7 Jun 2017

A Rough Guide to the 2017 General Election

The Boys Are Back in Town

Political commentary in the run up to a general election tends to focus on the polls, candidates and policies. With polls opening imminently I thought it would be useful to take a step back and look at what will actually happen tomorrow – not the outcomes, but the rules, conventions and traditions and what we should we be looking out for.

Media outlets will stop reporting on election campaigns tonight, at 12.30am, until 10pm tomorrow evening when polls close. This is not to say that you won’t see pictures of candidates attending polling stations – you will, but that should be the extent of it.

Polls open at 7am when we, the public, can attend polling stations across the country to vote for a candidate to be our representative in Parliament – or if no candidate is worthy of our vote, to spoil our ballot.

Campaigners will be out throughout the day attempting to mobilise voters in seats across the country. Election turnout could be key – with older voters more likely to vote Conservative and more likely to turn up, and younger voters more likely to vote Labour but less likely to turn up. In the 2015 general election voter turnout was 66.1%, up from 65.1% in 2010. However, in 2010 just 43% of 18 – 24 year olds voted compared with 77% of 55-64 year olds and 78% of over 65s.

The first key moment will be at 10pm when the exit poll is released. The exit poll is a survey of 200,000 people across 100 carefully selected constituencies as they leave polling stations. In comparison with the pre-election polls, the exit poll tends to be very accurate. The results of the past four general elections were all correctly predicted by the exit polls - in 2010 it was pretty much spot on and in 2015 it understated the Tory majority – but still predicted one.  

The first result is expected at around 10.45, when Sunderland’s habitual race to announce the first result commences – Houghton & Sunderland South currently holds the prestigious honour. All the news outlets will be reporting as the results come in. The BBC election coverage will be fronted by David Dimbleby. This will be his tenth and last coverage of a general election. The BBC’s coverage may well be overshadowed by ITV, who have secured ex-chancellor come newspaper editor George Osborne and ex-shadow chancellor come dancer Ed Balls, for their coverage of the election results.

By the early hours of Friday morning we should know the make-up of Parliament – though not necessarily Government. Where one party commands a majority in Parliament Cabinet appointments will take place in the days to follow.

As it stands there are 650 parliamentary seats, corresponding to the 650 constituencies and the country will elect 650 MPs - one for each. The Conservatives need to return 326 MPs for Teresa May to retain a majority in Parliament – at the last election the country elected 331 Conservative MPs.

The election result is expected to show a return to the polarised, two-party, politics of the past – a result of the collapse of UKIP and the overestimated return of the Liberal Democrats. Having said this, the SNP in Scotland are expected to win a substantial number of seats – around 50, and it is worth noting that 18 of the 650 constituencies are in Northern Ireland, where the battle will be between the DUP, SDLP, the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein, who famously do not take up their seats in Parliament.

The first-past-the-post electoral system, where the candidate with the most votes in each constituency is elected to Parliament, means that the party with the most number of votes will not necessarily be the largest party in the Parliament. Indeed, it is likely that the difference in actual votes received by the two major parties will not be as stark as the difference in the number of seats won by the two major parties. However, having vowed to stick to facts, and not speculation, I will end here, with just one request - that you take part.

Election Section

Of the many reasons why people choose not to vote, the argument that there is no difference between the two major parties does not really float this time around. However, if you are still undecided, there are a number of websites that can help.

Useful sites:

18 Nov 2014

Breaking News: Myleene Klass, worth £11m criticises Ed Miliband’s proposals for a Mansion Tax on the grounds that it will disproportionately impact Grannies living in £2m London Garages.

She then asks if he is going to tax her water too.

Water and mansions are after all comparable essential items.

(Of course it would be rather unfair - and unlabour-esque to tax her twice for the same water)

A Just Giving page set up to support Myleene pay her Mansion Tax has been taken down with Just Giving tweeting:

"Sorry Myleene! you can only fundraise for registered causes on JG. We work with some ace housing charities though... https://home.justgiving.com/?utm_source=jgtwitter&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=housingcharities"

Meanwhile Ed Miliband has responded by tweeting:

"Here’s why our NHS needs a mansion tax. It’s Pure and Simple. http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/six-things-you-need-to-know-about-labours-mansion-tax"

Good one Ed.

Next week Gary Barlow will be challenging Ed's proposals to clamp down on Tax Evasion.

In other news, 30 000 people are forced from their homes by the Bedroom Tax.

14 Nov 2014

"You can't trust the Tories with the economy" - David Cameron

“You can’t trust Labour with the economy”

Out of the many lies that David Cameron feeds us this one frustrates me most.

First to state that Labour are to blame for driving the UK into recession during a global financial crash is no less than ridiculous.

Further, if David Cameron wants to point the finger it should undoubtedly be the banks. It was the CEOs of our major banks who came crawling to Alastair Darling and Gordon Brown when the United Kingdom was within 24 hours of Depression. The banks were the ones who spent money they didn’t have and, ironically, it is the bankers receiving bonuses under this government.

Even more hypocritical is the fact that the Tories from 1997 to 2008 promised to match labour’s plans for public spending. Only in 2008, when we were in the middle of a financial crisis, did the Tories state that they would cut public spending. How can the Tories claim that Labour spent too much when they had pledged to match Labour’s spending? Absurd.

Over the next 6 months you will undoubtedly hear “you can’t trust Labour with the economy” because “Labour spent too much” and therefore “Labour are to blame for the recession” meaning “Labour broke the economy”. But under this logic the Conservatives cannot be trusted with the economy because the Conservatives told Labour to spend too much and therefore the Conservatives are to blame for the recession meaning the Conservatives broke the economy.

The only thing we can conclude when Cameron says “you can’t trust Labour with the economy” is we can’t trust a single word David Cameron says.

12 Jul 2014

A 2nd Class Price for a 1st Class Business

Yesterday morning the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills gave its preliminary report on the Royal Mail IPO. The report found that the under-pricing of Royal Mail led to the taxpayer losing out on £1 billion – that’s enough money to build the Olympic Park again, and again!

The finding that the under-pricing of the sale meant the taxpayer lost out on a mind-boggling amount of money is not shocking – our reaction to the report would have been the same whether it was one Olympic Park or two. But, what is shocking is that every time the IPO is investigated the story gets uglier. In April the report was that the IPO had been 750 000 under-priced. Somehow that figure, based on the same time period and information, has gone up by half an Olympic Stadium in less than three months. How much more squirming is there to come?

Now one of the other things I find frustrating about this story is the role of the banks. Banks, by definition, are inanimate money making machines. Further, I highly doubt that as an analyst at Goldman or UBS sits at his desk in the morning he is thinking ‘how will I help the taxpayer today’ – more likely ‘I wonder how my offshore bank account is doing today’. Reports that the likes of Goldman and UBS are partially responsible for making rich people richer and taking from the taxpayer is hardly breaking news.

What is shocking about the report’s findings and the role of the banks is that the finger is being pointed at them for the taxpayer’s £1 billion loss. Obviously they provided their expert opinions on the share price of Royal Mail but the decision did not belong to the banks. It was a government decision. Is the person employed to run our economy unable to come to his own conclusions? The last thing we need is to give more power to the banks.

The Royal Mail fiasco is a shameful example of the country being run as a business, with success measured by (quick) profit rather than by the quality of life of the people. A few made millions from the sale, namely, the Chancellor’s Best Man, the hedge-fund owner dubbed the ‘Locust’, who owns 5% of the shares, and business owners in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Singapore. As for Royal Mail it too is able to increase profits – again not good news for the taxpaying Postman who is deemed unnecessary.

I give you Capitalism in all its splendour.

For now I’ll leave you to breathe a sigh of relief over the government’s decision to abandon its plan to privatise the Land Registry. Phew.

12 May 2014

Policing Politics

Blogger Michael Abberton has been visited in his Cambridge home by two police officers. The officers asked him to take down tweets he posted in his attempt to expose UKIP policies. They then informed him that he had not broken any law before advising him not to tweet about his visit. Bizarre.

Not only does this little encounter show a willingness of the police force to get involved in party-political matters, it also shows the extent to which the police are prepared to go. Namely, observing social media, tracking down individuals and visiting them in their homes on a Saturday afternoon. Note in Michael Abberton’s case no law had been broken and no offensive remarks had been made. This doesn’t bode well for a theoretically independent police force. Nor does it help Farage distance himself from the fascist image he so utterly contests.

5 May 2014

There is no such thing as bad publicity…

In the run up to the MEP elections the nation has gone UKIP-mad. The UK Independence Party, or perhaps more appropriately, the Nigel Farage party, are the headlining act on social media, television, and in the papers. Be it racist comments, attacks on the Islamic faith or claiming there to be no such thing as rape in marriage UKIP have exhibited their superb capacity to cause a rampant stir.

Yet we are witnessing UKIP approval ratings rising with the party looking set to win an impressive majority in the European elections. Indeed it seems the more upset they cause, the deeper we fall into our UKIP fixation. How is the bigoted, racist and homophobic voice of British politics also the political voice most harmonious with the British public?

UKIP have engaged the nation, and not just any nation, a nation sick and tired of the monotonous squabbling of our disengaged politicians. Cameron, Miliband and the gang seem unfamiliar to the concept of providing an answer to a question. They feed us with false promises and are caught up in the blame-game. Farage looks like the most level-headed of the lot. When a UKIP member steps out of line, Farage condemns them. If we contrast this to Cameron’s dillydallying last month UKIP’s transparency is simply mind-boggling.

So Farage claims to offer an alternative. And although his expenses claims tell us otherwise, we buy it. Having never had any power Farage has a get out of jail free card when it comes to the blame-game. He has never broken his word. So, setting his mistresses and tax returns to one side, we have no reason to doubt his sincerity. We know that UKIP’s stance on Europe is anti-establishment. As for the rest of UKIP policy, well, what policy?

For many, the European elections do not matter. Farage has made things interesting. If we can thank him for anything, it is making the uninterested interested and the assured, well, slightly less assured. Essentially, the European elections give the public an opportunity to vote against the alien species that is today’s politician on a stage that many deem pointless.

But whilst we know what we are not voting for (Cameron, Miliband and their merry men), what are we voting for? A party that attracts racists, homophobes and sexists. A party who show up to the European Parliament once in a blue moon, only to vote against any progress or discussion. A party who’s leader boasts of his £2 million expenses claims.

My guess is this is not the revolution Russell Brand envisaged in his infamous encounter with Paxman. Maybe in this instance we’d be better to stick with the Sex Pistols or Banksy.

Credit goes to Farage for his opportunist mind-set. UKIP will be successful in a few weeks time. And as for the future of the Faragists, we’ll stay tuned. One thing is for certain, whether we rejoice in UKIP approval or UKIP make our blood curdle, we are hooked.