Archive for March, 2013

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Punters make South Shields a battle between LAB and Ukip

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Which party will win?

Which party will come second



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This House: The play at the National that knocks on the head the notion of minority government

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

It might be about 1974-79 but the lessons are contemporary

A couple of weeks ago I went to see what for me was best play about politics in years – James Graham’s “This House” chronicling the period 1974 until Mrs. Thatcher’s victory in 1979. It is enjoying a second sell-out run at the Olivier at the National Theatre.

It is set in the whips offices of both Labour and Tories from the February 1974 election being called through to 1979. We watch first the period when Labour tried operate without a majority and then as it tries to govern with a majority of 3 after the October 1974 election.

Death, defections and by-elections soon whittle that down to zero and we see some of the apparently crazy measures taken to keep the ship afloat when Labour didn’t have the numbers. The need to bring even critically ill MPs into the Palace of Westminster for major votes is a major part of the drama.

The Callaghan government, of course, fell on March 28th 1979 when it failed to win a confidence motion by the smallest of margins – just one vote.

It’s wonderfully funny but also very contemporary illustrating the huge difficulty party managers have in working with “the odds and sods” – the other parties who might help.

    I came away very struck that Cameron was completely right in 2010 to enter into a coalition with all the limitations that placed on the party. A minority government might not even have survived the first Queen’s speech vote.

A supply and confidence deal with the Lib Dems could have been harder to negotiate than the coalition.

If you get the chance too see it, and it’s on next month as part of the NT Live programme in cinemas throughout the UK, you won’t be disappointed.

Mike Smithson

For the latest polling and political betting news




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The Easter Saturday PB Nighthawk cafe

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Home of the web’s best political conversation

Relax, and converse into the night on the day’s events.



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David Herdson calls for an Easter resurrection of Pontius Pilate’s reputation

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Would 21st century politicians would have any acted differently?

The politician allowing the unjust crucifixion of the Son of God was never going to get a particularly good press by history, particularly one the Church wrote.  Pilate accepting Christ’s innocence only causes his reputation to fall further: cynical political cowardice set against selfless suffering.  Yet the Church’s authorship of the story and the priorities of religion (as against government) do have quite a dramatic distorting effect.  Politics, after all, is the art of the possible; religion is not confined by such worldly limitations.

At this point, let’s not get too bogged down in the actual facts of the matter.  What’s important now is the myth rather than the man.  Partly that’s because the man is quite tricky to pin down given the partial (in both senses) and very distant evidence but mainly it’s because whatever the truth, it’s the image which resonates down the centuries.

Politicians have to reconcile any number of conflicting influences – the interests of their superiors, of their supporters, of their clients, of the mob (or these days, electorate); avoiding giving ammunition to those who have ill intent towards them; in office, governing effectively and avoiding excessive ferment, often with inadequate resources to impose a solution.  And that’s besides the advancement of any personal ambition or agenda that a politician has.  This remains as true today as it was two thousand years ago; it is simply a function of how power works.  Politics is compromise.

So when faced with what he would have seen as the Christ problem, Pilate first tried what many politicians would do: he passed it on to someone else.  When it landed back on his desk, he was faced with a choice between on the one hand, the demands of the mob and the local religious leadership, and of his imperial duty to maintain peace and order, and, on the other, of his inability to find good cause to satisfy the mob’s demands and of his own need to maintain Rome’s prestige by at least appearing to take decisions on his own initiative.  Unsurprisingly, he too tried to find middle way – Christ’s scourging rather than crucifixion and then the offer of his release (the alternative choice supposedly being unacceptable) – and twice they were rejected.  Such are the problems of governing irreconcilables.  Perhaps Pilate was fortunate that there was no tabloid press in the first century.

History records it as the ultimate act of political cynicism and indeed, standing for right against vested interest is a virtue, to a point.  If on a smaller scale, politicians go along with policies every day that they are not comfortable with or have actively opposed.  It’s part of the bargain that enables the state to implement other policies they do favour (or in opposition, the ability to build an electoral machine that can in future become the government).

Pilate in all probability wasn’t a pleasant person.  He certainly wasn’t a particularly successful politician or administrator.  Still, does he deserve the opprobrium of the ages?  I’m far from convinced so.  I doubt that many leaders, faced with the pressures he did, would have acted much differently.

David Herdson



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The Saturday front pages are just starting to come through

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Keep refreshing to make sure you get all of them



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The Good Friday open thread

Friday, March 29th, 2013

This is a pic I took on Monday while in Westminster for a briefing on the May 2 local elections.

I’m off on holiday for a few days and unless there are big developments I don’t envisage posting very much.

We are having a break at Ilkley in Yorkshire in a cottage with my daughter’s family including two of our grandchildren aged 3 and 5.

Have a good Easter.

Mike Smithson



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The Thursday night PB local elections special

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Harwich West on Tendring (Lab Defence) Last Local Election (2011): Con 33, Ind 16, Lab 9, Lib Dem 2 (Conservative majority of 6)

Name of party

2011 Vote

% Share

Labour

1,240

42%

Conservatives

1,218

41%

Community Representatives

318

11%

Independents

177

6%

Tendring has had a very interesting electoral history. In 2003 it was one of six councils in Essex that were not outright controlled by a party (the other seven were Conservative controlled in six and Lib Dem controlled in Uttlesford) and although the Conservatives have made the gains over the years to gain control (three in the 2007 local elections and five in the 2011 local elections), there’s been a persistent little bugbear in their side, namely the Community Representatives and Independents and this is not the first council in England to have such a high number of them. Epsom and Ewell has elected a Ratepayer controlled council since 2003, Elmbridge was controlled by them until the 2005 local elections (but is still the official opposition to the Conservatives). Epping Forest’s Ratepayers grouping climbed from 6 councillors in 2003 to 13 councillors in 2011 (and are also the official opposition) as well. Given the recent trend towards “a curse on all your houses” in recent local and national by-elections, although the smart money would be on a Lab hold, could the Community Representatives spring a surprise and and give Cllr. Pond (the sole Ratepayers councillor on Essex representing Loughton Central) a much needed boost ahead of the county elections in a little over six weeks’ time.   Candidates duly nominated: Simon Banks (Lib Dem), John Hawkings (Lab), Steven Henderson (Community Representatives Party), Hugh Thompson (Con)

 

Evelyn on Lewisham (Lab Defence) Last Local Election (2010): Lab 39, Lib Dem 12, Con 2, Green 1 (Labour majority of 24)

Name of party

2010 Vote

% Share

Labour

7,631

55%

Liberal Democrats

2,403

17%

Conservatives

1,957

14%

Greens

1,187

9%

People Before Profits

445

3%

Independents

294

2%

Lewisham is as much of a Labour heartland as it is possible to get in London. Indeed since the 1990 local elections it has only ever to go a situation of No Overall Control once (in 2006) and then even Labour were only  two short of an overall majority which was easily reversed at the 2010 local election and looking at the vote shares in this ward it’s pretty obvious that it’s going to be another Labour hold. But as we have seen in local by-elections this year where there is a one party state in existence sometimes electors like to cock a collective snook at everyone and in Lewisham there is a way of doing that whilst still voting for a left wing agenda and that is through the People Before Profit party. They only fielded one candidate at the last election in the Foyle constituency in Northern Ireland (polling a very respectable 8% of the vote) but it was the Irish Republic election the following year that really saw them take off as they managed to win a couple of seats in the Irish Parliament. They also managed to poll 8% in the Belfast West by-election (an area with a similar one party state mentality) so given the strength of Labour in Lewisham and the weakness of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives nationally, they are more than likely to come a strong second (and who knows may just have enough momentum to challenge Labour in one of their strongest parts of London   Candidates duly nominated: ABIDOYE Olufunke (Lab), NUNDY Simon John (Con), OAKLEY Paul (UKIP), RAYMOND Barbara Claire (People Before Profit), TOWN Bill (Lib Dem)

Parson Drove and Wisbech, St. Mary on Fenland (Con Defence) Last Local Election (2011): Con 34, Ind 4, Lib Dem 4

Name of party

2011 Vote

% Share

Conservatives

1,451

52%

Liberal Democrats

1,057

38%

Labour

303

11%

We’ve already had one by-election in Fenland this year and although the Hill ward was a Con HOLD the fact the fact that the Conservative vote fell 12% and an Independent polled 20% from a standing start must surely be giving the local Conservatives nervous shudders. Even more so when you consider that in this by-election there is no Lab candidate and two anti-European parties (UKIP and the English Democrats) standing. Fenland is another one of these one party states and as we have seen 12 times already this year one party states tend to be places where by-election shocks are extremely common.   Candidates duly nominated: David Broker (Con), Maria Goldspink (English Democrats), Helen Lane (Lib Dem), Alan Lay (UKIP)

Harry Hayfield



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YouGov poll has CON and LAB level pegging with Boris as leader

Thursday, March 28th, 2013