Result: Con gain from NOC

Well, that was interesting.

There were people planning to camp outside Downing Street if Cameron didn’t win a majority and tell him to quit. There were articles about Cameron having to be dragged from No. 10. The SNP were planning their anti-Tory coalition. The polls had centred on a precise split of votes. Ed Miliband had carved his pledges in stone. Tory and ex-Tory commentators were betting on a maximum of 290 Tory seats.

Shortly before the polls closed there were rumours circulating that the Tory vote was not where it was expected to be – that people pledging to vote Labour weren’t going to turn out or people had lied about not voting Tory or whatever. The Labour communications machine to supporters got very keen for people to come out – I got two emails seeking urgent help to get the vote out in my constituency (as a result of my participation in Labour’s questionnaire, in case anyone’s wondering) in the final eight hours of the poll.

Then came the first exit poll, predicting 316 Tory seats, an SNP sweep and the Lib-Dems being reduced to merely scraping into two-figures of seat numbers. This was sniggered at. And it was quite wrong.

Around 13:00, after a bitter night of heavy losses for Labour and the Lib-Dems followed by a torrid morning of resignations, the Tories gained an overall majority – the first time they have held such a thing since February 1997. Cameron had no choice but to stay in Downing Street. Aside from the fact that only he could now form a majority Government, the other three leaders of Ofcom’s “major parties” had all fallen on their swords on the spot.

So what does this mean for everyone?

David Cameron

Is now a prime minister with a small majority, all of his own party. Ironically this may be harder to manage than the Coalition. The majority of 12 seats is less than Major secured in 1992 and is reliant on minimal trouble from by-elections. Unless anything goes badly wrong, he will oversee an EU referendum in 2017 and resign sometime in 2019/ 2020, by which point he will have led his party for as long as Margaret Thatcher.

Ed Miliband

Has stepped down, probably too quickly (written before reading a Guardian leader which agrees). His party is in no state for him to go and he was not that big a failure.

Consider – the party lost Scotland, yes, and lost nearly 50 seats in the process. But Scotland was gone moons before the election. Overall they only lost 26 MPs. Somewhere he picked up 22 seats and an additional 1.5% of the vote. The Government has a very much smaller majority than it had when he was elected leader and would do even if the remaining Lib-Dems had managed to resume a coalition with the Tories. He was popular with several sectors of the electorate, even if he was inclined to be bullied.

The party has just lost one of its major fighters – Ed Balls was turned out of Morley by a 3-figure Tory majority. The Tory candidate last time who reckoned he was removable was quite right. Arguably this time it’s more devastating for the party than it would have been last time. In 2010 Balls was immediately associated with Brown and his departure would have been a bit of a clean-out. Now he’s a – sorry, was a key part of the Labour economic team. He’s given the party weight and depth of feeling. He’s been presented as a man to be trusted. And he’s gone.

The Scottish Labour party has been wiped from the map almost as effectively as the Scottish Tories (each have 1 seat). Any senior figures from Scottish Labour – former cabinet ministers, the election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander, the leader of Scottish Labour – have all gone, leaving a solitary junior MP in a marginal constituency with a 2,637 majority.

At this time the party needs someone to hold it together to oversee a regroup. With the Tories having a very small majority six good by-elections could reduce the five-year term to tatters. There is time to pull them apart then. Miliband, who has grown a bit while in office, might be a good person to do so. Until the Tory majority slides, having a leader would be a good idea – even if he’s not making the sort of proud, reaching-out speeches that supporters were hoping for. Instead he’s made a resignation speech attempting to divide between giving thanks, tub-thumping and taking applause (and showing a lack of grasp that it’s a railway station).

With Ed Balls out, Miliband and his long-standing deputy having both quit and no Scottish MPs for the leadership race, the party is looking more rudderless than the ’97 Tories.

Ed Miliband’s lump of rock

Keep an eye on eBay.

Russell Brand

Has concluded that he isn’t as important as he thought he was. It may be daring to suggest to his ego that perhaps he is as important as he thought he was. He may well have had a major impact on the swing of the election.

To the Tories.

Nick Clegg

Made a very noble resignation speech, just avoiding tears on stage, but is in a bit of a hole.

His party used to be the party of the West of England and the North of Scotland. They still have the Shetlands, though Thurso has lost Thurso. (Yes, the MP for Caithness was John Thurso.) The West of England has gone – remarkably including Labour’s urban heartlands in Plymouth. The most westerly non-Tory MP is now a rather isolated Labour Ben Bradshaw in Exeter.

The surviving total of 8 MPs does not offer much scope for leadership candidates. Simon Hughes, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Norman Baker, Jo Swinson and David Laws have all gone. Chris Huhne’s political career was destroyed by a six-month prison term for speeding some years ago. Even Charles Kennedy, elder statesman of the party, has seen his career as a politician on Skye terminated.

There is a case for saying that the party needs a complete refresh – probably around its president, Tim Farron, who has long been spoken of as a Clegg successor (though he may have envisaged having 30 or so more MPs). Another Shetland leader is also a possibility (Orkney & Shetland, all that remains of the Scottish Lib-Dems, was Jo Grimond’s seat). There is also a case for saying that Clegg still has some hatred to absorb and needs to make sure that the party knows what to do with itself before he goes.

But when a party loses 86% of its representation – 49 MPs – in one night it doesn’t really want its ex-leader sitting around trying to pull things together. The other 7 MPs probably won’t admit it, but right now they hate his guts. They know he was right to form a coalition with the Tories and that posterity will be kind to the party for trying what they said they always wanted to do – and for trying to change the constitution while they were there. And they will hate him all the more for it.

The Independent points out that the party can’t do a by-election just now (aside from anything else the confidence to face the electorate again won’t be there, particularly with rumours that he only got back because the local Tory voters wanted him for a now-unnecessary second coalition), so he can’t quit. He’ll have to be a constituency MP for a while. Lib-Dem and Liberal leaders have not always shown a rush to quit the Commons and he may well wish to remain on his party’s back benches as the elder statesman.

For now he can be the living embodiment of the old truism that “all political careers end in failure”.

Scottish Unionism generally

The Tories would probably be best advised to split off the Unionist party in Scotland again (John Buchan was a notable MP for them) and allow them to fight as a centre-right pro-union party with inclinations towards the Conservatives in a semi-permanent union – the sort of thing Sturgeon wanted to have with Miliband, but won’t get.

In the interim, the Unionist parties – who are now less popular in absolute numbers of seats than the Unionist parties in divided Ireland – may wish to follow some old Liberal ideas for saving money in terms of shared conference space:

Telephone Stromeferry 1

Stromeferry Conference Centre. Very convenient for the railway station and ferry terminal (no ferry).

Nigel Farage

Is being slippery, as usual. He promised to quit the UKIP leadership if he didn’t win South Thanet – and when at half 10 this morning the Tories held it he promptly quit.

He is of course still a prominent UKIP Member of the European Parliament and is considering standing in the ensuing leadership contest. Well, so much for that pledge.

But he’s made his impact. His fighting for an EU referendum has aided the election of a party committed to an EU referendum. Even if he never returns to front-line politics, this will make a remarkable place in the history books.

The Scottish National Party

May stay powerful, but may have overstretched itself.

Nicola Sturgeon was always onto a winner, with the pro-independence vote inevitably going to stick with the SNP for the far less dramatic policy of taking Gordon Brown’s old seat – the crown of forcing an ex-Prime Minister to give a speech of defeat being snatched away by Brown’s decision long ago to stand down anyway.

However, there appeared to be a lot of campaigning to vote SNP and essentially get a Labour Government with a Scottish heart. The Tories pointed out to English voters that this would mean giving a lot of “English” money to Scotland. This very successful approach also deprived Labour of almost all of its Scottish seats, its own ability to represent Scotland and much of its confidence.

It would not be a difficult sell to argue to Scottish voters that by voting SNP they got themselves a Tory government. Usually these “vote popular x, get hated y” campaigns are very hard to sell. Maybe not in Scotland in 2020. Sturgeon needs the Tories to do pro-Scottish policies so she can claim to be influencing the UK Government. At the moment, the Tories are threatening a boundary redraw and to make the Scottish Parliament responsible for setting its taxation levels. The former may be uncontroversial in Scotland, where the Tories will struggle to create more seats (in 1994 the late Guardian sketchwriter Simon Hoggart was already giggling at the difficulty of preserving the few remaining breeding grounds for Scottish Tories); the latter won’t do much for SNP popularity if they start funding their wonder policies with increased taxes, particularly as Cameron can respond to complaints by pointing out that the SNP spent last autumn fighting for the right to raise Scottish taxes as much as they want.

With the Labour wipe-out the Tories have as good an opportunity to make a come-back in Scotland as Labour – in fact better, as 56 Scottish constituencies now have the SNP as their incumbent left-wing party and may, if Sturgeon handles the next five years right, see no need for another one.

Wales

Another reason for suggesting that the Tories might start to do better in Scotland again is that they are doing rather well in Wales. No Valleys seats, but otherwise they’ve squeezed three seats out of Labour and the Lib-Dems. While Labour still have over half the seats in Wales, the Tories are not far short of half as many as Labour.

The loss of Gower was probably justification in itself for Miliband quitting.

Despite (or perhaps because of) their tenure in coalition in Wales, Plaid is showing no signs of a major Westminster breakthrough any time soon.

The Government

Will be remarkably stable, with all four Great Offices of State remaining as before. Three of them will be occupied by the people who held them after the 2010 election (Cameron as Prime Minister, Osborne as Chancellor and May at the Home Office; Hammond came to the Foreign Office more recently). This is practically unprecedented, but good to see in many ways.

Would be nice if the Transport team didn’t change too much, though McLoughlin, Perry or both may be considered overdue for promotions.

I am not sure I would bet on a 12-seat majority Government surviving the course, though it did take a lot of by-elections to almost topple John Major’s government. Several of Cameron’s team are familiar with that period and are aware they will have to be careful what they put before Parliament.

The European Union

Presuming it is still around in 2017, there will be a referendum. Cameron wants to stay in on revised terms.

There is not much that can really be said except for the fact that a man who has led his party from disliked semi-irrelevance to a majority government dividing opinion on and for its effectiveness in ten years should be able to pull off the small matter of reforming the EU in his image. “The impossible we do at once; miracles take a little longer.”

The EU top brass cannot afford to be seen to back down, but behind the scenes may be more amiable to an apparently hard-fought treaty revision. If Southern European economies don’t start picking up it may be desirable to stop their workforces walking out for work elsewhere. Meanwhile the UK is a growing economy with zero inflation just now and therefore too valuable to lose.

The pollsters

Seem to consider themselves the most hard done-by people today – after five years of telling Mr Miliband he might be able to pull things together and win, they have suddenly been confronted by the possibility that the people they have been polling since 2010 have been lying to them. With even the exit poll being outside the 3% margin of error (3% on 300 seats is 9 seats; the Tories are 15 seats up on that) and every other election poll being utter nonsense, a lot of voters seem to have persisted in being economical on stating their voting intentions in every circumstance except the ballot booth. Unfortunately for the pollsters, this is the right of the voter.

It may be that after over 300 years of Tory governments and policies, the voters are happy to vote Tory on minimal advertising on the basis that they must be standing and you know what you’re getting with a Tory Government.

This blog

Decided back in January that the Tories stood about a 15% chance of winning a majority (in a series of low-probability speculations). The party held its nerve, the economy did not collapse, UKIP lost one of their MPs and the Labour leader quit before his party could put him in the toaster.

Unfortunately the prediction was too vague to claim any credit and gave more backing to a Labour majority or “Confidence & Supply”. Now nobody will know what 5 years of confidence and supply means.

Next time I won’t come out hard for my quiet hunch of a Tory majority, which I remember very quietly discussing with a friend in February, since it’ll only invoke Sod’s Law and it was in any event a very optimistic and baseless quiet hunch.

You

Having got this far, why not visit the charming constituency of St Ives, last to declare in this election?

Angharrack 1 JPGHayle Estuary 3 JPGSt Ives 8 JPG

Or, if St Ives is the wrong end of the country, how about a tour of the constituency of Ross, Skye and Lochaber to better understand the challenges faced by the rebuilders of the Lib-Dems?

Coire Lair 1 Coulin Bridge 1 Plockton 2 JPGMorar Sands 1 JPGKnoydart 1 JPG

(Certain parts of this constituency are not accessible by road.)

Or perhaps Brighton, to see how the Greens are progressing?

Brighton 4 JPG Brighton 3 JPG

Meanwhile, if you’re completely depressed by the election result, the Guardian has reasons to be cheerful. There is no balancing Torygraph link, as the paper seems to consider the result speaks for itself – and has brought a certain election poster up again.

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Election Literature

Having done this for the Euro-elections last year, it seemed worthwhile going through my pile of election literature before the polls open and remarking on it. The first thing that becomes apparent is it’s much harder to concentrate down the General Election literature than that for the Euros.

It is only based on election material that I have received. I assume that any party that has not sent me such material is not standing.

Conservative and Unionist Party (Tory)

  • Summary: The oldest and most successful political party in the world has sent one, fairly large, leaflet which takes a spot of navigating. As there is only one such leaflet (containing everything) presumably supposes that less is more.
  • Key Policy 1: Cutting the deficit.
  • Key Policy 2: Improving the town and local area.
  • Transport: Better roads.
  • Proud of: Everything, but mostly cutting stuff – the deficit, income tax, fuel duty, unemployment, the welfare bill, crime, etc….
  • Quality of election material: Quite blue. Folds in interesting ways.
  • Candidate remarks: Friendly chap with a tenacious grip on his arguments.

Green Party

  • Summary: The Green Party is a keen and friendly party which has sensibly reduced the amount of electricity I’d use browsing their website on my computer by sending me a leaflet. The candidate in particular is very enthusiastic about taking a holistic approach to policy-making – that policies in one sector of Government can knock on to other sectors.
  • Key Policy 1: Putting the Public First.
  • Key Policy 2: The environment.
  • Transport: Renationalise railways, fare cuts and more walking/ cycling schemes.
  • Proud of: Having plans. (Never having been elected to Government, the Greens do not have a record to shout about. The fact that they are standing nationwide is quite an achievement in itself.)
  • Quality of election material: Small and coloured green, getting quite a lot onto the paper.
  • Candidate remarks: Quite impressive and knows what she’s about.

Labour

  • Summary: The Labour Party want this seat and have sent so many bright red letters to that aim it would be a waste of all that effort if they didn’t get it. Keen on why people are supporting them (in case I can’t see any reason to myself), on the horrors of news stories that I’ve managed to miss and on a contract which doesn’t seem to offer me any details of where to sue them in case of it being breached.
  • Key Policy 1: The NHS.
  • Key Policy 2: Balancing the Books.
  • Transport: Curiously, in 7 election communications there is not a single mention of how I am supposed to get to the child centre, the school, the hospital or my apprenticeship.
  • Proud of: Opening the hospital (presumably this town didn’t have one before).
  • Quality of election material: Red and serious. Inclined to feel repetitive. Unlike Tories and Lib-Dems (but like Greens) dares to promote the fact that the party has a leader.
  • Candidate remarks: Coming back for more after losing last time. Good on the party line.

Liberal Democrat

  • Summary: The successors to the Whigs have sent me one election leaflet, in a shade of orange which just manages to contrast enough with the white writing on it to be legible. Very keen on spending money on the NHS and being fairer than the Tories. Makes a point of insulting the Tories and Labour equally to avoid excessively burning bridges before coalition negotiations.
  • Key Policy 1: Balancing the Books.
  • Key Policy 2: The NHS.
  • Transport: Lost under all the NHS stuff.
  • Proud of: Cutting taxes.
  • Quality of election material: Orange and easy to read, but almost nobody in the pictures looks cheerful.
  • Candidate remarks: Outside constituency and a little hesitant at hustings.

Rent Controls

The Labour Party wants to introduce rent controls.

The rental market is doing quite well at the moment – three reasons:

  1. Students have fallen out of university into a part of the world where being twenty-something means being a student working fixed hours with settled time off and money, which is a lifestyle that works well with the flexibility (and lack of responsibility for the ultimate state of the main fabric of the property) of renting;
  2. Lots of people have bought more houses than they need and rented them out, taking these houses out of the selling market and renting them to people who would happily have bought them, and then appear in the Metro newspaper on a weekly basis being sanctimonious about how they were allowed to do this ten years ago (unlike some of us, who owing to gratuitous ageism were not allowed to engage in the real estate market ten years ago – for which I have just decided to sue, not sure who);
  3. The remainder of the population, owing to a combination of encouragement of stupid property price increases, a growing enthusiasm for “buy to let” and the Government trying to break the natural downside of the economic cycle, now can’t afford to buy a small cardboard box if it comes with its own freehold.

The correct response of a party wanting to be in Government is to stand on a cardboard box and promise to force a housing crash. In a way, what with the mansion tax and rent controls, this is what Labour is trying to do – although it would help if they said so.

Right – problems:

Three-year tenancies

I don’t want a three-year tenancy. My six-month tenancy becoming a rolling one-month one is fine by me. I can clear off easily should I so wish, should my employer so wish and so on.

Two months’ notice

With one month’s notice I can buy a house without having to give my landlord notice when I start the process (to avoid renting a house I left over a month previously but am still contractually bound to pay for) and without worrying that if I do and the process falls through I’ll still be kicked out after the two months has elapsed. If you work for an employer who wants you to move on at a month’s notice (the average graduate trainee, certain Armed Forces people – I briefly knew an Army-family lad at school who lived out of hotels -, construction workers, etc.) a monthly rolling tenancy is much more flexible. Or indeed if you see something better across town, available to take now or not at all, and want to move to rent there instead.

The landlord, meanwhile, can minimise the time between realising that their tenant is trashing the place and getting them out. Two months is a long time to knowingly have someone going to pot with your property (and does going to pot with it constitute what the BBC says will have to be a “good reason” to evict? – the lawyers will work that out for you). No doubt with suitable effort they can be evicted more promptly, but court orders are tricky things to procure – particularly when your outgoing tenant rolls up at the court and from a gentle cloud reminiscent of a general lack of association with soap points out that they have nowhere else to live.

Not all tenants trash the property, of course – and not all freehold property owners leave the property in perfect condition (some have a funny idea that the central heating being removable with a hacksaw means that it is not included in the sale of the property – why anyone should need to take the house’s central heating with them is a total mystery, but perhaps they didn’t trust the central heating in their new place). While both freehold tenants and landlords are a bit stuffed regarding redress (but perhaps fancied a new central heating system anyway) landlords see a higher turnover of people and are therefore statistically more likely to end up having to spend two months de-potting the house, settling up with the electricity company, etc. And if we aren’t going to work on the basis that we’re working towards a ban on renting then it may be worth encouraging it. Within reason. Or, if not encouraging it, at least encouraging people who let out property to not worry too much about what their tenant may be doing with it.

Rent rise controls

There is an argument that if property prices are going to rise then so should rents. And if the area around a property gets done up then the landlord should feel comfortable doing up the property in the knowledge that this can be recouped from the rent rise without new tenants arguing that this is an unreasonable increase (which they would, because they do when railway companies improve the service and then put up fares by the rate of inflation) or old ones arguing that this is illegal (which it would be).

The simple solution for tenants who don’t want their rent going up is to live in an area which might mildly improve in value if Russia dropped The Bomb on them.

What exactly this means for people who like where they live and would like the landlord to carry out some upgrade work is an interesting question; currently the landlord could theoretically (if any of them do this) do the work and recoup the cost by jacking up the rent – this could be agreed in advance. If the rent is capped at inflation, there is no way of recouping the cost. And the next tenant will point out that the previous tenant got a very nice flat at half the ordinary rental value, and they want the same.

Much as it is very nice to take out a dirt cheap rental on a flat in a hole, watch the hole steadily improve through much polishing, tree planting, park development, etc, end up living somewhere extremely pleasant and then veto the rent increase…

Observations

Critics of this policy “want to defend the status quo” apparently. Well, yes. That’s sort of what saying what we have at the moment is very fine and dandy means. In other news, dog bites man.

This country has less regulation than other countries apparently, which is remarked upon in a way which says that being free to conduct private business without ticking boxes and relying on Government red tape is a bad thing.

The survey into rent caps was carried out by Survation for campaign group Generation Rent – it was found to be very popular. It would be. People like not paying more. Milk prices fixing at £1 for four pints (or 85p for two pints, weirdly) is also very popular, though there are questions about what it’s doing to dairy farmers. The death penalty’s not that unpopular, even these days. So’s renationalising the railways. So’s leaving the EU (Labour’s not so gone on that one). Doesn’t mean it’s a good policy.

Labour say average rents have gone up since 2010 by £1,020 and the BBC says £1,200. Presumably a typo. Labour describes this as per year, whereas the BBC leaves houseowners to panic that the poor little renters are being screwed on a monthly basis. It works out at £85 per month. This was my weekly rent on a room at university. However, that does not mean that someone who was paying for such a room five years ago has faced a 25% rise in their rent bill. My university was in an economically-poor area of the country and consequently towards the bottom-end of the table that £85 is around the middle of. For someone renting a house in London, somewhere around £400 per week seems to be the bottom end of the market at the moment. That’s around £2,000 per month, at which point an additional £85 per month (4.25% over five years) is pocket money (and actually makes the policy completely pointless, since 4.25% is well below overall inflation).

My rent hasn’t actually gone up since I moved here, some while ago (touch wood it stays that way). My next-door neighbour knocked ten quid off her monthly bill when she moved in with no quibble. If landlords can turn round to a request by a potential tenant for a rent cut and say that it’s not worth negotiating because there’s someone behind them in the queue who will pay what’s asked, this can mean one of two things:

  1. There is a severe housing shortage – which will not be rectified by capping rents (but we could kick out Mrs Clegg and Mrs Farage – that would free up two houses and Mr Farage would approve);
  2. The next person in line should grow a spine and also request a rent cut.

I do have to admit at this point that I did not do Point 2, which means I’m paying about a pound less in weekly rent than I was 5 years ago rather than the £3.50 less that I would be paying if I’d done the same as my erstwhile next-door neighbour.

Ultimately if my rent was increased I would hopefully have sufficient presence of mind to ask why, given that natural wear and tear plus a noisy neighbour and few improvements to the immediate neighbourhood (ok, a couple of the more hideous local buildings have been knocked down) means that the place is worth less than it was when I moved in.

I did dislike the large fee I was hit for when I moved in and the fact that it appeared out of the blue (along with the exit charges in advance) gave a rather cowboy air to proceedings. However, I recall that these have already been capped and have to be justified (I moved in before all that). If these fees are passed to the landlord, the landlord will then pass them to the tenant by modifying the rent accordingly. Tenant pays either way, albeit in instalments on the Labour method – and continuously for the life of the tenancy on the Labour method.

What I do find amusing about all of this is learning at university that once upon a time 12-year tenancies had to be registered with the Land Registry, though this has been brought down to 7 years. However, nobody seems to have these mythical 7-year tenancies.

___…___

At the bottom of the Labour Party’s website at the moment is a little pop-up asking if you intend to vote on the 7th of May. It can also be accessed at http://labour.tw/1hsYgZN. It is a nice, friendly Labour affair, very keen on the importance of you handing over your money. Quite reflective of the party really.

After scooping up your personal details (whatever personal details you may happen to have and depending on how many old postcodes you can remember – note that it is not clever enough to distinguish between a random character and an actual email address) we have the question as to what Labour means to you. This is rather one-sided, which is regrettable as it might help the party develop to discover that, what with one thing and another and the odd war having gone wrong and certain 1997 commitments having not happened and so on, certain people regard them as liars. Equally, they might know this already and the question is not compulsory, so we’ll move on.

The second question is what major Labour policy you like. I rather liked the fact that they “saved the world”, as G Brown pointed out in 2008. Unfortunately, they are not proud of this one. Nor are they proud of mass nationalisations, bringing peace and democracy to the Middle East, privatising the Empire or forming a Government of National Unity with the Tories.

Then we have the vague floaty bit which politicians like because its vague and floaty.

The recent losses to my local community is a bit ironic; there are empty shops near my house, but these are because the bookmaker and the pawnbroker have pulled out. My GP was always rather hard to see, particularly under Welsh Labour (leave home coughing and dying at 07:30 for a possibility of being seen sometime before lunch, book the illness two weeks in advance for after lunch or go to A&E), while I thought pub closures were down to the smoking ban that Labour brought in. Anyway, there haven’t been any round here for ages.

The volunteering question does not include heritage railways, which is awkward – and curious, since the Heritage Railway Association is currently led by a Labour ex-MEP. (He is agnostic about mainline steam. This is handy, since if he had an opinion it wouldn’t be very relevant just now.)

Finally we have the question as to how I feel about five more years of Tory government.

Well…

Party Memberships or Put Your Money Where Your Vote Is

Earlier in the year there was a bit of a kerfuffle over political party membership levels in the UK today, when the Green Party abruptly became the 3rd biggest nationwide (or 4th biggest overall) political party in terms of membership levels.

Still ahead of them were the Scottish National Party (Scotland only), the Tories and Labour.

This prompted a thought about an alternative way of doing polling, which unfortunately only got half-compiled before boredom set in and the author wandered off to paint a picture of a bridge instead.

The logic is that it is reasonably likely that members of a political party will then proceed to vote for that political party. From this we can randomly assume that they each have about the same number of hangers-on and floating voters relative to paid-up members – which is not guaranteed, but neither is the average pollsters assumption that they haven’t entirely coincidentally just managed to ring up and poll the nation’s entire UKIP support base – and extrapolate some degree of support.

A couple of days before this blogpost was originally written, party membership looked like this:

  • Lab – 190,000
  • Tory – 149,800
  • SNP – 92,000
  • Lib-Dem – 44,576
  • Green – 42,500
  • UKIP – 41,943
  • Plaid – 8,000
  • Others – about 8,000
  • Total – 577,000 (thereabouts).

Membership therefore breaks down into the following percentages:

  • Lab – 33%
  • Tory – 26%
  • SNP – 16%
  • Lib-Dem – 8%
  • Green – 7%
  • UKIP – 7%
  • Plaid – 1%
  • Others – 1%
  • Total – 99% (wonderful thing, rounding off to a round figure).

According to the Beeb’s electoral calculator this gives us:

  • Lab – 381 seats
  • Tory – 202 seats
  • Lib-Dems – 36 seats
  • Others – 31 seats

Note that the Lib-Dem figure, as if to back this up in some way, is not too far off general expectations. However, this somewhat fails to reflect that the SNP’s 16% of the party membership is largely concentrated on the 8% of the population who live in Scotland. The initial mental response is to assume that means that if party membership is twice as high in Scotland as anywhere else in the country that still translates into 100% of Scottish party members are in the SNP.

The initial check of this was to knock 92% off all the other figures (to cover the 92% of the population not living in Scotland – except for Plaid, who we can eliminate altogether) and see what happens. Mostly it got a Green figure half the size of the known Green figure (the Scottish Green Party declares separately) plus everyone else was so much less popular than the SNP that it looks unfair. So let’s assume that party membership is twice as popular in Scotland – which, given the recent referendum making the nation politics-mad, is not unreasonable:

  • Lab – 30,400
  • Tory – 23,968
  • SNP – 90,000 (to allow for a few Sassenach members)
  • Lib-Dem – 7132
  • Green – 7,950 (about 1,000 higher than multiplying the overall figures by 0.16);
  • UKIP – 6,800
  • Others – about 1,280
  • Total – 167,530 (thereabouts).

This gives the Scots Nats a trifle over 50% of the vote, which aligns with their performance in the Scottish Parliament, and the Tories about 12% of the vote, which isn’t that far off their Scottish Parliament performance either. It is quite reasonable that the 45% of the population who backed independence will transfer en bloc to the party that supports independence in the election, and it is not impossible that a reasonable proportion of people who don’t support independence will also reckon that the SNP have interesting policies, that they failed to get their referendum through so are inherently harmless, or that voting SNP in Gordon Brown’s old seat will annoy Labour. It also suggests that nobody should be in too much of a rush to assume that their party will win an election off the back of their own performance in Scotland, though they might do quite well because their opposition is roundly crushed there.

It does mean that the minimum Scots Nats performance would be 50% of the Scottish seats and the maximum, if this vote was spread evenly across the country, would be the whole lot – a result which is not seriously quoted, but which is occasionally murmured about.

Bearing in mind that the SNP’s independence referendum did rather well in the Labour stronghold of Glasgow, it is not wholly impossible that after the election Labour will have as many seats in Scotland as the Tories. It is also not impossible that an incomplete transfer of votes from Labour to the SNP combined with side campaigns about voting Tory to keep the SNP out of government will hand the Tories another seat, but the Tories shouldn’t rush to place bets on that.

Knocking the SNP out of the equation still leaves Labour with the most party members by some margin and even losing 50 Scottish seats would still leave them with 331 on the Beeb’s electoral calculator – which, for anyone not following politics but still reading this post, is an overall majority.

Of 16.

But probably supported to some extent by the SNP.

Of course, there is the faintest possibility that, based on relative Labour/ Tory performances in Scotland, Labour membership in Scotland is a much higher proportion of total membership than Tory membership in Scotland (this figure was not declared by these parties). In which case the Labour members and supporters in Scotland are all piled up where they can’t do their party any good, while the 140,000 Tory members in England and proportionate hangers-on, floating voters etc will hand the Tories the election. This does, however, require Labour to have a very disproportionately large number of their members in Scotland – but is not unlikely proportion-wise for the Tories.

Although anyone following the election and believing all the guff about the SNP naturally supporting the Labour Party should remember that the SNP is trying to talk Labour voters into harmlessly giving their vote to Nicola Sturgeon’s lot, that the Tories are trying to scare you – and that the party which launched the vote of No Confidence in the Commons that ended James Callaghan’s Labour premiership in 1979 was, in point of fact, the SNP.

___…___

On a more recent note, the New Statesman has a (rather good) cartoon on its cover of No. 4472 Flying Scotsman, with Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond on the running boards, bearing down on Ed Miliband and David Cameron tied to the rails.

There is a certain additional humour to this, in that Scotsman is a bag of nails, has not run in over 10 years and has repeatedly failed to appear at advertised times.

___…___

Incidentally, Russell Brand wants you to go out and vote.

I think I might abstain now…

May Bank Holiday News Summary

In this weekend’s exciting news, Private Eye is preparing the headline “Woman Has Second Baby”.

Meanwhile, a politician has told people to vote for his party rather than a different party.

He appears to be concerned that people think they can have a Government involving his party without actually having to vote for him.

Support for the different party is expected to rocket on the news now that supporters of the different party know that their vote won’t actually be used to support the first party that they voted for last time and would vote for this time if they actually wanted to have them in Government.

Whether the woman successfully having a baby will have any impact on national feeling, Government popularity or the election result remains to be seen – we should know by this time next week.

In other news, the author of this website has visited Alton in Hampshire, taken some pictures and updated the takeaway list.

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Above – the view off London Kings Cross station footbridge of the scenery south of Ropley station.

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(This is the second May Bank Holiday Saturday in a row that I’ve spent time being towed around by a large green locomotive called Wadebridge. Last year she was in Cornwall, near Wadebridge. This year she was at Alton. The former home of the late novelist Jane Austen is in nearby Chawton, hence the business park.)

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Above – Wadebridge at Alresford. Below – the Austen family house in Chawton. Austen followers have to find their way to Winchester – which was a trifle easier before the Alton to Winchester railway was shut – to find where she is actually buried.

Jane Austen's House 1 JPG