Where Angles Fear to Tread

May 12, 2010

Enter Stage Left

Filed under: Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 11:40 am

A new Prime Minister – David Cameron – is in charge of the country,  just in case you managed to avoid the special broadcasts last night, the breakfast news this morning, the radio, colleagues and the web!

The interesting element is how we came to this, and determining what has been given away by both parties. It appears that the more ‘extreme’ sections of each of the manifestos are being dropped – so no increase in inheritance tax, and no mansion tax – but that some items which were disagreed on will be kept.

20 LibDem MPs are likely to get roles within the government, over one third of the total number of MPs, and giving them yet more power. And a fixed term should hopefully ‘lock’ the parties together. This same fixed term could cause issues though in the event that the parties diverge or some MPs defect to various other parties. Hopefully the legislation will be written in such a way as to allow an election to be held within the 4/5 year period in case of stagnation.

But before any legislation of parliment length, agreement on Trident and reversing the cider tax is begun, there is the painful process of reducing government spending by £6bn in 2010. In my opinion this is vital to the continuing viability of both the government and the country, and large cuts – both to ‘waste’ and actual cuts –  need to be made quickly. This is the area of greatest contention. There can be no ‘safe’ areas. Every section of government needs to feel the ax and quickly.

Areas to cut have to include:

  • Unweildly benefits system
  • Overview panel for MPs (£3m a year to save £1m in 5 years is clearly not a good piece of spending)
  • reduce # MPs and make the boundaries fairer – rural areas should have fewer population per MP than built up areas.
  • reduce local council numbers
  • civil servant / teacher / health workers (etc) pensions to be reduced and/or capped (or better still remove ‘final salary’ which very few people in the private sector have access to
  • break the unions (again). Unions should be used as collective bargaining to improve dangerous or illegal workplaces, not to cripple companies trying to reduce costs and prevent losses
  • high level civil servant salaries to be capped
  • Doctors to be allowed to do private work, in return for lower public service pay for same / similar hours

Importantly, the Con/Lib coalition now has access to the numbers required in order to make bold – but correct – decisions. Now is the time to analyse those numbers and make those decisions.

Right Angle

May 10, 2010

Exit Stage Right

Filed under: Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 4:27 pm

Gordon Brown has resigned as leader of the Labour party, although the resignation is only effective once a new leader is found.

This decision makes it easier for the LibDems to enter into a coalition with Labour as one had the impression that Brown and Clegg didn’t like each other. Especially during Brown’s ‘…and Nick and I agree on this one…’ episodes during the leader’s debate.

However, if it is to be a Lib/Lab pack (see previous Blog entry) then the UK has the potential to have a Prime Minister who wasn’t present at the leader’s election or – strangely – Nick Clegg as leader of a Lib/Lab pack. However, I can’t forsee any circumstance where the parlimentary Labour party would agree to such a step.

Right Angle

Discussions Continue

Filed under: Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 12:52 pm

Cameron and Clegg (plus advisors, fellow MPS, and ‘hangers-on’) have been negotiating most of Thursday night, and all weekend.  I fully expected there to be an announcement regarding agreement on Sunday evening in time for the morning papers, and the ‘breakfast’ news shows. However, it appears that this is not to be, and that we will have to wait a while longer to know who our Prime Minister is.

In the last blog post, I noted potential reasons for the LibDems to join in coalition with the Conservatives. However, following an election campaign with more than a few dirty tricks by all parties (not least the LibDems south-west campaign – ‘Labour can’t win here’), I’ve decided to review the reasons for the Lib Dems not to join Labour in a Lid/Lab coalition.

Minority Coalition Government

Even together, Lib/Lab have only got 315 seats (short of the 326 required). Even if we assume that Sinn-Fein don’t take their 5 seats which they have never done the required total is 323. Still 8 short.

Rely on the Nationalists

The three larger nationalist parties – Scottish National (SNP – 6 seats), Plaid Cymru (PC – 3 seats) and Democratic Unionists (DUP – 8 seats) could join a Lib/Lab government to ensure a working majority. However, this would likely mean a requirement for substantial ‘horse-trading’ due to the different requirements / wishes of each of the parties.  As such, deals in which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland avoid the ‘savage’ cuts required to bring the economy back on track would be devisive and could split the union. If England were to take most of the cuts – where the majority of seats are Conservative (55.7%) – despite voting for a Conservative government in England then the Nationalists will not be the only groups asking for independance.

Each seat in England had 47,081 votes (mean), compared with 41,792 (Scotland);  37,437 (N.Ireland); 36,667 (Wales). This is ‘skewed’ slightly by turnout percentage (Eng: 65.5%; Sco: 63.8%; NI: 57.6%; Wal: 64.9%), but this can be adjusted for:

  • England: 71,880 per seat;
  • Scotland: 65,500 per seat;
  • Wales: 56,500 per seat;
  • NI:  65,000 per seat;

If England had had 65,000 voters per seat as per Scotland and NI, each party in England could have obtain 10% more seats  (or each 10% less in Sco/Wal/NI).

(As a further comparison the South West of England has an average of 72,980 registered voters per seat).

To return to the point of this blog, a Lib/Lab coalition has many disadvantages given the current split of the House of Commons, and whilst a rather vocal element of the Liberal Democrat party would prefer to ally with Labour this would likely lead to a very quick election and a massive reduction in LibDem support who could be seen as the party ‘responsible’ for any indecision – whether or not the charge would be fair.

Clegg finds himself (and his party) in a difficult situation which will require brinkmanship and a rational head to overcome. I hope for the country’s sake that he can do so, as an election in the net 6 months would hurt the economic recovery.

Right Angle

May 7, 2010

What will Clegg ask for / get?

Filed under: Liveblogging, Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 10:27 am

Clegg has issued a statement saying that he will speak to Conservatives before speaking to Labour as Conservatives have the popular vote and most MPs. Cameron has issued a corresponding statement saying that he will respond to the Clegg statement at 2:30pm.

It looks as if there are discussions between LibDem and Conservative. However, what are the options in a case like this? Well as per my previous blog the LibDem & Conservative alliance is not as strange as it first seems. What does Clegg want: Positions in the cabinet to bring about legitimacy to LibDems. Ideally he’ll want Chancellor for Vince and something high up for him, but this will be difficult to get. Perhaps Cameron can agree to bring in Ken Clarke as part of a ‘team’ on the economy led by George Osbourne with Clarke & Cable as senior advisors. Clegg can be given envioronment, or electoral reform – certainly not foreign secretary.

Clegg will also want electoral reform. It appears that Labour would offer an alternative voting system. Do the Conservatives also need to offer this? – not necessarily. Reform of the Lords with a fully elected (or 80% elected) house using full PR. This will give the LibDems quite a substantial level of power, and allow the Conservatives to retain ‘first past the post’.

We’ll have to see, but I think that Cameron can offer Clegg less than Brown would as Lab/Lib won’t have a majority and Clegg would risk political back-lash if there was a Lab/Lib government which didn’t last long and have another election shortly. In this case, I could see Clegg losing many more seats, as people move to the main two parties.

Right Angle

A night of the election

Filed under: Liveblogging, Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 8:07 am

So the night is over, but there is no result as yet. Conservatives are clearly the largest party but need a miracle in the last 43 seats to gain a majority. Labour a distant second and Lib Dems a very distant third.
What are the options available to the politicians?

  • Firstly Gordon Brown has to see if he can form a government. Even Labour + Lib Dem doesn’t reach the 326 / 324 required number, and not a lot more than the Conservatives. As such I can’t see this lasting
  • Gordon Brown could do a minority government with Labour and hope that the Conservatives can’t block the Queen’s speech – which they would very likely do
  • Gordon Brown resigns and David Cameron runs a minority government. With Sein Fein not coming to Westminster and the Scottish and Welsh nationalists (9 seats) have said they won’t vote on purely England issues, this could work although it would require back room deals and horse trading every step of the way.
  • Cameron and Clegg join to create a collation. Whilst many think Con & Lib are a distant apart on policies, I think many of the Lib Dem voters are close to the Conservative opinion – ala South West and South East. What would Cameron have to give Clegg in return – a change in voting system, a senior position for Clegg & Cable, and reform of the Lords. He could probably just offer the last two and get support for 3 years or so – just enough to overcome the crisis.

However, we won’t know for some time, as there are 43 seats left, 1 of which will vote in a month due to the death of a candidate, and the counting in some of the other postponed until midday to give the team of counters a rest.

Right Angle.

A review of the Exit Polls

Filed under: Liveblogging, Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 3:48 am

The Exit Polls said: Cons: 307; Lab: 255; LibDem: 55

To date: Con: 206 (+53);  Lab: 155 (-48); LD: 31 (-5)

Lib Dems in trouble although Devon & Cornwall still to come. A long way to go for the Tories, and Labour appear to be losing a lot of seats.

Right Angle

Update

Filed under: Liveblogging, Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 3:36 am

Things still going strangely. Lib Dems win Redcar with 22% swing (Due to Corus plant being mothballed), and then promptly lose a total of 8 seats including Chesterfield.

Conservative: 187 (+47); Labour: 145 (-41); Lib Dems: 28 (-5)
LibDems appear to be imploding, although I still can’t tell if Conservatives will scrape over the line or not. It’ll be interesting in Lab + Lib > Con after the dust has settled. Lib have higher popular vote in England than Labour.

Right Angle

What is going on?

Filed under: Liveblogging, Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 1:42 am

Don’t have a clue what is going on. Con currently at +12 (44 seats) with 126 results in. Some big wins including 3 in Wales, and Lembit Opik losing his seat with a 12% swing.

No improvement in Scotland for Conservatives, and little damage to Labour. Overall swings are telling us nothing at all – except to expect the unexpected… (Try saying that fast).

Whilst writing this, Frome has remained LD – bad news for Conservative as this was a big target in the South-West and was a ‘must-win’.

Right Angle.

Northern Ireland Politics & Lost Seats

Filed under: Liveblogging, Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 12:03 am

Robinson (Northern Ireland First Minister) loses his Westminster seat. Although he still remains as First Minister as assembly is voted separately. A huge win for the Alliance Party.

Hopefully, this won’t impact the delicate negotiations currently underway in the assembly, although I fear that there will be an impact, as Robinson appears to have lost his mandate somewhat.

In other news, Labour have lost their first seat in Wales – In Arfon. Plaid Cymru have taken it with a modest 4% swing. So Labour have lost the first seat on the mainland

Right Angle

May 6, 2010

Three more results

Filed under: Liveblogging, Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 11:45 pm

Sheffield Central – Lab

Tyrone (NI) – Sinn Fein

Antrim (NI) – DUP

And the complaints about voting continue. The law seems quite clear that once 10pm comes around the doors are closed, and only those with ballot papers issued are permitted to vote. Still let not the law get in the way of good television.

Right Angle

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