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.

6 August 2015

Who Will Win the Labour Leadership Contest?

For politicos like me, the ongoing leadership contest in the Labour party makes fascinating viewing. That is exactly what it should be if you are a Green member. While I think there was a move to sign up as a supporter and back Corbyn from a few Greens, I don’t think there will be many who will actually vote. This isn't a new issue, as Green members have previously been eligible to vote due to their union membership, and we had no way of policing that. Whether you are a Tory MP or a Green member, it is probably best to let Labour decide this themselves.

What do I think will happen? There is a media perception that there is a lot of Jeremy Corbyn “momentum” at the moment but I don’t think he is going to win. He is clearly the challenger candidate and he may even top the poll on first preferences, but the bulk of longstanding Labour members (who will form the majority of the electorate) were members through the end of the Blair/Brown era and through Ed Miliband’s leadership.

I think we can discount Liz Kendall. She represents a wing of the Labour Party (including Cllr Nick Small here in Liverpool) that alienates a big portion of the activist base. She’ll get a double figure first preference vote, but she lacks “big hitter” quality. Chukka Ummana might have done better (as long as there were no more “trash” skeletons in his cupboard) as a Blairite standard bearer. Should there be another contest and David Miliband somehow is eligible to stand, he too would probably make it to the run off.

Andy Burnham is the bookies’ favourite but there is no certainty about how reliable those odds will prove. Had Corbyn failed to make the ballot paper, Burnham would probably be feeling pretty comfortable as the likely winner. So while his view was that Corbyn should be on the ballot paper, I think that was foolishly based on the assumption that he would not make the top two candidates, and Corbyn preferences would in the main flow to Burnham, making him a comfortable winner under the Alternative Vote system. If the run off is Burnham v Corbyn, preferences from Cooper and Kendall will mean Burnham wins.

With Liz Kendall likely to be the lowest scoring candidate, it will be those Blairite preferences that will prove crucial. My view is that Alan Johnston’s endorsement of Yvette Cooper will be seen in retrospect as a crucial point in the contest. I expect Cooper to finish 3rd on first preferences, but not too far behind Burnham and Corbyn. Once Kendall’s 2nd preferences come into play, my view is that Cooper will make the top two, and the only question is whether she will face a run-off against Burnham or Corbyn. In either case, my prediction, FWIW, is that she will become the first woman to lead the Labour Party (in a permanent non-caretaker capacity).

The real challenge then is whether Cooper (or if I’m wrong, another candidate) will push for a “one big heave” strategy in 2020, to get into hung parliament territory with Labour as the largest party because an overall majority looks quite out of reach. The answer will come at party conference time and that first speech will be a very interesting one to watch.

9 July 2015

Worst Political Leaflet I've Seen in Ten Years

In my many years of Liverpool political campaigning, I’ve seen some poorly judged political leaflets, but the latest Liberal Democrat literature to come through my door is by far and away this decade’s winner for the worst.

In September, 120 children are due to start at Dovedale Primary School. The Liberal Democrats are asking for objections to the expansion. What they are proposing would mean 30 children would have to find alternative provision this September. Do they want to contact those parents, to tell them to search desperately, at the last minute, for alternative provision?

For some context, it is a double sided A4 leaflet, solely about Dovedale School and its proposed expansion. Now I’m not responding in a political capacity here on behalf of my party, but the way in which this leaflet communicates on the issue of expansion is awful.

I’ll quickly make a statement of first principles. I believe that children should be entitled to a good education, in their local school. I don’t support the Academy or Free School model as the way forward. I think the current problems in Sweden illustrate the dangers in a society that fragments its education system.

In Liverpool we are facing the loss of green space at various points around the city. The idea that we don’t renovate and renew our existing schools, on their existing sites, is likely to mean the loss of further green space. The Liberal Democrats are arguing to prevent the school expanding and arguing against building on green spaces. This is a little like having your cake and eating it.

Liverpool needs new school places. In 2013/14, the furthest any pupil in the new intake of 90 would have to walk to school would be 0.342km. The demand for school places is right here, in our part of the city, and to me the answer is to expand an existing good local authority school (and I’m not just talking about the narrow OFSTED snapshot) to provide those places.

It is obvious that there will be challenges in any renovation and expansion, but let’s break down the Liberal Democrat claims, and let’s do that in the knowledge that 120 new pupils are due to start in September. So the Liberal Democrat position demands that 30 of these pupils are now told to go and look for a new school? How would those 30 be selected? What do you think the reaction of parents would be to that decision? On this point alone, the Liberal Democrat position is untenable, but the leaflet needs to be deconstructed.

The leaflet begins with the massive “33%” expansion in the school. Over a six year period that will happen but the annual growth in the school will be by 6%. This makes the “problems” they subsequently identify far less daunting.

The suggestion is that traffic and parking is already a nightmare, and it will be even worse. That isn’t my experience as a parent. The majority of parents walk their children to school. 44% currently drive. An expansion of 30 pupils each year would mean 13/14 extra car trips, all other things being equal. However, given the short walking distance for the vast majority of pupils, it’s not beyond the wit of local councillors to work with the school and the community to get people out of cars on the way to school. This is entirely possible and achievable. Can the community manage to reduce the 300 or so pupils at Dovedale who are dropped off by car by 15 per year? Yes. At that point you’ve got a benefit for the community, for children and the environment (noting that if Dovedale doesn’t expand, parents would probably be travelling further to alternative schools with more likelihood of using a car).

The leaflet makes the claim “most parents and residents”. Now Richard Kemp retained his seat in 2015 and did incredibly well to do so, but it was not a referendum on Dovedale expansion. The leaflet claims to speak for the majority of parents. According to the Liberal Democrats, residents and parents collected 388 signatures opposing the plans. The Change.org petition shows 342 signatures. Neither figure would constitute a “majority” of either parents or residents.

Now I certainly think that there was a lot of uncertainty and opposition before the plans were put on display, but since that has happened, we’ve spoken with other parents who previously opposed the expansion, but who are now no longer concerned about it. I think there may be lessons to be learned about the process and timings of proposed changes and how that is communicated in future instances of school expansion, but the major concerns about the building required have been cleverly addressed.

The one issue that may concern parents is less playground space. There will be some impact due to the increase in the space of the main buildings. This will largely, but not entirely, mitigated for by the removal of the temporary classrooms currently occupying part of the grounds. Most important will be about how the school structures its lunch periods. If lunches are staggered as the expanded cohorts rise up the school, there is no reason for the number of children sharing the playground space to rise.

The Liberal Democrat leaflet suggests a kind of “Dovedale School – Apocalypse Now” scenario, but the truth is that this is about providing an education for all the children of our city in the best way possible. It is base level political campaigning and it won’t be forgotten. Parents value their school and the increased resources that expansion will bring, at a time when school budgets are under pressure like never before, will in my opinion bring benefits to all the children studying at the school over the next few years. I’m proud to send my children there and reject the tone and much of the content of a very, very poor political leaflet.