There was a whole raft of elections on Thursday 15 November: 3 Parliamentary by-elections, 41 Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections, 1 Mayoral election, and an unusually large number of local Council by-elections. As predicted Labour had a clean sweep of the Parliamentary by-elections, retaining the two safe seats of Manchester Central and Cardiff South & Penarth, plus gaining the marginal Corby seat from the Conservatives.
The PCC elections were more of a mixed bag for all of the parties. The Conservatives were the only party to win elections in all parts of England and in Wales, with Labour narrowly winning only Bedfordshire in the south of England. Contrary to expectations the Conservatives won several northern contests, with the biggest surprise being the defeat of Lord Prescott in Humberside as well as wins in North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cheshire. Where the Conservatives lost out in the south it was to Independents. Overall the Conservatives topped the PCC elections with 16 Commissioners to Labour’s 13 and the Independents’ 12. UKIP, the Lib Dems and Greens did not win a single contest, although one Independent has since come out as a Lib Dem member.
In the sole Mayoral election in Bristol, Labour’s high hopes of winning were dashed when they were pipped at the post by an Independent candidate.
The biggest disappointment was undoubtedly the turnout. It was lower than I expected and the sceptics were right but even at this low level it was comparable to many local election results and to Labour’s “triumph” in the Manchester Central by-election. Had the elections been held in May when Conservative Ministers wanted undoubtedly the turnout would have been higher but the Lib Dems wanted the elections held in November for reasons best known to themselves!
Anyway here are the results:
Manchester Central By-Election
Labour – 11,507, Lib Dem 1,571, Conservative – 754, UKIP – 749, Green – 652, BNP – 492, Others (6) – 923
Lab Maj: 9,936 Swing: 16.77% Lib Dem to Lab Turnout: 18.16%
Cardiff South and Penarth By-Election
Labour – 9,193, Conservative – 3,859, Lib Dem – 2,103, Plaid Cymru – 1,854, UKIP – 1,179, Green – 800, Other (2) – 448
Lab Maj: 5,334 Swing: 8.41% Cons to Lab Turnout: 25.65%
Labour – 17,267, Conservative – 9,476, UKIP – 5,108, Lib Dem – 1,770, BNP – 614, Eng Dem – 432, Green – 378, Others (7) – 620
Lab Maj: 7,791 Swing: 12.67% Cons to Lab Turnout: 24.61%
Police and Crime Commissioner Elections
Avon and Somerset – Independent Turnout: 18.8%
Bedfordshire – Labour Turnout: 17.8%
Cambridgeshire – Conservative Turnout: 14.8%
Cheshire – Conservative Turnout: 13.7%
Cleveland – Labour Turnout: 14.7%
Cumbria – Conservative Turnout: 15.6%
Derbyshire – Labour Turnout: 14.4%
Devon and Cornwall – Conservative Turnout: 14.7%
Dorset – Independent Turnout: 16.3%
Durham – Labour Turnout: 14.4%
Dyfed-Powys – Conservative Turnout: 16.4%
Essex – Conservative Turnout: 12.8%
Gloucestershire – Independent Turnout: 16%
Greater Manchester – Labour Turnout: 13.6%
Gwent – Independent Turnout: 14%
Hampshire – Independent Turnout: 14.5%
Hertfordshire – Conservative Turnout: 14.1%
Humberside – Conservative Turnout: 19.2%
Kent – Independent Turnout: 16%
Lancashire – Labour Turnout: 15.1%
Leicestershire – Conservative Turnout: 15.9%
Lincolnshire – Independent Turnout: 15.3%
Merseyside – Labour Turnout: 12.4%
Norfolk – Independent Turnout: 14.5%
Northamptonshire – Conservative Turnout: 19.5%
Northumbria – Labour Turnout: 16.5%
North Wales – Independent Turnout: 14.8%
North Yorkshire – Conservative Turnout: 13.3%
Nottinghamshire – Labour Turnout: 16.4%
South Wales – Labour Turnout: 14.7%
South Yorkshire – Labour Turnout: 14.5%
Staffordshire – Conservative Turnout: 11.6%
Suffolk – Conservative Turnout: 15.4%
Surrey – Independent Turnout 15.4%
Sussex – Conservative Turnout: 15.3%
Thames Valley – Conservative Turnout: 12.9%
Warwickshire – Independent Turnout: 15.2%
West Mercia – Independent Turnout: 14.5%
West Midlands – Labour Turnout: 12%
West Yorkshire – Labour Turnout: 13.3%
Wiltshire – Conservative Turnout: 15.3%
Local Council By Elections
Thursday was a massive night for local Council by-elections, with important contests across the UK.
The Conservatives held onto fifteen seats: Bury (two seats), Bradford, Daventry, North Hertfordshire (two seats), East Northamptonshire, Central Bedfordshire (Biggleswade South ward), West Sussex, Chiltern, Swindon, Bath & North East Somerset, Bournemouth, Poole, and Wealden.
Conservatives also gained three seats, two of which were gains from Labour: Waveney (from Labour), Conwy (from Independent) and Dumfries & Galloway (from Labour).
Labour held onto nine seats: in Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Rugby, Harlow, Cherwell and Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Labour gained a seat from Merthyr Independents.
The Liberal Democrats held onto two seats: in Watford and one in Havant.
Lib Dem candidates gained three seats from the Conservatives in Eden, Harrogate, Ryedale, and one from Labour in North Tyneside.
An Independent gained a seat from the Conservatives in Central Bedfordshire (Silsoe & Shillington ward) and one from Labour in Melton.
The Green Party gained a seat from the Conservatives in St Edmundsbury.
(Info courtesy of Conservative Home)
It will be very interesting to see the total of votes cast in local Council by-elections and the national projection of the vote from this wide range of contests. I suspect it will not be good news for Labour!
Overall last Thursday tells us very little, other than that November is not a great time to hold important elections. Labour will be cheered by the Parliamentary by-elections but disappointed with the PCC, Mayoral and Council election results. Conservatives will be disappointed (but not surprised) to lose Corby to Labour but cheered by their success in winning more Police Commissioners than Labour (especially in Humberside), and by their success in the local Council by-elections. Winning the Waveney seat from Labour gives them overall control of the Council, and gaining a seat in Scotland from Labour was an unexpected delight. The Lib Dems have the consolation prize of a net gain of Council seats from the two major parties and the Greens can celebrate their one gain. By contrast the media hype around UKIP’s progress delivered them not a single win anywhere – not even a Council seat! Probably the winners of the night overall were the Independent candidates who won in 12 Commissioner elections, the Bristol Mayoralty and Council seats from both Labour and the Conservatives.
There is a new Opinium poll in tomorrows Observer newspaper showing Labour’s lead being cut from last month’s 11% to 7% now:
Conservative 32% (up 2%)
Labour 39% (down 2%)
Lib Dem 8% (down 1%)
UKIP 10% (up 1%)
In further findings:
Conservative 31% (down 2%)
Labour 43% (up 2%)
Lib Dem 10% (no change)
UKIP 8% (down 1%)
In further findings:
If some EU powers cannot be restored to the UK, we should leave the EU
Don’t know 23%
Of Conservative voters 66% agree; 53% of Labour voters; and 39% of Liberal Democrat voters, but this is still more than the 32% of Lib Dems who disagree.
The UK should leave the EU regardless
Don’t know 24%
Of Conservative voters 45% agree and 31% disagree; even Labour voters agree by a margin of 39% to 37%; whereas only 23% of Lib Dem voters agree and 57% disagree.
The UK’s payments to the European Union budget should be cut rather than frozen
Don’t know 22%
Banks and pay-day loan companies should be required by law to tell borrowers the maximum they will have to pay on loans
Big companies operating in Britain should not be permitted to use offshore bases to avoid paying tax in this country
George Entwistle, who resigned as Director General of the BBC, should not have received his £1.32 million severance package
Older people are more disapproving: 88% of those aged 65 and over agree.
MPs should not go on reality TV shows whilst they are still an MP
Voters for Nadine Dorries’s own party are the most likely to be censorious: 78% agree.
The Government should prioritise a cut to fuel duty over other tax cuts
Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,024 GB adults online 14 – 16 November 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk.
On Thursday this week (15 November) people across England and Wales will have the opportunity to elect Police and Crime Commissioners who will oversee the budgets and set the strategic priorities for their Police forces. Until now most forces have been overseen by Police Authorities comprising nominated local Councillors and other worthies. The average member of the public has no idea who the members of their police authority might be. Even local Councillors would struggle to name any member other than the nominee from their own Council area. In other words they were completely unaccountable.
Police and Crime Commissioners by contrast will be directly elected by the electorate in their police force area. The two major parties are standing candidates as are the Lib Dems and UKIP. However, the Green Party has decided to boycott the elections in some areas (e.g. Thames Valley) and stand them in others. There is also a good selection of Independent candidates.
Here in the Thames Valley the following candidates are standing for election:
Anthony Stansfeld – Conservative: Anthony was born in Newbury and West Berkshire has been his home all his life. He is currently an executive member of West Berks Council, and is on the Thames Valley Police Authority. He took over as Chairman of the Performance Committee of the Thames Valley Police last year, during this period the overall crime rate dropped by 15%, the greatest drop of any Police Force in England and Wales. He has, in conjunction with his Committee, set the exacting targets the Police have to achieve over the next year. He concentrated his efforts on reducing rural crime, and improving household burglary detection rates, especially in Slough and Reading, neither of which have been up to standard in the past. He is also Vice Chairman of the Audit, Governance and Risk Committee which sets the financial targets for the Police.
Anthony had a career in both the military and in industry. He enlisted in the Royal Green Jackets at 17 and saw active service in Borneo and Northern Ireland, reaching the rank of Brigadier. He learnt to fly helicopters at Middle Wallop and commanded various Army Air Corps Squadrons, including the Army helicopters in the Falkland Islands in the latter half of 1982. He spent 2 years as Chief of Staff Intelligence in the Far East. On leaving the Army he became Marketing Director and then for 6 years Managing Director of the aircraft company Pilatus Britten Norman, which had aircraft in over 100 countries. At the same time he commanded the Army reserve helicopters as a TA officer. He is currently Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry.
While in the Army he spent 4 months carrying out reconnaissance for the crossing of the Darien Gap in Panama and Columbia, and led the first stage of Operation Raleigh, taking young people through the jungles of Honduras and Belize. For 8 years he was a trustee of the Thames Valley Air Ambulance. He has an MSc and studied international terrorism and Global security at Master Degree level.
Tim Starkey – Labour: Tim Starkey grew up in Amersham, going to school the elite Dr Challoner’s Grammar School before studying at Oxford University and then teaching English in Paris and Poland. He qualified as a barrister in London and now lives in Chalfont St Giles with his young family. He is was selected in a postal ballot of Labour members. However, he has already raised questions about his commitment to the task when he failed to turn up to the launch of his own campaign. Some Labour members are reportedly unhappy that until recently Starkey was a Liberal Democrat. Indeed he stood as parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham as recently as the 2010 General Election. As part of his General Election campaign he attacked Gordon Brown’s Labour for “the failure of this government to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour”. He is now asking the electorate to trust him as Labour candidate who would be responsible for crime and anti-social behaviour in the Thames Valley!
Professor John Howson – Lib Dem: Prof John Howson is managing director of DataforEducation.info, an Oxford based research company and an authority on the labour market for teachers. He has lived in Oxfordshire for the more than 30 years. A former deputy head of education at Brookes University and government adviser on teacher supply matters, John taught in a Tottenham secondary school for seven years and worked in teacher training and development in Worcester and Durham as well as Oxford. In 2005 he was the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate in Reading East.
Barry Cooper – UKIP: Barry graduated with a masters degree in history and currently works at his family-run luxury furniture business in London. He is a resident of Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, where he lives with his wife and two young daughters.
Patience Tayo Awe – Independent: Patience Tayo Awe is an independent candidate with a passion for volunteering and serving the community. An IT post-graduate, she has worked in various sectors and has also served as a charity trustee.
Geoff Howard – Independent: Geoff is a Slough-based businessman, magistrate, school governor and former borough councillor of 13 years. Former Head of Department in a secondary school. Businessman for 27 years. Magistrate for 20 years, Chairing Adult and Youth Courts in Berkshire.
I have been out delivering leaflets for Anthony Stansfeld and in the Reading East constituency we have delivered around 30,000 to ensure that as many people as possible know about the election and our candidate. People I have met have said that they have received nothing from any other candidate.
Some sceptical commentators have been talking about 15-20% turnout in these elections undermining the credibility of the victors. I suspect that the turnout will be higher than this and in areas like the Thames Valley significantly higher. However, it is an interesting argument since many Labour Councillors in Reading are elected on turnouts well under 30% and some below 20%! To date I have not heard anyone arguing that they do not have a democratic mandate.
Today former Labour MP for Luton South, Margaret Moran, was found by a jury to have committed the largest fraud of Parliamentary expenses to have come to court. The jury found that she had sought to claim £60,000 but had in fact been paid £53,000 based on fraudulent claims for her three properties. This was no case of bending the rules or trying the system, Moran was found to have claimed £2,000 for a phone line which did not exist, carpets for three bedrooms in a one bedroom flat, and to have resubmitted claims with different details when they were at first rejected by the Parliamentary Fees Office.
Moran is one of a long line of Labour MPs caught out fiddling their expenses. Earlier this month former Labour Minister Denis MacShane was forced to resign from Parliament for fiddling his expenses in what was described as the “gravest” case to come before the Parliamentary Standards body. Moran’s false expense claims amount to more than FOUR TIMES MacShane’s deceit. However, she will probably avoid jail due to her claim of severe depressive mental illness.
To date the following 6 MPs have been found to have ripped off the British tax-payers:
Margaret Moran (Labour) – Luton South – £53,000 – TBC
Elliot Morley (Labour) – Glanford and Scunthorpe – £30,000 – 16 months in prison
Derek Chaytor (Labour) – Bury North – £18,000 – 18 months in prison
Eric Illsley (Labour) – Barnsley Central – £14,500 – 12 months in prison
Denis MacShane (Labour) – Rotherham – £13,000 -TBC
Jim Devine (Labour) – Livingston – £9,000 – 16 months in prison
It is ironic that so many of the Labour MPs who were supporting Blair and Brown as they ruined our economy during their 13 years in office were lining their own pockets at our expense. The whole lot should be in prison in my opinion!
There is a new YouGov poll in today’s Sun newspaper with Labour’s lead falling to just 4% after a week of Labour leads which varied from 7-12%:
Conservative 35% (no change)
Labour 39% (down 3%)
Lib Dem 10% (up 1%)
UKIP 8% (up 1%)
This poll may be an outlier but it underlines the fragility of Labour’s lead in a week when we will see elections for Police and Crime Commissioner and several Parliamentary by-elections. At the mid-point of this Parliament I had expected to see Labour consistently well ahead as the Government takes the difficult decisions necessary to clear up the mess it inherited. Whilst Labour should win all the by-elections this week it will not be a very good indicator of what might happen at a General Election in 2015.
Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 4 November.
Measures to overhaul Britain’s Reserve Forces, to create fully integrated Armed Forces, were unveiled today as part of a wide-ranging consultation published by Defence Secretary Rt Hon Philip Hammond.
The consultation, ‘Future Reserves 2020: Delivering the Nation’s Security Together’, proposes more training for Reservists, a ‘kitemark’-type award for supportive employers, and a proposal to change the ‘Territorial Army’s’ name to reflect its enhanced role.
Under the proposals there will be a new relationship between Reservists, Employers and the Government; a more transparent approach with employers given greater certainty about the timing of possible mobilisations and more notice when they occur. The measures will create a fully integrated force of Regulars and Reservists, using similar equipment, and training together. It will mean that the Reserves will not only produce individual augmentees to support Regular Units, but also deploy as formed units and sub-units.
The number of trained Reserves will grow to around 35,000 across all three Services by 2020, aligning the mix of Regular and Reserve components with many of Britain’s closest allies. The Army will see the biggest change with 30,000 trained Reserves, creating a total land force of about 120,000. The MOD plans to grow the total strength of the Reserves to around 44,450 across all three Services by 2020. There are currently 29,291 Reserves across all three Services. With 25,430 in the Territorial Army, 2,526 in the Maritime Reserve and 1,335 in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
The plans are backed by an extra £1.8 billion in funding over the next ten years for new equipment, uniforms and training for the Reserves. This is already having an effect:
· 12 of the 26 Army Reserves overseas training exercises planned for 2012 and 2013 have already been conducted, in locations including Macedonia, Italy and Cyprus;
· 22 of these exercises are new and a result of the new Future Reserves 2020 Funding. The Royal Navy and Royal Auxiliary Air Force have continued to provide overseas training opportunities;
· overseas exercises are expected to double next year; and
· new uniforms in line with what their Regular counterparts wear, are being delivered to Reserve units.
The consultation will also look at:
· increasing the number of days Army Reservists are required to train – from 35 to 40 days a year;
· a change of name from ‘Territorial Army’ to ‘Army Reserve’ – better reflecting the future role and tasks; and
· encouraging more ex-Regulars to become Reservists– making it easier for them to transfer to the Reserves and developing incentives for them to do so.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “This transformation of the Reserves will see a radical shift in the way in which we use them, with units deployed as formed units or sub-units as well as delivering individual augmentees. Increased training, better equipment and extra investment in our Reserves are all integral to our vision of formidable, adaptable and flexible Armed Forces, with a Reserve/Regular balance more in line with our main allies. This Government has committed £1.8 billion to rebuilding our Reserves. The consultation I have launched today is about working with Reservists, their families and employers to use that money to design the Reserve forces of the future.”
When the announcement was made in the House of Commons Reading East MP Rob Wilson suggested that the MOD consider the establishment of a Gurkha Reservist Unit within the new Army Reserve. Mr Wilson argued that this would preserve the proud history and character of the Gurkhas and would bring their tradition of loyalty, courage and skill to the benefit of the Army Reserve.
In response, the Defence Secretary said that Mr Wilson’s proposal raised an “excellent question” and promised to look into what could be done to bring about the establishment of a Gurkha Reservist Unit.
Rob Wilson said: “The Gurkhas have a distinct character and a proud history of brave service for which this country should be enormously grateful. A specific reservist unit would enable the Territorial Army to continue to benefit from the Gurkha traditions of loyalty, courage and skill among ex-Gurkha soldiers and others of Nepalese heritage willing to serve. I am following this up with a letter to Philip Hammond today to move this proposal forward.”
The MOD’s consultation will run until 18 January 2013. Following this consultation the MOD will publish a White Paper in Spring 2013 setting out this new relationship.
The Future Reserves 2020 consultation is available on the Ministry of Defence website here.
This is a welcome boost to our Reserve Forces (of which I am one) but it will only have the desired effect if the Regular Forces are properly resourced and manned. I very much hope that Chancellor George Osborne will find the resources to provide some additional cash for the MOD in the public spending round next month.
Regular readers of this blog may recall that in 2008 I was a firm supporter of Barack Obama over the then Republican candidate John McCain. He offered a new hope to the USA and the World. However, that hope was progressively eroded over the years following his inauguration. I have refrained from comment in this campaign so far because I have been genuinely undecided between a second term for Obama or giving Mitt Romney a chance.
The people of the USA are voting today and all the opinion polls suggest that it will be a close election. Obama may have a slight advantage in most of the key swing states but it is within the margin of error. It seems that many US voters share my indecision. Obama has proven to be a uninspiring President who has failed to fulfil his early promise. Romney by contrast is the “hope” candidate in this election. He offers change to a more positive agenda of growth and lower taxes. Questions remain about his commitment to a more liberal social agenda but he will be unlikely to try to reverse the gains made in the area of gay rights in recent years. More importantly for me is that Romney will reverse Obama’s latent anti-British attitudes. It is in the UKs interests to have a President who is prepared to lead in the world and work with the UK as America’s closest and most effective partner.
I am not greatly enthused by either candidate for a variety of reasons but on balance if I had a vote in this US election I would vote for Mitt Romney. I wish him luck tonight!
Reading Conservatives have attacked inflation-busting proposals to increase fees and charges for the Borough’s sports facilities. In a report approved by the Labour Cabinet meeting tonight the following increases were voted through:
Tennis – adult court hire – up 35.34%
Tennis – junior court hire – up 29.87%
Swimming courses – up 15%
Diving courses – up 15%
Trampolining courses – up 15%
Gymnastics courses – up 15%
Yoga courses – up 15%
Swimming – adult pool entry – up 10%
Cycling – up 10%
Athletics – up 10%
Football – adult block 5+ teams – up 9.92%
In addition all fitness classes, including circuit training, pilates, mini soccer, aerobics and Tai Chi are being increased by 5%, as are other football, cricket and bowls charges. Mooring charges are to increase by over 73%!
In total these increased charges are designed to raise over £135,000 from sports people in Reading. However, somewhat bizarrely many of the increases are not predicted to raise any additional revenue, presumably because of the anticipated decline in usage.
Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tim Harris said, “This summer London successfully hosted the Olympic Games with a stated ambition to ‘inspire a generation’. However, it seems that Labour in Reading is determined to price people off sports pitches and out of their fitness classes.
This is short-sighted both for the impact it will have on the next generation of potential Olympians and Paralympians and for the health impacts. Every person deterred from participating in sport is a person who is more at risk of obesity and the consequent burdens on the NHS. In this Olympic year, when the economy is still struggling, we would have expected the administration to have frozen sports charges.”
There is a new YouGov poll for today’s Sunday Times newspaper which shows Labour’s lead holding at 7% following a week of double digit leads for Labour in the daily Sun YouGov polls:
Conservative 35% (no change)
Labour 42% (no change
Lib Dem 9% (no change)
UKIP 7% (no change)
This poll confirms last Sunday’s YouGov poll which had exactly the same vote shares for the two big parties and the two minnows. It appears that after a period of UKIP leading the Lib Dems we have settled into a pattern of the Lib Dems being a few percentage points ahead of them. The Conservatives will want to see a Lib Dem recovery taking votes back off Labour to erode Labour’s modest lead.
This poll also confirms that Ed Miliband remains a drag on the Labour vote share. Miliband has slipped from -16% to -23% approval rating, while Cameron is in the least bad position on -19%. Clegg languishes at -53%.
Changes shown are compared to the last YouGov poll I reported on 28 Oct.
Today the story that had been rumbling for some time came to a very dramatic conclusion. Senior Labour MP and former Europe Minister Denis MacShane was found by the Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges to have submitted 19 fraudulent invoices, signed by a fake name, to claim £13,000 from the public purse. In their damning conclusion the committee found that MacShane “plainly intended to deceive” the Parliamentary expenses system. They also criticised his attempts to cover up the matter by failing to cooperate fully with the committee’s investigation. The cross-Party committee found that it was the “gravest case” to come before them and its Labour Chairman joined the criticism of MacShane’s actions. The committee’s recommendation was a 12 month suspension from Parliament which was overtaken by events this evening when MacShane resigned his Rotherham seat, forcing a by-election in what has long been a safe Labour seat.
The rank hypocrisy on the part of MacShane’s defenders today has been breathtaking. According to his defenders the real crime is that the BNP lodged a complaint against him, conveniently ignoring the damning conclusions of the Parliamentary Standards watchdog. The BNP may be odious but they did not deliberately fake invoices and submit the expenses claims to defraud the tax-payers of this nation. I was disgusted to listen to someone called Mark Stevens on the BBC’s ‘World at One’ today arguing that this was all a campaign against MacShane because of his “anti-fascist” campaigns. MacShane even has stooped to make similar arguments in his resignation statement.
The situation is simple, ANOTHER senior Labour MP has been caught with their hand in the till claiming money they were not entitled to, defrauding the Parliamentary expenses system and the British people in the process! When I consider the flak that many Conservative MP received over expenses claims which were submitted but rejected by the system, the calls for sympathy for MacShane’s situation really sticks in my throat.
The story may not end there however, tonight MacShane has been reported to the Metropolitan Police with a call for them to reopen their previous investigation in light of the Standards Committee’s findings. If past precedent is followed then MacShane faces a stretch at Her Majesty’s pleasure.