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Category Archives: Stroll Around The Manor

How Safe is a Safe Labour Seat?

The recent shenanigans in the Erith & Thamesmead Labour Party have made this weekend a busy one for Colin Bloom, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in those parts.

The reports of the shambles, such as you may have been able to discern them among the latest “smeargate” episodes and stories of G20 protestors being allegedly thumped by police officers, have referred to the Thames-side constituency as being a “safe Labour seat”.

Yet how safe is it now? We saw in 1997 so many “safe” Conservative seats fall – could we now see the same now for Labour “strongholds”?

Erith and Thamesmead, with the outgoing John Austin at the Labour helm, returned a respectable Labour majority in 2005 of 9,887. Now, however, feeding the latest ICM polling from the Sunday Telegraph into Electoral Calculus gives us a Labour majority of just 5.53% over the Conservatives – which, on an identical turnout to last time, equates to a numerical majority of a shade over 2,000. We are surely into marginal territory.

Erith & Thamesmead General Election Prediction

Erith & Thamesmead General Election Prediction

That, of course, is applying a uniform national swing to a single seat, but it does mean that less then 3% of the remaining Labour vote has to switch to Conservatives for the constituency to turn blue.

Admittedly, that is probably fairly unlikely of the core Labour vote in a General Election. More likely is that the latest upheavals in the local party will cause Labour supporters to simply stay at home … or perhaps vote Lib Dem or BNP. Even so, less than 6% doing so will see Colin Bloom become the first Conservative MP for Erith and Thamesmead.

Down and Downe We Go

Guido has the latest episodes in the long running series of Gordon Brown the Jonah, who brings a curse upon any company, institution or person he visits. This week it’s Honda and Velux, the poor blighters. Of course, that all pales into insignificance compared to the jinx he’s put on the whole country since Summer 2007. Mr Fawkes does also remind us that Tinkling Gordon has also been to Sellafield. Gulp. Anyone remember the chilling ending to the film The Medusa Touch, where Richard Burton’s character’s evil telekinesis is turned on Windscale (as Sellafield then was)?

In county news, the bid to have Down House and the surrounding area designated a World Heritage Site has been endorsed by the Government, in this the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s “On The Origin of Species …”. I just hope that Brown doesn’t feel the need to visit Downe to lend his “support”.

Borissed Off

Give them credit, at least the Kentish Times are consistent. Consistently anti-Boris … though I appreciate that they are not under the same requirement for impartiality that the likes of the BBC pretend to abide by.

Next week Boris is visiting Bromley (in ‘Metropolitan Kent’) for his first People’s Question Time. The Bromley Times has been wound up by Bromley’s Labour Leader John Getgood and have found a few random comments on the BorisWatch site – itself hardly a Boris fan-zine. Apparently the blond one is only coming to Bromley for an easy ride….

Mr Johnson received the majority of the mayoral votes in Bromley and the evening will be chaired by Conservative London Assembly Member for Bromley and Bexley, James Cleverly.

Well, James is chairing it because it’s in his constituency – that’s the convention – and Boris also received the majority of Mayoral votes in most of the London boroughs. That’s why he won. Get over it.

Maybe Cllr Getgood and the Bromley Times think Boris should ignore the largest London borough? Fair enough, they got used to being ignored by the last Mayor, but if he has to restrict himself to the boroughs that came out for Ken then it’ll be a short tour.

Councillor’s Rant

So Gordon is going to give the Icelanders what-for. He’s going to sue them. Eh? Does anyone actually believe this rubbish?

There has been much gnashing and wailing in the last 24 hours over the amount of money deposited in Icelandic banks by public authorities and charities. The critics fall into two broad camps:

There are those who think Councils shouldn’t have been so stupid to put taxpayers money in dodgy offshore accounts and why are they holding so much cash anyway. Why don’t they spend it on schools’n’hospitals buses. Let’s call these people the “financially illiterate” – the sort of people who, if they won £1m on the lottery, would probably blow it all in six months, rather than invest it and enjoy the returns for the rest of their days. In any case, the Heritable was a top credited-rated British based bank (albeit owned by Landsbanki), so was hardly a dodgy offshore arrangement.

Then we have those who are opposed to any compensation on the back of the British taxpayer, whether it’s to retail depositors or anyone else. I can see their point as it happens, though I would have had no problems with a properly funded insurance scheme that doesn’t burden the public purse. However, to shift overnight the goalposts of the existing arrangements (however imperfect they are) hardly encourages those of us who have been careful and spread our risk – mindful of the £35,000/£50,000 guarantee limits, but whose taxes will now be bailing out the imprudent (such as the idiot woman on the radio the other night who had put her life savings of £190,000 into Icesave, and this a year on from Northern Rock – jeez!)

Given that the Treasury has now extended 100% cover for UK retail depositors of Icelandic based/owned banks, local government’s position is simply that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The government argues that Councils are in a different positions, having received professional advice and acted as professional investors. That’s true, but given that councils do indeed work to professional advice and make use of credit ratings such as Fitch’s, they are by most measures being more prudent (despite my heated remarks of yesterday) than a good few retail depositors who will be compensated 100%.

Then again, has this government ever regarded local government as anything more than a dumping ground for the tough decisions that Gordon Brown and co have regularly bottled out of in the least eleven and a half years?

Arctic Exposure

No doubt following George Osborne’s question to Alistair Darling yesterday, the media are picking up the exposure of local councils to the crisis in the Icelandic banks, and the failure of the Treasury to extend the guarantee offered to retail depositors to wholesale monies. The Heritable Bank, in particular, had made a big play for public authority deposits in recent years. As one with considerable experience in local government I do find it incredible that, just as some individuals seem not to have heeded the lessons from Northern Rock and still held their life savings in one bank, some councils are exposed to such an extent to the collapse of just one bank – however good the institutions credit rating was when the deposits were made.

Clegg Plays His Last Hand

The Lib Dems, having come out in favour of a referendum on Europe, or not, and then in favour of tax cuts, or not, are now to concentrate on being the left-wing alternative to Labour, as Nick Clegg switched the party’s electoral strategy away from Conservative held seats to the “softer” Labour constituencies.

This, from the Lib Dem viewpoint, is a sensible move, and shows they have learnt at least one lesson from Henley. Johnathan Isaby has helpfully put together a list of Lab-Lib target seats – the ones that will receive the focus (sorry) of Cowley Street’s attentions – as much as they can muster these days, anyway.

The list includes Lewisham West & Penge at number 40, which could be expected to be a three way fight anyway. The only other “target seat” south of the river is Streatham at number 34. Conspicuous by its absence, though, is Lewisham East, where Bromley chicken-runner Chris Maines had set up camp in the hope of succeeding where he failed in Orpington.

Rumours had already been circulating on the Lewisham grapevine that Alex Feakes in Lewisham West & Penge was garnering far more support from activists than poor old Chris, and this latest news will not go down well among the Maines team.

On a wider note, Clegg really didn’t have many other realistic options, if he wants to keep more than a handful of MPs after the next General Election. If he pulls it off, then in few years the Lib Dems could realise their dream of becoming the official opposition – more likely, though, is that they will replicate the effects of the Gang of Four in the early Eighties and usher in a period of a split Left that will give Cameron a good three terms in government. As a good Conservative, of course, you won’t find me complaining about that.

Cross-posted on SELblog.

London Election Stats

I am indebted to Croydonian for alerting me earlier this week to the release of the London election results broken down by ward*. Enjoy!

(Health warning for LibDems: You won’t enjoy this. As you’ll see further below, if these results were repeated in the 2010 council elections, you would end up with fewer councillors than the BNP.)

Firstly, the main contest …

Biggest Boris Vote
1. Stanley Ward (R.B. Kensington & Chelsea) 79.96%
2. Royal Hospital Ward (Kensington & Chelsea) 79.68%
3. Knightsbridge & Belgravia Ward (Westminster) 78.59%
Inner London average 36.24%
Outer London average 48.35%

Biggest Livingstone Vote
1. East Ham North (Newham) 73.42%
2. Green Street West (Newham) 70.92%
3. Southall Broadway (Ealing) 69.77%
Inner London average 43.80%
Outer London average 31.97%

Biggest Paddick Vote
1. The Wrythe (Sutton) 20.02% (Even here, Livingstone polled around 2.5% higher, and Boris over 26% more)
2. Wandle Valley (Sutton) 19.43%
3. St. Marks (K.C.) 19.28%
Inner London average 10.21%
Outer London average 9.49%

Now as any fule kno, it was Outer London that won it for Boris, with a 12 point lead in the outer boroughs, against Ken’s 12 point lead in the inners. Only with the ward results, and the resultant borough breakdowns, is this even clearer than when just comparing GLA constituencies, some of which straddle inner and outer London.

Although the gap was roughly equal and reversed between inner and outer London, it is clear that outer London, with approximately 800,000 more voters, was going to have the edge. Also, the inner London wards may have registered the very highest vote shares, but with the average ward size in outer London being approximately 500 voters larger, the Conservatives’ doughnut strategy was thoroughly vindicated.

“But but but..” cry the Lib Dems, “you’re only counting first preferences. That’s not fair.” Yes I am, and yes it is.

Moving on, with such a presidential style contest some focus has been given to the extra boost that that the mayoral candidates give to the “normal” party vote. Let’s compare the mayoral vote share (yes, first preferences again) to the party list “London Member” vote and look at the “premium” that the mayoral candidates gave to their parties.

Boris Premium
Highest in Mayesbrook (Barking & Dagenham) 24.64%
Lowest in Southall Broadway (Ealing) 2.88%
Overall 8.57%

Ken Premium
Highest in Spitalfields & Banglatown (Tower Hamlets): 31.50 %
Lowest in Eastbrook (Barking & Dagenham): 0.37%
Overall 9.42%

Paddick “Premium”
Highest in Thames (Barking & Dagenham): 3.27%
Lowest in Teddington (Richmond): -17.51%
Overall -1.61%

Not brilliant news for poor old Brian, then – he actually generated a negative premium – a “Brian discount” if you will. Well, as he has effectively said, the Lib Dems are rubbish at campaigning in London now. (Bad workmen and all that, Brian?)

So looking ahead to 2010, which could be the safest wards in London? Here are the final redoubts, based on the party list votes (as opposed to the mayoral votes – see above) for each party which scored a majority in any ward, which therefore includes the BNP and Greens:

Safest Conservative Ward
… by majority: Royal Hospital (Kensington & Chelsea) 65.41%
… by vote share: Knightsbridge & Belgravia (Westminster) 77.25%

Safest Labour Ward
… by majority: Southall Broadway (Ealing) 49.59%
… by vote share: Southall Broadway (Ealing) 64.94%

Safest LD Ward
… by majority: Muswell Hill (Haringey) 3.62%
… by vote share: Teddington (Richmond): 33.93% (but still beaten by the Conservatives)

In fact, based on these party list votes, the Lib Dems would take only two other wards in the whole of London: Alexandra (also Haringey) and Cathedrals (Southwark). The BNP would have more councillors, with eight wards.

Safest BNP Ward
… by majority: Mayesbrook (Barking & Dagenham) 15.67%
… by vote share: Mayesbrook (Barking & Dagenham) 38.47%

Safest Green ward
… by majority: Highgate (Camden): 0.18%
… by vote share: Brockley (Lewisham): 29.94%

And if you’ll indulge me, we’ll look at the absolute number of votes…

Largest number of votes (1st pref. mayoral)
Conservative: Hayes & Coney Hall (Bromley) 4,025
Labour: St Dunstan`s & Stepney Green (Tower Hamlets) 2,547
Lib Dem: Southfields (Wandsworth) 678

Now let’s wrap up the turnout records. I must admit I haven’t got the up to date electorate figures for every borough, most being brought forward from 2006, so take these with a pinch of salt …

Highest Turnouts
1. St. Katharine`s & Wapping (Tower Hamlets) 62.09%
2. Eastbrook (Barking and Dagenham) 59.86%
3. Stoke Newington Central (Hackney) 59.34%

Lowest Turnouts
1. Thames (Barking and Dagenham) 22.68%
2. Stratford And New Town (Newham) 22.77%
3. Cranford (Hounslow) 22.86%

Now for the booby prizes – we find out who will have to stand in the corner with the dunce’s hat on.

The most spoilt votes (1st prefs, of all votes cast) were 7.08% of ballots in Alperton (Brent)

And for the fewest spoilt papers, the gold star goes to …, the postal voters of the City, with the good burghers of the square mile only messing up two ballot papers. Otherwise, the electors in Royal Hospital ward (Kensington & Chelsea) can be smug, having only failed twelve times, or on 0.569% of ballots.

When we come to second preferences, a significant number of voters didn’t cast a vote, and this makes up the bulk (over 400,000) of spoilt 2nd preference votes. The ward whose voters were most sure that their choice would make it to the second round (or maybe they were just in a hurry) was Northumberland Park (Haringey) with 35.78% blank second preferences.

One particular category of spoilt ballot is “voting too many times”, and so we can reveal that the ward where Robert Mugabe would find himself most at home is … Plaistow South (Newham): 3.28% (95 such spoilt papers).

I think that’ll do for now. My anorak awaits its owner.

* Well, all except the postal votes, for which I only have the borough totals so far, and which I have had to ignore for the purposes of most of this election stat-fest.