UK Politics

Revised General Election Predictions for the South East

16 Mar 2015 at 18:53

There are 78 parliamentary constituencies in the South East. In my original predictions in January, this is how things stood…

Conservative 67
Labour 7
LibDem 1
UKIP 1
Green 1
Speaker 1

There are only two constituencies in the South East that I wish to revise my predictions for, and both are to the advantage of the Liberal Democrats.

Eastbourne

2010 Result:
Conservative: 21223 (40.7%)
Labour: 2497 (4.8%)
Lib Dem: 24658 (47.3%)
BNP: 939 (1.8%)
UKIP: 1305 (2.5%)
Independent: 1327 (2.5%)
Others: 175 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 3435 (6.6%)

Sitting MP: Stephen Lloyd (LibDem)
Prediction: Probable Conservative gain
Revised Prediction: LibDem hold

Won in 2010 from Nigel Waterson, Stephen Lloyd may hang on, but I’d expect the Labour vote to at least double at the expense of the LibDems, so yet again, a lot depends on how many votes the Tories lose to UKIP. Lloyd has been a hardworking MP but rather preposterously resigned as a government PPS as his constituency didn’t get enough ‘pork’ in the autumn statement. UPDATE: Since I predicted this I have had a lot of representations from people who reckon I’ve got this wrong. In addition, I had missed the Ashcroft poll which had put the LibDems way ahead 47-25. So when the facts change, I change my mind.

Eastleigh

2010 Result:
Conservative: 21102 (39.3%)
Labour: 5153 (9.6%)
Lib Dem: 24966 (46.5%)
UKIP: 1933 (3.6%)
English Dem: 249 (0.5%)
Independent: 154 (0.3%)
Others: 93 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 3864 (7.2%)

2013 BY ELECTION Result:
Conservative: 10,559 (25.4%)
Labour: 3088 (9.8%)
Lib Dem: 13,342 (32.1%)
UKIP: 11,571 (27.8%)
Others: 2,194 (4.8%)
MAJORITY: 1,771 (4.3%)

Sitting MP: Mike Thornton (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain
Revised Prediction: LibDem hold

The Conservatives thought they would win this seat back at each of the last two general elections, but each time Chris Huhne pulled through. At the by-election they came third, with UKIP almost pipping the rather monochrome Mike Thornton. It’s highly unlikely UKIP’s vote will hold up so the outcome of this seat may depend on where UKIP’s voters put their cross. If enough of them return to the Conservative fold, it could be enough to see the Conservative home. Having said that, the LibDems remain strong in local government and have a good infrastructure there. This could prove to be the difference, but on balance I think their national woes may count against Thornton holding the seat. I realise I may be in the minority in making this particular prediction. UPDATE: I had thought Diane James was standing here for UKIP, but that’s not the case. In addition, feeback from those who are more in the know than I am suggest that the LibDems will be OK here. I’m still not wholly convinced, but we’ll see.

I am not making any changes to my existing predictions for Berkshire, Kent & West Sussex. So with only two changes, this is how the South East now looks…

Conservative 65
Labour 7
LibDem 3
UKIP 1
Green 1
Speaker 1

Which means the main state of play alters slightly to…

Conservative 278
Labour 276
LibDem 24
UKIP 6
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 3
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2

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UK Politics

Revised General Election Predictions for East Anglia

16 Mar 2015 at 10:41

There are 58 parliamentary seats in the East of England, which comprises Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Back in January I predicted this outcome…

Conservative 43
Labour 10
Liberal Democrat 3
UKIP 2

Let’s start of by revising two of my Essex predictions.

Castle Point

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19806 (44%)
Labour: 6609 (14.7%)
Lib Dem: 4232 (9.4%)
BNP: 2205 (4.9%)
Others: 12174 (27%)
MAJORITY: 7632 (17%)

Sitting MP: Rebecca Harris (Con)
Prediction: Narrow Conservative hold
Revised Prediction: UKIP gain

One of the more interesting Essex seats due to its previous MP, Bob Spink. He succeeded Sir Bernard Braine in 1992 but then lost it in the 1997 Labour landslide, before regaining in four years later. He then briefly defected to UKIP before cutting ties with them. He is not standing this time, but the UKIP candidate, Jamie Huntsman, is the UKIP leader on Essex County Council. Canvey Island has the highest proportion of people in England who identified as “English” in the 2011 census. This is part of the reason why many think that behind Clacton and Thurrock, this is UKIP’s third best target seat in Essex. An upset could be on the cards here, but the most likely result is a Tory hold. UPDATE: UKIP are putting a huge amount of effort into this seat and the demographics are in their favour. I’ve now moved to thinking a UKIP victory is slightly more likely than not.

Harlow

2010 Result:
Conservative: 19691 (44.9%)
Labour: 14766 (33.7%)
Lib Dem: 5990 (13.7%)
BNP: 1739 (4%)
UKIP: 1591 (3.6%)
Christian: 101 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 4925 (11.2%)

Sitting MP: Robert Halfon (Con)
Prediction: Very narrow Labour gain
Revised Prediction: Conservative hold

Robert Halfon’s majority in 2010 was far higher than he had ever dreamed, but this is a seat that goes with the prevailing political wind. Halfon has proved himself to be an adept political campaigner but can he really hold off the Labour challenge? He must be hoping that UKIP will chip away at the Labour vote, as well as recognising that he will also lose some white working class votes to Farage’s party too. There are 6,000 LibDem votes up for grabs here too, which will also make the Tories nervous about their chances of retaining this seat. They are right to be. UPDATE: Of all my predictions in January this one drew the most criticism. Even Labour supporters reckoned I had called it wrong. I’ve also talked to several people who live there and every single one of them reckons Rob Halfon will hold on. So I’m changing my mind on this one.

In Norfolk the two seats which provide me with some concern are Norwich North and Great Yarmouth. In Norwich North I have predicted Chloe Smith will narrowly lose to Jessica Asato. Since then, Lord Ashcroft has done a constituency poll which gives Labour a lead of 1% there. In Great Yarmouth I have predicted that Brandon Lewis will hang on as UKIP will take a lot of votes from Labour but not quite enough to oust him. Had UKIP had a candidate in place for some time I might have predicted a UKIP gain here. However, in both seats I’ll stick to my original predictions. So in Norfolk, there is no change.

In Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire I make no changes to my original predictions.

So this is my updated prediction for East Anglia…

Conservative 43
Labour 9
Liberal Democrat 3
UKIP 3

This means to overall prediction changes to…

Conservative 280
Labour 276
LibDem 22
UKIP 6
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 3
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2

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General Election Predictions

I've Revised My General Election Predictions For Scotland & It Means a Minority Government Looms Ever More Likely

15 Mar 2015 at 16:50

Back in January and early February I carried out seat by seat predictions in all 650 parliamentary constituencies. I promised to revisit these predictions in March and late April. I am going to start that process now by looking at Scotland. Back in February I predicted Labour 33, SNP 18, LibDems 5, Conservatives 3. Since then polls have shown a consistent lead for the SNP of around 42-21, with the Conservatives on around 15%. When I first did these predictions I found it more or less impossible to get the SNP above 18 seats. I found it very difficult to believe they could overturn Labour majorties of 15,000 or more. But when you study the polls in detail, and especially the Lord Ashcroft individual constituency polls it is clear that a major shift is happening and that Labour support is collapsing to the SNP. Therefore it is natural to want to reappraise each constituency in detail, and see where we end up. We should bear in mind that the Ashcroft polls only name parties and not candidates, so it is reasonable to assume that in some constituencies personal votes and name recognition will play a role. This is the Liberal Democrat hope. It may save one or two of their MPs but not many. I’d suggest that Charles Kennedy may be one which this phenomenon applies to, but I don’t think it will be enough to save Danny Alexander’s political skin. If Sir Malcolm Bruce and Sir Ming Campbell were standing again it may have applied to them. But they’re not and I doubt whether their succesors will be able to prevail on their coattails.

One other thing to mention from the Ashcroft polls is that the SNP does disproportionately well among younger people and far less well among older voters, but it is they who are more likely to turn out. However, if turnout is high that will help the SNP as they will have mobilised their vote. Indeed, they now have the manpower to do just that with their rising membership. In Jo Swinson’s seat I am told they have 1,000 new members. If they can be mobilised to get out the SNP vote on election day that will make a tremendous difference.

The detailed seat breakdown is listed below but this is how I now predict the parties will end up on May 7th in Scotland…

SNP 42
Labour 11
LibDem 3
Conservative 3

My overall prediction shows that the Conservatives and Labour are more or less neck and neck…

Conservative 280
Labour 277
LibDem 22
UKIP 5
SNP 42
Plaid Cymru 3
DUP 9
Respect 1
Green 1
Sinn Fein 5
SDLP 3
Others 2

This means that for Labour to form a coalition, it would need more than the SNP’s 42 MPs to do so. It would need the SNP plus the LibDems and/or the DUP. For the Conservatives it is difficult to see how they could form a coalition at all, assuming the LibDems fare as badly as this prediction suggests. Combined they would still be only on 302.

Over the next few days I am going to revisit my Welsh and English predictions, but I do not anticipate any meaningful change in the two main party totals. So my overall prediction is that there will be a minority government and quite possibly a second general election this year.

Scotland – North & Islands

Seats: 6
Current Political Makeup: LibDem 4, SNP 2
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: LibDem 4, SNP 2
Revised Prediction after May 7: LibDem 2, SNP 4

1. Orkney & Shetland

2010 Result:
Conservative: 2032 (10.5%)
Labour: 2061 (10.7%)
Lib Dem: 11989 (62%)
SNP: 2042 (10.6%)
UKIP: 1222 (6.3%)
MAJORITY: 9928 (51.3%)

Sitting MP: Alistair Carmichael (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

If the LibDems were reduced to two seats, this would be one of the two. A real LibDem stronghold.

2. Na h-Eileanan an lar

2010 Result:
Conservative: 647 (4.4%)
Labour: 4838 (32.9%)
Lib Dem: 1097 (7.5%)
SNP: 6723 (45.7%)
Independent: 1412 (9.6%)
MAJORITY: 1885 (12.8%)

Sitting MP: Angus MacNeil (SNP)
Prediction: SNP hold

Smallest constituency in the country. Was a Labour seat until 2005.

3. Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3744 (13%)
Labour: 7081 (24.6%)
Lib Dem: 11907 (41.4%)
SNP: 5516 (19.2%)
Independent: 520 (1.8%)
MAJORITY: 4826 (16.8%)

Sitting MP: John Thurso (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Both Labour and the SNP think they can win this seat. Highland voters tend to give an incumbent a bigger personal vote than elsewhere and John Thurso is a very popular MP. If anyone can hold a LibDem seat on the Scottish mainland he can. UPDATE: But all the polls point to him now losing.

4. Ross, Skye & Lochaber

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4260 (12.2%)
Labour: 5265 (15.1%)
Lib Dem: 18335 (52.6%)
SNP: 5263 (15.1%)
Green: 777 (2.2%)
UKIP: 659 (1.9%)
Independent: 279 (0.8%)
MAJORITY: 13070 (37.5%)

Sitting MP: Charles Kennedy (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

Charles Kennedy surely has to be safe here. The Ashcroft poll puts doubt in my mind, but I think the Kennedy name will see him through.

5. Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6278 (13.3%)
Labour: 10407 (22.1%)
Lib Dem: 19172 (40.7%)
SNP: 8803 (18.7%)
Green: 789 (1.7%)
UKIP: 574 (1.2%)
Christian: 835 (1.8%)
TUSC: 135 (0.3%)
Others: 93 (0.2%)
MAJORITY: 8765 (18.6%)

Sitting MP: Danny Alexander (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

This seat has unsurprisingly received a lot of Treasury ‘pork’ and the LibDems are putting huge financial resources into it. However, the SNP think it is theirs for the taking and have selected the local council leader Drew Hendry to fight it. Why? They got 51% of the vote in the Holyrood election with the LibDems only scoring 12%. An ICM poll also had the LibDems down 25% and them coming in third place. If this really happened it would evidence of a complete meltdown for the LibDems in Scotland. However the poll size was only 309 so I don’t set much store by that. UPDATE: Everything now points to Danny Alexander being in real trouble here. There’s a lot of pork barrel politics going on in this seat, but it now looks doubtful that anything can save Danny unless the opposition splits three ways as it did in 2010.

6. Moray

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10683 (26.1%)
Labour: 7007 (17.1%)
Lib Dem: 5956 (14.5%)
SNP: 16273 (39.7%)
UKIP: 1085 (2.6%)
MAJORITY: 5590 (13.6%)

Sitting MP: Angus Robertson (SNP)
Prediction: SNP hold

No problems for the Westminster leader (for now!) of the SNP.

Scotland – North East

Seats: 6
Current Political Makeup: Lab 2, LibDem 2, SNP 2
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Con 1, Lab 1, SNP 4
Revised Prediction: Con 1, Lab 1, SNP 4

7. Banff & Buchan

2010 Result:
Conservative: 11841 (30.8%)
Labour: 5382 (14%)
Lib Dem: 4365 (11.3%)
SNP: 15868 (41.3%)
BNP: 1010 (2.6%)
MAJORITY: 4027 (10.5%)

Sitting MP: Eilidh Whiteford (SNP)
Prediction: SNP hold

An easy win for the SNP here.

8. Gordon

2010 Result:
Conservative: 9111 (18.7%)
Labour: 9811 (20.1%)
Lib Dem: 17575 (36%)
SNP: 10827 (22.2%)
BNP: 699 (1.4%)
Green: 752 (1.5%)
MAJORITY: 6748 (13.8%)

Sitting MP: Sir Malcolm Bruce (LibDem)
Prediction: SNP gain

Sir Malcolm Bruce is standing down. He has benefited from a split opposition in the past but the SNP have been making headway here, and few observers think the LibDems will hold off their challenge. The LibDems’ best strategy is to court tactical votes from Labour and the Tories to keep out Alex Salmond, assuming he does decide to stand here. According to THIS article, that’s just what they are trying.

9. Aberdeen North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4666 (12.4%)
Labour: 16746 (44.4%)
Lib Dem: 7001 (18.6%)
SNP: 8385 (22.2%)
BNP: 635 (1.7%)
Others: 268 (0.7%)
MAJORITY: 8361 (22.2%)

Sitting MP: Frank Doran (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

A big majority, but the popular Frank Doran is standing down and the SNP have high hopes of taking this seat. They have never done especially well in Aberdeen, but that could change in May. One to watch.

10. Aberdeen South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 8914 (20.7%)
Labour: 15722 (36.5%)
Lib Dem: 12216 (28.4%)
SNP: 5102 (11.9%)
BNP: 529 (1.2%)
Green: 413 (1%)
Others: 138 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 3506 (8.1%)

Sitting MP: Dame Anne Begg (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

This used to be a Tory seat and they still retain a substantial vote. However, with the probably collapse of the LibDem vote, Labour’s majority should increase here.

11. West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine

2010 Result:
Conservative: 13678 (30.3%)
Labour: 6159 (13.6%)
Lib Dem: 17362 (38.4%)
SNP: 7086 (15.7%)
BNP: 513 (1.1%)
UKIP: 397 (0.9%)
MAJORITY: 3684 (8.2%)

Sitting MP: Sir Robert Smith (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain

This may well turn into a three way marginal, with the Tories and the SNP trying to oust Sir Robert Smith. The LibDem majority was halved last time, and it’s very possible to see how rises in the Labour and SNP votes could see this seat return to the Conservative fold. But if the SNP do as the current polls suggest they will, don’t rule out an astonishing SNP gain here. UPDATE: A LibDem poll here by Survation (naming the candidates) shows the LibDems ahead on 30% with the Tories on 26% and the SNP on 25%. The Ashcroft poll showed a massive lead for the SNP, but didn’t name the candidates. Labour are nowhere. This seat could go SNP, but I’m sticking with my original prediction. I just don’t see the LibDems hanging on here.

12. Angus

2010 Result:
Conservative: 11738 (30.9%)
Labour: 6535 (17.2%)
Lib Dem: 4090 (10.8%)
SNP: 15020 (39.6%)
UKIP: 577 (1.5%)
MAJORITY: 3282 (8.6%)

Sitting MP: Michael Weir (SNP)
Prediction: SNP hold

I can’t see anything other than an SNP hold here, despite the Tories being a strong second.

Scotland – Central

Seats: 5
Current Political Makeup: Lab 2, LibDem 1, SNP 2
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Lab 0, SNP 5
Revised Prediction: Lab 0, SNP 5

13. Dundee East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6177 (15.2%)
Labour: 13529 (33.3%)
Lib Dem: 4285 (10.6%)
SNP: 15350 (37.8%)
Green: 542 (1.3%)
UKIP: 431 (1.1%)
Others: 254 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 1821 (4.5%)

Sitting MP: Stewart Hosie (SNP)
Prediction: SNP hold

No problems for Stewart Hosie here.

14. Dundee West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3461 (9.3%)
Labour: 17994 (48.5%)
Lib Dem: 4233 (11.4%)
SNP: 10716 (28.9%)
TUSC: 357 (1%)
Independent: 365 (1%)
MAJORITY: 7278 (19.6%)

Sitting MP: Jim McGovern (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

Labour has a good majority here but Dundee has always been susceptible to the allure of the SNP and I think they have a good chance of winning here. There are rumours that Jim McGovern is being pressured to stand aside for a new candidate.

15. Perth & North Perthshire

2010 Result:
Conservative: 14739 (30.5%)
Labour: 7923 (16.4%)
Lib Dem: 5954 (12.3%)
SNP: 19118 (39.6%)
Others: 534 (1.1%)
MAJORITY: 4379 (9.1%)

Sitting MP: Pete Wishart (SNP)
Prediction: SNP hold

Rumour is that the Tories are fighting hard to wrest this from the SNP. It would be a brave person who would put money on it though.

16. Argyll & Bute

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10861 (24%)
Labour: 10274 (22.7%)
Lib Dem: 14292 (31.6%)
SNP: 8563 (18.9%)
Green: 789 (1.7%)
Independent: 272 (0.6%)
Others: 156 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 3431 (7.6%)

Sitting MP: Alan Reid (LibDem)
Prediction: SNP gain

This is a genuine four way marginal now. However, Labour has no record locally and it’s likely their vote and indeed the LibDem vote may splinter to the SNP. If the Tories can take votes from the LibDems they may have a vague possibility of winning here, but my gut instinct is that the SNP is the more likely winner.My original prediction last year was that Alan Reid might hold this, or it would go to Labour. I have revised my view based on more research.

17. Stirling

2010 Result:
Conservative: 11254 (24%)
Labour: 19558 (41.8%)
Lib Dem: 6797 (14.5%)
SNP: 8091 (17.3%)
Green: 746 (1.6%)
UKIP: 395 (0.8%)
MAJORITY: 8304 (17.7%)

Sitting MP: Anne McGuire (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

An interesting seat, the more so since the popular Ann McGuire is standing down. The Tories haven’t won here since Michael Forsyth unexpectedly held the seat in 1992. They won’t this time either. They might not, but the SNP might well come from third place to win this seat.

Scotland – Fife

Seats: 6
Current Political Makeup: Lab 5, LibDem 1
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Lab 3, LibDem 1, SNP 2
Revised Prediction: Lab 1, LibDem 1, SNP 4

18. Ochil & South Perthshire

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10342 (20.5%)
Labour: 19131 (37.9%)
Lib Dem: 5754 (11.4%)
SNP: 13944 (27.6%)
Green: 609 (1.2%)
UKIP: 689 (1.4%)
MAJORITY: 5187 (10.3%)

Sitting MP: Gordon Banks (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

If the SNP is to break through, then this is a must-win seat for them.

19. North East Fife

2010 Result:
Conservative: 8715 (21.8%)
Labour: 6869 (17.1%)
Lib Dem: 17763 (44.3%)
SNP: 5685 (14.2%)
UKIP: 1032 (2.6%)
MAJORITY: 9048 (22.6%)

Sitting MP: Sir Menzies Campbell (LibDem)
Prediction: LibDem hold

Last year I reckoned this seat would definitely remain LibDem. Now I am not so sure. There has been a movement from the LibDems to the Tories in Scotland. At the moment it wouldn’t be enough to gift the Tories the seat, but they will be putting in a lot of effort here. The big question is if the SNP can also capitalise on ex LibDem voters here. At the moment I’’m keeping this as a LibDem hold but this is one to watch before the election. UPDATE: If Sir Ming was standing again I would bve 100% confident that he would hold this seat. But he’s not. However, the SNP have such a mountain to climb here I just can’t believe they can overturn a majority of this size in this seat. They would have to take votes from both Labour and Conservative in substantial numbers to do so. I reckon they have a 25% chance.

20. Glenrothes

2010 Result:
Conservative: 2922 (7.2%)
Labour: 25247 (62.3%)
Lib Dem: 3108 (7.7%)
SNP: 8799 (21.7%)
UKIP: 425 (1%)
MAJORITY: 16448 (40.6%)

Sitting MP: Lindsay Roy (Lab)
Prediction: Lab hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATED: The Ashcroft poll shows the SNP on the march in Fife in general. Lindsay Roy’s successor will do well to see them off.

21. Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4258 (9.3%)
Labour: 29559 (64.5%)
Lib Dem: 4269 (9.3%)
SNP: 6550 (14.3%)
UKIP: 760 (1.7%)
Independent: 184 (0.4%)
Others: 222 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 23009 (50.2%)

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

Safe seat.

22. Dunfermline West & Fife

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3305 (6.8%)
Labour: 22639 (46.3%)
Lib Dem: 17169 (35.1%)
SNP: 5201 (10.6%)
UKIP: 633 (1.3%)
MAJORITY: 5470 (11.2%)

Sitting MP: Thomas Docherty (Lab)
Prediction: Lab hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Not a massive majority, but with the LibDems in second place it’s hard to believe that there can be any other outcome here other than a Labour hold. UPDATE: This is one of those seats that if the polls are right the SNP would take.

23. Falkirk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 5698 (11.2%)
Labour: 23207 (45.7%)
Lib Dem: 5225 (10.3%)
SNP: 15364 (30.3%)
UKIP: 1283 (2.5%)
MAJORITY: 7843 (15.4%)

Sitting MP: Eric Joyce (Ind, formerly Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

Eric Joyce’s chickens may well come home to roost for Labour. Even thought there is a big Labour majority here, the SNP are in a good second place and I would expect the Labout vote to go down to below 35%, allowing the SNP to cut through.

Scotland – Edinburgh

Seats: 9
Current Political Makeup: Lab 8, LibDem 1
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Labour 6, SNP 3
Revised Prediction: Lab 2, SNP 7

34. Linlithgow & Falkirk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6146 (11.9%)
Labour: 25634 (49.8%)
Lib Dem: 6589 (12.8%)
SNP: 13081 (25.4%)
MAJORITY: 12553 (24.4%)

Sitting MP: Michael Connarty (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

Should be safe, but isn’t…

35. Livingston

2010 Result:
Conservative: 5158 (10.8%)
Labour: 23215 (48.5%)
Lib Dem: 5316 (11.1%)
SNP: 12424 (25.9%)
BNP: 960 (2%)
UKIP: 443 (0.9%)
Independent: 149 (0.3%)
Others: 242 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 10791 (22.5%)

Sitting MP: Graeme Morrice (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

36. Edinburgh West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 10767 (23.2%)
Labour: 12881 (27.7%)
Lib Dem: 16684 (35.9%)
SNP: 6115 (13.2%)
MAJORITY: 3803 (8.2%)

Sitting MP: Michael Crockart (LibDem)
Prediction: SNP gain

Frankly this could go anywhere. I’m not sure the SNP can spring from fourth to first place, but it’s perfectly possible to se a scenario where they could. It really depends how the LibDem cookie crumbles, and crumble it surely will. I had predicted a LibDem hold here, but now I am not so sure. Their majority went down by 10,000 last time and they’be been obliterated in recent elections in Edinburgh.

37. Edinburgh South West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 11026 (24.3%)
Labour: 19473 (42.8%)
Lib Dem: 8194 (18%)
SNP: 5530 (12.2%)
Green: 872 (1.9%)
Others: 367 (0.8%)
MAJORITY: 8447 (18.6%)

Sitting MP: Alistair Darling (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Alistair Darling may be retiring, but it’s difficult to see a result here that isn’t a Labour win. UPDATED: How tim changes things. If Darling were staying things might be different but the Ashcroft poll makes it difficult to predict anything but a Labour loss to the SNP.

38. Edinburgh North & Leith

2010 Result:
Conservative: 7079 (14.9%)
Labour: 17740 (37.5%)
Lib Dem: 16016 (33.8%)
SNP: 4568 (9.6%)
Green: 1062 (2.2%)
Liberal: 389 (0.8%)
TUSC: 233 (0.5%)
Independent: 128 (0.3%)
Others: 141 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 1724 (3.6%)

Sitting MP: Mark Lazarowicz (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

This seat has a small majority but because it is the LibDems who are the challengers, I am predicting an increased Labour majority here. UPDATED: Surely too difficult for the SNP to steal a march from fourth place?

39. Edinburgh East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4358 (10.9%)
Labour: 17314 (43.4%)
Lib Dem: 7751 (19.4%)
SNP: 8133 (20.4%)
Green: 2035 (5.1%)
TUSC: 274 (0.7%)
MAJORITY: 9181 (23%)

Sitting MP: Sheila Gilmore (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: Was. Not anymore.

40. Edinburgh South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 9452 (21.6%)
Labour: 15215 (34.7%)
Lib Dem: 14899 (34%)
SNP: 3354 (7.7%)
Green: 881 (2%)
MAJORITY: 316 (0.7%)

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

The LibDems came so close to winning this seat in 2010. If much of their 2010 vote transfers to the Conservatives, as it could do, this could be a surprise Tory gain in May. Don’t bank on it through. I predict Ian Murray will hold on.

41. Midlothian

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4661 (11.9%)
Labour: 18449 (47%)
Lib Dem: 6711 (17.1%)
SNP: 8100 (20.6%)
Green: 595 (1.5%)
UKIP: 364 (0.9%)
TUSC: 166 (0.4%)
Independent: 196 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 10349 (26.4%)

Sitting MP: David Hamilton (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Try as the SNP might, I just don’t see them overturning this size of majority. Elsewhere maybe, but not in this seat. UPDATE: I’ve tried. And I might.

42. East Lothian

2010 Result:
Conservative: 9661 (19.7%)
Labour: 21919 (44.6%)
Lib Dem: 8288 (16.9%)
SNP: 7883 (16%)
Green: 862 (1.8%)
UKIP: 548 (1.1%)
MAJORITY: 12258 (24.9%)

Sitting MP: Fiona O’Donnell (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: If the SNP stay at plus 40% in the polls, they will take this seat.

Scotland – Borders & Ayrshire

Seats: 7
Current Political Makeup: Con 1, Lab 5, Lib 1
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Con 2, Lab 4, SNP 1
Revised Prediction: Con 2, SNP 5

28. North Ayshire & Arran

2010 Result:
Conservative: 7212 (15.6%)
Labour: 21860 (47.4%)
Lib Dem: 4630 (10%)
SNP: 11965 (25.9%)
Others: 449 (1%)
MAJORITY: 9895 (21.5%)

Sitting MP: Katy Clark (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

Big majority to overcome, but the polls show that it’s possible in this area.

29. Central Ayrshire

2010 Result:
Conservative: 8943 (20.4%)
Labour: 20950 (47.7%)
Lib Dem: 5236 (11.9%)
SNP: 8364 (19%)
Others: 422 (1%)
MAJORITY: 12007 (27.3%)

Sitting MP: Brian Donohoe (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

This one may be out of the reach of the SNP. UPDATE: Or maybe not.

30. Kilmarnock & Loudoun

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6592 (14.2%)
Labour: 24460 (52.5%)
Lib Dem: 3419 (7.3%)
SNP: 12082 (26%)
MAJORITY: 12378 (26.6%)

Sitting MP: Cathy Jamieson (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Again, I just can’t see a 12k majority being threatened. UPDATE: But I can now. What a difference two months make…

43. Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk

2010 Result:
Conservative: 16555 (33.8%)
Labour: 5003 (10.2%)
Lib Dem: 22230 (45.4%)
SNP: 4497 (9.2%)
UKIP: 595 (1.2%)
Others: 134 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 5675 (11.6%)

Sitting MP: Michael Moore (LibDem)
Prediction: Conservative gain

Michael Moore succeeded David Steel and it’s almost impossible to think of this seat being anything other than LibDem. However, the Tory candidate, John Lamont is the local MSP and he stood here in 2010. The Tory vote here increased by 3000 in 2010 and but Moore managed to squeeze the Labour vote too. It’s likely that vote will return from whence it came, but will it be enough for the Tories to squeeze home? It just might.

44. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale

2010 Result:
Conservative: 17457 (38%)
Labour: 13263 (28.9%)
Lib Dem: 9080 (19.8%)
SNP: 4945 (10.8%)
Green: 510 (1.1%)
UKIP: 637 (1.4%)
MAJORITY: 4194 (9.1%)

Sitting MP: David Mundell (Con)
Prediction: Conservative hold

A Labour gain here is not out of the question if the bulk of the LibDem vote crumbles to them. Is this likely here? The consensus seems to be no. UPDATE: The Ashcroft poll shows the SNP neck and neck with the Tories here. Assuming Mundell is seen as a good constituency MP that should see him squeak home.

45. Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock

2010 Result:
Conservative: 11721 (25.5%)
Labour: 21632 (47.1%)
Lib Dem: 4264 (9.3%)
SNP: 8276 (18%)
MAJORITY: 9911 (21.6%)

Sitting MP: Sandra Osborne (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

This is an interesting seat in that until 1992 it was a Tory seat held by Phil Gallie. It has a core Tory vote which has been increasing since 1992. The only way the Tories can regain this seat is if the Labour votes crashes to the SNP. If that happened, it’s possible for the SNP to take the seat, but either of these scenarios is pretty fanciful. UPDATE: The Ashcroft poll shows a 20% swing to the SNP here.

46. Dumfries & Galloway

2010 Result:
Conservative: 16501 (31.6%)
Labour: 23950 (45.9%)
Lib Dem: 4608 (8.8%)
SNP: 6419 (12.3%)
UKIP: 695 (1.3%)
MAJORITY: 7449 (14.3%)

Sitting MP: Russell Brown (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

On the face of it a relatively safe call for Labour. Or is it? This seat has been held by the SNP and the Tories in recent memory. Either could come through the middle here, but I’m sticking with a ‘safe’ prediction here. UPDATE: But I’m not now. If the SNP stick at 40% plus I think Russell Brown will lose.

Scotland – Glasgow Surrounds

Seats: 9
Current Political Makeup: Lab 8, LibDem 1
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Lab 9
Revised Prediction: Lab 1, SNP 8

24. Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintolloch East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3407 (8.3%)
Labour: 23549 (57.2%)
Lib Dem: 3924 (9.5%)
SNP: 9794 (23.8%)
Others: 476 (1.2%)
MAJORITY: 13755 (33.4%)

Sitting MP: Greg McClymont (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: It was. The Ashcroft poll in this seat is pretty conclusive, putting the SNP on 41%. The only slight caveat is that among the over 65s, who are most likely to vote, the SNP are on only 26%.

25. West Dunbartonshire

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3242 (7.7%)
Labour: 25905 (61.3%)
Lib Dem: 3434 (8.1%)
SNP: 8497 (20.1%)
UKIP: 683 (1.6%)
Others: 505 (1.2%)
MAJORITY: 17408 (41.2%)

Sitting MP: Gemma Doyle (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: Narrow SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: Labour ought to retain this seat but the Ashcroft poll shos a 34-25 margin of victory for the SNP. Labour needs to mobilise its older voters to turn out here too.

26. Inverclyde

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4502 (12%)
Labour: 20993 (56%)
Lib Dem: 5007 (13.3%)
SNP: 6577 (17.5%)
UKIP: 433 (1.2%)
MAJORITY: 14416 (38.4%)

Sitting MP: Iain McKenzie (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: A similar story to the previous two seats.

27. Paisley & Renfrewshire South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3979 (9.9%)
Labour: 23842 (59.6%)
Lib Dem: 3812 (9.5%)
SNP: 7228 (18.1%)
Independent: 513 (1.3%)
Others: 624 (1.6%)
MAJORITY: 16614 (41.5%)

Sitting MP: Douglas Alexander (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat. UPDATE: The Ashcroft poll predicts an SNP victory by a margin of ten points. However, the Alexander name may just allow Douglas to squeak home. I’ll stick my neck out here and predict he will do just that.

31. East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6613 (13%)
Labour: 26241 (51.5%)
Lib Dem: 5052 (9.9%)
SNP: 11738 (23%)
Green: 1003 (2%)
Independent: 299 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 14503 (28.5%)

Sitting MP: Michael McCann (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: Toast if the SNP poll ratings are maintained.

32. Lanark & Hamilton East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6981 (15%)
Labour: 23258 (50%)
Lib Dem: 5249 (11.3%)
SNP: 9780 (21%)
UKIP: 616 (1.3%)
Independent: 670 (1.4%)
MAJORITY: 13478 (29%)

Sitting MP: Jimmy Hood (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: See above.

33. Airdrie & Shotts

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3133 (8.7%)
Labour: 20849 (58.2%)
Lib Dem: 2898 (8.1%)
SNP: 8441 (23.5%)
Independent: 528 (1.5%)
MAJORITY: 12408 (34.6%)

Sitting MP: Pamela Nash (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: See above.

58. East Dunbartonshire

2010 Result:
Conservative: 7431 (15.5%)
Labour: 16367 (34.1%)
Lib Dem: 18551 (38.7%)
SNP: 5054 (10.5%)
UKIP: 545 (1.1%)
MAJORITY: 2184 (4.6%)

Sitting MP: Jo Swinson (LibDem)
Prediction: Labour gain
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Jo Swinson is popular but all the political portents are against her. She will be a major loss to the LibDems. Her only chink of light is the Labour vote collapsing to the SNP. UPDATE: I’m told the SNP have 1,000 new members in this constituency and the LibDem campaign is now ignoring Labour and fighting the SNP tide. This could turn into a rather interesting four way marginal. I’m now tipping the SNP to squeak it, but I think their intervention may possibly allow Jo Swinson to squeak home, and if she does become a leading candidate for the LibDem leadership.

59. Paisley & Renfrewshire North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 6381 (14.6%)
Labour: 23613 (54%)
Lib Dem: 4597 (10.5%)
SNP: 8333 (19.1%)
Independent: 550 (1.3%)
Others: 233 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 15280 (35%)

Sitting MP: Jim Sheridan (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: Labour to lose this narrowly.

Scotland – Glasgow

Seats: 11
Current Political Makeup: Lab 11
Predicted Political Makeup after May 7: Lab 10, SNP 1
Revised Prediction: Labour 6, SNP 5

47. Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3374 (8.1%)
Labour: 27728 (66.6%)
Lib Dem: 3519 (8.5%)
SNP: 7014 (16.8%)
MAJORITY: 20714 (49.8%)

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

Safe seat. UPDATE: The Ashcroft poll has the SNP narrowly ahead here but Labour retains more support among older people (43-21) and they are more certain to vote. I think this seat will stay Labour.

48. Motherwell & Wishaw

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3660 (9.4%)
Labour: 23910 (61.1%)
Lib Dem: 3840 (9.8%)
SNP: 7104 (18.2%)
TUSC: 609 (1.6%)
MAJORITY: 16806 (43%)

Sitting MP: Frank Roy
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat: UPDATE: The Ashcroft poll puts Labour 9 points behind here, so it’s still possible for Labour to win, but I’m calling this for the SNP.

49. Glasgow East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 1453 (4.5%)
Labour: 19797 (61.6%)
Lib Dem: 1617 (5%)
SNP: 7957 (24.7%)
BNP: 677 (2.1%)
UKIP: 209 (0.6%)
Others: 454 (1.4%)
MAJORITY: 11840 (36.8%)

Sitting MP: Margaret Curren (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: Labour are seven points behind here. Will Margaret Curran’s name recognition be enough to save her? Doubtful.

50. Glasgow North East

2010 Result:
Conservative: 1569 (5.3%)
Labour: 20100 (68.3%)
Lib Dem: 2262 (7.7%)
SNP: 4158 (14.1%)
BNP: 798 (2.7%)
TUSC: 187 (0.6%)
Others: 335 (1.1%)
MAJORITY: 15942 (54.2%)

Sitting MP: William Bain (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat.

51. Glasgow North

2010 Result:
Conservative: 2089 (7.1%)
Labour: 13181 (44.5%)
Lib Dem: 9283 (31.3%)
SNP: 3530 (11.9%)
BNP: 296 (1%)
Green: 947 (3.2%)
TUSC: 287 (1%)
MAJORITY: 3898 (13.2%)

Sitting MP: Ann McKechin (Lab)
Prediction: SNP gain

The result of this seat will depend in large part on what happens to the LibDem vote and whether the Labour vote crumbles to the SNP. I’m assuming it will. Ladbrokes have this as an SNP gain too.

52. Glasgow North West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 3537 (9.9%)
Labour: 19233 (54.1%)
Lib Dem: 5622 (15.8%)
SNP: 5430 (15.3%)
BNP: 699 (2%)
Green: 882 (2.5%)
Others: 179 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 13611 (38.3%)

Sitting MP: John Robertson (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Safe seat. UPDATE: The SNP are only 4 points ahead here, and again, well behind on the over 65s (36-19). I’m calling this for Labour.

53. Glasgow Central

2010 Result:
Conservative: 2158 (7.1%)
Labour: 15908 (52%)
Lib Dem: 5010 (16.4%)
SNP: 5357 (17.5%)
BNP: 616 (2%)
Green: 800 (2.6%)
UKIP: 246 (0.8%)
Others: 485 (1.6%)
MAJORITY: 10551 (34.5%)

Sitting MP: Anas Sarwar (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: The SNP are 11 points ahead according the the Ashcroft poll.

54. Glasgow South West

2010 Result:
Conservative: 2084 (6.6%)
Labour: 19863 (62.5%)
Lib Dem: 2870 (9%)
SNP: 5192 (16.3%)
BNP: 841 (2.6%)
TUSC: 931 (2.9%)
MAJORITY: 14671 (46.2%)

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

Safe seat. UPDATE Another one with a narrow (5%) SNP lead but a massive Labour lead among the over 65s (45-18).

55. East Renfrewshire

2010 Result:
Conservative: 15567 (30.4%)
Labour: 25987 (50.8%)
Lib Dem: 4720 (9.2%)
SNP: 4535 (8.9%)
UKIP: 372 (0.7%)
MAJORITY: 10420 (20.4%)

Sitting MP: Jim Murphy (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold

Jim Murphy is standing again here, which is a bit odd in itself, but he’s likely to pull through here.

56. Glasgow South

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4592 (11.5%)
Labour: 20736 (51.7%)
Lib Dem: 4739 (11.8%)
SNP: 8078 (20.1%)
BNP: 637 (1.6%)
Green: 961 (2.4%)
TUSC: 351 (0.9%)
MAJORITY: 12658 (31.6%)

Sitting MP: Tom Harris (Lab)
Prediction: Labour hold
Revised Prediction: SNP gain

Safe seat. UPDATE: An 11 point lead for the SNP here. I’d hate to see Tom Harris lose, but on this evidence it looks entirely possible.

57. Rutherglen & Hamilton W

2010 Result:
Conservative: 4540 (9.7%)
Labour: 28566 (60.8%)
Lib Dem: 5636 (12%)
SNP: 7564 (16.1%)
UKIP: 675 (1.4%)
MAJORITY: 21002 (44.7%)

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

Safe seat.

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

OUT NOW! The Politicos Guide to the General Election (by Iain Dale, Greg Callus, Robert Waller & Daniel Hamilton) £15.99 from Politicos.co.uk or £16.58 from Amazon. Also available as an eBook from Politicos.co.uk at £9.99 and Amazon at £10.19

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Attitude Column: Why I Hate Buying Clothes (And Shoes)

15 Mar 2015 at 09:03

Just like beauty, style is in the eye of the beholder. Of course the word ‘style’ means very different things to different people. Some people have it, some of us don’t. I’ve never pretended to be a dedicated follower of fashion, which I am sure you will find a massive surprise given the rather lovely picture that adorns this page. Indeed, when I attended the Attitude photoshoot (a sentence I never thought I’d write) I was given a Hugo Boss suit to wear, which given the rather odd shape of my body (long in the back, short in the leg), fitted astonishingly well. Now I am sure everyone thinks that at these photoshoots we get to keep the clobber. Not a bit of it, so off I trotted to Hugo Boss in Sloane Square to try locate this rather well fitting suit. Naturally I ended up buying two.

In all honesty, I hate buying suits. Whatever I buy tends to look crumpled the moment I put it on. I’ve only ever had two suits I felt I really looked good in – apart from these recent Hugo Boss acquisitions. Incidentally, that’s three mentions of Hugo Boss in the first two hundred words. What does a boy have to do to get a freebie in these days of upstanding propriety?!!! It’s only recently I have taken to wearing blue suits and matched them with brown shoes and a brown belt. See, I know more about style than you thought! I went on the Daily Politics recently and we ended up discussing why politicians dress so badly. I ended up revealing that every single item of clothing I was wearing had come from Marks & Spencer – yes including the skanky knick-knacks. In fact, I think I probably keep M&S in business. All joking aside, they do produce some rather stylish clothes at a price which most people can afford. The only trouble is, you do often see quite a lot of people wearing the same clothes, and I’m not just talking about the knick-knacks.

The only item of clothing I take genuine pleasure in buying is a tie. In my experience, most men just thrown on any old tie, without a thought about whether it matches the shirt or suit. I’ve lost count of the times I have seen a politician wear a stripy tie over a stripy shirt. Just no. In fact, I’d outlaw most stripy ties. For me there are only two brands of tie worth buying – Duchamp and Van Buck. Both are very colourful – the kind of tie Jon Snow wears on Channel 4 News. Van Buck ties have the distinct advantage of being around a third cheaper than their Duchamp equivalents which retail at about £70. I always wear a loud tie when doing political punditry or the Sky Newspaper review. It means that people pay attention to the tie rather than the utter bollocks I sometimes utter on these occasions. Maybe that’s why Jon Snow wears them too. I hadn’t thought of that before now!

Shoes. I mean apart from protecting the feet, what’s the point of them? I could no more get excited about buying a pair of shoes than I would be if my partner had got me tickets to see Stoke play Millwall. Why is it that some people have several dozen pairs? Surely two or three pairs ought to suffice? One black pair, one brown and one casual pair. Otherwise wear trainers. They’re far more comfortable, and much cheaper.

Of course I am now of an age where I am supposed to forego the pleasure of wearing jeans. Am I supposed to resort to cords, or a nice pair of slacks? Give me strength. Perhaps a onesie then. I have never understood the reasoning behind older people not being seen in jeans. Surely it’s more dependent on body shape than age. Fatter people never look good in jeans, it has to be said, but then again, neither do stick thin people.

What would be really nice is for mens’ lifestyle like GQ to show pictures of men who don’t necessarily possess the body beautiful. Because we buy clothes too. When we have to.

This article first appeared in the April issue of Attitude Magazine

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In Praise of Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury

14 Mar 2015 at 17:35

As you know, a few weeks ago my new book was published, THE NHS: THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SAID. Little did I realise that a month later I’d be making full use of the NHS, and in particular my local A&E services. It led to me having to stay in hospital overnight for the first time since I was a small child (when I fell out my pram … but that’s another story).

My partner believes there are some things which should be kept private and tells me I shouldn’t detail all my health problems to the world. He’s probably right, so forgive me if some of the details which follow sound a little cryptic. A few months ago I discovered a lump. Like every middle-aged hypochondriac I feared the worst and went to my GP with not a little trepidation. She didn’t even have to have a feel of it to work out that I wasn’t about to die. Indeed, this kind of lump is something which diabetics are quite prone to, it turns out. She gave me a course of penicillin and as she predicted, within ten days it had gone.

Trouble is, last weekend it came back. I emailed my doctor on Sunday afternoon and she immediately came back to me and arranged to fax my local pharmacy so I could get a prescription first thing on Monday morning. That’s service for you. Unfortunately, though the lump got progressively bigger and this time it was painful. Last time it wasn’t. Anyway, by Thursday morning it was so painful that she advised me to go to A&E, so off I toddled to my local hospital, which as luck would have it is less than two miles from where I live in Pembury, near Tunbridge Wells.

The A&E at the hospital is certainly nothing like the one depicted in CASUALTY! Calmness ruled. I noticed that there were about 20 people waiting to be seen while I was being booked in by the very friendly receptionist. After about an hour I was seen by the triage nurse and there was about another 45 minute wait before I was taken through to see a doctor. She made a quick diagnosis and told me I required surgery under general anaesthetic. That took me by surprise and I was left to consider the implications of this while a nurse tried to do some blood tests. I say “tried” because no nurse has ever successfully managed to get any blood out of my arm, which is where they normally like to take it from. The nurse saw this as a challenge, but as I suspected, she couldn’t find the vein either. In the end she took it from a vein in my wrist. I was then seen by a succession of doctors, all of whom quized me on various aspects of my medical history. I think over the whole 24 hours I must have told about a dozen different doctors and nurses the different types of diabetes related pills I take.

I asked a nurse if I would have a room to myself as the thought of spending a night on a ward with others didn’t appeal at all. I’m not being snobbish at all, but I knew I would try not to sleep for fear of my very loud snoring disturbing others. I didn’t know this but the nurse told me that Tunbridge Wells is the only hospital in the country where all wards are 100% single rooms. However, all was not quite what it seemed, as the Short Term Surgery Ward consists of bays, around which curtains are draw. I was deposited in Bay 22 and told to get into a gown. And then the wait began. And continued. And went on. I was told that minor surgery didn’t shut down at 6pm, as I had imagined and that it continued through the night, but it may not be until the next day that I could be done.

My partner John then walked in. He’d been into the town to get me some provisions, including some pyjamas as I don’t possess any. Most important of all he brought an iPhone charger. If I hadn’t had my phone with me I’d have been bored out of my mind. As John left I hugged him rather tightly. I know it’s pathetic, but the thought struck me that if the anaesthetic went wrong, that could be the last time I saw him.

Anyway at eight o’clock the anaesthetist came round and announced I’d be collected in ten minutes time. The ten minutes stretched to an hour, but I’ve always assumed ‘hospital time’ was rather elastic at the best of times. Anyway, off I went on my trolley bed. I remember thinking how narrow the hospital corridors were and why had they been built like that, bearing in mind this is one of the country’s newest PFI hospitals.

So at around ten past nine they started the anaesthetic. I was determined to remember drifting off and going under, but of course I didn’t. I do remember waking up and was astonished to find I had been under for two whole hours. Music was playing and I didn’t like it. “Can’t you put on some Mango Groove?” I asked in a rather pathetic, weak voice. “Are they on YouTube?” asked the surgeon. “Yes,” I whimpered. And so my recovery was aided by listening to Special Star by Mango Groove.

So after a while I was wheeled back to Bay 22, where the lights had all been turned off and everyone was sleeping. And snoring. And in the case of the man in Bay 23 next to me, very loudly indeed. The whole night. Nightmare. So I put in my earphones and prayed I might at least drift off to slip for the odd minute or too. Better that than get gradually more angry at Snoring Man and have murderous thoughts.

They came round every hour or two to check my blood sugars and blood pressure. My blood sugars haven’t been so good in years! It helped having an insulin drip in my arm, I guess!

At around 7am the nurse asked if I’d like some breakfast. I was starving, having not eaten for 36 hours. “What kind of cereal would you like?” she asked. “I don’t like cereal,” I bleated. “Can I have some toast?”. “No, toast is banned in this hospital,” she said. “Why on earth is that?” I asked. “No idea,” she replied. I ended up with a completely tasteless egg mayonnaise sandwich with a smidgin of orange juice. Oh well.

“When can I go home?” was the next predictable question I put to the nurse. She explained that the doctors would be coming round at some stage and I would find out then, but she warned me not to get my hopes up. She reckoned they might want to keep me in for another night. Oh God. Not next to Snoring Man, surely. Anyway, around 10am a phalanx of doctors appeared, three men and one woman. I point that out because every single nurse and doctor (apart from the main anaesthetist and surgeon) had all been women. I had begun to wonder if Pembury Hospital actually employed any men at all! The doctors agreed I could go home so long as the nurses felt my “wound” didn’t look angry. They didn’t actually even look at it!

So an hour later the nurse came round and decided that no, my wound wasn’t red and angry and that I could definitely go home, which I did at 1pm.

Overall, I cannot speak highly enough of the care I received. Waits were kept to a minimum, everything was explained to me in language I understood and everyone seemed genuinely caring. There is nothing I can think of that I could complain about, apart from the egg mayonnaise sandwich, of course!

One observation to close with. I reckon around 80% of the nurses and doctors I saw at the hospital were not from this country. Every single one of them really cared about their work. They came from countries like Bulgaria, Iran, India and the Phillipines. The male nurse I saw earlier today when I went back to have my wound dressed was from Portugal. I told several of them I had written a book about the NHS, which led to some very interesting conversations. They were all immensely proud to work at the hospital and they put their all into it. One of the nurses reckoned English people don’t like to do the kind of work they have to do. That may be an over-generalisation but there’s clearly an element of truth in that. The NHS would cease to function without it’s foreign born staff, although I still think it is rather unethical for us to be taking medical professionals from underdeveloped countries which clearly need them.

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ConHome Diary: Will it be a Giveaway Budget?

13 Mar 2015 at 14:15

In many ways Chuka Umunna, for many Conservatives, is the acceptable face of the Labour Party. He’s a free marketer and gets what an entrepreneurial society is all about. He’s not particularly tribal and is quite happy to pay tribute to political opponents when he thinks they have done something good. Let me tell you that whenever he comes on my show I get a lot of emails and texts from people saying they would vote Labour if he was leader of the Labour Party. There’s little doubt that if Ed Miliband loses the election Chuka would be a leading contender. He does need to rid himself of an image of loving himself just that little too much. This came to the fore again in a House Magazine where he rather inadvisedly answered a question about how good looking he is. Instead of saying “not going there” he launched forth and talked about how awkward he feels when women say he’s gorgeous. Well, you can imagine that I wasn’t going to let that go without comment when he came in to do his monthly phone-in on Wednesday. Suffice to say, he didn’t disappoint. #awkward #squirm.

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There’s been a lot of criticism of Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe this week for telling the Home Affairs Select Committee that the three girls who went to Syria would not be prosecuted if they return home. Most of my listeners were up in arms when I said he was absolutely right. These girls are children. They were clearly groomed and brainwashed into going. So what would be the point in prosecuting them? If they had been victims of child sex abuse, and groomed for it, no one would remotely suggest they too should be prosecuted.
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Tomorrow night the good burghers of Kensington will choose their new candidate. I know all three contestants and each one of them would bring something different to the job, and they all have their own negatives. Wasn’t it ever thus, I suppose? Charlotte Vere is a very independent and outspoken woman who would make a fantastic MP. She’s been in a lot of finals and not quite made it, something Kensington Association members might wonder about. Shaun Bailey was expected to win last time in Hammersmith but didn’t. He’s a hugely talented social entrepreneur and an original thinker. Seeing as the Tories already have far more ethnic minority candidates in safe seats, it would send a very powerful message if he were selected. Victoria Borwick is transparently nice and if being local had anything to do with it, she’d have it sewn up. As Deputy Mayor of London she’s also been endorsed by Boris, which might well count for something on the night. However, hiring a PR firm to boost her profile may not have been the wisest move. Actually, any one of them would be a good choice. I’m not going to put a jinx on any of them by saying who I would vote for and in any case the truth is I don’t know. I think I would be typical of many Kensington members and go along with an open mind and vote for whoever most impressed me on the night.
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Nice to see the LibDems get their comeuppance in this latest donations sting. They’ve always been sanctimonious about donations even when they were shown to be, shall we say, less than clean – remember Michael Brown? All parties have issues with dodgy donations, but the LibDems have always tried to make out they were whiter than their colleagues. The man featured in the Daily Telegraph video, Ibrahim Taguri, was not only LibDem candidate for Brent Central (successor to Sarah Teather) but also former chief fundraiser for the LibDems. A candidate might be forgiven for making errors about soliciting donations – local candidates probably aren’t acquainted with every rule from the Electoral Commission, but party chief fundraisers have to be. And that’s the awkward question the LibDems now have to answer. Can they be confident that all the other donations he has solicited are in order? We may soon find out.
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I think over the next couple of weeks I am going to have to revisit my seat by seat election predictions, especially in Scotland. I had got them down for 18 seats, but that is clearly going to have to be revised upwards. I am still not convinced that they can get the 40 or 50 seats the polls are predicting, but until I look at each individual seat I’ll reserve judgement on an overall total. I also have UKIP on 5. I don’t see that changing much, but I am starting to wonder about how safe Castle Point is for Rebecca Harris, and also whether Dudley North could be another UKIP gain. I have the LibDems on 24, but my gut feel is that if anything they are on the way down. I saw Nick Clegg the other day and he was absolutely adamant that I’m totally wrong in my predictions for the LibDems. Well, we’ll see in 55 days!
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I’m a petrolhead. I love Top Gear, and I want Jeremy Clarkson to continue to present it. But if I were his employer, I’d probably feel I had no alternative but to sack him. Why? Because if it had been the producer who had hit Jeremy Clarkson, I think we all know what the outcome would be. And in the end, that’s the game, set and match argument.
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Next week’s budget is a tricky one for George Osborne. It’s so close to the election that everyone will see it through the prism of winning short term votes. Some reckon it will be the most boring budget in living memory. Those people don’t really understand a man who is one of the most political chancellors, well, since Gordon Brown. I fully expect a few rabbits to be pulled out of the red box, although I’m not sure what they are. I suspect that pushing up the tax free allowance beyond the level originally planned may well be one of the things he will be allowed to do by the LibDems. This won’t be a giveaway budget and I suspect will be revenue neutral. So on that basis it might be a little bit boring, but even so there will be two or three headlines aimed at the usual “hardworking families”. Perhaps we should have three guesses as to how many times he will mention the “long term economic strategy” in the speech. Rather too many, I suspect.

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Books

BOOK REVIEW: The NHS - Things That Need to be Said

12 Mar 2015 at 00:56

There’s nothing an author appreciates than when someone writes a nice review of their book. The review below appeared on ARRSE yesterday.

The author presents the drive time show on LBC Radio, the UK’s only national news talk radio station. This short book is one of a series of polemics being published by LBC on contemporary topics. Sensible debate on the NHS is long overdue and this is a welcome start. The prose flows lightly and well and points are tellingly made. Unsurprisingly the tone is chatty rather than learned, but that does not detract. It is a pleasure to read.

Or rather, it would be a pleasure to read were it not for the underlying tale. How on earth in a time of austerity can the NHS (or any other government department) employ over 7,000 people on salaries of £100,000 per year or more while at the same time performing so badly?

The book starts with the political context, notably the high turnover of Health Secretaries (average tenure of two years). It moves on to the question of private versus public provision, where it uncovers the NHS’s institutional loathing of private sector provision and ask why the NHS doesn’t really function at weekends. Further chapters cover funding issues, demographics and the “post code lottery.” Mr Dale then looks at some looming problems, diabetes (of which he has personal experience) and mental health Examples are provided, most often from callers to his show, but also from research. By the end you will be convinced that there is a case to answer, although to whom the question should be addressed remains a mystery.

A polemic is only required to make an argument, which this book does engagingly. The author does not go into great detail, but that is not necessary in a polemic. To his credit, the author then goes further and makes some suggestions of how things may be improved. Sadly he is probably correct in thinking that not much will change in the short term due to a lack of political will power.

This book unlikely to be popular with the medical establishment, which the author correctly points out is effectively a trades union protecting doctors and nurses from the customers (taxpayers and paymasters (taxpayers again). I very much doubt that may actual or would be Health Ministers will be accepting invitations onto Mr Dale’s show.

This is a book that you should read before you vote. So should your friends.

The reviewer gave it 4/5 stars. Thank you!

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UK Politics

WATCH: Is Chuka Too Sexy For British Politics?

11 Mar 2015 at 22:07

Hashtag awkward. He enjoyed it really, though :)

Actually, of all the phone-ins I do on my programme, Chuka gets the most positive response from people who text and email in. Yes, he obviously has his detractors, as all politicians do, but a lot of people reckon he comes across really well. Tonight was the last full hour phone-in I’ll be doing with him before the election. Which makes me kind of sad, as he’s been a good sport over the last year and is always an entertaining listen. He’s not afraid to give his views and also not afraid to give credit to politicians from other parties where it is due. Politicians across the parties could learn a lot from how he handles these phone-ins. He does ‘human’ very well.

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Music

Concert Review: Mango Groove at the Hammersmith Apollo

8 Mar 2015 at 16:43

Well I have never been mentioned on stage before at a pop concert, but it happened last night when Mango Groove’s lead singer Claire Johnson dedicated the song ANOTHER COUNTRY to me. You could have knocked me down with a feather, but it was hugely appreciated. You see, I reckon I am Mango Groove’s biggest fan in the UK – and if I come across as a bit of a groupie in this piece I make no apology!

I first discovered Mango Groove back in 1994 when I was in a cafe called Aroma in St Martin’s Lane. They always played different types of World Music and suddenly this song came on and I had that hair going up on the back of your neck moments. I think it was Hellfire. Well, I went up to HMV in Oxford Street the next day and bought two of their albums and I’ve never looked back. I can honestly say I like every single song they have ever recorded, and there aren’t many bands anyone can say that about.

Mango Groove hail from South Africa, although the lead singer, Claire Johnston, was born only a few miles from me in Bishops Stortford. They’ve sold over a millon albums in their home country and you could see in what affection they are held by the reaction of the big South African contingent in the audience last night.

The evening started with no fewer than three warm-up acts. Matthew Mole is a young South African singer who could be a big name in the making. I liked his songs so much I have just downloaded his entire back catalogue and that’s also what I have done with The Soil, a three piece South African accapella group who knocked the audience for six with their uniquenese, their energy and their astonishing harmonies. Look them up.

I had dragged eleven friends along in a bit to indoctrinate them into becoming fans of Mango Groove, and I reckon my mission was successful. My sister Tracey (pictured with me and Claire Johnston) and I have very different musical tastes and I was amazed she came along, but she seemed to be hugely impressed by what she heard. Id be surprised if most of them weren’t spending part of today downloading some of Mango Groove’s back catalogue.

They came on stage and started as they meant to go on with two very up tempo numbers, Hellfire and Hometalk. The two highlights for me were Special Star, perhaps their biggest hit, and Dance Sum More. This really got the audience on their feet, even people in the upper circle. The whole show was a spectacle and there was always so much going on on stage that the lighting people sometimes found it difficult to know where to point their spotlights.

They were on stage for a full two hours and the concert didn’t finish till 11pm. I said to Claire at the after-show party that I could die happy now I had seen a Mango Groove concert. I think she thought I was joking! It was a fantastic evening. One of these days I want to see them live in South Africa, a country I have never been to. Hopefully I will put that right before too long.

UPDATE: Earlier this week I interviewed Mango Groove. You can hear it HERE

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Video

DOWNFALL VIDEO: Nick Clegg Says Sorry

6 Mar 2015 at 21:47

Nick Clegg Entschuldigt Sich from Iain Dale on Vimeo.

Miranda Green just asked on Twitter if I was behind this Downfall video, made after Nick Clegg’s apology for the tuition fees promise a couple of years ago. Guilty as charged, Miranda! I haven’t seen it for some time, but having just watched it again I’m rather proud of it. Perhaps I will make one about David Cameron and the election debates debacle… Now there’s an idea….

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