14 April 2015

Where There is No Green Candidate...


It is true that we are standing more candidates than ever before in this election, but there are going to be places that won't have the opportunity to vote Green in 2015. Now there has been a lot of hot air from the Tories about Bolton West and the fact that the local party isn't standing in one of the seats the Tories would need to take from Labour if they needed to form a majority government.

Looking at Labour’s top 50 targets, 41 are Tory seats. If Labour were to win these seats from the Tories, combined with the ones it should take from the Liberal Democrats, it would ensure they are the largest party, even if they lose every seat they currently hold in Scotland to the SNP. In just 5 of these marginals, there will be no Green candidate. They are:

City of Chester
Crewe & Nantwich
Lincoln
Thurrock
Wirral West

If we look at Wirral West as an example, I know there are one or two members who were deeply disappointed not to stand. One of the risks of not having a Green candidate is that Green voters may not turn out in large numbers. However, where there are local elections on the same day (most metropolitan councils) they will still have a local Green candidate. I therefore think the majority of our supporters will still cast their votes. Out of the two candidates contesting a marginal seat, they are likely to go for the one who opposes fracking and is against the renewal of Trident. That will likely result in helping the Labour candidate Margaret Greenwood to gain the seat.

What we have to make clear is that there has been no national strategy on the marginal seats. Decisions to stand have been taken locally and in most constituencies, the Greens have a candidate. Should Labour win the five seats listed and hold Bolton West, we shouldn't expect any thanks from them. The First Past the Post system is broken and should Labour form the largest party, they will do well to bear in mind that at the next election, be it in October or in 2020, the Greens will be everywhere. It is time for electoral reform and if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister in May he would do well to move things along before the next election, as the Greens are on the rise and there will be no seat uncontested next time.

13 April 2015

The Tactical Vote Debate


Do you vote tactically or not? This isn't a question for us hardened politicos. We are going to vote for our party, our team and our candidates regardless. However, it is something that the general public will be thinking about.

So how did it go in 2010? A lot of people voted for the Lib Dems tactically because they didn't want a Conservative government and that didn't exactly go well for them. On the other hand, the Greens argued in favour of the marginal improvement offered by the Alternative Vote system, and given that we are still stuck with FPTP, isn't tactical vote swapping as advocated by the Vote Swap website the next best thing?

Our political system is broken. We now have a 5 party (plus SNP / Plaid Cymru) system in the UK. However, UKIP and the Greens are only currently being projected to win a seat each, despite both parties potentially gaining a number of 2nd place finishes.

Why might people use a tactical vote? In a perceived safe seat, like Liverpool Wavertree, anti-Trident Labour supporters might back the Greens to put pressure on their own party. In a perceived marginal seat, Green voters might hold their noses and vote for a Labour candidate because they don't want to see a Tory-led government. In France, in the presidential run off between Chirac and Le Pen, Socialists turned out to vote for "the crook instead of the fascist".

To pretend tactical voting won't go on in this election is to ignore the reality of "squeeze messages" and the unsatisfactory nature of First Past the Post. That is different for actively advocating it. If we as Greens were to go back in a time machine to Brighton in 1997, 2001 and 2005 and encourage our supporters to vote for the lesser of two evils, then Caroline Lucas would not be an MP today.

As the candidate in Liverpool Wavertree, I do have some thoughts on Labour supporters here and I do want to attract their tactical votes at this election, in a seat that is rated by some websites as a 100% certainty as a Labour hold. If Labour supporters want to protect Green space in our city, or they want to make clear that they don't want Trident renewed, or they are unhappy about Luciana Berger's donation in kind from Deloitte (who will be recommending whether or not NHS Professionals should be privatised), then I'll take those tactical votes.

While I appreciate the sentiment, and the recommendation from the Vote Swap website, for Labour supporters to vote Green in Wavertree, I couldn't offer a swap elsewhere and I don't think others should. The lesson for Greens everywhere must be that a large Green vote will help show that the system is broken and every vote will help financially for any Green MP(s) elected to Parliament.

7 April 2015

Deloitte, Donations and the NHS


I'll level with you. Our total spend for the General Election in Liverpool Wavertree is likely to be around £1100 by the time election day is upon us. That is money that has been donated by members and includes my own contribution that will be in the election expenses. I'm not sure who will be funding the other campaigns from the Lib Dems, UKIP and the Tories.

For a full breakdown on Luciana Berger's register of interests, you can look at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=24924

One donor is Deloitte MCS Ltd who are currently reviewing the options for NHS Professionals who supply staff to the NHS (story here). They are currently publicly owned, but Deloitte are in charge of the review. I hope for Luciana's sake that they recommend that it is retained in the public sector, otherwise things might become a bit awkward for the Shadow Minister for Public Health.

Addition:

The Morning Star have already covered this story here.

18 March 2015

Electoral Calculus Election Forecast for Liverpool


There are 7 weeks to go until the General Election. With Liverpool home to some of the safest Labour seats in the country, there are no individual constituency polls here, but there are forecasts about how well parties are going to do based on different models. If you asked me about our canvassing returns in our target Liverpool Riverside constituency, I’d tell you truthfully that they are very good for us, and that our result there looks set to be even better than last year’s local elections, but that information potentially can be seen as partisan or biased.

So for an objective view of Liverpool, you have to look at the different websites with methodology for their forecasts that look at the potential results in the Liverpool constituencies. These are not going to be as accurate as the Ashcroft polling of marginal constituencies where the likeable Margaret Greenwood looks set to win the seat for Labour and oust Esther McVey. This blog post will look at the indications that www.electoralcalulus.co.uk gives us about the results in Liverpool. They were the most accurate online forecaster for the 2010 election, so the methodology has good form.

It is no surprise that the site predicts Labour to hold in every seat, but it is very clear that we look set to make a lot of progress from 2010. The site predicts a clean sweep of comfortable wins for Labour in Liverpool at the General Election. The Greens and UKIP will be looking to emerge as the 2nd place party across the city based on aggregate vote shares. However, the forecast makes grim reading for local Liberal Democrats, who look set to lose their deposit in four out of the five Liverpool seats. The Conservatives are predicted to lose one deposit (in Walton).

Liverpool Riverside

www.electoralcalculus.co.uk predicts:

Labour 64.2%
Greens 11.7%
UKIP 11.1%
Cons 8.1%
Lib Dems 4.7% [Lost Deposit]
TUSC 0.3% [Lost Deposit]

In 2014 Labour’s share of the local election vote in Riverside was 53% and Greens 27%. Turnout in a General Election is roughly double local turnout, so if even if we just hold our vote, we should do better than the election forecasts. The bookies odds show Greens as the second favourites in this seat. Labour are 1/100 in every Liverpool seat, but in Riverside the Greens are now down to 22-1 from 100-1 a couple of months ago.

Liverpool Wavertree

www.electoralcalculus.co.uk predicts:

Labour 57.7%
Lib Dems 16.1%
UKIP 11%
Greens 9.4%
Cons 5.6%
TUSC 0.2% [Lost Deposit]

You’ll have seen me blog about Wavertree previously, and as the Green candidate here, I am getting contacted by email every day. I’d estimate over 600 so far. Often in response to my replies I have it acknowledged that I am the first or only person to (so far) respond. I also had the unusual experience of someone replying to me thinking I was the Lib Dem candidate (and then apologising for the mistake). I can tell you in no uncertain terms, that former Lib Dem voters are not at all happy in Liverpool.

Jake Morrison’s endorsement has also been a boost to the campaign and I don’t think the models above can allow for that impact. I’d also like to thanks Caroline Lucas for name checking me and Wavertree in her speech at Conference. I’m now in a position where I expect for us to save our deposit, but I would like to see us break that 10% barrier in this election.

Unlike Martin Dobson in Riverside, I obviously can’t predict a 2nd place finish based on the information above, but the evidence is we should hold our deposit comfortably and at a push get into double figures. This would be a big step up from the mere 1.6% we managed in 2010. I don’t think 2nd is impossible. I think the residual Lib Dem vote is inflated in this particular example, and they will actually be much closer to 10%. We’ve got some good campaign material going out and we’ve already had a couple of good endorsements, particularly from Cllr Jake Morrison.

Garston and Halewood


www.electoralcalculus.co.uk predicts:

Labour 64.5%
UKIP 13.7%
Con 11.9%
Green 7.7%
Lib Dem 2.1% [Lost Deposit]

In 2010 we didn’t stand a candidate in Garston & Halewood so to jump to nearly 8% would be an incredibly good start in the constituency. The shocking point in a number of these seats is the prediction of a lost deposit for the Lib Dems. They will be trying to defend their last council seat in Woolton but the prospects are not good. My view is that we will keep our deposit here and as I will argue in the conclusion, UKIP will actually do much less well than expected in Liverpool than elsewhere, largely because of the well publicised photo of Nigel Farage endorsing the Sun newspaper.

Liverpool Walton

www.electoralcalculus.co.uk predicts:

Labour 75.2%
UKIP 8.6%
Green 6.5%
Con 4.9% [Lost Deposit]
Lib Dem 1.4% [Lost Deposit]

The evidence from last year’s local election is that we will finish ahead of the Lib Dems and we know that at a local level, a huge issue is that people want to protect Walton Hall Park. Greens have been at the forefront of campaigns to protect green space in the city. Again, to go from a standing start to more than saving our deposit and potentially even 2nd place, will be a respectable result.

Liverpool West Derby

www.electoralcalculus.co.uk predicts:

Labour 67.3%
Liberal 9.3% (Steve Radford Liberals)
UKIP 8.7%
Con 6.9%
Green 6.4%
Lib Dem 1.2% [Lost Deposit]

This final forecast shows that model has a factored in unique local political circumstances as it is clear to anyone who follows politics in the city that Steve Radford’s Liberals will do better than the Lib Dems here. Again a saved deposit at first time of standing would be very respectable.

Conclusion

The bookies and forecasts suggest Labour is currently on track to win all five seats in Liverpool (no surprise there). Ultimately the result will depend on Liverpool’s voters and no election is won until the people have cast their votes. I think we’ll do well and be a lot closer to Labour in Riverside than people currently predict and I hope we will also make substantial progress in my own seat of Wavertree and the others.

The Lib Dems are forecast to collapse around the city, with Wavertree bucking the trend. However, with all due respect to Leo Evans, the Lib Dem candidate, I don’t think they are currently showing anything that suggests that Liverpool Wavertree will be anything like as good as the forecast. Last year they were putting resources into different local campaigns in the constituency. This year it will just be Church ward.

UKIP should do well based on national swings, and I’d expect them to hold their deposit everywhere. There are some “buts” though. Firstly if a further right party stands, like the BNP or English Democrats, their couple of percent of vote share will come directly from UKIP. Secondly, Nigel Farage’s endorsement of the S*n newspaper was not widely reported and every time UKIP raise their head on social media in Liverpool, you can expect that point to follow with a suitable photographic reminder. There are a lot of football fans, of a variety of political persuasions, who were disgusted by all the party leaders from Labour, UKIP, Lib Dems and the Tories endorsing the S*n at the same time. There is definitely going to be a Green vote from some in Liverpool as we are the only one of the “big five” nationally to refuse to endorse the S*n. We prefer to campaign against Page 3 than suck up to Rupert Murdoch.



For the Greens there are some positives, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. There is some brilliant targeted campaigning going on for us to win more council seats and a Parliamentary seat. I’m very optimistic about our prospects.

One voter in Wavertree contacted me and said it was a two horse race here. I pointed out it was much more like a one horse race this time. However, things get interesting if we are back at the polls within a year of this election. With formal coalitions being ruled out, this coming Parliament could be very short lived. If we have earned 2nd place in two or more of the Liverpool constituencies, it will give us a very strong platform on which to campaign.

29 January 2015

Does Everyone in Labour Really Want to Win the Election?


Let me be clear at the start that I am not here to question the commitment of many Labour activists, councillors and MPs who are on the ground canvassing in marginal constituencies. They are fighting to win the election and remove Cameron as Prime Minister. Nor am I questioning Ed Miliband and the team he has around him. He wants to (and needs to) win this election. The question I’m asking is whether some of the factions and significant individuals in the Labour Party want them to lose the election.

In 2003 I was on an intercity train travelling from Glasgow to London. On it there was a rather drunk man with a very posh accent. He claimed to have worked for Major from 1990 to 1992. If I can sum up a rather tedious couple of hours of conversation, he said it had all gone wrong when he had won that election. I paraphrase, but something like, “the bloody fool wasn’t supposed to win”.

Have some of the high profile members of the Labour party (and the factions they come from) decided that they do not want to win this election? Is there evidence of Ed Miliband being undermined, quietly, by his own side? Of course there can’t now be open revolt as we are now in the election campaign, but Blair and others seem willing to damn Ed Miliband with faint praise.

George Monbiot had this to say yesterday:

“If Labour wins in May, it is likely to destroy itself faster and more surely than if it loses, through the continued implementation of austerity. That is the lesson from Europe”

It would be bad for the country to see another blue/yellow coalition for the next five years but Labour and its leader have failed to inspire. Despite that, the electoral system is stacked in Labour’s favour. Even with a smaller share of the vote than the Tories, they will probably end up with more seats. To end up as the smaller party, Ed Miliband is going to have to do worse than Gordon Brown at the polls, and that would require serious acts of sabotage from within his own ranks.

27 January 2015

Green Party Conference in Liverpool


Back in 2007, Rob Smith (a Liverpool Young Green at the time) and I pretty much organised our national Spring Conference at the Everton campus of Hope University, with some assistance from national conference organisers. It was a last minute booking after the original venue in Oxford was cancelled. It felt like we did a tremendous amount of work in a short space of time, while also helping on the election trail. It was a relatively small affair, but it did help generate some local coverage as we went into that election defending John Coyne's position as the only Green councillor in Liverpool.

In 2012, Spring Conference came back to Liverpool, this time at the Adelphi. Last year, Spring Conference was at St Georges Hall, and the feeling from a great number of the delegates was that this was a "real" party conference, based on the size of the venue. Guess what? We were booked at St Georges Hall again, but the #Greensurge of members and people coming to conference means we've had to move to the BT Convention Centre, next to the Echo Arena. We've sent out this press release locally today.

The Green Party of England and Wales have announced a change of Liverpool venue to accommodate the huge number of registrations for their Conference in March.

After initially booking St Georges Hall, where a previous Conference has been held, the Greens will now be meeting at the BT Convention Centre, attached to the Echo Arena [1]. The location of the Conference, in the middle of the Liverpool Riverside constituency, a national target for the Greens, is a clear indication that they are targeting disaffected Labour voters.

Cllr John Coyne, leader of the Greens in Liverpool said:

“This is the fourth time we’ve brought Conference to Liverpool since I’ve been a Green councillor and the change in venue reflects our huge local and national growth.”

“In the last month we’ve seen Labour MPs abstain on the abolition of Trident and a moratorium on fracking. 4 out of 5 Liverpool MPs also supported George Osbourne’s “austerity charter” which commits the country to a further £30 billion of cuts.”

“We are seeing many former Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters move to us because they want a genuine alternative to further central government cuts which will reduce police on the streets, close our libraries, close our children’s centres and impose austerity on the people least responsible for it.”

Martin Dobson, Parliamentary Candidate for Liverpool Riverside, a target constituency for the Greens, added:

“We now have more than 50,000 national members, with more than 60,000 if you include the Scottish and Northern Irish Greens. This is many more than either the Liberal Democrats or UKIP and we are Britain’s 4th largest party by membership.”

“We’ve also seen huge growth in Liverpool, increasing to more than 500 local members last week. We are seeing many new members who are active in supporting party campaigns and that is going to make a big difference to our local election challenges to the Labour Party.”

“It’s an exciting time to be involved and we’ll be advertising events open to the public at the conference a little closer to the date.”


ENDS

[1] Conference details here http://greenparty.org.uk/conference.html

26 January 2015

The Difference Between Our General Election Manifesto and the Policies for a Sustainable Society


One of the consequences of the #Greensurge is that the media are going to look in detail at our policies. I had a Twitter exchange with two local Labour councillors last week on one example, and Natalie Bennett was given a rough ride by Andrew Neil at the weekend over policies in the PfSS (Policies for a Sustainable Society). You can contrast this with UKIP, who don’t have stated policies and when they are challenged on them will rapidly flip them to suit the public mood.

Now many older members will remember that the PfSS was once the MfSS (Manifesto for a Sustainable Society). Inevitably, as we approached an election, opponents would wheel out policies and talk about the Green manifesto (meaning the MfSS). When we actually launched a manifesto before an election, it wasn’t distinctive and people didn’t know the difference. That was why many of us so-called modernisers within the party, against fierce internal opposition, advocated changing it to the PfSS.

The analogy to use is that our PfSS document, while a statement of policy, is the “Green Paper” for our Manifesto development. The PfSS is regularly updated by Conference thanks to the work of the members, and this underpins our Election Manifesto. As we approach an election, we produce our manifesto on which we contest that election (our “White Paper” if you like). The Election Manifesto will be much more up to date. It takes its input not just from the PfSS, but from Political Committee, GPRC (on behalf of the local / regional parties) and others. A European Election Manifesto will be different from a General Election Manifesto, but both will draw on the PfSS. This isn’t a complete run down on the process, but gives the public an idea how it works.

We’ve been hammered on a couple of points that are in the PfSS but these won’t be in the Manifesto. We (and I include myself as a PPC) should make it clear that we’ll be contesting the election on what is in the Election Manifesto once it is launched, not the full content of the PfSS, some of which will be out of date and out of context when thrown at us by our opponents. The membership of terrorist organisations is one of these. Clearly members of Al-Qaida don’t pay a subscription. The PfSS is clear that if people start organising in a criminal way to commit acts of terror, then they should be arrested, but by having the line that being a member of an organisation doesn’t necessarily make you a terrorist (think ANC in the 1980s or even Sinn Fein for context), there is an obvious out of context attack to be made. Now that the Greens have become a real threat to other parties in terms of vote share, we can’t expect any quarter in the run up to the election.

While we should be happy to defend overall policy aims from the PfSS, we have to accept that parts will be open to attack and are not easy to defend. Part of that defence is to rightly point out that as PPCs we will be contesting the election on our General Election Manifesto. As in 2010, our Manifesto should be thoroughly costed too, with references. In the meantime, if it helps you as a Green PPC to link here when challenged on something like this, please do so.