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Posts tagged with: 2010 General Election

Writing elsewhere – web campaigning for Progress and EU politics for Left Foot Forward

This blog has been a little quiet recently, but it’s not because I’ve stopped writing. Post-election UK politics is more interesting than at any point for the last few years and I’ve been entering the debates by writing elsewhere – in the main because this blog has a very EU-focused audience.

If UK politics does interest you then I’ve written two pieces for Progress – about the impact of internet campaigns on the UK general election (with specific reference to Stella Creasy’s campaigns in Walthamstow) and about how the candidates in Labour’s leadership election can use the internet for their campaigns and how the net will be vital in that race.

With more of a UK-EU focus I’ve also written a piece for Left Foot Forward looking at the coalition government’s EU policies.

I’ve also been doing the tech for a new web initiative – Labour values – that is drawing together good campaign experience from Labour across the UK at the general election.

Decontaminating the Labour brand

Red glove - CC / Flickr

Red glove - CC / Flickr

I was rather struck my Mark Thompson’s critique of the Labour Party’s current predicament – “I think Labour activists are in danger of underestimating just how damaged their own party brand already is” were the words he used.

I really do not see it in those terms, and here are some thoughts why.

For a start the main characters that have tainted Labour for the last decade are now off the scene – Blair and Brown. Brown’s own ratings were worse than Labour’s and with the prospect of a new leader on the horizon how bad are things for Labour as whole? Not too bad as far as I can tell.

The fact that some of the other hard-to-like ministers from previous administrations – Hewitt, Hoon, Clarke, Prescott – are off the scene also helps.

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6 days is all it takes to tear up an unwritten constitution

So we have a Tory-Lib Dem coalition. Masses has been written about all the pros and cons of this, and I may return to some more themes in a later post. But for the moment I want to focus on the constitutional reform issues that have been thrown up over these last 6 days.

Yesterday night it looked like all the coalition deal would entail would be a referendum on AV to replace First Past the Post. AV is not proportional (see this for an explanation), so I shrugged and groaned, and feared the Lib Dems had sold out. Then this morning on The Guardian’s live blog:

9.57am: The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg says that the Conservatives have given the Lib Dems proportional representation … in the House of Lords.

There will be an elected second chamber, voted in using proportional representation, according to Kuenssberg. If correct, that’s another Tory compromise that might not go down well with a number of backbenchers.

This news however does not feature on the BBC’s list of constitutional changes in the coalition deal.

PR in the House of Lords makes things very interesting and – above and beyond the voting system – would fundamentally change the balance of power between the House of Lords and House of Commons. The Parliament Act would cease to work as it does currently as an elected Lords would have gained considerably in terms of legitimacy. An AV-elected Commons and a PR elected Lords would almost certainly create some kind of perennial power sharing arrangement, and a complicated (although welcome) new balance of power between the two chambers.

This sort of issue is at the very heart of any country’s constitutional arrangements and yet, it seems, a deal has been struck on this in a matter of 6 short days. Remarkable (if, of course, it proves to be true).

[UPDATE at 1828]
This is the text of the coalition deal:

We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current peers. In the interim, lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

The long non-renewable terms part is interesting, hence electing 1/3 of the Lords each time, and for 15 year terms or something like that. Could be interesting.

Britain’s 6 election regions

Map - CC / Flickr

Map - CC / Flickr

This is not a post about election systems. It is a post about the pattern of election results in the UK general election on 6th May 2010. The thinking here is still rather vague, but I think there’s something to it.

The best that UK political commentators ever seem to do is talk about national swings and, if you’re lucky, get in some passing reference to Wales and Scotland. I reckon the 2010 election makes a mockery of that, and that the UK should be viewed as 6 regions instead. Numbers 1-3 are the most important developments.

  1. The Midlands and The North – typified by enduring support for Labour, even in areas where the demography would indicate that the Conservatives would have greater chances. Sporadic breakthroughs for the Liberal Democrats, but not in fights against the Conservatives.
  2. Anywhere within 75 miles of London, but not London itself – typified by very strong results for the Conservatives, cleaning up in suburban towns in the commuter belt. Labour persists only in pockets of former working town poverty.
  3. London – more leftist and tolerant than the rest of England, yet an electorate showing an increasing degree of sophistication to return parties of a different colour to Westminster than were voted to the borough councils. Lib Dems struggle, and in poor areas Labour strengthen. Some minor Conservative gains in richer areas.
  4. Northern Ireland – most clearly on its own. All the parties are different from the rest of the UK.
  5. Scotland – the SNP minority administration, and four-party competition give it a genuinely unique flavour, typified this time by the Labour vote holding up rather well, the SNP doing much less well than for elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Lib Dems steady, and the Conservatives failing to make any headway.
  6. Wales – parallels with Scotland work only as far as they concern the Nationalists. Labour suffered losses to the Conservatives to a greater extent than in Scotland, and Lib Dems failed to make breakthroughs.

Considering that England is the home of more than 80% of the UK electorate I think we need to be a little more nuanced in how we analyze what’s going on there – and the recent election shows these differing tendencies very clearly.

My personal involvement in the election… 12 candidate websites

As the debate about the composition of the UK’s government continues, I’ve taken a moment to reflect on my personal and professional involvement in the election – as webmanager for 12 Labour candidates. Here are the 12, and how they did. I’m happy to be working with a whole group of bright, new, determined parliamentarians!

New candidates

Sitting Parliamentarians

The Common Agricultural Policy and the UK general election

EU Member States are obliged by the European Union to make available the data on recipients of Common Agricultural Policy money by 30th April each year, with data from the preceding year. Today is 1st May and Defra has put this message on its CAP payments website:

Due to the General Election campaign, this website will not be updated with the 2009 figures until after the election.

What the hell is going on?

OK, civil servants during the election period are restricted in what they can do due to the purdah rules. But the main gist of the Cabinet Office guidance for the period is this (from here):

During an Election campaign, the Government retains its responsibility to govern, and Ministers remain in charge of their Departments. Essential business must be carried on. However, it is customary for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any new action of a continuing or long-term character. Decisions on matters of policy on which a new Government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present Government should be postponed until after the Election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money.

There is absolutely nothing new about publishing CAP data. It is a long standing obligation under EU law that the UK government has to respect. So why are they not doing it? Which minister fears the release of this data now? Or is it just pure risk aversion somewhere?

In the meantime if you want to see who got what in 2008, constituency by constituency, then see Farmsubsidy’s excellent election website.

Framing the debate: Future of the BBC

BBC - CC / Flickr

BBC - CC / Flickr

There’s something deeply wrong with the ‘debate’ currently going on about the future of the BBC, and I think it boils down to the essential question: what is the value of public service broadcasting?

Two themes dominate the debate at the moment. The first is a kind of cost-benefit analysis, do license fee payers get value for money from the BBC, and should the license fee even be cut? The second is a kind of backward looking analysis, getting the BBC back to some halcyon days that probably never actually existed, all evoked by the oft-cited phrase “Putting quality first” (implying that at the moment this has not been done).

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Sorry Cameron, but Britain is not “in a complete and utter mess”

Screenshot from conservatives.com

Screenshot from conservatives.com

OK, the UK has some difficulties due to the financial crisis and is struggling out of recession, but does Cameron really reckon that people think the place is “in a complete and utter mess” as he has termed it in today’s speech that’s supposed to be part of his fightback as the Tories are suffering in the polls? Even if that were to be believed does he reckon anyone things things are worse with Labour than they would have been with the Tories in control? I’m really astounded – is that the best the Tories can do – claiming Britain is a mess and appealing to the hearts of people by claiming it’s a patriotic duty to oust Brown?

It strikes me that the overall essence of Cameron’s speech in Brighton today, delivered it seems with an edge of nerves, was to try to kick Labour still further when they are down. Has no-one explained to him that’s not a very handy strategy just now? Yes, regrettably, we know that Brown is none too popular, but keeping on ranting about bad things are is no good at all. How, Cameron, is a Tory future for the country going to be any better? That, significantly, has not even remotely been achieved today.

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