Tag Archives: general election

Parking the bus or total football?

For those football fanatics among us tactics are something we study closely in our desire to enhance our enjoyment of the beautiful game.

Some of us marvel at a defensive approach where a team plays an unadventurous formation designed to avoid conceding goals and then nicking one at some point in the game to come away with a 1-0 victory. This is often called parking the bus and despite his protestations to the contrary it is the favoured approach of the self styled Special One Mr Jose Mourinho.

Others prefer a purist method, the most advanced version being the one used by the Dutch national team in the past and christened total football by admiring commentators. A number of teams have deployed a variation of this philosophy but few have gained the plaudits earned by Rinus Michels the coach of the legendary Netherlands 1974 World Cup team playing in those fabulous bright orange shirts.

So what does this have to do with politics I hear you ask?

Well as in football, politics is about tactics and for our party the Liberal Democrats the way we deploy our key players will be crucial to our fortunes at the next General Election.

Do we take a cautious approach and look to retain the seats in the House of Commons that we currently hold, extend ourselves a bit by trying to win a handful of target seats or be really adventurous by running campaigns wherever we are able.

There are of course many factors to consider in making a final decision, not least the strength of the opposition and the willingness of members of our team to be deployed ‘out of position’. We also have to bear in mind the fact that politics has become much more unpredictable post Brexit.

Success may well come in some unusual places.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Be prepared: We could well be heading for a General Election

I am starting to think that the likelihood of a General Election is rising.

Theresa May’s options are limited.

She could probably get a majority of MPs to back a Norway style Brexit if she put some effort into it. She could have done that two years ago. But that would split her party. So she won’t.

She could, as Vince suggested to her, put her own deal to the British people. But every poll that has been done on that possibility suggests that it would lose against a Remain option. However right that would be, it would split her party and leave her with a huge amount of egg on her face.

Or she could go for an election by the same mechanism she used in 2017 – a motion in the House of Commons backed by 2/3. Corbyn could hardly vote against it given that he has been calling for an election for months. We should vote against it, by the way, on the grounds that it won’t solve Brexit and we don’t trust the Government to behave itself with the powers that the EU Withdrawal Act gives it while Parliament is dissolved.

Now, I get that it is unlikely that she could find a manifesto promise on Brexit that her entire party would unite behind. She might consider that it doesn’t matter, though. Because she’ll make the election about going after Corbyn. We saw from Michael Gove’s closing speech in the No Confidence debate the other night a glimmer of what they would unleash in his direction. Every picture of him with dodgy people will be coming to a billboard near you – and he really hasn’t helped himself this week by refusing to talk to May when he’s talked to all sorts of nefarious characters with the stated intention of sorting out the Middle East or Northern Ireland.

I know that May has promised not to lead the Conservatives into another election but her argument would be that Parliament was frustrating the will of the people. This vote, though, would be a chance, however unlikely,  to get her the parliamentary majority which she came within a few thousand votes of getting in 2017. Then she could govern relatively untroubled until 2023. Although she shouldn’t take too much comfort from that prospect given how Major’s last five years as PM went.

And, with Parliament dissolved, heaven knows what the Government would do in terms of illiberal and unscrutinised instrument and order throughout the election campaign. The EU Withdrawal Act does give it a lot of untrammelled power, after all.

An election wouldn’t solve Brexit, of course. She couldn’t get a third of her own MPs to vote for her deal and that is unlikely to change. But that is not what it is about. 

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What do the local elections tell us about Lib Dem prospects?

When it comes to local election results, punditry usually heads in one of two directions. Either the local elections will be held up as an ironclad prediction for the next general election result or they are an utter irrelevance which tells you nothing about how people will vote in national elections.

Strangely, which of the two positions punditry tends towards seems to be very much linked to whether the local elections have been bad or good for the party backed by the pundit in question.

As you might expect, of course, the truth lies somewhere in between – and the data can actually tell us something useful about Liberal Democrat prospects at the next general election, whenever that may be.

For decades various teams of political scientists have been working out National Equivalent Vote Shares (NEVS) based on local election results. That is, they take the raw figures and make adjustments to take account of the fact that local elections take place in different parts of the country each year (for instance, most of the councils which had elections in May this year won’t have elections again until 2022).

This means that the NEVS is, broadly speaking, a reliable snapshot of support for each party UK-wide at the time of the local elections.

However, this does not mean that a NEVS is the same thing as how the party will perform in a general election. In the case of the Lib Dems, we have routinely underperformed our NEVS from the previous year in a general election.

The table below shows the Lib Dem performance in each of the past six general elections as well as our NEVS in the year before’s local elections. As can be seen, typically the Lib Dem vote has dropped by 1 to 7 points between the local election and the general election – and the two general elections with the lowest drop were dominated by the Iraq War and Cleggmania respectively, making them fairly atypical.

GE Result Year Before’s NEVS Difference
1997 17% 24% -7
2001 19% 26% -7
2005 23% 27% -4
2010 24% 25% -1
2015 8% 13% -5
2017 7% 14% -7

 

So, given that the typical drop has been 6 or 7 points, what does this tell us about Lib Dem prospects at the next general election?

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A Newbie’s reflections

When I first walked in to the offices of Eastbourne and Willingdon Lib Dems in April of this year, I had little idea just how swept up in it all I would get. Like many new (and more established!) members, I had got to the point with politics in this country where I felt “something must be done”!

On the first action day of the GE, I was warmly welcomed and soon sent out with the first of many walks to deliver. The bonhomie, and feeling that we were all working towards a greater good has stayed with me ever since. Being on the ground for the tail end of the local elections and the full GE campaign gave me an appreciation of how many other people shared my new-found passion for challenge and change. It also made me appreciate the necessity of an army of supporters to ensure we can continue challenge the big money (business or union) backing of other parties.

After the briefest of introductions to the local elections, the GE rapidly got into full swing. Election night in Eastbourne was bittersweet for us, our local success being tempered by the knowledge that despite working just as hard, Lib Dems across the country were meeting a brick wall. It was also the night that fully cemented my anti-Tory sentiment – as the results were announced in the town hall by the returning officer, the Tories, each and every one, booed the Green party candidate. The Tories, true to pantomime-villain form, picking on the weakest member in the room.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…An early general election

All the runners in the Conservative Leadership steeplechase may be denying that they would seek a General Election before 2020, but I suggest that you should examine their track record in terms of broken promises.   If the Labour Party is still suicidal, and if the dishonest Brexit commitments are beginning to unravel with devastating effect on people’s expectations, what Prime Minister could resist the temptation to go to the country?

In any case, there will be a strong reaction to the imposition of a new PM and Government on the whim of a 130,000 electorate.  Where is our much vaunted “Sovereign Parliament”, and the demand that our democracy must “take back control”, in that process?  When Cameron was elected there were 253,689 eligible members of the Tory Party, down from 328,000 when they selected Iain Duncan Smith.

In such circumstances, the new Leader could justifiably claim a moral duty to seek a new mandate from the whole country.

I have challenged Ministers to confirm that an early General Election – this year or next – would be contested in the current constituencies, with no boundary changes or reduction in the number of MPs.  Not for the first time, they seem clueless – you can see our exchanges here

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 23 Comments

Opinion: The next election?

 

Three Lib Dem gains in council by-elections coinciding with Tim Farron’s election as leader are great news. They invite the language of a gradual comeback to a much improved result in 2020.

But is the next General Election five years away?

In the normal course of events the Conservative majority of 15 would be vulnerable to defections and losses through by-elections. In the last parliament, there were two defections from the Tories to UKIP and 21 by-elections. It is entirely possible that they would seek form a minority government, but the Tories would lose their overall majority of just eight seats moved to other parties. In the normal course of events, that happening in this parliament would be far from implausible.

Posted in Op-eds | 25 Comments

So what exactly will the Liberal Democrats do if involved in coalition negotiations?

As Nick Clegg had the good grace to say in his email to members yesterday, that the decision about whether the Liberal Democrats go into coalition or not if in a position to do so is not in his gift.

We’re a democratic party. In the end, the decision to form a coalition rests not with the leader but with the party.

That is kind of true. I thought it would be worth taking you through what will happen should Liberal Democrats be involved in coalition negotiations after the election. The process is different from last time. Then all the leader had to do was to get the approval of the parliamentary parties in the Commons and Lords and the Federal Executive. The Special Conference which took place was not actually a requirement, but it was thought to be good practice. It overwhelmingly endorsed the Coalition Agreement.

This time, things are different, due to a motion passed at Spring Conference in 2012. Now, this will deliver a clear answer on whether to go into coalition or not, so the markets need not worry themselves, but it would be wrong to overlook the potential for longer term chaos it could ignite in the party. What conference was thinking of when it passed this, I have no idea. Here’s the motion:

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Should we have a day off to vote?

your vote matters lib dem leafletEarlier this year, I was planning a call with a colleague in South Africa when he said: “I can’t do it on that day. It’s Voting Day.” I didn’t realize that South Africans have a public holiday to vote. Perhaps that would be a good idea in the UK – some MPs are thinking that way.

PoliticsHome reports:

A report by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee is inviting responses from the public to further suggestions including introducing compulsory voting, online voting and lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.

The MPs point out that almost 16 million eligible voters chose not to cast a vote at the last general election, warning this is “not an acceptable state of affairs for a modern democracy”.

And they call for elections to be held on a specially designated public holiday or at weekends to try and stem the tide of voter apathy.

Posted in News | 53 Comments

Can moderate public engagement be a good thing?

Scottish referendum ohot by gerardferryimagesWhile I was a governor at a primary school, we had a yearly dilemma. By law, we had to hold an annual meeting with parents. About a dozen usually turned up. Normally the same faces. Interested and engaged, they gave us good feedback and a nice time was had by all. Soft drinks and nibbles supplied.

But a dozen parents for a school with several hundred pupils was considered low. So, annually, we considered ways of increasing parental attendance, only to be frustrated. After several attempts, I jokingly suggested that the only way to increase attendance was to announce that, at the next meeting, we would be showing a preview of an experimental Swedish sex education video which we were considering showing to pupils.

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The Lib Dem vote share: not always the best guide to how successful the Lib Dems have been…

An important point, with graph to match, from PoliticalBetting’s Mike Smithson:

To illustrate the point further:

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Tim Farron MP writes… This week could have been very different

Last weekend was the fifth anniversary of the day that Gordon Brown changed his mind at the last minute and didn’t call the widely anticipated 2007 autumn General Election. Given the remainder of his tenure it is easy for many of us to forget that following his succession to No. 10 Downing St, Gordon Brown did received a popularity bounce. Brown was 10% ahead in the polls, David Cameron was floundering following a difficult period as opposition leader, and of course the banking collapse of 2008 had not yet happened.

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