Where will Lib Dem votes go in Brighton and Hove?

As the Lib Dems drop into single figures in more and more opinion polls, the big question is “Where will Lib Dem votes go in Brighton and Hove?”.  It is true to say that there are not that many in the first place, but their distribution could make all the difference in certain key seats.  Experience on the doorstep throughout the city, reported by Green and Labour activists alike, is that former Lib Dem voters are not keen to be reminded of their Lib Dem past.

Nationally, it is said that Nick Clegg is giving the veil of respectability to David Cameron, and Simon Hughes continues to give the veil of respectability to Nick Clegg.  No such problem locally.  There may, ironically, be a chance that the Lib Dem vote won’t drop too badly throughout the City, not because the vote is holding firm, but it could become the ‘conscience’ vote for Tories who know that a Lib Dem vote will not hurt their first choice, the Tories, as much as a vote for Labour or Green. 

But traditional Lib Dem voters continue to desert that party in droves.  In a comment in response to an earlier post on this blog, ‘Clive’ says: “My membership card went into the shredder several months ago and I will not be voting for the party”.  He warns activists not to underestimate the Liberal tradition: “The Welfare State and old age pensions were essentially Liberal creations for a start. More recently the Liberals/Lib Dems has promoted advanced positions – way ahead of public opinion – on matters such as gay rights and abortion”.  One challenge for Labour and the Greens is to articulate a vision equal to that of the Welfare State for the 21st century.

I suspect that Labour will not benefit as much as the Greens from former Lib Dem votes this time round since Labour comes across locally as still being bitter about their humiliations at the last general and local elections.  The Greens, on the other hand, come across as positive and bright.  That perception is not altogether fair.  Labour has a number of bright and enthusiastic young activists and candidates, not least Tom French, standing in Queen’s Park, and Dan Wilson in Regency.

I expect the Tory vote to slump in Brunswick and Adelaide, with Tories shifting their support (as the did in Oldham and Saddleworth) to the Lib Dems.  Paul Elgood is active and has a personal vote.  That may yet save him, but at least one seat will go to the Greens.  Labour doesn’t stand a chance in Brunswick and Adelaide.  To change that position the Party has to select candidates, not just in B&A but, so I am advised, in three other Hove seats.  Doesn’t that say it all about the state of Labour?

Next May’s local elections will see gains for the Greens and the end of the Lib Dems

“I’m not a Tory” pleaded Nick Clegg  following an onslaught on Mumsnet.  He claims that the Lib Dems and the Tories are “as distinct as we’ve always been”.

Well, Mr Clegg, if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a ….. Lib Dem!  The enthusiasm with which Clegg, David Laws, Danny Alexander et al have embraced the Tory cuts agenda (in spite of pre election statements) makes it hard to differentiate between the Lib Dems and the Tories.

All this is great news for Labour and the Greens.  Both parties should pick up votes from the discredited Lib Dems locally.  They never were much to rite home about, and the defeat of their last two councillors will be one of the high points of the local elections next May. 

So who will benefit most? Probably the Greens.  If the Greens are serious about becoming the largest party next May, the must pick up both Brunswick seats from the Lib Dems. Labour can hope to pick up votes from traditionally anti-Tory Lib Dem who have found the ConDem coalition nauseating.  This could make the difference in Tory/Labour marginals such as Hangleton and Knoll and the two Portslade seats.

As I see it, eight months out, I predict the Greens and the Tories will end neck and neck, with neither having a majority.  Labour, with about twelve seats, will hold the balance of power.  As for the Lib Dems, the will have waddled off to oblivion.

(My apologies to ducks, none of which were hurt in the writing of this post)

Equality of sacrifice? No chance. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg as true class warriors will look after the rich.

David Cameron says that there will be “difficult decisions” on pay, pensions and benefits.  He says that there will be “painful” cuts ahead, but that in dealing with the deficit “our whole way of life” will be affected but not in a way that hits the vulnerable or “divides the country”.  Pull the other one, Dave.  Already cuts are being announced in services for vulnerable people in Brighton and in East Sussex.  Council funding from central government has been cut.  These cuts are being passed on to the poor and vulnerable.

I haven’t used illustrations in this blog before (other than the almost photographic likeness of me).  But this cartoon from the Great Depression, reflects to a certain extent what I think will happen over the next few years.  The mantra will be that there will be ‘pain for everyone’,  ‘We will all be in this together’. and that ‘There must be equality of sacrifice’.

My only disagreement with this cartoon (apart from the gender limitations – in my last post I said low paid women will suffer the most) is that I think the rich and the very rich will benefit from the shock and awe approach planned by Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.  They are true class warriors, disciples of Milton Friedman, and they will look after their own, the rich and the very rich.

Did Lib Dems really vote for cuts that will hurt the poor and benefit the rich?

David Cameron has said, predictably, that the UK’s economic problems are “even worse than we thought” and that painful cuts to tackle the deficit would affect “our whole way of life”.

This is straight from the Milton Friedman approach to crisis response. First the shock – a financial crisis that requires painful action; and then the awe – cuts that affect our whole way of life.

So what should we expect now? First, massive cuts in public expenditure, far more extreme than the cuts in the Thatcher era. Then wholesale privatisation, a token amount to the voluntary sector, but mainly to the private sector where huge profits, made fo by the tax payer, will be made.  And there will be tax cuts to “incentivise” private sector investment.

This will produce a redistribution of wealth from the public sector to the rich and the very rich.

Anyone who objects will be ridiculed by the media, particularly the media controlled by Murdoch and Desmond. They will ignore or dismiss alternatives to cuts.  For example, why does the government not first begin with the £40 billion of uncollected taxes?  Because it is their friends who would be required to pay what they owe.

Instead there will be cuts to the “welfare bills”, public sector pay, and funding to the voluntary sector.

Just wait and see: there will be new tax exemptions allowing further billions of tax revenues to go uncollected, and it will be the rich and the very rich who will benefit, the friends of Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.

If Cameron is purely motivated by society’s well-being, he should ensure that those with the greatest ability to pay, do so.  And those who struggle even at the best of times, be spared. But no, everyone will pay, and the pain will be felt most by low paid men and women.  And given that low pay affects women more, it will be women who will be most adversely affected.

Is this what those who voted Lib Dem thought that they were voting for?

The policies of Milton Friedman are being implemented by the ConDem Coalition, and Labour isn’t even paying attention

I’m finding it hard to blog these days.  What is happening nationally is too depressing and Britain and the Left are sleep walking into the restructuring of British society.  No, I don’t mean the Big Society.  I don’t even mean severe cuts to public services.  No, something more fundamental is happening. 

Labour and media pundits agonise over aspects of government cuts, and Labour leadership candidates are obsessed about positioning themselves against each other.  Meanwhile the economic extremists in both the Tories and Lib Dems (David Laws having been in the vanguard and he will no doubt remain influential before returning to the Cabinet) are embarking on a programme of privatisation, dismantling the welfare state, and (in due course) tax cuts.

If anyone has read Naomi Klein’s brilliant ‘The Shock Doctrine’ will recognise that what is happening in Britain today comes directly from the philosophy of Milton Friedman.  Klein explains the concept of ‘Disaster Capitalism’ where there are “orchestrated raids on the public sphere” in the wake of a disaster or crisis, the crisis at this time being the near collapse of the banks and the ensuing economic crisis which is being used to justify just about anything.  And the Labour Leadership contenders fiddle while Britain is burnt.

Friedman wrote: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.  When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around”.  Klein say that “some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas”.  Friedman believed that once a crisis happens, it is crucial to act swiftly to impose rapid and irreversible change before society slips back into what he describes as the “tyranny of the status quo”.

Friedman wrote that “a new administration has some six and nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity”.

The ideas of Milton Friedman are alive and well and thriving in the Conservative Party and on the right of the Lib Dems.  Both Cameron and Clegg worked for Moneterist ministers in Thatcher’s government, and their economic philosophies have evolved since then.  The only difference is that their presentational skills have also developed to ensure that they are seen as ‘compassionate’.  But the political and economic intentions are just the same.  David Laws gave the game away when he said that he wanted the cuts he proposed to send shock waves throughout Whitehall. 

The Welfare State is being dismantled before our very eyes.  Education (as in the USA where Charter schools are taking over) is being privatised through the acceleration of Labour’s Academies programme.  In due course the NHS will be privatised.  And Cameron and Clegg’s friends (and also those of Blair) are ready for some very rich pickings. 

And the Labour leadership contenders continue to fiddle.

What is the point of the Lib Dems?

So David Laws has gone – the shortest Cabinet career in living memory.  Lib Dem supporters are lamenting his passing and paying some rather ludicrous tributes to him.  The most ludicrous of all was that of Lord Paddy Ashdown who described him as “Mr Integrity”. 

Mr Laws took an “holier than though” stance during the height of the expenses scandal, only to be brought low himself because of his claims. And now he tries to say it was about protecting his anonymity.  Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, writing in today’s Observer, said that this isn’t about homophobia, more “second home-ophobia”.  He goes on “…. Laws moment in the spotlight wasn’t because of a welcome difference from other MPs, but  because of a tragic similarity”.

The problem with the Lib Dems is that they have often taken a ‘plague on both your houses’ approach, not least by Nick Clegg during the Leaders’ Debate.  But the Lib Dems under Clegg have moved rightward, and the natural coming together with the Conservatives was made all the more possible by the Lib Tories like Clegg and Laws.  Laws is a natural Tory but is said not to have joined them because of his disgust over Section 28.

It now begs the question, what is the point of the Lib Dems.  They have become little more than the recipients of Tory votes with a conscience.  But even that is lost because of the likes of Laws whose appointment gave comfort to more hard-line Tories who had a distaste for the Lib Dems.

This blog called for tactical voting in the general election, to keep the Tories out.  How wrong I was.  I had always thought I would vote Lib Dem in Lewes and Eastbourne had I lived there.  No longer.  Norman Baker and Stephen Lloyd have forfeited the right to anti-Tory votes.  My advice in the future will be to rather vote for a real Tory than one cloaked in false conscience.

The Lib Dems split the anti-Tory vote in Brighton Kemptown and Hove, allowing the Tories to win.  The sad and ineffective bunch of Lib Dem councillors in Hove (if two can be called a bunch) should just join the Tories.  Their supporters should join the party that most represents their views, Labour or the Greens.  There is no point in voting Lib Dem.  There’s no point in the Lib Dems existing.

Con Dem Nation will see the Lib Dems wiped out in Brighton and Hove

I have been cut off in Outer Patagonia for the last 12 days.  No news, no internet, nothing.  On the way back someone told me this ludicrous joke that Nick Clegg had done a deal with Cameron to creat a Con Dem Nation, that Uncle Vince Cable was in government proposing the sale of 49% of the Royal Mail, that Norman Baker had gon into government with the Tories, and that David Miliband was standing for the leadership of the Labour Party!

Actually, I hve found the last 12 days quite depressing.  But there is one silver lining on the cloud, and I have recognised a terrible mistake I made in the run up to the election.  It all has to do with the Lib Dems. 

This blog advocated tactical voting to kep the Tories out.  In Eastbourne and Lewes I said that a Lib Dem vote was important to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street.  I was wrong.

Next election my advice to voters in Eastbourne and Lewes will be ‘Vote Tory’. I would rather have the real thing than a poor yellow imitation that lends repectability to the Tories.

Clegg is the most rightwing Lib Dem leader in several gereations, cut from the same cloth as Cameron.  It is no surprise that they make such good bed fellows.  But Norman Baker, how could you ….. ?

As for the silver lining, the Lib Dems will see their support from left of centre voters collapse.  In Brighton and Hove this is good news for the Greens who can now be even more optimistic about picking up two seats from the Lib Dems in Brunswick next May.

Thank you Nancy, Caroline and Charlotte for a great campaign

Apart from endorsing the Tories, today’s Financial Times had an interesting quote from Nick Clegg, that electoral reform is not a precondition to the Lib Dems working in government with the Tories.  So much for principle.

And both Clegg and David Cameron have joined forces in attacking Labour.  So why the united attacks on Labour and Gordon Brown?  The polls tonight are saying something – that Labour is showing some recovery (although just a couple of points) while the Lib Dem surge is now in decline.  The Tories are showing no sign of recapturing the 40% rating that characterised the last 12 to 18 months.

The Daily Mail has come out tonight in favour of the Conservatives.  No surprise there but it is not a ringing endorsement.  They support the Tories because they don’t want a hung parliament.

Tomorrow will be a fascinating day, and then we have election day itself.  May I take this opportunity to thank Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Vere for a great campaign in Brighton Pavilion.  You have all graced us with your presence.  I think it is a shame that the 2010 intake to Parliament will not be blessed with all three of you, but I suspect in the fullness of time the three of you will be reunited on the green benches in lively opposition.  Thank you and best wishes for your futures.

Cameron wobbles while Brown has his best day as the polls suggest no progress for the Tories

The polls tonight are moving in a way that makes even more uncertain the result of the 2010 General Election (or should that be the May 2010 General Election?).  An Ipsos MORI poll, usually the most reliable / least contaminated of all polls, has a poll taken in 57 marginal seats currently held by Labour, has Labour on 36%, the Tories on 36%, and the Lib Dems on 20%.  

A YouGov poll for the Sun, often the one that gives the Tories the most favourable result, has the Tories on 35%, Labour on 28% and the Lib Dems 28%.  This poll, even if it is correct, would not give the Tories a majority by some distance.  Another poll published tonight, by Opinium for the Daily Express, has Labour on 28%, the Tories on 33% and the Lib Dems on 27%.

Cameron has begun talking up his prospects, saying what he will do on Friday and in the first weeks in government.  Others are being more cautious.  Even Sky News, which has all but announced the Coronation of Cameron, has just said that the election is “too close to call”.   What must be worrying for the Tories is that, in spite of the overwhelming promotion of his cause by the media, the polls are not moving in the direction that would see a Tory government elected.

One other development worth noting was Brown’s inspiring speach which most observers, even tradional Tory supporters, praised very highly.  With two days to go, anything could yet happen. There was a very interesting discussion on the Election Show on BBC News this evening.  It wasn’t about the March of the Cameron into Downing Street.  No, it was the problem Cameron will face on Friday.  If after his massive poll lead for well over a year cannot deliver a majority, then there will be immediate moves within the Tory Party over his leadership.  Even if he forms a minority government (he has ruled out electoral reform thereby making a coalition with the Lib Dems impossible, unless Nick Clegg sells out on day one!), he won’t have a mandate to make the cuts he is planning.

One final development, Peter Hain in tomorrow’s Independent, is calling for Labour supporters in ‘no hope areas for Labour’ to “vote intelligently”.  This is the nearest a Labour Cabinet member has gone in calling for tactical votes.  Had he gone further, he would have been in breach of Labour Party rules, and he would have faced immediate expulsion.  But the message is clear from Hain: vote tactically to keep the Tories out.

Brown did well in tonight’s debate. And that’s important for the country.

The third Leaders’ Debate has taken much the same form as the first two.  Nick Clegg still comes across as the best performer, reflecting the bounce he achieved in the first debate, although that bounce was not enhanced after the second debate. Clegg continued to be most self assured, looking straight int the camera.  It was a shame he joined the “don’t let anyone scare you” chorus.

David Cameron is no heavy weight.  He looked shallow with his attacks on Brown about “trying to frighten people”.  He backs the family, backs this and backs that.  He has a “great team”.  He offers a frsh government and a fresh start.  But he doesn’t say what that means.

This was Gordon Brown’s debat.  On the conomy he was a man amongst boys.  He has unparalled authority on the economy and on world affairs.  By comparison, Clegg looked weak.  He put himself forward as the leader to see the country through to the recovery.  Cameron lost it on inheritance tax while Brown scored big on fairness.

Brown’s was strong that there is too much at stake, that he is the one to fight for the future. When asked for detail Cameron had nothing to offer, nothing, and he got it wrong presentationally and politically. 

Cameron’s hidden politicies will benefit the rich and harm the poor, and that came across in the debate.  And finally, Brown was effective in linking some of the policies of the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Labour leave a lot to be desired, but Labour will be less terrible than a Tory / Lib Dem coalition.  Well done, Gordon Brown, you did well tonight, and that was important for the country.

A final thought.  Nick Robinson has just concluded on the BBC 10 O’Clock News that there were no winners in tonight’s debate. Given his anti-Labour bias, that must mean that Gordon Brown won!