This story came up in the Guardian earlier this week, but has largely been lost in amongst all the run up to the publishing of the Leveson Report, however if this happens it will have some pretty big consequences for the whole of the UK.
Essentially the story suggests that the Tory government is making a deal with the SNP to make the independence vote a choice between full independence and the so called devo-max option. As part of the devo-max legislation Scottish MP’s will be removed from Westminster, however they’ll also use the opportunity to resurrect the boundary reorganisation plan that they failed to get through earlier this year. There are no Tory MP’s in Scotland, and the boundary changes favour the Tory party too…
For all of the miscalculations and cock-ups of the past two-and-a-half years, the Tory party, and David Cameron in particular, are as strategically focused as ever on winning power and holding on to it.
Few will be surprised to learn, then, that Cameron is still determined to force through parliamentary boundary changes next year that will reduce both the number of seats in parliament and in particular the number of Labour MPs, (by about 30) – and all in the face of opposition from Nick Clegg. And despite Clegg’s protestation, the Tories will probably be able to buy off some Liberal Democrat MPs threatened with extinction with a place in the Lords or on a quango. That he appears to be promising more devolved powers to Northern Ireland and Wales in order to win over the unionists and Plaid Cymru is quite logical in the circumstances.
Scoop.it – Church and Religion A good analysis of the Women Bishops vote, and also a good view of what might happen if the events of recent days galvanise the pro-women majority in the church into actively putting themselves forward for Synod.
Currently the 7% of conservative and traditional parishes have a working blocking minority in the House of Laity, if that goes in the next Synod election it may well be that a more pro-women synod will not give nearly so much ground to accommodate the traditionalists in any subsequent legislation… See on brokencameras.com
See on Scoop.it – Church and Religion Andrew Brown has written one of the best of the comment pieces on the vote on Women Bishops in Synod yesterday – he certainly doesn’t pull his punches, and calls out the conservatives and traditionalists on some of the things they were saying from the podium. Well worth a read. See on www.guardian.co.uk
On Thursday I wrote a post discussing my thoughts about the election. Now two days later we have had the results, and at a national level are still going through the machinations caused by the results.
I have heard it said often that whatever people tell pollsters, when they get into the polling booth they can do something totally different. The 1992 General Election is a good example of this effect where the polls were predicting a Labour victory, but the country returned the sitting, and apparently deeply unpopular Conservative government for another term. For decades the government of the UK has been flip-flopping from Labour to Conservative and back to Labour again, usually with a large pool of floating voters who are voting to get rid of something they don’t like, rather than voting for something they do.
This time around according to the polls Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats had made a big impression during the campaign, and according to the pollsters had historically high poll ratings, at times pushing Labour into third place. But on the day all these poll gains evaporated – across the country people were desperate to get rid of an unpopular government and saw voting for the Conservatives as a way to do it.
It was against this backdrop that we must look at the results for Wokingham. John Redwood our sitting Conservative MP was returned with a significant increase in majority. In the press this has been reported as a swing from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives, but when you look at the votes this is misleading. There was a significant increase in turnout over 2005 – in actual fact of the three main parties only Labour had less votes – the Liberal Democrat candidate received more votes. However most of the additional turnout went to the sitting Conservative candidate. Mark Ashwell the independent candidate polled a couple of thousand votes, noticeable, but not enough to really impact the vote.
Locally, there was a big jump in turnout – the last time this ward was elected it wasn’t on the day of a General Election. Occurring on the same day it is rare for people to vote differently in the two elections, so again the local councillor was returned with a sizeable majority. Indeed across the whole of the borough only one ward changed hands, passing from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats. In the run up to the vote I had been swapping e-mails with our local councillor who had been defeatist right from the off, saying that our Resident Action Group website was going to lose him the election, that he knew his time was up, and during the course of the campaign we had more than double the number of flyers through from him. In my e-mails I’d repeatedly said that I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still the village councillor on May 7th, and I’m not – this is a staunchly Conservative area, and whilst there is a good deal of anger amongst some of the residents it is a big step for many from being angry about what is going on to actively voting for someone else. The big disappointment is that his insecurity in his electorate led him to produce election literature with some truly ludicrous and unfounded claims that do nothing for the reputation of politicians. I have much more respect for someone who has run a clean and honest campaign and lost than someone who has run a dishonest campaign and won.
Reflecting on the local situation, we now have a very interesting situation developing nationally, as the two parties who on a local level here seem to truly loathe one another find themselves thrust together as the Cameron led Conservatives find themselves with no option but to ask the Clegg led Liberal Democrats to support them to allow them to form a government. Thanks to the British constitution the incumbent Prime Minister stays in the job if nobody gets an overall majority. The Conservatives need the Liberal Democrats. More ironically any decision to support them needs a positive vote from 75% of the parliamentary party and 75% of the Liberal Democrat Federal Executive, and if they can’t agree it needs a ballot of the members. Suddenly in order to have any chance of forming a government the Conservatives need the support of the self same people who in our area they have been making ludicrous accusations about just days before.
The situation is also causing people to reflect on the absurdity and perverse nature of our venerable first-past-the-post voting system. The whole system favours parties with dominant pockets of support, as a result of the system country wide it took the vote of 35,021 Conservative supporters to elect one MP, and 33,338 Labour supporters to elect one MP for them. However it took the vote of 119,397 to elect on Liberal Democrat MP – the final seats in the Commons fail to reflect the votes cast nationally. Other perverse results include the City of Oxford, which is split into two constituencies. Across the whole city 41,087 people voted Liberal Democrat, 33,633 voted Conservative and 27,937 voted Labour, however because of the distribution of the voters the city is now represented by one Conservative and one Labour MP. Similarly in Wokingham Borough across ward after ward the Liberal Democrats come a strong second, but they have vastly fewer seats on council because the same unfair voting system operates in local council elections.
However thanks to the failure of the Conservatives to win a majority they now need the help of the Liberal Democrats to govern, and whilst elements of the press seem to think that they should quietly trot along and just prop up a minority Conservative government who only gained the support of 36% of the electorate, there are other groups who see this as a golden opportunity to properly reform our voting system. Today a fair votes demonstration that was going on largely unnoticed in Trafalgar Square, decided to go and visit the building where Nick Clegg was discussing the offer made by the Conservatives to try and get Liberal Democrat support – an offer that doesn’t include the promise of a change in voting system, this was the result:
Could this be the dawn of a new age in terms of British democracy – or will it just go back to business as usual?
A few years back you couldn’t turn on the news without some sort of leadership crisis in the Conservative party – now it seems that the Liberal Democrats have picked up the same disease. I commented last year about the group of relative unknowns who oustedCharles Kennedy. Menzies Campbell won the subsequent leadership election – which ever since I’ve found slightly strange as of the members of the party I know, nobody seems to have voted for him – in fact the majority of them seem to think it was a generally poor move to elect him at all. Indeed most of them seemed to think the party had made a dreadful mistake to oust Charles Kennedy in the first place.
That opinion seems to have been reflected in the opinion of the general public, as the poll figures for the party have slid steadily down ever since, leading ultimately to his resignation as leader today.
But then comes the question of who could replace him, looking at the runners and riders the only two recognisable figures to me are Simon Hughes who having been beaten twice before has ruled himself out already, and Charles Kennedy the former leader. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if the party re-elected Charles Kennedy, despite the periodic hiccups such as the recent smoking incident on the train to Plymouth.
Of course the question to consider is whether they should go for someone who is already known or make a clean break. The Conservative party seem to have built their resurgence on the back of a photogenic new leader, and without much in the way of tangible policies either, much as Labour did a decade or so before with Blair. Effectively both grew in a large part out of effectively criticising the sitting government rather than anything particularly radical. Maybe some new relatively unknown leader is what the Liberal Democrats need? Certainly what they don’t need is many more years of leadership instability…
Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.