Archive for August, 2016


A tribute to Sir Antony Jay

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Earlier on this week Sir Antony Jay, co-creator and writer of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister died. For my mind, both shows remain timeless, there’s the above clip about how leading questions can influence polling results, though the scene above was in the days before the BPC.

The scene below is probably even more relevant in these post EU referendum days. But there many other clips I could have used to show the genius of this show.



Going to war with Sir Richard Branson might not necessarily develop to Corbyn’s advantage

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Corbyn needs better strategists advising him, the current bunch aren’t very good on current evidence.

The Sunday Mirror have an article up by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.

Labour is calling for Richard Branson to be stripped of his knighthood following his bid to humiliate Jeremy Corbyn over Traingate.

Writing exclusively in the Sunday Mirror, Shadow Chancellor John ­McDonnell slams the Virgin billionaire as a “tax exile who thinks he can try and intervene and ­undermine our democracy”.

He brands fatcats who avoid paying full UK tax as “freeloaders” who are shirking their “public duty” – also singling out shamed rag trade tycoon Sir Philip Green .

And calling for a radical overhaul of the honours system, he adds: “Run off to tax exile if you want. But you leave your titles and your honours behind when you go.”

All this does is bring back the issue of Traingate after it had ceased to be much of a political issue after the initial heat and light, Labour seem to be ignoring the poll that showed more people believed Virgin Trains/Richard Branson’s story than believed Corbyn.  It appears vindictive from Corbyn, the Labour MP Jamie Reed called Corbyn’s approach ‘Nixonian’ which is how I think the public will see it.

As brilliant ideas go, this may well rival the Empire of Japan’s decision to keep the United States of America out of World War Two by attacking the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. Back in January, YouGov found that Sir Richard Branson was the UK’s fifth most admired man, seven places ahead of Jeremy Corbyn.

This week stories such as the parlous financial position of the NHS and the widening Tory splits over Brexit emerged, Labour should be focusing on those not this, those topics will have more salience with the voters than traingate.

If Corbyn and his team are going after companies and people who embarrass him then train model company Hornby will be next on their list after they tweeted this.




The Purge: Election Year

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Are these signs that Corbyn isn’t confident of winning the leadership election?

Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn said he ‘fear[ed]some of his supporters may have been “unfairly” barred from voting in the party’s leadership election. He has handed a list of names to party officials, saying he wants a “fair and open” contest, with all those eligible to take part able to do so.’

On Thursday John McDonnell ‘accused Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, of directing a “rigged purge” of party members, aimed at weeding out Corbyn voters.’

I am probably reading far too much into these comments but my initial reaction was Team Corbyn aren’t confident of winning, with the last public poll on this contest was over six weeks ago we haven’t got much to go on, but with the ballots having gone out this week, I wonder if this based on early returns.

Then again Labour’s NEC is apparently suspending members for posting their love of the Foo Fighters, suspending members for posting about their love of Justin Bieber or One Direction I could understand, so it might be a case of cock up rather than a conspiracy of a rigged purge.



The curtain lifted a little this week on Labour’s civil war and it’s not pretty

Saturday, August 27th, 2016


Whoever wins in a month, the struggle will go on

Power struggles are the nature of politics. Usually, the public gets to glimpse only a fraction of the battles waged behind closed doors in what were once smoke-filled rooms. Outsiders end up having to engage in their own form of Kremlinology to work out what’s really going on: piecing together patterns in offhand comments, unattributed press briefings and articles, planted Commons questions or unruly (or unusually quiet) supporters.

The proliferation of such evidence in Labour’s current infighting might have suggested that it’s different there this time; that the battles are much more out in the open. Yes and no. There is much more public hostility but we got a glimpse yesterday of how much worse they are behind the scenes.

That Labour’s conference might have been cancelled due to the lack of an adequate security presence is testament to both the organisational chaos within the party and the depth of the schisms between its factions (the two being closely related). Now that OCS have been appointed to deliver the security arrangements, some will no doubt argue that the conference was never seriously in doubt. Don’t believe it. Labour would not have gone to G4S earlier were they not panicking about an essential aspect of the planning, almost as time ran out.

The brinkmanship involved in having pushed the decision so late won’t have come from the senior party staff; they’d have wanted matters sorted months ago. Far more likely is that sorting conference security in a timely manner was just another casualty in Labour’s ongoing and multifaceted civil war.

Winning control of the leadership is hugely important in the factional battle but it’s far from the only one. Gaining an upper hand in the party’s governing NEC is almost as important. Both at the moment are up for grabs.

In contracting OCS, the party’s General Secretary, the embattled Iain McNicol, has again bought himself time but there’s no doubt that he is in the firing line of people like John McDonnell and Len McClusky. A LabourList article yesterday laid bare the extent to which untrusted staff are under attack from Labour’s left. It hinted at much more.

If, as it suggests, McClusky was a prime mover in the decision to boycott G4S but was sanguine about Labour contracting with Showsec (who are in dispute with the GMB), then he must have been well aware that he was setting up a position where either the conference was cancelled altogether or where it was picketed by the GMB and descended into farce as many delegates – and quite probably the leader – refused to cross the picket lines.

That there can even be the suspicion that the biggest union boss might have been willing to sacrifice conference in order to force out McNicol – the piece quotes McClusky as saying blame for the conference planning lies with the General Secretary – is indicative of how deep the divisions run. Corbyn and MacDonnell being unwilling or unable to restrain him is equally telling.

My money would be on the former: Corbyn has no reason to regard McNicol as a friend and the opportunity to install his own man as General Secretary (or the best man that he could get through the NEC) might well be worth almost any price. Another angle to both the conference and the leadership fights is that McNicol is a former GMB officer and the GMB has backed Owen Smith). Corbyn does of course have the small matter of winning his election first but these games are almost independent of that: if he fails there then all is lost; if he wins then best to have the ground prepared.

But it’s only one aspect. Beyond Unite v GMB, and Corbyn’s proxies v McNicol, Labour has any number of other divisions: PLP v leadership, Momentum v mainstream, and Corbynite ‘pure’ left v Owen Smith’s ‘pragmatic’ left to name three (and that’s before thinking about the wider picture of, for example Europhile membership v Eurosceptic voters). It’s true that all parties have divisions but what Labour is going through is well beyond the normal debates about policy and the jockeying for position that’s the daily diet of politics-as-normal.

Labour’s divisions matter for two big reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, it’s rendering them impotent as a party of opposition. It’s almost impossible for Labour to oppose the Conservatives when they’re spending so much time fighting themselves – and when they do take the argument to the Tories, they don’t do so in an organised way.

Secondly, and even more importantly, it means that Labour won’t split. Not yet anyway. With no one group in control, the battle is very much still on and until one group does gain a firm hand on all the party’s machinery, there is no reason for anyone to walk into the wilderness. Each side’s belief that they can prevail is what’s keeping them going; the belief that the other side/s might – and the understanding of how high the stakes are whoever does – is what’s driving the intensity of the fight.

But there also lies real risk. When Labour’s self-inflicted civil war is over – and that won’t be this year whether it’s Corbyn or Smith who’s crowned on September 24 – who knows whether what’s left at the end of it is worth winning.

David Herdson


August Local By-Election Summary and Important Notice

Friday, August 26th, 2016

The Lochs (Non Party Independent defence) on Fife
Result: Labour 1,318 (47% +1%), Scottish National Party 1,079 (39% +20%), Conservative 270 (10% +7%), Communist 86 (3%, no candidate in 2012), Green Party 45 (2%, no candidate in 2012)
Labour GAIN from Non Party Independent on the fourth count with a lead of 239 (8%) on a swing of 9.5% from Lab to SNP

By-Election Summary : August 2016
Labour 10,865 votes (30% -1% on last time) winning 6 seats (unchanged on last time)
Conservatives 10,493 votes (29% unchanged on last time) winning 7 seats (-1 on last time)
Scottish National Party 3,552 votes (10% +5% on last time) winning 1 seat (unchanged on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 3,448 votes (9% -5% on last time) winning 2 seats (unchanged on last time)
Liberal Democrats 3,217 votes (9% +3% on last time) winning 2 seats (+1 on last time)
Independent candidates 2,178 votes (6% +2% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 on last time)
Green Party 819 votes (2% -2% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Other Parties 1,811 votes (5% -2% on last time) winning 2 seats (+1 on last time)

GAINS in August 2015
UKIP GAIN Beaver on Ashford from Labour
Liberal Democrats GAIN Alston Moor on Eden from Conservative
Labour GAIN Silverdale and Parksite on Newcastle under Lyme from UKIP
Labour GAIN Irvine West on North Ayrshire from Scottish National Party
Scottish National Party GAIN Renfrew South and Gallowhill on Renfrewshire from Labour
Conservatives GAIN Gravesham East on Kent from Labour
Conservatives GAIN Catterick from Independents on Richmondshire
Farnham Residents GAIN Farnham, Shortheath and Boundstone and Farnham, Castle on Waverley from Conservative

Next month, is a very important month for the 2020 General Election campaign, as the Boundary Commissions for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England announce their initial proposals for a new 600 seat House where each constituency is precisely the same size based on the electorate of the UK in December 2015. There are of course four exceptions to this rule, Orkney and Shetland (which will remain as a single seat), The Western Isles (which will also remain as a single seat) and the Isle of Wight (which will be split into two and named accordingly), the other 596 seats however are all in flux.

On September 6th, the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland will report on how it believes Northern Ireland’s new 17 constituencies will be arranged. On September 13th England and Wales will announce theirs. There has been no date set for Scotland yet but I expect by the end of the month we will have all the initial proposals.

These proposals will also mark the start of proper betting for that election and so starting on September 6th, I will be calculating the new notional map of Britain if those boundaries were in place for 2015. As you can imagine this is going to be quite a task (and there is a very good chance I may ask readers for their help) it does mean however that I will not be able to tally the local by-elections for September (and possibly October as well), therefore I ask the other members of the PB community to volunteer to take over from me for those two months. If you are willing to do so, then simply reply in the comments box and give an example of how you would profile the by-elections for your local council ward.

In consultation with Mike, I will choose the best one on Sunday and then pass the details of those by-elections over the next two months to them and look forward to reading their summaries. Until the start of November (when there may be a huge crop of them) this is Harry Hayfield signing off from local by-election duty and signing on to new constituency tallying duty


From Labour’s conference problems Mrs May might infer Labour couldn’t cope with a snap general election

Friday, August 26th, 2016

If Labour cannot properly organise a conference with a year’s notice, surely they couldn’t cope with a snap general election?

In the past 24 hours, Labour’s annual conference has been thrown into doubt, as Labour were snubbed by G4S, the firm Labour had been boycotting until recently. Conor Pope of Labourlist writes

Concerns are mounting over whether Labour conference – due to open in less than a month – will go ahead after a major security company rejected a late offer to cover the event.

Labour approached G4S, which has provided security numerous times previously, earlier this week in an effort to solve the crisis that has thrown the annual conference into doubt. However, the company says it does not have sufficient time to make arrangements ahead of the September 24 start date. Working with G4S would have meant reversing a decision by the NEC earlier this year to boycott the firm.

A spokesperson for G4S yesterday said: “Safety for delegates and our staff is our priority and at this late stage and with our teams committed elsewhere, we are not in a position to step in and provide security for the conference.”

The only company to put in a bid for a security contract with Labour is Showsec – although an ongoing trade union dispute has led GMB to threaten to picket the party conference if such a deal goes ahead. Many party members and trade unionists would refuse to cross a picket line, throwing the conference into further chaos.

Another option, bringing in local police to provide security, also appears doubtful. As well as being incredibly costly, Merseyside Police are likely to be unsure about taking on the task at such short notice – a Liverpool FC home match on the day of the leadership contest announcement could also put pressure on the local police service. A spokesperson for Merseyside Police said that them stepping in is “not an option at the moment”, as they have not been approached by Labour.

The problem has heightened tensions across the labour movement, with leaked letters between GMB and Unite chiefs revealing growing unhappiness.

Whilst many will say if Labour cannot organise a conference, what hope is there that they could ever run a country, but perhaps Theresa May might infer something else, Labour had a year to plan for a conference, and they are spectacularly failing, how would Labour cope if she called a snap general election?

With the lead the Tories have over Labour, and her substantial leadership ratings lead she has over Jeremy Corbyn, coupled with the wider mess Labour finds itself in the moment, she might deny it, but she should be contemplating an early general election. Especially given Iain Duncan Smith making noises that he might plague Theresa May’s premiership in the way he plagued John Major’s premiership, increasing the notional majority of 16 she has in the House of Commons might be advantageous for Mrs May in the long term.


PS – G4S became the second major public service company this week, after Virgin Rail, to pretty much to tell Jeremy Corbyn to stick it, a harbinger that they think they he will never become PM?


How post BREXIT the bookmakers are looking at WH2016

Friday, August 26th, 2016


A certainty – maybe not

With three months to go until election day, people all over the world are lining up to place their bets on who’s going to take on the role of the 45th president of the United States after Barak Obama’s two-term presidency. Up until now, the odds have been everywhere – Donald Trump may have started off with odds that would make you a millionaire if he was elected, but right now, the fact that he could soon be leading one of the most powerful countries in the world is both scaring and exciting millions of people, depending on which side you’re on. But, if the odds are anything to go by, Hilary Clinton is still in the lead, with the wife of former U.S. president Bill Clinton polling strongly during the move along the campaign trail, giving her a solid lead over Republican nominee and immigrant-proof wall-builder Donald Trump.

Is Clinton in the Lead?

It would be safe to say that Hilary Clinton is currently taking the lead, however, when it comes to political betting, it’s always good to remember that sometimes, elections can go a completely different way from how the majority of people envisioned. One of the best recent examples of this is the EU Referendum in the United Kingdom, with bookies placing massive odds on the public voting to leave – a ‘remain’ vote was definitely the favourite, a mistake which cost dearly as the 23rd June saw Britain decide to Brexit with a 52% majority vote. The CEO of Bookmaker Ratings, Paruyr Shahbazyan, said at the time “the shock of Brexit definitely surprised a lot of bookmakers. It’s likely the bookies will be setting tighter odds for the US election, just in case”.

When it comes to the U.S. presidential election, Clinton appears to hold a considerable lead in several of the key states, including New York and California – states which have the most and third-most electoral delegates. However, Donald Trump is currently reigning supreme in Texas, the state with the second-most electoral delegates.

Is the Gap Closing?

Although Hilary Clinton seems to be firmly in the lead, the Republican Convention saw the presidential odds begin to tighten. After Clinton’s extended period of being dominantly in the lead according to the odds, Donald Trump has started to close the gap and creep a little bit closer to being in the lead. And, the bad news for Clinton supporters is that whilst Trump’s odds have been rising, Clinton’s have been doing the exact opposite and falling. Of course, if your money is on Trump to win the presidential election, this is great news for you. However, let’s not forget about Republican newcomer Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative who has recently announced that he will be running for president as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump – great news for anti-Trump Republicans who were unsure of which way to vote.


It’s safe to say that this year’s presidential election in the U.S. will be a stand-off between billionaire media mogul Donald Trump and former First Lady Hilary Clinton, who will become the first female president of the United States if she is elected. It’s worth noting that Clinton’s odds have not yet fallen below those of Donald Trump, as her potential position as the first female president has incited millions of vote from women who want to finally see another woman in power.

On the other hand, Donald Trump was the only presumptive nominee for a month after Ted Cruz and John Kasich both suspended their campaigns within twenty-four hours of one another back in May. Although Clinton gained enough delegates to win the nomination before the Democratic Convention, her opponent Bernie Sanders vowed to take his campaign all the way to Cleveland, before losing the final primary by a huge margin in the District of Columbia on June 14.

The Presidential Race

This year’s presidential race has certainly proven to be one of the most interesting of all time, with many of the candidates defying the odds to win or lose at different points. From a betting perspective, Clinton has always been a firm favourite to win, however, Donald Trump, who’s now the bookies’ second favourite, was just a ludicrous long-shot when he first announced that he would be running in the election. So far, the race for POTUS has taught us one thing – anything can happen!

Who are you backing to win?

Vince D


Local By-Election Preview : August 25th 2016

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

The Lochs (Non Party Independent defence) on Fife
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 35, Scottish National Party 26, Liberal Democrats 10, Conservatives 3, Independents 3, Non Party Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 5)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,380, 349 (46%)
Non Party Independent 1,025 (28%)
Scottish National Party 708 (19%)
Independents 165 (4%)
Conservatives 99 (3%)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 106,754 (59%) LEAVE 75,466 (41%) on a turnout of 67%
Candidates duly nominated: Thomas Kirby (Comm), Mary Lockhart (Lab), Malcolm McDonald (Con), Lea McLelland (SNP), Bradford Oliver (Green)

Compiled by Harry Hayfield