October 2009 Archives

Trumpton - Mission Accomplished?

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Trump Junior, like Bush Junior, got his job and his name from his dad. Life's been easy for them both, and victory always feels inevitable with a background like theirs. 

From a small base.

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ComresOctScot.pngA Comres poll for the Independent today shows a pleasingly tiny proportion of BNP voters despite the BBC giving them the biggest publicity spree in their history. 

As Mike Smithson puts it, "The mid-October poll had 8 respondees saying BNP - tonight's survey has that at 13". That's out of 1004 respondents. 

The same poll shows the Greens on 5% nationally (the actual final results are on p22 of that massive pdf), which is pretty promising for Green target seats given the large variability in our vote. 

Deep in the lengthy tables for it I noticed something else interesting. It's a subsample point, and I have in the past criticised those who take those too seriously. Nevertheless, it confirms my prejudices, so it's worth blogging about.

Comres asked their respondents "Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as ...?", i.e. Labour/Tory/Lib Dem/Green/Nat etc. Page 18 shows the results, or click the image above for a look at it.

In Scotland, a quarter define themselves as Labour, with almost as many as identifying as Nats. Despite the better position of the Nats, this makes sense. I know plenty of people who'd still say they think of themselves as Labour people but won't vote Labour, whereas the SNP clearly continue to get the backing of swing voters.

16% identify as Tories, about the level they poll at, pretty much whatever happens. This also seems to make sense. Their base is firm, if much lower than the rest of the UK for some reason, but they pick up few floating or tactical voters.

Then, intriguingly, 6% of this small sample of Scots define themselves as Green, and 6% as Lib Dems. The Lib Dems do continue to poll above us for now: for instance, in the recent Euros they got 11.5% to our 7.3%. 

With some chameleon-like politics, squeeze messages and media omnipresence, they do a lot with pretty low base. Those 5-10% who vote Lib Dem but don't identify with them, though, there's a term for them. Potential Green voters..

The time I debated Nick Griffin.

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Thumbnail image for peakoil.jpgIn 2005 Mark Ballard and I went to a conference at the Chamber Street museum on the topic of peak oil. It was very informative, full of oil industry professionals as well as the renewables crowd, chaired by a BBC journalist and very alarming.

Coming out of one session Mark saw a familiar face in the crowd - the man at the centre of today's media storm, Nick Griffin. 

He had a false name and organisation on his badge (the latter was something like "Verity", but not "Veritas", I don't recall exactly), but there's no mistaking him for anyone else, not even any of the "comedy" Nazis from Allo Allo

If you're ever unsure it's him, the glass eye is the dead giveaway. It is a replacement for the one he claims he lost when he left live ammunition on a bonfire, and it always looks over your shoulder, as if he's awaiting reinforcements. 

We made our way over and engaged him in conversation, just because it seems wrong to let a fascist just stand there unchallenged. It was not a polite conversation. 

I raised two vile BNP policies, one on deporting non-British born citizens and one on providing guns to all over-18s. Effectively, he'd be telling some British citizens that their parents, also British citizens, have to be sent back to countries they may have not seen for decades, then he'd give the younger generation guns. Did he have other plans to trigger a race war? Cue some bluster and counter-assertion.

He also denied he was a racist, but a breath later said he'd obviously not let his children marry a non-white person. He then went into a massive rant about the evil Americans which I'm not planning to air here, and I ended calling him a revolting fascist.

I'm not proud of this encounter, although I'm glad there was a crowd around us, not least because the boot boy over his shoulder turned out to be a member of Combat 18 with a history of (no, you'll never believe this) racially motivated violence.

I discovered that a smarter environmentalist from the audience had also approached him later. He played dumb and just asked Griffin about his interest in the issue of peak oil.

The answer was telling - the public turn to the right when faced with economic hard times and social dislocation, he said, and the end of the easy oil economy would put him into Downing Street during the 2020s.

The consequences of imminent oil depletion are grave even before you look at the politics of it, and I've done my best with Green colleagues to raise the issue and the need to give a serious response. Preparing for the next oil price spike and the end of cheap energy will require much the same policy shift as is required to tackle climate change, so there's every reason just to get on with it. 

Those of us in mainstream parties put a lot of time and effort knocking the neo-nazi BNP, and for understandable reasons. Fine, but it'd be a lot more constructive to work together on zero-carbon energy and coincidentally make Nick Griffin's grim fantasy even more unlikely.

Why votes at 16 matter.

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youthvote.jpgI've got in my hand a flyer given out by Scottish Youth Parliament activists on the Gude Cause suffragette march the weekend before last. It lists what sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds can do, or can be made to do. 

They point out that this age group can be tried in court as an adult, join the army, own their own home, and pay taxes, but not vote. 

It's a persuasive argument, even if discrimination against the young is in one sense more egalitarian than discrimination against women or members of ethnic minorities. We were all young once, even Bill Aitken.

The reason I'm so committed to this cause is a little different, though.

Last year we had a young man in our Holyrood office on a work placement arranged by his school. These can be a bit high maintenance and sometimes of dubious value, but he was smart as hell, immediately got the basics of writing a press release, and fitted in from the start. He was also very politically aware, and pretty passionate.

He was fifteen at the time, and he had done the sums. He knew he'd turn eighteen in 2011, just a couple of months after the next Holyrood election, and wouldn't get a say in a Scottish election until he was practically twenty-two, seven years away.

Another very good friend of mine is in a similar position. He'll be a year and a month too young to vote in the 2011 elections, and (assuming the next UK cycle is four years long) he'll be in his twenties before he gets to vote either for Westminster or Holyrood. He'll just miss the 2012 Scottish locals, too, so won't get to vote for his local councillors until he's almost twenty-three.

Like our work placement friend, he's very politically literate, very knowledgeable and passionate about the issues. But politicians can safely ignore him as long as the voting age remains at eighteen.

The idea you can vote at eighteen is, after all, awfully contingent on there being an election on your eighteenth birthday, and the current arrangement means a lot of people in their twenties will have had no opportunity to vote for at least one of the levels of government that matters. Just wrong.

"Votes at sixteen" is therefore slightly misleading, although I see why they chose it. Plenty of people much older than that will get disenfranchised too, and the problem is much wider than people normally think.

Some patronising fools claim we can't trust these young people to vote responsibly. Just as with the older generations, though, many of those who don't care or don't know anything about politics simply won't vote at all. And who are we to say what a responsible vote is anyway? Let the (young) people decide for themselves.

Greens : Nats :: Nats : Tories?

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equations.jpgAlex Salmond is away this week at the Alex Salmond Annual Conference 2009, and everyone sounds like they're having a lovely time counting their chickens ahead of the UK General.

The Maximum Eck therefore went on GMS this morning to set out his strategically sensible but odd-sounding ambition for this election: a hung Parliament. 

Brian Taylor captures the thinking perfectly. The comparison to Steel's "go back to your constituencies" line may be brutal, but, as BT observes, this approach is much smarter because it excuses Salmond from having to admit he'd love nothing more than a Cameron victory. Apart from a Thatcher victory, that is. Fortunately it's just him and Norman Tebbit on that one.

The SNP attitude to the rest of the UK is changing pretty fast. Salmond said last week that Westminster would be "hung by a Scottish rope", a stark contrast to the more charming line he took before the last Holyrood election. Back in 2007 he said England and Scotland would be "the best of pals, the closest of buddies". I prefer my pals not to try to hang me with a rope, but I'm sure Kevin Pringle knows where he is on the message calendar.

Last year, at the midpoint of the transition from best pals to hanging with a rope, Salmond said he'd "make Westminster dance to a Scottish jig". That might still sound like a relatively friendly metaphor, but note the compulsion. It actually reminds me more of the brutal ending of Snow White, where the evil queen has to dance in red hot iron shoes until she dies

In Salmond's the cause of death is now hanging, not dancing, but dead is still dead. If you like you can also pick a role from Snow White for the First Minister to play. Anyone picking Bashful will be laughed at.

Back to his appearance on GMS. This morning he said that:

"A Scottish block would be influential regardless of the outcome of the election. What I think is true is that a balanced Parliament, a Parliament without an overall majority would be the most influential, give us the most ability to extract concessions and win gains for Scotland. 

"I think there's no doubt that in a Parliament without an overall majority, then if you have a block of MPs then you can achieve fantastic things, and I only point out that of all the politicians in these islands I am probably the one with the most experience of minority government. I'm on the receiving end of it. 

"Obviously, if you take the first Budget the SNP brought in last year then the Green Party with two MSPs were able to have an extraordinary influence because we're a minority government, because it's a balanced Parliament."

(on iPlayer until next week, roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes in)

I remember that Budget. What happened is that a small opposition party (that's us) brought forward an eminently sensible and pragmatic proposal, but an overweening minority administration tried to bully them into accepting something negligible and almost entirely different. When that bullying failed, the Budget fell

What exactly the SNP actually learnt from this process it would be good to know. Was it that larger parties tend to get their way in the end? Pleasing as it is for him to tell a UK-wide audience that Greens are influential, the fact is that he turned us over and the policy never happened.

The equation doesn't hold for other reasons too. Our only objective in the Budget talks he refers to was a policy one, to get the idea implemented, to cut bills and carbon emissions and to boost jobs. There was no hidden agenda, although we'd obviously have been happy to take credit for the idea (which regular readers will know we nicked from Kirklees Greens). 

Salmond, on the other hand, would be going into UK Budget negotiations striving to demonstrate that the new Tory government doesn't care for Scotland, and that only the SNP can stand up to them. 

This would make the SNP almost impossible for Cameron to deal with, just as a minority Labour government found them in the 1970s. The Tory leader's long term future may well depend on ensuring he avoids both their rope and their red-hot shoes, just as the polls predict he will.
It's hard work, setting up a political party. The hard days and long nights, the tiny meetings, the repeated electoral failures and the years hoping for a breakthrough, the funny looks and the sheer thanklessness of it all. 

That's how I imagine it, at least in Europe. By the time I joined the Scottish Greens we were just nine months away from our first elected parliamentarian, so I missed the tough phases up to that point. 

It's the process our Hungarian friends are in the midst of, although they seem to be moving more quickly towards that first election success.

In other parts of the world it's much harder still, especially to set up a Green party, an organisation able to challenge gross unsustainability as well as economic injustice and undemocratic practices. Bravely, people do it, most recently in Rwanda, despite local bureaucrats trying to prevent Greens even meeting, and in Kyrgyzstan, where the party leader (pictured above) went on trial for having caricatures of the President in his office, and where effectively he's now being held hostage by the state.

My political commitment will almost certainly never put me in situations as hard or as dangerous as those faced by my colleagues in other countries, but I am proud as hell to be part of the same global movement as them. 
debrakayak.jpgDebra Storr, erstwhile Lib Dem Councillor, enthusiastic kayaker, and staunch defender of local residents against rapacious developers, has put in her form to join the Greens. Her website has gone very green as well, but, like Martin Ford, she'll stay as part of the Democratic Independent Group on Aberdeenshire Council. She says: 

"I urge others disgusted at the failure of political leadership amongst current elected representatives in the north-east to join me in the Scottish Green Party as a first step to giving the north-east a better set of representatives for the future." 

It's great - that will take us to ten Councillors who are also Greens. I've really enjoyed being Martin's colleague, and I'm looking forward to working with Debra too. 

I wonder if the bookies are offering odds on a Green MSP being returned again for the North East in 2011?

Heathrow: this cat folds.

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thiscatfolds.jpgThis is becoming Climate Victory Week. Following the end of plans for new coal at Kingsnorth, BAA have folded over the third runway at Heathrow. Credit where it's due: the main reason is that Theresa Villiers held her nerve

Shame we couldn't have some similar Scottish wins over, say, Hunterston and the Additional Gold-plated Forth Bridge. That would require a majority of MSPs to understand the environment, though.

The King's Kingsnorth North.

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kingalex.jpgThe demise of the proposed Kingsnorth coal power station, announced last night by E:ON, was greeted with jubilation by Greens and other environmental activists. E:ON can now get back to their core business of protecting donkeys with solar powered fences. For some reason a story about that makes it to their media release archive, while Kingsnorth is neglected.

The next scandalous project of this sort in our firing line, and opposed by others like the RSPB, is the new coal plant planned at Hunterston. The SNP sneaked it into the National Planning Framework (2Mb pdf) right at the last minute, four months after the consultation closed, and their Ministers claim the plant will be "carbon capture ready", which is about as reassuring as "don't worry darling, it's condom ready".

The local campaign against the new Hunterston project is here, and STV did a good report last month about their legal challenge to the NPF. I hope they win, but either way efforts to block it will continue. 

NASA's James Hansen, the father of climate science, describes coal plants as "factories of death", and Hunterston is now front and centre in the campaign to make sure no more are ever built in this country. The SNP are yet again on the wrong side in the carbon wars, and both King Coal and King Alex will have to be stopped.

What planet are they on?

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ballerinaalien.jpgWinchester Lib Dem Councillor Adrian Hicks had a curious secret when he stood for election in 2006 and 2007. He felt that admitting he’d seen an alien dressed as a ballerina under the city’s Guildhall clock might jeopardise his chances.

The alien was laughing and having a good time, and apparently was “human enough to get away with it.”

As it happens, he lost anyway in 2006 before coming from third to win in 2007. Having served his area for two years now, he feels confident enough to come out, and he’s trying to track her down, presumably so they can go to Venus together.

Grazia have some potentially interesting information for him - they worked out who made her dress. I agree that the likely explanation is terrestrial. He probably just doesn’t know what kind of sunglasses are in fashion.

Still, we shouldn’t laugh. He’s in good company. The wife of the new Japanese Prime Minister believes she was abducted and taken to Venus. It could be worse. Councillor Hicks could have taken her to his leader.

(via glum councillors)

From our Greek correspondent.

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(This is a guest post by Marinos Antypas about the weekend's Greek elections.)

Well the results that have rocked the country can be analysed thus: Pasok has won its second biggest victory in its history with a 10% head from Nea Democratia and a 5% head over N.D. and LAOS (the Greek BNP) combined. It now holds 160 out of 300 Parliament seats.

Nea Democratia scored its lowest percentage ever and its most bitter defeat. Karamanlis resigned immediately as party leader, and a chain of leading ministers have announced they are dropping out of politics altogether....what a relief! Amongst them the forest-eater mental anti-green minister of the environment and public works. ND now holds only 90 seats, a plunge of 60.

This was a completely unexpected outcome as all surveys had fixed a 4% lead with a still lingering inability for Pasok to form a strong government, even if it achieved autonomy. Pasok has now promised landslide changes, starting with the founding of a Ministry of the Environment in itself and a change in the electorate system to mirror the German model (pr?). Oh and in a nice Orwellian twist it has renamed the ministry of public order as the ministry for citizen protection...

The small parties now:

KKE easily won the third position, however due to the great leak to Pasok it did lose 0,60% and one Parliamentary seat from last time, that is to 21 in total. The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the KKE has announced that the results do not reflect the real existing popular anger etc etc.

The Fascists (LAOS) were crestfallen... they had promised and threatened to get the third position, they hoped for 9% and all they got was a fraction more than last time, (about 50,000 voters) which in weird Greek politics amounts to 1,60% up to 5,5%. Their fuhrer called it "a night of sorrow" and he is right: ND had its biggest leak in history, and its "co-workers on the right" got nothing out of it. Statisticians estimate that the percentage reflects the highest possible for LAOS, a 2,3% down from their euroelection results. Common people just agree that 5% of Greeks are and always be fascist so no big deal. LAOS now holds 15 seats in Parliament instead of its 12 last time.

The Radical Left (Syriza) managed a miracle. All the media were predicting its death, its inability to make it past the 3% limit to enter parliament. And to be honest, the leftists did all they could to guarantee such an effect. But alas, the Maoist Greek soul never dies...despite the massive leakage to Pasok they got 4.6%, only 0.5% down from 2007, getting 13 seats (instead of 15) in the parliament. 

The left is super-happy, because according to the statisticians, this 4.6% can now be considered as their hard-core base, on which they can build. It was also the first time a left leader has called the new PM to congratulate him. Papandreou offered Tsipras to "change the country together", but Tsipras replied he would rather work towards change by constructive opposition. These men are deep in love...

Your Greens managed to double their percentage from 2007 to 2,7% or something a mere fraction away from entering Parliament. It is possible that Papandreou will include them nevertheless in some ministry or sub-ministry if they agree, reflecting his scheme of a wide progressive government. Despite the defeat in terms of getting those seats, the percentage reflects that the common scene of radical left and ecology can get a decent 8% if they cooperate in a civil way. Wish they did!

In terms of abstention, the national total is 30%, rather high for national elections, reaching really high levels in urban areas (45% I think in Athens) and in some border areas (68% in NW Macedonia). The importance of this has been downplayed by the media, but it reflects a reserve army of voters that could just rock the boat. Municipals next year, or nationals again in March if there is no consensual Presidental candidate, will be fun.

Update: The Greens have honoured their fame as honest people: Papandreou offered their leader the new Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, and they refused - claiming they remain critical of power and that they can not cooperate when there are no clear programmatic agreements.

Also Ms Damanaki, Pasok MP, ex-leader of Synaspismos (Radical Left) and the voice of the embattled Polytechneio illegal radio station during the 1973 uprising has refused to head the newly named "ministry of citizen protection" i.e. the riot police ministry of public order, which now goes to Mr Chrisochoidis, the mastermind behind the capture of the November 17 in summer 2002. 

Otherwise, sadly most ministries with added adjectives or not have gone to old Pasok cadres, killing hope in the cradle. The ministry of education has gone to Ms Diamandopoulou, famous as an arch-enemy of academic asylum... storms lie ahead if she dares infringe on the constitution by letting the police into the campus.

Keeping a sense of proportion.

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AdamBoulton.jpgI'd planned to ignore the Sky-promoted debates debate. Any actual head-to-heads will be of interest, but the usual squalling about who gets to be in it is pretty tiresome. And yet..

A classic of the genre today sees the Maximum Eck scoring the front page of the Sunday Herald (judging by the website) for a footstamping press release.

"Alex Salmond wants on the telly more" really isn't news, no more than "SNP support independence" should be. SNP HQ will have been delighted with the story, however petty it may make them look to the outside world. That is, until they got to Adam Boulton's line at the bottom:

"There are genuine concerns about making sure the other parties are represented - the Greens, SNP, BNP, UKIP."
paviliongreen.pngThe second annual PoliticsHome superpoll of the marginals is out today, based on YouGov interviews with 33,610 people. They polled everyone, it seems. They certainly polled me - did they poll you?

The methodology seems pretty sound. Anthony Wells grouped seats with similar characteristics - London commuter belt, Southwest Liberal/Con marginals etc - and got a representative sample in each group to extrapolate from. Much more plausible than the old Scottish sub-sample game.

The results (full document, 2.6Mb pdf) are easy to spin as good news and bad news for the three largest Westminster parties, especially given last year's numbers as an alternative comparator. 

Labour are out of government on these numbers, obviously, but down to 199 instead of the ultra-dire 160 seats predicted last year. "It's heading our way", they say, although Tom Harris certainly isn't kidding himself. The Liberals are down 8 to 55, but last year it was worse for them too, when the same poll predicted they'd keep just 44 MPs.

Conversely, the headline figure that puts Dave C into power is a Tory majority of 70, which I think he'd take, but last year they predicted a landslide 146 lead. There are pages and pages of English Con/Lab marginals shown here turning blue, places Labour never reached before Blairism, and places always likely to revert to type. Cumbria's about the only group to buck the trend.

Other parties' results are less equivocal. Last year the SNP leadership was jubilant about numbers showing vast swathes of Scotland going their way, but this year just 3 Nat gains are predicted. I'm personally sceptical about this, but you can imagine the long woad-painted faces of the cybernats as they contemplate page 29.

The best has been saved for last. Brighton Pavilion is part of a group of seaside town seats including Morecambe, Great Yarmouth and and the Blackpool constituencies. In the 2005 election 8% of people voted for parties outside the big three. Last year's poll had this number at 11%, and this year it's a staggering 19%.

The report says: "This is mainly benefiting the Green Party who on these figures would win their first Parliamentary seat in Brighton Pavilion."

I do hope so. Another near miss (as per several seats in the Euros) would be heartbreaking. Also, I note they didn't cover either of our English friends' other targets, Lewisham and Norwich South. That makes them better bets with the bookies, I reckon, Norwich South in particular. 

(politicalbetting.com thread here)

The trouble with Donald.

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Yesterday Aberdeenshire Council sunk to a new low, something previously believed to be against the laws of physics, by deciding not to block Trump's threat of compulsory purchase against local residents.

On Wednesday night Council sources had briefed reputable media outlets that Councillor Ford's motion against compulsory purchase was unacceptable, but that another anti- CPO amendment would pass. By yesterday morning they were back in line with the tribble-haired Mr Trump (pictured with friends).

It was a grim day for the families, who had argued so passionately for certainty from their elected representatives. Many red-shirted Councillors made craven comments about never voting for compulsory purchase, then failed to vote against. This did not go down well, and I suspect they won't get beamed back into the Council chambers come 2012.

The response from the Trump Organisation would have made Spock weep, too. This was a "logical" decision. Live long and prosper, it seems, so long as it's not in your own homes.

Note: The Scotsman have foolishly bravely allowed Jeff, Caron, Craig, Kez and me to blog on the Steamie as well, and this piece also appears there. Thanks guys!

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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