The Rambles of Neil Monnery

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Archive for the ‘labour’ tag

On Jeremy Corbyn and the possibility of women-only carriages…

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Madness. Just madness.

So Jeremy Corbyn has been speaking about sexism and he mused that he’d like to consult women about whether they thought the idea of women-only carriages on public transport would be a good idea. I’m pretty sure I could tell him the answer to that but I am a man, no wait, let me rephrase, I am a boy, so maybe I have a viewpoint that doesn’t fit with the women of the world but wait, what is this? Every single woman I follow on twitter who has commented on this since the story broke sees the idea as bonkers and not just that, they see it as dangerous. The bizarre thing is though that some men do seem to think it is a good idea and they know what is better for women.

Here is what JC said on the matter:

“Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages.

“My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop, on the mode of transport itself.

“However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome – and also if piloting this at times and on modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.”

Now looking at the quotes then a consultation on the idea isn’t completely crazy, although the idea of actually having segregation in the 21st century is. What I find crazy is that some people really think this is a solution to the problem. Of course several countries already have such rules in place including Japan, India, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

They were introduced for the reasons that JC would consider it here, for safety of women from sexual attacks. Some people think it makes it safer but others have said that it makes them feel that if they don’t use the women-only carriage then it gives license to the sexual predator that they have chosen not to avoid them whilst travelling on public transport and thus giving them encouragement.

The issue of safety for women is a clear one to address but by keeping some women away from men for a proportion of a journey doesn’t eliminate the problem. I have never faced the issue that many women face but I would guess the most dangerous part of any journey isn’t the part where they are on public transport but the travel to and from said public transport.

Of course we have had women-only carriages in the UK before before they were halted due in large part to gender equality laws. People should not be treated any differently based on their gender and of course should women-only carriages be introduced then you are treating the genders differently. This would (as I read it) contravene article 14 of the Human Rights Act that says, ‘Article 14 requires there be no discrimination in the application of human rights on any ground, and this includes (but is not exhaustive of) grounds such as (amongst other things) sex‘ Does this mean JC would consider walking away from the Human Rights Act or have I just interpreted it wrong?

A local Labour member and candidate has been tweeting about how good of an idea it is and how passionately he believes in the safety of women (we all do mush) but he says that drink is one of the big issues and that he’d feel his wife/daughter/mother would be safer on a train carriage that only had other women. He of course is fully entitled to that opinion but at what point do you draw the line? Do you say that because of workplace sexual harassment there should be men and women only offices if women want them? I just firmly don’t believe by physically keeping two sexes apart that it actually confronts the issue at hand.

You don’t fix an issue by shunting it down the line. You fix an issue head on and tackle the cause and not the effect. Until society does this to a successful degree then all you are doing in moving the effect to another time and another place, you aren’t eliminating it at all. How society does this is another debate entirely but the majority of women I know don’t seem to think the idea of women-only carriages is the solution to the problem because they’ve experienced at best unwelcome attention from men in many other places, many of them is much less safe locations.

Sexual harassment is a huge issue but you don’t fix it by segregation. As a person I believe that we are all born equal and therefore should be treated as such and treating people as unequal is the start of a slippery slope, one that we are desperately trying to get away from. I’ll end this with a brilliant sarcastic tweet I’ve just seen RT into my TL from a lady called Muriel Gray (@ArtyBagger)

Woman only train carriages. Super idea. Gender separation is so progressive. Urge MPs to think seriously about NHS funded chastity belts.

That I think is a good place to end.

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August 25th, 2015 at 11:35 pm

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On Jeremy Corbyn’s People’s Railway…

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We have to give the Labour Party their due here because without them what would we be talking about in the dog days of the political summer? Bravo Labour for stringing out this leadership contest and keeping yourselves very much in the news (albeit not in a great way and certainly not providing the Tory government with an effective opposition) but we’ll gloss over that for now and plough on through to the crux of this blog post.

The Railway Network. More people than not would be in favour of it returning to the hands of being publicly owned. Of that I have very little doubt and even I myself would have no issue with it because when push comes to shove no-one actually gives much of a shit about it either way. Someone is going to get our money and the government get a lot in terms of franchise fees, so the question is just what do the government get? Would they get more with renationalisation? Would the commuters get lower fares under a nationalised service and would they get a better quality of service under nationalised trains?

Well we actually have a recent franchise fee/award where it has not been taken from a private company to another private company, the East Coast Main Line was under public ownership but the services are now being run by Virgin Trains in a joint venture with Stagecoach. They are paying £3.3bn for the franchise license over eight years. This amount to £412.5million a year to the Treasury. Under public ownership the East Coast Main Line was generating £220million for the Treasury. So the tax payer is getting a better deal under private ownership.

Now on the issue of lower fares, we don’t know for sure what would happen and it is true that private companies will be wanting to make money because otherwise why are they in the game? Action for Rail, who don’t even have an About Us section on their website (but are supported by trade unions) say that according to research carried out by Transport for Quality of Life under public ownership, Season Tickets could go down by 10%, which would be quite significant, certainly in the South East commuter belt. The word ‘could’ always worries me but that would means that fares would still be extremely high and not as low as many would think under a renationalised network.

Rail fares are due to go up an average of 1% in January, adding £24 to an average Season Ticket. That in itself is not a big rise and isn’t one that will raise too many eye brows amongst commuters. No doubt they’ll be news stories in January about how much of a rip-off it is but it won’t really make too much of a difference on a commuters finances. That rise would not even be a cup of coffee a month.

Lastly the quality of service issue, again one we don’t really know but what we do know is that private companies have invested heavily in new Rolling Stock. I know in Jeremy Corbyn’s (very short) pdf document about the People’s Railway it says that we have a lot of outdated stock but I call BS on that. Anyone who is old enough to remember British Rail (and yes I am that old) can remember the slam door trains that were cold, dirty, slow and when you compare that to the air-conditioned, clean, fast rolling stock that most of us use then it is not even close. Yes there are some routes where the stock isn’t as up to date as others but in general private companies know they need to invest to attract customers, British Rail didn’t really do such a thing.

I read a story on LabourList this morning by Manuel Cortes, who is the General Secretary of TSSA (so I expect him to have a bias) but he said one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, ‘I was proud to stand at Kings Cross station yesterday morning, alongside representatives from all the rail unions, as Jeremy set out his vision for A People’s Railway. The public has been crying out for this bold policy for the past 20 years.’ The bit in bold is the funny bit, the rest had to be there for context.

The public have been crying out for this for 20 years? They have? When? I do not recall there ever being a significant backlash against the privatisation of the railway network. Most people will agree that in an ideal world it would be under government control but for most people it has doesn’t really move the needle as it were. I have seen more public crying out over scraping TV Licenses or heck even stupid shit like Sachsgate or Jeremy Clarkson’s sacking from Top Gear. We might have seen more column inches devoted to the Chelsea team doctor in the past week than we have on the renationalising of the Railway Network in the whole of the last government.

Unions are unsurprisingly all pro this because under public ownership their members will get more strength, power and most importantly arguably a better pension and conditions but in 2004, ASLEF general secretary, Lew Adams stated on a radio phone-in program, ‘All the time it (the railway network) was in the public sector, all we got were cuts, cuts, cuts. And today there are more members in the trade union, more train drivers, and more trains running. The reality is that it worked, we’ve protected jobs, and we got more jobs.’ Maybe the good old days of a nationalised rail network weren’t as good as some people remember.

My point on all this isn’t to rubbish Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas as they aren’t bad per se but to rubbish the fact that deep down people care. There are so many more important things than who runs our rail industry and to win back support from those he needs to if he has any intention of putting any of his ideas into law, then he has to stop pussyfooting (which according to Google Chrome is actually a legitimate word) around with things that appeal to the unions and start tackling the issues that appeal to the aspirational working class and lower middle class that he needs to convince to win their vote.

The 2020 General Election will not be won and lost on the railways. Heck if Ed Miliband couldn’t win it on the NHS, which is often up there is the top issues people bring up that is facing this country then how on Earth is Jeremy Corbyn going to win when one of his big ticket items is an issue no-one ever brings up in their top ten issues facing the country today?

All Jeremy Corbyn is doing is winning the die hard Labour vote and making it all the more solid. He can sweep the north (as would Andy Burnham) but can he even get close to winning over enough voters in the south that he needs to if he wants to walk into Downing Street? Not the way he is going.

I have written it before but I’ll keep saying it, Labour are in the same situation as the Republicans in the US of A. To win the leadership you have to move so far away from centre that you stand out to the core vote enough, the problem with that is you are so far away from centre that the swing voters can’t vote for you. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, heck even Joe Biden should not be having a cakewalk to the White House but at the moment unless Jeb Bush can start really dragging the party back to somewhere near the centre then the Democrats are waltzing back up Pennsylvania Avenue and if Jeremy Corbyn wins and sticks to his path then either George Osbourne or Boris Johnson will be the next Prime Minister and it won’t even be close.

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August 19th, 2015 at 9:11 am

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On why on Earth is public ownership of companies a burning issue…?

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At some point within the next couple of hours I’ll have a shower, get dressed and walk the 100 metres or so to Thorpe Bay Railway Station and hop on a choo choo into town to do some food shopping. Not that exciting you might think (and you’d be right) but you see when I go to the railway station and pay my £3.60 for a day return to Southend Central, the money won’t be going to the government but to a private company (c2c) who have paid the government for the right to run trains along this train route.

Personally I don’t give a stuff who is getting my £3.60 (or indeed the money I pay for longer journey’s) but for some reason despite the many real and actual problems the country is currently facing, it has become a significant issue in the Labour Leadership Contest.

Both Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn have said that bringing both the transport system and utility companies back under public ownership is a long-term goal, whether to do it in one foul swoop or doing it gradually over time is up for debate but they both want it and it has broad public support. Yet I find myself sitting here wondering why it is such a story when we have far more important issues to face up to.

The NHS is amazing but as amazing as it is, it is also creaking. The NHS now deals with an ageing population who are living longer as well as many more treatments that are available that cost a lot of money. Put these two things together and you’ll see why the NHS is being stretched. As the NHS is currently constituted all that will happen is it will take up a larger and larger percentage of tax revenue and unless a government faces up to the hard questions, the NHS will continue to creak. I have no idea what the solution is but something needs to be done if the NHS is to survive and flourish in the 21st century without other any of government getting squeezed.

You see that folks is a real issue facing this country, not who gets the revenue from the trains (and remember, these companies pay a shed load of dosh to win these franchises) but people like the idea of the railway system and utility system being under public ownership because it makes them feel safer and many people don’t like big business, as a nation we have a big chasm between those who are pro big business and those that aren’t. Costa Coffee opened in The Broadway a few days back and some people think it’ll kill Ciao (the local coffee shop/bar) but other traders will love Costa as it is clearly drawing in custom to the row of shops that before wouldn’t have come here, that though is an aside and not really the issue here.

The private train franchises are there to make money, yes, yet they can only do so by making their business one that people want to use. Yes I know many people don’t really have a choice as they commute but many others do. Most franchises have invested in much better rolling stock, I may be 32 years of age but I do remember the old slam door trains, heck even when I was at university only half of SW Trains stock were new and the old slam doors still populated the Alton to London Waterloo Route and the non rush hour Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo Route. Now most trains are faster, cleaner, safer, more punctual and we should treat that like it is a bad thing? Would the government of the day have invested so much public money into the railway system and in turn, if they had, what would the public have thought about this?

I just think there are far more important issues facing the country than renationalising industry. When Labour drifted away from Clause IV in 1995 they went on to win three landslide elections on the bounce and whilst losing a fourth, they were probably set to be the majority party until Gordon Brown’s ‘bigotgate’ gaff, which I think stalled the campaign. Now two of the leadership candidates see that ideal as one to return to and indeed one that will be popular amongst their supporters and very much so within the unions, yet will it really raise too much of an eyebrow from those who would consider voting Labour? I suspect not.

It is still all about the economy and economical competence. It always has been and always will be (unless a nation is in a time of non-economic turmoil). The secondary issues will be about the NHS, Education, Crime, the EU, defence, our place in the world, the environment, immigration and you know what isn’t pushing the needle amongst the all important swing voters? Who gets the money from their bills and their transport tickets.

The sad truth is to win the Labour Leadership Contest you have to win amongst the activists and the majority of those activists believe that Labour need to move left because that is why they didn’t win in 2015 (hint folks – you didn’t win because you weren’t left wing enough, you didn’t win because the swing voters didn’t trust Ed Miliband and Labour on the economy as well as not being strong enough to stand up to the SNP). The issue with this is to win the contest you need to move left but to win the country you need to move right. Liz Kendall seems like the only person who is actually saying things that swing voters would like, the problem is not enough Labour members are even giving her words the time of day.

Having 100s of Labour activists and supporters turning up to see and hear Jeremy Corbyn is great but is he inspiring swing voters to come out and listen to him? Not really. I’ll say this and I think this will sum up the situation extremely clearly, the country made their decision on Nick Clegg big time in May and that is their right but if he had stood in a leadership contest this time around he could still have won again because a lot of people respected him for what he did, I think Tim would still have won but it wouldn’t have been a fait accompli.

The members of a political party shouldn’t think about themselves but think about the country and the party. That is why I voted Tim over Norman in our leadership contest because I knew Tim held the key to advancing Liberal beliefs. Jeremy Corbyn can advance many things and he could solidify the core vote but can he branch out to those who aren’t the core vote? That I doubt, that I doubt very much and if he believes the railways are a burning issue then I think it is clear he isn’t ready to lead either his party or his country because it is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

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.

Written by neilmonnery

August 10th, 2015 at 11:25 am

Posted in Politics

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On Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Tea Party’ issue for Labour…

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Jeremy Corbyn. Wow. Seriously what a run this is. This is a bit like the time Michelle McManus came from a 50/1 outsider to storm through and win whatever Simon Cowell show she won, was it Pop Idol?

He got on the ballot in a blaze of MPs feeling guilty and wanting to have a proper debate about where the party were and where they were going. Now he is third favourite but coming in at a rapid pace on Betfair and indeed in the first poll (YouGov/The Times) it was predicted that he would actually win the Labour Labourship contest. Holy Shit.

Still, I still find it unlikely that he can actually win but lets play the game because the title of the post actually does have some merit and brings up a legitimately interesting question/point.

I think it is very hard to win an election in any modern democracy from the fringes unless you are in a time of deep recession or rise of national identity. People generally like parties and politicians who are somewhere around the centre. Whether they are centre-right or centre-left doesn’t really matter and the majority of voters can sway with the wind between these ideological viewpoints.

The word in the previous sentence that is key is the word ‘majority’ for you see you only win if the majority of people vote for you. Tony Blair’s three victories came from the centre-left ground and Ed Miliband decided to throw the blueprint of victory away and move the party further to the left. This of course solidified the core vote but it left the floating voters with a long way to travel to vote for him.

Jeremy Corbyn is coming in and lets be honest, saying a lot of things that people want to hear. The thing is many look at socialism and see it as a good thing but does socialism lead to people aspiring to do better and more importantly is it a position where the majority of floating voters will really gravitate towards? Modern political history says that it does not but it will once more solidify the core vote.

Labour’s recent political success all came when the party spoke to those who wanted to get further in life. Blair knew that people wanted a helping hand and not a hand out. Blair proved that you can not only win from the Centre-Left but you can win in a landslide. Now there is a surge of people within the Labour party who seemingly want to forget the good times and go back to the time when they stood for a small proportion of the electorate but really bloody stood for them. They didn’t win and therefore couldn’t help that section of the electorate but that didn’t matter.

I had a conversation with someone recently on this and they said they thought Jeremy Corbyn was principled and that is exactly what the country needs as no-one else was principled. I don’t know his voting past or his voting intention but he seemed enthused by Corbyn. He may be a swing voter but many of the newer Labour members do seem very enamoured by Corbyn’s words and don’t seem to look at how he can actually deliver what he wants.

The policy that anyone earning over £50k a year should have a 7% tax hike to pay for free education for students is not going to win over the people that you need to win over to win. 7% is quite the tax hike for a lot of people who don’t even consider themselves as that well off.

Nuclear disarmament sounds good and is something I would personally see as a good aspiration but is JC doing to dismantle all our nuclear weapons without getting the rest of the world to do the same? That leaves us kinda vulnerable, no…?

How much money is he going to borrow to renationalise all the utility and transport companies that he wants to? That seems to be something that would plunge the country back into a state of deep national debt and that doesn’t sound like a good thing.

He also wants to reunite Ireland and that is an interesting one. I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb here to say that might be rather hard to get over the line.

So he has lots of policies that’ll be extremely tough to actually make happen even if he wins the leadership contest and then a General Election. The issue is again look at these and how are the party going to win over the moderates that they need to actually win?

And this my friends is where the link to the Tea Party comes in. The Tea Party as we all know is the very vocal and furthest mainstream part of the Republican Party. They get a lot of air time and the Republicans keep moving further right to appease this section of the party but in doing so, all they are doing is making it even harder for the moderates to go out and vote for them. There are millions of American who believe in the small state that is at the heart of Republicanism but can’t bring themselves to vote for a Republican Party that are drifting further to the right and away from the centre, instead choosing not to vote for voting for a moderate Democrat.

I’m a Hillary guy and think she would make a superb President of the United States but her chances of winning against a moderate Republican aren’t as slam dunk as many of us outsiders are led to believe. In the electoral system in the US you really have to dominate the larger states in the Electoral College and in recent years the Republicans have struggled in many of these (Texas/Florida being the large states that seem solid in). If the Republicans find a moderate then they can be competitive in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and the like but they won’t vote for an extreme and this is what Corbyn followers have to look at.

Jeremy Corbyn might speak to you but will he speak to enough people to actually win an election? If the answer is no then surely you have to vote for someone else who can. If you think that politics is all about principles and standing up for what you believe in but not getting anywhere to actually act and help those you want to help then Corbyn is your guy. If you want to do some good for those people but not get everything you might want/believe in then you have to be more moderate.

Winners come from the moderate ground and to win you have to be there. Being idealistic but getting nowhere seems noble but also seems pointless. There is a reason the Tories and Lib Dems are cheering Corbyn on from afar and that isn’t because either of the parties think he’ll eat into their support. Putting significant ground between Labour and the centre ground will leave a lot of voters sitting on their hands or going somewhere else.

My last analogy (and if this doesn’t worry Labour voters I don’t know what will) but a Labour General Election victory is actually less likely than me having a successful date whilst wearing my new tie-dye fleece. Yes folks it is just that unlikely.

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.

Written by neilmonnery

July 22nd, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Politics

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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.

Written by neilmonnery

April 23rd, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Politics

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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 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 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 the Green Party’s belief they can storm to victory in Southend West…

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A dramatic thing folks, a political party coming from nowhere to take out a knight of the realm. Well that is what is going to happen in just under three months as the Green Party surge has reached Southend West and the party now have confidence that they can pull off the dramatic upset of all upsets, in what would be a bigger surprise than me breaking my lip-locking duck with members of the opposite sex that I’ve been rolling for a depressingly long time. Well that is if you believe their candidate Jon Fuller anyway.

I have long been the type that believe that personal social media account should be just that and not ‘reported’ on by eejits like me or anyone else in the blogosphere, but the Green candidate has written a long post outlining why he is standing and it is clear that he wants to get the word out. You can read the full thing here but here is the synopsis, he’s running because old Labour don’t exist and because voters are deserting the Lib Dems and drifting away from Labour and the Tories, the Green’s are ready to swoop in and save the day…

Well I’m here to defend my lot (to some degree) and actually bring some realistic analysis to the situation. Yes I know I have ties to a party and to this exact election but I can also write from a detached point of view.

He writes, ‘The electorate has one important function to perform, beyond the obvious role of casting a vote on the ballot paper – we have to punish a political party if it promises one thing and delivers another. That is what the Lib-Dems have done.‘ I have two points on this, firstly the electorates important function is to vote for PPC that they believe will best represent them and their values in the House of Commons. The electorate have to make a choice via our FPTP system whether they want to vote tactically or not but the function of the electorate is not to punish anything. That is warped logic but still I’m going to let it go because if he truly believes that then we need to punish the Green Party too.

‘Why is that oh jogging bottom decked one?’ I hear you cry, well I’ll tell you. The Green’s only have ‘power’ in one area. Brighton. They run a minority council there so are not in a position where they can do everything they want, the opposition parties can vote them down. It is a variation of being in a coalition as the Lib Dems cannot do everything they want in government but if the Lib Dems deserve to be punished then lets look to see if the Green Party have kept their promises to the electorate of Brighton.

Can it be true that Brighton has actually gone down in the recycling stakes since the Green Party took over? By jove it is. Did they promise a brand new secondary school to be built to ease the overcrowding on 11-16 year-old students? They did but with under 100 days to go they still haven’t even identified a plot of land, let alone had plans drawn up or ground being broken. How about that bin strike that led to waste building up on the streets? Not very eco-friendly is it to have litter strewn all over the streets? If you look into the Green’s running of the council there, you’ll see why they’ll be booted out in May. They know it is coming and they have to just hope that the electorate can vote with their heads and vote out Green locally but keep Caroline Lucas in nationally, it is a nip/tuck battle but if she goes it will solely be because the Green’s had power locally and sucked and made things worse.

I think – and have always thought – that it is hard to run anything as a minority administration or be a junior partner in a coalition. The UK electorate aren’t used to these situations and react badly to them. That will happen to the Lib Dems nationally and that will happen to the Green’s locally in Brighton. Unless you have enough power to do everything you want then it is hard to be truly judged. If you have some perceived power though, unless you do everything you want then people will be disappointed. It is just the way it is.

On to Southend West as a constituency and whether the Green surge (they haven’t been above the Lib Dems in many national polls in the past few weeks but of course people don’t report this as it isn’t a sexy news story) but that green surge is not going to be felt in Southend West. The demographics are all wrong for where the Green’s are on the political spectrum right now. If Southend West has never gone Labour then they aren’t going to vote in an MP from a party to the left of Labour. It just isn’t going to happen. The constituency has always voted in a Conservative MP and the only time it was even remotely close was in 1997 when the Tory incumbent, Paul Channon, stood down after 38 years, coupled with the Blair surge and the distinct lack of love for the Tories in 1997 led to the Tories winning by only 2,615 from Lib Dem Nina Stimson, yet they still won by 5.6%. Had Labour’s national surge not been so pronounced then the Lib Dems would have won and likely would have held it to this day as they have done in many seats they took for the first time in 1997.

So punters would probably be wise to think that Sir David Amess is going to be the favourite down the bookies. Voters are more likely to leave the Tories for either the lib Dems or UKIP as they are the two parties that are closest ideologically to the Tories than Labour or the Green’s. No doubt many who voted Lib Dem will be unhappy and move to Labour or the Green’s but not everyone will go there and a lot of the protest votes against the Lib Dems will also go to UKIP. So splitting a significant portion of the 2010 Lib Dem vote three ways will dilute any parties hopes of actually taking the seat. It is just basic electoral maths.

The Green Party are highly likely to finish fifth in the constituency, so fifth is quite a long way away from first. I admire his ambition but if I were him, I wouldn’t be going to the tailors for any suit fittings for a new job as an MP. I also want to say that speaking about MP pay rises and bankers bonuses bugs the hell out of me in this respect, MP pay rises aren’t allocated by MPs but by an independent commission so he, even if elected could do nothing about that and as for bankers bonuses, only the banks that are partly owned by the taxpayer can be limited, the rest are independent companies who can pay their staff whatever they like. Bankers bonuses have no effect on nurses pay and vice versa, to link them is lazy politics at best and deceitful at worse.

Realism and politics do not go hand in hand in the blogosphere or amongst many activists. Being starry eyed and projecting hope despite the evidence is the much preferred option. Neither the Southend West nor the Rochford & Southend East constituencies look that exciting at this juncture, plenty of much more juicy seats and and down the land where big swings are possible. To get a big swing you need a disliked incumbent (and/or disliked local party), a big local issue and only one significant opposition where over 50% of the voters are defecting to. This is not the case in Southend in either constituency.

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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February 10th, 2015 at 3:36 pm