Category Archives: Politics

Green Party ahead of Lib Dems in latest Lord Ashcroft poll

Can you remember how excited the Green Party was when various polls put them neck and neck with the Lib Dems?

Well, imagine the levels of excitement in Green Party HQ when they spot this week’s Lord Ashcroft polling which has them, for the first time, ahead of the Lib Dems!

Lord Ashcroft

More evidence to back up the Daily Telegraph’s assertion that next May’s election will be a 5 horse race.

UPDATE: I have just spotted on twitter that some Greens are claiming their membership has also broken 30,000 – it was only a few weeks OK that Hynd’s Blog was reporting it had broken 20,000 for the first time ever!

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3 ways Labour can still win back Gloucester

Gloucester
A new poll of Labour/Conservative marginal seats by Lord Ashcroft has found that my home city of Gloucester will be held, by the skin of their teeth, by the Conservatives.

This will come as a blow to the Labour party who placed Gloucester 38th on the list of must win key battlegrounds.

Significantly though, the poll finds some key variations between the national picture and that of local voting intention in Gloucester that provides some clues to how Labour can still win back Gloucester…

Local Labour need to win over former Lib Dem voters

The latest national YouGov polling reinforces a key trend that many, including those within the Labour party, have spotted and that is that there lead in the polls is based on picking up former Lib Dem voters. The latest national figures suggest 38% of 2010 Lib Dem voters are planning to vote Labour in 2015, compared to just 26% Lib Dem and a meagre 11% Green and 10% UKIP.

Locally however in Gloucester, just 16% of 2010 Lib Dem voters are planning to vote Labour compared to 25% Lib Dem and 20% UKIP.

This suggests that although the Lib Dem vote has collapsed in Gloucester like other parts of the country local Labour have failed to capitalise. UKIP are, as well as picking up ex-Conservative voters, also taking chunks of key demographics that Labour need to be claiming!

The size of the former Lib Dem vote share should not be underestimated in Gloucester…

In 2010 the Lib Dems picked up close to 20% of the vote in Gloucester (9,767 votes). Assuming that they retain 25% of this (approx. 2,500 votes) that leaves 15% of the total vote share in Gloucester up for grabs (approx. 7,500).

Interestingly Greens have also failed to capitalise on this. The poll predicts they will pick up just 7% of 2010 Lib Dem voters. This, combined with the higher than national average ‘don’t knows’ among 2010 Lib Dem voters in Gloucester, suggests that there are still a significant number of key floating voters in the constituency.

The campaigning will be important…

Local Labour must battle apathy and ensure a high turnout

Nationally the above mentioned YouGov poll suggests 6% of people will not vote and 13% do not know who they will vote for.

Locally however in Gloucester, Lord Ashcroft found that, 13% would not vote and 14% do not know who they will vote for. In short, according to this poll, Gloucester has more than double the national average of people planning on not voting in May 2015.

In 2010 Gloucester had a 64% turnout rate, marginally lower than the 65% national average. If this drops further this will in itself prove to be crucial as high turnouts traditionally favour Labour while low turnouts tend to support the Conservatives.

If Labour wants to defeat the Conservatives they must ensure a high turnout, especially among key demographics such as the 18-34 age range who typically are more likely to back Labour but also are much less likely to vote.

The 24 hour lead up to the election will be key in terms of Labour getting their supporters out and voting…

Labour need to get out there and knock on doors and deliver leaflets  

With just over 6 months to go until the election it is interesting to note that the poll found 70% of those surveyed said that they had not heard from any local political party in the last few weeks. Marginally more however had heard from the Conservatives than they had from Labour.

Being active locally and being seen to be champions of your local area remains an unmovable part of the path to electoral success. With so many floating voters in Gloucester this only reiterates the need for Labour to be getting out onto the door steps making the case for why they think voting Labour is the best thing for Gloucester.

The question though is not only will local voters hear them but, but will they believe them?

 

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Is there a case for making exceptions to the national minimum wage?

Conservative Lord Freud

Conservative Lord Freud

In 1997 the Blair government, to their credit, reversed 5 years of Conservative feet dragging and introduced the minimum wage. This policy, at its now slightly inflated but still chronically too low rate, is a basic safety net for paid workers.

Hynd’s Blog has consistently called for the advancement of the minimum wage to match that calculated as the ‘living wage’ – the minimum amount it is deemed to be able to have a reasonable standard of living off.

Today though the paper’s are not filled with the argument for increasing the minimum wage to match a ‘living wage’ but instead, the idea of some people being able to earn less than the minimum wage – an idea which Hynd’s Blog is not immediately and unconditionally opposed to.

Lord Freud, the Conservative Welfare Minister, has been thrown into the heart of this debate when a recording of him saying, “There is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage” was released.


In short, he suggests that certain disabled people are ‘not worth’ the meager £3.79 (for under 18s) that stands as the current minimum wage.

Moving this debate though beyond the despicable language that suggests you can assess the ‘worth’ of an individual there is a pertinent question to ask around whether or not exceptions should be made to minimum wage legislation – like for example the system they have in New Zealand.

I would personally advocate for a system where an individual employee could apply for an exception to the national minimum wage that is then assessed by a government agency so they can continue working in a job that they are perhaps good at but cannot perform at the speed or efficiency of other workers.

An example might be an adult with learning disabilities who works slowly and methodically at a certain task benefiting greatly from the social interaction, the responsibilities of work and the limited financial independence of a reduced salary but who works too slowly for a commercial employer to feel they can justify paying a minimum wage.

This opt out clause could easily be supported through an existing financial top up scheme comparable to that ‘disability premium’ income support to ensure the employee is protected whilst the employer does not lose out.

With this in mind, it is worth also examining the politics of the current uproar. Lord Freud’s comments were unacceptable and as such he needs to apologise. But, equally, the nature and severity of the attack from Labour on this issue only serves as party political point scoring and does little to add to the social policy question that the Conservative Cllr and Lord Freud were addressing – what is best form of legal protection disabled workers whose output is partially effected by their disability?

I don’t have the answer to this and certainly not the research to back up the above idea but it would be interested to get a discussion going – something unlikely to happen in the current media hyperbole.

UPDATE:

Full text of Lord Freud’s apology:

Lord Freud statement

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UKIP but not the Green Party included in TV leader’s debate

FarageBennettThe BBC this morning reported:

“UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has been invited to take part in a TV debate with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg ahead of next year’s general election.

The BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 have announced plans to hold three debates.

One would involve a head-to-head debate between just the Conservative and Labour leaders, and another would include the Liberal Democrat leader.

The other debate would involve all three leaders plus Mr Farage.”

Almost instantly a variation of the pertinent question ‘On what basis is Nigel Farage included and not Natalie Bennett and the Green Party?’ was being replicated across social media.

Now UKIP have one elected MP, but of course The Green Party has also had one MP since 2010. Recent polling figures show UKIP flying high but have also shown the Greens polling in the same ball park as the Lib Dems.

Norman Smith, the Assistant Political Editor at the BBC, at least could foresee this inevitable anger and frustration:

But many still felt his language didn’t do the scale of this stitch up justice:

UPDATE:

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “With these statements the broadcasters are demonstrating just how out of touch they are with the public mood, and how ridiculously they cling to the idea that the future of politics looks like the past.

“It is clear from votes and polls that the public are fed up with the three business-as-usual parties and are looking around for alternatives.”

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Will UKIP’s leading lights oppose Nobel Prize winners for inventing LED lights?

Paul "the nutter" Nuttall - UKIP MEP.

Paul “the nutter” Nuttall – UKIP MEP.

It was announced today that Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura have won the Nobel Physics Prize for their role in producing LED lights.

Hynd’s blog sends its warm congratulations.

This advancement in technology is already having far-reaching impacts on improving people’s lives across the world.

Equally however, Hynd’s Blog is awaiting with excitement UKIP’s response to the news.

UKIP have quite strategically positioned themselves on the lunatic fringe of science misrepresentation and in the past claimed the EU is putting us all in danger of blindness and cancer for rolling out LED light bulbs.

To quote UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall in his article claiming LED bulbs cause cancer and blindness, “In the same way ultraviolet rays in sunlight can cause premature aging in our skin if we get sunburnt, there is a similar situation in the eye [when using LED lights].”

He goes on… “This is yet another example of ill-thought-out legislation made by the EU before they have got all the facts.”

Now, in case you are interested, Which? Summarizes the existing evidence looking at whether LED lightbulbs are dangerous saying that “CFL light bulbs will not cause skin cancer. Sitting very close to a light bulb that emits more than the recommended amount of UV light has similar effects to going outside on a sunny day – so some caution is recommended.”

On the issue of blindness they are unequivocal in summarising the best evidence out there… “Will LED lighting make me go blind? Absolutely not. Domestic LED lighting is not even close to being high energy enough to have any impact on your eyes.”

One assumes that despite the best evidence suggesting that LED bulbs do not cause cancer or blindness, UKIP will stick to their beliefs here and issue some sort of condemnation of what, in their eyes, must be the celebration of rolling out cancer generating machines into every household.

It’s not so much that I am looking for UKIP to make themselves look stupid here…oh OK… that is exactly what I am waiting for.

But there is a slightly serious note here – UKIP are disingenuous populists with little regard for scientific underpinning of policy. You vote for their populist agenda at your peril and in the face of much established science.

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A letter to Neil Carmichael MP on the detention of Shaker Aamer

This is a copy of a letter sent to my local Conservative MP, Neil Carmichael:

Dear Neil,

I am writing to you once again about the case of the British resident still held in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer. I am writing again because there have been no significant movements towards either his release or trial since our last correspondence.

Days, weeks, months and even years have slipped by for both of us since our last correspondence on this issue but I am sure you appreciate the same sense of time sliding by will not be shared by Shaker who remains being held in the most awful of conditions within Guantanamo Bay.

At this point I ask for your empathy to spur action – imagine that this was your own father or brother being held without reason in such barbaric conditions and then remember that you have the power to bring about change on this issue!

The status quo will remain so only for as long as we collectively remain silent. I am asking you to speak out, loudly and with passion.

Why now?

In August of this year yet more troubling evidence (1) has emerged that Shaker has faced further beatings at the hands of those who hold him without charge or trial.

Years have passed for Shaker inside Guantanamo but I ask you to do what you can to ensure that not another single day goes past in the same way.

As such, as a matter of urgency, I am writing to you to ask you to undertake the following actions:

  • To make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process (2).
  • To write to the Foreign Secretary outlining that your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer.

I look forward to your response on this issue. Please respond by email rather than through HoC paper.

With optimism,

Steve Hynd

Sources:

  • (1) http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2014_08_27_PUB_Shaker_Aamer_beaten_Guantanamo/
  • (2) The Government e-petition requesting “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing detention in Guantanamo Bay” has so far obtained at least 117,442 signatures. An adjournment debate was held in Westminster Hall on 24th April but this did not lead to immediate action for Shaker’s return.

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Note to the Telegraph: Green MEP is not an avid bee keeper

Molly

Molly Scott Cato MEP – not an “avid bee keeper”

I was pleasantly surprised to see in today’s Daily Telegraph (not the natural bedfellows of The Green Party) an article that seriously examined the idea that the 2015 General Elections will be a ‘5 horse race’. It wasn’t long however before I started to spot the usual stereotyping that blights so much of the media coverage of the Green Party.

As a precursor to the rest of this blog it is worth highlighting the notable rise in quality media coverage the Greens have enjoyed over the last 6 months. This is, at least in part, thanks to the recently re-elected leader Natalie Bennett, who worked as a journalist including a number of years as an editor at The Guardian.

And yet it still feels like they are fighting an up-hill battle at every turn.

Using this latest Telegraph article as a case in point…The article is generally positive towards the Greens highlighting 7 reasons why they will be a major factor in May 2015’s General Election and yet a patronising whiff exists over the article and manifests itself in the smallest of details.

Take for example the section on last May’s European elections:

While Mr Clegg’s party lost 10 out of 11 MEPs, the Greens not only held their two seats but added a third – Molly Scott Cato, an avid beekeeper who became the party’s first ever South West MEP.

Why on earth would Ben Riley-Smith, the author of the article, choose ‘an avid beekeeper’ as a description for Molly rather than say, ‘a published economics author’ or ‘a former district councillor’ or ‘a former Professor of Economics’…?

This was a point that earlier today I raised on twitter copying in Molly Scott Cato MEP.

Her response just makes this point even more remarkable:

Curious. Not only did Riley-Scott choose the frankly bizarre description of ‘an avid bee keeper’ to describe this acclaimed author and academic but, bizarrely, this then turns out to be a complete falsehood anyway.

I then googled ‘Molly Scott Cato beekeeper’ to see where this apparent myth might have come from and sure enough, it appears in a number of other media outlets from the BBC (including the pun ‘making a buzz of her own’) to our local rag the Gloucestershire Citizen.

As Molly said in her tweet… #stereotypes.

This type of lazy stereotyping by the press perpetuates the myth that Greens are only interested in the environment. Even when an economist is elected the media look to describe her in outdated environmental terms.

This is in turn reinforces the perception of voters that Greens do address the issues that most concern them. Of course the irony is that ‘the economy’ consistently tops the list of issues concerning voters and yet journalists, like Riley-Scott, think it more pertinent to mention a completely made-up hobby of Molly’s rather than the fact that she is acclaimed economist!

Things are improving for the Greens in terms of media coverage but to say this is an uphill battle is an understatement.

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Green Party membership at 20,000 – up 45% in 2014 alone

Green membership2
The Green Party of England and Wales’ membership has grown by over 45% in 2014 alone. This means that, for the first time in the party’s history, their membership is over 20,000.

The youth branch of the Green Party, the ‘Young Greens’, has seen a particularly spectacular increase in membership with over 100% new members joining since March 2014 alone.

This coincides with what Hynd’s Blog reported in September that support for the Green Party amongst 18-24 year old voters had doubled since May’ elections. That ‘doubling in support’ fact came from consistent YouGov polling that found 10-11% of 18-24 year olds are planning to vote Green in May 2015.

Interestingly the last three YouGov polling data sets have shown that this increase has, if anything, increased. In the polling from the 29th/30th September the Green Party picked up 11% of 18-24 year old votes, from the 30th September/1st October 13%, and from the most recent 1st/2nd October 14%.

There is also good news for democracy hidden amongst this milestone for the Greens as well. At the 2015 General Elections Greens will be standing candidates in over 75% of seats – that is an increase of 50% from 2010.

This is important for democracy to ensure that voters, who would want to vote Green, have that option on the ballot paper.

Greens are cheerfully referring to this surge in the polls and membership combined with beating the Lib Dems in May’s elections as the #GreenSurge.

It will be interesting to see if this surge runs its course like a wave moving up a beach, or, whether these are the foundations for the Green Party moving into contention within mainstream British politics.

 

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The health cost of the government’s failure to implement minimum pricing of alcohol policy

alcohol
A doctor friend described to me the ‘minimum pricing of alcohol policy’ as ‘one of the few genuinely good public health ideas of recent years’. As with most policies that are good for public health but bad for big business it was quietly dropped. The coalition government instead opted to bring in a ban on ‘below cost’ selling of alcohol.

A study published in the BMJ has, for anyone that had any doubt, put to rest any suggestion that the banning of selling below cost alcohol has any serious public health benefit and, significantly, has clearly restated the case for the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol (as our progressive neighbours in Scotland have done – awaiting a legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association).

The BMJ study concludes with an unequivocal statement:

“The ban on below cost selling, implemented in the England in May 2014, is estimated to have small effects on consumption and health harm. The previously announced policy of a minimum unit price, if set at expected levels between 40p and 50p per unit, is estimated to have an approximately 40-50 times greater effect.”

The implemented policy of banning the selling of below cost alcohol was found to reduce harmful drinkers’ mean annual consumption by just 0.08%, around 3 units per year. Put another way that is just over one pint, per year, drunk less by harmful consumers of alcohol.

In contrast, the study found that a minimum pricing of alcohol set at around 45p per unit would reduce harmful drinker’s consumption of alcohol by 137 units per year. In terms of pints that is approximately 60 pints less a year.

We have known for a while now that the minimum pricing of alcohol disproportionately impacts on those of us who consume the most alcohol (in the study a harmful drinker was defined as the 5.3% of the population over 16 who on average consumer 58 units per week for females, 80 units for males).

According to the study 2.2 million of us Brits are harmful drinkers (17.3% – 7.2 million are ‘hazardous’ and 61.5% – 22.5 million – are ‘moderate’).

The study found that 30.5% of harmful drinker’s alcohol would be effected by a minimum price of 45p per unit while just 19.5% and 12.5% respectively for hazardous and moderate drinker’s alcohol would be effected.

But this policy analysis isn’t just about reducing the amount people drink for an abstract notion of it being ‘better for our health’. The study connects it closely to alcohol related deaths stating:

“Below cost selling would save an estimated 14 deaths and 500 admissions to hospital annually, compared with 624 deaths and 23 700 admissions for a 45p minimum unit price”

In short and written another way, the coalition’s decision to delay the introduction of a minimum price of alcohol is costing Brits 610 needless deaths a year and a whopping 23,200 hospital admissions.

Something worth bearing in mind next time you go into an overworked hospital.

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On Lib Dems, Greens and the selective use of polling data

Anyone with any connection to the Green Party will have probably seen the below image over the last few days. Produced by the polling company YouGov it shows the Green Party neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats on 6% of the intended vote share.

GreenLDVI

Having an external and highly respected polling company like YouGov produce such an image is extremely useful to the Green Party as they continue to try and convince voters that they are a credible option and not a ‘wasted vote’.

What I am about to write does not contradict that.

That said, any assertion that the Green Party are currently neck and neck with the Lib Dems in the polls (plural) as some Greens are claiming is flagrantly not true.

An accurate description of what has occurred would read more like, “One poll, which stands as an exception, shows the Green Party neck and neck in the polls”.

Indeed, YouGov’s latest polling which directly followed the above quoted polling has the Lib Dems on 7% (+1) and the Green Party on 4% (-2).

In addition, the previous Lord Ashcroft and Populus polling both had the Lib Dems on 9% – significantly higher than YouGov has had them for months now. YouGov represents the worst predictions for the Lib Dems.

The UK polling report average, a calculated polling average from across the polling companies, currently has Lib Dems on 8%.

Equally, the 6% vote share for the Green Party represents a (fairly consistent) high for The Green Party. They are currently averaging 5% (according to the UK polling report average).

In short, there are, on average, a clear 3 percentage points between the two parties. And there is no reason to think that this will change anytime soon. It appears that the Lib Dems have reduced their support down to its committed core and the Green Party have impressively expanded their support beyond most people’s expectations.

Looking back 5 years it is interesting to remember where these parties have come from in terms of polling data. At this time 5 years ago with half a year or so until the general election ICM/News of the World polling had the Green Party on just 2% and the Lib Dems on 17%. Some Ipsos Mori polling had the Green Party on 3% and the Lib Dems on 25% (with the day before the poll results having Lib Dems on 27% with no mention of the Green Party). Some YouGov polling (that also didn’t bother recording Green voting intention) had Lib Dems on 21%.

In 5 years the Green Party have gone from not being counted or receiving 1-3% of the vote to consistently polling 4-7%. The Lib Dems have gone from being ‘the next big thing’ polling 16-30% to being stripped down their bare bones of voter support (6-9%).

So, where does this leave us in terms of expected vote share for May 2015? Well, I predict the Lib Dems will still be the third largest party in the Commons (with around 30 seats) and I strongly suspect the Greens will return no more than their one current MP (the case for electoral reform is as strong as ever).

Equally in terms of vote share, I expect to see the Lib Dem 2015 vote share a bit higher than the current polling (for common sense reasons such as embarrassment in admitting you plan to vote Lib Dem and support to good local MPs) and I also expect to see the Green Party vote share marginally drop as both Lib Dems and Labour put out ‘squeeze messages’ (if you vote Green you will let the Tories in).

The Greens are growing and working hard to offer a progressive alternative to the established establishment parties but any assertion that they are polling neck and neck with the Lib Dems is, currently, simply not true.

 

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On the need for radical constitutional reform

This is a guest post from Mike Assenti (yes that Mike Assenti) who writes on the need for radical constitutional reform in not just Scotland but also Wales, Northern Ireland and even England!

Geoffrey Clifton Brown MP - one of many comfortable conservative backbenchers

Geoffrey Clifton Brown MP – one of many comfortable conservative backbenchers

The votes are in and Scotland has (just about) voted against independence. This makes me feel a curious combination of relief and disappointment – relief as I think the union is the best outcome when looking at it rationally; disappointment for the Scots in that they have missed a golden opportunity to break from the dysfunctional, condescending Westminster.

Some support for the No vote came about in part because of the last minute scramble by the establishment to promise further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This was met with the response by many (particularly on the English right) that we should see wider constitutional reform than just Scottish devolution, with further devolution for Wales and Northern Ireland, and even some form of English devolution.

In this, I find myself in the curious position of agreeing with the likes of John Redwood and Nigel Farage.

It’s a little disconcerting.

However, much of the focus of how this should be achieved seems to be on answering the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’. Posed in 1977 by the anti-devolution Labour MP for West Lothian, Tam Dalyell, this issue is about whether non-English MPs should be allowed to vote on matters that only affect the English. As more and more devolution has taken place, this question has taken on more importance, with England ‘missing out’ on being able to set its own agenda.

There is no good answer to this question as it is currently posed. One proposed solution would be to bar non-English MPs from voting or debating on purely English matters. This would see the creation of two tiers of MPs – the English able to vote on everything, and the non-English who are restricted on certain matters. Where would this leave perfectly capable non-English MPs who form part of the government? Where would this leave any non-English Prime Minister? Would it have been possible for Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to be PM and Chancellor if they were prevented from participating in ‘English only’ issues?

I cannot see how this solution is anything other than completely unworkable.

The problem is that this question is being asked with the wrong mind-set. A contributing factor the Scottish Independence movement is the perception of being ruled by the English. Historically the English conquered Wales and Ireland, and these countries were then ruled by the English. When parliament deposed James II/VII in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 for the crimes of being Catholic and promoting religious tolerance, they ended the reign of the House of Stuart that had united the Scottish and English thrones in the first place.

Throughout the history of the United Kingdom, the English have been, at best, the senior partners, and at worst, the absolute rulers of the other nations. Even within England, there is a perception (rightly or wrongly) that everything is skewed towards the South, and in particular London. If we can face up to and try to fix this mind-set, then we can have successful devolution that would leave a far greater proportion of the population feeling enfranchised, with the same powers available for all of the UK’s member nations.

Here’s my proposal of how we might achieve this.

We continue to have a Westminster based House of Commons and House of Lords. This is the British Parliament, and the seat of the British government. They are responsible for dealing with matters that affect the entirety of the UK, such as foreign policy, high level monetary policy, etc etc. The size of a constituency is made far, far larger, such that there are of the order of 25 constituencies across the UK. Each constituency elects around 10 or so members via a PR system (STV?), leading to around 250 MPs – less than half the current number.

We continue to have national assemblies for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and we create a new national assembly for England. These assemblies are responsible for dealing with matters that affect each individual nation. Each assembly is devolved the same amount of power.

No one can serve on both a national assembly and in the British parliament at the same time. Each assembly is free to choose their own electoral system based on the wishes of the electorate. I would personally favour STV for the English assembly, with around 30 constituencies electing around 150 members. The English Assembly should not be based at Westminster, and ideally shouldn’t even be in London. Choosing Manchester or Leeds would have the beneficial effects of moving some power away from its current ludicrous concentration in London, as well as providing a boost for that area and helping to close the North/South divide.

Of course, we all know none of this will happen.

Challenging the status quo is not an easy thing in this country, and those in charge have extremely vested interests in avoiding change. The hallowed, ancient systems of government currently in place are revered by the old guard, with all their pomp and tradition better suited to the 18th than 21st century.

A system of PR would drastically reduce the number of both Tory and Labour MPs, as well as removing safe seats for idle back benchers of the ilk of Geoffrey Clifton Brown. Forcing members to choose between UK politics or English politics is also unlikely to be popular with MPs used to being in charge of the whole lot. Reducing the number of MPs will obviously result in many losing their jobs, but this would be necessary to help to pay for the change. It would of course be expensive as well, but that in itself should not be a barrier to long over-due constitutional reform that would be a huge investment in the politics of the future.

Whilst we’re on the subject of constitutional reform, maybe it would be a good idea to actually write a constitution. The UK is one of very few countries worldwide without one – the others being Israel, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia.

The Scottish Independence referendum has brought the question of what our United Kingdom is and what it should be into the foreground, and perhaps now is a good time for all Brits to discuss and agree on these issues. If we really are Better Together, then let’s explicitly define our relationship, making sure that everybody is represented, that power is fairly distributed and that the restrictions and legacies of the past are not all that define our common future.

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Green Party membership 2002-2014 up three fold

Today, Derek Wall from the Green Party tweeted this graph showing the growth in Green Party Membership from 2002 – 2014.

Greens 2002-2013

Two interesting points to draw out from the graph:

  • How low the membership was 10 years ago (I joined when the party had just 6,280 other members).
  • How consistently the membership has grown over the last 12 years (with obvious spikes).

In contrast when we look at membership figures (source: House of Commons briefing Sept 2014) of the three largest political parties in the UK we can see the exact opposite occurring:

  • Membership that used to be quite big but…
  • Now the membership is consistently slipping away.

party members hip

For the sake of comparison, if we look at the Conservatives compared to the Greens we can see that the Tory membership fell by more than half between 2000 and 2013 while the Green Party grew by three fold.

It is worth highlighting though that other smaller parties are also seeing a growth (the BNP serving as the exception).

party members hip 2

Perhaps what is most interesting however is to look at the percentage increase or decrease over the last 10 years to examine where the momentum is in British politics:

party members hip 3This one crass measure doesn’t tell you much but it does suggest that both UKIP and Greens are currently riding high.

The pertinent question though is will this trend continue and will all these small parties become bigger players in British politics or will we see some of them drop off like we did the BNP?

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The satire of Downing Street trying to fly the saltire

saltire
With the news that the ‘Yes to Independence’ campaign had overtaken the ‘Better Together No to Independence’ campaign in the polls, the Yes campaign went on the offensive trying to paint the No campaign as panicking.

To counter this at the time, unfounded accusation, the No campaign launched itself into full panic mode.

Firstly, they cancelled Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) so the three party leaders could take a completely unplanned and, let’s be honest, unwelcomed trip to Scotland to try and ‘love bomb’ the Scots.

I can’t see that going wrong…

While I feel little sympathy for Cameron, I do feel a bit bad for Clegg as once again he fights in a referendum where he does more harm than good. He is, whether he likes to admit it or not, now part of the three figureheads of conventional Westminster politics who are to the No campaign what the Liberal Democrats were to the AV campaign.

Alex Salmond must have been laughing at the news that all three of them were heading north.

As if trying to write a satirical sketch for the ‘Thick of it’, it got worse. Someone somewhere decided to try and fly the saltire over Downing Street and impressively manged to get it wrong. Truly a wonderful moment – the satire of the saltire.

Watch this video:


It has been a long time since I have seen a collective political flap as big as this. Will the Scots find this late attempt to love-bomb them lovable? Or, and perhaps more likely, will they see through these latest twists and turns of political posturing?

I suspect the latter but I guess we won’t find out until the 18th September when Scots go to the polls.

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Scottish Independence: Better Together ‘too negative’ as Yes campaign gains ground

Scottish+independence
Last week Charlie Langan wrote for Hynd’s Blog discussing, amongst other issues, the negative nature of the ‘Better Together’ campaign on the up-coming Scottish independence referendum.

Interestingly some new YouGov research shows that Charlie is not the only one who feels like this:

PKpullquote3

This negativity is part of what Charlie explains has pushed him from a neutral position towards supporting the ‘Yes to Independence’ campaign. Again, this latest YouGov analysis suggests that once again Charlie is representative of a much broader shift in public opinion.

YouGov research shows that support for the Better Together campaign has been vanishing in the last week leaving the two sides neck and neck leading up to the referendum on the 18th.

IndyRefSept

Now, only Conservative voters (who are small in numbers in Scotland) are consistently backing Better Together: 93% of them still plan to vote No. YouGov’s analysis shows that ‘all other sections of Scottish society are on the move, most notably among four key groups’:

  • Labour voters, up from 18% saying Yes four weeks ago, to 35% today
  • Voters under 40, up from 39% to 60%
  • Working class voters, up from 41% to 56%
  • Women, up from 33% to 47%

This all leaves it too close to call and reinforces the message from both camps that if you are eligible and care about the future of Scotland – either as part of the United Kingdom or as an independent country – you need to make sure you turn up to vote on the 18th September.

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Young voter support for The Green Party has doubled since May’s election

New analysis from YouGov shows that twice as many young people now say they plan to vote Green in May 2015’s General Election than they did before this year’s European elections.

An average of 10-11% of 18-24 year olds now say they are planning to vote Green in 2015 compared to just 3-5% in March-May 2014.

Young Greens

Despite this surge in youth support the party are still only polling 4% on average (according to the UK Polling Report Average).

polling average

The Greens are still being significantly outflanked by the electorally similar sized UKIP (although UKIP are of course much better financed) and consistently unpopular Liberal Democrats. Although, it is again worth noting that a 4% national vote share for the Greens would be a huge step up from their 2010 1% vote share.

In 2015 Greens have announced they will stand candidates in 75% of seats. However, considering this national polling, it is expected that Greens will focus their energy and [limited] resources on firstly retaining Caroline Lucas’s seat in Brighton before also looking to increase their vote share (or take depending on who you speak to) the seats of Norwich South and Bristol West. 

Looking further than 2015 though, this surge in youth support for the Greens is surely a good sign of the long-term prosperity of the party as they seek to establish themselves as a competitive force in British politics.

 

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How the Green Party in Stroud responded to the idea of a UKIP/Green pact

Stroud Greens
The Green Party Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) in Stroud, Chris Jockel, came out with this stirring statement in response to a UKIP suggestion of a Green/UKIP pact in Stroud.

From the local rag, the Stroud News and Journal:

“We believe UKIP promote a message of fear, division and potentially hatred, born of a superficial, lazy and ultimately dishonest analysis of the national and local situation,”

Talk about pulling no punches!

Just in case any local UKIPers were left in any doubt the Green Party’s MEP for South West of England (and formerly a Stroud District Cllr), Molly Scott Cato, added:

“UKIP’s candidate seems to subscribe to the adage that ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’ but I have to tell her that the Greens choose their friends with more care than that.”

Well, glad we got that one sorted. No UKIP/Green pact in Stroud!

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Natalie Bennett re-elected leader of The Green Party

Green party Natalie Bennett
Natalie Bennett has been re-elected the leader of The Green Party of England and Wales after standing for re-election unopposed. She was elected with 2618 votes to 183 (RON).

Former Deputy leader Will Duckworth however narrowly missed re-election in the new system which saw the party electing one male and one female deputy party leader. Amelia Womack was elected with 1598, (to Will Duckworth’s 1108) and in the second round of voting Shahrar Ali was elected with 1314 (to Will Duckworth’s 1277).

Other internal election results include:

Gpex Chair: Richard Mallender was elected 2640 to RON 101

Campaigns Co-Ordinator: Howard Thorpe was elected 2546 to RON 181

Elections Co-Ordinator: Judy Maciejowska was elected 2631 to RON 161

External Communication Co-Ordinator: Penny Kemp/ Clare Phipps/ Matt Hawkinswere elected 2586 to RON 147

Management Co-Ordinator Mark Cridge was elected 2636 to RON 82

International Co-Ordinator: Derek Wall was elected 1416 to Anna Clarke’s 891

Trade Union Liaison Officer: Romayne Phoenix was elected 2639 to RON 94

Policy Co-Ordinator: Sam Riches and Caroline Bowes were elected 1786 to Rachel Featherstone and Anna Heyman’s 839

Publications Co-Ordinator: Martin Collins was elected 2468 to RON 249

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The Scottish vote for independence should be a celebration – change is happening.

This is a guest post from a good friend and current Phd student, Charlie Langan.

Edinburgh
A quick disclaimer to start: I will not be voting in the Scottish referendum. When there was the possibility of having a postal vote, I believed that neither side had provided any substance to vote for . Since then however, I believe that the Yes campaign has provided a story to believe in. Given the opportunity, I would vote Yes.

Yes for a chance to change both Scotland and the UK for the better.

The starting point of the debate though, which is often overlooked, is whether there is a problem with the state of the Union.

There is evidence that the system is not currently working. I am more and more ashamed of the news stories about the UK that make it to Uganda where I live. Despite not being patriotic, I find myself with, increasingly regularity, volunteering my Scottish status to separate myself from these stories. This is something I have never done before.

The turn to aggressive, confrontational and emotive attitudes and policies on immigration, the European Union, tax and social welfare among other issues coming from the UK, seems to me at odds with the progressive political agenda coming from Scotland.

As an environmental economist working on climate change, I recognise the strength of Scotland’s devolved policies based and founded upon science. However, I do believe that Scotland is running to the limit of its powers and is being constrained. Without being able to set taxes and create incentives, it is difficult to nudge people into making decisions that are better for the society we want to be.

Scotland has shown ability and aptitude to develop strong policies giving, at least me, assurances that Holyrood could probably handle sectors such as the economy (and by most measures better than the current UK government performances in health, education and environment sectors).

I think there is a lot of similarities between the current debate on independence and climate change.

Climate change is a problem, but it took a long time to really understand how it affects us all. Scottish and UK society, national priorities and policies aren’t in harmony, and the differences are perhaps becoming irreconcilable.

In this light, the debate boils down to do we need to change or not. It is a lazy argument that change is too risky just because it’s change. Those who refute change on the principle of change are often those have gained too much power under the status quo and don’t want the boat rocked (the equivalent big oil lobby against the green economy and taking action on climate change). The argument heard is often it’s too expensive to change, and closer examination such claims are generally unfounded.

If there is a consensus that a problem exists and there is a need for something to be done, the debate turns to what is the solution for a better Scotland and a better UK?

The problem here is evaluating any solution, as this requires making predictions of the future, or a new future or a new paradigm. Climate models using hundreds and thousands of years worth of data are made to look like child’s play compared to trying to model the complexity of economies. Those who claim certainty are un-honest, and there are many uncertainties making definitive answers difficult. But we are quite good and familiar at managing the risk of unknowns.

In many respects the Yes campaign has been taking a systematic approach to think through the key issues and logically trying to plot the best course that Scotland could follow if independence is chosen; i.e. identifying risks and proposing management. I don’t like Alex Salmond, nor do I attribute all the successes of the Scottish parliament to him, but I have become to believe that he and the Yes campaign continues to capture the progressive nature that exists within many Scottish policies. Drawing upon the scientific wisdom, it’s not the result that counts, but the method used that shows your success.

The Better together campaign have never unpacked themselves; is it “we are better together” or “we would be better together”? I have already dismissed for the former, but the latter – how – what could Scotland gain? What could the UK gain? What can both parties bring to the table that is not already there? What solutions is the no camp providing? Why have we never seen a better together vision for the future of Scotland? What will be on the table if a no vote is returned in the referendum and discussions turn to devolution max? How valuable would UK membership be to Scotland, if we all find ourselves outside the EU?

The nature of the independence and climate change debates has also been similar in that: the no campaign has been taking on the role of the climate sceptics, focusing on trivial or false corner stones of the debate (the hypothetical currency), distorting the wider picture of the debate (its all about the economy), and resorted in threats (you can’t depend on oil). I look forward to future comparisons with the UK debate and eventual referendum on the EU membership; will it also focus on these boring issues?

But here perhaps we are better together, working toward building commonality between Yes and No, then we can rationally and logically take the final step to spilt or not. I would like to see real discussions on pros and benefits of both camps visions’ for the future of Scotland.

Scotland should be giddy with the opportunities in front of it, not cowed into worrying about making the wrong choice. After all, the debate should be a celebration, change is already in motion and in this sense Scotland has already won!

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Stroud Green Party announce candidate for the 2015 General Election

Stroud Greens
On the back of polling putting the Green Party on 11% of the vote in Stroud the local party have announced their ‘party parliamentary candidate’ as Chris Jockel.

You can read more about the announcement here.

More information on #GE2015 in Stroud: 

  • UKIP’s PPC is Caroline Stephens. You can read what I think of her here (summary: she holds no grasp on basic science).
  • Labour’s PPC is former MP David Drew. You can read why I won’t be voting for him here (summary: I still have no answer if or why he thinks it’s OK to discriminate against LGBT people).
  • The Conservative’s PPC is standing MP Neil Carmichael. You can read everything that I’ve written on him here (highlights include him thinking its cool for the body who are meant to be looking after our health to invest in tobacco).

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General election 2015 polling analysis for Stroud

The Lord Ashcroft polling for Stroud gives us a unique insight into the constituency’s voting intentions ahead of the general election next year. As it is the constituency where I will cast my vote it is only natural that I have given it a little more scrutiny than other seats.

Firstly, in line with national predictions, and let’s be honest, common sense, the poll confirms that in all likelihood Stroud will, once again, return Labour’s David Drew.

The headline (weighted) figures show:

Labour 41%

Conservative 30%

UKIP 11%

Green 11%

Liberal Democrat 6%

This would be comparable to a 6.5% swing away from the Conservatives. For reference it is worth comparing this weighted polling to the 2010 constituency result:

Stroud

Labour jump 3% from 2010, Conservatives drop 11%, the Lib Dems drop 9%, Greens gain 8% and UKIP gain 9%.

As I will discuss later – the collapse of the Lib Dems may be key to the 2015 election result.

In line with the national picture we can see the coalition partners bleeding support with the junior partner faring the worst. It is interesting then to see where these votes are going.

According to the polling, 71% of 2010 Conservative voters are sticking with their party. Although lower than the national average this is still reasonable suggesting their key task is ensuring their voters turn up on election day. However 11% and 13% respectively of the 2010 Conservative vote stated they plan to vote for Labour and UKIP.

Only 3% of 2010 Conservative voters plan to vote Green or Liberal Democrat. This suggests that the Lib Dem hope of picking up ‘soft conservatives’ might well be unrealistic in the Stroud constituency. Equally, it suggests that the Green belief of being strong on environmental/rural issues will not return the votes they would hope for in the rural Conservative strongholds of the constituency.

In contrast to the Conservatives, only 23% of the 2010 Lib Dem vote plan to stick with their party. 30% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 plan to vote Labour, 20% Green and 17% Conservatives. Labour’s success in this constituency is heavily dependent with the national campaign of ensuring Lib Dems stay unpopular.

In Stroud however they have the danger that the Greens will sweep in and take a large number of these votes on the back of the well funded negative campaign Labour has launched against the Lib Dems. Locally in the coming months we can expect to see tough campaigning from both parties in the south of the constituency around Dursley – the traditional Lib Dem [no longer] stronghold.

Only 6% of 2010 Lib Dem voters stated that they plan to vote for UKIP.

Interestingly the Labour/Green battle is further highlighted in the important 18-24 year old demographic where both parties are securing a large vote share (52 and 21% respectively). From this we can once again expect to see visits to sixth form colleges as both parties aim to make the most of the Lib Dem unpopularity with young voters (just 7% in this poll).

Perhaps a key area for The Green party might well be tuition fees as they are the only party that still opposes them and of course, it is the flagship Lib Dem bashing policy.

The Conservatives on their part will continue to sing from the ‘economic recovery’ hymn sheet trying to paint Labour as irresponsible. We know this will appeal to their core vote but this polling suggests that this won’t be enough to win them the seat. They have to reach out of their comfort zones – something which they currently show no signs of doing.

The concluding point though has to be this: With near-by constituencies such as Chippenham (where the Lib Dems are expected to lose a very good MP in Duncan Hames) we can expect to see little from the ib Dem in the Stroud constituency which really means their 15% of 2010 votes is up for grabs!

Whether or not Labour secure enough of these votes might well be the difference between a Labour win and a Conservative hold. From a Green perspective, they too must be looking to make ground in the south of the constituency. This could be a double win for them if they look to reach out and secure new ground in the south of the constituency as this is the place where they can pick up the most new votes whilst also not being accused of campaigning on Labour’s doorstep.

The count down to May 2015 in Stroud begins…

*A total of 1,000 Stroud residents were surveyed in the poll, with prospective voters asked who they would support when thinking specifically about their own constituency and the candidates standing.
** The Green Party are the only main party who have yet to announce their candidate for Stroud.

 

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