Sheffield Central – The Aftermath

Let’s get the elephant out of the room straight away – last nights election result was an absolute blindside. Not one poll suggested close to a majority one the eve and fair play to the Tory party for managing to completely turn that on it’s head. To say that this is a dream scenario for them is understating it – they have the control of the Commons, lost no seats to UKIP, saw their coalition partner utterly crushed and their three main opposition parties are all facing the prospect of internal struggles over leadership. The one blip on the landscape is the surge of SNP support. Realistically, the Tories could do nothing about this, relying on the other unionist parties to stem the tide. Even in this worst case of scenarios in Scotland, they have a potential ace up their sleeve. They’ve been proposing one of the few solutions that might fly both in Holyrood and Westminster – a more federalised United Kingdom – for a while now. Overall, this is a wildly successful night nationally for the Tories.
But what about locally? Who is going to be celebrating their performance? And who will be drowning their sorrows? First up, the Communists (6th) and the Workers Revolutionary (10th). None of them were forecast to be popular and none of them were. Frankly, I don’t think they care. As I said in my previous posts, the Far Left have consistently ran in Sheffield Central, achieved next to nothing and continued doing so anyway.

Finishing 9th was Thom Brown of Above and Beyond, with 0.1% of votes. Now I’m sure Thom would have liked to see his message of electoral reform being taken up more widely, but I’m sure he’ll feel vindicated in his position nonetheless. Turnout fell this election and the winner once again did not get over 50% of the total electorate, thought they did at least get over 50% of the votes cast. Nationally, Thom, and his Above and Beyond party, will have plenty of allies for electoral reform. The Greens, UKIP and even the Lib Dems have won vastly less seats than their national percentage suggests they should have. 22% of votes should not result in 10 combined seats.

Elizabeth Breed of the English Democrats finished 8th with 0.2% of the votes. Unsurprising. What is surprising is that there was once a point where the English Democrats had an elected mayor and some councillors. Strategically, they need to focus in on any areas they are remotely successful and try to regain any foothold they had. Not that I think they’ll do that – much more likely they stay as a walking punchline.

Andy Halsall is the final minor placer finishing just behind the Communists in 7th with 0.3% of votes cast. Whilst the low votes were expected, the fact remains the majority of the Pirates flagship areas were not talking points in the election. As even their leader admits they only run to raise awareness, the lack of discussion must be disappointing.

Having been as courteous as possible to all the minor candidates, who should all be applauded for standing and never really had a hope so there’s no point being mean, I can move onto the bigger guns. And possibly be more mean.
In 6th place, UKIP’s Dominic Cook with 7.5%, up nearly 6% from last time. Weirdly, UKIP’s brand of ‘blame the EU’ and ‘pine for the Empire’ didn’t go down that well in a constituency of mostly leftie students. Shocker.
In less of a shocker, the student could have sledgehammered the local Lib Dem office and done less damage. Minus 31% and a drop to behind the Tories?!? Might as well have campaigned in bondage gear, couldn’t have gone worse. Joe Otten is a first time candidate and will probably have learnt a lot but frankly the Lib Dems sealed his fate five years ago. Lesson one for the post mortem: do not piss off a large core group of your voters, it tends to end badly.

Stephanie Roe came 3rd with an amount of votes, and a gain that’s numerically small but reasonably important. I’ve heard nothing from the Tory campaign locally, not one sign or tweet, and their vote still went up! In a seat that is as loony left as the Tories could imagine. That in a nutshell is why Labour lost nationally: even when they did well, they didn’t hurt the Tories. Instead they joined in the puppy kicking that was the Lib Dems evening.

In second place, as I predicted in my preview post, Jilian Creasy of the Greens with a 12% gain to just under 16%. Not that it was that hard a prediction: students hate UKIP, the Tories haven’t topped 12% in years and the Lib Dems have been losing votes like the 70s have been losing likeable DJs – quite frankly someone had to come second. Not that it’s a poor achievement, a solid second is pretty much best case scenario. Along with a gained council seat, the Greens are now pretty obviously the main opposition to Labour in Sheffield Central. Whether they progress from this will be the story of the next five years.
And finally our winner, Labour’s Paul Blomfield with a clear win with over half the votes cast. In what must one of the weirder swings for Labour of the evening, Blomfield’s majority grew a thousandfold to 17,000. Put in perspective, his majority is more than the total votes for the next three candidates. Absolute baller. And vindicating my previous thoughts that Labour would probably romp to victory here.

Overall, a fairly predictable outcome. Sure, Lib Dems fell by more than expected, Tories made a surprising increase and pleasingly, UKIP’s overly nationalistic fearmongering was rejected. On the other hand, I basically called this ages ago with Wikipedia and gut feelings as my guide. More excitement next time please.

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Through the Westminster Looking Glass

I was all set to write a nice easy post on how voting tactically might affect the bigger picture in the House of Commons this week. However, two things got in my way. Firstly, the English Democrats and UKIP both announced candidates for Sheffield Central meaning I need to rethink some of the statements I made in the last three posts. Secondly, my original idea required a reasonable understanding of the national picture. I set about doing that and 1500 words down a rabbit hole Alice would’ve been proud of and I’ve still no real understanding of the likely outcome in May. Read on for the ravings of a sleep-deprived loon.
Before we get going, I’ll lay out the four possible outcomes of the election

1. Outright majority – one party wins a majority of the 650 seats and forms the government. Historically, this is how most British elections work out
2. Coalition government – two parties teaming up can make a majority. Our current government is the first since World War Two
3. Minority government – when a party with less than a majority reaches an agreement with a smaller party that states the smaller party will support the bigger party on major votes e.g. a budget. Smaller decisions will not have a majority and the ruling party will have to make deals to pass legislation. Last seen under the Major government in 1996-97.
4. A second election – if parties can’t agree with each other than a new election might be needed. I’m happily ignoring this as if it occurs everything I write is moot anyway

As most primary school children (or American adults) could tell you, 650 divided by 2 is 325, meaning a majority should require 326 seats. But due to Westminster’s historical position on Ireland being set firmly at ‘being a massive tool’, Sinn Fein (SF) are understandably quite popular over in NI. This means whichever seats SF win are never taken, meaning the actual number needed to win an overall majority is 325 minus ½ of seats won by SF. This magic number is likely going to be 323. Which, when we look at the table above, puts us firmly in on the ‘holy crap’ train to Yikesville.

Party and ave predicted seats

Conservatives Labour SNP Lib Dems DUP UKIP Plaid Cymru SDLP Greens Respect
281 272 47 24 8 4 3 3 1 1
Con
Lab 553
SNP 328 319
Lib Dems 305 296 71
DUP 289 280 55 32
UKIP 285 276 51 28 12
Plaid 284 275 50 27 11 7
SDLP 284 275 50 27 11 7 6
Greens 282 273 48 25 9 5 4 4
Respect 282 273 48 25 9 5 4 4 2

Yep, you did read that correctly. According to the average results of the 7 predictions, there are two 2-party coalitions possible, one of which has been ruled out by both parties (CON-SNP) and the other which would quite possibly be a sign of WWIII (CON-LAB). Looking at 3 party coalitions, the Tories get no additional options, but LAB-SNP-LD or LAB-SNP-DUP do become options. And frankly, this is exactly why you don’t waste your afternoon averaging out national polling numbers – you could have just looked at the individual polls to tell you that governmental options are pretty limited.

May2015 Election Forecast Election ETC The Guardian Ladbrokes Electoral Calculus Iain Dale Average
Tories 280 283 296 274 285.5 280 275 281 (274-296)
Labour 264 280 261 271 270.5 283 275 272 (261-283)
Lib Dems 24 26 21 26 25.5 16 25 24

(16-26)

UKIP 5 2 5 4 4.5 1 8 4 (1-8)
SNP 55 38 47 53 42.5 48 42 47 (38-55)
Green 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (0-1)
Respect 1 1 *1 1 *1 *1 1 1
DUP *8 *8 *8 *8 *8 8 9 8 (9)
SDLP *3 *3 *3 *3 *3 3 3 3
Plaid 3 2 3 *3 *3 3 4 3 (2-4)
*represents a prediction extrapolated from other national polling data
2 party options CON-SNP None CON-SNP CON-SNP

LAB-SNP

CON-SNP LAB-SNP

CON-SNP

None
3 party options LAB-SNP-LD/UKIP/DUP CON-SNP-UKIP/SDLP/PC/LD/DUP

LAB-SNP-LD/DUP

CON-LD-DUP

LAB-SNP-LD

None LAB-SNP-LD None CON-SNP-LD/UKIP/DUP

LAB-SNP-LD/UKIP/DUP

If you think it all looks like a bit of mess, well you’d be more right than a Tea Party convention in Kitty Hawk. I’ll simplify things into a list.

2-party options – CON-SNP (5 poll-predictions), LAB-SNP (2), CON-LAB (possibly by every conceivable measure past, present and as yet undiscovered)

3-party options – LAB-SNP-LD (5), LAB-SNP-DUP (3), LAB-SNP-UKIP (2), CON-SNP-UKIP (2), CON-SNP-LD (2), CON-SNP-DUP (x2), CON-SNP-SDLP, CON-SNP-PC, CON-LD-DUP

This gives us 26 predictions of 12 government formations. I’ve discounted the possibility of CON-LAB because this is already making my head hurt a little without having to add an ‘infinitely possible, not-quite-infinitely unlikely’ option.

1) CON-SNP

2) LAB-SNP-LD

3) LAB-SNP-DUP

4) LAB-SNP

5) CON-SNP-UKIP

6) LAB-SNP-UKIP

7) CON-SNP-LD

8) CON-SNP-DUP

9) CON-SNP-SDLP

10) CON-SNP-PC

11) CON-LD-DUP

Before I carry on much more, full coalition is off the table currently. The SNP won’t support the Tories at all, Labour won’t go into coalition with the SNP and the DUP are ‘not interested’ in joining any coalitions. There are other party squabbles as well but I could rule out coalition with just those three, and didn’t fancy adding to the patchwork quilt from hell that is this article.

That means we are stuck with a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement, which means a small party agrees to vote for a larger party in votes of confidence and budgets and nothing else. The large party then has to make agreements with other parties on a vote-by-vote basis. Not great but better than never getting anything through.

If a minority government is necessary, the Tories are right royally buggered. Here are their options again.

CON-SNP

CON-SNP-UKIP

CON-SNP-LD

CON-SNP-DUP

CON-SNP-SDLP

CON-SNP-PC

CON-LD-DUP

As the SNP have stated they will not support the Tories, then one lonely option remains to Mr Cameron – CON-LD-DUP. As last resorts go, a current coalition partner and a party that shares the values of conservatism and unionism aren’t half bad. What is more than half bad however is the distinct possibility that the Tories will not have any mathematically feasible options for 2 or 3 party minority governments. Even for a party that’s not won a majority for over 20 years that is a pretty terrible state of affairs

Given that Labour is widely thought to be heading towards less seats than the Tories on May 7th, you’d expect their options to be even more limited. However, Labour have the advantage of not having actively pissed everyone off the last 5 years (just passively doing it) and they have a few options mathematically available.

LAB-SNP-LD

LAB-SNP-DUP

LAB-SNP

LAB-SNP-UKIP

No points to anyone for spotting the theme. Unless the electorate swings towards them faster than Jeremy Clarkson swings at a producer after being told there’s no steak, Labour are going to be relying on the Braveheart brigade from Beyond The Wall to strengthen their governmental chops. If they had to make a deal over Irn Bru and deep fried pie, then ideally Ed Milliband would like Nicola Sturgeon to be his only dinner guest.

Disappointingly for Ed, 5 out of the 7 predictions I’ve looked at think he’ll have to bring Nick Clegg around the table for further support. Ideologically, Labour and the SNP are pretty aligned, and the Lib Dems would probably be pretty happy to scoot over to the left; it might even help them get over being Tory cannon fodder for the last 5 years.

I nearly removed the next idea from the piece entirely, based as it is off the predictions of a sole political journalist, Iain Dale, rather than statistics. However, said journalist has looked at every seat in the country to make his predictions, and they were just too interesting to ignore. He has the Tories and Labour neck-a-neck, no two party solutions at all and his model gives Nicola Sturgeon the choice of both biggest (David Cameron or Ed Milliband) and littlest spoon (Nigel Farage or the DUP’s Nigel Dodds) for what has to be the world’s least appealing ménage à trois. If you were worried about the Scots become independent a few months ago, you can start worrying about the real possibility that the SNP will essentially have the pick of the bunch when it comes to options on May 8th and none of them look too bad. Need the SNP to form a coalition? Probably have to give them a second referendum. Just want them for a minority party? Get ready to give a lot of nice goodies to Scotland. Happy for them to be in opposition? Get ready for a lot of heckling and stalling from a big block of new MPs who don’t care for the old Westminster clique.

Having looked at all of the national polls, what can we learn from them? Well number one, nobody has a real clue what’s cracking off. The Tories may get the most seats but where will the extra seats needed to get them a majority come from? Labour probably won’t win a majority or the most seats but seems to have more potential partners for a confidence and supply agreement. Secondly, this isn’t going to end prettily. If you thought the Con-Lib coalition came together in a ham-fisted way, wait until you see what we get on May 8th. A single majority seems very unlikely, the likely third party seem just as happy to wreck the whole system rather than get into government and if no one back down from their statements. If so, we might end with a three party confidence and supply agreement that has Labour simultaneously relying on nine N.I. MPs who want to stay in the union and a rabble of Scottish MPs who would jump ship if they had the chance. At the very least, it’s going to be very interesting.

A Survival Guide for the Sheffield Central General Election (Part 3)

Welcome to the third, and final, part of my Sheffield Central election preview. Having already looked at the not-going-to-be-winners and the probably-not-going to be winners, this week I’m looking at the man who is likely walking off with the top prize.

If you haven’t read the first two parts, click here and here.

The Probable Winner

Paul Blomfield is the incumbent MP, and Labour candidate. He holds one of his parties’ thinnest majorities at 154 and presided over a 23.1% loss of majority in his first general election. Seems like a possible lost Labour seat right? Let’s go through his challengers to see who might beat him:

  • Communist, Pirate and Above and Beyond – don’t think even the candidates themselves think they will win
  • Conservative – given the unpopularity of the Tories nationwide and the demographic of the seat (students, working class people and more students), Stephanie Roe will be doing well if she can match the 10% share the Tories usually get here.
  • Liberal Democrats – in the 2014 council elections, the Lib Dems got an average of 11.7%. That is just over one quarter of what they got in the 2010 general election. Given that students can’t be arsed to get out of bed for the local elections, that isn’t even lost student votes, that is just lost votes. I think I may have been too optimistic giving Joe Otten a possible in this election
  • Greens – Probably the most likely challenger to Paul Blomfield, the Greens were the clear second party in the local elections (30.52% to 42.12%), and the only party other than Labour to win council seats in the 5 constituency wards that make up Sheffield Central. However, they still have to gain 37% form their 2010 general election performance. If they pulled it off, it would be the single biggest increase ever in a general election.

For those still paying attention, Paul Blomfield in all likelihood is going to sleepwalk into his seat. According to electoralcalculus.com, he’s predicted to get 46.3% of the vote. Though I’m not sure how much I trust them as they have UKIP gaining 12% of the vote, and they aren’t even running a candidate in this constituency.

They are still probably correct though. The Lib Dems will lose votes this time around, the Tories haven’t got much of a look in, and the Greens could improve by 1000% percent and still possibly not get in . Even without looking at the advantages Mr Blomfield has, the disadvantages of every other party will probably gift him the seat.

Speaking of advantages, what does Mr Blomfield have? Well he has had 5 years to raise his profile, and has, so far, avoided any huge political cock-ups. Thanks to theyworkforyou.com, we can see that his voting record is pretty appealing to his left-leaning constituency (for an elected Lords, against tuition fees, against the bedroom tax etc.). His one major challenger last time around was basically kneecapped by the tuition fee saga, and his up-and-coming challenger needs to gain 15,582 votes cast to catch up with him.

Now those votes do exist. 28,000 people didn’t vote in Sheffield Central in 2010, easily enough to catch up with Labour. Fortunately for Labour, that was also the biggest turnout in 60-odd years and they still didn’t lose.

Another positive indication for Paul Blomfield, he’s just won a national award for higher education which was awarded through a popular vote. In other words, he’s just had a load of students vote for him and come out on top. Which is more or less what he needs to happen on May 7th.

Realistically, Paul Blomfield is highly likely to win; both the bookies and pollsters think so. The Greens simply have to jump through too many hoops to win, and any small pothole could send the whole campaign bus spinning for them.

A Survival Guide for the Sheffield Central General Election (Part 2)

In part one, I looked at how past Sheffield Central elections have gone, and took a look at some of the candidates who will be propping up the league table on May 7th. Now onto part two, where I look at the two candidates who will probably divide up the minor medal places.

The Improbable Winners

Joe Otten is the candidate for the Liberal Democrats. He currently serves as a councillor for Dore and Totley. His election hopes were likely been snuffed out by a decision he had very little, if anything, to do with that happened half a decade ago. In 2010, the Lib Dems nearly pulled off a historic gain but fell just short, in large part to a substantial student vote. Surprisingly, students didn’t really enjoy a tripling of tuition fees and their support amongst students is at 6%.

Now if you’re not a student, you’ll find it difficult to understand quite how angry the majority of us are with the Lib Dems.  To give some perspective, the University Arms, in Sheffield, has been threatened with closure as part of a campus wide development scheme. A petition was started to save it, and no one really cared.

When you get one of the most alcohol fueled populations to stop caring about a pub, then you know you’ve messed up pretty badly. On the ‘How Bad Was Your Idea?’ Scale, it probably fits between ‘Invading Russia in the Winter’ and ‘Tweeting a Picture of Your Genitalia to a Popular Blogger‘.

Mr Otten might be the nicest human being in the world, and have fantastic ideas to change the world. But I can’t see him getting past the student desire to shaft the Lib Dems as hard as possible. Nor can the bookies.

 

Jilian Creasy is the candidate for the Green Party and has lots of reasons to be optimistic. She is currently a councillor for Sheffield Central ward (one of 5 wards in the Sheffield Central constituency) and the leader of the Green group on Sheffield City Council. She was the first Green councillor in Sheffield, and has been on the council since 2004. The #GreenSurge has actually occurred in Sheffield Central, doubling their amount of councillors on Sheffield City Council. And on top of all that, Sheffield Central is one of the Green’s top target seats.

Given all the positives, why is she only a possible, not probable, winner? Firstly, she’s running against a reasonably well-liked incumbent, who already has an advantage of four years of higher profile to help him.  Secondly, the Greens will be trying to take a seat from a previous 4th place, which has only ever been done twice in the history of the House of Commons.

Thirdly, having over a quarter of the councillors is nice, but the Greens support is pretty concentrated within Sheffield Central. They have 3 councillors in Central ward and 1in Broomhill; but were a fairly distant 2nd place in Manor Castle, Nether Edge and Walkley. In the 2014 local elections, the Greens won 8654 votes, or 30.52%. Whilst this is a nice chunk, local election figures for small parties can be misleading. Turnouts are smaller (average of 34.62% compared to 59.6% in 2010) and the electorate are less interested meaning a small determined party, like the Greens, can bat above their average. In general elections, turnouts are bigger, and the extra voters tend to vote less adventurously (i.e. Labour or Tory). For some perspective, Mrs Creasy won 3.8% of the vote in 2010. Even with the Green’s boost in recent years, can they jump 37% to catch Labour?

If the Greens were to make the leap, then they would need the support of Sheffield Central’s students (the largest proportion in the entire country). Alas, the Greens have only 14% nationally, compared to Labour on 43%. As much as I’d like to say the Greens have a realistic chance come May, I just don’t see it.

A Survival Guide for the Sheffield Central General Election (Part 1)

With an 18.4% majority, Labour MP Harry Morris took Sheffield Central from his Conservative predecessor, and began an 80 year reign for Labour over the constituency. Last time around Paul Blomfield barely hung onto the Labour ‘safe’ seat by 165 votes. Can he stick around for one more term? Will the Lib Dems find those extra 165 votes (spoiler warning: probably not)? Or will the #GreenSurge be more than just a Twitter gimmick?

History

Put simply, not thrilling. Since 1997, Labour has won gold, Lib Dems silver and the Tories bronze. The Greens have been 4th every time they’ve ran, winning a still-underwhelming 3.8% in 2010. UKIP (and its predecessor, the Referendum Party) maxed out at 2.4% and a 5th place in 1990. So yeah, not much to write home about.

Happily, for me at least, the more extreme parties offer some amusing footnotes at the bottom of the results tables.

In the red (and I mean really red) corner, we have (take a deep breath):

  • the Revolutionary Communists,
  • Communist Party of Great Britain,
  • Red Front,
  • Communist League,
  • Workers Revolutionary,
  • Socialist Alternative,
  • Socialist Labour
  • and finally the Socialist Alliance!

(And who said factionalism amongst the far-left was a problem?)

In the opposite (and frankly awful) corner, we have the British Nationalist Party and the Pro-Life Alliance! Bloody immigrants, coming over here, aborting their babies.

Your referee this evening is M. Clarke, one-time candidate for End Unemployment Vote Justice for Jobless! Amusingly, he won 0.6% of the vote, which is only 0.3% less than the Lib Dems won in the Rochester and Strood by-election last year.

Candidates

There are seven candidates running to be MP for Sheffield Central this time. And a quick checklist to begin: is there a Communist running? Is one of them a pirate? Is one of them younger than me? Yes, yes and yes!

  1. Paul Blomfield (Labour)
  2. Joe Otten (Lib Dem)
  3. Jilian Creasy (Green)
  4. Stephanie Roe (Conservative)
  5. Andy Halsall (Pirate Party UK)
  6. Steve Andrew (Communist Party of GB)
  7. Thom Brown (Above and Beyond)

The Not-Going-To-Be Winners

Stephanie Roe is the Tory candidate which normally means a decent shout of election. Unluckily for her, she is running in a fabulously left wing part of a fabulously left wing city where 40% of the voters are students. Combine that with the lack of Tory growth in the area (and a frankly embarrassing website), and it’s fair to say she’s not going to win.

Andy Halsall is Sheffield’s first Pirate Party candidate, a party which focuses on surveillance and copyright issues. He is fairly senior within the party, being their national campaigns officer. Whilst I can see him picking up some votes from out-there students, and generate some interest in Pirate Party positions, he’s not going to top the podium.

Steve Andrew is the candidate for the Communist Party of GB. Since WWII, far left parties in Sheffield Central have gathered 2725 votes in total. As much as I’d love an openly Communist MP to sit in parliament solely for the expression it would garner from Jacob Rees-Mogg, it’s not going to happen. In fact, if Mr Andrew betters his performance from Sheffield South East in 2010, I’ll be surprised

Thom Brown is the candidate for the Above and Beyond party. He turned 20 in January. Safe to say, he won’t be challenging for the top spot. Above and Beyond are a single-issue party dedicated to creating a ‘None of the Above’ slot on ballots. Will it work? Maybe not. Is it an interesting thought? Almost certainly. Does he deserve praise for standing? 100%. Students are fabulous at complaining about politics but rarely do much about it. It’s nice to see Thom doing what he can to change things.

That’s it for today, stay tuned for another exciting post in the coming days where I look at the three candidates who might actually win the seat. Yes, I know I’m playing fast and loose with the word ‘exciting’. Any comments/shares on social media are appreciated.