Archive for April, 2017

Brexit and the election

“It’s wrong to leave the European Union.” By the smallest of margin that is the view of the people in the latest poll.

And with Angela Merkel making it absolutely clear that whatever deal is struck the terms won’t be as good as what the UK has at the moment.

Undoubtedly Teresa May will use the German Chancellor’s remarks to her own advantage. “Look they’re all ganging up on us, so you need a strong leader to stand up to them.”

Strong or not, the 27 remaining countries in the EU are not going to give ground and having triggered article 50 the UK has very few negotiating cards in its hand.

Playing the nationalism card

May might say that “Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done.

Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union.”

She is using the same phenomena that Mrs Thatcher used with the Falklans – nationalism.

It’s the plucky UK in battle against the rest of the EU. You can almost here the soundtrack of the Dam Busters march playing in the background. And of course if anyone does not share the vision they are “saboteurs.’ May’s election announcement bounce therefore has similarities to Thatcher’s Falklands poll bounce.

Not our call

But as the EU and Mrs Merkel made very clear the reality is very different. In the negotiations what happens is largely down to the EU, with the occasional choice for the UK.

But even these limited choices should be made by democratic means, and not by one person who has the interests of her party to worry about.

 Brexit hits economy

But opportunist May had to call the election now. For the negative impact of brexit are about to become very clear.

Today’s announcement by the Office for National Statistics that UK economic igrowth has slowed down sharply in 2017 adds to the nervousness of business. As it does to the City, which constitutes far more hundreds of thousands of employees than the small, avaricious band of bankers who made their notorious contribution to the financial crisis.

The impact on prices and real earnings from the collapse of the pound is daily  becoming more evident. And plans for major firms to relocate their investments to continental Europe will gradually be implemented.

As a musical hall magician would say “All will be revealed.” But not until after 8 June.

 Blair wants to stop a landslide

That’s why Mrs May and her friends in the supporting media are pushing for a landslide result. They know that they have a small window of opportunity to get us out of Europe before it dawns on the nation what a terrible mistake it has done. But by then it will be to late.

That’s why the Conservatives will focus relentlessly on Brexit and leadership. So is a wipeout for Labour inevitable? Not necessarily.

It is fashionable to ignore Tony Blair in Labour circles but yesterday he was right in saying the campaign slogan of Labour should be “no blank cheque.” It accepts the reality of the polls that May is likely to win the election. But at a stroke it shifts the attention from Corbyn’s leadership credentials and focuses more on the need to strengthen Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Choices can then be made in the country’s best interests and not in the Conservative party’s interest.

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Welsh seats to watch

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As we start the general election campaign the overall polling position is a strong lead for the Conservative party. Most polls are showing extremely strong leads up in the high teens, a few breaking twenty.

As the polls currently stand (and, obviously, there are seven weeks to go) a Conservative majority looks very, very likely. But a word of warning in 1983 and 1997 the polls largely overstated the victorious party’s lead. And during campaigns the polls tend to narrow.

The first Welsh polls are due to be published next week.

Another factor that is unusual is that there will be local elections held in the middle of the general election campaign in recent times they’ve tended to be held on the same day as the general election. The last time this happened was in 1983 and 1987.

But the results were not good predictors for what happened a month later. In 1983’s local government election the Conservatives were 3 points ahead a month later in the general election they were 14 points ahead. Similarly in 1987 the Conservatives were 6 points ahead and a month later they were ahead by 11 points.

Moral, don’t get excited or depressed on the local council results they will mean very little on 8 June. Although they might get some party workers to renew their efforts in the big one.

Labour vulnerable in North East Wales

So which are the Welsh seats to watch on election night? With the Conservatives riding high in the polls there are six seats that they will be concentrating their efforts 4 in North East Wales namely, Alan and Deeside; Wrexham; Clwyd South and Delyn. All could be captured if the Conservatives are 10 points ahead on the day.

South Wales predictions

In South Wales Bridgend would fall if the Tory lead was 5 points as would Newport West if the lead was 10 points.

If the 20-point lead in the polls were translated to votes on the day then the 3 Labour seats in Cardiff would fall. Cardiff South and Cardiff West to the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would be in with a shout of winning back Cardiff Central.

 The hopes of other parties 

Another Labour seat that is very vulnerable is Ynys Mon. Plaid Cymru would have high hopes of capturing it Labour’s Albert Owen has only a majority of 229 which makes him vulnerable. That said the last time the islanders got rid of a sitting MP was in 1951 when Megan Lloyd George lost to Cledwyn Hughes.

 What if there is a change of fortune

But should the campaign itself change Labour’s fortunes, they would be chasing the Tories in Gower, which the Conservatives hold on a meager 27; Vale of Clwyd where their majority is 237.  And if that miracle happened and Labour started to lead by 5 points then Cardiff North would be back in the frame.

There is an outside chance that if the Liberal Democrats see a surge in their support they might win back Brecon & Radnor and Montgomery. They would need leads of double figures but with the Conservatives riding high in the country at the moment it is unlikely.

Plaid Cymru live in hope of gaining back Ceredigion but having failed last time when the Liberal Democrats were at their lowest ebb the political tide would have to be much more favourable for them to succeed.

A golden rule for all elections, be prepared for the voters to produce a shock result somewhere on the night. That’s what makes election night such fun when we see our politicians squirm when the electors have given them a kick in the nether regions.

 

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The lady’s for U-turning

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It was at least five times the Prime Minister Teresa May ruled out a general election before 2020. But yesterday she did the most spectacular of u-turns and declared it was now a necessity. So now that the Labour party has acquiesced to the request despite having the power to block the move the country faces an unnecessary general election on 8 June.

“The Country’s coming together but Westminster is not.” So did parliament refuse her article 50? No not a bit it went through both houses with relative ease.

And in any case what’s the point of a parliament in a democracy if all are expected to agree. It sounds as if no opposition is to be tolerated more like the North Korean system of government than that of a so-called mature democracy.

She name checked three opposition political parties – Labour, the Lib Dems, and the SNP – for their own, criticisms of her vision for Brexit. And just for good measure the House of Lords. All their offence to dare question the divine leaders plans for Brexit. And, for good measure, she included the unelected House of Lords, who have also dared scrutinize her Brexit plan.

So why go to the country now. Well partly because of party advantage. With Labour languishing 20 points behind in the polls she sees an open goal. But let her not pretend that it was done out of principle, it was naked political opportunism.

She is riding high and it won’t last long. She knows that the real impact of Brexit is yet to come and there are real difficulties coming down this particular road.

A popularity contest between the parties must happen now – not in six months, when the forces of Brexit will batter the whole of Westminster.

What are we to make of it all? Well if the vote to leave the European Union was in large part a product of the widespread disillusionment with the Westminster political elite.  How does this move help? This is just the latest but very blatant example of the political elite saying one thing yet meaning another? This clear example of Teresa May putting party and power above national concerns will only increase that disillusionment.

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