30 June 2016

What Would a Democratic or Progressive Alliance Look Like?

There are some big issues for a Democratic or Progressive Alliance to tackle if it can be formed before an early General Election. We have continued unprecedented austerity, the growing sense that Brexit won on false promises and that the British people need to vote on any actual deal, and the clear prospect that the United Kingdom may soon consist of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, leading to a permanent right of centre majority under first past the post. I'm not going to discuss the issues, nor the current issues in the Labour party, but rather post briefly about how any alliance or arrangement might work.

Firstly, any Democratic Alliance may only involve around 50 of the most marginal seats in England (Wales is more difficult to assess). I'm not going to look at Scotland or Northern Ireland (because that would really be down to their respective Green Parties to discuss). From the perspective of a Green voter, the arrangement would be intended to secure an anti-Tory majority, but not to give a majority to any single party within the alliance.

Secondly, I think it is really crucial to point out that in most of the country, Labour, the LDs and the Greens would continue to fiercely contest seats locally. What we would be doing is taking the most marginal seats and making them as winnable as possible for the best progressive challengers not so any one party has a majority, but so that a combination of Lab, SNP, LDs, PC and Greens hold the majority in Parliament and can enact essential democratic reform over a timetable of x years and then commit to an election under a reformed system.

Finally, it is important to restate that local parties are sovereign in the Greens, but that there is a feeling in the party at large that this is something we could and should do to produce lasting reform of our broken voting system. How Labour and the Lib Dems might make these arrangements would be up to them. The most obvious seat, in addition to Brighton Pavilion, where Labour and LDs should be most open to stepping down for the Greens is the Isle of Wight. We finished 3rd with the Tories and UKIP in 1st / 2nd.

The immediate benefits for our party will be very limited in terms of electoral success, and our main targeting will still be in seats where we are competing against Labour, such as Bristol West and Liverpool Riverside. However, genuine electoral reform to a Scottish type of system, with regional top up lists, would see many more Greens elected at the following election. That is a risk worth taking in my view.

This post ends with seats that this writer thinks could be crucial in any discussions:

Labour marginals that would need to be held:

City of Chester
Ealing Central & Acton
Brentford and Isleworth
Wirral West
Ilford North
Newcastle Under Lyme
Barrow and Furness
Wolverhampton South West

Labour targets where 2015 Green vote > Tory majority:

Derby North
Croydon Central
Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
Brighton Kemptown
Bury North
Morley and Outwood
Weaver Vale

Further Labour targets:

Vale of Clwyd
Bolton West
Plymouth Moor View
Cardiff North
Warrington South
Southampton Itchen

Lib Dem seats being defended / targeted:

Carshalton and Wallington

Green seats where Lab or LD may stand down in exchange:

Brighton Pavilion
Isle of Wight

10 May 2016

Election Results Summary

So the dust is settling after the local elections in Liverpool. The Greens (10.3%) finished down from 2nd place in 3rd place and we are having to look at why the Lib Dems (16%) managed a mini-resurgence in the city despite having been responsible as part of the coalition, for some appalling cuts to our overall budget. I think Labour were as surprised as we were.

The #libdemfightback as they’ve titled it is being much heralded, but in Liverpool we are the exception to the rule. In Scotland and in the Mayoral Elections in Bristol, London and Salford, where voters had two preferences, the Greens finished ahead of the Lib Dems (noting that in Salford they failed to put up a Mayoral candidate or a single local election candidate).

There is an interesting piece at Lib Dem voice that explains it. Essentially this was a two year strategy involving heavy work to save Richard Kemp’s Church seat in 2015 (otherwise they would have been down to just 1 councillor) with a leafleting strategy in other areas of the city. This was followed by an all out assault on three wards in these elections, and successfully retaking seats from Labour in Woolton and Allerton & Hunts Cross. Where they didn’t win was Mossley Hill, after outrageously misleading voters on their barcharts (you’re shocked?) but more on that after the 2018 election I think.

This doesn't just happen in Liverpool, but is a systematic attempt to mislead voters in their favour. Another example from Manchester here:

The Lib Dems only narrowly held onto 2nd place finishes in Woolton and Allerton & Hunts Cross in the local poll at the 2015 General Election, but if you look at the total of Tory and Lib Dem votes in that election, it exceeded the support for Labour. Careful targeting of postal voters and voters on the marked register as they knocked on 10,000 doors (the campaign slogan) and a heavy squeeze on the Tory voters, has enabled them to win big victories. Whoever developed the strategy should be very pleased with the results, and it will be a hard task for Labour to defend these seats in 2018.

So essentially, it is one of the defining features of Liverpool politics, the absence of an even semi-functional Conservative party that has enabled the Lib Dems to make a comeback in a couple of areas of the city. From the right of centre, the only viable option in Liverpool is the Lib Dems, and I have to say that our appeal to people who are naturally Tory or UKIP voters is very limited.

In the latter respect, we sit to the left of a very centrist Labour party in Liverpool. However, as Greens in cities like Oxford, Norwich and even Bristol discovered in this election, many left of centre voters rallied to back an under fire Corbyn in these local elections. We did not close the gap in Greenbank (although our tallies suggest the Green v Labour vote here in the Mayoral election was much, much closer) but we did hold St Michaels with a whopping 62% of the vote.

In the Mayoral contest, Joe Anderson gained 6% less than the support given to Labour’s local election candidates across the city. This suggests he was less popular than his party. However, he still won a plurality of the votes. So congratulations to him, but I think Labour will need to have a contest for the Metro Mayor candidate and I expect that will be a fiercely fought selection. Richard Kemp finished 2nd, with 21% of the vote, and Tom Crone was 3rd with 10.9%

Richard outperformed the Lib Dems. His profile obviously helped and certainly the “only Labour or the Lib Dems can win here” had some effect, but I think you have to credit the targeting they did in those southern wards as the reason they have regained 2nd place in vote share in the city. I’ll hopefully be retiring the blog (again) but I am intending to once again get back into the heart of the campaign team for Liverpool Greens after two years where for work and family reasons, I’ve been very much an observer.

Our job now is to get ready for the next two elections, for Metro Mayor and the 2018 locals. I also think it will pay to be prepared. Yvette Cooper suggested that an early General Election could be on the cards if the Tories are deprived of an overall majority by the electoral expenses scandal that is being investigated by a number of police forces in different constituencies.

It is important to end on this note. Tom’s 10.9% is the highest vote the Greens have ever polled in a local election across the city and he deserves congratulations after a hard fought campaign. In Scotland we polled 6.6%, and the Mayoral Election results were Salford 8.5%, Bristol 7.8% and London 5.8%. In that context, other cities will look at our result as being impressive, but we are not satisfied and we see the need to improve.

We’ve been between 9 and 11% in each election since 2014, but what we haven’t managed to do is convert that to extra seats. Right now in Liverpool, there are 80 Labour councillors, 4 Greens, 4 Lib Dems and 2 Liberals. The Lib Dems will be expecting to make 3 gains as a minimum in 2018. Our strategy will have to find a way to match or better that.

3 May 2016

#LiverpoolMayor First and Second Preferences

This is a really important, but lesser understood aspect of the Mayoral Election. I'm outlining it here so this link can be shared in the last 24 hours of campaigning.

Council elections in Liverpool are simple. The party that gets the most votes in a given area (ward) wins the seat. In the seats we are heavily targeting to gain seats, we are doing so from a Labour (finished 1st) v Green (finished 2nd). In these seats, it makes sense for Liberal Democrat voters to back the Green candidate if they want to defeat Labour (although some may unfortunately be misled by false barcharts). A quick reminder of these wards:

- Greenbank
- Mossley Hill
- Princes Park

In St Michaels, we are defending our seat against Labour, who were the second place party last time, so the position is reversed there.

The Mayoral Election is totally different. You can have your cake and eat it (to some extent). TUSC voters can back Roger Bannister with their first preference, but recognising that Roger may not finish in 1st or 2nd place, decide to cast a second preference for the best #notojoe candidate. Liberal Democrats can do the same. Parties will be looking to last year's results as a guideline, so here is a quick reminder (the Greens gained 3,228 more votes than the Lib Dems across the city):

Some people on Twitter have been worried about opposition candidates "splitting the vote" and allowing Joe Anderson to remain as Mayor. This will not be the case if you cast your vote for two candidates and use both preferences. Vote with your heart for the first one, for politics you believe in, then back an "insurance" "least worst option" candidate with your second preference. I'll be using both preferences and I would expect anyone who wants a more proportional and representative voting system in future to be doing the same.

I'll clearly be using my first preference for Tom Crone, the Green candidate for Mayor. It won't be enough for a candidate aiming to beat Joe Anderson to attract preferences from every opposition group. The deciding voters will be Labour supporters who can't back the current Mayor. I think they are highly unlikely to back the Liberal Democrats and here is why (quote taken from a retweet I did on Twitter today):

"Paul whilst I respect you and Tim; the #FibDems will NEVER get my vote again; my ex left the party; friends…"

I think there are a lot of people in Liverpool who feel that way. That's why I'm confident that it will be Tom Crone who will be in the run off against Joe Anderson in the second round. So although first preferences are better for our party, second preferences will also help. There is a huge Labour vote to overcome, but as in 2012, we'll find that Labour will perform better in local elections than they will in the Mayoral contest. This time I think the gap will be significant and there will be a second round of voting.

30 April 2016

Do Richard Kemp's Claims About the Mayoral Election Withstand Scrutiny? #liverpoolmayor

“My job was to maximise the Liberal Democrat vote, and I think I have done that.”

That was Richard Kemp's assessment of the Lib Dem Mayoral campaign in 2012 when they gained 6%. The Lib Dems were defending 10 council seats (and successfully held just one) and ran campaigns in all of them. This year they are trying to hold onto one.

I’m deeply disappointed with the Liberal Democrat campaign in Liverpool. They have been relegated to 3rd and 4th in terms of the popular vote in the city in the last two local elections. However, their Mayoral candidate, claimed in his Radio City interview yesterday that Liverpool politics is “back to business as usual” and is making the same kind of claim on his blog, that it is him or Joe Anderson. I prefer it when we refer to the evidence:

So a quick reminder:

- The Greens gained nearly 20,000 votes in the last local elections
- That was 3,200+ more than the Lib Dems
- 10% of city wards don’t have Lib Dem council candidates (lack of activists or support from residents?)
- The cuts forced on Liverpool in this year’s council budget were imposed by the Lib Dems as part of the coalition

We are not in the business of saying that no one else can win, rather as Greens we are concentrating on a positive message, articulated by the Leader of the Opposition on the City Council, Tom Crone. We are now in our final push and taking that message far more widely in the city than the Liberal Democrats can hope to manage.

I think the Liberal Democrat tactic is an attempt to try and come second, by convincing people to give enough first preferences to overtake the Greens. I don’t think that will work. I think that if it doesn’t, it will backfire badly on that party as they attempt to rebuild in Liverpool politics post-coalition. One of the issues in politics is trust. Rather than focus on policy or manifesto, the "squeeze" approach will undermine the Lib Dems in future

26 April 2016

Can Joe Anderson be beaten? #liverpoolmayor

While I write as a Green candidate (albeit a non-target one), the source for all the figures in this post come from the Liverpool City Council website. The figures don’t constitute spin. They are factual.

The starting point for this is to look at the results of the last Mayoral contest and the last two local elections. In 2012, on local election turnout levels, Joe Anderson got around 58,000 votes in Liverpool. Liam Fogerty as an independent managed over 8,000. Richard Kemp as a Lib Dem got 6,238 and John Coyne, standing for the Greens managed 5,175. With nearly 60% of the vote and no allocation of preferences, Mayor Anderson had an overwhelming mandate.

After four years, it could be said that the Mayor has not universally endeared himself to a large portion of the Liverpool public. I also think it is a reasonable expectation that he will not gain more than 50% on first preferences this time. That might mean 40,000 to 45,000 first preference votes being cast in his favour.

So who can realistically mount a challenge? Well in 2014 it was a combined Local and European Election. The results were as follows:

The Greens, with nearly 10,500 votes were 1,256 ahead of the Lib Dems in 2014.

In 2015, it was a combined Local and General Election, with a much higher turnout. The results were as follows:

The Greens, with nearly 20,000 votes were 3,228 ahead of the Lib Dems in 2015.

So going into this election, it is Tom Crone as the Green candidate (and leader of the opposition) who has the best case to make about being able to challenge Anderson. But to beat him, which is a very tough proposition, I think we as Greens need to achieve the following:

- The great many Labour supporters who like Corbyn and don’t like Anderson, casting their first preference vote for the Greens in Liverpool
- A strong turnout from Green voters in areas of the city we are strong
- Voters from other parties looking realistically at who can best challenge the current Mayor, and drawing their own conclusions

Richard Kemp, as Liverpool’s longest serving councillor, is still trying to make the “two horse race” argument between Labour and the Lib Dems, despite his horse having bolted during the coalition years. He may benefit in South Liverpool from his profile and the campaign tactics they are using, but they have failed to even stand local election candidates in 10% of the city wards.

It is difficult to make the case that they can attract sufficient 1st preference votes to overhaul the Greens to gain 2nd place. Is Richard really convinced of his own view that all the Liam Fogerty voters are going to switch to the Lib Dems? Surely that would have happened before? While the Lib Dems are no longer in coalition nationally, the cuts that have been made in Liverpool’s budget this year were agreed under that coalition government.

What I would hope is that more widely, voters in the city will be using their 1st and 2nd preferences wisely. As election day approaches, I also hope there is some real discussion in the media that looks at what will happen if votes go to a second round this time.

22 April 2016

Wavertree ward candidate

I will be standing for the Green Party in Wavertree ward. I stood as the Parliamentary candidate here last year and I’ll be standing for election in an area I’ve previously lived in, and still live quite close to. Last year Julie Birch-Holt gained a creditable 821 votes and finished 2nd to Labour here. 2015 voting summary below:

In a year without a General Election, around 1800 votes is what any party will need to win the seat here, judging by previous turnouts. As in 2015, voters will hear from us before the election, this time via the Mayoral booklet and via other online election material. Click here for our (very funny) party election broadcast.

I work full time as a University Lecturer and with three young children, and like many other people in the same situation, I am very busy with everything that involves, but I will be very pleased to hear from any voter in the ward and I’ll do my best to respond as quickly as possible to any questions or to provide any further information.

If you would like to get in touch, please email petercranie@greenparty.org.uk or contact me on Twitter @PeterCranie (I can respond outside of office hours only).

20 April 2016

Who is the best candidate to beat Joe Anderson? #LiverpoolMayor #tommartincrone

I’m (a little reluctantly) reviving my blog. As you’ll see from my last post, I won’t be doing predictions for leadership contests in other parties again (although I’m not the only one to have been surprised when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour leader). Over a week ago I read a post from Richard Kemp on his blog. Usually his stuff is worth a read, but I took issue with the content about the Greens. I therefore spent some time (about half an hour of a lunch break) to do a response. It doesn’t seem to have made it to publication. Given that Richard has unfortunately not published my comment, I'll reprint my response here:

“While you usually write accurately Richard, I have to pick you up on a number of points about the Greens that are simply not correct and your assertion that there are "really" only 2 candidates in the election. We get on well personally, so I hope you take this in comradely spirit, and you feel able to post my comment and if you feel appropriate, respond to the points I've made and the questions I'm posing.

1. "It is possible that they will have a candidate in every ward..." - my recollection is that the Green Party has stood full slates in every election since 2006 in Liverpool. In both 2014 and 2015, the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool failed to contest seats. Last year that was 6 wards without a Liberal Democrat on the ballot paper.

2. "...they will only be really fighting in 3 of them" - this isn't accurate, but even if we were to win these three, that would put us on 6 councillors. You and Erica are currently the only Lib Dems across the city. Are you able to win in three wards this time to bring your total to 4?

3. Polling. In the run up to the General Election, the Greens were polling 3 to 7%. Since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, we've been polling 3 to 6%. In comparison, the Liberal Democrats were polling 6 to 11% in the run up to the General Election, and since Corbyn became leader have been polling 5 to 10% [Source http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/voting-intention-2]. In Liverpool (and after all, this is about Liverpool) in 2014 our vote share was 10.7% versus your 9.4% and even in a General Election year, we gained 9.7% to the Liberal Democrat 8.1% in 2015.

4. We have "tanked" in by-elections by winning in Shropshire for the first time. Where a winnable seat has come up, we've won it. We'll contest most seats to give voters that choice. Is there a source to back up the tanking claim? We haven't had any Liverpool byelections in the last year.

5. The Corbyn effect - I'm sure there have been some Green members who have left to join Labour. There is regularly churn between party activists. National party membership figures are reported by the Daily Politics Show here (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34571666) and the Greens in the UK have more members than the Liberal Democrats.

It would be good if the opposition parties were to take a constructive approach and avoid "talking down" one another. I personally feel that Tom Crone is better placed to attract disaffected, non-Joe supporting but typically Labour voting first preferences from the 57% who backed Joe Anderson and Labour in 2012. I feel that will be harder for you, as less than a year has passed since the coalition came to an end, but I think the way to do that is with positive messages to make clear there is an alternative to Mayor Anderson.

I think campaigning in Liverpool has become difficult for the Liberal Democrats. There are some good people who reluctantly endured 5 years of coalition with (misplaced) loyalty. However, their electoral playbook here has always been based on being the only alternative to Labour, because the Conservatives are unelectable here under First Past the Post. However, this Mayoral contest is difficult for them.

Usually you would expect barcharts to appear showing that it Labour v Lib Dem and no other result is possible. The problem is that Labour have 81 councillors and Richard + Erica Kemp are the only Lib Dems left standing. We are the official opposition with 4 councillors, so no barchart opportunity there. On vote share in the city, the last two local elections have seen the Greens finish 2nd to Labour, albeit at some distance. So again, no barchart there. The best they can do is go back to 2012, point out that Richard was 3rd and that all those people voting for Liam Fogerty are going to return to the Lib Dems now they are no longer in coalition.

Richard does have a profile from many years in local government. Keyboard warriors were quick to work on the recent Echo mayoral “voodoo” poll, but if you are going to make your case, you need to be able to back it up. Tom Crone is producing a positive Green vision for Liverpool and that has to be the politics of the future and is the alternative that the city is crying out for.