Archive | May, 2015

How Harold Wilson lost a majority…Walsall 1976.

31 May

Harold Wilson’s fourth Government was elected in October 1974 with a majority of 3. Early exit polls predicted a majority of 150..but you can’t trust the polls hey!.
The Government survived 4 and a half years, a change of Prime Minister, A referendum ( or 3), and a confidence and supply agreement, but ultimately fell when it lost the confidence of the house in 1979.
Losing a vote of no confidence seems such an indictment, worse than resigning, A slap in the face. Indeed it hadn’t happened in over 50 years prior to that and hasn’t happened since. It’s amazing it lasted that long.

Even with the Lib Lab pact, a confidence and supply agreement which gave the Labour party the Liberals votes in exchange for some luncheon vouchers, a look at the budget 15 minutes before everyone else and a few signed pictures of Michael Foot.

The agreement ended in 1978 when everyone expected Callaghan to call an election not do a song. Incidentally Bernard Donoghue told him, on Joe Haines advice, that the singer was Vesta Victoria…but he ignored them and said it was a Marie Lloyd song. Such were british politics in the late 70s.

The Government faced an eye watering 30 by-elections and lost seats in 7 of them. ( In 64-70 they lost 15 seats so some improvement). In addition they lost 3 seats to defections ( 2 to Scottish Labour and 1 to the Conservatives !) and Stonehouse defected prior to the seat becoming vacant and lost. He spent his time on remand as a MP for the English National Party, which was more of an English Parliament Party rather than a BNP type affair. His defection and subsequent seat loss, well a by-election becomes necessary once remand becomes the real thing, finally sent the Government into a minority.



Wilson leaves his famous ” sorry there’s no majority left note to his successor…”

The Walsall North By Election in November 1976 was a strange affair. The English National Party did not contest the seat, one of the few times a party hasn’t defended a By Election. The Conservatives gained 17% of the vote from 1974 and won handsomely. Apparently the electorate hadn’t been too happy with Stonehouses behaviour over the last few years, what with faking his death and all that. There were a plethora of candidates for them to choose. The former local Mayor Stanley Wright came third with 11% of the vote and the National Front came fourth with over 7%, both ahead of the Liberals. The Ecology Party stood a candidate, claimed to be its first by-election candidate. Bill Boaks also stood for the ” Air,Road.Public Safety White Resident ” party. Boaks was bonkers and probably a racist. He sat in a deckchair on the A40 , tried to have Mrs Atlee arrested and pushed a trolley of bricks across zebra crossings…all in the name of road safety. His later years saw him work closer with Lord Sutch and in Walsall he secured 30 votes. In Hillhead in 1982 he got 5. He died from head injuries sustained in an injury when he was getting off a bus…clearly he was right to campaign for road traffic safety after all.

Walsall 1976 to May 1979 was a long time. Callaghan inherited the minority and ran with it, I suspect Cameron will hand something similar over in time…


the winners write history ….

26 May

theres a wonderful short interview on the spectators website with Jim messina.

he gets bragging rights so whether hes correct or not doesn’t seem to matter…in fact it tells me frustratingly very little. It doesn’t matter whether they were polling more accurately, the issue is why were people voting Conservative. I find it odd that according to Messina no other company uses the techniques they did, but again he’s allowed to call it. Indeed when working for Obama he was clear it didn’t matter how people were contacted so long as it could be recorded and measured.

The strange thing I found was his comments on the press. He thinks felt street is more rabid than Fox, that’s saying something. Crosby has also been getting in on the act, dissing anyone and everyone. Strangely Tim Montgomerie gets a slap, and given he used to work for IDS, he’s not a stereotypical “leftie”. Montgomerie though has a point, Crosby’s methods seem to work well when the opposition are frazzled and less so when they are not. He ran the Tories 2005 campaign and I presume he got pasted by Julie Gillard in Australia as well. Theres little positive about Crosby’s strategy, despite the rhetoric. Indeed one wonders from the interviews if they have strategy but rather responses . It reminds me of the scene in Reggie Perrin


..but what to really make of Crosby? Crosby and the wider Crosby Textor have been involved in numerous Australian elections ( fined for push polling way back ) had some involvement in New Zealand and initially looked rather like snake oil salesmen in the UK. The 2005 election with its dog whistles around immigration and lying ( or as Crosby concedes Fog horns ) made only a marginal impact on the election result , a .7% increase in vote and a campaign that on the face of it didn’t look much different from the campaign of William Hague and his core voter strategy. Except that the targeting was purely on the marginal, nothing more and nothing less. Had it worked , as it did in 2015, they would have been seen as miracle workers. Sadly it’s where FPP elections take place. Some of the campaigns , like Howard’s ” are you thinking what I’m thinking ” New Zealand Nationals iwi/kiwi ads and the 2001 claims around asylum seekers drowning their babies to get into the country have played into fear, apprehension and the dark conscious. A sort of Daily Mail of campaigns. In 2015 they did they same , the fear of some far left Armageddon run by …Scottish people…was too much for timid Englanders to live with. Layer with an anti Ed Milliband strategy ( able supported by fleet street ) and an economic fear campaign that preyed more on people’s economic illiteracy than reality and they were home. Fear might win elections but does it make good politics …or legacies. Maybe time will tell.

Crosby of course really made his name in the 2008 London Mayoral election , for which he pocketed a handsome fee. He seems from all the accounts I have read to have run a tight almost bullying grip on Johnson, who ever the public school boy seemed to lap it up.

Of course the 2015 outcome seems so predictable. A party whose leader is seen as weak or unlikable, whose tax policy looks wrong , who can’t quite land a fear message on the NHS properly and who when the thought of a coalition is put to them don’t really know how to respond , looked doomed. It did in 1992 and sadly the 3 major parties played the same roles again. As in 92 the Tories had to concentrate fear on the leader, on tax and on the economy..Labour responded just as they did then. Rather than embrace democracy and talk of the Scottish people s democratic rights they fell into the same trap, rather than embrace a new bold tax vision they stumbled and rather than deal head on with the leadership the tabloids ran it into the ground.

The 1992 result did long-term damage to the Tories, I suspect the 2015 one may as well. Major had a handier majority at the time and look what happened to that ( ill write about that separately )

Perhaps its a cycle of history, should the future generations be looking at the 2030 election and seeing the same outcome , don’t blame me.



Post Election thingy …another one

10 May

You just have to. Everyone’s got a thought or a piece of analysis, how they could have changed it or what needs to happen. I wont do that…or will try not to. Instead 6 bloody obvious thoughts and a few things to ponder.


First though, smug as it seems I did point out that my feeling was a Conservative Government. Oh how I wish I hadn’t been right.

Obvious things.

Ed Miliband was never a man who seemed like he would be Prime Minister. From the word go didn’t you just feel he wasn’t the right man. I don’t think he brother was/is either. Its not a negative thing, he doesn’t freak you out, but he never seems like he is the next leader of a country.

The Lib Dems signed the death warrant 5 years ago. Like those who signed Charles the firsts they have now been exhumed hung and put on spikes outside Westminster. The party is destroyed for some time to come, maybe permanently, with no regional bases its hard to see where it goes. It blew its chance of some form of PR. Oh we told you so…

The system is well and truly broke, but doubt it will be fixed. The votes to seats ratio is capricious to say the least. Good for regional parties and winners, bad for those growing. The Greens and UKIP will wonder how they could get so many votes for so few seat(S). Will there be a change, I doubt it. The Conservatives did well and Labour could do so as well. Blair blew his chance to make a progressive alliance in 98 and we wont see that chance for a long time.

The Conservative majority cant really hold for 5 years. Just like John Major they will have to seek peace with Unionists sooner or latter. The rump of the Lib dems wont go anywhere near them.

Labour have no clear star waiting to take over. Sorry its that simple.

The British media are mad. The Mail on Sunday is frothing at the mouth this morning. Visit their website of you don’t believe me. The campaign was bonkers, full of lies and fear and it seemed to do the trick. A constant narrative that was more like the Looney left one of the 80s than anything there’s been since.

Ponder this…

The Euro referendum will be a nightmare. There will be Tories who set up a failure message before its begun. The things they want aren’t deliverable. The Eurosceptic rump is still alive and will extract damage. This will be like nothing we have seen before. It will be a huge distraction and pointless. The UKIP army are ready to go for this. I have no idea what the result would be but there will likely be few winners in the mainstream parties.

The Opinion polls…what do they do now. We had all this in 92 and they learnt what exactly ? Each election since has overstated the Labour vote and still…on the basis of an exit poll John Curtice is vindicated. However if you wanted to test a product on the market would use pay these guys ? Voting is less complex than shopping.

Scotland. What now ? Drip drip drip I imagine.

The Conservatives will start to think about Cameron’s exit, probably by xmas it will be an on-going issue. There’s plenty of applicants, will they want it ? Will they be wanted ?

The fixed term act …will that be repealed ?

Oh and the presentation and representation of women in politics…are we going backwards ?


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