Stephen Woolfe MEP, the former favourite to lead UKIP, has announced that he is resigning from the party with immediate effect:
In a final parting shot at his old party he is reported to have filed a Police complaint regarding the recent assault against him.
How long before he joins the Conservative Party?
One year ago tonight I was settling down to watch the 2015 General Election results come in. I remember delight when the BBC exit poll was revealed and having to stay up all night as the results just got better and better.
You can watch it all yourself and relive that amazing night here:
I have just read a very interesting article on the process which will lead to a new set of constituencies for the 2020 General Election. The LSE article highlights the fact that the four Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are drawing up new boundaries based on a map of 600 UK constituencies rather than the current 650. This was a Conservative manifesto commitment which will mean equal sized constituencies across the UK with exception of a handful of island constituencies. This is undoubtedly fairer and more democratic than the current arrangement where Wales (and by extension Labour) is grossly over-represented in Westminster, and where urban seats often have smaller electorates than many rural seats. The net changes are likely to benefit the Conservatives by anything from 20-25 seats overall, leading some on the left to complain of “gerrymandering” and “rigging” the system. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the changes will be implemented by the impartial boundary commissions and will right many historic wrongs in the current electoral map.
A separate issue (but linked by some) is the change to individual electoral registration by voters. Under the new system each voter has to register themselves if they wish to vote. No longer will the head of the household, or University, be able to register all occupants of a property. This has led to a drop of around 600,000 in the number on the electoral register, with falls particularly marked in university towns. This should not be a surprise as most students were previously registered in two addresses, that of their parents, or previous home address, and the address where they lived during their studies. There was nothing illegal or wrong about this as long as they only voted once in any given election. The fact is that the vast majority probably didn’t vote at all, and the politically active could vote twice and were very unlikely to be detected. Much of the fall in numbers is probably down to students only being registered at a single address. However, a second and more sinister factor was the manipulation of the register by some in certain urban areas. Local authorities do their best to monitor and check unusually large numbers registered at any given address but it did not stop some head of households registering unfeasibly large numbers to vote in their house. I well remember identifying some houses in predominantly Asian parts of Reading with 8 or 12 people on the register for a 3 bedroom house. Also finding streets where the same people were registered in more than one house which happened to be owned by the same person. Duplication is relatively easy to clear up when you spot it, but over-registration is much harder. It was often claimed in Reading that people were brought in from Slough by train and taxi to vote only to then be transported back from whence they came. It won’t surprise readers to know that this was in Labour voting areas. To help prevent this I would like to see a further step taken of having to produce identification to vote in order to ensure that only the correct registered person actually votes.
The changes coming for 2020 should be welcomed by all who respect and value democracy in the UK. The fact that constituencies will be much more equal in size and that there will be fewer MPs on the public payroll can only be a good thing. The average constituency size of 74,000 is a reasonable number for any MP to represent and is around the number that most English MPs have represented by and large for many years. The House of Commons will be a more comfortable place with 50 fewer bottoms to squeeze onto the green benches and the number of officers, staffers, stationery and other support needed will be consequently reduced.
1. Governments usually get a kicking (Conservative-led Governments especially)
2. An effective party of opposition usually makes significant gains and often takes seats off the Government of the day
At this stage in the Parliament and in a seat which Labour held from 1997 to 2001 (albeit on slightly different boundaries), it was reasonable to expect that Labour would be looking to take Newark from the Conservatives if they wanted to be in with a chance of winning next year’s General Election. After all the last time a Conservative Government won a by-election in one of its own seats was as far back as 1989! Labour ran a lack-lustre campaign almost as though they hoped that UKIP would beat the Conservatives to set up trouble in Cameron’s party.
The Conservatives surprised commentators by running a high energy and very effective campaign. Large numbers of young and enthusiastic Conservative supporters were bussed in from around the country and MPs and candidates were strong-armed to support the campaign. This is something which I had been advocating ten years ago to senior party officials to no avail. Party Chairman Grant Shapps put hundreds of experienced and motivated activists onto the streets of the constituency and this was reflected in surveys which showed that more people had received a leaflet, a telephone call or a knock on their door from the Conservatives than any other party.
Much has been made of UKIP’s gains in recent local Council elections but in reality they have been small and not led to control of a single higher tier local authority. What UKIP really needs is to gain a Westminster seat. They came close in Eastleigh against the depleted Lib Dems and there was some talk that they could take Newark. The climate was right for them, the by-election followed hot on the heels of UKIP’s Euro-election success and it was caused by a Conservative MP resigning under a cloud. At the beginning of the campaign UKIP were ramping their chances with talk of a “volcano” following on from the claimed “earthquake” of the Euro-elections. When the veteran MEP Roger Helmer was chosen as the UKIP candidate expectations dimmed slightly but we still had claims of the by-election being “neck and neck”. I was watching the live coverage in the early hours of this morning when Nigel Farage conceded the seat but stated that UKIP were “2-3,000” votes behind the Conservatives, that UKIP had gained “over 30% of the vote”, and that this was “UKIP’s best result ever”.
So what were the results? Here they are:
Jenrick (Conservative) – 17,431 (44.9%)
Helmer (UKIP) – 10,028 (25.8%)
Payne (Labour) – 6,842 (17.6%)
Baggaley (Ind) 1,891 (4.89%)
Kirwan (Green) 1,057 (2.73%)
Watts (Lib Dem) – 1,004 (2.6%)
Nick The Flying Brick (Loony) – 168 (0.4%)
Hayes (Ind) – 117 (0.3%)
Bishop (BP Elvis) – 87 (0.2%)
Rodgers (Stop Banks) – 64 (0.2%)
Woods (Pat Soc) – 18 (0.05%)
Conservative majority – 7,403 (19.1%)
Turnout – 52.8%
UKIP’s hype was massively over-blown and Farage was left looking ridiculous when the Conservative majority over UKIP turned out to be almost three times his claim and close to 20%! UKIP also failed to get the 30%+ share Farage had so confidently claimed. UKIP’s vote share was also LESS than it gained in Eastleigh making it a hat-trick of false claims! Today Farage has vanished and even cancelled a planned photo-call in the town square.
And what about the Lib Dems? They used to be past-masters of Parliamentary by-elections, winning seats from Labour and Conservative with huge swings all across the UK. 20 years ago they would have relished a contest in a seat like Newark. However, since entering coalition with the Conservatives the Lib Dems are a shadow of their former selves. They have lost two-thirds of their 2010 support and seemingly their “mojo” with it. In 2010 they managed just over 10,000 votes in Newark. This time they plunged to sixth place, losing their deposit with 2.6% behind the Green Party and an Independent. They did however manage to beat “Nick the Flying Brick” the Loony Party candidate! I won’t gloat too much because it seems quite likely that some Lib Dem supporters voted tactically for the Conservatives in order to keep UKIP out.
A few by-elections are defining moments in British politics. This one may be just such a by-election. With the development of anti-UKIP tactical voting and the apparent willingness of some Lib Dem voters to back the Conservatives, the prospects for 2015 suddenly look much brighter for David Cameron.
It may be the moment that UKIP was shown to have passed its peak and the Conservatives charted the course to victory in the 2015 General Election.
I am grateful to the reader who has sent me the link to the story about the ructions in the Labour Party on Middlesbrough Council. Five sitting Labour Councillors have resigned from the party to form a new Independent grouping. The Council is still majority Labour controlled but it seems to have numerous Independent groups of a variety of names. The five will form the “Association of Independent Middlesbrough Councillors” (AIM Group). They will sit alongside 3 Councillors of the “Middlesebrough Independent Councillors Association”, 8 Councillors who are “Independent”, 2 from the Marton Independent Group, and there is also Ray Mallon the Independent directly elected Mayor of Middlesbrough.
The five defectors are Councillors Len Junier (who represents North Ormesby and Brambles Farm ward), Pervaz Khan (Middlehaven), Sajaad Khan (Gresham), Derek Loughborough (North Ormesby and Brambles Farm) and John McPartland (Middlehaven).
– Cllr Junier said in his resignation letter: “I can no longer sit back and watch our fractured group implode through lack of direction, lack of leadership and more importantly lack of Labour values”;
– Cllr Pervaz Khan said he felt “ashamed” for belonging to Middlesbrough Labour Group which “is treating some of my Asian family and friends in a manner which they perceive to be racist and, incidentally, so do I”;
– Cllr Sajaad Khan also criticised the current Labour leadership saying it was “different under Sir Stuart Bell, who would not have stood for all this”;
– Cllr McPartland said he was “not prepared to tolerate any longer” a Middlesbrough Labour Group leadership which he considers to be “morally bankrupt”;
– Cllr Loughborough said though he won his appeal he was unhappy with questions raised at his appeal panel about his involvement with union issues.
This is somewhat similar to the situation in the Harrow Labour Party which saw NINE of their Councillors resign the Labour Whip and ultimately led to Labour’s loss of control of the Council.
This is a clip from the run up to the 2010 General Election but anyone tempted to vote Labour should watch it. Conservatives should keep posting it!
Note the figure of Ed Balls who was a major figure in the Blair/Brown regimes.
It is a record to be profoundly ashamed of!
Following the announcement that a future Labour Government would increase the top rate of tax from 45% to 50% a group of 24 senior British business people have written to the Daily Telegraph to attack the anti-business stance being adopted by Shadow Chancellor and Ed Balls.
The letter is as follows:
We are concerned to see Ed Balls and the Labour Party calling for higher taxes on businesses and business people.
We think that these higher taxes will have the effect of discouraging business investment in the UK.
This is a backwards step which would put the economic recovery at risk and would very quickly lead to the loss of jobs in Britain.
John Ayton, Chairman, Bremont
Karren Brady, Vice Chairman, West Ham United
Sir Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive, Kingfisher
Neil Clifford, Chief Executive, Kurt Geiger
Andrew Coppel, Chief Executive, De Vere Group
Peter Cullum, Executive Chairman, Towergate
Philip Dilley, Chairman, London First
Rupert Gavin, CEO, Odeon UK
Michael Gutman, Chief Executive, Westfield Group
Anya Hindmarch, Founder, Anya Hindmarch
Brent Hoberman, Executive Chairman, mydeco
Luke Johnson, Chairman, Risk Capital
Mike Lynch, Chairman, Invoke Capital; Founder, Autonomy
Alistair McGeorge, Chairman, New Look
Charlie Mullins, Founder and CEO, Pimlico Plumbers
Tim Oliver, Founder and Chairman, Hampden
Sir Stuart Rose, Chairman, Ocado
Rob Templeman, Chairman British Retail Consortium, Gala Coral and the RAC
Michael Tobin, Chief Executive, Telecity
Ted Tuppen, Founder, Enterprise Inns
Joseph Wan, CEO, Harvey Nichols
Will Wyatt, CEO, Caledonia
Sir Hossein Yassaie, Chief Executive, Imagination Technologies
This letter is signed in a personal capacity.
I have written recently about UKIP’s problems in Lincolnshire and Worcester but am grateful to a reader who has sent me a link to a story of rows and resignations in Scotland. It seems that after allegations of dirty tricks within the local organisation, 6 out of 9 of the party’s Euro candidates, including Scottish Leader Lord Christopher Monckton and local Chairman Mike Scott-Hayward, have resigned from the Euro-slate just as the internal ballot papers were about to be issued. The debacle ended with London-based David Coburn winning the top slot on the UKIP Scottish Euro list after the National Executive Committee decided that the selection should proceed without 2/3rds of the original candidates. The Scottish Herald reports that UKIP in Scotland is “in turmoil”!
Trouble is also brewing for UKIP in Hampshire and Yorkshire. Two UKIP Councillors in Hampshire have already quit the party with rumours of more to follow while up in Yorkshire a young potential local Council by-election candidate is in trouble for speaking out over the antics of former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom.
Even though Paul Sykes has promised to push money into UKIPs national campaign if they don’t have the people on the ground and the credibility locally it will be to little effect. Just look at James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party!
Today former Labour Minister Denis MacShane pleaded guilty in court to fraudulently claiming almost £13,000 in Parliamentary expenses. The court had heard that the former Europe Minister had submitted 19 faked expenses claims from January 2005 to January 2008 against a company he owned, with invoices signed by MacShane using a false name, or “nom de plume” as he prefers to call it. Sentencing will take place on 19 December.
This brings to a close a case which has been ongoing since 2009 when the Commons began investigating his claims. A damning report by the Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges 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. He then resigned his safe Labour seat of Rotherham a year ago forcing an expensive Parliamentary by-election.
MacShane’s admission of guilt brings to 6 the number of Labour MPs who have been found guilty of stealing money from the tax-payer:
Margaret Moran (Labour) – Luton South – £53,000 – Supervision Order (Prison was avoided due to her mental state)
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
Jim Devine (Labour) – Livingston – £9,000 – 16 months in prison
On 19 December we will learn what the Judge feels is a fair sentence for MacShane’s admitted fraud and theft. I suspect that a jail sentence will be awarded.
I wrote the other day about UKIP’s difficulties in Worcestershire where former MEP Mike Nattrass is forming a new anti-EU party with the support of a number of defecting key UKIP members. Now on the other side of England comes the news that UKIP is experiencing difficulties with a significant breakaway group of Councillors in Lincolnshire.
In one of the Counties where UKIP made the most progress in May this year five Councillors, including Group Leader Cllr Chris Pain, broke away to form a new Council group initially called “UKIP Lincolnshire” and then the “UK Independence Group”. If the five do not relent they face expulsion from the national party and would have to decide whether to sit as Independents or join Nattrass’s new party. I am sure that the local Conservative group would be interested in talking to them as well.
For a tiny party with fewer than 200 Councillors UKIP can ill afford to be losing so many so quickly after their election let alone the damage that this scale of infighting does to their reputation with the electorate. Still, UKIP has a long track record of electing MEPs only to lose many of them before the following election:
We have become used to UKIP MEPs and Councillors leaving the party once they discover its true nature but it is interesting to see that the latest divisions in Worcestershire have led to the launch of a new competitor party. The split is so severe in Worcestershire that the local paper has even described UKIP as being “in meltdown”!
Former UKIP West Midlands MEP Mike Nattrass quit the party a couple of months ago after he was not reselected by UKIP for next year’s Euro elections. After allegedly flirting with the English Democrats he has now decided to set up his own party. On his own he would probably not comprise much of a threat but he seems to have retained his popularity with UKIP activists as a number have decided to leave UKIP for the new party. Carl Humphries is a respected activist and former Worcester City Councillor and he has been joined by UKIP’s Worcester Branch Treasurer Jim Holtom and Branch Chairman Doug Ingram.
The new party is to be called “An Independence Party” and its logo will be an EU flag with “Out” emblazoned across it. The new party organisers have pledged that it will be a party run by its members and not dictated from the top down as UKIP is under leader Nigel Farage. It will be interesting to see what impact the new party has on UKIP but if the rumours are to be believed there are a number of other senior UKIP figures who are ready to leave and join Nattrass’s new party.
In Derby Cllr Lisa Higginbottom, a former Mayor of the City has resigned from the Labour party and will continue as an Independent. The resignation does not change Labour’s control of the city council but in view of her former position as first citizen it will be a blow to the Labour group. Derby has suffered from accusations of voting fraud and Cllr Higginbottom took the undoubtedly difficult decision to vote with the Conservatives and against her former colleagues for next year’s local elections to be supervised by the independent Electoral Commission.
Over in Bristol former Lead Councillor for Education Cllr David Pickup has also resigned from the Labour party. He has announced that he will not contest next year’s local elections but has refused to elaborate further on the reasons behind his decision. Bristol is a hung council with Labour as the largest party.
Further west in Cardiff two Labour Councillors have decided to resign their seats on the city council forcing by-elections. Cllr Luke Holland is resigning to move to London after receiving criticism for his poor attendance record. Cllr Phil Hawkins is resigning for “personal reasons” after standing for the leadership of his Group and losing. Both were only elected to the council last May! Whilst the Cardiff pair have not, to my knowledge, resigned from the party, having two unnecessary by-elections will not be welcomed by the party machine.
None of the parties enjoyed an ideal context for their conference. UKIP’s was completely overshadowed by the antics and subsequent resignation of Godfrey Bloom MEP. Since then at least two local Councillors have also resigned from the party. The Lib Dems struggled to get any great coverage reflecting their recent diminished status. The only policy which registered with me was their pledge to give free school meals to all under 8 year olds, a policy oddly targeted at the better off!
Labour’s conference was over-shadowed by the Damien McBride revelations which shone a light onto the bitter infighting and poisonous atmosphere which pervaded the last Labour government of which Ed Balls and Ed Miliband were such key members. However, Ed Miliband’s speech with its pledge to force energy companies to freeze gas and electricity prices (for just 20 months), the proposal that private land could be seized by the state if it is not built on, and an increase in the planned level of Corporation Tax did cut through. Miliband seemed quite happy to move the Labour party to the left and to claim the mantle of “Socialism”, something which was carefully avoided during Tony Blair’s tenure as leader.
The Conservative conference had its own distraction with the debate over the Daily Mail’s decision to attack Ed Miliband’s Marxist father as “The Man Who Hated Britain“. After many on the left celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s death earlier this year plus Guardian attacks on David Cameron’s father, it was somewhat rich for Labour people to bleat about the Mail’s article, especially since Ed Miliband repeatedly cites his father as a source of his political credo. The Mail, rightly, also gave Miliband Jnr a right of reply in their pages.
Despite the debate over the Mail article the Conservative conference, under the slogan “For Hardworking People“, produced a lot of substance. I was very much impressed by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s speech when he explained how he has tightened up on the discipline in prisons but spoke eloquently about the importance of training and rehabilitation of offenders and proper supervision when they are released. If he is successful this will not only reduce the level of reoffending but also save the tax-payers a lot of money. Home Secretary Theresa May announced that in future foreign criminals will be deported and have to submit any appeal from their home country. After 11 years and millions of Pounds spent before successfully deporting Abu Qatada this will be welcomed by many. Ministers also made it clear that a Conservative majority government would be likely to repeal Labour’s Human Rights Act.
Chancellor George Osborne announced a further planned freeze on fuel duty. The freeze to date has already meant that petrol prices at the pump are 13p per litre less than Labour’s plans. That is a real benefit to hard-working families and businesses. A further freeze will be welcomed by all who use a motor vehicle to move around or who buy good brought in by road. Hints were also dropped of tax cuts when they are affordable and David Cameron reiterated in his speech that Conservatives are instinctively a tax-cutting party. This would be a lot easier to achieve if the party had not committed itself to a £1,000 transferable married couples tax allowance for couples who do not have a higher rate tax payer in the household. The net effect will be a princely £200 per year for those affected and I think that the money could have been better used. But the proposal seems popular in initial polling.
The conference began with a tribute to Baroness Thatcher and culminated with a rousing speech from Prime Minister David Cameron. Interesting the only new policy which was floated in Cameron’s speech was a suggestion that in future under-25’s may lose their automatic right to housing benefit and job-seekers’ allowance. The Prime Minister pointed out that young people should be given opportunities for education, training or employment and a future government may remove benefits from those who refuse to “earn or learn”. Now that Labour has at long last announced some policies Cameron was able to take his gloves off and aim some blows at the Labour Party’s current policy stances as well as its awful economic record.
So what does all this mean for British politics? We will have to see what the public makes of the last couple of weeks of a pre-run of some of the 2015 General Election themes but I do know from some reliable sources that staff in Conservative Campaign HQ are rubbing their hands in glee at Labour’s move to the left. Senior Conservative campaign staff believed that Labour would plot a careful centrist path to the next General Election and are delighted that Miliband seems to want to re-fight the 1983 or 1987 election campaigns. Any short-term boost in the polls for Labour, they believe, will be more than wiped out as the reality of the consequences of Labour’s anti-business policies are hammered home over the next 18 months. Whatever your view of the conferences and the policies announced, there can be no doubt that there is now clear blue water between the Conservative and Labour parties. Labour has only been electorally successful in modern times when it has inhabited the centre-ground and reassured the wider electorate that it can be trusted to manage the economy. With the economic recovery gathering pace, despite Labour’s claims that the government’s policies had “choked off the recovery”, we are set for a continuing stream of economic good news as we approach 2015.
I decided not to go to conference this year but will aim to attend next year. The activists I have spoken to who attended this year’s Conservative conference left with a spring in their step. Many are new young members attending their first conference and their campaigning efforts will be vital to constituency associations across the country. However, the key to a successful conference is not the reaction of the activists but the response from the public. Only time will tell but I am surprised and delighted that we appear to be refighting the battle of the 1980s when Labour focussed on appealing to a dwindling left-wing core while a successful Conservative party delivered economic growth and electoral success!