Archive | January, 2016

Iowa and the US President

31 Jan

It used to be that some candidates didn’t even declare if they were running until the caucus and primary season were out of the way. JFK didn’t know what was happening after his Primaries and Nixon had to fly to New York to sweeten Rockefeller during the Convention. Then the Primaries became everything, and momentum in the early races and states was everything. Think back to Clintons 3rd place in New Hampshire in 92 or even Obama getting a “result” in 2008.

Yet this year things seem different. The pre-primary season has been long, it was nearly 6 months ago that these candidates showed how little self respect they really have and stood in front of the Iowa butter cow, a rancid 100 year old matured milk statue. Any yet we are still none the wiser that there is momentum. Two candidates who no one expected to keep going are still making the Political weather. The republicans have the biggest challenge. Trump can’t win the Presidency but the more the party tries to stop him, the stronger he gets. It seems in stopping Trump the whole edifice may come down. A lose-lose scenario if you like.

Then there is Saunders. Again we are likely to hear his voice , even if he doesn’t make it, all the way to the election. How does America look at this ? It seems odd that these differing views are all being pushed through some 18th Century voting system in the hope of getting a result that works. They will get a result, will it work ? I suspect not, and perhaps now is the time to look at voting reform in the US. Let Trump stand against Saunders and Clinton and Rubio. The Obama campaigns ( and many others in recent years in different countries ) have been focussed on the marginal middle. Those likely to vote with a slight amount of uncertainty who get very direct messaging. 2016 may change the way these micro campaigns are managed. Those with strong views on the margins are making a load noise. They can’t be silenced yet at the same time they have no real chance of winning …or maybe they do.

I would rule anything out except this. After New Hampshire I suspect we will still be none the wiser, and this topsy turvy world may continue until Easter and beyond. Its been a crazy election so far, but I suspect its only just starting !


Can Crone win the Auckland Mayoralty ?

23 Jan


Ok let me expand .

But first a caveat, or two.

I fully expect Phil Goff to win the Auckland Mayoral race and can’t wait for the Mount Roskill By-Election.

Secondly I am not a supporter of Goff or Crone. I have no personal interest in the outcome.

There are a few background points Team Crone Team need to understand. The last Election had an appallingly low turnout and Brown as incumbent up against a candidate who was , to be honest , just awful didn’t exactly romp home. His vote share was good but certainly not insurmountable. Brown also had an in built advantage of office and prior office. Goff does not have this.

Team Crone need to concentrate on the corridor from North through to Central and out East. Palino won the Northern districts but some on low margins and turnouts. A good campaign could easily add to this. This should be strong territory but Palino didn’t appeal.

Out East is more fertile ground for Crone. Palino  did awful in Howick, they should add votes just on mobilising turnout in that area.

Central- strong ground for National , strong ground for Brown. Maybe they need to lean on the establishment to win this area.

Turnout- maximising core vote won’t be enough. However low turnout is likely to favour Goff as the unions and labour establishment will ensure they get the vote out. Crone needs something similar.

Messages – Crone needs to drop quickly the anti-politician vs politician line. No one needs spoon-feeding that Goff has been on the inside of Politics for 30 years. Its out there, labouring away at this won’t increase vote and Palino managed to get core vote only for his dog whistle ” I hear you ” campaign. Goff is going to remembered as someone who lost an election as Labour leader. You don’t need to message that.

Crone needs to also avoid overplaying her business background. Firstly because its going to be open to attack and secondly , well to be frank not many business people have made good politicians. Its not a badge of honour. She is better to relate to people as a Mother and Auckland. Someone who traverses daily the traffic the bills and Auckland life. Not someone who spends 4 days a week in Wellington with expenses.

Housing is not an issue they should go near…because frankly they don’t have an answer or a toolbox equipped for it. Understand and empathise but what can you do ? The people who vote in local elections tend to be homeowners and ones who haven’t moved in a while. Do they want to know the house they own is in need of a correction ?


So I am not writing Crone off – particularly if she distances herself from Michelle Boag, but if I was a betting man I would still be backing Goff. And if I was a voter I would back neither !




Khaki Election 1900

18 Jan

The British General Election of 1900 was something of a watershed. The last election held in Victorian Britain. The last election where the sitting Prime Minister did not campaign. The first election to elect Winston Churchill. The first “Khaki” election. The last Election that saw Liberal Unionism as a force. The first election for the Labour Party.The election that cashed in on a military victory that then bounced.

The Conservative and Unionist Coalition were defending a strong position. Having seen a marked upturn in economic production due to the boer war , and seen a marked upturn in military fortune Lord Salisbury decided , after “only” 5 years that Parliament should be dissolved. He was cashing in , going early, cutting and running. Turning the enthusiasm for chocolate tins with the Queen on, into votes. Voting took place over a month in September / October 1900. The Government had suffered a number of by-election losses prior to the war , but in the early stages of the war its popularity rose. Then as military action took its toll and Britain seemed , well at risk of defeat, its fortunes dipped. By the time Mafeking was relieved the Government was ascending.

Politically the war was the issue above all others, and the Liberals were not even clearly opposed to it. The Government appeared united , the opposition less so. Joseph Chamberlain, the main architect of the war in Government, was keen to capitalise on the coming military victory and drive a wedge through the opposition. Salisbury though was less enthusiastic about a “snap” election – Parliament ran for 7 years back then.

The Liberals couldn’t contest 163 constituencies, while the unionists contested all bar 22. This was a remarkable start for the Government. Salisbury  was a declining star and played little role in the campaign ( and nor should he as someone who couldn’t vote or wasn’t a candidate ). Chamberlain though did. He portrayed factions of the Liberal party as being pro-boer. Every seat lost was one for the boer. Quite how he said this is still the subject of some debate, but the message was heard. The Liberals though were clearly split between those who supported the war, those opposed to it and those who couldn’t really figure it out at all.

For the Liberals  Chamberlain was a good target. The man who had divided the party and alleged corruption in the last Liberal Government was someone whose family manufactured munitions. As Lloyd George remarked ” as the empire expands, the Chamberlains contract”.

The Unionists increased their majority from dissolution, the first time this had happened in 35 years. The dominance over the political scene of the coalition was remarkable.They received over 50% of the vote and over 60% of the seats.

The interesting aspects of the 1900 election are that it was a purely political affair. No great issue divided the parties or required a mandate, unlike many 19th century elections. The dissolution was focussed on capitalising on the Governments position and portraying the opposition as being anti-empire and pro-boer, simply because they weren’t the Government.

By 1906 the Unionists were in disarray, split by the ever probing Chamberlain over tariff reform. The Liberals were back in Government, winning a landslide, Queen Victoria had died, the Labour Party were here to stay and Salisbury had long gone too.



Northern Ireland 1974

14 Jan

The two Elections of 1974 saw the establishment of a pattern within Northern Irleand that was to dominate for the next 20 years. It was clear as Britain went to the polls in 1974 that Northern Ireland elections were now to be considered an anomaly, something different. Unionism the creed from the 19th century was dead and gone as a unifying party policy. There was a willingness from the Conserrvatives to put a clear line between them and the Unionists.

Feb 74 saw Harry Wests UUP stand in 7 seats and win them all. The dominant force in Unionism. However Mr Paisley and his DUP stood in 2 seats and won 1. Vanguard, a new Unionist grouping stood in 3 seats and won them all. The SDLP the only main voice for Nationalism ( not Republicanism !) won 1 seat, a gain. Faulkners pro assembly Unionists were routed.
In terms of the vote Unionist won 11 of the 12 seats or 91 % of the seats on 365,000 votes out of 525,000 cast or 69% of the votes cast. And there rests a great problem brewing in the wings. The SDLP needed 160,000 votes to get 1 MP the UUP got 1 MP for every 33,000 votes !

October 74 it all got very strange in Northern Ireland . Enoch Powell came and marginally delivered, he brought nothing like the personal support his party had hoped for ( see Heffer ) . On the back of the Ulster Workers strike , a kind of Edwardian reposnse to Westminster moves,the UUP lost a seat to an Independent Republican. Harry West who 8 months earlier was offered a deal to support Heaths defeated Government was now out of Parliament. The UUP increased its vote share mainly at Vanguards expense who oddly were the main winners of the count retaining their 3 seats but dropping to just 62,000 votes.

Within 3 years Vanguard had gone , its MPs all became UUP.2 were re-elected in 1979, though one was killed by the IRA in 1981 ( Robert Bradford )

Election night coverage is worth watching here because Enoch clearly fumbles his words and says Arse when supposedly talking about his Arsenal. The two ronnies do Enoch Powell. Its at about 6 minutes 20 seconds …

By 1979 Vanguard had gone and the DUP moved firmly into the harder Unionist position. The UUP vote stayed similar but again they lost a seat , then down to 5. The DUP picked up 2 to sit at 3 and increased the vote from 59,000 to 70,000. A range of independent more unionist than a unionist unionist party(parties ) picked up 2 seats. Again Nationalist/Republicans held 2 of the 12 seats  whilst securing 27% of the vote. Republicans weren’t turning up to vote ..interestingly in the 2015 election Nationalist/Republicans secured 48% of the vote and 38% of the seats.

A lot has happened since then.


Welsh Assembly Election and Awful Puns

12 Jan

Theres a strange article in the Guardian at present …. It seems that the Welsh Assembly election in Caerphilly, home we are reminded of Tommy Cooper has a candidate who is shooting artificial snow at people. This the Guardian seems to feel is clowning. I would pass making a judgement on this as I suffer from caulophobia, ugh. However this makes a tenious link with Cooper. However he wasn’t a clown he was a magician / comedian/ sigher ( golfer see here).

The candidate is standing for UKIP , argh maybe that’s the clown thing, his snow thing is to show how UKIP are different …argh..( too many argh )
UKIP are expected to be the surprise package in the Welsh assembly elections this year. Well a known surprise package. The Welsh Assembly may be the surprise package in a set of elections this year. The poor relation to Scotland and London and the referendum but there could be something coming…
Yougov are predicting as many as 9 seats and that Lab with 27, the Cons with 12 Plaid Cymru with 10 and the Lib Dems with 2. This would make a Lab- PC coalition likely, though not inevitable.
UKIP has found a certain Welshness of late and its former MP Mark Reckless ( or Reckless Mark ) is standing .

Inevitably though it  seems to be that Labour will be the largest party by some margin. Since the Assembly was brought in they have always been the largest party and formed the government.
Indeed the law of averages would say Lab 28 Con 11 Plaid 13 and I am happy to back that as a result.

Since the Assembly came in there have only been 2 independents and both were disgruntled members. Well actually there have been 3 but thats another issue.

In 2003 John Marek was deselected as Labour Candidate. A former AM and MP for Labour he stood for his own grandly titled John Marek Independence party. Not a party committed to gaining independence from John Marek but actually in gaining , well gaining Wrexham. He held the seat but then lost it in 2007 under a more collegial banner.
He then stood for the Conservatives in 2011, for an Independent he kind of liked the party banner.

Peter Law became an Independent after being deselected as MP in 2005, he won his Westminster seat as an Independent but sadly died shortly after. His wife Trish Law stood in the by-election( for the assembly only ) and won. She defended the seat in 2007. Her claim to fame as an AM is that she attempted to prevent a reading of poems by Patrick Jones at the Assembly in December 2008. The book he was reading from “ Darkness is where the stars are “ had had its Waterstones reading cancelled after a Christian fundamentalist group threatened to close it down. Despite the Blasphemy law no longer existing Law found the poems blashphemous and tried to have the reading stopped.

Jones poems include the lines “ today I have become a born again atheist “ and “ god does not die because he was never alive “ hardly controversial in 2008. Jones is the brother of Manic Street Preachers bass player Nicky Wire ( Jones)

Asquith and the 1915 Election

2 Jan

..that of course never was. I have recently read Jenkins biography of Asquith, which is a wonderful read.

In 1914 Asquith as Prime Minister took his fairly fractured Government into war and did so against a fairly fractured opposition. In taking the Party into the Great War there came an unravelling that lead to him losing the confidence of two Governments in the next two years. He did however avoid having to hold an election in 1915, planned for the summer. In doing so did he, in all likelihood, avoid losing office ?

Could an Election have been held in 1915, even with the War underway it’s not beyond belief that had “normal” politics continued then an election would have been called. The extension of the Parliament was only agreed when the Coalition was formed.

What we do know

  1. The Liberals were losing by-elections at an alarming rate, whilst the Unionists were holding seats.
  2. The Unionists were not a strong opposition, certainly there were questions over leadership.
  3. The Liberals still had to resolve the Ireland bill and Welsh Education Act, both of which were kicked into the long grass in August 1914.
  4. The Irish situation was unlikely to favour the Nationalists and likely to see the early rise of a more republican tendency.
  5. Asquiths leadership was dwindling, he had used up his political capital in 1910 for a messy outcome against the Lords.

What we don’t know …well the result of the election. There isn’t even any polling data. However there is a clear model that shows Government support dwindles over time, this would have been the Liberals looking for a 4th consecutive win, when the last 2 were close draws.

What we could have been left with though if there had been an election in 1915 is different impacts on the future careers of Lloyd George and Churchill, possibly no Easter rising in 1916, a slower demise of the Liberal party and possibly less sympathy for Mr Asquith!