Thursday, 13 January 2011

Tactical voting in Oldham East and Saddleworth

Conservative supporters don't normally vote tactically. Instead, in constituencies where it's a close contest between Labour and the Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats in a distance third, the Lib Dem supporters vote Labour to keep out the Conservatives. Similarly, in constituencies where it's a close contest between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, with Labour in a distance third, the Labour supporters vote Lib Dem - again to keep out the Conservatives. With the exception of the odd protest vote for UKIP, Conservatives supporters don't normally indulged in such tactics, but the Coalition has changed this conventional wisdom.

In Oldham East and Saddleworth, Conservative voters are apparently planning to vote Liberal Democrat in the by-election to keep out Labour. It will be a very difficult task as many disaffected Labour voters who supported the Liberal Democrats at the general election will surely return home for the by-election. When the result comes in, it will be interesting to see the dip in Conservative votes.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Beyond Blighty: Violence and politics

It's often said that the US is a politically divided country. There is a clear split between the progressive left and the ultra-conservative right, but today both sides are united in their condemnation of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and seventeen others, six of which were killed.

It was especially shocking for me as I briefly met Congresswoman Giffords in Texas, eight years ago when she was a State Senator.

In many ways, there has always been some form of divide in US politics. It has been intense in the last few years but there has been little violence compared to the past. In the 1960s, often relating to the issue of segregation, there were many political assassinations in the US, most notably President Kennedy, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King.

Hopefully Congresswoman Giffords, a rising star in the Democratic party, will recover and the shooting will be a tragic but isolated attack. However, as was seen in the UK after the attack on Stephen Timms last year, it does endanger a fundamental part of a democratic society, which is the right of the people to have access to their elected representatives.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

What does 2011 offer for political nerds?

On 13 January there will be a by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth to fill the seat left by Labour's Phil Woolas. Like every by-election, it is a key test for the three main parties and their leaders, but Ed Miliband and the Nick Clegg have the most to gain - and lose.

Then on 5 May there are so many elections and referendums, political commentators will find it difficult to keep up. There are elections for councils across the UK, the Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are all up for election on that date as well, and there is also a referendum in Wales on whether to give the Assembly law-making powers.

Of course, the main attraction on 5 May will be the referendum on changing the voting system in the House of Commons to AV. The vote (only the second UK-wide referendum in British history) will be a somewhat bizarre as most Conservative MPs are opposed to AV, while most Liberal Democrats will support the change. The result will have lasting repercussions for the Coalition, but also for the future of British politics. If the people support the change, there may never be a majority government again.

More inner conflicts in the Coalition are bound to appear over the next year, it will be interesting to see how the two parties hold together, if they do at all. If the Coalition does fall apart it will mean a general election, which none of the main parties want at the moment. 2011 will probably be a troubled year for the Euro and a difficult time for those who experience the government cuts.

Beyond Blighty and across the pond, the candidates for the 2012 Presidential election will declare their intention to run in the next few months. Most will be Republicans, but given President Obama's recent difficulties, a few Democrats might emerge - though they are unlikely to be notable or successful. As for the Republicans, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin are the ones to watch, but American politics has a tendency to bring up surprise candidates. The first presidential primaries are just 13 months away - they'll be here before we know it!