Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Greens’

The LibDems are Right to be Happy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 4th May, 2018

Kingston LibDemsWhen it comes to results, local elections in England can be frustrating as it often takes a long time for the details to come through and the early returns from super-keen places like Sunderland are not necessarily representative. But now that all but one Council has declared, the pattern is clear. UKIP has had an utterly disastrous election, losing all but three seats (-123). This undoubtedly helped the Conservatives, who picked up many former UKIP seats, but they still finished down (-31). Labour are up 59, but that is well short of what they were hoping for. Indeed, in London — which many Momentum supporters hoped was still infected by Corbynmania — Labour got nowhere near winning any of its key targets of Barnet, Wandsworth and Westminster. Indeed, in Barnet, as a result of the fallout of the allegations of anti-Semitism against some Labour activists, Labour fell back badly.  However, the real news of the election is the LibDem bounce-back: the party had a net gain of 75 seats, and gained control of four councils, including spectacular victories in Richmond and Kingston in south-west London. Of course, the LibDem successes have not been uniform, but significantly the party also advanced in northern cities such as Hull, Sheffield and Manchester, whereas the Tories are nowhere to be seen there. The overall LibDem vote nationwide was around 16 per cent, well below its level in pre-Coalition days, but still substantially better than the national opinion polls. In Richmond, interestingly, they entered into a sort of pact with the Greens, which meant that four Greens have been able to savour the delighted of ousting the Conservatives, though not every part of the country would be prepared to go along with such arrangements.

Tower Hamlets town hallSo, what of the one Council that has still to declare? No prizes for guessing which, as, yes, it is my home borough of Tower Hamlets, which is near as London politics comes to a basket case. The previous (ex-Labour) Independent Mayor was forbidden to stand again for public office because of various alleged malpratcices, but several of his former pals did. In fact, four of the Mayoral candidates had previously been Labour councillors, including the Tory! It was shocking but typical to hear on election day itself that some presiding officers were turning EU27 voters away from polling stations, not letting them cast their ballot, on the grounds of ineligibility, whereas in fact they are barred only from voting in general elections — an elementary bit of electoral law that even the most junior official should have known. But having lived in Tower Hamlets for 30 years, nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to elections, from harassment of voters to illicit acquisition of postal votes. I’m waiting for the day when it is reported that the total number of votes cast exceeds the size of the electorate. In the meantime, we await this year’s council results, including in my home ward of Mile End. But I shan’t stay up, as on past experience it might be tomorrow — or next week — before we know.

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Another Coalition but Which Coalition?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 18th January, 2015

UK political leadersA new UK national opinion poll from YouGov this weekend puts Labour on 32%, the Conservatives on 31%, UKIP on 18%, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens both on 7%, and Others on 5%. Once again neither of the two main parties has managed to muster the support of a third of the electorate, or two-thirds together. Amazing to think back to the 1951 general election, when Labour and the Conservatives got 96.8% of the vote between them. Interestingly, in that election Labour polled 231,000 more votes than the Conservatives, but lost the election. The veteran Mr Churchill was thus put back in office, with a parliamentary majority of 17. That was not the only time that Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system delivered an odd result. And I suspect this May it will do so again, but with the added complication of a fragmented political scene. No-one can predict accurately what the outcome will be, but unless there is a sudden slump in support for the “minor” parties, including UKIP, then no single party can hope to form a majority government and maybe not even a credible minority one either. So another Coalition is the most likely scenario. But a Coalition between whom? I suspect both David Cameron and Nick Clegg privately hope the current one will endure, but that certainly cannot be taken for granted. Labour could well end up the largest party and thus be tasked to try to put a Coalition together. A traffic light arrangement with Labour-LibDems-Greens is one possibility. But could the SNP be the joker in the pack? On a national scale, they only figure under a small proportion of “Others”, but in Scotland the SNP may well end up sending more MPs to Westminister than any other, at the expense of both Labour and the LibDems.

Natalie BennettBecause of the electoral system, however, the headline figures shown in the opinion poll may not even be a rough guide to the number of MPs elected. For once the system might act in the LibDems’ favour, despite the huge drop in their vote share, because of the incumbency factor for many hard-working, respected LibDem MPs. In contrast, both UKIP and the Greens are likely to woefully under-perform in terms of MPs elected, thus making them less significant as potential Coalition partners. Caroline Lucas might hold on to her Brighton seat, despite some unpopular measures implemented by Green-controlled Brighton Council, but I think it is unlikely that Natalie Bennett’s Greens and UKIP will manage to elect more than half a dozen MPs between them. One of the ironies of UKIP’s continued strong showing since last May’s Euro-elections is that the UK has as a result now moved to a Continental-style multi-party situation, in which deals and compromises are becoming the norm. But we do not yet have a Continental-style electoral system by some form of proportional representation for Westminster (national) elections. Given the likelihood of some of the very bizarre and blatantly unfair outcomes that are possible this May for some parties under first-past-the-post I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue of PR suddenly shoots up the political agenda immediately afterwards.

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Crafting a Liberal Democrat General Election Narrative

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 5th January, 2015

imageThe starting gun has fired for May’s general election in the UK, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has stressed that the LibDems can be a useful moderating force in a future Coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour. That’s all well and good, but “Let’s have another Coalition!” isn’t a message that is going to warm the hearts of most voters on the doorsteps, even though virtually all recent opinion polls suggest that that is what the electorate will deliver. I know we will have our manifesto, but most voters don’t read party manifestos, and instead vote for a brilliant local MP (which will boost the chance of survival of many of our incumbents) or because they feel in tune with a party’s values. Currently, somewhere in the region of 8-10 per cent feel in tune with the LibDems, which is why we must get away from just slagging off Labour and the Conservatives, must stress which very positive LibDem policies have been implemented since 2010, and above all craft a narrative which reaffirms the LibDems as a party of principle, pro-people and pro the environment — above all, not letting the Greens steal a march on us on that.

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Are the Greens Sinking?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st April, 2013

Natalie BennettIn the latest UK opinion poll, by YouGov for the Sunday Times, the Greens are put at just two per cent, confirming their slump in recent months. If they polled anything like that in next year’s Euro-elections they would lose both their MEPs — and all the associated funding. Their main asset remains Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, but since she stood down as leader last year, in a worthy but perhaps foolish attempt to spread the exposure of Green politicians, few voters are able to say who’s the Green Leader (before you rush for your google search, it’s Natalie Bennett, pictured). It will be interesting to see how the Greens fare in the County Council elections in 10 days time, but I doubt whether it will be particularly good news for them. In 2010, when borough elections in London coincided with a general election, they fell back badly, especially in Lewisham, which was one of their strongest areas. So how can all this be explained? Partly it can be put down to the degree to which other parties have successfully sold themselves as being environment-friendly. That is particularly true of the Liberal Democrats, with the LibDem push within the Coalition for green energy, green jobs and a green investment bank; Ed Davey, as Secretary of State, ably took over the baton from Chris Huhne, who had done some excellent work in the field. And some protest voters who migrated to the Greens from the LibDems or Tories may, believe it or not, now have moved on to UKIP. But undoubtedly there is another, perhaps stronger, reason: namely that when the economic and financial situation is bad and many people are worried about their jobs and making ends meet, green issues tend to slip down the priorities of all but the most committed. At the Euro-elections in just over one year’s time the Greens will be praying that is not the case. And if they do lose their two seats it will be hard for them to promote themselves as a truly national party of significance in the run-up top the 2015 general election.

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Labour and LibDems almost Neck-and-neck?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 18th July, 2009

The Liberal Democrats are just one point behind Labour in a ComRes opinion poll published  in tomorrow’s Independent on Sunday — 22 and 23 per cent respectively. The Tories are out in front with 38 per cent, but that is interestingly short of the symbolic 40 per cent threshold. The poll says LibDems are up 3, Labour down 2, and Tories up 2, compared with the last ComRes poll at the end of June. Labour HQ — already worried by the possiblity of losing next week’s Norwich North parliamentary by-election — will be deeply alarmed at the thought that the LibDems are snapping at Labour’s heels, with the possibility of Labour falling to third place in the run-up to the party conference season. However, a rival YouGov poll has figures which suggest there is still a meaningful gap between Labour and the LibDems (25 and18), though the Tories are given a morale-boosting 42. The common factor is that the minor parties, such as the Greens and UKIP, are fading, after their moment in the sun during the European elections. But there does also seem to be a high degree of political volatility in Britain at the moment.

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London’s European Election Results

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th June, 2009

London City HallNow that the dust has settled, one can take a rational view of the outcome of the European elections in London. The most striking thing for me is the way that Labour’s vote in the capital proved remarkably resilient, compared with the party’s performance in most of the rest of the country. Though they did lose one seat (almost inevitable with the reduction in the number of London seats from nine to eight), Labour retained a very strong second place. Moreover, they held on to a local council seat in a concurrent by-election in Prince’s ward, Lambeth, despite a swing there to the Liberal Democrats.

European flagsThe Conservatives proved once again that they are good at getting their vote out. They were obviously well organised, not only in strongholds such as Barnet and Bromley, but also in target boroughs such as Tower Hamlets. The Tories may not have much time for the European Union, but they certainly took these election seriously, treating them as a dry-run for the forthcoming general election and building up in areas in which they hope to make gains in the London local council elections next year.

In principle, the Liberal Democrats were doing the same. And indeed, this strategy worked well in held and target seats, which got plenty of literature and had concerted campaigns, including telephone knocking-up of postal voters and on polling day. The LibDems therefore performed strongly in the south-western ‘golden triangle’ of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, excellently in Haringey, well in Camden, Lambeth (Streatham), Brent, Southwark, Islington etc, though apparently haemorrhaging some votes to the Greens. Up-and-coming boroughs like Waltham Forest did well in parts. But the black holes — mainly in the east and south east — fared poorly. An unavoidable challenge for the party in dealing with future London-wide PR election will be to build support and accurate data in boroughs such as Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Bexley. Interestingly, the BNP did best in those three boroughs, though overall the BNP vote was slightly down on its GLA percentage last year and the party came nowhere near winning a seat.

European parliament logoUKIP sank to fifth place, behind the Greens, though still hanging on to one MP. The Greens were justifiably pleased with their performance, though they still only got a little over 10 per cent, well below what some of the opinion polls were suggesting. London voters were spoilt for choice when it came to parties and independents to whom they could allocate a protest vote. Amongst the ragbag of little parties and independents, the one that stands out most is the Tamil independent, Jan Jananayagam, who garnered over 50,000 votes in a ballot-box extension of the Parliament Square demonstrations. It is interesting (though futile!) to speculate how the results might have been different in places with large Tamil communities, such as Sutton and Brent, had she not stood.

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Interesting Euro-poll Predictions

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 7th April, 2009

There’s an interesting prediction about the likely outcome of this June’s European elections on the website www.predict09.eu, produced by Burson-Marsteller, the prominent public relations and public affairs firm. It  foresees a collapse in the UKIP vote in Britain, as well as a significant fall in support for the Greens. That would mean UKIP losing eight of the 12 seats they won in 2004, and the Greens losing both of theirs. In contrast, the LibDem vote is predicted to go up by over 4 per cent — meaning that the party would have one net gain: the second seat in London! Now of course, one swallow doesn’t make a spring and one should take such poll predictions with a pinch of salt, but I may be forgiven for going to bed with a twinkle in my eye…

Link: www.predict09.eu

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