Category Archives: UK Politics

Labour and Anti-Semitism…

…or why it’s still worth fighting for Labour


Now is not a great time to be a Labour Party member. Yes, we are ahead in the polls – though nowhere near as ahead as we should be given this shambolic government – but it is still a difficult time to be a Labour Member.

The Party now is markedly different from the party I joined almost 10 years ago (my 10th Anniversary is 8th September 2018). That Party was committed to fighting all forms of inequality and discrimination, of whatever kind, where it existed, as fully and as forcefully as it could. Recently that difference has shown itself clearly in the Anti-Semitism row, and the NEC’s decision not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA’s) Working Definition and Examples of Anti-Semitism in full.

Continue reading Labour and Anti-Semitism…

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Back to Blogging…

…a summary exhortation on the Summer elections.


I’ve been off the blog for a while for two very different, but equally important reasons:

  1. I changed phones in March and I forgot to change my phone number on WordPress, so my two-factor Authentication wouldn’t let me in and I needed to hunt on old laptops for the back-up codes.
  2. Elections got in the way.

Continue reading Back to Blogging…

Head in the Game…

…or Heart on the sleeve.


“Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown) were the most important left-wing politicians in the UK since the 70’s. Discuss”.

Over my lifetime, I have experienced, in a very real sense two different kinds of UK government. Both have affected real social change across the country, but only one has done it in a way I like. But for some, this wasn’t enough. This is what is at the heart of the Labour Leadership election.

My brother has recently become politicised (thanks to the #IndyRef of all things – he was very strongly Pro-Union) and has taken a great interest in American Politics – mostly, I think, thanks to tumblr. He has recently told us that he supports Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination because he has the best policies. I agreed with him, but told him that I wanted Hillary Clinton to win instead. He asked why and I replied, simply, that he wouldn’t stand a chance of winning, but Hillary would. He complained, as many people new to politics do, that I should stick to principles and should vote for who I thought was best, even if it would be harder for them to win.
In some ways, I feel sympathy for this view. Bernie Sanders would be a revolutionary in American terms (if he could get ANYTHING in his platform through a Republican Congress), provided that after winning the nomination, he won the Presidency. Although the disaster hairea that is Donald Trump (who once compared off-shore wind-farms to the Lockerbie Disaster) is leading the Republican field, when faced with a choice between a leftie and oblivion, I’m not convinced that the US would vote to survive.

Which brings us back to the question I’ve set myself. Since the 1970’s the Labour Party has had 6 Leaders that have faced an election: Callaghan, Foot, Kinnock, Blair, Brown and Miliband. Of that list, spanning 50 years, only 1 won a General Election. And out of that list, he is the one spoken of least fondly. Despite leading Labour to its first (and second and third) election victories after years in the wilderness of opposition, should he ever appear, he is hated and questioned. Why?
Iraq aside, which is a millstone around Labour’s collective neck, what did Tony Blair’s (and, let’s be honest, Gordon Brown’s and Co-PM-In-All-But-Name) Labour Party do that marked them out as right-wing. They funded the NHS and cut waiting times. They spent money on schools that was badly needed. They introduced the National Minimum Wage, which so improved the pay of so many people. They created Tax Credits which, while an IT-Nightmare, supported so many people and helped them out of shoestring budgets. All this while devolving to the nations, reforming the Lords – and the minor achievement of brining peace to Northern Ireland.
What he did, it seems, is what he didn’t do. They didn’t fund the NHS enough and dared rely on private investment to build hospitals sooner. They improved schools, but dare experiment with ‘Academies’, which the Tories bastardised to create ‘free-schools’ . They introduced the Minimum Wage, but looking back, it wasn’t that much – despite the opposition (and lack of support from some) at the time. And tax credits were good – but there were still kids that were poor in Drumchapel, even though Child Poverty was at its lowest point ever. And they didn’t devolve enough, and the Lords still exists and the fact there still is a Northern Ireland for peace to be brought to shows the real imperialist intentions. If they were really a Labour party, they would have been much more radical. In short, they bottled it.
But, and the important thing I think, was that they were in power. Tony Blair realised something – that a centre-left Labour government can do more than a far-left Labour opposition. No matter how amazingly redistributive and socially-reforming a Labour Party Manifesto is, it doesn’t matter one bit if we’re not in government at the end of it. We’ve only just had a reminder of this.

When I look at the story of the Labour Leadership contest so far, I worry that we have already forgotten this, and just how terribly frustrating opposition is. As I write, Brian Eno (that committed Labour supporter who voted Lib Dem in 2010) is speaking at a Jeremy Corbyn rally stating that “electability isn’t the most important thing“. What matters is wanting to do good things, not actually getting the chance to do them…apparently. So long as you are ideologically pure, you are fine; but should you temper (not change!) your principles for the niggling purpose of “getting into government” – then you do not belong in the the Labour Movement. If this is our outlook, then I may never see another Labour Government. We shouldn’t give up our goals and aims and principles, but we must convince the voters that they should be put into practice. Not forget who we are in the pursuit of power; but gain power by getting people to look at us.
The halls that Corbyn has packed out; the supporters he has encouraged; the members he has brought; the people he has swayed – how many weren’t already Labour people? How many has he pulled, even from left of the party (the Greens, the various socialists)? The answer, I give with 100% certainty, is not enough.
Cooper, Burnham and Kendall are all members of the Labour Party for exactly the same reason I am, and the same reason Corbyn is: they want to help the poorest and create a fairer, more equal, more socially just Britain. They want a strong NHS, a great education system, and a welfare state that supports the poorest in society. The difference is that they all accept that the public, generally, at large are not socialist. Not in Wales, not in Scotland and definitely not Middle-England. If they cannot support Miliband, they cannot, in the space of 5 years, elect Corbyn. And, quite frankly, I want a Labour government. A Labour Government is not a Tory-lite government. It might not do all you want, but would Brown’s “Red Tory” government have done all the Coalition government did? Would Miliband’s government have done all what the Tories are planning now. If you say yes, you are either lying, disingenuous or a cybernat.

If Corbyn is my Leader come the end of next month – then I will support him to the hilt. I will try and convince people up and down my nation and my country that they should vote Labour in 2020 and make him PM. And will love that campaign because our manifesto will be all I want it to be (and possibly more). It might help us a bit in Scotland (but not as much as people think it would), and I will be able to sleep easy with my conscience clear – but if I wanted to do that I’d have joined the Greens. I will sleep easy, but I will be up all night at the count on 7th May 2020 with a heavy heart as we once again fail to bring the country with us. We return to the opposition benches, once again leaderless, and once again wondering if we just weren’t Labour enough.

I would rather be in power doing some of the things we want, than be in opposition wanting to do something. And that is why Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown) were the most important left-wing politicians in the UK since the 70’s. They did it.


This post has been a long time coming, but was typed today thanks to my reading Stephen Daisley’s Open Letter to Labour. I think Kendall may have the gone too far in the principle/electability trade-off, but it’s an important read. I have not yet decided how I will vote.

Why I’m Labour

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I am voting Labour in this General Election. But I want to talk about why.

I’m voting Labour because I believe, fundamentally, that the Labour Party is a force for good. Every government of change in this country has been a Labour government; and every Labour government has fundamentally changed this country for the better.

In the 1920’s, it was a Labour Government that created affordable local housing for people.
In the 1940’s, it was a Labour Government that created the Welfare State as we know it today, and created the NHS that brought us into he world and we now all rely on.
In the 1960’s, it was a Labour Government that decriminalised homosexuality in the UK, which was the first big step towards the equality this country now enjoys.
In the 1990’s, it was a Labour Government that introduced the National Minimum wage, that protects so many workers of all ages and kinds.
It will only be a Labour Government that will provide the change that this country once again desperately needs.

It is only a Labour Government that will ban exploitative 0-hours contracts across the UK, protecting the rights of working people across the UK. Working people, people who are relying on working income to feed their families and heat their homes, should be able to rely on regular work and decent income, without having to wait on a text to see if they should bother to go in that morning, and whether they’ll be paid at the end of the day. It is the only part that has constantly and consistently supported the Living Wage in public procurement and in private business.
It is only a Labour Government that has pledged to tax the richest and support the poorest. It has will re-introduce the 50p tax-rate, ending the Tories tax-cut for millionaires; and will lower taxes for the least well off in society. It will introduce a Mansion Tax on homes worth over £2million, and use that money to properly provide our public services which have been under-funded both north and south of the border. It will end once and for all the scandalous Bedroom Tax.
And it is only a Labour Government that has a real plan to help real people and stand up for the powerless against the powerful. It will take on the energy companies by freezing energy prices for 2 years and give the regulator to make sure prices are fair. It will stand up to Murdoch and his media empire, by creating proper regulation of the press to stop them hacking phones and going after the family of 17-year old girls who don’t support their point of view. It will tackle tax-avoidance and not turn a blind eye to it as has been done before, and end the archaic position of non-doms who escape their fair share of tax. No more!

This is a Labour Party that will stand up for people across the country and across our nations. And that means letting the nations standing up themselves. A stronger Scottish Parliament than the one it created in 1999, and one prepared for new responsibilities as it approaches its 20th birthday. An end to the House of Lords and a new elected Senate of the Nations and Regions to ensure that all regional voices are heard and shape the future of the country. And a conversation about how we continue in the future, with a real examination of how our country works.

I am voting Labour because I believe in Labour’s fundamental tenant: that by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we can achieve alone”. It is this that encapsulates the Labour Party in Scotland, Labour across the UK and the entire international Labour Movement of which I am proud to be a part. The SNP have claimed that they can keep Labour honest, and make us true to our word. As much as I appreciate their support of Labour’s policies (many of which they have voted against in the past – tax rises for the richest, rent-caps & the Living Wage condition in public procurement among others), there is, I think, too wide a gap between the two. Labour is a Democratic Socialist Party; the SNP is a Nationalist one. The first requires solidarity; the second demands separation.
I believe the Union (for all its faults) is a fundamentally good thing and Scotland benefits from it. Only be coming together and sharing what we have will we be able to help those who need it most. What illustrates this fr me is the Mansion Tax, a Labour Policy with SNP support. 95% of all the money it raises will come from the South-East of England and only 1/3 of 1% will be raised in Scotland – yet that money will benefit people all across the UK, with c.10% coming to Scotland. The same with a bankers’ bonus tax (affecting the richest in London). These policies only help the poorest in a UK context. If we cut Scotland off from this pooling and sharing of money, we do Scotland a disservice. Full Fiscal Autonomy, which Nicola Sturgeon has committed SNP MPs to supporting, would deprive Scotland of so much.
Not only would it mean a £7.6bn funding gap this year alone (rising to £10bn in the next 5 years) it would cut Scotland off from so much more. Money that could fund 1000 new nurses and 500 new GPs. Money that, would not only reverse the some 140,000 college places lost over the last 8 years, but actually help the poorest Scottish University students as well. Fee-Free tuition is great, but it alone does nothing and helps only the middle and upper class. Labour’s plan to increase bursaries for the poorest students by £1000, is what will help us get working class Scots into University – something that Fee-paying England is currently doing far better than us. Money that would let us provide £1,600 for every 18 and 19 year-old not in further or higher education, and not in training, to get ahead. And money that can guarantee a job for every single 18 to 14 year old that out of work for more than a year.
Labour offer pooled money for progressive, radical policies – I don’t want to walk away from that.

The Labour Party has not, is not and can never be ‘perfect’. It can never offer a socialist paradigm because it knows it can never implement it. It was, let us not forget, Atlee’s government, idealised by so many in Scotland, who introduced the UK’s first nuclear weapon – but I hope that, along with the rest of the world, it will be a Labour Government that gets rid of them, not just the UK, but the planet. But The Labour Party, in particular this Labour Party, and only the Labour Party, is offering a radical vision for so many people.

It is once again only the Labour party that can be the government for real, effective, lasting change for working people – based not on where they come from or what they’ve done, but what they need.

It is that government that I will be voting for.

Elections, Prime Ministers and their Causes – Part 3

The 2015 General Election is one of uncertainties. Who will be the largest Party? Who will work with whom? Who will be Prime Minister? Will anyone be able to get enough support to pass that magic number of 326 (half the seat in the House of Commons +1) and form a Government? What does it mean if they can’t?
With all this uncertainty, the possibility of a SECOND General Election this year has been mooted.

This week, I want to look at these questions in a bit of detail, combining the Legal Framework with the Political Reality of #GE15. Over the course of three posts this week, I will examine “What causes a General Election”, “What ends a Prime Minister” and “What Creates a new one”, all through a #GE15 lens.

In part 2 we reached a situation where David Cameron could no longer stay Prime Minister, but now we have to face a governmental vacuum. So, “What Creates a New Prime Minister”?


Who, then, could replace Cameron once he resigns? The country cannot be left Prime Minister-less. The Queen (for it is at her pleasure the PM serves) would have to invite someone else to fill the role. According to the definitive guide to such things, the Cabinet Office Manual, that person would be the person “best placed” to command the confidence of the House of Commons. That person, in the current election, is Ed Miliband.
It is important to note that it is not incumbent on Miliband to prove he can command the confidence of the House, merely that he is best placed to do so. In practice, this will be tested when Prime Minister Miliband presents his Queen’s Speech. If that fails to pass (which is a possibility), it will then be clear than he doesn’t command the confidence of the House of Commons and the duty then falls on him to resign as Prime Minister. Who would replace him…it’s hard to tell. It would, theoretically be the (new) leader of the Conservatives – whose Queen’s speech would fail and would have to resign to be replaced by the (new) leader of the Labour party – whose Queen’s Speech would fail…and so on.

All of this is going on without another general election happening, since while the Queen’s Speech is a test of the Prime Minister’s ability to command the Confidence of the House of Commons, as we discussed in Part 1 it is not one of the statutorily defined triggers set-out in the FTPA2011. It then becomes a political calculation for the smaller parties (since the 2 main parties will never support the government of another in peace-time), to decide which side of the fence they come down on.
It would take an MP to table one of the motions quoted above to cause an election and see if the mess sorts itself out – or the House could vote to repeal/amend the FTPA 2011 and we go back Prime Ministers being able to call an election at a time of their choice (though even whether that would happen is a controversial legal proposition).

Bringing all this Together

Attempting to tie all this together then, it is entirely possible that we are in for a confusing and rocky few months after this election. Unlike in 2010, its clear going into the election who’s most likely to side with whom, so when the results come in, the blocs should be easier to make up.
If there are more ‘Anti-Tory’ MP’s (LAB+SNP+GRN+SDLP+RESPECT) on May 8th than ‘Coalition Friendly MPs’ (CON+LD+DUP/UUP) then Cameron’s days as Prime Minister are numbered, and Ed Miliband will eventually be invited to replace him.
However, that could well prove to be the simplest part of the process. Ed would then need to demonstrate that he commanded the confidence of the House of Commons by passing his first Queen’s Speech. He doesn’t need MP’s to just be ‘Anti-Tory’ – he needs them to be ‘Pro-Labour’ as-well. It’s possible that LAB+SNP alone will have enough votes to get Ed into Number 10 – but if the SNP abstain from voting in the Queen’s Speech (which is entirely possible), then it could still fail, meaning Ed might not have enough confidence after all. The SNP’s line that they will “lock out the Tories” isn’t enough in the longer-term; they need to be willing to keep Miliband in for there not to be another General Election.
If they don’t  though, we wouldn’t be bracing ourselves for #GE15.2 quite yet, because there are only 2 ways to hold an early General Election under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act 2011:

  • 434 MP’s vote to hold one.
  • 1/2 of MP’s voting support the motion, “That this House has no confidence in her Majesty’s Government.” and that MP’s do not pass the motion, “That this House has confidence in her Majesty’s Government.” within 14 days of doing so.

Analysing the SNP’s position in all this then, the following is entirely possible:

  • they count AGAINST David Cameron, and therefore would lead to his resignation as PM.
  • ABSTAIN from Miliband’s Queen’s Speech (not wanting to vote against it because of the perception; but not wanting to vote for it because they haven’t got any concessions – which is what Miliband seemed to signal in the TV Debates last week).

They would then have to decide whether to support an election-causing confidence motion. Do they Support the motion, bringing down a Labour government and creating echos of 1979, which they have tried to escape? Do they oppose it, rendering their opposition to the Queen’s Speech a little weaker, and making them look a little uncertain of what they actually want? Or, do they abstain, and risk being made to look missing in action – and risk abetting the collapse of a Labour government, if not abetting it?
The Lib Dems would also have to look at the lay of the land, depending on their numbers. I’ve talked about them being ‘Tory-friendly’, but it’s more the current leadership than the party itself. Whether Nick Clegg is still an MP after May (let alone Lib Dem leader) is still up for discussion – so it’s entirely possible the party my shift to be more pro-Labour, and that may well be enough to see Miliband securely in No.10 until 2020. But even then, that depend on a Lib Dem MP who is sympathetic to Labour – many of whom are unlikely to survive this election – becoming the new leader.

The only thing that’s certain is that the 2015 General Election will not finish when voting does.


See Part 1, “What Causes a General Election”;
And Part 2, “What Ends a Prime Minister”.

Elections, Prime Ministers and their Causes – Part 2

The 2015 General Election is one of uncertainties. Who will be the largest Party? Who will work with whom? Who will be Prime Minister? Will anyone be able to get enough support to pass that magic number of 326 (half the seat in the House of Commons +1) and form a Government? What does it mean if they can’t?
With all this uncertainty, the possibility of a SECOND General Election this year has been mooted.

This week, I want to look at these questions in a bit of detail, combining the Legal Framework with the Political Reality of #GE15. Over the course of three posts this week, I will examine “What causes a General Election”, “What ends a Prime Minister” and “What Creates a new one”, all through a #GE15 lens.

Having looked at Planned and early General Elections, I want to move on to look at “What Ends a Prime Minister” after an election is over.


I’ve looked at how the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 has changed the way Votes of Confidence effect Parliament and elections. Now, instead of looking at Parliament, attention turns to Government, and what it takes, not so much to create a new government, but to end the old one.

Government and Parliament

What is key here is clearly separating “The Government” and “The Parliament” in our minds. The Parliament is the 650 MPs elected at elections who legislate. The Government is, while drawn from the Parliament, a separate body who govern the country. The fates of both are not intertwined.
It is possible for there to be a new Parliament, but not a new Government. Blair’s Government continued from 1997 – 2008 with 2 elections in-between, each time changing the Parliament. It is also possible for there to be a new Government, but not a new Parliament. There are two ways this can happen. The first way is a ‘change of personnel’, such as the Blair/Brown switch that happened in 2008 – where the people in government change, but the same party holds power. these are simple and (generally) uncontroversial. The second is a much more drastic, and involves a change of party in government mid-way through a Parliament.
When the coalition formed in 2010, it wasn’t expected to last. It wasn’t expected that the Tories would be so dominant and the Liberal Democrats so subservient. It was entirely possible the coalition would collapse. It was conceivable that, had the arithmetic been right, a LAB+LD+OTH coalition could have ousted the Tories – without an election. The government would have changed, but the Parliament wouldn’t have. This is, perhaps, best called a ‘change of control’ transition.

As I discussed, under FTPA, there can only be an election held every 5 years, using the Parliamentary method or the Governmental Method. The Act regulates Parliament, not Government. It does not state when a new government can or cannot be formed. And this could be key in the Post-#GE15 negotiations.
Labour has ruled out a coalition with the SNP – but the SNP has said they will work to keep the Tories out of Government. UKIP’s condition of an EU Referendum in 2015/16 would be too far a policy shift for Labour to manage and keep face (plus the politics of a Labour/UKIP alliance would be disastrous), but is only 1 year earlier than the Tories’ proposed referendum date of Summer 2017. In reality, therefore, it appears this is a Labour+(SNP)+SDLP v Conservative+UKIP dividing line, with the Lib Dems jumping either side of it as they deem fit.
I say “it appears” because, in all the excitement of coalitions and Fixed-Term Parliaments, a basic constitutional principle seems to have fallen by the wayside: How we get a government. I know asking how we get a new government seems an odd question to ask when discussing how to end a Prime Minister (and therefore a government) – but there is a logic here.

Prime Ministers

A Prime Minister is the MP who command the confidence of the House of Commons. This is the Constitutional Law 101 definition of the Prime Minister. In almost every Parliament, that person has been the leader of the party that had a majority after a General Election (or resignation of the previous leader of that party) by virtue of that majority.
It follows from this that when a Prime Minister demonstrably no longer commands the confidence of the House of Commons, they must resign. This condition is one sided – it does not require anybody else to demonstrate that they command the confidence of the House (but we’ll get back to this soon). Therefore, it is for the Prime Minister returning from an election to show that they still have the confidence of the House; not for someone else to show that they have it instead.

But how can we apply this principle to coalitions, especially when Gordon Brown didn’t immediately resign as Prime Minister after the 2010 election and tried to form a government? The reason Brown didn’t immediately resign is because it wasn’t clear he had lost the confidence of the House for some time. It was entirely possible – and indeed for a day or so seemed more likely – that the LibDems were going to come to some agreement with Labour which would have meant that (along with the SDLP, Green and, possibly, SNP seats) would have given them enough seats to command the confidence of the House, allowing Brown (or whoever led the Labour Party after the election) to pass the Prime Ministerial application test and remain in (very wobbly) power.
When it was clear the Labour/LibDem wasn’t going to happen, Brown didn’t have to wait until the coalition we have now turned up. He could not command the confidence of the House of Commons, and so had to resign. Whether or not what we now know as ‘The Coalition’ had emerged, Brown could not remain Prime Minister. It is clear in a #GE15 context, therefore, that if it emerges that Cameron cannot command the confidence of the House, he has a constitutional duty upon him to resign. It would not be like 2010 where Brown (and the country) couldn’t tell which way the wind was blowing; We know who’s teaming up with whom, so it should be easier than before to see the blocs as they form and how strong they are.

It’s the extent to which the parties will work together which could make the life of a post-#GE15 Government difficult – but that’s for Part 3…

Elections, Prime Ministers and their Causes – Part 1

The 2015 General Election is one of uncertainties. Who will be the largest Party? Who will work with whom? Who will be Prime Minister? Will anyone be able to get enough support to pass that magic number of 326 (half the seat in the House of Commons +1) and form a Government? What does it mean if they can’t?
With all this uncertainty, the possibility of a SECOND General Election this year has been mooted.

This week, I want to look at these questions in a bit of detail, combining the Legal Framework with the Political Reality of #GE15. Over the course of three posts this week, I will examine “What causes a General Election”, “What ends a Prime Minister” and “What Creates a new one”, all through a #GE15 lens.

Today, I want to look at the first, and possibly simplest of these questions – What Causes a General Election.


Regular General Elections

This is the simplest point to discuss. Section 1(2) of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 [FTPA 2011] appoints the date for the first General Election after the act comes in as 7th May 2015. This is the simple.
Section 1(3) goes on to state that the polling day for each election thereafter will be “the first Thursday in May in the fifth Calendar year” after the last one. So, the next general election is 7th May 2015; the next 7th May 2020; the next 1st May 2025 and so on. Section 1(5) lets the Prime Minister, under Statutory Instrument approved by Parliament, delay the election for up to 2 months, but that doesn’t really mess with things. The next election would still be the 1st Thursday in May five years later.

This is the Best case scenario. Everything goes as it should; there are no disastrous governments; no mass defections; no wafer thin majorities coupled with rebellious backbenchers. This is the mode of almost every government since WW2. But the drafters were no naive to assume there would never be a repeat of the Vote of Confidence in 1979.
There are two ways to hold early general elections.

Early General Elections

The first is best described as the Parliamentary Method.
Section 2(1) compels an early General Election take place if the following motion, laid out in Section 2(2), is passed by a 2/3s majority of the whole House of Commons (i.e. at current seat numbers, 434 MP’s):

That there shall be an early parliamentary general election.

This way of calling an election is unlikely to ever be a possibility in reality. At the 2010 General Election, the Conservatives alone won 310 seats, keeping them safe form this kind of early election. In most cases, the largest party (if they are the ones attempting to form a government) or the party of the sitting Prime Minister (if they are attempting to keep hold of power) would need to have fewer than 227 seats to be unable to stop a motion passing. This has never been anywhere near a possibility since World War 2. eve allowing for a large rebellion, this would be very unlikely to pass if the largest party didn’t want it to.
Of course, there may be situations where a fresh election might be in the largest party’s interests. Two such situations could be:

  1. Where the 2nd Largest Party has had a major mess up since the last election. Perhaps there has been a damning revelation about a leading figure. Maybe coalition negotiations take an unexpected turn?
  2. Where a’worst case scenario has come to pass. Voting SNP really did get Tories. Voting Labour really did get UKIP. Now that the hitherto vague threat has become a reality, people might vote differently and be able to push the largest party over the line, giving it an overall majority – however slim.

These situations are possible – but unlikely. If anything were to happen, it is most likely to be the second method of calling an early general election. This can be called the Governmental method and is more of a two-stage process.

The first step is contained in s.2(3)(a), which compels an early General Election to take place if the following motion, laid out in Section 2(4), is passed by the House of Commons (i.e. more MPs vote for it than don’t):

That this House has no confidence in her Majesty’s Government.

The second step, contained in s.2(3)(b), is that the following motion is not passed by the House of Commons within 14 days of the above motion:

That this House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.

Provided that there is no counter-motion within those 14 days, then an Early General election is called. This is a much more likely scenario if the Parliamentary arithmetic adds up. In a #GE15 context, it could be that there are more “Anti-Tory MP’s” who, while not wanting to enter into formal coalition, want to end a Tory Government.
All this is much closer to the traditional “Vote of Confidence” we’re used to. But it’s vital to note that nothing in this Act replaces the law regarding confidence in the government.

That’s what we’ll be discussing next in Part 2, “What Ends A Prime Minister?“…

The Electoral P(o)ints

This is the second of two posts looking at Al Murray’s ‘Pub Landlord’ standing in Thanet South constituency in the 2015 General Election. This post looks at what effect he could have on the election itself; while the other post looks at why he’s standing in the first place.


So, the question must be asked – how will the Pub Landlord’s candidacy effect the election in South Thanet? Ladbrokes have him at 66/1 to win which is pretty low (but not as low as the 100/1-shot Lib Dems). But, lets be honest, much like Eurovision – winning isn’t the point here. It’s to make a point about UKIP, but by just standing Murray is going to win votes – an those votes have got to come from somewhere…but where, and what effect will it have?

Firstly, those most likely to vote for a fictional character are the apathetic voters. Those who, for whatever reason, just don’t care about the outcome. The are most likely to be non-voters (so there’s no -ve effect for other parties there), or those who would consciously spoil there ballot anyway (again, no -ve effect for UKIP, CON, and LAB). But these voters alone wouldn’t allow Murry to win.
But it’s not just the apathisers that he will need to attract. People who would have voted for other parties could now consciously vote for the Pub Landlord. Foremost among these are those who would have voted for an actual pub landlord who is already standing against Farage. Nigel Askew is standing as Bez’s (of Happy Mondays fame) ‘The Reality Party’ candidate. There is also an Independent standing in South Thanet. The latest Ashcroft poll (Nov 2014) has support for these ‘others’ at 1% – but this was taken before Bez’s Reality Party news broke – which may increase that figure, albeit only slightly. Most of these people’s support will come from “Screw everyone else” sector – so are likely to switch to Murray at election time.
Greens too (the majorest of the minor parties for the time being), being honest, do not stand a chance of winning. Green votes are, in this case, mostly protest votes, as they will be in c.640odd seats in May. There is a possible issue the Murray’s manifesto is diametrically opposed to Green policies and values – but somehow I reckon that Murray’s not going to stick to rigidly to it if he gets elected (he won’t). And hey, if you’re going to protest – why not vote for someone that will have a wider base and could cause more of an upset?

But what about the major parties? Labour, The Concervatives, Lib Dems and UKIP are all in unusual situations here. The Lib Dems firstly, similarly to the GRN, don’t stand a chance. This isn’t a “you’re in bed with the Tories” thing, it’s just a fact of Thanet South. They got 15% of the vote in 2010, while LAB and CON got 31% and 48% respectively. They were never in the race, and their support is now only at 7% That means that there are now 8% of 2010-LDs looking for a home. They left because of the Tories (you can presume), and could go to Labour, but if that offering isn’t to impressive, why not vote for Murray?
Now consider Labour’s unusual position. Thanet South is officially a CON-LAB marginal, but that is misleading. It is a LAB-1997 seat, won in extraordinary times in extraordinary circumstances (the Tory MP and 1997 candidate was Johnothan Aitken). Before 1997, Labour had NEVER won the seat before, nor any of its past versions (Thant East, Thanet West of the Isle of Thantet). The fact both parties were neck and neck last July was a wonder in itself. So, there are two options for the Labour voter:

  1. Stay with Labour – there is a chance that they could win, it’s happened before and Murray won’t get the support; or
  2. Vote for Murray – Labour probably won’t win and if enough support musters around Murray, he could stop both UKIP and the Tories.

Where would the other support come from? That’s a difficult question. The Tories want to win this seat. Tory voters in Thanet South know that there is a good chance of them to win the seat, but UKIP do present a threat to their vote. They know that if not enough Tory voters vote Tory then UKIP could over take them or, even worse, Labour could come up the middle of a split CON-UKIP vote. Of all the parties, I’d imagine that the Tories will stay the most solid and see the least (but still some) leakage. Those voting Tory just to keep UKIP out may swithc, but again, it’d have to bee seen that Murray could actually win – which is not likely to happen.
But then comes UKIP. Farage knows that Murray is their focus, and so will most UKIP voters. I say ‘most’ quite deliberately, because of the Steven Colbert issue – some people think Al Murray is ‘The Pub Landlord’ so will vote for him in good faith. Murray may succeed where all other parties fail – he might actually out-UKIP UKIP! If this is the case, the UKIP deficit will only grow, potentially improving Tory chances. But also, c.20% of UKIPs 2015 support (6% of voters) comes from 201-LAB voters. Might Murray’s satirer prove effective in highlighting UKIPs potential deficiencies and moving those people back to Labour? Or maybe they left Labour in search of a new home and found UKIP – might Murray be there man?

It’s unclear what will happen as a result of Murray’s Pub Landlord standing in Thanet South. The only thing we can be sure of is that he won’t win. Even with half of 2015-Planned-Non-Voters deciding to vote for Murray (which won’t happen) & ALL the insignificant party support (IND and Reality Party) & ALL the GRN support & HALF the LD support came under too, there he would still be a good 8% behind Labour, 10% behind UKIP and 13% off the Tories..
However, he might garner just enough support, to chance the outcome. If Murray would have to take more support from the Tories than he does from UKIP to increase Farage’s chances of winning the seat. Given the solidity of the Tory vote in Thanets past, and the softness of the UKIP periphary vote – this is unlikely to happen. He has scuppered UKIP chances just by standing. But, and this is a big but, if Murray can take just 1/10th of the Tory vote away, and scare 1/10th of UKIP voters back to Labour – which is a distinct possibility thanks to that very same soft-UKIP periphery – Murray could actually switch the seat from Blue to Red and cause a reasonably sized boost for Miliband.

Don’t you just love FPTP?


I have done the sums for the scenario in the last paragraph. According to the Ashcroft polls, about 70% of people in Thanet South are likely to vote in May 2015.
On that basis, if Murray got the backing of:

  • All the OTH [1.4%] + GRN [2.1%]
  • Half the LDs [2.4%] + Half of otherwise NVs [14.7%]; support would be c.20.7% [4th]

But, if, at any turnout, 1/10 of 2010-CONs leave and go anywhere and 1/10 2015-UKIP voters got to LAB, Labour will win by less than 1%.

This Election took a Funny Turn

This is the first of two posts looking at Al Murray’s ‘Pub Landlord’ standing in South Thanet constituency in the 2015 General Election. This post looks at his reasons for standing; while the other (slightly longer) post looks at what effect he could have on the election itself.


I don’t buy many printed magazines on a regular basis. To be honest, I can only think of two. One is the TITAN Doctor Who comics (which, by the way, are great for winding down at the end of a long day). The other is Private Eye. I read my first copy in 2006 (yes – I had just started Secondary school) and found it brilliant. It didn’t just make fun of stupid decisions, but showed how silly they were by taking aping them in equally ridiculous situations.
It was probably my first taste of proper satire, and I still buy it every fortnight and read it cover to cover. But I’d seen satire before – just never noticed it yet. ‘Blackadder goes Fourth’, is a brilliant pastiche of the First World War and the stupidity of its generals. But it’s the final scene, almost universally accepted as being one of the finest scene ever broadcast on British TV, that brings it home. Yes, it was funny. Yes they shot pigeons and wore underpants on their heads. But in the end, regardless of what happened in the trenches, men and boys were sent over the top to their almost certain deaths. The humour wasn’t the point – it was only a tool to make it.

This brings me to what happened yesterday afternoon. UKIP’s Nigel Farage has decided to stand in Thanet South in the 2015 General Election. UKIP have a decent chance of taking the seat, though it’s far a ‘done thing’. The Tories are still ahead by about 5% in the most recent Lord Ashcroft poll and UKIP have only increased their lead by about 2/3% since last May. In 2010 the Tories had a majority of c.7,000 (17%) which would always take a lot of work to overturn. And then it got worse for Farage.

Al Murray in his ‘Pub Landlord’ persona announced that he intends to stand in South Thanet against Nigel Farage under the banner of his new political Party, the “Free the United Kingdom Party” (or ‘FUKP’). For just over 20 years, Murray has used the character to rip into the stereo-typical right win English pub owner. He is never seen without a pint (because he is a man, women drink win or a soft fruit-based drink as they are dainty things) and was ‘never confused’ about his sexuality (though his pet may be) – though he is accepting of “the gays”. He knows that Britain is the best country in the world and that Europe is the ever-present threat to it’s greatness. All these views are derived from one thing…”Good Old fashioned British Common Sense”!
This is in complete, contrast, of course to Nigel Farage and UKIP who is never seen without a pint (because he is a man, women drink win or a soft fruit-based drink as they are dainty things) and was ‘never confused’ about they’re sexuality (though his pet may be) – though they are accepting of “the gays“. He knows that Britain is the best country in the world and that Europe is the ever-present threat to it’s greatness. All these views are derived from one thing…”Good Old fashioned British Common Sense“! Get the point?

Al Murray uses humour to try and expose the UKIPpy ideas, which have existed far longer than they have been electorally successful, for what they are…odd. He used hyperbole and humour to make his point – but some people missed it. Some people thought that he actually believed what he was saying. Steven Colbert suffered from a similar problem in the USA: both are left-wing comedians using a right-wing persona to expose silliness in those ideas, but some people believe that there is no boundary between the two. And now, in what is potentially the epitome of this idea, the mocker and the mocked will be playing off against each other face-to-face.

We’ve had Monkey mayors, and Political Penguins, and now it could go a step further. Don’t you just love British Politics?

Debating the Point…

…or why ‘Prime Ministerial Debates’ cause nothing but trouble and unnecessary judicial challenges.


No sooner are we finished with one glorious democratic process, than the countdown to the next one starts. The BBC, ITV and Sky revealed their proposals for the 2015 UK General Election TV Debates today and, like last time, there is a bit of a stooshie over who should appear how many times. As things stand, the debates will be:

SKY – April 2nd: David Cameron (Con); Ed Miliband (Lab) 
BBC – April 16th: David Cameron (Con); Ed Miliband (Lab); Nick Clegg (LD)
ITV – April 30th: David Cameron (Con); Ed Miliband (Lab); Nick Clegg (LD); Nigel Farage (UKIP)

Just about everyone seems to disagree with these proposals in one way or another. The primary issue is that UKIP has been invited to take part despite only having their 1 MP sworn in this morning – while the Greens (whose lone MP Caroline Lucas was elected at the last general election) have not been asked. Nor have the SNP or Plaid Cymru, who you can argue are just as influential in the current UK political landscape.

So, Tory and Labour parties aside (their right to 3 appearances is universally accepted), what have parties should be represented in the debates – and why?

The Lib Dems
As obvious/contentious (delete to suit) a statement as this may be to make, the Lib Dems are a major force in UK politics. They are the minorest major party, but they are still a major party. They are the junior partner in the current coalition government and have the 3rd most MP’s in the Parliament. But, most importantly there is a theoretical chance that they could form an outright government in 2015. [ENOUGH LAUGHING IN THE BACK!]
I mean it. Mathematically, should there be a massive national change of heart, the Lib Dems are standing enough candidates that they could be elected to form a Lib-Dem only government. It’s unlikely, but it is a possibility. Surely then, the Lib Dems should play a part in all 3 debates, since, like the Tories and Labour, they could form a government and already have substantial representation and clout in parliament?
If you accept that this is theoretically possible, but politicly unlikely (read “wouldn’t happen in a million years”), and so the Lib Dems should only be at the 2 debates,  isn’t the point of having the debates to inform the political argument, not the other way around? The Lib Dems received the most tangible benefit from the 2010 debates, arguably due to the fact they weren’t just a punchline, but on an equal footing to the two parties that had dominated government for the last 90 years. Because of that, they are now in government (albeit not leading it) for the first time since Lloyd George. You need a very good reason not to include the Deputy Prime Minister in an election debate – and I can’t see it.

The Greens and UKIP
So…UKIP. It is a party that had no representation in Westminster whatsoever until last week when it won it’s first ever by-election. The Greens, meanwhile, have had its 1 MP (the impressive Caroline Lucas) since 2010. The argument is that if UKIP are being invited on the back of Carswell’s election, the Greens should to. I fear, however, that this isn’t taking an holistic view of things.
While I’d imagine UKIP will have limited (if any) electoral success, their UK-wide support orbits the 17/18% mark, while the Greens can normally manage 5% on a good day. So far UKIP have announced 240 candidates for constituencies in all parts of Great Britain. The Greens, meanwhile have announced candidates in just 81. While UKIP haven’t hit that magic number of 326 yet (i.e. 50% of Westminster Seats + 1) it is not inconceivable that, like the Lib Dems, they will by the time next April rolls around and the registration deadline closes. In 2010 they stood in 558 seats, and in 2005 they tried in 496. The Greens, meanwhile, stood in just 182 seats in 2005 and still only 310 in 2010, leaving it 16 short from being able to achieve a governing majority, even on a perfect night. So UKIP and The Greens are two different beasts in the 2015 election as things stand. The former will field enough candidates that it could form its own government; the latter, if past trends are anything to go by, will not. Unless it does, the claim that it is a party similar in character to UKIP will be difficult to substantiate. If they do, however, inviting one but not the other will be nigh-on-impossible to justify.

The SNP and Plaid Cymru
So having dealt with UK-wide parties…what about the nation-specific parties in Great Britain: The SNP and Plaid Cymru? Dealing with The SNP first – the prima facie case for including them in the debates is plain. They are, and have been for the last 4 (arguably 5) years the biggest party in Scotland. They form the Scottish Government by majority, have have 6 MP’s already in Westminster and have, thanks to the post-#IndyRef surge in membership, are now have the 3rd largest membership figure in the UK. Excluding them from the debate, then would mean that the UK-establishment are neglecting a massive Scottish Voice…right?
Maybe – but let’s apply the test we’ve developed. Could the SNP mathematically form a UK government on a perfect night? The answer is most definitely no, since the SNP (quite fairly) only field candidates in the 59 Scottish seats. There is no way in which an SNP MP could become Prime Minster (save a disastrous night for the 2/3/4 main parties and there is a Rainbow coalition of the ‘Others’ with the SNP at its head). Why then should the SNP field somebody in what is a Prime Ministerial debate? Who that somebody would be is another issue that would need resolved. Nicola Sturgeon would seem the obvious choice, being the party’s leader and all. But unless she was intending to stand as an MP, the case for her getting involved in a Westminster TV debate is a difficult one to make. It may be more appropriate then for the SNP Leader at Westminster (Angus Robertson MP) to be the face of the SNP – but this might not have the electoral impact the SNP would be hoping for.
Plaid Cymru’s argument for inclusion is weaker still. It has all the regionalist-weakness of the SNP, fielding candidates in only the 40 Welsh seat in the past two elections, and none of the strength in numbers nor governmental advantage. It shoudl be said, though, it does have 3 times as many MP’s as either the Greens or UKIP. Even as the ‘nationalist bloc’ that is sometimes formed between the two, only 100 candidates would be fielded across the UK – well short of the number needed to govern. Add to this the fact that the Court of Session knocked back the SNP’s attempt to appear on the BBC’s 2010 debate. That’s not stopping them launching another challenge this year, but I can’t say I fancy their chances.
The broadcasters have said that there will be additional debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where representatives of “one-nation-only” parties can make the case to the electorate to which they intend to present themselves. This seems a sensible suggestion, though it does mean that Labour, Tories and Lib Dems will have an extra bit of the cherry too, which presents its own problems.

It was suggested to me on twitter that the best way to solve the “who gets to appear and how many times” issue is to have the leaders of all the parties with at least 1 MP in, and everybody else out. There are currently 12 parties (and 1 independent) represented at Westminster so this option is clearly not workable. It also raises the question of whether the Northern Irish parties should be included in the debate given the unique characteristics of its electoral system.
The best way to avoid these pointless arguments and party-political one-upmanship is, of course, to recognise the fact the in the UK we don’t vote for a Prime Minister, we vote for MPs. The Prime Minister is simply the person who is able to “command the confidence” of the majority of those MPs sitting in the House of Commons. Sure, the leaders of the parties undoubtedly have an effect on that party’s image, but they don’t need the debates to make their mark. Most of them manage it pretty well already.