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The wisdom of this crowd: The result of the UK GE? May 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
33 comments

I’m wondering what people think is likely to be the outcome of the General Election in the UK, given that polls put it at a photo-finish between Tories and the BLP. And what of other contests there, Scotland most obviously, but also Wales, and closer to home what of the North? Any thoughts, observations or predictions?

And Scotland… May 1, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Scotland, Scottish Politics.
18 comments

UK Polling Report makes a great point on foot of the latest polling results in Scotland…

MORI’s Scottish poll shows, as ever, a huge SNP lead. Topline figures are CON 17%, LAB 20%, LDEM 5%, SNP 54% (tabs). This would be enough for the SNP to win just about everywhere. A measure of just how vast the change has been in Scotland is that we are no longer surprised by polls showing the SNP with huge landslide leads in Scotland – we should be. A thirty-four point lead for the SNP in an area that Labour has consistently won since the 1960s is astounding and appears to be a true realignment in Scottish politics.

And continues:

We end up paying to the rest of the country because England and Wales are on a knife-edge while the outcome of Scotland appears settled, it’s just a question of how colossal the SNP landslide is, but it’s good to sit back occasionally and gawp at the scale of the turnaround in Scottish politics since a year ago.

It is indeed astounding, and even if it doesn’t lead to a total wipeout of all others, and who can possibly tell at this point whether it will or will not, it suggests that there has been a fundamental shift in the nature of politics within the UK. Within the UK because, of course, Scotland remains within the UK.

There’s a lot of loose talk about the legitimacy of post-election governments, Nick Clegg has, rather self-servingly given he is about to see a first-hand example of the meaning of the term attrition applied to his own party, argued that the party with the largest number of seats is the only credible party for government – and this has obvious ramifications if say the Tories are a few ahead of the LP.

Those of us who live in more complex/chaotic/somewhat more representative polities will know that it ain’t necessarily so, that it is all about who can get the majority and in whatever way. Given that joint programmes of their nature distort the programmes parties go into elections hawking the idea of some sort of purity conveyed by more numbers is chimerical.

And it’s telling to see a sub-argument of this argue that a government supported either explicitly or indirectly by the SNP is somehow illegitimate being put about too. Of course that too is about shutting down options, and in particular making it more difficult for the LP to gain power.

But it makes no real sense (particularly) if the hegemonic party in Scotland is the SNP after the next election. Because Scotland remains, particularly after the referendum, a part of the Union. Nor is that likely to change soon and rather than playing games with Scotland a real engagement on the part of London and London based parties might actually go some way to redressing the issues that have brought us to this point. Again one has to recall that the recent referendum was shaped by Cameron and the Tories explicitly to prevent the option of devolution max – the option that would almost certainly have commanded greatest support had it been on the ballot and an option that the SNP could live with. Moreover since the referendum the actions of the Tories have been blatantly antagonistic to the sentiment that saw the referendum a close run thing and that will power the SNP to an historic result this coming month.

One can argue that all this is the result of the referendum, but I think that too pat. More likely it is the result of many years of indifference and neglect and a sense that for all the talk of a union the reality was one of a centre that dominated and a periphery that was – for all that it had instruments of its own – peripheral.

But one way or another London, England, the rest of the UK, has to wake up to this new reality. Telling too that the DUP, hardly renowned for its political sensitivity and tact, is aware too of the dangers implicit in the current Tory line. They, perhaps, more than most, are able to comprehend genuine threats to the union. Perhaps they too understand, more than most, what has to be given away in order to retain that union.

An analysis of British politics… April 18, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
7 comments

…here on the LRB, James Meek visits Grimsby, once a Labour redoubt, held by Austin Mitchell for decades, now? Well, who knows… It’s an interesting mix of politics with some very contemporary resonances.

Just one thought that puzzles me, a lot of talk about how Britain should have stayed out of the EEC and how they could have retained a 200 mile fishing limit, but how would that work in relation to this state given the width of the Irish Sea alone is as little as a 100km?

Electoral perceptions in the UK General Election April 15, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, The Left.
21 comments

Some food for thought reading UK Polling Report this week, which continues to show the protagonists remarkably close to one another with the LP just a nose ahead. It’s odd. Last week I saw a few photographs of Milliband and it struck me, whatever about the wishy washy nature of his politics somehow he looked more authoritative in the photos from the campaign trail. A sad reflection on contemporary political activity, no doubt, and perhaps on my own perceptions of what constitutes ‘authoritative’, but this from the Guardian is intriguing:

David Cameron’s approval ratings have improved marginally on a week ago and now stand on +2% – still well ahead of Ed Miliband, whose net score is down 3 points to -18%. The Labour leader remains well up on his rating before the campaign began.

Miliband is also seen by more people as a potential prime minister since the first two televised debates. Of those questioned, 36% said they could imagine him in Downing Street against 57% who could not.

The last time Opinium asked the same question in 2013, just 29% could imagine him in charge of the country and 65% could not.

I wonder is this one of the reasons that Tory attacks on Miliband and the LP are faltering. Last week’s elision of Trident and Miliband supposedly ‘stabbing his brother in the back’ (in itself a worthy topic of discussion) by Michael Fallon was seen as ‘unfair’ by most voters polled. And this keeps happening. The Tories are unable to get at Miliband in the way they clearly thought they would (most risible being an effort in the Mail to stir up stuff about his previous partners).

Meanwhile UK Polling Report continues to point to another significant Tory problem – or perhaps a related one.

Turning to attitudes towards business neither leader is perceived as being in the right place. Only 29% of people think Miliband’s attitude to business is right, 33% of people think he is too hostile. 27% of people think Cameron’s attitude to business is about right, 50% that he is too close.
On those figures, while the political debate is often about whether Labour’s positioning towards business is right or not, it’s David Cameron who has the bigger problem. I suspect, however, that this is actually tied into the wider problem of perceptions of the Conservative party and the rich. YouGov asked about that too in the poll with questions on what would happen to the taxes paid by the very richest and wealthiest in society under a Labour or a Conservative government. 69% think that the wealthiest should pay more tax. If Labour win, 75% expect the richest to pay more tax, if the Conservatives win 34% expect them to pay less tax.

Even in the UK discourse, weakened by decades of Thatcherite and neb-thatcherite rhetoric and actuality there remains clear perceptions of class aspects of political formations, albeit under-considered. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?

And what of this, pointing to the nature of political hegemony in parts of the UK (and yes, there are places where Labour, or LD or whoever are extremely strong)?

Finally, I saw an unusual county level poll of Kent today – conducted by Facts International (the company who do the fieldwork for ComRes’s phone polls for the Mail). They found voting intentions in Kent of CON 39%, LAB 22%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 24%. That would be a 5% swing from Con to Lab, which on a uniform swing wouldn’t be enough for any seats to change hands (Labour’s closest target seat in Kent is Dover, which needs a 5.2% swing).

Anyone care to predict the outcome of the UK General Election, both in Britain and the North? April 3, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics.
8 comments

After all, it has some bearing on this island. UK Polling Report has the latest polling data here.

And the last debate can be seen here. Very good performance by Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP.

Clegg’s seat in danger… April 1, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
7 comments

…according to Ashcroft poll. If followed through on the actual day of the vote. Well, that’s a Portillo moment, for sure.

I’m still surprised at how neck and neck it is for the two largest parties – perhaps that will change, perhaps UKIP voters will flock back to the Tories (which if one looks at the projection seems like a real dynamic). What’s intriguing is how Miliband, for all his flaws, has seen LP, for all their flaws, support remain remarkably constant. Remarkable too to see how the SNP look as if they’re in position to provide the weight for an LP led minority government – 50 seats for the SNP on current polling!

Paying the price for centuries of contempt March 27, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Scottish Politics, The Left, Wales.
9 comments

It’s not necessarily coming, as they say, from a place of love. More like a place of snark, but this is a great line from Simon Jenkins in the Guardian when discussing the shape of the next British Parliament.

British politics is paying the price for centuries of English contempt for the political aspirations of the Irish, Scots and Welsh.

Ain’t that the truth.

Throughout the 19th century Tory (and some Liberal) opposition to even moderate home rule for the “other British empire” ensured a more drastic separatism would eventually triumph.

Actually his line is intriguing because he argues that with SNP support a Labour government is more or less inevitable. Well, we’ll see.

He makes another point, one which given the way in which unionism looms large in the political consciousness is perhaps sometimes forgotten on this part of the island

The lesson of separatism across Europe is the same. For restless Ukrainians, Slovenians, Kosovans, Slovakians, Basques and Catalans, regional autonomy is not a passing fad, to be bought off with a few powers and subsidies. It is a visceral response to the arrogance of centralised power. It is the response that many Britons profess towards the overbearing power of Brussels; yet few in Westminster see themselves as the EU of Great Britain.

Lose half your seats and still retain power..? How about three quarters? Four fifths? March 15, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics.
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Nick Clegg’s cold comfort for his parliamentary – or at least a statement ‘attributed’ to his people, as reported in the Guardian today that ‘The Liberal Democrats could lose nearly half their seats and still remain a party of government, most probably in coalition with the Conservatives’ is something that might ring a bell with certain TDs this side of the Irish Sea given the state of polling. And, oddly, one could see how such a message might resonate with those likely to keep their seats while plunging those who aren’t into despair. Granted the polls have firmed up very slightly for the Labour Party, but… Adrian Kavanagh’s projection of 8 seats on 9 per cent support for Labour tells its own story. Think of the rest of the sitting LP cohort. And then consider whether this uptick can be sustained. Perhaps it can. That – no question about it – is what all LP TDs will be told. Next week’s march will be important both in taking the temperature of the protests against water and austerity but also in giving a sense of the level of opposition more broadly to the government.

Truth in the news… March 4, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
6 comments

This strikes me as utterly misleading. A report in the Guardian today on support for UKIP amongst Generation Y.

The headline?

Election 2015: support for Ukip among Gen Y voters doubles in a year

And the subhead?

Think younger voters don’t like Nigel Farage? Think again – Ukip is polling nearly as well as the Green party and is almost level with the Lib Dems

It starts:

Support for the Conservatives among younger voters born after 1980 dropped by a fifth last year, according to polling data provided to the Guardian by Ipsos Mori.

And continues:

However, the principal beneficiary of the fall in Tory support has not been Labour – traditionally the most popular party with 18-34-year-olds –but Ukip, which has seen its own poll rating among younger voters more than double in the past year.

So what stunning range of support does UKIP have?

While the Conservatives’ support fell from 20.5% to 15.6%, Ukip has seen support among so-called Generation Y voters increase from 2.4% to 5.5%.

That’s right. 5.5%. The Guardian suggests that:

Significantly, Ukip is polling close to the Green party, among an age group where the party would expect to do far better.

And how much is that support for the GP?

Support for the Greens, who are led by Natalie Bennett, has nearly doubled over the last year, from 3.7% to 6.9%.

But much more prosaically we discover that:

Labour also has seen its support tumble, according to Ipsos Mori, with its share going from 33.9% in 2013 to 26.2% last year

So let’s get this right. UKIP and the GP between them barely have 11 or 12 %. The Tories are on 15.6% and the LP on 26%.

I think we can safely suggest that Generation Y isn’t exactly seduced en masse by the the charms of UKIP.

And it’s only ten weeks until the next UK election… March 1, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.
8 comments

…which promises to offer no end of fun in terms of government formation and so on, if UK Polling Report is to be believed.

So far their polling average has 32% for the Tories, 33% for the BLP, 8% for the LDs, 15% for UKIP and 6% for the GP. They also suggest a hung parliament with the a 19 seat deficit for the LP. It really is neck and neck for the Tories and the Labour Party in national polling in the UK, with the LP just ahead by a percentage point or two in most polls. The potential strength of the SNP is going to be a major factor, and the remarkable weakness of UKIP in actually winning seats is another factor. 1-4 appears to be the general assessment. So much for all that poll support. FPTP still keeps matters much as they always are.

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