Sunday, 10 July 2011

The way things stand as of July 7th/8th polling

A bit of amateur psephology here, looking at how the parties are doing, region by region, according to a YouGov poll published today. While of course there are myriad variables in politics, there seems to be a gradual trend against the government; clearly, it will be key whether David Cameron is mired in the sewer by his News International associations, as Peter Oborne so astutely pointed out here. It will interested to observe whether the trend continues and Labour gain a regular 10-15% lead; if the economy falters, then I would expect leads of 15-20% Anyway, here we go... The figures in brackets are the change in voting intention from the General Election result last year.


CON 41% (+6.5)
LAB 41% (+4)
LD 9% (-13)
GP 1% (-1)
UKIP 4% (+2)
BNP 1% (-0.5)
OTH 3% (+1)

Government Approval 33% Disapproval 50% (-17)
Cameron Approval 45% Disapproval 47% (-2)

An area where the Tories have been polling perhaps surprisingly well since the GE. Clearly as much of the LD vote of 2010 is as willing to consider the Tories as Labour, in contrast to much of the rest of the country. Not that I would expect many Tory gains, mind. A near three-way tie like Hampstead and Kilburn will be an interesting one to watch next time, though I wouldn't be anticipating a Tory gain. Sad that institutions like the Richard Steele has been given a corporate makeover, and the excellent Tricycle Theatre is under threat due to Arts Council cuts.

The UKIP are doing surprisingly well in an area that I would not count as natural territory, and fairly lacklustre for the Greens, clearly.

Approval for the government is low at 33% and yet the Tories seem to be doing so well as people are just about giving them the benefit of the doubt and Cameron remains relatively popular (though down from +1 in February).

Admittedly, another recent poll put Labour 6 points ahead in London, but then ones in May showed the Tories 6 ahead. As ever, London is the key... in 1992 it stuck with the Tories; in 2010 Labour did crucially well enough here - gaining an unexpected 2% lead over Cameron's Tories - to avoid an outright defeat.


Con 44% (-3)
Lab 33% (+16)
LD 11% (-17)
GP 3% (+2)
UKIP 7% (+3)
BNP 1% (-)
OTH 1% (-)

Government Approval 33% Disapproval 51% (-18)
Cameron Approval 46% Disapproval 47% (-1)

Almost straight transfer from the LDs to Labour and the Greens. Not necessarily bad news for the Tories, who can probably go on to pick up some LD seats on the strength of the calamitous LD decline. A 9.5% swing from Con to Lab, however, would surely put Essex and Kent seats into play, and Labour will be able to gain a clean sweep in more urban places like Bristol, Luton and Slough. The key battles will be the aforementioned seats East of London and places like Exeter, Norwich, Plymouth and Swindon. Cambridge, as ever, will be fascinating and not necessarily typical...

UKIP do very well across the South, but a 3% transfer from Tory to UKIP is hardly going to move seats to the Farage column. It may just hamper the Tories in their battles against Labour and the LDs, however... There is increasing evidence of right-wing anger against the perceived 'leftism' of this government; whilst this is a grotesque misunderstanding, it clearly means that Cameron and others will struggle to keep all of the 10.7 million voters of 2010.

A recent poll of just the South West showed: CON 42%(-1), LAB 28% (+13), LDEM 16% (-19), GRN 5% (+4). A strong performance for the Greens, who are likely to do well in Stroud, Bath and other such places. Disastrous for the hapless LDs, as this is one of the heartland areas; these results are back to 1950s/60s levels, where Labour was the clear second party - and indeed could be a strong player on the sort of Devon council featured in the Norman Wisdom film, Press for Time (1966). While the Tories would be likely to gain from the LDs, it is crucial just how big a swing Labour achieve in Tory-held marginals.


CON 32% (-5)
LAB 50% (+18)
LD 8% (-12.5)
GP 1% (+0.5)
UKIP 5% (+2)
BNP 1% (-2)
PC 1% (-2)
OTH 2% (-)

Government Approval 25% Disapproval 60% (-35)
Cameron Approval 37% Disapproval 57% (-20)

For me, the crucial region alongside London. At least on this poll, Labour look let to win big. They currently hold 65 seats to the Tories' 72; many of those 72 would look very vulnerable to an 11.5% swing. This polling suggests a Midlands & Wales result similar to 1997/2001. A poll before the News of the World scandal broke showed the Tories on 39% and Labour on 44% suggesting a mere 5% swing. Even this would take things back to 2005, where Labour did just well enough in these regions to win. The reality is probably somewhere inbetween - a probable 7-9% swing. Midlands and Wales voters' approval figures for the government and Cameron must be deeply worrying to Downing Street: down by 12% and 6% respectively since February.

As always, the Midlands is a crucial battleground, and it is going to take a significant political turnaround for the Tories to do better than they did in 2010, or even get back to par here. Having said all that, the Midlands should never be taken for granted; its voting behaviour in 1970 and 1974 was crucial in both the defeat of Wilson, and then Heath, and it then swung very heavily to Thatcher and Blair... The recent news about job losses in Derby will hardly help the government, and, of course, future economic developments will be important. The region to watch...


CON 32% (+1)
LAB 52% (+13.5)
LD 6% (-16)
GP 3% (+2)
UKIP 5% (+2)
BNP 2% (-1)
OTH 0% (-1)

Government Approval 24% Disapproval 63% (-39)
Cameron Approval 36% Disapproval 58% (-22)

I am willing to predict we will see a minimum of a 15% Labour lead in the North, come the next election, representing at least a 3.5% swing. Polls in late May/early June showed swings of 6-11.5% Labour is clearly performing well, winning most of the collapsing LD vote, along with a strong Green showing. In Sunderland, the Greens outpolled the Liberal Democrats in all bar one of the council wards in which both parties were standing.

There were several seats only just gained by the Tories, such as Stockton South and Carlisle, which will almost definitely revert to Labour. Just as the South is a Tory stronghold that will always return a solid phalanx of blue-rosetted automatons, so will the North return Labour MPs - and I would estimate Labour should make a minimum of 15-20 gains across the North.

The LDs hold 11 seats in the North; Clegg's will be a fascinating, possible 3-way battle, if indeed he stays to fight it in 2015. Without Alan Beith, it is entirely possible the LDs could lose Berwick Upon Tweed to the Tories, or even Labour in what could be a close three-way battle. The Tories will clearly hold Hexham and Penrith and the Border, but many other of their 42 seats could be vulnerable. Westmorland and Lonsdale should be a LD hold, given the popularity of independent-minded Tim Farron.


CON 13% (-4)
LAB 48% (+6)
LD 5% (-14)
GP 2% (+1)
UKIP 1% (-)
BNP 0% (-)
SNP 29% (+9)
OTH 2% (+1)

Government Approval 18% Disapproval 69% (-51)
Cameron Approval 29% Disapproval 64% (-35)

Some polls this year have shown the Tories as high as 23% - which must be rogues, more clearly so than their surprisingly strong numbers in London. Absolutely terrible for the LDs - who could stand to lose most if not all seats barring their Highland fringe. Clegg's leadership has undone all of the good work Kennedy achieved for the Party in Scotland, and could take them back to the days when Jo Grimond was one of a handful of LD MPs. This poll is terrible for the Tories and the LibDems, showing the LibDem voting halving from 11% compared with February, and government and Cameron approval around 10 points more into the negative.

Scotland, like London, saw an unexpectedly strong Labour performance, and other 2011 polls have shown Labour even as low as 35% north of the border; come a General Election, however, I would not expect them to go below 40%

The SNP are the prime gainers from the Lib Dem fall, though I wouldn't expect them to challenge Labour much in a Westminster election; only a 1.5% swing is indicated here, and the recent By-Election confirmed this. I do think they could gain one or two seats where they are close behind Labour, but this would depend on the SNP administration in Edinburgh still being as popular. Salmond is clearly playing a canny social-democratic game - gaining many previous left-of-centre Kennedy voters - but then hatred of the Tories might limit the gains his party can make at Westminster.


CON 35% (-1)
LAB 44% (+15)
LD 8% (-15)
GP 2% (+1)
UKIP 5% (+2)
BNP 1% (-1)
NAT 3% (+1)

Government approval 28% Disapproval 57% (-29)
Cameron approval 42% Disapproval 52% (-10)

Labour were only 49 or so seats behind the Tories at the last GE. Even given boundary changes slightly favourable to the Tories, an 8% swing to Labour would clearly lead to a majority Labour win and the end of David Cameron's political career, without him ever having won an election. The key is clearly for Labour to appeal to non-ideological voters nevertheless interested in fairness, who may easily be convinced that David Cameron, tainted by association with the most depraved elements in our media, is 'not one of us'. Of course, Gideon Osborne's great economic gamble will be crucial too; at the moment, it seems the deficit is likely to increase with sluggish if any growth and rising unemployment - and under-employment, with many having to work part-time against their will.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

'Unaffordable' pensions and Dunkirk fetishism...

So, public sector workers are likened to Nazi Germany in 1940. Nice to see that the "Daily Mail" maintaining its usual perspective and attention to reality. Of course, it's not the case that Gove and the Tories are picking a fight with teachers; no, it's rather that the striking workers are THE ENEMY WITHIN. With the right-wing media, it is always Dunkirk, always the 'Spirit of Dunkirk' that is invoked to keep people in their place - in abeyance to the forces of conservatism, this time represented by the government. It is presumptuous in the extreme to use the memory of Dunkirk in such a way to quell dissent, and to imply that all involved in Dunkirk would have been against decent pensions for teachers.

The point is: the Tories and their media cheerleaders are as wrong on this issue as there are on so many others. Evan Davis exposes Franny Maude's distinctive interpretation of the National Audit Office's data. The Independent presents empirical evidence to cut the decetiful 'golden plated' myths to shreds:

Then there was Michael Gove's ludicrous call for parents to act as strike-breakers by stepping into the classroom to teach. Forgetting 'formalities' such as CRB checks and indeed whether the parents have any relevant training or knowledge. Presumably a working grasp of the philosophy of a Peter Hitchens or Toby Young is enough! Even the Cameron favoured pressure-group 'Mumsnet' disagreed with this, although one poll found 37% public support for the idea - neatly correlating with current levels of Tory support.

A trade unionist speaker at Thursday's strike rally at Grey's Monument in Newcastle upon Tyne made the excellent point that public sector pension provision is placed into stark relief by the tax-breaks given to private pension funds for the wealthy.

Fellow ex-Trinity Haller, Daniel Elton, makes the point that public sympathy is rather finely balanced and not conclusive either way, although Labour's leader has taken the absurd step of alienating an important section of his vote - as lamented by Alex Niven.

The most detailed arguments for the strike were given by Nigel Stanley of the TUC at False Economy; for instance this: 'So even before anything done by the coalition government or recommended in the Hutton Report, public sector pensions had been both reformed and made sustainable. This is not union assertion, but the hard-headed view of the National Audit Office.

On top of these negotiated changes, the coalition has made a further attack on the value of public service pensions by replacing the Retail Prices Index that has always been used to uprate pensions with the lower Consumer Prices Index. This will further reduce the value of public service pensions by 15 per cent – so we have a cut of 25p in the pound if you combine this with the negotiated changes.'

The right-wing media won't even engage in logical, defensible arguments to defend their position, they will insult and smear working citizens. I was personally proud to have gone on strike on the 30th, in order to oppose compulsory working until 68 to receive a state pension, plus significantly higher contributions. All within a context of zero job security, caused by government cuts which are an ideological decision. I could make the broader economic arguments about the wisdom of Osborne going down the Irish route, of course... A few people being mildly inconvenienced for a day is nothing next to significant redundancies being imposed on people who have not caused this crisis - or indeed when compared with the wider social impact of cuts on charities / vulnerable people / the majority in society who use public services.

These videos provide a taster of the issues at stake in Further Education Colleges, often forgotten in the media with its focus on schools and universities - though The Guardian give some focus here.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Germans do it better, again

This... infinitely better than this:

'That Again' has that imperiously wistful Cardigans/Stereolab feel about it. 'The Shield and the Sword' lacks any such sense of delicacy, with its strained striving for bombast and uplift.

Maguire's album is unyielding in its one-note, over-compressed sameness; the music does not breathe, but stifles in its general monotony. Lena's album tends to be much more engaging and tactile; not always compelling, but affable and sparky.'A Good Day' is winningly good-natured, with Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band brass and 'Come to Milton Keynes' inflections; 'Talking to a Stranger' was one of the few excellent Eurovision songs of this year, exceeding her 2010 winner with its artful, electronic austerity and icy vibraphone.

Political music in the present tense, Part II

MC Nxt Gen - 'The Andrew Lansley Rap'

MC Nxt Gen - 'Stuff the Cuts'

Bars for Change project

Akala - 'Fire in the Booth Freestyle'

Dream Cargoes - 'We're in this Together'