GE2017 First Reactions

GE2017Ok, so my first reaction was raucous laughter but that’s not actually helpful. I was honestly expecting to wake up to a Conservative landslide so you can forgive me for indulging in a good chuckle. Here’s a quick first assessment of the things we now know about this election:

  • Theresa May called this vanity election purely for her own selfish gains and has wasted our time and money and actually destabilised this country’s position in Brexit negotiations. Her own supporters should be fuming.
  • Never take the public for granted. The 20-point lead the Conservatives enjoyed in the polls has been squandered to a lead of just 2 points since the election was called. You cannot run a campaign based entirely on unfounded smears and expect the public to back you, we’re fed up with it.
  • This election was all about May vs. Corbyn and the minority parties (Greens & UKIP) have been crushed as a result. The Greens deserved to make gains, at least in Bristol West, where they threw the kitchen sink at it. But many green-leaning people (myself included) wanted to throw their weight behind Labour to stop a Tory landslide. We’ll survive, UKIP won’t.
  • The SNP were always going to get fewer seats than last time (56/59 is unsustainable) but they took a massive unexpected blow in this election losing 21 seats. However, 35 out of 59 is still a landslide by most standards and in many of the seats snatched by the Tories the combined left-wing vote would have defeated them. The Conservatives can absolutely not take Scotland for granted.
  • The polls have been all over the place in this election, but Survation called it with three separate polls predicting a ~1 point lead in the last week. Well done you guys. If we can ever trust polls again, the pollsters are going to have to start reading the mood of the nation properly instead of lumping people into lazy, ill-defined groups.
  • Labour absolutely must back proportional representation. They got 40% of the vote, and 40% of the seats, which is quite amazing for FPTP voting. However the Conservatives, have 48% of the seats on 42% of the vote. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the likely outcome is now a CON-DUP coalition, which would have been numerically impossible if the seats were fairly distributed.

    At the time of writing the total seats are as follows:
    CON 315, LAB 261, SNP 35, LD 12, DUP 10, SF 7, PC 4, GRN 1

    when under Party-list PR or AMS the results could be:
    CON 276 (-39), LAB 261 (-), SNP 20 (-15), LD 47 (+35), DUP 6 (-4), SF 5 (-2), PC 3 (-1), GRN 10 (+9), UKIP 12 (+12), SDLP 2 (+2), UUP 2 (+2), OTH 6 (+6).

    It doesn’t take a maths whiz to figure out that under PR we’d be seeing either a minority-right wing or minority-left wing government with confidence and supply from the Liberal Democrats.

    To anyone who hates the idea of disorder that may sound like a nightmare, but it’s better for democracy if parties have to reach a compromise to push their agenda through parliament. One of the reasons we British are so fed up with politics is that we have yo-yo governments who lurch from left to right forcing a hardened agenda on a population that doesn’t fully support it.

  • Even with a possible right-wing, hard Brexit coalition of the Conservatives and the DUP, Theresa May is now extremely unlikely to be able to force through her most unpopular and damaging policies. Unless there is an election re-run, you can hopefully kiss goodbye to a free vote on the return of fox hunting, draconian internet regulation and repeal of our fundamental human rights.
  • In Kingswood, our hard work paid off a little but not enough (I was backing Labour rather than the Greens this time around). Sadly Mhairi Threlfall couldn’t take away Chris Skidmore’s seat, but we did boost Labour’s vote share and I’d like to think we helped the Labour surge at a national level.
  • Finally, I know Labour hasn’t exactly won this election, but it feels like a victory for the left after two years of non-stop smears from the press. Some of the coverage of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn has bordered on incitement to hatred and I take great pleasure in seeing the stranglehold of the tabloids slowly weakening. Also, huge belly-laughs to all those right-wing blowhards swaggering about saying “Labour and the left are finished forever”. Mate, we’ve only just started.

Full results / election coverage on the BBC.

It’s time for change, vote for a compassionate UK

Five PartiesGoing into this snap election we have seven years of proof that Conservative Party policy has made Britain a worse place to live. We have all the facts and all the figures we need to know that spending cuts aren’t working. We need to invest in Britain.

Since 2010, homelessness is up, child poverty is up, foodbank use has gone through the roof. Disabled people, young people, poor people have all been hit hard by massive cuts to their benefits. Real-terms wages in the UK are lagging behind most other developed economies. Front-line police numbers have been cut by around 20,000 – so have armed forces personnel. The NHS is in crisis and fire departments are struggling. Libraries, youth clubs and sure start centers are having to close down because councils can’t afford to keep them open. All this and the national debt is twice as high as it was seven years ago, standing at £1.8 trillion.

By almost any standard you might choose to measure the success of a country, we are failing. Britain is a proud, tolerant and compassionate country. We help those who are down on their luck and we expect them to help us back. We’re facing a choice on June 8th between a Conservative government who have failed, on their own terms, to pay down this country’s debt without harming the British people, and a Labour party who, although they may be unpopular, are committed to delivering a fairer society for everyone.

Don’t get drawn into the politics of personality on June 8th, vote for a fair and compassionate United Kingdom. It’s time for change.

Don’t slide to the right, cha cha real smooth

Warning: article has nothing to do with novelty hip-hop from the late 90s.

The number of think-pieces floating around saying that Labour (and other liberal or left-leaning parties) should get tough on immigration is getting a bit silly. They all seem to be missing something important.

Despite their intricate policy differences, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP all share a common attachment to liberal values. They don’t see immigration as the main threat to British society, which it isn’t, and they don’t want to abandon their principles in pursuit of socially conservative voters, which is commendable.

The latest polls suggest that these 5 parties combined are sitting on about 45% of the popular vote. Now I’m not daft, I know that’s not a “winning” score, but it’s a massive chunk of the population who clearly have liberal values. To abandon this solid voter-base in the hopes of scooping up a few floating voters would show incredible strategic ineptitude.

Trying to out-UKIP UKIP or out-Tory the Tories is never going to work. Why would significant numbers of UKIP and Tory voters defect to UKIP-lite or Tory-lite when they can have the real deal? And, in the process, you stand to lose liberal voters for whom anti-immigration rhetoric is a red-line issue.

There is a decent chunk of the population who have no fixed ideology and can be persuaded to vote for pretty much any party as long as they are offered genuine solutions to their problems. There is still a massive chunk of the population who do not vote at all. If there is a path to electoral victory, to turning 45% in the opinion polls into more than 50% in a general election, it surely lies with the non-voters and the great undecided. We need to find messages, and maybe even activities, that engage and inspire those voters – and keep our principles in tact at the same time.

So please, if you’re a journalist with an article in your drafts titled “the left must get tough on immigration”, have a good think about the consequences and maybe just move it quietly to the recycle bin.

Time for Kingswood to speak up for foxes

For a long time now I’ve been trying to discover the position of Kingswood MP, Chris Skidmore, on fox hunting. Several pro- and anti-hunt websites identify him on their list of pro-hunt MPs but I did not have much luck finding a concrete position until now. Finally, Chris has confirmed that if there is a free vote in Parliament on the Hunting Act he will vote to repeal it and, by extension, bring back fox hunting.

This position is extremely disappointing, although not entirely surprising, and flies in the face of public opinion on the issue. The Attitudes to Hunting 2016 poll released by Ipsos Mori revealed that 84% of the public support a ban on fox hunting. This attitude has been consistent since the Hunting Act was introduced and in fact support for the ban seems to be ever increasing. Research by YouGov in 2015 found that every single region in the UK, including the Avon and Somerset area, supports the ban.

Mr. Skidmore’s response to my question appears below:

Chris Skidmore Part 1 Chris Skidmore Part 2

Chris attempts several times throughout the response to frame his views as more compassionate, more scientific, and more popular than they really are. Anyone who has witnessed a fox hunt or a legal “trail” hunt understands that this practice has nothing whatsoever to do with compassionate wildlife management. It is, after all, still legal to manage foxes using other methods. I don’t personally approve of killing foxes at all, I am more in favour of tighter security measures at farms to prevent contact with livestock in the first place, but nonetheless it is clear that farmers are perfectly able to protect their land from foxes in other ways.

Chris also cites a variety of complexities and contradictions in the act which make it hard to properly understand and enforce. He blames this on “political wrangling”, which is code for “lobbying by hunting groups”. To claim that the act is not fit for purpose, while simultaneously siding with those who are to blame for weakening the act in the first place, strikes me as a desperate hand-wringing exercise to justify his own position. I agree that the act is not entirely fit for purpose, but it should be strengthened and made clearer, not thrown out entirely.

Hunting mammals with dogs is not a necessary component of effective wildlife management or farm maintenance, but rather an outdated and barbaric sport only enjoyed by a “privileged” few. I urge Chris to rethink his position on fox hunting and side with the vast majority of compassionate voters in Kingswood and the UK in general who want the Hunting Act to remain in place. If you agree, please write to Chris using WriteToThem or contact him on Facebook and Twitter. Please remember to be polite and considerate in your correspondence with your MP. It devalues our cause to behave in a way that could be considered rude or threatening.