Diary

ConHome Diary: The Green Manifesto Will Make UKIP's Look Sane

23 Jan 2015 at 14:17

I’m not really sure how any politician can introduce plain paper packaging on cigarette packets and still maintain with a straight face that they are Conservatives. What’s next? Plain packaging on cans of lager? Mars Bars? Packets of crisps? It’s the nanny state writ large. If cigarettes are so terrible then ban them altogether. That’s the only logical thing to do.
*
Five years ago Greece was at the centre of the then Euro crisis, and it is about to be again. Sunday’s general election could provoke yet another crisis for this doomed currency. The left wing, anti-Brussels Syriza Party is likely to emerge as the big winner, although they may have to try to cobble together a coalition before they launch some kind of financial assault on Brussels. Syriza is capitalising on the disillusion and frustration most Greeks feel at the way political establishment has failed them over the past few years. Ring any bells?
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So in the last four months the Greens have increased their membership from 13,000 to something bordering on 50,000. Quite an achievement, and it means that in membership terms they can now claim to be Britain’s third largest political party without their noses growing longer. They are committed to standing in 75% of seats at this election, far more than they stood in in 2010. This extra revenue that they have gained from their increasing membership should now be devoted to putting up candidates in the remaining 25% of seats. If they made a commitment to do that, it would surely be very difficult for ITV to exclude them from the multi-party debate.
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With increased profile, comes increased scrutiny, as they are about to find out. Instead of moderating some of their policy positions, the Greens are standing by even their most whacky commitments. I promise you that their manifesto will make UKIP’s look positively sane. What I’ve noticed as an interviewer, though, is that whenever you try to hold a Green politician to account, you get bombarded by tweets and emails which accuse you of giving the said politician a rough ride. The Greens, like UKIP before them, are developing a ‘teflon’ side to them. People are wanting to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that the good people of Brighton did that, and then suffered the consequences when they elected a Green council. People should be careful what they wish for.
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Last weekend I completed my predictions for the 650 Westminster constituencies. It ended up with a scenario where Labour would win 301 seats, the Conservatives 279, LibDems 24, SNP 18 and UKIP 5. The reaction was huge, and most of it fairly positive. Only the LibDems reacted very badly. Some accused me of Tory bias, rather ignoring the fact that I was predicting Labour to get most seats. Even Nick Clegg, on the Andrew Marr Show, accused me of being “rather silly” by writing in the Independent on Sunday that I was 100% confident the LibDems would lose more than half their seats. I’m pretty sure I’ve read that Nick Clegg himself is only confident of retaining 30 of their 57 seats, so we’re not that far apart in our predictions.
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One other thing that struck me while doing these predictions is that Tory votes are likely to pile up in seats that are already safe for the Conservatives. I think many Tories will see their majorities shoot up as LibDem votes crumble to Labour in seats where Labour has zero chance of winning. This could also mean that the Tories get by far the largest number of votes while being well behind in the seat count. This could be an election which results in many Tories reassessing their long term opposition to any sort of electoral reform.
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It is indeed a disgrace that the Chilcot Report won’t get a public airing until much later in the year. The Whitehall machine has again let down the public who should be able to go into this election with the full knowledge of what happened in 2003. Even Labour politicians appear to agree with that. How on earth it can take four years to compile this report since the last witness was heard from, in February 2011, no one can adequately explain. However, let’s not kid ourselves that Chilcot will change anyone’s view. If you believe Tony Blair is a war criminal, you’ll always believe that. If you believe the war was illegal, there’s not a lot anyone can say to convince you otherwise. The trouble is, I have never yet managed to get anyone to tell me on what basis it was illegal and what law Tony Blair is supposed to have broken. To my mind there is no such thing as an illegal war. Just because it wasn’t wholly sanctioned by the UN (and even that is arguable) does not make it illegal.
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Next Wednesday it’s the Political Book Awards. It’s the third year this event has been run and it’s already established itself in the political calendar. It takes a huge amount of organisation and there’s always a big sigh of relief when it is over and there have been no mishaps. Rory Bremner is presenting the evening this year and we have one or two surprises for the 500 strong audience at the IMAX. Last week we held the ten judges’ lunches, all of which proved to be highly entertaining. There was one category where the judges came to a decision in eight minutes – a record, I think.

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Iain has a blazing row with George Galloway over Margaret Thatcher (Part 1)

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Surely QE in the Eurozone Is BAD News for the UK Economy, Not Good? Eh, Chancellor?

22 Jan 2015 at 22:03

So the European Central Bank has injected one trillion euros into the Eurozone economies, despite the articles of the Eurozone expressly forbidding it. I imagine this was at the insistence of the Germans originally. Needless to say the ECB has found a way around this, as is the wont of Eurocrats.

George Osborne today said that the Eurozone was following the lead of the British economy (£375 billion has been injected into the UK economy so far under the Government’s QE programme). Osborne also said that it was “excellent news for the British economy.” Really?

Doesn’t this all mean that the euro will steadily decline in value over the next year? It’s already at a level which hasn’t been seen for some time – 1.32 to the Pound. How can this be good news for the British economy? I make no pretence at being an economic expert, but if I were a British exporter I’d be viewing this QE programme with mounting horror. Not perhaps with as much horror as Swiss exporters at the moment, but even so.

Am I wrong?

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Attitude Column: Why Would Anyone Go on a 'Gays Only' Holiday?

20 Jan 2015 at 11:28

Nowadays, I would no more think of going on a gay-only holiday than I would think of going on a beach holiday to North Korea. But then again, perhaps those types of trips aren’t aimed at me. What put me off this type of holiday was a boat trip in Florida I took in 1993. I had driven to Key West from Miami and rather nervously booked into a gay only hotel. I’d never stayed in one before. Let’s put it this way, it was quite an eye-opener to someone not very familiar with the ways of these establishments. I soon got the hang of it, needless to say. Ooh, er.

One day I decided to go on an organised day trip on a boat with around a dozen other gay guys. To say that they mostly fitted a stereotype is to insult stereotypes. It was like Sean off Coronation Street meeting his eleven identical cousins, all preening themselves while talking ten to the dozen in the campest of American accents. Not my ideal way of spending six hours bobbing up and down on water, unable to escape. And then came the thunder and lightning, which usually happens at around 3pm every day in southern Florida. Our boat actually got hit by the lightning, which was quite an experience. The screams had to be heard to be believed. It was a relief in more than one way to get back to the shore without having either been burnt to a cinder or deafened by the constant uber-camp babble.

Not that long afterwards a friend went on a gay-only cruise around the Caribbean for seven days. He described it as a week-long orgy. He reckoned at times he had to lock himself in his cabin. Well, he’s a good looking lad, but I reckon he protested just that little bit too much. I’ve heard similar tales of gay-only skiing trips, where monogamous couples were treated with a diffident air of disdain and contempt because they wouldn’t join in the fun. Perhaps they are the exception, but there does seem to be a common theme to some of these holidays.

And why not? If that’s your thing, it’s a bit like a holiday version of Grindr without needing a phone. I’m certainly not looking down my nose at people who go on what are tantamount to sex holidays. If I were twenty years younger… Oh, and not married [he adds, hastily].

So apart from the distinct possibility of getting your end away on a regular basis, what prompts people to go on gay-only holidays? I reckon it’s a bit like supporting a football team. You’re part of a tribe, and when you’re with your tribe you lose certain inhibitions. You’ve got a lot in common. You can totally be yourself without worrying what certain other members of society will think. You have things in common. Not just a cock. There’s no pressure to conform to society’s norms. The only pressure is to conform to a sort of gay norm, however you define that.

The main drawback is that if you’re going on a sun-based holiday and you don’t have the body beautiful there’s that tremendous temptation to come over all shy and be ashamed to reveal all. This thought is reinforced by the adverts for gay resorts and cruises, where everyone pictured is an adonis with the body beautiful. The reality, I am assured, is somewhat different. I’ve never been on a gay beach holiday but I’m sure there are plenty of love handles to go round.

My only experience of a gay resort holiday was over new year 1994/5 when I booked myself into a gay resort in Palm Springs. I hate new year, so I thought this might be a good antidote to my normally horrendous time on new year’s eve. It wasn’t. I have never felt so uncomfortable in my life. It was full of older gay couples, all of whom seemed determined to have a threesome with me. I even missed the whole midnight celebrations as I had fallen asleep at 8pm! I lasted two days before I drove off to the bright lights of Las Vegas five days earlier than planned. It was almost a relief to re-enter the world of the straights.

This article appeared in the January issue of Attitude Magazine

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Chuka Umunna Was Right to Walk Out of Murnaghan Interview

19 Jan 2015 at 14:17

I have never understood why politicians allow themselves to be walked all over by smart-arse interviewers. They are far more in control of the interview than the interviewer. This morning Dermot Murnaghan was interviewing Chuka Umunna about David Cameron’s economy speech. Near the end he switched to ask Umunna about Eric Pickles’ letter to Britain’s mosques. Umunna quite reasonably explained that he couldn’t really comment as he hadn’t seen the letter and certainly wasn’t going to play party politics with it. But Murnaghan wasn’t going to leave it there and continued to press Chuka, finally alleging that he clearly had to wait to get the official ‘line to take’ briefing before he would say anything. Chuka Umunna then got up from his seat and walked out.

I don’t blame him. There was nothing wrong in Murnaghan asking him about the Pickles letter, but to press it in the way he did (and with a bit of a smirk on his face) was rude, smart-arsish and counter productive.

If a guest walks out of an interview, as a interviewer, it’s you who looks bad, not the guest. If that happened to me, I would think I had failed in my job.

I don’t blame Chuka Umunna at all for doing what he did. I’d have probably done the same in his place. Politicians ought to do this more often with interviewers who are basically being rude (unless they’re being interviewed by me, of course!). It’s unlike Dermot Murngahan, who is a very good interviewer, to behave in this way. He’s a very polite person and I suspect that once all this has quitened down he will do a bit of soul searching. I imagine the two of them will put it behind them and Chuka will be back on his programme before too long.

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General Election Predictions

Nick Clegg Takes Me To Task For My LibDem Seat Prediction

18 Jan 2015 at 13:22

Oh Nick, Nick Nick. Much to my surprise Andrew Marr quoted my prediction from the Independent on Sunday that…

The one prediction I am 100% confident in making is that the Liberal Democrats will lose more than half of their seats.

Now, I do have form on getting LibDem seat predictions wrong. After all, I stood in North Norfolk and last time on election night I promised to run down Whitehall naked if the BBC exit poll was right and the LibDems only won 59 seats. The fact that they won two fewer was my, ahem, get-out clause. But am I not right in remembering that Nick Clegg himself has predicted the LibDems will get around 30 – which is not far off losing half their seats.

Obviously all my seat per party predictions will be wrong. It would be amazing if they weren’t, but if I changed my prediction to 5 or 10 seat ranges, I don’t think I am going to be far out. So this is what I’ll stand by, although I will revise this as the election draws closer.

Conservative 275-285
Labour 290-300
LibDem 22-27
UKIP 1-5
SNP 15-20
Plaid 2-4
DUP 7-10

I see some people are stil predicting 40 for the SNP. Don’t make me laugh.

UPDATE: To see the complete list of constituency predictions click HERE

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General Election Predictions: The Final Results - We're Heading For a Three Party Coalition or a Second Election

18 Jan 2015 at 09:01

This is the final result of my seat by seat predictions, which I have been posting on here over the last month…

Conservative 278 (-29)
Labour 301 (43)
Liberal Democrats 24 (-33)
SNP 18 (
12)
UKIP 5 (5)
Plaid Cymru 3 (-)
Green 1 (-)
Respect 1 (-)
DUP 9 (
1)
Sinn Fein 5 (-)
SDLP 3 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)

• Only 94 (14.5%) out of 650 seats will change hands
• Scotland is the most volatile region of the UK with 15 out of 59 seats changing hands
• In England the South West & the North West are the most volatile regions with 13 seats changing hands in each
• The North East is the most stable regions with only 2 seats changing hands
• The Conservatives will lose 48 seats and gain 19
• Labour will lose 11 seats and gain 54
• The LibDems will lose 32 seats and gain none
• The SNP will lose no seats and gain 12
UKIP will lose no seats and gain 5
• The seat with the biggest majority to change hands will be Llinlithgow & Falkirk – 12553, which will be won by the SNP from Labour

So what’s the election result going to be? That’s the question I am asked most often nowadays, and I am sure it’s the one my fellow political commentators also find the most difficult to answer. “Oh, it’s going to be very exciting,” we all say, laughing nervously because nobody has a clue what the real answer is.

The truth is that this is the most unpredictable election in recent memory and for one very simple reason – for the first time in British political history, we’re now in five party politics. For the first time ever it’s conceivable that the joint vote share of the two main parties might be under 60%.

The only thing we can say with certainty is that the days of the election night swingometer are well and truly behind us. There is no such thing as a national swing. National opinion polls have been rendered almost redundant. The various internet election forecasting sites have little relevance. Tip O’Neil once said that ‘all politics is local’ and boy was he right.

I have taken him at his word and taken on the mammoth task of predicting the result in each of the UK’s 650 constituencies. Clearly only an idiot or a massive political geek would undertake such a task and put his money where his mouth is. I’ll leave you to decide which I am.

Obviously I am not an expert on each seat. But there’s a lot of information out there if you look for it. Sites like PoliticalBetting.com and UKPollingReport are mines of useful statistics and opinion. Lord Ashcroft’s excellent constituency based polls also provide useful data along with other local factors I have researched. I’ve made the predictions as scientific as I can make them on the evidence I have available to me. In the end you also have to sniff the political wind and rely on your own political instinct. And that’s what I have done. It’s served me well over the last year when I got the European election results bang on and made the most accurate predictions in Cameron’s Cabinet reshuffle. I don’t expect to have got every prediction right, which will come as a relief to several MP friends from all parties who I have predicted will lose their seats. But this is an ongoing process and I fully expect to revise some of these predictions between now

Having completed the task I am so glad I undertook it, as it has confirmed several theories – one being that the Tories will pile up votes in seats where they don’t need them. This could well mean that Labour get the highest number of seats but the Tories get the most votes, by a reasonable margin.

In Scotland I just cannot see how the SNP can gain the number of seats many people are predicting. Some pundits predict with straight faces that the SNP will sweep the electoral board and end up with 30 to 40 seats. They have 6 at the moment, and try as I might I can’t get them above 18. If they do achieve more than that that it would be a political earthquake of epic proportions. They would be overturning Labour majorities of 15-20,000.

The most difficult thing to predict is how well UKIP and the Greens will do. Both could deny each of the major parties victory in many marginal seats. Labour ought to be gaining seats in North Wales, for example, but the strong UKIP vote there – where they are taking more Labour votes than Tory ones – may well mean they don’t take any at all. Indeed, in the North West of England that same phenomenon could mean the Tories picking up the odd Labour marginal.

The one prediction I am 100% confident in making is that the Liberal Democrats will lose more than half of their seats. A year ago I thought they’d end up with 30-35, back in October I revised that to 28-30. Now I have them on 24. It could get even worse, although I reckon Nick Clegg will be safe in Sheffield Hallam.

The most recent political phenomenon is the growth of the Greens. While I don’t see them winning any extra seats, it is perfectly possible for an increase in their vote to stop Labour winning in some key marginal seats. If the LibDem vote transfers to the Greens instead of Labour, Ed Miliband is in much bigger trouble than my headline prediction might suggest.

If my overall prediction is anywhere near correct, Britain is on the verge of months, or maybe years of political uncertainty. It would take three parties to form a coalition, and I doubt whether many of us can see that happening. A safer bet would be that no one could form a sustainable government and we could be in for a second election in the autumn which none but the main two parties could afford – and even Labour would find it difficult to raise the necessary money in such a short time. In the meantime the markets will get the jitters and the fragile economic recovery could well be threatened.

Welcome to five party politics. It’s not going to be an easy ride.

This article first appeared in The Independent on Sunday

UPDATE: To see the complete list of constituency predictions click HERE

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General Election Predictions

General Election Predictions 75: Teesside

18 Jan 2015 at 00:00

This is the seventy-fifth in a series of blogposts (scroll to the bottom of the article for the others) which will seek to predict the outcome of every seat in the run-up to the next general election. The notion of a universal swing in May 2015 can be totally discounted. Each seat has to be treated on its merits. Feel free to add your comments and tell me where you think I have got things wrong. I will return to update each county analysis when and if I get new information.

Teesside

Seats: 6
Current Political Makeup: Con 1,Lab 4, LibDem 1
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Con 1, Lab 5

1. Hartlepool

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10758 (28.1%)
Labour: 16267 (42.5%)
Lib Dem: 6533 (17.1%)
BNP: 2002 (5.2%)
UKIP: 2682 (7%)
MAJORITY: 5509 (14.4%)

Sitting MP: Iain Wright (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe-ish seat.

2. Middlesbrough

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6283 (18.8%)
Labour: 15351 (45.9%)
Lib Dem: 6662 (19.9%)
BNP: 1954 (5.8%)
UKIP: 1236 (3.7%)
Independent: 1969 (5.9%)
MAJORITY: 8689 (26%)

Sitting MP: Andrew McDonald
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

3. Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland

2010 Result:
Conservative: 16461 (35.6%)
Labour: 18138 (39.2%)
Lib Dem: 7340 (15.9%)
BNP: 1576 (3.4%)
UKIP: 1881 (4.1%)
Independent: 818 (1.8%)
MAJORITY: 1677 (3.6%)

Sitting MP: Tom Blenkinsop (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

A surprisingly close result last time, but surely an increased Labour majority this time?

4. Redcar

2010 Result:
Conservative: 5790 (13.8%)
Labour: 13741 (32.7%)
Lib Dem: 18955 (45.2%)
BNP: 1475 (3.5%)
UKIP: 1875 (4.5%)
TUSC: 127 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 5214 (12.4%)

Sitting MP: Ian Swales (LibDem)
Prediction: Labour gain

How the LibDems won this seat last time is anyone’s guess. Any chance they had of hanging onto it disappeared when Ian Swaleds announced he wouldn’t stand again. Like the rest of us, he saw the writing on the wall.

5. Stockton North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10247 (25.9%)
Labour: 16923 (42.8%)
Lib Dem: 6342 (16.1%)
BNP: 1724 (4.4%)
UKIP: 1556 (3.9%)
English Dem: 1129 (2.9%)
Independent: 1577 (4%)
MAJORITY: 6676 (16.9%)

Sitting MP: Alex Cunningham (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

6. Stockton South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19577 (38.9%)
Labour: 19245 (38.3%)
Lib Dem: 7600 (15.1%)
BNP: 1553 (3.1%)
UKIP: 1471 (2.9%)
Christian: 302 (0.6%)
Independent: 536 (1.1%)
MAJORITY: 332 (0.7%)

Sitting MP: James Wharton (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

This ought to be a dead cert Labour gain, and it may well prove to be, but the fact that the Ashcroft poll shows the Tories only marginally behind here gives them a lot of hope. Wharton has got a good local profile and may well depress the UKIP vote because of his strong Eurosceptic stance. I admit this is more of a hunch prediction than anything, but I think I’m allowed the odd one!

If you’d like to see the rest of my seat by seat predictions, click HERE

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General Election Predictions 74: Tyne & Wear

17 Jan 2015 at 09:00

This is the seventy-fourth in a series of blogposts (scroll to the bottom of the article for the others) which will seek to predict the outcome of every seat in the run-up to the next general election. The notion of a universal swing in May 2015 can be totally discounted. Each seat has to be treated on its merits. Feel free to add your comments and tell me where you think I have got things wrong. I will return to update each county analysis when and if I get new information.

Tyne & Wear

Seats: 12
Current Political Makeup: Lab 12
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Lab 12

1. *Blaydon

2010 Result:
Conservative: 7159 (15.9%)
Labour: 22297 (49.6%)
Lib Dem: 13180 (29.3%)
BNP: 2277 (5.1%)
MAJORITY: 9117 (20.3%)

Sitting MP: David Anderson (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

2. Gateshead

2010 Result:
Conservative: 5716 (14.9%)
Labour: 20712 (54.1%)
Lib Dem: 8163 (21.3%)
BNP: 1787 (4.7%)
Green: 379 (1%)
UKIP: 1103 (2.9%)
Christian: 131 (0.3%)
TUSC: 266 (0.7%)
MAJORITY: 12549 (32.8%)

Sitting MP: Ian Mearns (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

3. Houghton & Sunderland South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 8147 (21.4%)
Labour: 19137 (50.3%)
Lib Dem: 5292 (13.9%)
BNP: 1961 (5.2%)
UKIP: 1022 (2.7%)
Independent: 2462 (6.5%)
MAJORITY: 10990 (28.9%)

Sitting MP: Bridget Phillipson (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat

4. Jarrow

2010 Result:
Conservative: 8002 (20.6%)
Labour: 20910 (53.9%)
Lib Dem: 7163 (18.5%)
BNP: 2709 (7%)
MAJORITY: 12908 (33.3%)

Sitting MP: Stephen Hepburn (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

5. Newcastle upon Tyne Central

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6611 (19.4%)
Labour: 15694 (45.9%)
Lib Dem: 8228 (24.1%)
BNP: 2302 (6.7%)
Green: 568 (1.7%)
UKIP: 754 (2.2%)
MAJORITY: 7466 (21.9%)

Sitting MP: Chi Onwurah (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat

6. Newcastle upon Tyne East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6068 (16%)
Labour: 17043 (45%)
Lib Dem: 12590 (33.3%)
BNP: 1342 (3.5%)
Green: 620 (1.6%)
Others: 177 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 4453 (11.8%)

Sitting MP: Nick Brown (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

7. Newcastle upon Tyne North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 7966 (18.1%)
Labour: 17950 (40.8%)
Lib Dem: 14536 (33.1%)
BNP: 1890 (4.3%)
Green: 319 (0.7%)
UKIP: 1285 (2.9%)
MAJORITY: 3414 (7.8%)

Sitting MP: Catherine McKinnell (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Not a safe seat, but the LibDems had their chance here and they muffed it.

8. North Tyneside

2010 Result:
Conservative: 8514 (18.3%)
Labour: 23505 (50.7%)
Lib Dem: 10621 (22.9%)
BNP: 1860 (4%)
UKIP: 1306 (2.8%)
Others: 599 (1.3%)
MAJORITY: 12884 (27.8%)

Sitting MP: Mary Glindon (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

9. South Shields

2010 Result:
Conservative: 7886 (21.6%)
Labour: 18995 (52%)
Lib Dem: 5189 (14.2%)
BNP: 2382 (6.5%)
Green: 762 (2.1%)
Independent: 729 (2%)
Others: 575 (1.6%)
MAJORITY: 11109 (30.4%)

Sitting MP: Emma Lewel-Buck
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

10. Sunderland Central

2010 Result:
Conservative: 12770 (30.1%)
Labour: 19495 (45.9%)
Lib Dem: 7191 (16.9%)
BNP: 1913 (4.5%)
UKIP: 1094 (2.6%)
MAJORITY: 6725 (15.8%)

Sitting MP: Julie Elliott
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe-ish seat.

11. Tynemouth

2010 Result:
Conservative: 18121 (34.4%)
Labour: 23860 (45.3%)
Lib Dem: 7845 (14.9%)
BNP: 1404 (2.7%)
Green: 538 (1%)
UKIP: 900 (1.7%)
MAJORITY: 5739 (10.9%)

Sitting MP: Alan Campbell (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

12. Washington & Sunderland West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 8157 (21.8%)
Labour: 19615 (52.5%)
Lib Dem: 6382 (17.1%)
BNP: 1913 (5.1%)
UKIP: 1267 (3.4%)
MAJORITY: 11458 (30.7%)

Sitting MP: Sharon Hodgson (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

If you’d like to see the rest of my seat by seat predictions, click HERE

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WATCH: An Hour With MND Campaigners Gordon Aikman & Joe Pike

16 Jan 2015 at 22:04

This evening I interviewed Gordon Aikman and his partner Joe Pike. Gordon was Director of Policy for the Better Together Campaign when he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease seven months ago. Motor Neurone Disease is a rare, debilitating and progressive disease. It attacks the nerves which carry messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles. It leads to weakness and muscle wasting, meaning that soon, Gordon will be in a wheelchair. Soon, he will struggle to feed himself and even breath. Soon, he will die. There is no cure.

Joe interned at Total Politics and then worked with me at LBC for a couple of years. He and Gordon have known each other since they were at university together but it was only more recently that they got together. They are going to do a regular audio diary for my programme so we can monitor what happens to Gordon and promote awareness of MND.

I knew this was going to be an emotional hour. My great fear was that I would blub and ruin the whole thing. As it turned out I didn’t, even though I think the three of us found the whole thing very emotional.

I hope you find listening to Gordon as inspirational as I did.

If you’d like to donate to his JustGiving page click HERE. His website is HERE. And you can follow Gordon’s diary on his LBC page HERE

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Diary

ConHome Diary: Discover Who my 'Tosser of the Week' Is! (Clue: It's Not Russell Brand)

16 Jan 2015 at 14:00

I’ve read some daft diary stories in my time – indeed, I’ve written quite a few of them – but the Londoner’s Diary took the biscuit on Thursday when they reckoned Nigel Farage’s new book THE PURPLE REVOLUTION (which I am publishing on 5 March) could count as a UKIP election expense. Laugh? I nearly wet myself. Apparently if spending topped £20,000 Biteback would have to declare it as a political donation to UKIP, according to the ever-helpful Electoral Commission. Bollocks to that. I’ll just have to cancel the planned launch party in Monaco, I suppose. In all seriousness, how any book by a politician can be considered any sort of election expense I just don’t know. Neither Farage nor UKIP will have any expense in the production of the book. The risk is entirely ours. So I ask again, how is an expense? Answer. It isn’t.
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I’ve finally finished my seat by seat predictions for the general election. It’s been a mammoth task to predict 650 seats, but I am glad I did it. It’s taught me a lot about how the election is likely to pan out and highlighted some trends which I wouldn’t necessarily been aware of previously. Of course, the work isn’t finished as I will continue to update each seat as I learn more about them. I’ve already revised one or two seats having gleaned more information from local sources, including Loughborough where I now predict a Nicky Morgan hold. I’ve put my money where my mouth is in these predictions, which, if you haven’t seen them yet, you can find HERE [ add link http://iaindale.com/posts/2014/12/29/general-election-predictions-the-complete-list ]. I look forward to other pundits and commentators doing the same, but as usual, most will firmly sit on the fence, then afterwards say it was the result they had predicted all along. Anyway, you can find out what my final predictions are in The Independent on Sunday this Sunday, or check out my blog at www.iaindale.com.
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So Peter Oborne reckons George Osborne wouldn’t stand in any future leadership contest and would throw his weight behind Boris Johnson. Really? No, really? Nope, me neither.
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My Tosser of the Week has to go to the comedian who is standing in Thanet South. No, I’m not referring to Nigel Farage, but to The Pub Landlord, Al Murray. The coverage given to his non-historic announcement this week has been quite unbelievable. It’s symptomatic of a media which is desperate to see the UKIP leader fall on his feet. For some reason most pundits seem to be of the view that Murray would take votes off Farage. I suspect if he gets any votes at all they will come from disillusioned former supporters of the mainstream parties. We’ll soon see, but I doubt if he will get more than a couple of hundred votes. Why? Because the voters of South Thanet will eventually realise that far from causing them to laugh, he’s actually laughing AT them. And they won’t like it.
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I went over to the dark side last year and ditched my Blackberry in favour of an iPhone 5S. I’ve surprised myself and liked it more than I thought I would, but now it’s time for an upgrade. And I have to answer that eternal questions. Do I go for an iPhone 6 or a 6+? I think that comes under the banner of #FirstWorldProblems.
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Take it from me, David Cameron will take part in the election debates, whatever the shilly-shallying this week. Those who think it’s a mistake need to shut up and develop a strategy where Cameron can emerge smelling of roses. It’s just not possible for Cameron to shun any of the debates and he should never have threatened to. However, what I suspect will happen now is that the Greens will after all be deemed a major party for Ofcom and ITV will invite them to take part in the third multi-party debate. That will then trigger a legal challenge by the SNP, who think they should take part too. Uncle Tom Cobley may then seek a judicial review! All very unseemly, but all eminently predictable. It’s actually the broadcasters’ own fault. They should have set up a formal debates commission after the election which could have solved all these problems totally independent of the political parties and broadcasters. That must happen later this year so we don’t have these squabbles next time around.
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I’m reading former Aussie Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s autobiography at the moment. It’s one of the few political memoirs I have read which has entirely transformed my view of the subject. Fair dinkum. I particularly liked the passage where she says of her predecessor – and successor, for that matter – Kevin Rudd: “I don’t like to think in swear words, but he was a fucking shit.” That’s my girl. I love Australian politics. Their politicians make ours look like pussies.
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If you’re near a radio tonight tune into my LBC show at 7pm. You might need a good supply of Kleenex too. I’m doing an hour with Gordon Aikman, who is dying of Motor Neurone Disease. He was Policy Officer for the Better Together campaign in Scotland when he was diagnosed. He’s only 29 and is likely to die within twelve months. He’s now made it his life’s mission to raise awareness of the disease and ensure better care for future victims of MND. He’s raised a six figure sum and already changed public policy in Scotland. We’re going to follow his story over the next few months, not in a mawkish way, but because he wants people to know what happens when you get this terrible illness. I know his story will be an inspiration to everyone listening.
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So the Conservative new election slogan is “A Britain Living Within Its Means”. Well that should get them out of bed and down the polling station on a cold Thursday morning in Auchtermuchty, shouldn’t it? Possibly one of the least exciting election slogans since, well, er, the last one. Come on boys and girls, surely you can do better than that. Something like “Britain’s on the Right Path – Don’t Let Labour Ruin it. Again”. Well it works for me…

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