I am a threat

A nationwide billboard campaign is being launched today across the country accusing Theresa May of being a ‘threat’ to our public services.
The People’s Assembly has hired over 40 billboards, mostly in key marginal seats, which display a large picture of Theresa May with the words ‘I am a threat’ followed by ‘to your local hospital, to your child’s education, to your living standards, to your job security, to your pension, to you peace and security’.
Sam Fairbairn, National Secretary of the People’s Assembly, said
“Theresa May has made it blatantly clear her attitude to ordinary people in, what can only be described as, her manifesto of misery.”
“She is a threat to everything we rely on from cradle to grave. The crisis in the NHS was created by the Conservative government and they’re doing nothing to address it. She’s snatching free school lunches off infants while her plans to restructure our education system will leave schools without proper funding. University students are being strapped with lifelong debt. Employers are allowed to get away with paying poverty wages on insecure or zero hour contracts and she wants to rob people’s houses from them & their family cover the costs of looking after them in old age.”
“In one of the most important elections for generations we want to expose the lies behind Theresa May’s soundbite rhetoric. We’ll do everything we can to make sure Theresa May and her government for the super rich isn’t returned to Downing St.”
A crowdfunding drive has been launched alongside the billboard campaign so the group can organise more advertising in the last week of the election campaign. The People’s Assembly website stated “We’re putting across a different message on some of the space that is usually just reserved for the big business and corporations and we’re asking everyone to help us do more of this.” A number of billboard sites however refused to display the image because of the political message.

 

 

 

While Labour sinks…

…the Lib Dems are surging ahead.

Things are looking brighter for the Lib Dems. Last year no party campaigned to remain in the European Union so vehemently. And now, none is likely to benefit so much from the vote to Leave.

The party’s noisy opposition to the government’s proposed “hard Brexit” has helped it to notch up some spectacular swings in council and parliamentary elections since the referendum (see chart). Meanwhile, it faces only weak competition for left-leaning voters from Labour, which is under catastrophically bad management.

So the Lib Dems are optimistic about their chances on June 8th. All 48 seats they lost in 2015 will be “in play”, reckons Rob Ford of the University of Manchester. A 10% swing to the Lib Dems would see them pick up 40 seats, 25 of them from the Conservatives. They are unlikely to do quite that well—partly because eight of those seats are held by the Scottish National Party, whose vote is likely to hold up, and partly because the Liberals’ organisation is still relatively weak after successive local electoral drubbings.

But Lib Dem watchers guess the party could pick up more than 20 new seats. Popular former MPs including Vince Cable, a former business secretary, and Simon Hughes, a former justice minister, have said they will seek to win back their old constituencies. Nick Clegg, a former party leader and deputy prime minister, has confirmed he will stand again.

Read full article in the Economist.

Anything but the Tories: Bristol West voters weigh up their options

Here lies the challenge: Constituency residents favour Jeremy Corbyn – but flirt with the idea of switching between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens.

Two powerful dynamics at work here: the awakening of those that haven’t voted before, or for a while, and those whose motivation is “Anything to keep the Tories out really.”

Jordan Barker, a 19-year-old second-year student in English and philosophy at Bristol University and first-time voter, said he would probably plump for Labour. “Anything to keep the Tories out really.”

What about if that meant voting for the Lib Dems? “I could do that.” He has forgiven the party for the tuition fees disaster that cost them the votes of students here and across the UK two years ago. “I don’t bear a grudge. I think we have to move on.”


 

Read the full article in the Guardian.

Tactical voting to beat the Tories: does the maths equal a coalition?

Every few years, someone suggests forming a progressive coalition to beat the Conservatives. Could a Lib/Lab/Green alliance really beat Theresa May?

 

Every time there’s an election, which is often, some bright spark on the left comes up with an amazing idea. “There are the Tories, right, and Labour, who are trying to stop them, and then there are all these other parties like the SNP and the Lib Dems and Caroline Lucas and the Welsh one. So here’s a thought: what if they all clubbed together and just decided to beat the Tories?”

This Guardian article by  is a bit harsh and cynical. In his views tactical voting will offer no chance to topple the current government. And, by trying to illustrate the challenges of tactical voting, he is in effect showing us how utterly unfair the current FPTP system really is.

As an optimist and seasoned campaigner, I’m less daunted that Martin is. Where there is a will, there is a way. After all, how come we ended up with Brexit winning? But, there is one home-truth coming out of all of this: we can’t rely on our political parties to go into a progressive alliance. For that they are too competitive. It is down to us to look at the data available and vote for the candidate most likely to represent a chance of winning.

Anything has to be better than five more years of Tory rule and Hard Brexit.

Tactical voting only game in town for pro-Europeans

Another great article by by Hugo Dixon

Few observers believe Jeremy Corbyn has a hope of stopping Theresa May returning to Downing Street. The only game in town for pro-Europeans is, therefore, tactical voting.

The best election result that pro-Europeans can realistically hope for is to maximise the number of MPs who are opposed to a destructive Brexit – irrespective of the party they belong to. This will require tactical voting on a grander scale than the UK has hitherto witnessed.

Gina Miller, who brought the successful legal challenge stopping May triggering Article 50 without parliamentary authority, has already launched a crowdfunding drive to support candidates “who campaign for a real final vote on Brexit, including rejecting any deal that leaves Britain worse off”. By time of publication, it had raised over £135,000.

There will be several other similar initiatives. Meanwhile, Tony Blair has called for a cross-party campaign to elect “as many MPs as possible with an open mind” on Brexit, though the former Labour prime minister oddly says he’s not advocating tactical voting.

Anti-Tory or anti-Brexit?

For such initiatives to bear fruit, there will need to be clear criteria for judging which candidates are worth backing. Two main approaches are currently being discussed in public: focus on the candidate best able to stop a Tory being elected; or the one best able to stop a destructive Brexit.

Some people will say these approaches amount to the same thing, as the more Tory MPs are elected, the easier it will be for May to ram through whatever Brexit she wants. But this isn’t entirely so, unless the prime minister locks all her colleagues into hardline positions via her manifesto. Quite a few Tory MPs are pro-European, even if only a handful such as Nicky Morgan, Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry have dared to stick their heads above the parapet.

What’s more, there are shades of anti-Brexiters in the other parties. Liberal Democrats and Greens, for example, are generally more pro-European than Labour candidates – and some Labour MPs are more pro-European than others.

For these reasons, the main criterion for selecting candidates to support should be whether they are anti-destructive Brexit rather than anti-Tory – even if the number of Conservatives backed was small.

Anti-Brexit or anti-destructive Brexit?

How should one then define whether a candidate is sufficiently anti-destructive Brexit? One could set the bar very high, saying one would only back candidates committed to opposing Brexit. A slightly lower bar would be those promising voters a final say on whether we should leave the EU once we know what Brexit means. Lower still would be those committed to a meaningful vote in Parliament on the final deal.

The higher the bar is set, the fewer the candidates who will meet the grade. The practical solution may be to set it somewhere in the middle, roughly where Miller has – backing candidates who are both committed to a meaningful vote in Parliament and to voting against any destructive Brexit outcome.

A further question will then be which candidate to back in any constituency if more than one meets the hurdle. The obvious criterion would be the one most likely to win, though the extent of a candidate’s pro-European credentials should also be a factor.

In judging which anti-destructive Brexit candidate is most likely to win, 2015 election results should only be a guide. In some constituencies, viable independent candidates may emerge.

In cases where there are multiple pro-European candidates, maximum pressure should be put on the weakest to step down. Otherwise, the anti-Brexit vote will be split – and the pro-Brexit candidate will be chosen.

All this will be needed for tactical voting initiatives to have the maximum impact. But even this will not be enough. They will also need to be well run, generously funded and supported by thousands of volunteers.

Now is the time for pro-Europeans to put their money and their efforts where their mouths are. This election is probably their last chance to have any influence on what sort of Brexit we end up with.

 

 

First past the post system

So what is the First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system?

In short: The candidate with the most votes in a constituency becomes the MP for that seat. All other votes are disregarded.

Critics argue this means MPs can be elected with a really small percentage of the vote and encourages tactical voting against the most disliked candidate. It also means small parties are penalised as their votes tend to be spread across the country rather than in one particular seat.

It is why the Conservatives won a majority (331 seats) with just 37% of the vote, and UKIP just one seat with 12.6%.

However, the widely-used method (mainly due to British colonial legacy) is regarded as simple and a clear way by which voters can express who they want in government.

Or, as the Electoral Reform Society describes:

First Past the Post is the electoral system used to elect the UK parliament. Under First Past the Post voting takes place in constituencies that elect a single MP each. Voters put a cross on a ballot paper next to their favoured candidate and the candidate with the most votes in the constituency wins. All other votes count for nothing. We believe First Past the Post is the worst system for electing a representative government.

But is is fair? The flaw of FPTP is that if there are many parties standing in an election, the winning party can gain a majority in Parliament – yet have just 24% of the vote. In effect, a minority is given the power to impose their narrow agenda on the majority.  Which is precisely what happened with the Conservative victory in 2015 – and which therefore indirectly has led to Brexit.

Yet, with tactical voting this could all change. If voters ignore their first choice party, and instead focus on the strong er second preference party, the combined total of the opposition votes would beat the incumbent Tory candidate hands down.

If, on top of that, those that hadn’t voted previously joined in, their sheer combined numbers would represent a wipe-out for the Tories (see graphic below). Something they will of course fight tooth and nail. The last thing they would want is a united progressive alliance.

Unfortunately, the progressive parties themselves are too busy fighting against each others to form an official opposition. This is where grassroots people like you and me come into it. Our vote matters!