Confessions of a Political Animal

June 10, 2009

Party like it’s 2008 – sort of.

London Boroughs Euro Labour

Note: I have published my data sheet for the London European election results with borough-by-borough breakdowns here. I am missing the exact breakdown of independent candidate votes in Hillingdon and the results for the City of London (unless the latter are included in a neighbouring borough). If anyone has access to these, please could they leave me a note? Thanks! UPDATE: data now complete thanks to Nick in comments.

If the patterns emerging on the map above (apologies for the atrocious reproduction quality) look slightly familiar, it’s probably because, like me, you spent some time last year poring over maps like this or thiswhich showed clearly the inner/outer London divide in voting in the Mayoral elections. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that last week’s European elections produced similar results – voting patterns aren’t likely to change that much in 13 months – but they are evidence of the re-emerging political disconnect between the ‘two Londons’. The dominance of New Labour did much to smooth over that disconnect. It may be the case that its death throes are widening the gap further than ever before.

There’s no getting around the fact that the European Election results were very, very bad for Labour, but as Dave Hill has pointed out, what was calamitous in the rest of the country was merely dismal in London. Whilst Labour’s vote dropped 7% nationally compared to 2004, it fell by only half of that in the London region; the Tory increase was smaller even than the limited national figure (+0.6% in London, compared to +1% nationally), whilst UKIP, surging into second place across Britain registered a 1.9% vote decrease in London, narrowly falling into fifth place behind the Greens. (more…)

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December 9, 2008

Time to scrap the Standards Board?

town-hallIt isn’t normally considered good form to call for the abolition of a body that may soon have the opportunity to cause severe embarrassment to a politician you happen to dislike. However, the Animal has been meaning to write about the Standards Board for England for some while now, and the story about the complaint being made against Boris Johnson has prompted me to get on with it.

The Standards Board was created through the Local Government Act 2000 by the erstwhile Department for Environment, Transport & Regions, as a recepticle for allegations of serious misconduct on the part of councillors. The rationale behind the Board’s creation was reasonable enough: a combination of the long-running and inconclusive Shirley Porter saga and the equally long-standing allegations of corruption amongst Doncaster’s Labour councillors (‘Donnygate‘) convinced the incoming Labour government that the existing channels for policing standards amongst councillors were unsatisfactory.

So, in the time honoured tradition of post-war politicians (and not just Labour politicians, as some would have you believe) the government (more…)

November 14, 2008

Academies: selecting for easy success

Inside the Ashcroft-Vardy Creationist Academy for Boys (formerly the Plato Academy)

Inside the Ashcroft-Vardy Creationist Academy for Boys (formerly the Plato Academy)

In September The Animal wrote about the increasing lack of local authority control over secondary schools in London partially as a consequence of the inexorable march of academies, particularly in the most deprived boroughs.

Part of my concern about this was the deep-seated worry, expressed well by Fiona Millar here, that academies have far too much independence in terms of their selection policies for a state-funded school and are becoming increasingly well versed in finding ways around what rules they do have to abide to keep ‘difficult’ students out. An unwillingness to take children with statements of special educational needs and a tendency towards very high rates of expulsions (8.7 per 1000 pupils in 2006-07 compared to 3.2 per 1000 in comparable community schools) are examples of this. If you (more…)

November 6, 2008

A good day to bury bad news?

tramAs the country’s attention is focussed across the Atlantic (hopefully a post on that will emerge before long), the Mayor has chosen  today to quietly announce – without mentioning it at yesterday’s public TfL board meeting – that he is, as predicted, dropping the continued development of at least three major transport schemes:

  • the Cross-River Tram (as discussed here)
  • the Docklands Light Railway extension via Barking Reach to Dagenham Dock (as discussed here)
  • the East London River Crossing

Yesterday was all about transport related bluster from Boris in his ludicrous Way to Go! document, admirably dissected by Diamond Geezer here. As far as I can see, the document was drafted by TfL officers before being sent up to the eighth floor of City Hall for various Boris-isms to be added, with the odd bit of Latin and phrases such as ‘traffic-throttling excrescences’ – I think that’s traffic-calming to you and me. Given this is a public-facing consultation document, I’d love to see the Plain English Campaign get its teeth into it. (more…)

October 31, 2008

Short hiatus and some updates

I am away this weekend (the picture should be a clue as to where) and today looks busy, so probably no posting this side of Monday. Don’t cry too much, please.

However, I thought it might be worth providing some updates on a few of my earlier posts, just so they don’t feel forgotten (and so in some cases the Animal can say “told you so”).

October 28th Is the Game Afoot? The Animal speculated that a prolonged period of single figure Conservative poll leads over the next couple of months would suggest that the narrative about the next election would change, with a hung parliament maybe becoming a stronger possibility than a stonking Tory majority. We’re a long way off a prolonged period yet, and the latest Yougov poll does show Labour moving out a smidgin, but the Tory lead remains (just) within the psychologically important single figure zone. 

October 27th European Left Watch: Out of Office in Lithuania The Animal reported on the defeat for the parties that formed the Social Democrat-led government in Lithuania by a mixture of (more…)

October 14, 2008

Get back to your sink estates, serfs!

Highgate - not for the likes of you

Highgate - not for the likes of you

The newspapers of the past couple of days have carried some interesting headlines, of the type I wasn’t sure I’d ever see: ‘Top bankers tumble as state steps in’ on this morning’s Financial Times was a particular example. One paper, however, has decided to take a different tack: in the week when it suddenly became fashionable to bash the obscenely rich, The Evening Standard has decided that now is the perfect time to…er…bash council house tenants. Yesterday, the day of possibly the greatest sea-change in the British financial system for at least eleven years and probably much longer, the Standard‘s billboards across London instead carried the headline ‘London’s £2m council house’.

This particular type of story looks like it might be developing into a trend for the Standard – they recently got Tory-run Ealing Council to summarily sack three temporary staff who were about to receive the rights that go with a permanent contract in order to appease the paper’s tabloidesque rage that a seven-person family was housed in a seven-bedroom house by the Council, in a nice area of Acton. Of course, the key issue for the Standard, never quite explicitly stated but happily mentioned at every opportunity, was that the family in question were Afghan refugees who were in receipt of benefits. By constantly describing just how well-off and desirable this particular area of Acton is, the paper’s underlying message was that such a family simply had no place in this sort of neighbourhood.

Having read through that particular story, it is possible that something had gone slightly wrong with (more…)

October 3, 2008

High Speed 2: Taking apart the Tory train set


As I’ve written here before about the doubts that I have about high-speed rail being a panacea for the UK’s transport problems, I was keen to look at the Tory’s much heralded plans to build a high speed route (High Speed 2, or HS2) linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds at some point in the next 19 years. As this was such a flagship announcement for the Conservative conference, thought I, no doubt I will at the very least be able to download a nice little pdf booklet from the party website setting out the (more…)

October 1, 2008

Tories and LGBT rights: a duty to deceive?

Margot James, Tory Vice-Chair for Women

Margot James, Tory Vice-Chair for Women

I have come across Tory Margot James before when she was the Conservative candidate for the seat I lived in at the time of the 2005 general election. As the first openly lesbian Conservative candidate, her selection caused a certain amount of media comment.

Since then, Ms James has been on an upward trajectory, having been appointed as party vice-chair with responsibility for women’s issues by David Cameron and being selected as the Tory candidate for Stourbridge. Whilst in every respect apart from her gender and sexuality Ms James is the archetypal Conservative candidate (privately educated, self-made advertising millionaire), it is still commendable that the Conservative party has reached the position where an openly homosexual woman can move on from a candidacy in an unwinnable inner London seat to a highly competitive marginal (Labour majority 407). Splendid stuff, but my eye was caught this morning by an article on the BBC News website, illustrated with a picture of Ms James, headlined ‘Gays ‘have a duty to vote Tory”. A duty? Really? Surely you mean ‘opportunity’, or ‘right’? The only people I can think of who have a duty to vote for any party in a democracy are those who owe that party their living. This article deserved reading. (more…)

September 14, 2008

A little local difficulty…turns national

Should Camden's Lib Dems be looking for a new chief whip?

Should Camden's Lib Dems be looking for a new chief whip?

This is a cautionary little tale for the chief whips and leaders of party groups on local authorities everywhere, courtesy of Camden Liberal Democrats.

In 2006 the quaint traditional annual custom of the ‘Labour Local Elections Bloodbath’ took place in, amongst other places, the London Borough of Camden. The Labour group lost half of its councillors, including many in traditionally safe Labour wards, with control of the council shifting to a Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition. Amongst the seats lost was Kentish Town, where two Labour councillors lost their seats to the Lib Dems: a by-election in December 2006 following the resignation of the remaining Labour councillor permitted the Liberals to complete the set. The influx of new Liberal Democrat councillors in Camden in 2006 mirrored the national situation of Labour in 1997: a lot of individuals who had not expected to win and were not necessarily suited to the role suddenly found themselves elected.

One of the Liberal Democrats elected for Kentish Town was a Mr Philip Thompson, who had at least the distinction of being just 24 when he was elected. So far as we can tell, he distinguished himself no further until 2008, when he took up an offer to study for a PhD in American Politics at…the University of Arizona. And for some reason, thought that this was entirely compatible with remaining a representative for Kentish Town, 5000 miles away. As the Camden council website continues to list Cllr Thompson as being chair of one of the licensing committees and a member of the scrutiny committees for the Culture & Environment and Health & Adult Social Care Scrutiny committees, we must assume that he considered it possible to (more…)

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