Thursday, 6 January 2011

Sinn Fein Under Pressure

Back in July I posted about how Sinn Fein Executive ministers CaitrĂ­ona Ruane and Michelle Gildernew may be the weak link on the Executive.

Now Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy MP, is under pressure over what is being described as the 'shambolic' response to the Northern Ireland Water (NIW) crisis that struck homes during the Christmas period.

Sinn Fein has no far rejected calls to remove Conor Murphy, despite already facing a motion of no confidence backed, quite publically by the UUP and SDLP. Should the DUP and Alliance give their support to the No motion confidence and Conor Murphy remain in place, it could be the straw that breaks the donkey's back, forcing the UUP and SDLP to abandon the Stormont Executive and set up shop as the Stormont Opposition.

With the Assembly Elections approaching and Martin McGuinness being surrounded by Ministers who have less than spotless records for the last year, one must question their electoral strategy. Two options that spring to mind would be

1) Riding out the storm - Potentially that after the Assembly election, Sinn Fein plan to switch some of their Ministries to those which have been less affected by the recession and mistakes by minsters. By maintaining the current ministers they don't have to expose any new potential ministers to potentially toxic departments.

2)Breaking the Coalition - By maintaing ministers which are not popular with the rest of the Assembly Sinn Fein may hope to force the UUP and SDLP out of the Executive which would bring two advantages. First Sinn Fein could claim the moral high-ground in not abandoning the power-sharing agreement and secondly by forcing the other two parties out they leave more ministries up for grabs.

Conor Murphy may face a tough few weeks before the Assembly enters full election mode.

Whats you view? please comment :D

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Ed Miliband: Leader Under Threat

In the mind of a politician there is one fact that is always present, the next election date may be your expiration date, The Leader of the Opposition is however the exception to the rule. Although Ed Miliband knows, that come May 6th 2015 if he hasn't pushed Labour back into first place after the votes have been counted, he will most likely not continue as Leader, he also faces problems which threaten to bring his end much sooner.

Oldham East and Saddleworth

Once the votes are counted on January 13th and we hear the result, Ed Miliband will know how stable his leadership will be in the run-up to May. if the results end with....

Labour Victory: Ed Miliband safe till May and will be able to use win as ammunition against both the coalition and his critics

Liberal Democrat Victory: Ed Miliband will face serious question from his party considering current Lib-Dem opinion poll ratings, will make it more difficult to attack Clegg and critics of Ed will gain more support

Conservative Victory: If the Conservatives soft campaign in Oldhan still results in a Conservative win, Ed will face serious problems from within as he lost to the party that weren't even trying. Coupled with the fact that Ed's policy review has left Labour temporarily lacking policy will mean the Conservatives will be able to launch a full on attack on Labour allowing Lib Dems some breathing space.

Green/English Democrat/Pirate/BNP/UKIP/MRLP/BPEP Victory: If any of the 'Others' win, Ed will most likely have to resign as he would have no credibility as a Leader come the next PMQ.

Alan Johnson

Many people, including perhaps Alan himself, were shocked when it was announced he would be Chancellor. Unfortunately the Shadow Chancellor knew why he was placed in the number 2 spot on the Shadow Cabinet, it was to keep Balls out. It was suggested that had David Miliband won, Ed Balls would have been Shadow Chancellor following a deal between the two, and while Ed hoped to protect his position with the Party loyalist Johnson, Johnson is most likely not happy to be put in the position of having to fight economics when he is not an expert on the subject. With some already public disagreements on policy during Ed Miliband's first 100, Alan is now falling behind Ed, but the fact remains Ed's first 100 days as leader were marred by Johnson.

David Miliband

With rumours aplenty about a possible merger between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives and a current policy review rebuilding Labour's manifesto, some have called for Ed Miliband to simply sit back and allow the Coalition obsessed media and shunned wings with the Government to damage themselves. Sadly this idea had already been taken by David Miliband. After his defeat David took to the backbenches with the only major public statement being that he would not be accepting the role as ambassador to the US. David has in fact done nothing, He has simply set up shop on the sidelines and watched his Brother go. Either it is a testament to the skill David has a politician or the problems that Ed has faced but some have already been questioning whether the right Miliband is leading Labour. It is perhaps the most chilling message an Older Brother can give to his Younger sibling, 'I'll be waiting'. Unlike Ed, David has no unwanted problems threatening to cut his time short, he has until the next General election and is in safe seat and with David doing absolutely nothing, it is all on Ed.

For Ed the next 6 months will decide if he remains as Leader, a doubtful performance and Labour can afford to replace him as they sit in Opposition.

How has Ed done so far? will he make it to the end of the year? what's your view?

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

English Local Elections 2011 - New Year View

In May of this year, a large chunk of the local English councils, 36 Metropolitan boroughs, 194 Second-tier district authorities, 45 unitary authorities and various mayoral posts, will all be up for grabs.

As it stands at the moment, the Conservative Party controls about 46% of council seats in the UK with Labour on 21% and the Liberal Democrats on 19%. But since England lacks a devolved government of it's own (to the annoyance of the English Democrats) these elections will be the best chance for any of the smaller parties based in England to really make some gains.

Labour - For Labour they will be going into the English elections with some momentum having made gains during the 2010 local elections (+14 Councils and +414 Councillors) which ran parallel with the General Election. But they will be hoping to capitalise on the Spending Cuts made by the Coalition and the huge drop in Lib Dem support in the opinion polls to gain as many councils as they can. Apart from the obvious reason of wanting more seats to push their policies on a local level, a big win for Labour in the Local elections could be the push they need to de-stabilise the Liberal Democrats from the Coalition and dispel the argument that a new Lib/Lab/others coalition was anti-English as they could easily argue that the local elections show they have a good support among the English. For 'Red Ed' Miliband these elections are just as much a test of his leadership as the Devolved elections, as even when losing the General election Gordon Brown's Labour party still managed to make gains.(Current UK council standing - 4379 councillors, Rank: 2nd)

English Democrats - For the English Democrats, these elections have the same weight as the Scottish Parliament's are to the SNP or the Welsh Assembly's are to Plaid Cymru. Currently they hold 4 seats (1-Blackburn and Darwen, 1-Calderdale and 2-Peterborough) and the mayoralty of Doncaster but will be hoping that the 64000 votes they scored in the General election will carry on into the Councils which could see them make some nice gains for their party. If they make a significant enough gain to enter an Opposition or Coalition partner on a council it will be a real test for the bigger parties to deal with the growth in English Nationalism without alienating voters. A question which could effect English Democrat success is to whether or not the Alliance for Democracy, the electoral alliance between the EngDems, the Christian Party, the Jury Team and Veritas will still remain for the local election as they will then be able to pull their votes together to help each other in certain areas. (Current UK council standing: 4 Councillors, Rank: 26th

Respect - The Respect Party, most commonly known for it's former MP George Galloway, will be hoping to build on its local base having seen their Commons representation lost in the General Election. Having scored 0.1% (33251 votes) of the total UK vote in the General Election with only 10 candidates (over half the EngDem vote with a 1/10 of the candidates) and currently chalking up 13 councillors, the Respect Party is one which may see itself becoming more prominent in it's strongholds. The main problem for th party would be a sudden surge in labour support against the Coalition Government which could see their seats decrease. If they however can sttrike a deal with the Green party and perhaps the TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) they could benefit from the 'left of Labour' vote. (Current - 13 Councillors UK rank: 14th)

Liberal - The Liberal Party, a splinter from the birth of the Liberal Democrats, is one of the more successful small parties in council terms boasting 25 councillors at the moment. Although it doesn't sound huge it does put them ahead of UKIP (Second biggest Euro party and have two lord), the English Democrats, The Scottish Greens, (have 2 MSPs) Mebyon Kernow, The Libertarians and Respect (used to have an MP) to name a few. The Liberal Party are alos a prime candidate to take advantage of the anti-Libdem sentiment by offering a viable, non-Labour Liberal alternative. If they can organise a solid campaign they could look to gain a number of seats from the Liberal Democrats and perhaps encourage a few defections after the elections if the LibDems take a harsh beating from the electorate. They have had some dealings with the Alliance for Democracy, but it would only best wise to link up with other parties if they felt it would significantly boost their chance of winning seats as the Libdems are currently being punished for their own link-up with the Tories. (Current - 25 Councillors UK rank: 11th)

British National Party - The BNP, who are currently going through internal conflicts will be hoping to make some gains after taking a bit of a beating during the 2010 campaigns. For Nick Griffin whose current leadership and succession plans are under threat from internal factions will most likely hope to make some gains to show the party is still making ground but not enough to introduce to many possible contenders for his leadership, while he may be an MEP, a Euro-sceptic party may prefer to have their leader be the Leader of the Opposition on a local Council until they get enough votes to make it into the Commons.(Current - 55 Councillors UK rank 8th)

Green - The Green Party of England and Wales will be focused on Norwich and Norfolk where they have been slowly building a stronghold of votes and the Brighton and Hove City Council election where they are currently third on the council but where they elected their first MP. These local elections could be a chance to form some electoral pacts with other similarly inclined parties to help bolster a green-friendly bloc among councils. If the Greens fail to capitalise on the election of Caroline Lucas it will make her election seem more like a fluke in the eyes of the wider UK electorate. (Current - 122 councillors UK rank: 7th *does not include green parties of Ccotland and Northern Ireland)

For the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives this will be a defensive campaign, being in Government and being the ones to handle the deficit will no doubt make them unpopular with chunks of voters, if they can maintain control of what councils they have it will make supporting their agenda much easier on a local level. The Coalition may hope that any losses they do suffer will be to other parties rather than Labour so as stem a Labour revival with a wall of minor parties.

Who do you think will gain the most this year? any predictions at all? please leave them in the comments

Monday, 3 January 2011

Oldham East By Election - Party Analysis

On The 13th of January the first By-election since the Coalition Government was formed will take place.

10 Candidates have entered the fray and despite the usual media blackout on any party that isn't the big three, this is a by far a for gone conclusion. Articles in the Guardian already claim that all three big parties could be in for a slap from the electorate. But what would a win by any of the Candidates mean? (In no particular order in an effort for some level of fairness)

Stephen Morris - English Democrats - With the Mayoralty of Doncaster and a few local councillors under their belt, the English Democrats are (based on votes at the General election) 13th on what I like to think of as the UK league table. A win by the English Democrats would be a huge slap not only for the big three parties but also the Leaders of the big three as; 'Red Ed' would lose his first electoral clash in the Labour leadership, 'King-maker' Clegg would lose an election his party fought tooth and nail to get, and David Cameron (he hasn't got much of a nickname yet) would have to deal with the fact his soft campaign to get the Lib Dems in not only failed but allowed another party into the house. For the English Democrats themselves the PR boost alone in gaining the seat could propel their share of votes up in any upcoming election. They will have to consider how they operate within the house (something I touched upon here ) most likely joining the 'Celtic Bloc' of the SNP and Plaid will be good position for the English Democrats as it will make the Bloc (which will most likely have to be renamed) a more viable coalition partner as it removes the 'Anyone but England' aspect of the bloc when potentially forming a coalition.

Elwyn Watkins - Liberal Democrats - This by-election is crucial for 'King-maker' Clegg. A win will soothe Lib dem fears over their electoral future and help replenish some of the seats lost due to a polarisation of the vote in 2010. From a PR stand point the win will help Clegg sell his parties position as he will be able to point to the fact that his party are still winning seats and therefore have the backing of the public. As this is also the year of the AV referendum, Celtic Elections and English council elections a win now may help the Lib Dems maintain rather than lose their current seats status allowing them to ride out the current coalition till 2015 with more or less the same seats they started with.

Peter Allen - Green Party - For the Green party of England and Wales (Currently ranked 7th in my mind) Oldham offers the chance to prove that the election of Caroline Lucas in Brighton was not a one off and the win would help on the road to proving to the electorate that they are a credible alternative, not just in Westminster, but also in the Celtic Elections coming up in May. A second Green in the commons could be an argument for the Greens to back the Celtic Bloc in a similar way in that they back the SNP minority Government in Scotland, but unless the Greens could extract some sort of electoral arrangement in Scotland and Wales to help improve (and in the case of Wales, get) their seat share within the respective devolved bodies a deal is unlikely. From a PR stand point the election of another Green would help push more environmental policies showing that the public does think that the environment should be prioritised with the election of two Greens to the current parliament. And of course a similar sentiment for the big three as I mentioned in the English Democrat section.

Paul Nuttal MEP - UKIP - With two Lords and being the second biggest British party in the European Parliament (Currently ranked 4th by me) UKIP will be hoping that Oldham East is their door into the House of Commons. By putting forward an MEP, UKIP will perhaps be reminding the public that they are a credible party. If they win, the benefits will mostly be from PR, One MP in a Parliament that is shifting towards Coalition style politics is not a big asset but will, like all smaller parties help boost their chances for the devolved elections and allow them to build their representation outside of Brussels. One possible outcome could be that if UKIP make it into the Commons, they may attract some Tory defectors unhappy with the Coalition's direction towards Europe. (and again big three get a slap if UKIP win)

Kashif Ali - Conservative - Mr Ali occupies and unique position in this election, in that he is the candidate that no other party, including his own, wants to win. Should he manage to win despite a soft campaign from Conservative HQ to allow the Lib Dems to win, he will bring very few benefits to the party (in the grander scheme of things NOT in a personal sense)as the Lib Dems will take a huge hit to their morale and potentially lead to more problems for the Coalition. However is Kashif does win 'Red Ed' Miliband may find himself in trouble with a party that already has doubts about which brother they should have empowered.

Derek Adams - BNP - The BNP's two Euro seat win was a huge breakthrough for the party (they are also 5th in the Rankings) and they will hope that Oldham provides another. A win here, will in a similar sense to the Lib Dems, provide some internal ease for the party who has been going through some internal problems in regards to finance and Leadership along with similar benefits the other smaller parties would also gain from a win.

Debbie Abrahams - Labour - Labour (Currently number 2 in rankings) have a lot riding on the Oldham by-election. For 'Red Ed' it will provide a mark in the win column for his fledgling Leadership and help stave off any would-be coups that are already beginning to fester. It will also give them more ammunition in their battle against Coalition policies, especially the spending cuts and allow Labour to fan the flames in regards to Lib Dem electoral fears over their Union with the Conservatives. It will also be a comfort to party activists who may still be worried about their party's electoral chances in regards to the upcoming elections in that the public have shifted into a more anti-coalition mindset which may allow Labour to gain overall control of Wales and perhaps minority control of Scotland.

Loz Kaye - Pirate Party UK - The Pirates, who currently occupy 44th in the rankings are the legitimate outsider in this election, but by putting forward their leader and fighting in an election which has a lot of eyes focused on it, they will hopefully come out with a huge publicity boost that may translate into a few council or Celtic seats in the upcoming elections in May. A win by the Pirates would be a huge surprise and not to just the main three but also the more mid-field parties like the Greens, EngDems, UKIP and BNP and should the Pirates overtake any other party (except the joke parties) it will be a huge blow to that party to be beaten by a party which only fielded nine candidates in the General Election (English Democrats were the next lowest with 107 candidates) so as long as the Pirates stay ahead of the Monster raving loony party and the Bus Pass-Elvis party they cant lose.

David Bishop of the Bus-pass Elvis party and The Flying Brick of the Monster Raving Loony Party (Ranked 27th) are the joke parties and a win by them would most probably surprise them more than any of us.

While not every party is fighting to win (Conservatives and Joke parties) the final results table will be a benefit to some and a cost to others, a late PR Xmas pressie or a PR nightmare... Lovely way to kick of 2011