them.

On to politics in general, what I find most disturbing is how people revel in the defeat of others. People win, people lose, you just get on with it but some people want parties to lose badly as they think it would be funny. When you get people wanting the Lib Dems for example to get battered by UKIP but they in fact despise UKIP but their hate for UKIP is less than their dislike for the Lib Dems then you have to stand there and think, ‘really?’ They see it as part of the game and this happens across all parties. I don’t see how people can see it as a game and that the aim isn’t just to win but they want to win and see someone else lose badly because it will give them more personal gratification.

I know I’m dumb and idealistic that people should only concentrate on themselves and what they have to offer to the electorate but so many people from across the political spectrum seem to want to console themselves that a person or a party they don’t like lost – and not only that – the severity of their defeat. In my dumb mind it is all very simple, candidates put forward their cases to the electorate, the person with the most votes wins and the others take what they can and either regroup, regress or re-up their efforts to win the seat next time.

May is very much going to be a tale of two stories for the Lib Dems. The vote is going to collapse but yet the number of MPs won’t collapse to anywhere near the same degree. The power of incumbency is going to do well for the party in many places, including some that the bookies have written off as Lib Dem losses.

Internal polling data shows that the strong grass-roots in these areas are holding up and not collapsing. A great seat to watch will be Redcar which should go Labour easily but with all the trouble they are having at council level and the fact the Lib Dem MP is well-liked, that seat isn’t a given to go (although the fact Ian Swales is stepping out negates the incumbency somewhat).

Jenny Willott in Cardiff Central looked a shoo-in to drop to Labour but internal polling puts it neck and neck. I’ve consistently said that 30-35 MPs is where I think they’ll stand and if you forced me to go higher or lower than that range, I’d go higher. Another good example is Cambridge where Labour opened up as favourites and now all the bookmakers with a book open have the Lib Dems at odds on to hold. Of course they’ll be losses and the gains will be minimal but Watford is a genuine three-way marginal, in Maidstone & Weald the Lib Dems are live dogs as they are in a handful of other seats that they are looking to take from other parties.

On the other side where the local party have either collapsed or become disillusioned and their is neither an incumbent MP nor an energised local party then the vote will just tank. This will happen in many places across the UK. It won’t be pretty but that is the way it is. Such is life as it were.

I made a decision to not blog about local politics for the rest of this campaign. I did the same in 2014 but this year I was teased out by people writing things that were either plain wrong or laughable and it has only brought me anguish and sadness. I blog because I love to write, not to be right. I struggle every day with the idea of being right or knowing whether or not I’m doing the right or the wrong thing. If writing about certain subjects is only going to bring me anguish and sadness then why should I do it? I feel that way about politics in general to a significant degree.

I would love to help make the world around me a better place, a fairer place, a greener place, a happier place but sometimes you just have to be selfish and worry about your own peace of mind and happiness. My skin is neither thin but nor is it thick. I’m just a guy who enjoys a quiet and peaceful life. Politics brings with it a lot of baggage and that is baggage I thought would disappear if you weren’t actually a candidate, seemingly I was wrong.

So there we have it. To all people who want to get actively involved in politics I tell them to think long and hard about it. You will meet some good people, you’ll win, you’ll lose, you’ll meet some less good people, you’ll have good times, you’ll have bad times but you have to ask yourself whether you want to put your head above the parapet. People will shoot you down even if you make valid points because your point of views contradict with their own and you’ll find in politics there is far too much testosterone flying about to get actual debate flowing.

People want to be right and not only that, they’ll believe with every fibre that they are right. This is something I’ve found from across the political spectrum. To hang in there you’ll need not only a thick skin but a complete confidence in your own abilities and your own mind. If you are like me and struggle, not with your inner-beliefs but with what is actually the best thing to do and the best way forward then it will be a hard slog and one you may want to avoid if you want a happier, less stressful life. You’ll meet people who will have such a strong sense of self-belief that you’ll cave under their sense of gravitas and self-belief.

Active politics will be without a shadow of a doubt be the most frustrating thing you do in your life if you do choose to get involved. I look forward to walking away when my commitments are done with but I have them and will continue to fulfil them to the best of my abilities but when I up sticks and move on to pastures new then I will enjoy watching from the sidelines – at least for a while.

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February 23rd, 2015 at 2:13 pm

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