Sunday, 25 June 2017

Grant Jordan

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Grant Jordan, a leading analyst of pressure groups. An fitting tribute from Professor Paul Cairney: Grant Jordan

The designated adult?

Philip Hammond is suddenly the flavour of the weekend as a possible successor to Theresa May. First, The Economist Bagehot column ran a favourable portrayal under the title 'The Designated Adult' and today the Sunday Times is running with a story that he could be an 'interim' prime minister for two years with David Davis as deputy prime minister.

Bagheot argues that 'spreadsheet Phil' is a 'serious man for serious times'. No one doubts that he is serious: he reminds me of an old style bank manager who tells you can't have a loan for your business. Bagehot admits that he is 'emotionally buttoned up', but argues that he is a smarter version of Mrs May. Is this what is needed?

One British politics expert makes a good point when he tweeted, 'He has the same dull qualities as John Major. This could be a benefit in interesting times.'

The underlying problem is that the Conservatives don't have a suitable successor. Bozza, or at least his people, gave offence by going out 'on manoeuvres' immediately after the election. Admittedly, if he reached the last two, the activists would probably vote him in.

David Davis is a strong Brexiteer and has been a contrarian over the years. Amber Rudd would have a chance if she didn't have a wafer thin majority. People are then reduced to looking at the likes of Priti Patel!

What may happen is that Theresa May stays longer than anticipated. The plan is to have a long recess with Parliament not meeting again until October which would rule out the election then that so many believe in.

Friday, 9 June 2017

An unexpected result

I hadn't expected Labour to gain Warwick and Leamington. Indeed, it was the only Labour gain in the West Midlands where the Conservatives gained two seats.

There are over 5,000 students in the constituency and no doubt they played a part in the outcome. The constituency voted 'Remain' in the referendum and although outgoing MP Chris White was a remainer, it would seem that many of those who voted remain chose Labour as happened elsewhere.

What is clear is that the constituency is not a typical Midlands one. BBC West Midlands political correspondent Patrick Burns suggested that it is more like a North London constituency with a metropolitan, cosmopolitan outlook.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

British general elections since 1931

Political Quarterly has produced a special virtual archive issue featuring articles on general elections since 1931. The first article is one written by Sidney Webb in 1932. The articles are free to read for a month: General elections

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Labour's moderate pitch

I have now received the Labour and Liberal Democrat election leaflets for Warwick and Leamington. The cover photo of the Labour manifesto is initially a little puzzling as it contains a picture of two men, but it is not clear which of them is the candidate. However, turning over the page it is apparent that one is a 'local folding bike inventor.' Perhaps the subtle message here is that Jeremy Corbyn should get on his bike.

For there is no picture of Jezza or mention of his name. The overall message is that the candidate, county councillor Matt Western, is a moderate. He is pictured with a local business owner (a greengrocer) and reference is made to his 24 years of management experience with Peugeot. The candidate also makes it clear that he doesn't support Brexit in a constituency that voted Remain.

Nick Solman's leaflet emphasises the dangers of 'extreme hard Brexit'. There is a prominent photo of unimpressive leader Tim Farron. The candidate himself is photographed in front of the Pump Rooms and Warwick Castle.

Warwick and Leamington is a constituency that should have some potential for the Lib Dems, but they have never come close to realising it. For the Lib Dems more generally, only 7 per cent of the electorate voted Remain and select Brexit as their most important issue.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

YouGov's shock poll

A poll from YouGov published today based on constituency by constituency estimates suggests that there could be a hung Parliament.

Yet Stephen Fisher of Oxford University predicts a Conservative majority of 100. A ICM poll released yesterday records a 12 per cent Conservative lead and implies a majority of 76. The spread betting company IG Index suggests a Conservative majority of 106.

It should be noted that YouGov themselves make the caveat that 'it would only take a slight fall in Labour share and a slight increase in the Conservatives' to result in Mrs. May returning to No.10 with a healthy majority.'

It is also stated that 'The model is based on the fact that people with similar characteristics tend to vote similarly - but not identically - regardless of where they live.' This strikes me as a big assumption given that these characteristics are a less good guide to voting behaviour than in the past. It is also admitted that the model 'does not account for specific local factors that may shape the vote in some seats.' This strikes me as important in this election, e.g., popular Labour incumbents.

All the polls face the problem of estimating turnout. For example, 18-24 year olds overwhelmingly back Labour, but will they turn out and vote?

It is well worth looking at the latest report from the Polling Observatory, although they point out that current forecasts could mean anything between a Conservative landslide and the Tories scraping home. One point they make is that Labour may pile up votes in its safe seats, while losing ground in marginal: Polling Observatory

Friday, 26 May 2017

Emphasis on the local

I now have the election address of Chris White, seeking re-election as Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington. The main emphasis is on what he has achieved locally, which is reasonable enough given that he has been an energetic and conscientious MP. He pledges, 'I remain as determined as I was when I was first elected to address local issues, building on the experience I have gained.'

There is a certain amount about his select committee work and other issues he has pursued in Parliament. Referring to his service on the International Development Select Committee, he states that he is a 'strong advocate for 0.7% of GNI protected for aid funding', not something that every candidate would emphasise.

Theresa May is only mentioned in relation to the fact that he served as her PPS when she was in the Home Office. 'Conservatives' appears in small print, certainly smaller than the various references to 'Chris White'.

What is completely absent is any reference to Brexit. Chris White was a remainer, but then had to follow the party line. However, we are left with no idea how he would react to a hard Brexit and what he thinks about 'no deal is better than a bad deal.'

One hint of dissent is that 'I understand concerns about school funding and will be campaigning for more support.'