Friday, 27 March 2015

Which Lib Dems voted to (essentially) defenestrate Bercow?

In case you were wondering, by my reckoning four Liberal Democrat MPs voted for the Hague / Gove "student union politics" move that would have allowed Bercow to be unseated by a secret ballot.

They were:

- Tom Brake (no surprise; the Deputy Leader of the House dutifully sat alongside Hague throughout)
- Ed Davey
- Don Foster
- John Thurso

I read that 10 Lib Dems voted against, but don't have their names at hand.

Quite why the Liberal Democrats in government (and indeed William Hague for that matter, whose reputation as a "Commons man" must now be severely tarnished) agreed to go along with Gove's "clever" little scheme is beyond me.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Do Scotland's Tories Know on Which Side Their Bread is Buttered?

Alex Massie has a great piece in The Spectator on 'Why an SNP Surge at Westminster Could Mean the End of Britain'. I recommend you read it. I suspect he is fundamentally right about the obliviousness of English voters to the 'Rise of the 45' in Scotland. The referendum might have been won, but the Union is far from safe for as long as a majority of Scottish MPs are from the Scottish National Party. Moreover the collapse of Scottish Labour undercuts some of the structural advantages the First Past the Post electoral system gives the Labour Party, meaning that in the current electoral climate it is very difficult to see either Labour or the Conservatives getting an overall majority any time in the foreseeable future, unless something very fundamental changes.

Another important question, however, is whether Scotland's Conservatives are as tuned in to the dangers of the current political maelstrom as one would expect them to be. In short, Scottish Tories have it in their gift to deny Sturgeon and Salmond at least 10 seats, and there are perhaps 10 more held by unionist parties in which a combined unionist vote could deny the SNP a victory, as the chart below shows.

It may be difficult for Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, to hang on to his seat, even with a fair wind of tactical voting behind him (or so Lord Ashcroft's polls seem to indicate). The other 10 Lib Dem seats are probably salvageable if beating the SNP becomes more important to Labour and Tory voters than traditional tribal loyalties.  This is particularly true in seats with a strong residual Tory vote like Northeast Fife, Edinburgh West, Argyll & Bute. This also applies in a couple of seats where before the SNP surge the Conservatives were hopeful of making gains at their coalition partners' expense:  West Aberdeenshire and Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk. Returning the current coalition (Lib Dem) MP at least holds out the hope of the current government being returned; a SNP Member of Parliament makes that possibility even more remote.

If sufficient Labour and Conservatives vote tactically in Gordon, Ross, Skye & Lochaber and the Liberal Democrats' other Scottish seats, those seats could also be saved, though selling it to a mixture of Labour and Conservative voters becomes a lot more difficult.

The bigger challenge comes in Labour-held seats, where on current numbers the SNP may be about to sweep the whole lot of them away: can Labour drum up enough support in "Only we can stop the SNP" fashion to stem the nationalist tide? Can sufficient Scots Tories in East Renfrewshire be persuaded to hold their nose and vote for Jim Murphy? Similarly in Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock, Dumfries & Galloway, Glasgow North West and Airdrie & Shotts (!).

Nobody will know the answer until the early hours of May 8th, but if the SNP sweeps the board in Scotland it will be evidence that the continued existential threat to the United Kingdom remains little appreciated by unionists north of the border, let alone to the south.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Dear Snow...

Dear snow,
I know that when we first met I was young and pretty impressionable -- looking back I was so naive -- but I fell in love with you. You knew it. I knew it, and I also knew you probably didn't feel the same way. But to be honest, I didn't really care. I just loved you. You weren't really around that much, and sure, I knew rain and sleet and hail a lot better, and got pretty intimate with all of them (I'm sorry), but you were the only one I loved.

You would show up every now and again, get me excited, and then you would disappear, without so much as a note to say when you would be back. But that just made me love you more. You were so exciting, and sometimes a little bit dangerous. I liked that. Even as I did a little growing up and went off around the world myself, you always occupied a special place in my heart, and I still looked forward to the next time you would swing by, more or less unannounced, so we could spend some time getting slushy together.

When I moved to the U.S., I looked forward to spending more time with you. I thought it would be nice if we could get to know each other a bit better, instead of just one night you were there, and then in the morning you were gone, as mostly happened in Ireland. I was looking forward to walks with the dog and you, hanging out in the park at the weekend, maybe playing with your balls if we were feeling naughty or playing angels if we weren't. It all sounded blissful. I couldn't wait.
But in truth, snow, we have both changed. I am maybe a bit less idealistic and playful than I used to be, but since we have both been in New York I barely recognise you. Spending so much time together has been a lot less fun than I thought. You have been around a lot. Like, a lot. You showed up before Christmas and you haven't gone away. To be perfectly honest, I am getting a bit tired of seeing you every day. More than that, you are a lot less fun than you used to be. Since moving to NYC you have got really messy. You've also got really filthy. That's not my thing. And I just find you cold and boring. You were already starting to annoy me, but then tonight happened.

You had already forced me to change my plans on a few occasions, selfishly, to suit you. It happens, I said. Snow's like that, I said. No point in getting annoyed about it. It's part of the fun and excitement. And then tonight, even though it was literally just around the corner, 1 block away, you decided that you were going to dick about so much that the show I have been waiting to see got cancelled. That was the last straw. Let me tell you hunty, I want you out of here. Gone. Get the feck out of my life. I am sick of you. What we had is gone, and now you are just one giant pain in my A-hole, so you have until Sunday to get your shit together and GET OUT OF HERE. Take a cruise down the Hudson or across the Atlantic or something. Travel. See the world, whatever. I don't care. Just get the fuck out of my life before I kick the shit out of you before pushing you down a drain.

I mean it.