UK Politics

What Should the Tories Do to Get their Campaign Back on Track? Answer: Let Lynton be Lynton & (Maybe) Ditch the Social Care Policy Altogether

28 May 2017 at 18:00

There’s nothing the Conservative Party seems to enjoy more than a midcampaign wobble. It usually lasts a couple of days before things get back on an even keel. This one has lasted more than ten days. Election campaign wobbles often happen when the chain of command isn’t clear – when no one knows who is actually in charge. Think back to 1987 when no one in CCHQ was clear whether Lord Young (put in CCO by a prime minister who had doubts about her party chairman) or Norman Tebbit (who had lost Mrs T’s confidence). Think back to 2010 when no one really knew whether it was Lynton Crosby, George Osborne or party chairman Eric Pickles.

So how do the Tories get their campaign back on track? When Sir Lynton Crosby was hired to run this election campaign he will have known that his chief interlocutors would be Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, the Prime Ministers two most trusted lieutenants. Neither of them suffer fools gladly and they expect to get their own way. They are conviction people. They lack self doubt. And they expect their will to be done and Number Ten is run in their image. Number Ten may not be as happy and chilled out as under David Cameron but their iron rule has made it a much more effective operation, even if the written and broadcast media have found the place far more difficult to deal with.

Neither Hill, nor Timothy has been involved in running a general election campaign before. In itself that shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but when an election is called so unexpectedly it is not surprising that things have been more difficult than they otherwise might have been. Take the manifesto, for example. It is widely reported that the manifesto was almost exclusively written by Nick Timothy. It is said that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wasn’t even consulted about the Social Care policy and was told about it – yes, told – only hours before the media. It was the same for Damian Green. I have no idea what either of those gentlemen thought about the policy. I haven’t asked them. We know, or we think we know, that John Godfrey, the Number Ten Head of Policy and Fiona Hill were both against it, and Theresa May made the final decision to overrule them and include it in the manifesto. As I said on Newsnight on Friday night, ultimately the buck stops with her. Advisers advise, ministers decide.

I have no idea whether Lynton Crosby had any right of veto over any part of the manifesto. He certainly would have had in 2015. I doubt whether he did this time. If he didn’t, he should have.

On Tuesday morning all the leading lights of the campaign will be meeting in London to decide the strategy for the final eight days of the campaign. Leaving aside the fact that this meeting should have been taking place today, there are a number of decisions that meeting should make.

The first is that Lynton Crosby must be given full and absolute control of the campaign. He knows what he is doing. He’s run enough campaigns for everyone to have complete and total trust in him. I know from my own experience back in 2005, he is a leader of men and women and is the sort of person people die in a ditch for. No one should second guess him. He must lay out the strategy and have the power to implement it. He must define the messaging for the next nine days and ensure that everyone sticks to it.

The Conservatives’ media strategy has so far been based around a very select view of politicians who are allowed on TV and radio. This group needs to be expanded. The “When in doubt send for DD, Fallon or Gauke” strategy is OK as far as it goes, but in the current media age they can’t do it all. There are too many outlets to satisfy. Interestingly IDS and Michael Gove are being used, but that very fact has severely hacked off other perfectly competent media performers who happen to be senior ministers. Where on earth is Liam Fox? Greg Clark? Patrick McLoughlin? In any normal campaign the Conservative party chairman would effectively be ‘Minister for the Today Programme’. I may be wrong, but I can’t recall hearing Patrick McLoughlin, one of the Cabinet’s most reassuring voices, give a single broadcast interview since the election was called.

In addition, the women’s vote is haemorraghing to Labour. The lead is down to one point. There are lots of capable Tory women who should be used on the media far more than they have been so far. Justine Greening, Margot James, Andrea Leadsom and many more need to become a much more integral part of the campaign.

Boris Johnson has been allowed out occasionally, but we’ve only seen the Chancellor once. In a war, you deploy your strongest weapons, even if occasionally they might end up aiming in the wrong direction. Just as I am suggesting that the Tories should let Lynton be Lynton, they should also let Boris be Boris. Philip Hammond is also an underrated media performer. Given what I am about to write, he needs to now be front and centre of the campaign.

If we look back to 18 April, the day the PM called the election, we ought to remind ourselves of the reason this election was called. Remember these words from the Prime Minister?

“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union. "The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standsill. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong. They under-estimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country. "Because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government’s negotiating position in Europe. If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country. So we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin. I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion. “Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take. Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done. Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union. Every vote for the Conservatives means we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future. It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.”

This was supposed to be a single issue election. It has become anything but. The Manchester terror attack has reenforced that fact. Even before the bombing Labour had managed to seize the initiative. Deliberately leaking their manifesto gave them five days of dominating the news. The Conservatives assumed the electorate would laugh at the manifesto. The electorate did the opposite, finding it eyecatching, radical and bold. By contrast the Tory offering six days later was seen as boring, stale and didn’t have a single eyecatching initiative for Tory canvassers and candidates to go out and sell on the doorstep. And the single policy which did stand out, turned out to be a stinker.

The rest of this election campaign needs to be fought on Tory territory, not Labour’s. There should be four strands to the remainder of the campaign and it’s Lynton Crosby’s task to make sure they become the narrative of the next nine days…

  • Get Brexit back on the agenda
  • Security for all
  • A strong economy
  • Leadership

Getting Brexit back on the agenda won’t be a simple task. Only two pages out of 84 in the manifesto were Brexit. Why? Because there wasn’t anything new to say. There still isn’t. There is no prospect of giving any more details of the government’s negotiating strategy. If Juncker or Tusk say anything stupid over the next few days, it’s job done, but even they aren’t that stupid. What the PM and David Davis must do is look forward to the negotiations starting only eleven days after the election, and contrast their approach to the task in hand with that of the Labour Party.

There is little doubt that a national crisis like the one over the last week plays into the hands of the incumbent prime minister. By definition, it is the PM who is making the decisions and reacting to events. The Leader of the Opposition can do little but to support the actions of the PM. The PM is able to show leadership, something the Leader of the Opposition can’t really do. That’s why it was important for Jeremy Corbyn to make that speech on Friday morning – to hit the ground running and seize back the agenda. Well he did that, but couldn’t resist the self indulgence of talking about issues which he must have known would be a gift to the Tories.

However, there are risks here too for the Tories. They’ve launched an all out initiative to paint Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, but in doing so risk going over the top. They certainly have raw material to attack Corbyn in that manner, but sometimes it’s best to be quite subtle about these things rather than completely in voters’ faces. Sometimes you have to trust the people to work it out for themselves, albeit with a little help. Instead of a constant attack on Corbyn I suspect it would be better to concentrate the fire on the prospect of Diane Abbott (sans Afro) becoming Home Secretary. She is both viewed as an extreme left winger and hopelessly incompetent. Her interviews with Nick Ferrari, me on Friday and Andrew Marr today have done nothing to alter that view. The Tories should exploit it.

Most election revolves around whether people think they will be better off or not over the ensuing five years if they vote for one party rather than another. Although this election is somewhat different, there is still time for it to be framed around the concept of ‘stick to nurse for fear of something worse’. Economic competence v Labour’s magic money tree. The trouble is, the media has framed it as ‘More austerity and an uncosted manifesto v Labour’s eyecatching economic proposals’. So far, much of the electorate has bought into that and decided that some tax rises for the rich and penalising big multinational corporations by dramatically increasing business taxes will indeed lead to “our NHS” getting all the extra funding it needs. It’s been a major failure of the campaign so far not to have combatted this narrative. I have no idea why Philip Hammond has barely appeared in this campaign so far, but that needs to change, and change now.

The leadership issue is clearly the easiest and it has already been a running theme, but this needs to be hammered home in all sorts of ways in the runup to June 8th. But when I say ‘hammered home’ there needs to be a subtlety about it. Jeremy Corbyn has a certain zen calmness about him and even under huge pressure he usually manages to suppress his annoyance and anger at the way he’s being questioned. We saw that on Friday in his interview with Andrew Neil. In many ways it ought to have been seen as a car crash for him – and if you’re a Tory watching it, you’ll think it was, but Andrew Neil didn’t really rattle him once despite a very hostile line of questioning. Although his answers were often all over the place, Corbyn just remained in a zen like state. Many elements of the electorate quite like that and they don’t seem him as the ‘pseudo commie terrorist sympathiser’ the Conservatives are portraying him as. The messaging on this has to be very careful. In any normal election May v Corbyn as a leadership contest ought to be a one horse race. The Tories now need to make it one.

A 15-20 point Tory lead has evolved into a 7-14 point lead. The best poll for Labour was a Yougov poll which showed a 5 point lead on Friday. That had increased to 7 points in today’s YouGov poll. I’ve always thought of YouGov and ICM polls to be the most reliable, but the latest ICM poll shows a 14 point lead. They can’t both be right. In some ways a lower poll lead is a good thing for the Tories. I know that sounds odd, but there’s certainly no talk of complacency any longer, and a smaller poll lead will help persuade Tory voters to actually go out and vote. However, a narrative is developing that any majority which isn’t three figures will be seen as a defeat for Theresa May. It’s quite ridiculous, of course, because any majority in excess of 50 would surely justify the Prime Minister’s decision to call the election in the first place. Was Margaret Thatcher’s 44 seat majority in 1979 seen as a defeat for her? Of course it wasn’t.

Earlier in the campaign I predicted that the Conservatives would get around 390 seats and Labour around 165, with the LibDems on 16 and the SNP on 53. I might revisit that in the final week, but I’m not sure I see any real grounds to change it at the moment. Perhaps the LibDems are a little high, given that their campaign hasn’t taken off at all.

So, to sum up, here’s what should happen to the Tory campaign…

1. Let Lynton be Lynton and give him total control
2. Brexit means Brexit, and it needs to be a dominant issue in the last 9 days
3. Widen the circle of ministers appearing on the media
4. Deploy Boris
5. Deploy Philip Hammond and take the fight to Labour on the economy
6. Leadership, leadership, leadership – make the contrast at every available opportunity
7. Constantly raise the prospect of Diane Abbott as Home Secretary
8. Ensure the country sees the Conservatives as the party of security and defence
9. Underplay the poll lead so as not to risk a low turnout
10. Address the issue of the women’s vote disappearing to Labour

And finally [brace yourselves], the most radical shift of all… If the Tory lead was to continue to fall I’d suggest that serious consideration is given to ditching the social care pledge altogether. It would be a complete humiliation but I’m not sure that the party leadership understands what a disaster it has been on the doorstep and on the radio phone-ins. The partial U-turn on Monday meant that the hole digging had been put on hold. But perhaps it may be time to fill the trench back in. A strong and stable Prime Minister might find it a difficult one to sell, but admitting you’re wrong can sometimes be a refreshing lance of the boil. Tony Blair was usually at his most popular when he admitted he’d cocked up. Cameron the same. But if it’s to be done, it needs to be done in the next 48 hours. Better brains than mine need to be thinking about the pros and cons of doing this, and I’m assuming they may have done so already. At least I’m hoping they have…

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ConHome Diary: Diane Abbott's New Nickname & Credit To Donald Trump (Yes, Really)

26 May 2017 at 13:43

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Donald Trump’s first trip broad as President was tipped by everyone to be a disaster. People assumed there would be gaffe and gaffe and he would embarrass himself, his country and his hosts. Well it hasn’t happened, has it? Even his speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia barely caused a feather ruffle. He sailed through two days of potential pitfalls and political icebergs in Israel and even his meeting with the Pope went off without a hitch, even though the Pope, unusually, found it difficult to crack a smile. As I write this Trump has moved on to Brussels where he is attending his first NATO summit. Get through that without controversy and he can rightly regard the last nine days as something of a triumph.
*
UKIP unveiled their election manifesto yesterday. Like anyone cared.
*

I am a massive supporter of the so-called ‘Special Relationship’, although the very mention of the term brings me out in hives. But by definition it has to work both ways. It is outrageous that US intelligence is leaking details of the Manchester bombing to the US media and it is to the UK government’s credit that they are making no secret of the fact that there is a massive degree of fury about it on this side of the Atlantic. Donald Trump has been complaining for months that the US security services leak like a sieve, and here he has his proof. But why is it happening? To cause problems for Trump? Probably. The trouble is that the extent of these leaks seem to indicate that it’s not just one malcontented person that’s doing it. Greater Manchester Police have decided no longer to share information with the Americans. I wonder if MI6 and GCHQ will do the same. When I interviewed Michael Fallon about it on Wednesday evening he described it all as “disappointing”. When I put it to him that what he really meant was “bloody furious” he didn’t say yes, but his answer indicated he didn’t really demur. If you’ve ever seen the film LOVE ACTUALLY, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Theresa May ought to have a ‘LOVE ACTUALLY moment’ and at her next press conference make very clear exactly what she thinks about US behaviour over the last few days. She’d have the whole country behind her.
*
It’s difficult to know what effect the last few days will have on the general election campaign or result. I suspect that the level of debate will be slightly less aggressive than it would have been and that the voting public won’t be in the mood for the usual political games. Will the agenda be dominated by people’s demands that the party react to the terror attack or will other domestic issues creep back up the political agenda. There’s little doubt that the social care debacle seems a distant memory, although it may not remain so. If I were Jeremy Corbyn I’d now concentrate on the cuts to the police which have led to a net fall of 20,000 police officers since 2010. There’s gold to be mined for Labour there and the Conservatives had better have a well thought out response.
*

Words I’ve never said until this week: Alexa, play Ariana Grande
*
So immigration was down 84,000 in 2016 compared to 2015. The net total was 248,880. That’s nearly fifteen tens of thousands away from the much-vaunted target. What those who call for a dramatic fall in net migration don’t seem to be able to compute is that most of the people that come here are absolutely vital to the functioning of our economy. Without them, well, we’d be in a lot of trouble. I’m afraid that anyone thinks that we can reduce immigration to less than 100,000 is either deluded or will be sadly disappointed. It. Will. Never. Happen.
*

Diane Abbott has become the Scarlet Pimpernel of British politics. They seek her here, they seek her there, they seek her everybloodywhere. Since her car crash interview with my LBC colleague Nick Ferrari she has barely been seen. We asked for an interview with her on Wednesday to talk about security issues but were told she wasn’t available. We’ll keep trying, on your behalf, dear reader.

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UK Politics

Number of Gay MPs Likely to Increase to 41 - The Most of Any Parliament in the World

21 May 2017 at 14:30

Last week I posted a blog on the number of female MPs there are likely to be in the new House of Commons. Today, I’m turning my attention towards the number of gay MPs there will be. I am grateful to Tim Carr for providing much of the information.

At the date of the dissolution ahead of the 2015 general election there were 26 LGBTI MPs. At the 2015 election a record 32 were elected. This figure rose to 38 by the end of the Parliament (Justine Greening, David Mundell, Hannah Barden and Nia Griffith all came out during the course of the 2015-17 Parliament). So for the record, these were the 38 LGBTI MPs at dissolution in April 2017. They were…

Stuart Andrew (Con)
Hannah Bardell (SNP)
Clive Betts (Lab)
Mhairi Black (SNP)
Crispin Blunt (Con)
Nicholas Boles (Con)
Ben Bradshaw (Lab)
Nick Brown (Lab)
Chris Bryant (Lab)
Conor Burns (Con)
Joanna Cherry (SNP)
Angela Crawley (SNP)
Martin Docherty (SNP)
Stephen Doughty (Lab)
Sir Alan Duncan (Con)
Angela Eagle (Lab)
Nigel Evans (Con)
Mike Freer (Con)
Nick Gibb (Con)
Justine Greening (Con)
Nia Griffith (Lab)
Nick Herbert (Con)
Ben Howlett (Con)
Margot James (Con)
Gerald Jones (Lab)
Cat Smith (Lab)
Daniel Kawczynski (Con)
Peter Kyle (Lab)
Gordon Marsden (Lab)
Stewart McDonald (SNP)
Mark Menzies (Con)
David Mundell (Con)
John Nicolson (SNP)
Steve Reed (Lab)
Iain Stewart (Con)
Wes Streeting (Lab)
Stephen Twigg (Lab)
William Wragge (Con)

This state of affairs is likely to reenforced on June 8th.

There will be…

  • 41 LGBTI MPs in total – 6.3%, an increase of 9 (28%) since May 2015.

• 30 LGBTI MPs will be re-elected, plus 11 new MPs.

• There will be 34 Male and 7 Female gay MPs, but still none from the transgender community.

• There will be 23 gay Conservative MPs, 9 Labour, 8 SNP MPs and 1 Lib Dem.

• Regionally the breakdown is as follows: Scotland (9), North West (8), South East (6), London (4), West Midlands (4), East Midlands (3), South West (2), Wales (2), Yorkshire and the Humber (2), North East (1), East Anglia (0), Northern Ireland (0)

• There will be eleven newly elected gay MPs: Peter Anthony (Con, Blackpool South), James Bird (Con, Walsall South), Jim Eadie (SNP, Edinburgh South), Toni Giugliano (SNP, Edinburgh West), Paul Holmes (Con, Southampton Test), Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Owen Meredith (Con, Newcastle-under-Lyme), Damian Moore (Con, Southport), Eric Ollerenshaw (Con, Lancaster & Fleetwoood), Lee Rowley (Con, North East Derbyshire) and Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab, Brighton Kemptown) [All of these are public/declared]

• According to my seat predictions 7 gay MPs will lose their seats. These are: Ben Howlett (Con, Bath), Gordon Marsden (Lab, Blackpool South), Stephen Doughty (Lab, Cardiff South & Penarth), John Nicolson (SNP, East Dunbartonshire), Dr Peter Kyle (Lab, Hove), Wes Streeting (Lab, Ilford North), Cat Smith (Lab, Lancaster & Fleetwood)

So the list of gay MPs in the next Parliament, assuming a Tory majority of around 130 would be…

Stuart Andrew (Con)
Peter Anthony (Con)
Hannah Bardell (SNP)
Clive Betts (Lab)
James Bird (Con)
Mhairi Black (SNP)
Crispin Blunt (Con)
Nicholas Boles (Con)
Ben Bradshaw (Lab)
Nick Brown (Lab)
Chris Bryant (Lab)
Conor Burns (Con)
Joanna Cherry (SNP)
Angela Crawley (SNP)
Martin Docherty (SNP)
Sir Alan Duncan (Con)
James Eadie (SNP)
Angela Eagle (Lab)
Nigel Evans (Con)
Mike Freer (Con)
Nick Gibb (Con)
Toni Giugliano (SNP)
Justine Greening (Con)
Nick Herbert (Con)
Paul Holmes (Con)
Simon Hughes (LibDem)
Margot James (Con)
Gerald Jones (Lab)
Daniel Kawczynski (Con)
Stewart McDonald (SNP)
Mark Menzies (Con)
Owen Meredith (Con)
Damian Moore (Con)
David Mundell (Con)
Eric Ollerenshaw (Con)
Steve Reed (Lab)
Lee Rowley (Con)
Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab)
Iain Stewart (Con)
Stephen Twigg (Lab)
William Wragge (Con)

Professor Andrew Reynolds, director at the LGBT Representation and Rights Research Initiative at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is the world’s authority on LGBTI representation and based on his work, he stated in 2015 that the UK has more LGBTI elected MPs in the world. Here’s the league table as of December 2015

UK – 34
Sweden – 12
Netherlands – 11
Germany – 10
South Africa – 7
New Zealand – 6
Canada – 6
USA – 6
Denmark – 5
Ireland – 4
Switzerland – 4
Finland – 4
Norway – 3
Spain – 3
Israel – 2
France – 2

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Watch: This Week's CNNTalk

20 May 2017 at 00:43

Every Friday at Noon, I appear on a new CNN show called CNNTalk. This is week 3 and we discuss Trump and the UK election. Presented by Max Foster, the other two guests are Ayesha Hazirika and Liam Halligan. If you like it, do watch it live on CNN next Friday at 12 noon. It’s also streamed live on CNN International’s Facebook page.

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Assange Remains the Sleazebag He Always Was, And Must Be Put On Trial In This Country For Jumping Bail

19 May 2017 at 14:32

Six and a half years ago, in December 2010, I was asked by the Mail on Sunday to write a column on Julian Assange. When it appeared I was traduced and slagged off by his many supporters. How could I not understand what a hero he is, I was asked? Very easily, as it happens. Anyway, six and a half years on I am rather proud that every word I wrote then has stood the test of time very well. It’s just a shame that Swedish prosecutors have let down the woman in question, who, I gather, has rectaed with shock and horror to the fact they have decided not to take the case any further. I hope that British authorities make clear that the moment he steps outside the Equadorian Embassy he will be arrested and put on trial for humping bail.

Anyway, read for yourself. (The original can be found HERE)

Over the past five years I, along with thousands of other bloggers, have played a small part in holding the mainstream media and politicians to account.

I’ve tried to encourage public authorities to be more transparent and open about what they do, and often caused them a few headaches when they’ve refused.

So you might think I would be a cheerleader for WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange and his self-styled mission to expose what goes on at the heart of government.

You’d be wrong. Far from being a 21st Century hero, I have come to regard Assange as a dictatorial charlatan whose real agenda is not the furtherance of greater transparency, but the furtherance of Julian Assange and his anti-American agenda.

His ego seems to be without equal and he’s now reached the dangerous point of believing his own publicity. So much so that some of his staunchest supporters, such as the Guardian journalist Nick Davies, have cut off contact with him.

WikiLeaks started off as a noble cause. It sought to shine light into the nooks and crannies of public life which had up until now remained closed off to us mere mortals.
Whistleblowing is often uncomfortable, yet WikiLeaks provided a forum for the powerful to be brought to book.

In journalistic terms, there was a point to it, as their work on scientology and the Trafigura scandal concerning the dumping of toxic waste in Africa showed.

But its ethics and operations are now coming under serious scrutiny, and rightly so.

Whenever anyone – journalist, or otherwise – reveals confidential information there has to be a point to it. By releasing three million random documents, illegally obtained from U.S. government computers, WikiLeaks put paid to its reputation in one fell swoop.

Had Assange and his cohorts sorted through the documents and filtered out those with a genuine public interest, he could have been seen as a modern-day hero.

But he released everything in the name of so-called transparency. He did it because he could – the prerogative of every dictator in history.

Assange is currently fighting efforts to extradite him to Sweden, where he is accused of sexually assaulting two women. It is alleged he raped one of them.

Yet during the past couple of weeks, celebrities including Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger have stood alongside Leftist journalists such as John Pilger and Tariq Ali, and film director Ken Loach to denounce what they view as a ‘politically motivated show trial’.

But the authorities are not trying to extradite Assange over freedom of expression – they’re trying to extradite him over alleged rape.

For the Left to base their defence of him on ‘fairness’, ‘censorship’ and ‘suspicious timing’ is not only misleading but also very unfair on the women who have come forward with the allegations.

Could you imagine any other scenario where liberals, socialists and other members of the Left would be so cavalier with an allegation as serious as rape? Remember all those headlines about rape anonymity just a few short months ago?

Their hypocrisy stinks. It’s as if they are saying that Assange’s WikiLeaks work trumps any legal charges levelled at him.

The charges of sexual assault against Assange should be fully investigated. For anyone to say otherwise implies that the women are lying and that alleged rape is a trifling charge. It’s not.

Nobody knows if he did it, and that’s why he needs to be extradited and face exactly the same legal process that you or I would face in similar circumstances. The God of WikiLeaks gives the appearance of believing he is above the law. He is not.

Perhaps some of Assange’s defenders have more sinister motivations. Perhaps they are pro-Assange as he and his organisation have become virulently anti-American.
Some people might have more sympathy with him if he ever released any documents from China, or North Korea, or the mafia-controlled state of Russia.

Assange may be a public hero to some. But it is stupid and illogical to absolve him of all alleged criminal activities just because of his work.

A man can do commendable work, but be of bad character. And it is high time we stop judging Assange for his public deeds when, at the moment, it is his private life on trial.
We must ensure the separation of powers prevails. This most controversial of men must be judged by the law, not politics.

Assange has been quick to point the finger at dark forces within the Pentagon or the CIA for his arrest, yet the head of WikiLeaks in Sweden appears to be more sensible.

He says: ‘Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt.’

You’d have thought that The Guardian would be the first newspaper to support the concept that he should be judged under the rule of law.

Its journalists are normally the first to assume that men who face court on rape charges are guilty. And yet here, they’ve done a volte-face. Why? Because it would be deeply embarrassing for them if the source of virtually every Guardian front page for the past month turned out to be guilty.

And I say that with no presumption that he is.

It is also deeply ironic also that the newspaper which has been campaigning to bring David Cameron’s media supremo Andy Coulson to book for his alleged role in the News of the World phone hacking affair is the very same one which has no compunction in revealing nuggets of gossip and information to the world obtained illegally by WikiLeaks.

What’s different in the two cases? In the News of the World case, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest. In the case of WikiLeaks, 99 per cent of the illegally obtained, hacked information was prurient gossip with no public interest.

But there is one sinister difference. In the WikiLeaks case, lives and national security have been put at risk. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Assange proved he was out of control in August when he demanded $700,000 from Amnesty International which had politely asked him to ensure WikiLeaks did not publish names of Afghan civilians who might then be targeted by the Taliban. Some called it blackmail.

It is, I suppose, possible to argue that every piece of government information should be made publicly available, but anyone who really believes that hasn’t given a thought to the anarchic consequences which would follow. Surely national security, at the very least, has to be a consideration?

Julian Assange purports to believe in total openness – except when it comes to himself.

He delights in asking politicians what they have got to hide. We might ask Mr Assange the same.

There is little in this issue that is about high principle. It is about political motivation and one man’s desire to be treated as a demi-god.

Assange is not a terrorist, as the increasingly ridiculous Sarah Palin suggests. But he is a narcissist and would-be demagogue.

If he was half the man he purports to be, he’d voluntarily get on a flight to Stockholm tomorrow and submit himself to Swedish justice.

If he’s as innocent as he says he is, what has he got to fear?

p.

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ConHome Diary: Why the PM Needs Another PPS (or Two) & When Will The Speaker Go?

19 May 2017 at 13:00

If there is a Conservative landslide of anything like the scale most pundits seem to expect I think the Prime Minister will need to think very carefully about her relationship with Tory backbenchers. Dealing with 390 or 400 MPs is very different to dealing with 330. May I make a suggestion? Instead of appointing only one PPS, Theresa May should appoint two, or even three. David Cameron sometimes had two, and Theresa May needs to do the same. George Hollingbery has done the job up to now, but he will quite reasonably expect a junior ministerial job after serving her for several years. If I were the PM, I’d appoint a grey beard from the ’97 or ’01 intake, another from the 2015 intake and maybe in the autumn one from the 2017 intake. It will be very important for her to keep her new MPs onside and it will be a very difficult task. There are enough discontents in the 2010 and 2015 intakes who believe their talents have so far been overlooked. After a couple of years, there will be another 40 or 50 from the new intake who will wonder why the Prime Minister isn’t recognising them.
A second idea would be to recreate the Backbench committees that the party ran in the 70s, 80s and 90s. There was one shadowing each government department, and they were an opportunity for MPs to shine in their specialist policy areas by becoming an officer of a particular group. They were abandoned after 1997 for the simple reason that there weren’t enough MPs to populate them. That won’t be a problem after 8 June.
*
Best quote of the campaign so far came from YouGov’s Joe Twyman, talking about party manifestos: “You might like the sound of some of the things on the menu, but if you don’t like the look of the restaurant, you’ll probably eat elsewhere.”
*

Yesterday I was due to have lunch at the House of Commons, but the election put paid to that. The occasion was/is the 90th birthday of a friend of mine, Audrey Barker, who was Conservative Agent in Norwich North for the 1987 general election, when I was the campaign manager. Audrey was a real ‘old school’ party agent and didn’t suffer fools (or politicians) gladly. She really did regard the candidate as a legal necessity and didn’t think twice about telling anyone exactly what she thought of them. In the end Audrey’s son entertained us to lunch as the Royal Overseas League Club on Piccadilly – more commonly known as the ‘in and ‘out. I still want to take her for lunch at the House of Commons, though. She’s now a constituent of Chukka Umunna, so I’d like to introduce her to him. Assuming he manages to retain his seat, of course…
*
Best headline of the week is from The Economist: “Labour’s Economic Programme: Old McDonnell has plan. He eyes IOUs.”
*

So why haven’t the LibDems made any sort of breakthrough in the polls since Theresa May called the election in mid April? A new YouGov poll this week might have the explanation. It showed that the LibDem policy of appealing to the 48% has fallen at the first hurdle. It seems the 48% is now 22%. Apparently only 22% of Britons believe the government should do a reverse ferret and stay in the EU and go against the June 2016 referendum result. 68% of us think the government should embrace Brexit and just get on with it. It appears that 23% of British people, who originally voted Remain now think the government should respect the referendum result and get on with Brexit. This goes some way to explaining why the LibDem vote share hasn’t moved at all, even in places where the LibDems are expected to win seats. In the South West they’ve gone up from 15% to 16% since May 2015. Meanwhile the Tories have gone from 47% to 52%. Even Labour have risen by 4% there. In London they’ve gone from 8% to 14% but will this really be enough to win back the seats the unexpectedly lost in 2015? It was reported in one of the Sunday papers that canvassers in Kingston & Surbiton, which the Tories won from the senior LibDem Ed Davey in 2015, are having great difficulty identifying and Tory Remain voters who are intending to give their votes to the LibDems. Without them, the LibDems can rightly fear hearing the expression “Conservative Hold” on election night. They may well lose Carshalton & Wallington too.
*
Last week when I interviewed Michael Gove I asked him if he’d accept a Cabinet job if Theresa May wins the election. Without hesitation, he looked me in the eye and said “yes”. He then laughed it off and said it was very unlikely to happen, as you’d expect him to, but I did think to myself, ‘hmmm, I wonder’. Since then he’s been used by CCHQ as a party spokesman more than once, and again yesterday he popped up speaking for the party in one or two morning interviews. When she sacked him, Theresa May apparently told Gove he’d have to earn his passage back. Since then he has been unfalteringly loyal and I suppose I would be less surprised than most if that passage back turned into a cabinet post in June 9th. The question is, which one? I’ll speculate on a reshuffle next week or the week after, but personally I’d love to see him back at either one of his previous cabinets posts. He understood what needed to be done on prison reform and it would be nice if he could see it through. Or, how about him going to Health! Can you imagine the faces on the left if that happened? It’s what Sir Humphrey might call a ‘courageous’ appointment…
*

I wonder if anyone else has wondered, like me, what happens to Mr Speaker Bercow in the event of a landslide victory. It’s true that he hasn’t annoyed the Tories quite as much since Theresa May become prime minister, but there is still a lot of anti feeling on the Tory benches, even if Sir Simon Burns is no longer there to tweak his tail. In the event of a landslide we have to assume that Lindsay Hoyle would be swallowed up in the Tory tsunami and wouldn’t be available to succeed Bercow, whenever that might be. I imagine Eleanor Laing would fancy the job, given that she is next in line in seniority, but I suspect she might face a very strong challenge from Jacob Rees-Mogg. He’s quite popular on the opposition benches and one can only imagine the delights we’d have in store. I’m sure Jess Phillips would happily be his cheerleader in chief and whip Labour MPs into line. There is a feeling that Theresa May would not be happy to support a Speaker putsch, but the price for that might well be for John Bercow to make clear he will depart within two years.

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In the New House of Commons The Number of Women MPs Is Unlikely To Rise Much - But There Will be 24 More Female Tories...

14 May 2017 at 17:15

Over the last few days I have been burnishing my credentials as a political geek and been carrying out some research about the likely makeup of the next House of Commons. In particular the likely number of women MPs. I’ve used my Seat by Seat predictions to analyse how many female MPs there will be from each party and who they will be. I’ll come to the detail in a moment, but my research shows that the number of Conservative female MPs will rise by around a third, but the number of Labour MPs who are female will plummet, even though the percentage of women will rise. Overall, though, the total number of female MPs is unlikely to rise by more than a few.

Let’s put this into some historical context. Since 1918 there have been 456 female MPs. If I am right about the likely Tory majority and makeup of the House of Commons after June 8th we will see 35 new female MPs across all parties – 25 of them Conservatives. These include three ‘retreads’ (Mary Macleod, Esther McVey & Jo Swinson).

This is a list of all the new female MPs…

Bath Lib Wera Hobhouse
Batley and Spen Con Ann Myatt
Birmingham, Edgbaston Con Caroline Squire
Birmingham, Northfield Con Meg Powell Chandler
Brentford and Isleworth Con Mary Macleod
Bristol East Theodora Clarke
Bristol West Green Mary Scott Cato
Chelmsford Con Vicky Ford
Chorley Con Caroline Moon
Coventry North West Con Resham Kotecha
Coventry South Con Michelle Lowe
Dagenham and Rainham Con Julie Marson
Dewsbury Con Beth Prescott
Ealing Central and Acton Con Joy Morrissey
Gedling Con Carolyn Abbott
Great Grimsby Con Jo Gideon
Hampstead and Kilburn Con Claire-Louise Leyland
Harrow West Con Hannah David
Hornchurch and Upminster Con Julia Dockerill
Hove Con Kristy Adams
Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle Lab Emma Hardy
Leigh Lab Jo Platt
Lewes Lib Kelly-Marie Blundell
Lewisham West and Penge Lab Ellie Reeves
Oxford East Lab Annaliese Dodds
Saffron Walden Con Kemi Adegoke
Scunthorpe Con Holly Mumby-Scott
Tatton Con Esther McVey
Thornbury and Yate Lib Clare Young
Westminster North Con Lindsay Hall
Wolverhampton North East Con Sarah Macken
East Dunbartonshire Lib Jo Swinson
Alyn and Deeside Con Laura Knightly
Cardiff Central LibDem Eluned Parrott
Llanelli Plaid Mari Arthur
Newport West Con Angela Rhys Evans
Bridgend Con Karen Robson

After June 8th, assuming a Tory majority of around 130, there will be 195 female MPs in the House of Commons – only tfour more than there are at the moment. This is mainly because the number of female Labour MPs will reduce from 99 to 73. The number of Tory female MPs rises from 68 to 93, and the number of female LibDems from 0 to 5.

Percentage wise the Tory contingent goes up from 20.5% to 23.7%, the Labour proportion rises from 42.5% to 44.8%. The SNP drops from 20 to 17 female MPs and from 35.7% to 32%.

Here’s the list of all 195 female candidates I predict will be elected on June 8th by constituency.

Aberdeen North SNP Kirsty Blackman
Aldridge-Brownhills Con Wendy Morton
Alyn and Deeside Con Laura Knightly
Ashfield Lab Gloria de Piero
Ashton-under-Lyne Lab Angela Rayner
Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock SNP Corri Wilson
Banbury Con Victoria Prentis
Banff and Buchan SNP Eilidh Whiteford
Barking Lab Margaret Hodge
Barnsley East Lab Steph Peacock
Basingstoke Con Maria Miller
Bath Lib Wera Hobhouse
Batley and Spen Con Ann Myatt
Battersea Con Jane Ellison
Berwick-upon-Tweed Con Ann Marie Trevelyan
Bethnal Green and Bow Lab Rushanara Ali
Birmingham, Edgbaston Con Caroline Squire
Birmingham, Ladywood Lab Shabana Mahmood
Birmingham, Northfield Con Meg Powell Chandler
Birmingham, Yardley Lab Jess Phillips
Blackburn Lab Kate Hollern
Blaydon Lab Liz Twist
Bolton South East Lab Yasmin Quereshi
Bradford West Lab Naz Shah
Brent Central Lab Dawn Butler
Brentford and Isleworth Con Mary Macleod
Bridgend Con Karen Robson
Brighton, Pavilion Green Caroline Lucas
Bristol East Con Theodora Clarke
Bristol North West Con Charlotte Leslie
Bristol West Green Mary Scott Cato
Broxtowe Con Anna Soubry
Bury St Edmunds Con Jo Churchill
Camberwell and Peckham Lab Harriet Harman
Cannock Chase Con Amanda Milling
Cardiff Central LibDem Eluned Parrott
Castle Point Con Rebecca Harris
Central Ayrshire SNP Philippa Whitford
Chatham and Aylesford Con Tracey Crouch
Cheadle Con Mary Robinson
Chelmsford Con Vicky Ford
Chesham and Amersham Con Cheryl Gillan
Chippenham Con Michelle Donelan
Chipping Barnet Con Theresa Villiers
Chorley Con Caroline Moon
City of Durham Lab Roberta Blackman-Woods
Congleton Con Fiona Bruce
Copeland Con Trudi Harrison
Coventry North East Lab Colleen Fletcher
Coventry North West Con Resham Kotecha
Coventry South Con Michelle Lowe
Cynon Valley Lab Ann Clwyd
Dagenham and Rainham Con Julie Marson
Derby North Con Amanda Solloway
Derby South Lab Margaret Beckett
Devizes Con Claire Perry
Dewsbury Con Beth Prescott
Don Valley Lab Caroline Flint
Doncaster Central Lab Rosie Winterton
Dulwich and West Norwood Lab Helen Hayes
Dwyfor Meirionnydd Plaid Liz Savile-Roberts
Ealing Central and Acton Con Joy Morrissey
East Dunbartonshire Lib Jo Swinson
East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow SNP Lisa Cameron
East Renfrewshire SNP Kirsten Oswald
Eastbourne Con Caroline Ansell
Eastleigh Con Mims Davies
Eddisbury Con Antoniette Sandbach
Edinburgh North and Leith SNP Deirdre Brock
Edinburgh South West SNP Joanna Cherry
Edmonton Lab Kate Osamor
Epping Forest Con Eleanor Laing
Erewash Con Maggie Throup
Erith and Thamesmead Lab Theresa Pearce
Falkirk SNP John McNally
Fareham Con Suella Fernandes
Faversham and Mid Kent Con Helen Whateley
Feltham and Heston Lab Seema Malhotra
Fermanagh & South Tyrone SF Michelle Gildernew
Garston and Halewood Lab Maria Eagle
Gedling Con Carolyn Abbott
Glasgow Central SNP Alison Thewliss
Glasgow North East SNP Ann McLaughlin
Glasgow North West SNP Carol Monaghan
Gosport Con Caroline Dinenage
Great Grimsby Con Jo Gideon
Guildford Con Anne Milton
Hackney North and Stoke Newington Lab Diane Abott
Hackney South and Shoreditch Lab Meg Hillier
Hampstead and Kilburn Lab Claire-Louise Leyland
Harrow West Con Hannah David
Hastings and Rye Con Amber Rudd
Heywood and Middleton Lab Liz McInnes
Hornchurch and Upminster Con Julia Dockerill
Hornsey and Wood Green Lab Catherine West
Houghton and Sunderland South Lab Bridget Phillipson
Hove Con Kristy Adams
Islington South and Finsbury Lab Emily Thornberry
Kensington Con Victoria Borwick
Kingston upon Hull North Lab Diana Johnson
Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle Lab Emma Hardy
Lanark and Hamilton East SNP Angela Crawley
Leeds West Lab Rachel Reeves
Leicester South Lab Liz Kendall
Leigh Lab Jo Platt
Lewes Lib Kelly-Marie Blundell
Lewisham East Lab Heidi Alexander
Lewisham West and Penge Lab Ellie Reeves
Lewisham, Deptford Lab Vicky Foxcroft
Liverpool, Riverside Lab Louise Ellman
Liverpool, Wavertree Lab Luciana Berger
Livingston SNP Hannah Bardell
Llanelli Plaid Mari Arthur
Loughborough Con Nicky Morgan
Louth and Horncastle Con Victoria Atkins
Maidenhead Con Theresa May
Maidstone and The Weald Con Helen Grant
Makerfield Lab Yvonne Fovargue
Manchester Central Lab Lucy Powell
Meriden Con Caroline Spelman
Mid Bedfordshire Con Nadine Dorries
Mid Derbyshire Con Pauline Latham
Mitcham and Morden Lab Siobhain McDonagh
Morley and Outwood Con Andrea Jenkyns
Neath Lab Christina Rees
Newcastle upon Tyne Central Lab Chi Onwurah
Newcastle upon Tyne North Lab Catherine McKinnell
Newport East Lab Jessica Morden
Newport West Con Angela Rhys Jones
Newton Abbot Con Anne-Marie Morris
Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford Lab Yvette Cooper
North Ayrshire and Arran SNP Patricia Blackford
North Down Ind Sylvia Hermon
North Tyneside Lab Mary Glindon
North West Durham Lab Laura Pidcock
Norwich North Con Chloe Smith
Nottingham South Lab Lilian Greenwood
Ochil and South Perthshire SNP Tasmin Ahmed-Sheikh
Oldham East and Saddleworth Lab Debbie Abrahams
Oxford East Lab Annaliese Dodds
Oxford West and Abingdon Con Nicola Blackwood
Paisley and Renfrewshire South SNP Mhairi Black
Penistone and Stocksbridge Con Nicola Wilson
Portsmouth North Con Penny Mordant
Portsmouth South Con Flick Drummond
Putney Con Justine Greening
Redcar Lab Anna Turley
Redditch Con Rachel Maclean
Rochester and Strood Con Kelly Tolhurst
Romsey and Southampton North Con Caroline Nokes
Rotherham Lab Sarah Champion
Rutherglen and Hamilton West SNP Margaret Farrier
Saffron Walden Con Kemi Adegoke
Salford and Eccles Lab Rebecca Long-Bailey
Scunthorpe Con Holly Mumby-Scott
Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough Lab Gill Furniss
Sleaford and North Hykeham Con Caroline Johnson
South Cambridgeshire Con Heidi Allen
South Derbyshire Con Heather Wheeler
South Down SDLP Margaret Ritchie
South East Cambridgeshire Con Lucy Frazer
South East Cornwall Con Sheryll Murray
South Northamptonshire Con Andrea Leadsom
South Ribble Con Seema Kennedy
South Shields Lab Emma Lewell-Buck
South West Norfolk Con Liz Truss
St Albans Con Anne Main
St Helens South and Whiston Lab Marie Rimmer
Staffordshire Moorlands Con Karen Bradley
Stockport Lab Ann Coffey
Stourbridge Con Margaret James
Stretford and Urmston Lab Kate Green
Suffolk Coastal Con Therese Coffey
Sunderland Central Lab Julie Elliott
Swansea East Lab Carolyn Harris
Tatton Con Esther McVey
Taunton Deane Con Rebecca Pow
Telford Con Lucy Allan
Thornbury and Yate Lib Clare Young
Thurrock Con Jackie Doyle-Price
Totnes Con Sarah Wollaston
Truro and Falmouth Con Sarah Newton
Vauxhall Lab Kate Hoey
Wallasey Lab Angela Eagle
Walthamstow Lab Stella Creasy
Warrington North Lab Helen Jones
Washington and Sunderland West Lab Sharon Hodgson
Wealden Con Nusrat Ghani
West Ham Lab Lyn Brown
West Lancashire Lab Rosie Cooper
West Worcestershire Con Harriet Baldwin
Westminster North Con Lindsay Hall
Wigan Lab Lisa Nandy
Wirral South Lab Alison McGovern
Witham Con Priti Patel
Wolverhampton North East Con Sarah Macken
York Central Lab Rachel Maskell

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General Election Predictions

The 85 Seats That Will Change Hands on June 8th ... (Probably)

13 May 2017 at 22:25

I’ve been tinkering with my seat by seat predictions today, mainly in the light of the fact that UKIP aren’t standing in 243 seats including one or two key marginals. It hasn’t changed my predictions too much though. The main change is that I think it may mean Norman Lamb might lose North Norfolk. His majority was just over 4,000 last time and the UKIP vote was over 8,000. James Wild, the Tory candidate only needs to bag half of those, and he wins. However, Norman’s personal vote is not to be underestimated, as I know only too well! Another casualty of UKIP not standing is likely to be Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds in Stalybridge & Hyde. So my revised totals are…

Con 392, Lab 163, LibDem 16, Green 2, SNP 53, Plaid 5, DUP 8, SF, 5, UUP 1, SDLP 3, Ind 2

I am predicting the Conservatives will gain 68 seats, 61 of which will come at the expense of Labour and 4 from the LibDems, as well as 3 from the SNP and 1 from UKIP.

Labour will gain a solitary seat, Brighton Kemptown from the Conservatives.

The LibDems will lose four seats to the Tories but take 6 from them, as well as 4 from Labour.

Here’s the complete list…

Conservative Gains from Labour

Alyn & Deesside Mark Tami 3343
Barrow in Furness John Woodcock 795
Batley & Spen Tracey Brabin 16537
Birmingham Edgbaston Gisela Stuart 2706
Birmingham Erdington Jack Dromey 5129
Birmingham Northfield Richard Burden 2509
Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman 5218
Blackpool South Gordon Marsden 2585
Bolton North East David Crausby 4377
Bristol East Kerry McCarthy 3980
Brentford & Isleworth Ruth Cadbury 465
Bridgend Madeleine Moon 1927
Bristol South Karin Smith 7128
Cardiff South & Penarth Stephen Doughty 7453
Cardiff West Kevin Brennan 6789
Chorley Lindsay Hoyle 4530
City of Chester Chris Matheson 93
Clwyd South Susan Elan-Jones 2402
Coventry North West Geoffrey Robinson 6288
Coventry South Jim Cunningham 3188
Dagenham & Rainham Jon Cruddas 4980
Darlington Jenny Chapman 3158
Delyn David Hanson 2930
Dewsbury Paula Sherriff 1526
Dudley North Ian Austin 4181
Ealing Central & Acton Rupa Huq 274
Eltham Clive Efford 2693
Enfield North Joan Ryan 1086
Gedling Vernon Coaker 2986
Great Grimsby Melanie Onn 4540
Halifax Holly Lynch 428
Hampstead & Kilburn Tulip Siddiq 1138
Harrow West Gareth Thomas 3143
Hartlepool Iain Wright 3024
Hove Peter Kyle 1236
Hyndburn Graham Jones 4400
Ilford North West Streeting 589
Lancaster & Fleetwood Cat Smith 1265
Luton South Gavin Shuker 5711
Mansfield Alan Meale 5315
Middlesbrough S & E Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop 2268
Newcastle under Lyme Paul Farrelly 650
Newport West Paul Flynn 3544
North East Derbyshire Natascha Engel 1883
Penistone & Stockbridge Angela Smith 6723
Scunthorpe Nick Dakin 3134
Southampton Test Alan Whitehead 3810
Stalybridge & Hyde Jonathan Reynolds 6686
Stoke on Trent North Ruth Smeeth 4836
Stoke on Trent South Robert Flello 2539
Tooting Rosena Allin-Khan 6357
Wakefield Mary Creagh 2613
Walsall North David Winnick 1937
Walsall South Valerie Vaz 6007
Westminster North Karen Buck 2126
Workington Sue Hayman 4686
Worsley & Eccles South Barbara Keeley 5946
Wirral West Margaret Greenwood 417
Wolverhampton North East Emma Reynolds 5495
Wolverhampton South West Rob Marris 801
Wrexham Ian Lucas 1831

Conservative Gains from Liberal Democrats
Carshalton & Wallington Tom Brake 1510
North Norfolk Norman Lamb 4043
Richmond Park Sarah Olney 1872
Southport John Pugh 1322

Conservative Gains from SNP
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk Calum Kerr 328
Dumfries & Galloway Richard Arkless 6514
West Aberdeenshire & Kinkardine Stuart Donaldson 7033

Conservative Gain from UKIP
Clacton Douglas Carswell 3437

Green Gains from Labour
Bristol West Thangnam Debbonaire 5673

Labour Gains from Conservative
Brighton Kemptown Simon Kirby 690

Liberal Democrat Gains from Conservative
Bath Ben Howlett 3833
Cheltenham Alex Chalk 6516
Thornbury & Yate Luke Hall 1495
Kingston James Berry 2834
Lewes Maria Caulfield 1083
Twickenham Tania Mathias 2017

Liberal Democrat Gains from Labour
Burnley Julie Cooper 3244
Cambridge Daniel Zeichner 599
Bermondsey Neil Coyle 4489
Cardiff Central Jo Stevens 4981

Plaid Cymru Gains from Labour
Llanelli Nia Griffith 7095
Yns Mon Albert Owen 229

Sinn Fein Gain From UUP
Fermanagh & South Tyrone Tom Elliot 530

SNP Gain from Labour
Edinburgh South Ian Murray 2637

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ConHome Diary: The Electoral Commission Should Be Wound Up

13 May 2017 at 09:40

And so the CPS decided to take no further action against the 14 MPs the Electoral Commission fingered for allegedly filing inaccurate election expenses after the 2015 election. They’ve left Craig Mackinlay swinging in the wind, but I suspect he’ll be OK. I cannot imagine the CPS now making a decision on his case before polling day. If they do, it could be a ‘James Comey’ moment. When the election over some serious questions need to be asked about the conduct of the Electoral Commission. It is clear they have acted in a party-political manner. Both Labour and the LibDems filed their expenses in exactly the same way as the Conservatives did and yet no action was taken. They also only targeted Tory candidates who actually got elected. They did nothing about the candidates whose expenses were also supposedly inaccurate but failed to get elected.
Each time I have asked the Electoral Commission for an interview they have refused point blank. These people think they are accountable to no one.
I’ve said for a long time this organisation was out of control and not fit for purpose. I hope the whole bloody thing is abolished. Electoral matters used to come under the remit of the Home Office and it all worked perfectly well. There was little electoral fraud and the postal voting system wasn’t abused.
If Nick Timothy is reading this, I’d imagine he has a lot of sympathy with what I have said. Let me put this idea into his head… I hope the Electoral Commission (Abolition) Bill will be in Theresa May’s first Queen’s Speech. I suspect I will live in hope on that, but you never know.
*
UKIP pretend that they are only standing down candidates where the Tory MP or Tory candidate has an impeccable record on Brexit. It’s simply not true. In Norfolk they’re not fielding a candidate against Chloe Smith in Norwich North, who was a devout Remain supporter, if I remember correctly. They’re also not standing in Norwich South, which could enable a big electoral surprise to happen. Clive Lewis, the Labour candidate, who won the seat in 2015 and is seen as a possible successor to Jeremy Corbyn, could be in a bit of trouble. My old opponent in North Norfolk may also be experiencing a sensation of the squeaky bum variety. Norman Lamb has a majority of around 4,500. UKIP’s vote last time was more than 8,000 there and they aren’t standing a candidate. The recently selected Tory candidate there, James Wild, may well find all his Christmases have come at once.
All this means that my prediction of a Tory majority of 130 may well have to be revised upwards depending on how many UKIP candidates are standing in Labour/Tory or LibDem/Tory marginals. Nominations closed at 4pm yesterday, so at the time of writing, the numbers are not yet clear.
It is in many ways shameful that UKIP aren’t standing in every seat. They’re supposed to be a national political party. Just like this fraudulent Progressive Alliance (commonly known as the ‘Anyone But The Tories’ Alliance) they won’t be giving their supporters a chance to vote for them. The LibDems are standing down in several seats too, so there are only two parties now who can genuinely call themselves ‘national’ parties.
*

So, the CPS have decided not to charge anyone with regard to election expenses. Move along here, nothing to see? I doubt it very much. There will be consequences here for both the Electoral Commission and some CCHQ apparatchiks and procedures. I imagine MPs like Karl McCartney will see to that, assuming he is re-elected (which I predict he will be).
*
Michael Crick tweeted a very serious allegation this week. He wrote: “What shocks me is reporters collaborating with May press team by agreeing to reveal their questions to them in advance.” I responded by asking him to provide some evidence for that. He declined to do so. He can’t, because there is none. He’s impugned the character of people like Laura Kuennsberg, Faisal Islam and various print newspaper journalists. He should put up or withdraw. I know of no journalist who would ever consider giving details of their questions to politicians in advance. I have never been asked to do so, and nor would I ever do so. To suggest that others would is an absolute disgrace.
*

I do sometimes wonder about some people who run for political office. Last Friday I was ambling to Charing Cross Station and encountered a government minister on his bike, seemingly cycling around without a care in the world. OK, he’s in a safe seat, but at 7 O’Clock on a Friday evening you might have thought he’d be out canvassing along with the poor bloody infantry. And then I see the Tory candidate for Natasha Ashgar trumpeting on Twitter about her music tour. “Tonight Leicester, tomorrow Manchester…”. Call me old fashioned, but I’d have thought if you’d just been selected in a highly marginal seat, which the Conservatives expect to win, you’d clear your diary, head down to Newport (assuming she knows where it is) and put your shoulder to the campaigning wheel. Maybe it was different in “my day”.

  • I had a text from a friend of mine in Norwich South yesterday. “OMG Labour canvassing on my doorstep and I told them I wouldn’t be voting for Clive Lewis as he was a tosser. Poor lad could only reply: “You’re not the first to say that today.” And my friend isn’t even a Tory!
    *
    Quote of the week from Nadhim Zahawi on my radio show: “Theresa May is not a Prime Minister for soundbites…”. He did say it is a very strong and stable way… without the hand of history on his shoulder.

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General Election Predictions

General Election 2017 Seat by Seat Predictions: Final Totals - We're Heading for A Conservative Majority of 130ish

7 May 2017 at 16:59

Over the last three weeks I have been trying to predict the outcome of each of the 650 seats up for grabs at this election. Here is my final seat prediction…

Conservative 392 (62)
Labour 163 (-69)
Liberal Democrats 16 (
7)
SNP 53 (-3)
Plaid Cymru 5 (2)
Green 2 (
1)
DUP 8 (-)
UUP 1 (-1)
Sinn Fein 5 (+1)
SDLP 3 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)

In some ways doing these predictions is a fools errand as I cannot possibly know all the local circumstances in each seat. However, I have tried to be as clever as I can by looking at local election results, polling data, other people’s predictions on sites like PoliticalBetting.com and UKPollingReport and anecdotal evidence which I have picked up. However, I have also made one or two assumptions.

The main assumption is that the UKIP vote is going to reduce dramatically. We don’t yet know how many seats UKIP is actually going to put up candidates in. The ITV Wales YouGov poll showed that 64% of the UKIP vote will transfer directly to the Conservatives, and only 2% to Labour. In many Labour held marginals it would only take 25-40% of the UKIP vote to go to the Conservative candidate for him/her to win. If there is no UKIP candidate in a Labour marginal, some very bizarre seats could end up going to the Conservatives – there may be one or two with five figures majorities which fall. I am also assuming a decline in the Labour vote more generally, partly due to an anti-Corbyn phenomenon in many areas, and also because the LibDems have become seen as the party of ‘Remain’.

Although I expect the LibDems to gain seats, I do not expect them to make a major breakthrough. In fact, I’d say it’s almost impossible for them to come back to anything like their previus strength at this election. Matthew Goodwin has written about a ‘blue wall’ which they have to overcome in the South West, one of their previous strongholds. From my analysis I don’t expect them to gain a single seat in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset or Wiltshire. Their 2015 result was so catastrophic, and together with the fact that their decline in local government has yet to be reversed in any meaningful way, it would be a miracle if they managed to win more than 20-25 seats.

In Scotland the SNP will continue to reign supreme and although they will lose a few seats to the Conservatives, and one (possibly two) to the LibDems, I expect them to take Labour’s remaining seat off them to wipe out Labour altogether. Other pundits are predicting the Conservatives could take 8-10 seats. By my reckoning this is unlikely to happen. I predict four.

In Wales, although the local election results weren’t as convincing for the Conservatives as they might have liked, I predict they wil end up with 19 seats, with Labour on 14 and Plaid on 5.

UKIP certainly won’t be represented in the next parliament, but the Greens could win a second seat in Bristol West. I realise most people will think I’ve lost my senses by predicting this, but I think it’s entirely possible.

When I did this exercise last time i came up with a Conservative seat prediction of 323 – only 8 out from what it turned out to be. However, I didn’t publish that because I felt it overestimated the Tory total. So I went back through all 650 seats and cut 33 seats to leave a total of 290. I should have trusted my first instincts. This time I haven’t gone through them again, so what you have here is genuinely my first instincts. During the campaign I may go back to some seats and change the prediction if new information comes to light. In most seats this may be because of the fact that UKIP aren’t standing.

Obviously all this could be thrown into disarray by a very low turnout. I have assumed a turnout of around 63-65%. In terms of vote share I’d have thought it would be something like this:

Con 44%
Lab 28%
Lib 14%
UKIP 5%

Feel free to let me know if you think I have got anything dramatically wrong or you have some new information for me. Either leave a comment or email me via the Contact box at the top of the page.

Here are links to the regional breakdowns, and individual seat predictions.

Bedfordshire
Berkshire
Birmingham
Bristol & Surrounds
Buckinghamshire
Cambridgeshire
Cheshire
Cornwall
County Durham
Cumbria
Derbyshire
Devon
Dorset
East Sussex
Essex
Gloucestershire
Hampshire
Herefordshire & Worcestershire
Hertfordshire
Kent
Lancashire
Leicestershire
Lincolnshire
London Central
London East
London North East
London North West
London South
London South East
London South West
London West
Manchester
Merseyside
Norfolk
Northamptonshire
Northern Ireland
Northumberland
Nottinghamshire
Oxfordshire
Scotland: Borders & Ayrshire
Scotland: Central
Scotland: Edinburgh
Scotland: Fife
Scotland: Glasgow
Scotland: Glasgow Surrounds
Scotland: North East
Scotland: Highlands & Islands
Shropshire
Somerset
Staffordshire
Suffolk
Surrey
Teesside
Tyne & Wear
Wales – Clwyd
Wales – Dyfed
Wales – Gwent
Wales – Gwynned & Powys
Wales – Mid Glamorgan
Wales – South Glamorgan
Wales – West Glamorgan
Warwickshire
West Midlands
West Sussex
Wiltshire
Yorkshire: East & Humberside
Yorkshire: North
Yorkshire South
Yorkshire: West

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LBC 97.3: Iain takes James Purnell to Task

James Purnell is the former cabinet minister and now the Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC. He is very uncomfortable talking about his £295,000 salary (more than twice what Maria Miller gets as Culture Secretary) and is unable to tell us how much the BBC’s move to Salford cost. Well, at that salary you wouldn’t expect him to be a details man, would you?

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