Thursday, 1 July 2021

Labour hold red wall seat

Labour have held Batley & Spen with a majority of 323.  This was despite George Galloway taking 22 per cent of the vote, about twice what I had anticipated, indicating that many Muslims (and others) had voted for him. 

It is possible that he took some anti-system votes off the right leaning Heavy Woolen District Independents who polled well at the general election.   His anti-woke rhetoric and social conservatism may have appealed to some of them.

Turnout was low at under 50 per cent suggesting a lack of enthusiasm on the part of Conservative voters. The Conservative share of the vote was down 1.7 per cent.

The result takes the pressure off Keir Starmer with talk of leadership challenges.

It also suggests that, despite Boris Johnson's denials, the Mike Hancock resignation and the way it was handled did have some impact on voters as the only opinion poll had put the Conservatives ahead.

Credit must go to Kim Leadbeater who was clearly an effective candidate well known in the locality.

Some prescient comments on the constituency by Jane Green (more favourable territory for Labour than Hartlepool): https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/23/batley-spen-byelection-labour

Professor Sir John Curtice has noted on Radio 4 that it is not necessarily a turning point for Labour.  Their share of the vote was down 7 per cent and the Brexit vote was lower than in Hartlepool.

The BBC Radio Leeds correspondent suggested on Radio 5 that an open letter from a group of Muslim women a few days before the election may have had some effect.  They named no names, but said they wanted action not words.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party finished ahead of eight candidates.   The Heritage Party candidate got just 33 votes.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Long Brexit in the Chiltern Hills

The Chesham & Amersham by-election result has produced considerable speculation about the crumbling of the 'blue wall' in southern England.   Here Paula Surridge reflects about the effects of 'long Brexit' that cross pressures electors in their voting choices: https://ukandeu.ac.uk/a-tale-of-two-by-elections/

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Could democratic backsliding happen here?

Democratic backsliding is becoming a growing theme in contemporary debates and it is a risk in even the most stable democracies: https://constitution-unit.com/2021/06/10/the-anatomy-of-democratic-backsliding-could-it-happen-here/

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Cabinet split over Australian trade deal

A battle royal is in progress in Cabinet on whether Britain should agree a tariff free trade deal with Australia.  Brexiteers think that if a trade deal cannot be concluded with Australia no deals will be possible for the new 'Global Britain'.

However, farmers - already reeling from the phasing out of support payments - are concerned that it could hit their markets and be a precedent for future deals, particularly those with the US and New Zealand.

On one side of the argument is international trade secretary Liz Truss, a popular figure among Conservative activists.   On the other side is Defra secretary of state George Eustice, backed up by Michael Gove.   Gove is concerned that rural areas in Wales and Scotland would be hard hit, further undermining the union.   Reports are suggesting that Boris Johnson may come down in favour of the deal.

Beef and sheep meat would be the main commodities affected, although Australia is also interested in exporting more cheese.   There is a 20 per cent tariff on beef at present which would be phased out over 15 years.   

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Will Labour back PR?

Britain in a Changing Europe held an interesting webinar yesterday on the recent elections with contributions by Sir John Curtice, Rob Ford, Spectator political editor James Forsyth, and Paula Surridge.

One topic that came up was whether Labour would move to advocating PR.  Labour was characterised as too weak to win, but too strong to fail like other European social democratic parties.  

It was thought that Labour could not win an overall majority, given Scotland, but could form a minority government with Scottish Nationalist, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat, SDLP, Alliance and Green tacit support.

No one would enter into a coalition with the current Conservatives and even the Democratic Unionists were unlikely to countenance a new confidence and supply agreement.

Labour was likely to pile up big majorities in metropolitan areas which were of little use in overall terms.  PR might therefore seem attractive, although the attitude of the trade unions would be crucial.  In the longer term, PR could damage Labour as left leaning voters would feel more able to support the Greens than in the binary politics produced by first past the post.

As always, much depends on the form of PR adopted.   

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

The end of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act

A review of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act and my thoughts on its replacement: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/knowledgecentre/society/politics/fixed_term_parliament_act

Leadership election in Northern Ireland

 An authoritative guide to the DUP election by Northern Ireland politics expert Jonathan Tonge: https://theconversation.com/dup-leadership-election-qanda-all-you-need-to-know-as-edwin-poots-and-jeffrey-donaldson-160670

With such an exclusive election there could even be a tie, but there is no procedure to deal with that.