Saturday, 4 May 2013

More waffle on the Yucker 'triumph'

As the scale of the UKIP achievement continues to be exaggerated, here are more of my branz on the matter.

For all their success in the local elections, the Yuckers are unlikely to replicate anything like this in the parliamentary General Election in 2015. First Past The Post dooms most small parties. Look at the electoral history of the Liberal Democrats - polling 20% of the vote, and getting less than 10% of the seats. They may poll 20% across the country, but their only impact may be to split the right wing vote.  The difference between South Shields and Eastleigh suggest it is, fundamentally, appealing to right wing voters.

The move towards the UKIP appears to be in traditionally conservative (small c) areas which either voted Tory since time immemorial, or Lib Dem as the alternative, as they would never, ever vote Labour. This happens in rural Scotland as well where conservative, pro-union Scots vote Lib Dem because they hate the Tories and Labour equally

What happened last night was essentially, a protest vote, not a genuine vote in support of UKIP policy.  People are angry with the coalition and are voting against it, not for the UKIP.  And, it is important to reiterate, Labour wwould never have a look in in the areas where the local elections took place, just as it would necver have had a look in at Eastleigh.

South Shields showed there isn't much movement from Labour to the UKIP. All we're seeing is the right wing vote reallocating itself. Probably, massively to the detriment of all three right wing parties.

Which will make 2015 wildly unpredictable, as it may come down to whether the right vote is so split it allows Labour to grab seats that would normally be off their target list.

The Yuckers might get a few seats at the election but I don't think they will get many because from now until the election they are (probably) going to be under continual attack from the Tories and / or their appeal to voters will wane.

Farage pretty much conceded he's going to be nothing more than a historical footnote when the UKIP was compared to the SDP in the 80s. He pointed out that the SDP 'won' in the long run as Tony Blair was effectively an SDP Prime Minister. Yes, Nige, but that was 20 years later and he wasn't the leader of the SDP.

I think Farage, if he is smart and picks a good seat, might be in with a shot. Maybe a couple of others. But I don't think they could hope to get into double figures. Also, that woold require them to concentrate most of their resources in these key seats and so their national profile would slip. So they might grab a couple of Southern seats while their overall share of the vote declines, oddly.

The problem for the UKIP isn't the Tories or Labour, but the idiot electoral system. It puts them in a position where, unless they can win over the majority of the Conservative vote in seat after seat, they face being left with very little in terms of representation.

That cuts both ways, of course - I do think a few of the smarter Tories might be reflecting on how they sank the Alternative Vote campaign and wishing they'd gone for it.  Alternative Vote would allow all disaffected Tories to vote for the UKIP as first choice - and Conservative as second, meaning the number of seats in jeopardy from a split vote would be minimal.

I really do think the party that will come out of this best will be Labour. They won't deserve it, as they won't have done anything to earn it, but they will benefit.  They will benefit from the split in the right wing vote, from the fact the Tories will make themselves hideous and ugly and unelectable to stop more bleeding to the UKIP (though I don't think the support they are losing are people who have suddenly decided to be anti-immigration or quasi-racist; a lot of the new UKIP support were Lib Dems in 2010 and expressing anger with the government) and because of the resources that will be diverted to fighting the UKIP.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Welcome to the 80s, Tories!

Have the good people of South Shields doomed David Cameron?

Normally, you would think not. Normally, the vote in South Sheilds - a rock solid Labour constituency in the North of England - are about as relevant to the fortunes of the Conservative party as elections in New Zealand. But perhaps this time it is different, because the wild card in this election, and perhaps in 2015, has been the UK Independence Party.

The UKIP recently drove the Tories and Labour into third and fourth place in the Eastleigh by-election. Eastleigh is the polar opposite of South Shields, a constituency that traditionally returns a Tory or (if they are feeling daring) a Liberal Democrat. In the recent poll there, the UKIP took substantial amounts of votes off the incumbent Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. The Labour vote - though negligible - remained solid:
Mike Thornton (Liberal Democrat) 13,342 32.1 (-14.4%)
Diane James (UKIP) 11,571 27.8 (+24.%)
Maria Hutchings (Conservative) 10,559 25.4 -13.9%
John O'Farrell (Labour) 4,088 9.8 (+0.2%)
The UKIP had turned what should have been a safe coalition seat into a coin toss - it could have gone any one of three ways, with just minor reallocation of votes or changes in turnout.  If the message of Eastleigh holds good for the whole of the South of England, an awful lot of seats that might once have been judged safe for either Conservatives or Lib Dems suddenly look vulnerable and (worse!) unpredictable.  Incumbents might cling on as the vote splits three ways; or one party may triumph as a result; or the whole thing might be an appalling mess.

The message from South Shileds was much clearer:
Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour) 12,493 (-1.51%)
Richard Elvin (UKIP) 5,988 (+24.21%)
Karen Allen (Conservative) 2,857 (-10.04%)
Ahmed Khan (Independent) 1,331 (+5.38%)
Phil Brown (Independent Socialist) 750 (+3.03%)
Lady Dorothy MacBeth Brookes (BNP) 711 (-3.65%)
Hugh Annand (Liberal Democrat) 352 (-12.79%)
The ranking might be different, and the gross numbers different, but the changes in share of vote virtually the same. Labour, solid. UKIP surging from no-where. Conservative and Liberal Democrat, catastrophic.

So, you'd think, another good night for the UKIP?  Maybe.  But the UKIP sharein South Shields would appear to be made up almost entirely of Tories and Lib Dems.  They failed to make any impact on Labour's vote.  And the Tories and Liberal Democrats have never had enough votes to challenge Labour's dominance in the North.  Even if every non-Labour single voter in South Shields had voted for one party, they would have failed to win.  That's how dominant Labour are.  Near invulnerable in many places, and too strong for a vote split between three squabbling right wing parties to bother them.

In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher won landslide victories inspite of recording a decreasing share of the vote at each election.  Even after the Falklands, the Conservativ Party's share of the vote declined in the 1983 election.  What allowed her to rout the left was the fatal split between Labour and the SDP - converting scores of Conservative marginals that might have fallen into rock solid strongholds, and allowing Conservative candidates to record wins in scores of Labour seats.  Thatcher was never loed or popular; she was merely fortunate enough to face an opposition divided against itself.

The upshot of all this might be the end of David Cameron, certainly of Cameronism as a political creed.  Everyone of his MPs in the South of England will be looking over his or her shoulder to see how close the UKIP is - and that means, how much of the vote they are losing to them.  I don't think their faith in democracy extends to letting the voters boot them out in 2015; they'll be shrilling Cameron for a change in direction (and that means a hard turn to the right) otherwise they'll be thinking of changing the leader if he's not for turning.

A likely consequence may be the political demise of George Osborne.  Cameron will need to offer up something to appease his critics and signal the change of direction they desire; it would also serve to make the Tories marginally less hateful, as Osborne's special skill (god knows it isn't economics) is attracting voter opprobrium.  But the sane option - installing a paternal, One Nation wet like Ken Clarke - is also impossible.  The voters might like it.  The Tory right wouldn't tolerate it.  Not for one little minute.

There is probably nothing to be gained for the Tories by lurching right.  The people voting for the UKIP aren't doing so because they have suddenly discovered Euroscepticism.  They are voting for the UKIP because they loathe the coalition but will never, ever vote Labour.  Moving right will simply alienate them further.  Though the likely Tory response will be to move even further right, just as Labour in the 80s sought support out in the further extremes of leftist lunacy - and failed to find it.

Welcome to your version of the lefts nightmare 80s, Mr Cameron.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A Conservative solution to unemployent

Faced with 2.5 million people out of work, and increasing numbers of long term unemployed and a truly worrying rate of youth unemployment which threatens to lock a generation out of work - with the appalling consequences to be felt for decades - what do the Tories do?

Institute a massive building programme which would not only solve unemployment but also deal with the chronic housing crisis and (with sensible ecological design) make a start to the massive drive for energy efficiency that Britain desperately needs?

Employ people to regenerate and beautify Britain's miserable inner cities?  Provide grants to encourage people to improve their skills?

Like Hell.  What the Tories do is get people to complete nonsense tests:
Jobseekers are being made to complete bogus psychometric tests by the Department for Work and Pensions – and told that in some cases they risk losing their benefits if they do not complete the meaningless online questionnaire. 
The test called My Strengths, devised by Downing Street's behavioural insights or "nudge" unit, has been exposed by bloggers as a sham with results having no relation to the answers given. 
Some of the 48 statements on the DWP test include: "I never go out of my way to visit museums," and: "I have not created anything of beauty in the last year." People are asked to grade their answers from "very much like me" to "very much unlike me". 
When those being tested complete the official online questionnaire, they are assigned a set of five positive "strengths" including "love of learning" and "curiosity" and "originality". 
However, those taking the supposed psychological survey have found that by clicking on the same answer repeatedly, users will get the same set of personality results as those entering a completely opposite set of answers. 
There is the kernel of a Not Bad idea there.  I've done plenty of them in my time, and some of them do a very good job of profiling the respondent.  It wouldn't be impossible, surely, to match job seekers to suitable jobs using such a tool.  But the Tories prefer spin.

What will the "Nudge Unit" offer next?  Will job seekers will be given a fortune cookie and told to evaluate the 'fortune' in relation to their aspirations?