Manchester Withington Polling Fiasco

Whilst the Chair of the electoral commission should carry the can for the travesty that occurred, there are also lessons to be learned. As a voter in Mancheter Withington, I believe the following should be looked into.

  1. Mcr Withington has always had the highest turnout of the 5 Manchester constituencies. Was this allowed for?
  2. Students tend to vote late – on the way to the pub. The problems were mostly in areas with high student numbers e.g. Fallowfield and Ladybarn.
  3. Was lack of voting booths (2 per station) an issue?
  4. Were there procedural changes? The clerks seemed to take longer than usual (there was local elections as well). Was this due to having the electoral lists in postal address order, rather than alphabetical order of name or street address?
  5. Queues were already forming at 11am. Why did none of the clerks summon help? Or if they did, why was none available?
  6. Also, why did it take much longer in Manchester Town Hall to count the vote? The result was at least 3 hours later than usual. I think this happened in lots of other areas as results seemed to come through more slowly.

 

If government agencies cannot get a simple procedure like voting correct, then what hope have we for reducing the impact of cost-cutting in more complex areas? By improving and simplifying procedures, productivity can increase, so standards of service will not be reduced as much. Understanding a simple failure can give insights into other areas.

UKIP did not lose the Tories the Election

The notion that UKIP lost the election for the Conservatives is erroneous.

This claim originated by Richard North on EU Referendum, and repeated by Conservative Home (with figures), John Redwood and Cranmer.

UKIP cater for a niche of voters who would otherwise (mostly) vote Conservative. However, a mainstream party cannot cater for all tastes. If the Tories became more euro-sceptic to squeeze the UKIP vote, they would most probably have lost more votes to the Lib-Dems and Labour. Any main-stream political party must be a broad church. The problem with our current political opinion is that we had two left-of-centre parties that got over 50% of the vote, a mainstream right-of-centre party that got 36% of the vote and UKIP that got 3%.

The conclusion for the Conservatives is not to try to appeal to a very broad church by merging many different opinions. Rather, they must capture a vision that people can empathise with, as did New Labour and Thatcherism. The time to introduce this was not with the launch of the manifesto, but two or three years before an election. Further that vision should also be an implicit attack on the alternatives.

A positive vision to vote for; and the opposing failures to vote against.

Please Pray for Gordon Brown

After the events of last week (see here, here and here), I feel quite sorry for there appears to be a divergence between the public and private face of Gordon Brown. Christians attempt to reconcile these differences in their own lives through prayer, studying the bible, public worship and seeking God’s unconditional forgiveness for when they have made mistakes, or erred in the smallest way. The Labour doctrine of spin, I would suggest, tries to fudge, evade and deliberately obscure anything that contradicts their message. When there are is strong underlying growth and charismatic leaders to promote populist policies, then this spin doctrine can carry people along. But when the main thrust of future policy is recognized to be inflicting hardship then it becomes quite difficult to constantly put out positive messages. Instead Labour have chosen to maintain the upper ground by a constant barrage of negative, exaggerated or misleading statements about their major rivals.

            Whilst many would recognise the impact the slogan of “Labour Investment verses Tory Cuts” has had on delaying recognition of the crisis in the public finances many months, what is not recognised is the impact on those in the party. If they put a slant on policy that is fundamentally at odds with what they believe – genuine public service – it will eventually be personally damaging. Maybe some, like Ed Balls and Peter Mandleson, who are more thick-skinned and less ideologically-motivated, the conflict between the good of the party and the greater good of the nation does not seriously trouble them. But Gordon Brown is committed to serving the country and has always believed he is the most able to lead it. Until the downturn this justified his ruthlessness in the pursuit of the top job. He is also astute enough to realise that not only did he get bank regulation wrong, but that his justification of structural deficits (see here) has left the government finances in their most wretched state for over 30 years. In so doing he knows that public services will have to be cut and then constrained for a generation.

            So when you hear of Gordon Brown’s throwing Nokias, or calling a straight-talking pensioner a bigot under his breath, please pray for him. Pray that he may know Christ’s love and forgiveness, and turn away from the lust for power and the love of spin. Most of all pray that he may have time for rest and reflection.

Cutting the Deficit – The PR aspect for the Tories.

There is growing recognition that the job of cutting the deficit will destroy the electoral prospects of those carrying out the task for a generation. Capitalists at work, have (very much tongue in cheek) suggested that a war might be needed to save the next government, much as the Falklands boosted the Tories and helped win the 1983 General Election. A war would certainly help, but such a dreadful circumstance should not be wished upon the nation. The Falklands War was a minor skirmish with a decisive victory that helped topple a dictatorship.

Another way is to encourage the general public to despise Labour – something that Cameron has avoided. There is plenty to go out, for instance:-

  1. The structural deficit (the bit that needs to be closed) is Brown’s fault. I estimate by 2015, around £750bn (over 50%) of the national debt will be as a consequence of the deficits built up in the boom years.
  2. Uncovering the partisan attitudes of the civil service and the political appointees. Encouraging whistleblowers and conducting audits may help.
  3. Launching enquiries and audits into major projects – for instance the widening of the M25, the NHS computer system, GPs pay rises, estimating the cost of Brown’s raid on pensions, why the banks got out of line etc.
  4. Tories emphasising unconditional forgiveness to those who have been taken in by the Labour Spin doctrines that got us in this mess.
  5. Emphasize that Labour have betrayed their core voters.
  6. Launching the initiatives to minimize the pain and maximize the gain from the necessary cuts.
  7. Changing the emphasis from promoting the interests of party/ideology to the government serving the people.

 

The Tories should do this not only to drive home the contribution that Labour has had in our current crisis, but also to give a positive vision for the future. One where governments will learn from past mistakes and learn the limits of what they can accomplish.

Conservative bloody battle imagery is self-defeating

Centre-Right’s “Labour is down, and its throat is exposed. Finish it.” imagery is quite wrong – it will just drive people away from politics altogether, Much like Foot’s “Thatcher-Tebbitism speech”.

In the final days it is worth emphasising the negatives of the Labour Party and after the election bringing people into a positive image of the challenges ahead.

THE NEGATIVES.

1. The Raiding of Pensions.

2. Creating a Structural deficit in the Boom years – This is the bit of the deficit that now needs to be cut. Labour has betrayed its core voters.

3. The selling of Gold reserves shows poor judgement.

4. The fact that Labour has only tiny positive things to say, and a huge amount of venom.

5. The poisoning of the civil service, by partisan decision-making and political appointees.

THE POSITIVES

1. Cuts in services must be prioritised.

2. Old-fashioned value-for-money needs to be the core.

3. Government should Serve the people, not the interests of party.

4. Diversity in provision should be encouraged to make the best use of everyone’s talents. (As opposed to constant initiatives from a few inexperienced spin-doctors).

The Conservatives final dash for power should lay the foundation for removing the divisiveness and nastiness of the Brown Premiership, along with sorting the parlous state of the finances created under the Brown Chancellorship. This will only happen if the supporters of this era are encouraged and able to join in a better way.

The Two Faces of Labour

The gaffe and very humble apology later by Gordon Brown may have a significant impact on the General Election. But, as I wrote on John Redwood’s blog, there is a deeper public v private face to the Labour campaign.

In recent years our politics has become too like those of the countries that have defaulted in the past – like Brazil, Argentina and like Greece has become now. It has become about presenting a public face of concern and competency, whilst privately just wanting power and prestige. It is also about defending of that image by denigrating the opposition and distorting the reality of events to an extent that George Orwell would not have imagined.

 As a result, we had a structural deficit built up in the boom years and a refusal to recognize that growing debt was an issue. We have delay upon delay about tackling the issue, or even recognizing the problem. Now every minor proposal to tackle it is met with cries of destroying public services and ruined lives.

 The false face of the boom years and the delayed recognition means we have a much bigger problem. It will mean more painful cuts and more growth-damaging tax rises. However, like with personal debt problems, being open and honest there is a severe problem is the first step to solving it. Then you prioritize what is most important, both by area and within each area. That priority should be based on meeting needs – on serving the public – and not on maintaining jobs.

 As part of that recognition, we should divide the deficit between the structural part (using OECD guidelines) and the cyclical part.

 Like with a financial plan for families who have got into debt, we can see, year-by-year, how that deficit is reducing. It should not be enshrined in law, but at least will show how the pain of narrowing the deficit is bringing the nation back to financial health. Then we can also explain how targets are not being met – e.g. through growth faltering, or failing to meet targets.

We need, as a nation, to admit to the false face that all put on. We should now shun the spin, and recognise the poor state of the public finances so that we can repair the damage with the minimum of adverse consequences.

Labour Totally Loses It

Labour seem to have totally lost any sense of proportion when

  1. They talk about less than cuts of 0.5% of GDP sending the UK back into recession when most of that will due to not replacing leavers.
  2. When Gordon Brown is angry about other parties proposed Cuts in child Tax Credits and trust funds. Something that would hit the wealthier families. Or Ed Balls saying it was a “mistake to ghettoise the welfare state”.
  3. They attack the Conservatives innovative education policies, that could push up standards, because of potential minor budget cuts in LEAs that lost pupils.
  4. On cancer care, the target of seeing a specialist within two weeks is mostly met, but survival rates for most cancers are amongst the lowest in Europe.

 

Until last autumn they refused to discuss how to tackle the £70bn structural deficit they created in the boom years, instead parroting on about “Labour Investment v. Tory Cuts”. They then refused to have a full spending review until after the election.

Labour have further refused to answer questions on the Banks and the Deficit.

Labour are desperate. If they come third, they will be racked by in-fighting more gruesome than in the early 80s. The Lib-Dems will overtake them as the major left-of-centre party.

As a result, Labour lack any sense of proportion. Their very desperation makes them unqualified to govern, or even represent any of the constituencies.

 

(this is an updated version of a comment made on John Redwood’s blog today)

Why Labour has not the Courage to cut Public Expenditure

18 months ago, I voted on the Congestion Charge. I went into the ballot box having been promised  

 ‘There’s no Plan B. If we vote NO in December the money goes back to Government, all £3 billion of it.’

  See wevoteyes facts 09 Nov 08

I was one of the 812,815 who voted against, a staggering 78.8% of the votes cast.

Depite this promise, six  months later Manchester gets the Metro extensions – the big ticket item. Costing £1.4bn. South Manchester Reporter had the story here.

 

We now have a huge deficit to tackle. If Gordon Brown cannot keep to a firm promise in the face of strong opposition, how resolute will he be on the unspecified commitments to cut the deficit?

 NB the pdf is from wevoteyes.co.uk. This website has now been taken down. For the full story see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Manchester_congestion_charge

Education – A small innovation or extra costs?

There have been claims today that the Gove school plan is flawed as school budgets will suffer. (See BBC & ASI Blog). The comments are put out by those who cannot see the twin advantages of such a policy – Of raising standards and raising productivity. Like in Sweden, it will serve to provide better value for the taxpayer and provide local communities with more diversity and innovation.

 

As I wrote in response to Hopi Sen’s article.

The claim that LEA schools budgets will suffer if schools go independent is only valid for fixed costs.

For instance, suppose an existing school 2 class per year primary school, loses 50% of its pupils to a start-up next door. Leaving aside the one-off costs of redundancies etc, the major costs are variable – the teaching staff. However the fixed costs (heating, maintenance, LEA admin) will go unchanged, so cost per pupil will rise. A 10% drop in pupil numbers may cause a 3% to 5% rise in costs per pupil.

However, this could be offset by three things.

1. Efficiency savings / productivity increases. Given that we have had 13 years of a government who throws money at problems, there should be plenty of opportunities for this.

2. Start-up schools being given tighter budgets from the outset.

3. In the long run, all fixed costs are variable. In other words, unpopular schools will close, LEAs will shrink their staff etc.

 

Hopi – You are right when you say that the education budget will be cut, like much else. The structural deficit created in the boom years will not be eliminated by a strong recovery. The best way to minimise the impact on public services is to first understand the nature of the costs and then find ways of improving productivity. Like in many areas of the private sector, this is by allowing for different types of solutions to a particular issue, initiated by people on the ground.

 

This country needs change, not because the Labour Government has run out of ideas, but because their top-down ideas do not exploit the real changes brought by utilising the best and most innovative talents in improving their own circumstances. In education, the Gove plan makes a start in this direction.

Alex Salmond’s anti-democratic spoiling tactics

Alex Salmond’s claim that he should take part in the British Political Leaders Debates is not just invalid, it is anti-democratic.

1. He represents a party that is only standing in less than 10% of the total constituencies.  (59 out of 650). If you are concerned about getting people interested in the political issues, then his utterances will be largely irrelevent.

2. This is a fraction of the candidates of UKIP (500+), the BNP (339) or the Green Party (300+).

2. If those three parties look at the European Elections in 2009, they can also claim to appeal to more people.  The fringe parties 31.3% of the vote verses 2.1% for the SNP. The English Democrats got 1.8%.

3. More importantly, many of the issues, such as Education and Health Services, are English issues. On the majority of the questions the SNP would have to be silent.

The only valid reason that the SNP taking part in the three main debates is to generate such a loathing for Scotland that the English public will want to throw them out. But British democracy is already weak and should not be weakened further.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers