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Showing posts from 2017

The Ukrainian Gambit

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In the phase 1 Brexit agreement, the UK has made a commitment to keep the Irish border open in all circumstances:

The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom's intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.

Many commentators have interpreted this to mean that the only destination now possible in phase 2 is a so-called soft Brexit, where to all intents and purposes t…

There are no good arguments against votes at 16

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As someone who was denied the chance to vote in a parliamentary election until I was 21, it might not surprise you that I have every sympathy with 16 and 17 year olds who were similarly denied a chance to vote this year. It was a shame, then, that Jim McMahon's bill to reduce the voting age was not brought to a vote on Friday, and dismaying to discover that there are still plenty of opponents of votes at 16 out there, throwing out the usual tired arguments against change.

Most of these arguments tend towards abstract musings on the nature of adulthood, aka "why should we trust 16 year olds with a vote if we don't trust them with a pint?". Which itself raises the question of exactly what kind of damage they are expecting 16 year olds to do with their ballot paper. Give themselves a papercut? The intention of restricting things like alcohol, gambling, smoking, tanning salons, etc. to 18 is clearly to protect children from potentially harming themselves or others. No s…

Why a new "centrist" party would probably fail

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It's been heartening to see that the softening of Labour's Brexit position over the summer has not led to a decline in its polling figures, and may even be driving them up a little. Labour's change was apparently motivated at least in part by the fear that a new "centrist" party would emerge that would hurt them more than the Tories. Certainly, there's been much talk recently of such a party, despite or perhaps because of the lacklustre performance of the existing centrist party, the Lib Dems, in the snap election.

The belief that a new centrist party would sweep all before it is based on the idea that if Labour moves left while the Tories move right, a great yawning gap of homeless voters will appear in the middle. Assuming voters are normally distributed across the political spectrum, the picture looks something like this:


Which is fine as far as it goes, but the label "centrist" bugs me, both as a tag for the potential new party and in its other …

Life in Remainville: Episode 3, A New Hope

So it turns out the method of counting window posters is scientific, with Jeff Smith crushing all before him:

Life in Remainville: Smith vs Leech revisited

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In case you were thinking the main contenders had gone quiet, I can assure you that our hallway carpet continues to be submerged in red and yellow leaflets. We've received a CV from John Leech, a personal letter from Jeff Smith, an even more personal psuedo-handwritten letter from the Manchester Mum of the Year describing how Leech helped her child get medical treatment, two reminders to vote on Thursday, and more besides. But rather than attempt to scan all that lot in I'll just share the two which best summarise their respective campaigns.

Here's Smith's effort, complete with endorsement from Big Andy and a number of references to police cuts (a growing theme in the Labour material):




 (Top prize for misleading stat there with the 93% line)

And here is Leech, no longer featuring photos of Corbyn but abstract references to infighting instead.





(I'm still trying to understand the logic of the "more spending, more taxes, no plan to pay for it" critique)

The …

Life in Remainville: attack of the nasty old also-rans

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Pantomime villain Sarah Heald finally appears in leaflet form:


One of the most content-free leaflets I've ever seen, though don't worry because Team May is here to explain all...


I guess this leaflet was produced back when standing with Theresa May was considered to be an advantage, maybe not so much now. Everything else about it has a distinctly phoned-in quality, not least that the designer couldn't even be bothered to replace "MY CANDIDATE" with the actual name of the candidate.

Even if the Tories do end up with a 100+ majority after all, I will at least take solace that Her Candidate is not going to Westminster.

Life in Remainville: a teachable moment

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That must have been a particularly engaged art class...


Life in Remainville: at the Hustings

To St Clements, scene of the 2015 hustings, for a re-run. With the Big Two back again with much the same views I didn't learn a whole lot that would sway my vote, although Jeff Smith's vow to keep fighting for the interests of pro-Europeans was welcome. He had a neat line on a second referendum, being sympathetic to one but noting the necessity of a change in public opinion first, which he predicted would happen. Smith's vote against Article 50 has indeed innoculated him against a clear line of attack from John Leech, and Brexit was far from the dominant theme of the evening, putting a question mark over the very name of this blog series.

Much more focus was on questions of tax and spending, which is exactly where Labour needs the debate to be and very bad news for the Lib Dems. Leech's other main attack was that a vote for Smith is a vote for Corbyn Chaos, but the lack of reaction confirmed my feeling that Withington is not the most receptive area in the country to th…

Life in Remainville: Attack of the All-New Also Rans

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With the resumption of campaigning another three postings from the Lib Dems have arrived, including personal letters addressed personally to me in person from both Tim Farron and John Leech. Nothing new of interest to report in any of them. I would though like to appeal to the party to stop sending me pictures of Nigel Farage laughing maniacally, they're making me feel ill.

Much more interesting is the first piece of literature from outside the Big Two. There are three other candidates standing this time, sadly not including the Mysterious Independent, who regular readers will know took a punt on becoming mayor instead. UKIP have also failed to show up, which on the one hand is a marvellous indicator of their continuing decline but on the other hand denies us the satisfaction of seeing them lose their deposit again. Laura Bannister is standing for the Greens (not to be confused with Lucy Bannister from 2015 - are they related?) while Sarah Heald is also new for the Tories. The fir…

Life in Remainville: après les vacances, le déluge

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So you turn your back for a week and seven pieces of literature arrive. Far too many to scan, so you'll just have to click-and-squint to get a flavour:


After heroically reading all of these I have learned:

"Who will stop The Hard Brexit?" - Not the Labour Party, no no no. The Liberal Democrats of course. 8/10 fair point rating, although given how their campaign has gone so far I doubt the Lib Dems will be capable of stopping anything much in the next parliament. "Who can change the Future of Britain?" - Not Corbyn's Labour Party, no no no. Tim Farron's Liberal Democrats of course. A variation on the same theme but with more boo hiss Corbyn photos. I'm a little bit surprised about the focus on Corbyn as I would have thought Withington would be more sympathetic than most areas to his leadership, but what do I know.John Leech still likes to send us personal letters address personally to us in person. More jabs at Labour regarding Brexit, mixed with loca…

Life in Remainville

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With the Andy Burnham Show out of the way thoughts turn to the awful looming catastrophe of 8th June. Manchester Withington is all but irrelevant to the national outcome this time, where there is one mission and one mission only: to reduce the scale of the Tory victory. While it is a privilege to live in a constituency where the Tories don't stand a chance, it does render the local contest somehow a bit academic.

It goes without saying that Labour and the Lib Dems don't see it that way, and it's clear already that this election is going to be just as closely fought as 2015, even though it is nominally now a safe Labour seat. No complaints from me of course...

I'm not going to post every piece of literature I receive before the main event, not least as the exhausting Libdemalanche is continuing unabated, with yet another feature-packed South Manchester News arriving today (complaining about Labour's record on homelessness, on the same day the mayor announced a new h…

Life in a Mayoral: piece of cake

So Labour and the Lib Dems were fully justified in switching their leafletting efforts to the general election:


Other names:Description (if any):Number of first preference
votes given for each candidate:Percentage (%) of
first preference votes:ANSTEESean BrianThe Conservative Party Candidate128,75222.72%ASLAMMohammadIndependent5,8151.03%BROPHYJane ElisabethLiberal Democrats34,3346.06%BURNHAMAndyLabour and Co-operative Party359,35263.41%FARMERMarcus JonathanIndependent3,3600.59%MORRISStephenEnglish Democrats - "Putting England First!"11,1151.96%ODZEShneur ZalmanUK Independence Party (UKIP)10,5831.87%PATTERSONWillThe Green Party13,4242.37%Total number of first preference votes:566,735
Big Andy shows the rest of the country how it's done... compare this with the 46% that Labour achieved in my back of the envelope sum of their 2015 vote.

Update 8/5/2017: As pundits are starting to notice that Burnham smashed it and are wondering why, here are a few things that stood out from m…

Life in a Mayoral: decision time

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So who did I vote for on this historic day?

When the campaign kicked off I was sorely tempted to choose based purely on the candidates' views on Brexit, but now it seems a less urgent concern when there's a better opportunity to make that point next month. And if you discount Brexit, there's only one game in town. Burnham is streets ahead of the other candidates both in his experience and his manifesto, so first choice to him.

Of course I wasn't going to let my first ever supplementary vote election pass without nominating a second choice (not that there's any chance of it coming into play). That was a tougher decision: other than campaiging on Brexit the Lib Dems haven't been particularly inspiring in this race, and it was a bit of a toss-up with the Greens for me. But in an effort to make an informed choice I looked through Paterson's manifesto and noticed he makes a point of opposing HS2, which is an utterly disastrous attitude for a would-be mayor of G…

Life in a Mayoral: canvassed!

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Exciting times as the Labour Party visited the Tomsk household this evening on behalf of their general election candidate J---- S----.



Alas the canvassing did not extend to Andy Burnham and therefore I will not be reporting details of our conversation.

No further mayoral election literature has been received, so I guess it's decision time...

Life in a Mayoral: [redacted]

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The first Libdemalanche since 2015 arrives, but sadly without any mention of the Mayoral election. In line with this blog's strict one-election policy I will present their literature without comment, and with the identities of candidates not standing for mayor obscured.




Update 2/5/2017: It seems Labour are so confident of winning the mayoral race that they too are skipping ahead to the general election. Naturally their effort must be appropriately redacted:




Life in a Mayoral: change of focus

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With barely more than a week to go before election day the mayoral race has reached fever pitch, with upwards of one leaflet delivered already this week. And it's the Lib Dems again:


South Manchester's Focus is clearly turning towards the general election, alongside John Leech's online announcement that he will run again in Withington. But there's still space to mention Jane Brophy at the bottom of the page, complete with Leech's endorsement.

Focus makes a big claim that it's the Lib Dems or Labour to win on May 4th, and I have to admit I don't actually have any instinct about who will end up in the top two alongside Burnham. As far as I'm aware there have been no polls to help out on this point.

The most straightforward estimate I can think of is a simple sum of all the votes in the 2015 general election across the 27 GM constituencies, which gives you the following totals:

Labour: 551,119
Conservative: 315,537
UKIP: 192,470
Lib Dem: 85,189
Green: 42,3…

Life in a Mayoral: video killed the leafletting star

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Mrs Tomsk directs me to this slick ad from the pride of Trafford:



Is he insinuating that Big Andy's not a Manc? Even after the exclusive interview with the Burnham for Mayor gazette put the record straight?

Life in a Mayoral: The Runners

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So it seems we can't even have a nice relaxed provincial vote without Westminster demanding to be the centre of attention. Poor show! Still, this blog will stay within its remit right up until the 4th May, if only because an election which the Tories surely can't win is so much more pleasant than the feeling of impending doom coming from the other one.

The official candidate information arrived through our letterbox today (it's also available online, in case you're wondering why my scanning skills have suddenly improved). Eight people are standing as follows:


The first thing that jumps out of this list is that Withington's own Mysterious Independent is standing again! And not only that, he's opted to remain Mysterious by not submitting an official Election Address. Fair play to him.

He's joined by a second Mysterious Independent, Mohammed Aslam, because of course Salford has to have its own Mysterious Independent.

UKIP's Shneur Odze is the third making …

Life in a Mayoral: Feel the Burn

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It's certainly been a slow start to the election spamming this time round, almost as if the result is a foregone conclusion. But never fear: Big Andy has ridden into town.


Points are immediately deducted for posting a leaflet that is much too large to be easily scanned. On the other hand, an equal number of points are awarded for sneaking Tony Wilson quotes into the text.



Inside, there are detailed assurances that Burnham is not a Scouser (read and learn, national political correspondents), a soupçon of appealing policies and a healthy amount of London-bashing. If there's one skill the mayor of GM must have, it's whining about Westminster until they cough up more cash. And of course it all helps dissociate him from his long time spent in the dreaded South.

Overall the focus could hardly be more different to Jane Brophy: only a single passing mention of the referendum with the emphasis very much on local issues and Burnham's own high level of political experience. Fai…

Life in a Mayoral

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OK, so a while back I might have said that I would definitely absolutely not post any more political literature on to this site, but we all know pledges are made to be broken. How could I resist the lure of the first ever Greater Manchester Mayoral Election? Combined Authorities! Supplementary Vote! Brexit Culture Wars! It's got it all.

Welcome back first of all to the fiercely independent South Manchester News, which chooses to splash on Corbyn's inept opposition to the Brexit process:



Sadly the News was unable to find sufficient space to mention that our local Labour MP voted against triggering Article 50, but to be fair if I was the editor I'd play up the Corbyn angle for all it was worth as well.

Along with the SMN came the first piece of mayoral campaign literature we've received, for the Lib Dem candidate Jane Brophy. She is a Trafford councillor whose name is already familiar to me as the runner up in the safe Tory seat of Altrincham & Sale West in 2010 bac…

Hey, Maybe Neoliberalism Wasn't So Bad After All

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Yes really. But don't worry, this blog has not renounced its political values. Let me explain...

It's only been a few months since the EU referendum, but already it's clear that it has catalysed a fundamental realignment of English politics (just as Scotland was realigned by the independence referendum). First consider how voters of different parties divided on referendum day:

(Source: Lord Ashcroft Polls)
One thing that leaps out immediately from this breakdown is that the major reason for Leave's victory was David Cameron's failure to bring his own voters with him. Labour voters on the other hand broke for Remain in much the same proportion as the resolutely pro-EU SNP, belying the idea that Corbyn's half-hearted campaigning was to blame for the result. The figures for the smaller parties were no surprise, although with the notable exception of UKIP there were substantial minorities opposed to the party line in each case.

Now compare with a YouGov poll from l…