Saturday, 14 February 2009

Recent Happenings

I am sorry for the recent lack of posts, there are three reasons: 1) I have been lazy, 2) I have been (quite) busy, and 3) I have not found anything suitably interesting to write about. Actually number 3 is not quite true, I was writing a lengthy post about Labour's election rigging credentials, but I accidentally deleted the whole thing and before I knew it the blank page was autosaved. The trials of being a new blogger! Perhaps somebody can tell me how to disable the autosaver?

Anyway, I thought I would pass comment on some of the recent squabbles on more well known blogs (it pains me to admit that Derek Draper is more well known than me, but it is a fact). Derek Draper proved himself to be a self-righteous, sanctimonious git with his posturing about Carol Thatcher's golliwog comment. (I had a golliwog as a child, I think it is a shame they are not readily available anymore). Anyway, Iain Dale poured scorn on Dolly (as Draper is affectionately(!) known), and was branded a "racist" for his pains. Next it was Guido Fawkes' turn, with a delightful picture of Gordon Brown with little brown children provoking quite a bit of comment on his blog. The comments on Guido's blog were, on the whole, very unfunny, which was a shame, because so much satire could have been teased out of the photo, but they provided another opportunity for Dolly to show himself up as an old windbag, which he duly availed himself of.

A link to Guido's blog will now appear on the right of this page, a fitting reward for successfully winding Dolly Draper up.

I will try to post some more in the next few days, so please don't desert me!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Not knowing their Right Hand from their Left

I have decided that it is time for me to wade into the furore caused by Iain Dale's calling the BNP left-wing. Iain was, of course, absolutely correct, and this is a point I have maintained for years, but some left-wing bloggers took it upon themselves to get very upset. In fact, so perturbed were some, such as Flying Rodent, that they posted a reply which, rather than bringing reasoned, logical arguments to bear, simply miscalled Mr. Dale for alarming them so. A reply to this nonsense was forthcoming, however, in the form of the eloquent verbosity of Longrider, clearly a force the leftists had not reckoned on encountering.

I see, however, that many organs of public information, such as wikipedia, continue to refer to the BNP as a "far-right" and "fascist" party. The charge of fascism may be quite competent, but to say that the BNP is right-wing is a hideous nonsense peddled by the BBC, the Guardian and organisations of their low ilk. A quick glance at the BNP's website will show that they are anything but right-wing. With statements such as "Globalisation ... is bringing ruin and unemployment to British industries" and "We further believe that British industry, commerce, land and other economic and natural assets belong in the final analysis to the British nation and people" the BNP shows itself to be almost as left-wing as Stalin himself. A statist, collectivist party which believes in mass-nationalisation and extreme market protectionism regardless of economic situation is in no sense right wing.

One organ which has repeatedly been refered to during these heated exchanges is Political Compass, which provides a two-dimensional graphic showing where it believes the main parties in the UK sit, this is displayed at the top of this post. I take issue with that graphic. It is wrong. The Labour party is much more authoritarian than shown on the graph, and is certainly not right wing. Labour should be in a position on the graph, slightly to the left of that which the BNP currently occupy. The BNP should also be a bit to the left of where they are, and in fact a bit to the left of Labour. The LibDems should also be on the left, and I would tend to place them above, not below the authoritarian line. The Conservatives should be about bang on centre on the authoritarian line, but are about the correct distance to the right. The Greens are the correct distance to the left, but are anything other than Libertarian. The Greens are among the most self-righteous, authoritarian, arrogant parties currently in existence.
So, I have now put right the two evils which are abroad in the blogosphere. The BNP are NOT right wing, they are LEFT wing. And Political Compass have NO CLUE about where to place the main parties on their graphic.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Opinion Polls

In the last number of months, opinion polls have seen quite a lot of change, with Labour coming to within a point of the Conservatives towards the end of November, and the gap widening again significantly since New Year, with ComRes giving a 15 point Conservative lead on 23rd January. Meanwhile, the LibDems have been hovering around the 15/16% mark for the past number of months, with some polls showing them as high as 19%, and others as low as 12%.
The latest poll is from YouGov, published on the 29th and reported on the UK Polling Report website, gave the following figures:
  • Conservative - 43% (-2)
  • Labour - 32% (nc)
  • LibDem - 16% (+2)

This shows an 11 point lead for the Conservatives - healthy, but leaving little room for complacency, as it signifies a slight narrowing of the gap in the last week or so.

Of course opinion polls are not necessarily accurate, they have their margins of error and what not, and it would be foolish to make detailed and precise predictions from a single poll, or a small set of polls. However, polls can be very useful in taking the political temperature, and if we follow the polls over a reasonable period then patterns emerge and trends begin to appear. If we look at the polls since the beginning of November, we can see some erratic figures throughout November, culminating at the end of the month in an apparent change from Con +11 to Con +1 in just 2 days. During December the Conservative lead stayed around 5 or 6 points, but since the New Year has shot back into double figures.

Many commentators believe that the Conservative lead is likely to grow in the coming months - I have seen some estimates as high as 48% for the Conservatives and as low as 22% for Labour by July - although I think both these figures may be a little extreme. I will stick my head above the parapet and make some rough predictions for the coming months.

Firstly, I do think that the Conservative lead will grow - the economy is getting worse rather than better - and will continue to do so for the rest of the year, the Labour government is particularly unpopular, and more and more people are beginning to trust the Conservatives to do a good job. Furthermore, I believe Ken Clarke's return to the shadow cabinet will be beneficial to the Conservatives - whatever we think of him, he is a popular and reasonably solid figure, and his appointment was a shrewd political chessmove from Cameron in my opinion. I would expect to see the Conservatives polling around 45% consistently over the coming months, with Labour around 27%. I am sure there will be the odd poll puting the Conservatives higher (or lower) and Labour lower (or higher), but I would guess that by the summer a gap in the late teens will be commonplace.

In terms of this summer's elections I would predict the following:

EU Elections on June 4th:

  • Conservative - 32 (+4)
  • Labour - 17 (-2)
  • LibDem - 11 (nc)
  • UKIP - 5 (-5)
  • SNP - 2 (nc)
  • Plaid Cymru - 1 (nc)
  • Greens - 2 (nc)
  • BNP - 1 (+1)
  • Independent - 1 (-1)

It must be noted that the UK will have 72 MEPs after June rather than 78. (3 MEPs represent Northern Ireland, and are not included in my predictions, the UK will have 73 MEPs IF the Lisbon Treaty is in force by June). The reason I suspect UKIPs vote will drop so sharply is that there is a fair bit of infighting in the party, and Nigel Farage is nowhere near so popular as Roger Knapman was. The reason I believe the BNP will manage to nick a seat is that the Council Elections on the same day will bring out their support - I couldn't say which region the seat will come, although if I had to guess I would say Eastern.

Council Elections on 4th June:

I am not going to make numerical predictions in relation to this, but I will make some more general predictions concerning party fortunes.

Labour will suffer another town hall bloodbath, losing possibly up to half of their seats (remember these council areas have not voted since 2005), leading to intense pressure on Gordon Brown from within the Labour party.

The LibDems will make marginal gains, probably doing better in the council elections than they can hope to do in a General Election. They will be the second party overall in the contested areas.

The Conservatives will gain fairly substantially. The European Elections will bring out Conservative voters, and the aftermath of this election will probably see the height of Conservative power in local government for a generation.

The BNP will make substantial gains, mostly from Labour, and will bag first place in the odd council, possibly even gaining overall control in one or two strong points.

The Greens, who put in a disappointing performance in 2005, are unlikely to make any significant gains.

The number of independent councillors will probably drop ever so slightly.

It is perhaps a little early for such bold predictions, but I think this is the way things will go. As ever, please correct me if you think I am wrong.

SNP Budget Fiasco

The SNP administration in Edinburgh suffered a humiliating defeat on Wednesday 28th January when their £33bn budget proposals were rejected by the Scottish Parliament, with the Greens of all parties holding the balance of power. The SNP government spent a frantic last day or two before the vote throwing money around as sweeteners for any party who might vote with them. Incidentally, this is money which comes mainly from the English taxpayer, which is presumeably why the Nats are so happy to waste it.
The Conservatives gained a £100m concession in return for voting with the administration, while the Greens, with a lowly two MSPs, made ludicrous demands, and then voted against the budget anyway because the demands were only partially met. With the budget defeated, both the SNP and the Conservatives are now casting the blame at Labour. I suspect this is more for public consumption than for the love of truth.
What happens next? The vote for the second attempt at passing the budget is scheduled for Wednesday 11th February, although it is possible that the SNP will wish to bring it forward. If the budget passes the second time (most likely) then it will simply be an embarassing blip for the SNP. If it fails, they have made it quite clear that Alex Salmond will resign as First Minister. Unfortunately such a respite would only be brief. MSPs would have 28 days to choose a new First Minister, failing which there will have to be an early Scottish Election. This is the SNPs trump card. They know that another election would favour them, probably giving them 3 or 4 extra seats, while Labour could be looking at losses of 6-8 seats. This would be a dream come true for the SNP, and a nightmare for Labour.
I very much doubt it will come to that. The likelihood is that the Greens will be thrown an irresponsible sweetener to bring them onside, while Labour will be too afraid of an election to try calling the SNPs bluff. With Labour abstaining and the Greens changing sides, only the LibDems would be left opposing the budget, which will probably have passed comfortably within two weeks. An election would be attractive for the SNP and Conservatives, who could both be looking at gains, but from a Conservative point of view it could be one year too soon. If the SNP government were to fall early in 2010, I believe the Conservatives would be the main beneficiaries at an ensuing election.

Friday, 30 January 2009

The Coroners and Justice Bill

The above is a link to a particularly pernicious bill currently seeking passage through the House of Commons. The apparent purpose of this bill is to pass as many unpopular and controversial laws as possible under the benign sounding auspices of reforming rules on inquiries.

There are two clauses in this bill which are of particular concern to those of us who value liberty (there are in fact a lot of clauses in this bill which will concern people, I am picking out two of the most outrageous). Firstly, clause 58 of the bill seeks to curtail freedom of speech. This clause would repeal the part of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (an anti free speech law) which protects the freedom to voice legitimate criticism of homosexuality. Whatever one's views are on the subject of homosexuality, or the criticism of it, there can be no excuse for trampling underfoot the ancient freedom of the British people to express their views freely.

Incitement to commit a crime has been a criminal offence in itself from time immemorial, but incitement to hatred - however well meaning - is no more than a thought crime. Since the 2006 Act this thought crime has been a part of life in the UK, but a Lords amendment, very sensibly introduced, prevented this Act from silencing the legitimate criticism of homosexuality. Now of course the Lords amendment did not go far enough - legitimate criticism of anything should be perfectly legal, whether we agree with the critic or the criticised - but it was a step in the right direction, a bastion of freedom standing against a tide of totalitarianism. But now the government, who have despised this amendment from the start, are seeking to abolish it in a very underhand fashion - this is the first serious flaw in the legislation. Dominic Grieve, who put in an excellent performance at the second reading on Monday 26 January said, quite pertinently, that "this would not be a new Labour justice Bill without some attempt to curtail freedom of speech". Of course that is exactly what this provision is. It turned the stomach to see Conservative maverick John Bercow give an apology for this piece of New Labour 1984ism in the second reading debate on Monday.

The second, and more deeply worrying aspect of this bill is clause 152. This draconian data sharing provision strikes at the heart of the Data Protection Principle, codified in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998, that data gathered for one purpose must not be used for another purpose without the consent of the data subject. That principle is a major roadblock to creating a police state and, while it is important not to exaggerate the seriousness of any draconian Labour law, one must wonder why they insist on laying the foundations for a police state.

There is plenty more that could be written, but the post is assuming dissertation proportions already so I will have to cut it short. Will the Bill be passed? It will be tight. I think that unless there are substantial amendments the Bill will be opposed by the Conservatives and LibDems, but this still leaves us hoping for a sizeable Labour rebellion. Nevertheless, the Bill may have difficulty in passing through the Lords, and we can always hope that this draconian, deceitful, liberty attacking provision will not be passed onto the statute books.

Introductory Post

Hello and welcome to my blog. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts whenever you have leisure, and visit often. Also, please feel free to comment, but keep any comments CLEAN and POLITE. Feel free to disagree with anything I write, or anything said in another comment, and again, please be polite.

The purpose of this blog is to give my view on what is happening in the political world. I will try to confine my posts to politics, but within that boundary I shall try to cover as wide a range of topics as possible. I will try to write about Bills passing through the UK parliament, opinion polls, particular politicians or parties, Scottish politics, and international politics. My aim is to provide food for thought, and stimulate discussion and/or debate about political issues.

I will try to update the blog as often as possible. I cannot promise a post per day, but I will do my best 6 days per week, and hopefully there will be some days with multiple posts. If you wish to bookmark this blog then please do (CTRL + D), and pass the word - tell any friends with a political bent about the blog, and encourage them to visit and participate in the blog.

Please leave a comment on this post. It is my first blog, and my first post, and I would very much appreciate any advice on blogging from seasoned bloggers, or anyone else in a position to offer advice.