Category: Elections

Elections

Three and a half shower thoughts

1) I am beginning to think that the best strategy for the Leave side would be for the Brexit Party and the Conservatives to make no official pact, and to continue to denounce each other vigorously, but to make a de facto pact in terms of which seats receive money and campaign volunteers from the two parties.

(EDIT 12:30, 11 Nov 2019: Whether or not that would have been the best strategy, it is now off the cards. Guido Fawkes reports, Brexit Party will Stand Down in 317 Seats the Tories Won in 2017)

2) In an effort to correct for the errors of their disastrous 2017 campaign, the Conservatives are deliberately holding back their main effort until later. This may be an overcorrection, but we’ll see. Expect the fireworks to start after the launch of the Labour manifesto. (The Conservatives’ own manifesto will be as short and uncontroversial – for which read fiscally incontinent – as possible.)

3) Talking of which, the line over which the campaign will be fought will be the words from the 2017 Labour manifesto that may or may not appear in the 2019 Labour manifesto: “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.” If these guys were to get their way the election result would be a Tory landslide. But Labour’s instinct to fudge will probably prevail.

3.5) It is sad to note that if I am right, both (2) and (3) require the Conservatives to move in an anti-Libertarian direction in order to win.

The terrible cost of political realignment

£22k!

The Manchester Evening News reports:

A Parliamentary candidate who could lose out on £22,000 in taxpayer cash if she is not elected to a Trafford seat next month says it could leave her unable to pay her mortgage.

A leaked letter revealed MP Angela Smith, who is standing as the Lib Dem candidate in Altrincham and Sale West, has appealed for a change in government rules.

She could lose out on the cash if she’s unsuccessful at the General Election on December 12. She says she is ‘fighting for fairness in how MPs are treated’.

Ms Smith, who ‘hates injustice’, described her ‘horror’ at the thought of missing out on the money.

She previously served as MP for Sheffield Hillsborough, from 2005 to 2010.

Ms Smith is currently MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, having been elected to the seat in 2010.

She quit the Labour Party in February alongside six other MPs. They formed The Independent Group, later renamed Change UK.

Government rules state that if an MP loses their seat, they are paid two month’s salary in a ‘loss of office’ payment.

The cash gives former MPs time to find alternative employment and adjust to life outside Parliament.

But, because Ms Smith is standing in a different constituency to the one she currently servces, she would not be entitled to the money if she is not elected in Altrincham and Sale West.

Workington Agonistes

“Workington” sounds like a name made up for a novel. But it is a real place, a small town in Cumbria that used to have a coal mine and now has the questionable fortune to have become for the 2019 election what Basildon was in 1992 or Nuneaton was in 2015.

Damian Lyons Lowe of the polling company Survation tweets,

On behalf of Simon Walters at Daily Mail, we have polled the seat many in the media have described as a “must win” in this election as an indicator for Conservative fortunes in parts of the north of England – Workington in Cumbria.

The results were: Conservatives 45% (+3), Labour 34% (-17), Brexit Party 13% (+13), Liberal Democrats 5% (-2), Green Party 2% (+2). The figures in brackets are changes since the 2017 general election.

It is only one poll, but the results indicate that, as suggested in the previous post, the Brexit party running in most or all seats may not harm the Conservatives as much as it would seem at first sight. In fact the presence of the Brexit Party in the contest could indirectly benefit the Conservatives by taking more votes from Labour than from them.

Interesting as the electoral horse race always is, let us not forget that this (potential) change in voting patterns is also a change in how people see themselves.

The Daily Mail produced this graphic of some of the questions asked in the Survation poll. Take a look at the answers to Q5:

Regardless of your current voting intention, if you change your mind before Dec 12, which other party would you consider voting for?

We see the old certitudes dissolve before our eyes.

Or maybe we don’t. Never forget that for the first few days after Theresa May called the election in 2017 that ended with her losing her majority, her already high polling figures rose yet further. Nor did the Tory vote share ever drop very far during the entire campaign – the trouble was, Labour’s rose sharply.

Pondering the political equation…

As a result of these calculations, a great deal of pressure via the media is being put on Nigel Farage and Richard Tice to pull back from standing Brexit Party candidates across the country. ‘Go and fight Labour seats with Remain-supporting MPs, but lay off seats where Tories might lose or could make gains,’ is the call.

Such a strategy might at first glance look good on paper, but it would actually be counter-productive to the Conservative desire to win an outright majority. Remember, the Conservatives must not only win seats but see Labour lose some. It helps the Conservatives for the Brexit Party to do well by taking as many of Labour’s Leave-supporting seats as possible – most especially where the Conservatives are very far behind.

From my personal experience as a one-time Conservative member for thirty years, who served two terms as a member of the Scottish Parliament and then fought and won a European Parliament seat in Labour’s heartland of the North East of England for the Brexit Party, I know there are many, many Labour voters who will never vote Conservative. They are not backwards at coming forward to tell me this. They will, however, consider however voting for the Brexit Party and in May they turned out in huge numbers to do so.

Labour voters and politicians also tell me privately that if Brexit Party candidates do not stand against Conservatives, it will be taken as proof that Farage’s new party is really the Tories in disguise and this will prevent Labour voters switching to them. It is therefore to be expected – and indeed in the Conservative Party’s own self-interest – that in the hundreds of safe Tory or Labour seats, the Brexit and Tory candidates fight each other.

Brian Monteith

If I were Dominic Cummings, this is one line I would push

My past self rebukes my present self for saying this, but there is one thing that Labour let slip over the last few days that the Tories would do well to seize upon.

On October 28th Labour submitted “wrecking amendments” to the bill that authorised the election that would have extended the franchise to sixteen and seventeen year olds, and also to EU citizens.

Nothing came of it. The two amendments were not selected for debate by the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, on the grounds that they were not relevant to the motion. In normal times one would have assumed that of course amendments proposing major constitutional changes would not be permitted to be tacked on to another bill as an afterthought, but in the last days of the era of John Bercow there is no “of course” about it. He might well have seen votes for sixteen year olds and foreigners as his last gift to the nation. Fortunately his deputy was in the Speaker’s chair on this occasion.

The proposal to give the vote to 16-17 year olds was an obvious ploy to gather the votes of da yoof while they still know little of the world beyond what their teachers have told them. I would imagine that the sight of Labour advocating this arouses more weariness than outrage. Votes for foreigners is a different matter. Although the mainstream media lost interest as soon as it was clear that the Deputy Speaker would not allow the amendments, my subjective impression is that to many ordinary people the news that Labour apparently wants to add around three million non-citizens to the electoral roll almost eclipsed the news about the date of the election.

I may be wrong about this. I was abroad for the last week and did not spend much time on the internet. Thus what I did see might have been too small a sample from which to draw conclusions. On the other hand, perhaps the fact that I was only skim-reading allowed me to see the spike in anger more clearly. I was not in a position to collect hyperlinks, but, trust me, a lot of people saw this in terms of Labour wanting to replace its former voters.

And you step to the left and you step to the right …

The dance of politics often looks silly, ungainly and downright improper. Compared with the antics in parliament this year, the Tory conference is mild stuff, but still …

Yesterday, I was told that the minimum wage would remain alive and well under the Tories. Today, I learn that the Tories will make 3 years in jail mean 2 years in jail instead of, as it previously had, 18 months in jail.

I’d rather 3 years meant 2 years than 18 months. As a major reform of bluLabour into a true Tory party, this strikes me as short-weight, but half-a-loaf is better than no bread. It does seem to offer scope for being outbid by the Brexit party in the law and order area with those likely to vote for either, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

The kindest guess I can make at why tendresse is shown to the minimum wage is inspired by this paragraph in a Dominic Cumming’s Spectator article:

This was brought home to me very starkly one day. I was conducting focus groups of Conservative voters. I talked with them about immigration for 20 minutes (all focus groups now start with immigration and tend to revert to it within two minutes unless you stop them). We then moved onto the economy. After two minutes of listening I was puzzled and said – who did you vote for? Labour they all said. An admin error by the company meant that I had been talking to core Labour voters, not core Tory voters. On the subject of immigration, these working class / lower middle class people were practically indistinguishable from all the Tories and UKIP people I had been talking to.

What was it, I wonder, that caused Dominic to wonder who they voted for when these core Labour voters, who could so easily have been core Tory voters while the subject was the PC speech police or immigration or Brexit (or law and order), began talking about the economy? Could it have been the minimum wage? I fear it was.

Less than a year ago, I posted my astonishment that May’s Tory party seemed more attached to the deep state and the SW1 faction than to professing whatever it took to win the next election. I suppose it’s a step in the right direction if the Tories have now reverted to type 🙂 – but I see scope for further realignment yet. The internal and external purge of the Tory party is not over, I hope – thought it may for now be running in channels constrained by Dominic’s insight above.

Failing, flailing, and doing surprisingly well in the polls

I read everywhere that Boris Johnson’s government is flailing and failing. They have been soundly defeated in the Commons. It looks like Boris will be forced to ask the EU for another extension, and according to the Times it has been pre-approved:

Rebel Tory MPs and opposition leaders received private assurances from European leaders that a request by parliament for a three-month Brexit extension would be granted in one last attempt to break the deadlock.

The Times understands that senior figures behind the bill to force an extension on Boris Johnson cleared their plan with EU capitals before it was published this week. They received reassurances that the European Council, which is made up of EU leaders, would not stand in the way of one final extension if it was approved by parliament.

Amber Rudd is but the latest high-profile Tory to resign the Conservative whip, to the delight of her brother Roland Rudd, the chairman of the People’s Vote campaign.

Yet…

“If Parliament is unable to decide on Brexit it would be better to have a snap General Election”

Agree: 50%
Disagree: 18%

-Tweet from the “Britain Elects”, quoting a poll by ComRes carried out from the 4th-6th September. It is not the only such result. The Independent‘s John Rentoul has observed,

Average of 3 polls this weekend (Survation, Opinium, YouGov)

Con 33%

Lab 23%

Lib Dem 18%

Brexit 14%

Four ways Boris could fail, and in most of them Brexit fails with him

Professor Matthew Goodwin is the author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, which I have read and found good. As an academic he maintains an attitude of detachment but it is clear to me that he wants Brexit, partly from fear that if the referendum result is thwarted the result will be a resurgence of the nativist Right, who will have been shown to be correct in their claim that democracy is a sham.

Goodwin believes the most likely thing to happen in the next few months is that Boris Johnson will succeed in delivering Brexit and will win an election on the strength of having done that. In this article, “Boris Wins Big … Right?”, he details four scenarios that end very differently. I approve of that type of thinking.

One lesson of the past decade, as I usually point out in my talks, is that we should always challenge Groupthink. It’s not that I find the above implausible, because I don’t. If things do not change then Boris has a pretty good chance of winning a majority, albeit one that in my view will be much less spectacular than Twitter would have you believe. But it could also go very wrong and we should recognise that conventional wisdom has a dismal record. Long-time subscribers of this bulletin know that it is only by challenging Groupthink that we saw 2016 Leave victory coming. So where could it go wrong for Boris? Here are four things his team need to think about.

Of the four factors he cites, only the first two strike me as big risks. They are:

– 1. He fails to unify Leavers
– 2. Corbynomics remains popular

In all the hullabaloo about Brexit it is easy to forget that a generation has grown up who only know of Margaret Thatcher as a kind of Bogeywoman and who know nothing of the failures of socialism that caused her to be voted in. Corbynomics is indeed popular, more popular than Corbyn himself. Never forget that the hard Left was a vital part of the coalition that won the 2016 EU referendum.

Added later: I said I admired Goodwin’s willingness to think about how he could be wrong in his predictions and how things could go contrary to his desires. In contrast Polly Toynbee seems constitutionally unable to think for very long about uncongenial matters. She writes, “Only a government of national unity can deliver us from no deal”, without once mentioning the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems are as vital to the Remain coalition as the Hard Left are to the Leave coalition; to put forward the idea of a government of national unity (headed by Margaret Beckett of all people) that does not include them is to add an intra-Remain absurdity on top of the wider absurdity of proposing a government of “national unity” to force through something bitterly opposed by half the electorate, as a commenter called “Katherine1984” pointed out.

Lest I be revealed as unable to think of uncongenial things myself, let me say that unfortunately the Remain side includes many brains more flexible than Polly’s. Dominic Grieve, for one.

General election pacts

The outraged #NotMyPM twitterati think that new prime minister Boris Johnson should call a general election, since he was only put in place by a handful of silly old Tory party members and has no mandate. One problem with a general election is that the Brexit vote could be split between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives. So Nigel Farage has suggested there is the possibility of an electoral pact, whereby the Brexit Party does not contest all seats.

It would be fascinating if, for example, previously safe Labour seats went to TBP due Corbyn’s promise that the Labour party would back Remain. Or if votes were split between Labour and Lib Dems, since Jo Swinson has ruled out a pact.

Boris’s next moves will greatly impact the shape of the Great Realignment. Via the medium of electoral arithmetic, Nigel Farage will have a great deal of influence, I suspect.