Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Who is the Conservative candidate for London Mayor?

March 16, 2016

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A flyer I was sent from 'CCHQ'

A flyer I was sent from ‘CCHQ’

Tory flyers for London Mayor campaign leave me in the dark as to who their candidate is–though one could make a pretty good guess as to sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation  school attended.  Especially the school.

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Warwick University Ltd, 45 years on…

February 1, 2015

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On a recent visit to Warwick University, I was told that it was now beholden to large employers in financial services and the students came from independent schools. And indeed, on the bus to Leamington Spa they were talking of Credit Suisse in reverential terms.

All of that reminded me of Warwick University Ltd by E P Thompson, which I pictured as condemning the domination of the university by the local motor industry.  A 2014 reissue has allowed me to check my impressions against the original, and it turns out I was broadly right.  Of course, nowadays something that provided large-scale employment for locals and non-graduates would be hailed as miraculous.  Thompson never really manages to overcome his patrician disdain for the process of making a living, which he manages to calumniate under the name of profiteering, while his doubts about the academic content of Business Studies would also apply to Medicine and Law for example.

It was interesting to see that the name ‘Warwick’ was chosen to extract funding from Warwickshire County Council and in those far-off days students who received a grant also felt that the world should be organised according to their wishes.

So in the end capitalism triumphed in spite of a couple of sit-ins at Warwick and the world where you had to be white, male, and a smoker disappeared too.

Massive Green Party Breakthrough In Prospect

August 9, 2014

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A Green Party activist writes as follows before setting off for a month’s continental holiday:

The Indy has an article today that bigs up the Green Party: it says the latest poll (actually a poll of polls so should be, very marginally, more accurate than just one?) shows an increase in the Green vote from – wait for it – 5 per cent to 6 per cent. I’m not getting excited yet because I imagine the confidence interval on the two figures would dwarf any supposed increase, but do you have any idea what the confidence intervals on these figures are likely to be? A friend here, who knows I’m likely to be standing for the Greens in Putney in the elections for the Westminster Laughing House in May 2015, sent me the link in some excitement, but I fear it’s utter bollocks. Any thoughts? My feeling is that any supposed “increase” is completely illusory, but it would be good to have a more informed view.  The article can be found here.

Of course the article fails to say anything about the polls or how many of them there are or how they are combined.

Opinion polls tend to have a sample size of about 1000. We want to know whether an apparent increase in Green support from 5% to 6% is significant. So we ask what the probability of getting at least 60 people in a sample of 1000 declaring Green support is if the underlying propensity to vote Green is really 0.05. From the properties of the binomial distribution (see here  for instance) this comes out at 0.087, or about 9%. So there might be a real effect, if you accept a 10% significance level and if the sampling in the poll is unbiased–I imagine it’s less reliable for Green supporters than for the larger parties.

You could argue that it’s a poll of polls, so presumably the effective sample size is bigger, and the significance somewhat better than 9%.  For instance, if the effect was equal to a new poll with a sample size five times the original survey, then you would repeat the calculation above for at least 300 people in a sample 5000 declaring Green support.

But the article gives no useful information at all!  Poor show all round…

 

Pro-Russian party founded in England!

May 17, 2014

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This advert from the edition of Pulse dated 15 May announces the creation of a party called ‘For Russia’ so as to champion and defend the rights and freedoms of Russian and Russian-speaking people living in Great Britain.  The party is founded on outspoken support for the policy of the Russian Federation and President Putin.  The website looks just like Edinaya Rossiya, especially the bear.

Well, if this is aimed at Russian citizens, they can hardly put forward candidates for election in this country, so perhaps they intend underground conspiracy leading to armed insurrection.  And if it’s for UK citizens, then you wonder where the Treason Act is when you need it–or that nice Mr Farage…

Best not to take this kind of nonsense too seriously!

Polling Day 2010

May 6, 2010

Massive security, and blue netting to show you the way

And this is what I came up with:

Lewisham Deptford

Labour–what this area needs is public spending, and lots of it, added to which Joan Ruddock is by a very long way the most competent of the candidatesPrediction: Labour.

Lewisham Mayor (Alternative Vote)

1.  Green  2.  Lib Dem.  Lewisham Council clearly needs a change.  Prediction: Lib Dem (likely to get in on the second preferences).

Crofton Park Ward

3x Green.  Green councillors have done a good job in neighbouring wards, and there hasn’t been much sign of action from our Labour incumbents.  Prediction: 3x Labour, possibly 3 x Green.

Overall Predictions

A Conservative Government with an overall majority in single figures.  You tend to get the most Tory-friendly outcome that is consistent with the polling evidence or, which is the same thing, the British electorate (those who actually vote) is basically conservative and will vote Conservative if it possibly can.

And given the amount of stuff they’ve put through my door, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lib Dems in court for exceeding their spending limit.

I still think the best point made in the local campaign is the following from Gemma Townsend (Conservative) on Brockley Central:

4. What will your top priority for Lewisham Deptford be and what are you going to do about it?

Education. I want parents to stay in Lewisham as their family grows and not feel that moving is the only option for decent secondary education.

Although it doesn’t affect me, that’s certainly something I’ve wondered about over the 13 years I’ve lived here.

Lewisham Deptford Hustings, Utrophia, 17 April

April 17, 2010

In general

So we ended up with the hall at Utrophia being about as full as it could comfortably be–maybe 100 or so out of an electorate of about 60,000.

All of the candidates seemed perfectly reasonable–and indeed serious people of good will–when you saw them in person.  I was impressed by Joan Ruddock (Labour) as a  master of the English language (not so evident from her campaign literature), and to me the main dynamic of the evening was Gemma Townsend (Conservative) delegating to her the task of explaining that the world is not as the Impossibilist Parties would wish.

In spite of some fairly strenuous efforts, I don’t think anyone managed to land anything on JR, while GT was left in a sticky spot when a questioner suggested David Cameron should disown the racist anti-immigration diatribes of his media partner the Sun.

There are a couple of nice photographs on Deptford calling here.  As she rightly says, neither the audience nor the candidates were exactly representative of the people you would see on the streets outside.  By far the largest contingent (including most of the candidates) were superannuated white lefties, followed by a much smaller group of well-turned-out young (white) women, represented on the platform by Gemma Townsend.

I think the best chance for some community engagement  might be if the local churches organised an event, like the General Election Forum in Lewisham West (to be held at 7.30 pm on Thursday 29 April at Living Springs International Church, Zoe House, 8-10 Devonshire Road, London SE23 3TJ).

And now there’s a further report from Crosswhatfields here.

I wasn’t as bored as either of these commentators–I found the fact that none of the candidates had a good word to say about Lewisham Council (remembering that JR represents the party that runs it, and Darren Johnson and Ian Page serve on it) rather interesting.  I think there was some desire to see Joan Ruddock given a detailed grilling, with an incidental kicking to Gemma Townsend for being a Tory, but that’s not really possible in a 5-person hustings, even if the questioners were to ask focused questions and not try to make speeches.

On the basis of competence then, from the evidence of these hustings I would certainly want Joan Ruddock to represent me in Parliament, and someone other than Labour to run Lewisham Council.

The following is what I have the candidates recorded as saying.

Opening statements

JR started by saying that the Government had been transforming the economy until hit by the world recession.  It was vital to continue the recovery, and also to maintain policing to tackle crime–a local priority.  She was happy to stand on the Government’s record and future promises.  She also asked how many of those present had yet to decide which way to vote and was presently surprised to see about half raising their hands.

GT said the priority was to get the economy moving and cut the deficit.  This meant getting people employed by cutting NI and CT.  A Conservative Government would be family-focused, and would ensure that the NHS worked for patients.

Ian Page (Trade Union & Socialist) said it was the fault of the bankers, but now the parties were contending to see who would cut public spending the most.

Darren Johnson (Green Party) said he was glad to see so many people at the hustings, this showed it was no longer a safe Labour seat.  There needed to be an urgent programme to tackle climate change and create a million new jobs, rather than wasting money on Trident.

Tamora Langley (Lib Dem) said that the Lib Dems supported Power 2010 and No2ID.  There needed to be political reform to restore trust in Government.  Labour had become complacent after 40 years in charge of Lewisham.

Questions

In response to a portmanteau question on Youth Offending Teams and youth homelessness:

IP said that homelessness was due to underfunding of social housing and the Probation Service had been destroyed by cuts and marketisation.  GT said that in spite of being qualified and experienced, she had received no response when she volunteered to work with the local YOT.  Homelessness was key in the Conservative manifesto and would have its own ministerial position.  A Conservative Government would incentivise the building of social housing.  JR said that the Tories had forbidden the building of social housing for 18 years, while Labour had funded HAs.  Lewisham had chosen not to build even though funds were available.  She agreed the YO suite could be better.  The Govt had inherited a huge problem of homelessness, but provision had been made.  TL said the Government had clawed back housing money from Lewisham Council because of poor performance.  On youth offending, she felt it was important to provide appropriate support and keep them out of the CJS.  DJ said that there was less social housing than 10 years ago, due to right-to-buy.  RTB was a bad thing.  Youth offending services needed reform, and also, in general, the more unequal a society was the more crime and ill-health there would be.

In response to a question (clearly springing from the expenses scandal) about how the candidates could show that they would represent the community rather than furthering their own interests:

TL spoke in favour of electoral reform, and being able to sack your MP.  MPs should not make money out of the system.  DJ said his expenses as councillor and London Assembly member were transparent and modest.  This scandal should be the catalyst for getting rid of an unrepresentative first-past-the-post Parliament and for getting an elected second chamber as well.  GT said she lived in the area and had stood for the Council.  You needed to be able to sack your MP, and a constituency-based system was necessary for accountability.  There should be transparency about what exactly public money was spent on.  JR said nobody in Parliament should have a second job.  None of her expenses had been questioned, and she and other innocent MPs had been severely disheartened by the revelations.   You couldn’t have only rich people being MPs.  The Government had put an impartial system in place.  Labour was the only party in Parliament that came near to representing the population in terms of gender and ethnicity.  IP felt that MPs should live on an ordinary working wage, so they knew how their decisions affected ordinary people.

In response to a question on immigration:

GT said it was important not to shy away from discussion.  We should allow immigration in cases of urgent need, and where highly-skilled immigrants could contribute to our economy.  David Cameron was right to say there should be a cap, and immigrants must integrate by for example learning English.  She had backed the London Assembly proposal for an amnesty, and felt it was necessary to speed up the asylum process.  IP was in favour of workers moving freely across boundaries, supported by a levelling-up of wages and conditions.  Some of Margaret Hodge’s statements in Barking had been helpful to the BNP.  TL felt that immigration was an important subject–she often met electors who were concerned at for instance council houses going to immigrants, while there was a lack of political will to tackle the subject and ‘asylum seeker’ was used as a term of abuse.  Illegal immigrants should be given the chance to earn citizenship; children should no longer be held in detention centres; there should be a cap on new immigrants.  DJ had supported an amnesty in the London Assembly and felt we couldn’t deport people to places where they were going to be killed.  People weren’t coming here because they wanted to be on the Lewisham housing list [laughter], and migration was often caused by environmental degradation consequent upon climate change.  JR said she had seen thousands and thousands of  ‘illegals’ in her surgeries and there had in effect been two amnesties in the past decade.  There were vast numbers of them in Lewisham.  Britain was one of the best countries in the world for people coming in under duress.  The Government’s policy was to introduce a points system because we couldn’t let everyone come here who wanted to.

There was some discussion here, which resulted in agreement that the word ‘illegals’ shouldn’t be used to refer to human beings, and the Sun’s contribution to the debate was entirely unhelpful.

There was also a  supplementary question about the new tiered system for student visas being inherently racist and representing a double whammy when combined with HE cuts.  JR replied that unfortunately there was widespread abuse of the student visa system in some countries (for instance, Pakistan) and the system needed to be cleaned up.

In response to a question that came down to what to do about peak oil :

DJ agreed it was a good question, and said we needed to invest in a greener way forward.  JR said that the aviation industry could not be dealt with by one country alone, and Britain led the world in dealing with it.  It was senseless to burn oil when it would always be needed for chemical purposes.  Britain was a leader in reducing emissions–down by 21% as against a 1979 baseline.  TL agreed with DJ and disagreed with JR.  The Government had not backed a Lib Dem bill on fuel poverty and there should be a tax per plane not per passenger.  There was no investment in AT.  Nuclear was not the answer to carbon emissions.  IP said that their pamphlet explained how the problem would be tackled by creating one million sustainable jobs; a socialist planned economy was needed.  The closure of the Vesta plant demonstrated the failure of capitalism.  GT quoted David Cameron:  ‘Vote blue, go green’–DJ felt the middle two words were unnecessary–the  Conservatives had put green policies at the head of their priorities: limiting power station emissions; cutting emissions from the Government sector; encouraging people to take action themselves via a ‘Green Deal’; recycling.

And, after an hour-and-a-half of action, this is where proceedings came to an end, following brief presentations from Power 2010 and No2ID.

Disclosure

30 years ago the author was a member of the Labour Party in the then Cleveland and Whitby constituency (where our candidate was Ben Pimlott, who later became Warden of Goldsmiths College).  Goldsmiths appear as a sponsor of  Vote Match, which tells me my best match is the Green Party (Green 70%, Lib Dem 60%, Labour 56%).

Comment

As of 2123 on 19 April, Electoral Calculus gives Labour a 92.3% chance of winning Lewisham Deptford (and MIN 0.0%), which doesn’t quite agree with Darren Johnson’s views above.

Green Party Campaign Office/Shop 252 Brockley Road

April 12, 2010

I was surprised to come across this place–apart from anything else, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Green Party office in this country before (Germany certainly, perhaps other places as well).

And they’re selling books as well–general, secondhand, not special Green ones–there hasn’t been anything resembling a bookshop (even a Catholic one) in Brockley for some time now.

After this, I did spend some time on my Sunday walk wondering whether Lewisham Deptford was the kind of place where a Left Opposition (to Labour) might succeed, if the Greens and Lib Dems were able to combine their forces somehow.  But I think that what the rank-and-file voter here wants from politicians is a job, somewhere to live, a place for the children in a decent school–the kind of thing a machine can provide, not the dreams of the overeducated and underoccupied.  So they’ve got about as much chance as Trotsky did, though I don’t think they need worry too much about ice-picks.

In fact machine must be the best translation for administrativny resurs in Russian, since it’s the nearest–though far from exact–equivalent that English-language political practice can offer.

Anyway, there’s an ‘official’ posting about this place here.