The Sun

A great deal has been made of the bizarre sight of The Sun paper backing the Tories in England and the SNP in Scotland – especially the bit about one of the reasons to vote Tory is to stop the SNP!

So what does this tell us? Well the first lesson is despite their millions they are not all that good at photo shop. Both pics are frankly quite freakish.

But more importantly this isn’t as daft as it seems. The Sun and Murdoch press – ably helped by the Telegraph, Mail and Express are all campaigning as hard as they can to stop Labour. All journalistic standards have been thrown out of the window and the demonisation of Ed Miliband is even harsher than the s*$t they poured on Kinnock. 

So the SNP doing well in Soctland is just about the only way Cameron and his Tory press can stop Labour just about winning a majority Labour government. Without the rise of the SNP we would be talking of Labour in the 300+ seats territory and the narrative of this election would be very different. So this is all consistent with a strange strategy. Build up the SNP in Scotland to take Labour seats. Attack the SNP as traitors south of the border to scare people back to the Tories. Simple really. 

The BBC Finally covered the story

Thinking of Exit Polls Already

There is another week of this election to go. I am not sure how that makes you feel but  I did get the impression from the Tory announcement today that they don’t trust themselves enough to keep a promise on tax  so they would legislate not to increase tax (well VAT & Income tax for example). This is clearly a gimmick to have something to say for today. It wasn’t in the manifesto so we can only assume it’s one of those pointless policies that don’t mean much but send a ‘signal’. I can see why people are bored of this election. Despite the amount of detail allegedly given by the Tories about the ‘books for the next 5 years’ which allows them to make such an empty promise we know they have already got about £35-30bn of expenditure we don’t know where it will come from. Add to this the fact that GDP for last quarter fell to 0.3% growth and you can see why predicting 5 years growth to pay down the deficit and find the £30bn is really taking the electorate for fools.

Back to next week. As you know I have been keen to fast forward to the election result ever since I cast my postal vote. I am not sure I can take another week. It has been far too long. They are running out of photo Opps and repeated speeches. And from what I hear in all my conversations none of it is really helping make up peoples’ minds. Most people on my table at a dinner last night were ‘undecided’ despite all voting in 2010. They were shifting their thinking all over the place amongst the parties. 

I am probably very sad but I did get the adrenalin running at the thought of sitting up through election night when the exit polls start coming in

Usually about 12.30 was time for me to head to the ‘Count’ and look supremely confident, encourage my supporters and make the opposition worry. This time I will be sitting with my laptop and twitter enjoying every moment and  messaging friends who have won or lost. 

I will be watching the seats that will most likely change hands and what these mean for the final result. As we know only about 100 seats normally matter in a General Election and only a few thousand votes in each of these seats needs to change hands to change a government. I am a supporter of PR as I believe people should have their vote count wherever they live in the country. Being Labour in the South of much of England is pointless but those hundreds of thousands of votes should count for something. 

The reason I got excited by the polls again today was twofold. First the Ashcroft poll suggesting (its a snapshot no a result) that nick Clegg and Farage may not win their seats. On top of this was a Scottish poll suggesting the SNP might win every one of the 55 seats north of the border. Extraordinary if that is true. But it would also deny the Lib Dems of Danny Alexander. Strip out Jeremy Brown who is already going and perhaps David Laws and the Orange Book (ie Tories) grouping is no longer the force to do the post election deals. With 55 SNP and a slightly lefter leaning Lib Dems and the maths starts to look difficult for Cameron. I think political commentators have been too quick to put the Lib Dems in the Tory column for reaching the magic 323 seats target. There is still lots to play for. 

On a final note this evening as I blog – whilst trying to watch Leicester City defy the odds and beat Chelsea out of the corner of my eye – I have been keen to see how the media have covered this election. I think it has been a really low point for people who regard themselves as serious journalists in papers like the Telegrapgh. Yes we know they support the Tories and will say so but journalistic standards have just gone out of the window. But more objectively it is great that Loughborough University General Election Media analysis helps show just how biased the coverage has been and what Labour have had to contend with (negative attacks in the amount of coverage they get)

Loughborough University media monitoring

The latest over the top coverage that annoyed me today was the storeis around Ed Miliband daring to to an interview with somebody young people identify with – Russell Brand. Don’t people get that politics is no longer done through Radio 4 Today programme? I think this was brave and sensible way to try and engage. Thumbs up and it is stupid of the other media to attack him. But of course you can see why! social media makes it possible to by-pass the old media. Great!

Is anybody still listening to the election Issues?

I guess I am still pretty politically biased and therefore as somebody who has made up their minds (and voted!) I have the luxury of not listening much to the campaign promises being thrown around in this last week. Instead I am having fun with observing the dafter bits of this campaign and concentrating on following the polls and what this means for trying to create a government on May 8th.

But I did promise myself to comment everyday on the election and help make sense of questions I am asked about voting, issues and the result from friends and social media friends.

One quick one. I was asked today via Facebook if you could be fined for not voting. Rest assured you won’t be punished – but don’t ever moan to me about anything for the next 5 years if you can’t be bothered to vote!

Today I have mostly been locked away in sports meetings and then heading to the Leicester Tigers Awards night., so my head isn’t quite into the election today. This is a point I have been making throughout. Only a minor part of the political day is ever heard by the electorate. For me this means today I will only know the election via my twitter feed. To be fair I have followed CCHQ and the Lib Dems as well as a good smattering of Tory, Lib Dem and SNP friends as well as just the Labour MPs so i do get a reasonable perspective on their themes and thoughts.

However, I also had some fun last night as I tweeted the work done by various people on the Tory business letter produced on the front page of the Telegraph yesterday. If it wasn’t for twitter and social media as well as Andrew Neill on BBC the Tories might have just got away from creating an online sign up page and then giving it to the Telegrapgh (which has just become an embarrassing extension of the Tory Campaign HQ) as a ‘letter from businesses’. It is worth looking at my twitter timeline and facebook updates from last night to see the demolition of this trick. You won’t find much in the mainstream media who took this at face value.

After all the poll watching I do I have been increasingly looking at predictions about what will happen at local level. I have been updating my Loughborough predictions for some time. As with most marginals the national polling gives a starting point but much more data is required to make a better judgment. For obvious reasons I am not going to be sharing my intelligence publicly but I will be sharing how far out I was after the election. Since 1997 the furthest I got the Loughborough result wrong was by about 400!

So this does mean we need to start thinking about the potential outcomes. There have been some far more impressive articles and blogs than I have time to produce and some great constitutional input on what can now happen given the Fixed Term Parliament Act. We also have to read between the lines of what the minor parties are saying about who they will/won’t work with. I suspect now we are in a ne era of multi party politics we are going to have to get used to parties changing their minds about working coalitions after the election. I have always been a supporter of PR so I know I would have to get used to coalition talks post election. I think knowing beforehand there will be a coalition at least creates a focus for discussion about what is and isn’t a red line. This article is typical

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/politics-blog/11568429/Confused-about-the-general-election-Dont-worry-there-are-only-two-possible-outcomes….html

Quite rightly it boils down to the 2 scenarios. Broadly a Tory minority government with just enough or just short of enough support to create stable government. On the other hand the possibility of a more stable arrangement of Labour, SNP and other progressive parties. I can see what the Tories are doing to demonise the SNP. But if we do believe in the Union we all fought to keep last September, we cannot demonise democratically elected MPs from one of our nations. If Scotland sends SNP MPs to London in large numbers we need to respect what that means. They have the same status as MPs and should be treated with respect.

I have posted previously about the reason supply & confidence is no longer the best description for the type of government that might survive 5 years without a formal coalition. It is possible for a minority government to not have a formal arrangement but to continue in office (but not in power) for the 5 years.

I have to admit the prospect for any MP in Westminster of every vote on every matter in the Commons to rely on a 3 line whip would be a nightmare. There are many procedural matters that get nodded through with majorities in place that become staged battles. There are no majorities on Bill Committees and Select Committees. Even APG numbers change. Whilst this makes it much more fun lobbying where every vote matters it won’t be any good for the health of our MPs.

As I have now arrived in Leicester on the train my election thoughts are drawing to a close.

I am now much more interested in another form of voting for the next few hours – Who are the Leicester Tigers players inning awards this evening at the end of season dinner. I will tweet live as my practise for election night!

Vote for the Party or the Person?

As party affiliation or identification has weakened over recent years the question I am asked more frequently is about voting for the individual or the Party. It seems in 2015 this is even more prevalent as so many people are still undecided with just over a week to go.

Clearly I am biased. Despite being a nice gentle parliamentarian I do recognise the necessity for parties and am surprisingly tribal!! I would therefore always start from the point of view that you should be voting for the party that is closest to your values. As I wrote yesterday I don’t think voting at elections is about a shopping list of which party is best for me or just my family. However, I do understand that many people look to their short term individual self interest however depressing I find this practise!

Voting for the party closest to your values means of course you have to aware of your own values and those of the parties. Being based on the values and aspirations of a party means that people like me do forgive parties when they make mistakes or don’t quite get everything right. However, even in a knowledge driven world I am still surprised at how little people know about the parties policies and values. There are of course websites around that help…

So if you are not particularly tribal in your politics should you vote ‘for the person’. Again I declare an interest. I worked hard as an MP to generate a following amongst non-Labour voters who might at election time be so impressed by my work rate and effectiveness that they would put behind their party loyalty and vote for me personally. I was aware that even this was only ever worth a few hundred votes at most. But it did exist. I knew many people who personally backed me against their normal voting pattern. I even had Tory councillors vote for me!

So I can’t deny it is possible to vote for the person not just the party. But why would you do this? I would hope that whilst I was largely tribal and loyal to my party on big issues of conscious and issues of trust I would ‘rebel’ and represent my views and those of constituents. On big issues like Iraq, Tuition fees, Trident etc I did rebel – at the cost of always happily being a back-bench MP not on the Ministerial greasy pole. My successor for example has little ideology and was ambitious only to be an MP. Ambitious to climb that greasy pole has meant that there have been no rebellions – just party loyalty. If this is the case what is the point of voting for the ‘person’ if all you get is party cannon fodder with a smile? In a Party based parliamentary democracy you vote for the party because that’s what you get… party votes on party lines.

These days the level of public scrutiny is greater and the type of MP is changing. Across all the parties it is harder to see the old fashioned lazy MP survive. It used to be just MPs in marginal seats that worked hard, but increasingly I saw signs of the new post 97 generation working harder to be in touch and active in their constituencies. Therefore, there will be less areas to discern what is a good local MP and why you should vote for a ‘person’.

You might have a political or from my experience a faith based reason to vote for an individual. There might be something very specific or a local issue where the candidates have taken a different line outside the national party whip remit. So there are grounds in a few cases for going with a local candidate if you are not particularly tribal. But for me it’s Party first every time. Even if I lived in a constituency of an MP friend from a different party, I would vote against them every time. There are still friends in opposite parties standing this time and whilst I wish them well, I want my party to do well in their constituency!

All these thoughts came about from a Facebook discussion and a tweet from a well known Tory who said he would be happy to see the Labour Party reduced to 4 MPs – including me! So even the most tribal can put these feelings aside.

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If you get a chance to read the New Statesman this week the article by Robert Skidelsky on the economy and the crash are worth 10 minutes of your time. The biggest victory and con of this coalition has been to pin the global economic recession on Labour. This article highlights the flaws in the arguments and it is fair at criticising some elements of Labour economic and financial schemes if you fear it’s just Tory bashing! As I say well worth your time.

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There are some pretty cool ‘endorsements’ around for politicians. I am sure the cynics amongst us don’t think people will vote for a Party just because a celebrity does – but I have to admit getting Professor Hawkins on your side certainly beats Katie Hopkins threatening to leave the country if Laour win. What a great combo – we get to keep Hawkins and Hopkins emigrates. Two great reasons to vote Labour?