Friday, 26 October 2012

Green Party at 8% in National Opinion Poll

The national monthly (September) political tracker voting intention opinion poll by Ipsos Mori, put the Green party on an astonishing 8%. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I recently highlighted the strong showing of late of the ‘Others’ in voting intention polls. UKIP have generally been getting the largest share of the ‘others’ vote, regularly out polling the Lib Dems, with the Greens doubling our share, but still usually only half that of the UKIP share.

In the Ipsos Mori poll for September though, this situation was reversed with UKIP polling 4% against the Greens 8%. Unfortunately, the Green party is back to 3% in the October poll with UKIP on 10%, but you would expect some volatility in the polling figures for small parties, where the sample surveyed is usually around only a thousand respondents, and so smaller party support is harder to detect and predict than that for the main parties.

Another polling company,Survation, who very accurately predicted the Green party vote share in this year’s London Assembly election, have an interesting piece on another, methodological reason why some polling organisations understate the strength of small party support in their polls. Basically, companies like Yougov, prompt respondents when asking which party they intend to vote for, (Con, Lab, Lib Dem or Other), so people need to first select Other, then select the particular party from a secondary prompt, (UKIP, Green, BNP etc).

Also, Yougov list the party options in the order Con, Lab, Lib Dem, Other, whereas Ipsos Mori change this order randomly, except in the case of Other, which is always last. According to the Survation piece, this explains why the Conservatives always poll higher in Yougov polls, and therefore logic would indicate that these polls will understate the Other vote, for the converse reason. Survation themselves, do randomly prompt on the main parties, and now UKIP too, and UKIP polls higher on their surveys than any of the other polling companies.

One thing that seems to be fairly certain is that this trend of UKIP and the Greens polling well is set to continue, with the next UK wide elections being the 2014 European Parliament elections in which both UKIP and the Greens do best at. Expect some gains for both parties in the Euro elections and probably the local authority council elections that will be held on the same day. Unless something dramatic happens, the Lib Dems will be down to their ‘core’ vote of 8 or 9%, and so will not affect the outcome of elections as much as they have done in recent years.

More importantly, if this trend continues all the way to the next general election which is expected in 2015, and if between UKIP and the Greens they can take approaching 15% of the national vote, with UKIP taking their votes mainly off the Conservatives and the Greens taking them mainly off Labour, this could have a significant impact on which of the two main parties wins the election.

What’s more, Labour and Conservatives will know this is the case, as they study these opinion polls very closely, which makes them more likely to steal policies off UKIP and the Greens in an effort to minimise the votes lost to their smaller rivals. This is potentially a strong position for us Greens, where we can perhaps influence Labour policy leftwards, and for UKIP to drag the Tories rightwards (I know, it’s hard to imagine the Tories being even more right wing, but there you go).

The days of the Lib Dems maintaining ‘equidistance’ between Labour and Conservative, and so peeling votes off their right and left wings respectively, looks to be well and truly over. A new dynamic will shape the next general election, and the Green party will be right in the thick of it.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Haringey Residents Fight NHS sell-off and Barnet-style ‘Easy-Council’

Two bits of news this week highlight the Green Party as the ONLY English party with solid opposition to privatisation that so far has a foothold in Parliament. At a packed meeting on Oct 9 called by Defend Haringey Health Services to protest NHS privatisation and cuts, Green party policies were recognised as such.

For example, we will fight for a fair deal for those needing health care by opposing cuts, closures and privatisation and by demanding a full programme of locally accessible services. In particular, we will maintain the principle of a free NHS by implementing in England and Wales the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland.

We further believe in keeping the health service free – we would abolish prescription charges, re-introduce free eye tests and ensure NHS chiropody is widely available. We will also fight to restore free dental care and provide everyone with the choice of an NHS dentist.

The ConDem government just turned up the heat on the NHS with a raft of privatisation tenders planned within days of Jeremy Hunt’s appointment as Health Secretary. It seems the Lib Dems are not sticking on this and it’s easy to see that privatisation is rooted in former Labour policies. As noted at Tuesday’s meeting, the ‘clinical commissioning groups’ (CCGs) that are now to run the health service at local level are now to be grouped into regional clusters which will be subject to government diktat, probably an attempt to forestall stances like that taken by the Hackney CCG which recently adopted a policy of trying NOT to buy from private providers of hospital services.

In the Haringey CCG area, the Whittington hospital faces cuts of £13 million by 2014 and £1.8 million this year which means the loss of over 120 jobs. Stroke and heart care services have been cut, audiology and diabetes care moved elsewhere. Unipart, a firm which used to make car parts, are being paid £500,000 a year to 'find savings'.

The North Middlesex is heavily in debt to PFI and was named as one of the 'failing' hospital trusts in a recent government report. Will it one day be placed into administration like the South London Hospital Trust was in July?   And eventually sold off to the private sector, like Hinchinbrooke near Cambridge?

St Ann's, the only hospital site actually IN Haringey, will be scaled down to one third of its site, with the remaining land sold for housing. This will lose an opportunity to bring much needed services of many kinds, including urgent care, close to the Tottenham population which has so many health problems and relatively low life expectancy. Will the new buildings be PFI'd ? You betcha.

And Haringey has seen several G.P.s recently close their out of hours service, leading to more pressure on A and E services.

On a second front, local press and blogs have raised the alarm that Nick Walkley has just resigned from being CE of Barnet Council to move to Haringey. Why on earth a Labour-led council has appointed a leading architect of the Tories’ plans to privatise just about everything beggars belief. The anarchists, to their credit (Haringey Solidarity Group) have called a demo outside the Civic Centre next Tuesday 16 Oct at 5.45, to protest against this crazy appointment. But when it comes to the next local election, they will no doubt call on people not to vote!

The hidden agenda of Nick Walkley’s appointment is still a mystery. However, The Guardian newspaper has uncovered a possible clue to his taking a pay cut in the fact that Walkley wanted to hide from a journalist something about Barnet’s (in effect his) handling of the policy in Barnet. If there’s anything in this, it deepens the mystery about why Haringey wants him. What are they planning to sell off and why?

Written by Anne Gray and Mike Shaughnessy

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Opinion Polls – Under the Radar

When polling organisations conduct political party voting intention opinion polls, usually commissioned by a newspaper, the story is always of how the three main (perhaps that should be two now) parties are faring, and which leader has the best approval ratings.

The polls have been pretty consistent over recent months, showing Labour with a double digit lead over the Conservatives, and the poor old Lib Dems flat lining at around 10%, sometimes as low as 8%. But if you look more closely, the ‘others’ are doing surprisingly well. The ‘story’ will only mention this in passing, but if you look at the full results, as political anoraks like me do, there is something happening, which is much more of a ‘story’ than that put out by the commissioning media outfits.

What you see is an impressive (around 10%) showing for UKIP, sometimes beating the Lib Dems into fourth place, and an improvement in the Green party share, which is around 3 or 4%. An example is this recent Opinium poll commission by The Observer newspaper

Now, that may not sound all that notable, but from my observations over the years, the Green party normally polls about 1 to 2% in national polls, except when there is an election (proportional) coming up like the European Parliament elections, when I’ve seen us poll as high as 6 or 7%.

This is a trend which I reported on this blog here back in May, and recent opinion polls do seem to confirm this view. But why is this happening?

I think the reasons are varied to some extent. Labour, Tory and Lib Dems all offer very similar policies these days, for one thing. The MP’s expenses scandal still resonates amongst the public too, and it is the main parties MP’s that were involved in this fraudulent raid on the public purse.  But I think the main reason is a desire amongst the voters to ‘protest’ vote, “sod the lot of you” type of thing.

What has changed on the party political landscape in recent years is that the Lib Dems are no longer the beneficiaries of this desire to stick it up the political establishment. They are of course in government now, though you would hardly know it with the Tories dominating the coalition government’s policies.

Another opinion poll from Opinum sheds some light on this particular theory. Take a look at this graphic (right hand side). Of those who voted Lib Dem in the 2010 general election, only a third are intending to vote Lib Dem again, with Labour gaining the most (39%) of those who have changed their allegiance but 8% have switched to UKIP and 10% to the Green party. I find the idea that voters can switch from the most pro-European of the British political parties (Lib Dems) to UKIP whose whole raison d’etre is being anti-Europe, somewhat bemusing, but there you go.

The 10% planning to vote Green is what has doubled our opinion poll score, which is a significant advance for us Greens, if not signalling some kind of major breakthrough. But it also means that we have much work to do, if we are to translate this into seats at Westminster and elsewhere. These voters are on the left politically, and so are our natural supporters.

Put simply, we have to get more of those 39% of former Lib Dem voters that are intending to vote Labour next time, to vote Green. Which is why we need to go on the attack, and expose Labour for what it is, a ‘Tory light’ party, sometimes not even so light.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Labour Party – Are You Tories in Disguise?

We might have expected it, with Ed Balls, the Labour shadow chancellor, stating in a pre-conference announcement he will stick to the Tory public sector pay freeze beyond the next general election, should Labour win. But this year’s Labour party conference has gone even further though, with the leader of the party stealing the ‘One Nation’ mantle from the Conservative party.

Ed Miliband isn’t the first Labour leader to snaffle this particular slogan of the pre Margaret Thatcher Conservative party. Tony Blair described New Labour as a ‘One Nation’ party in his (successful) bid to win over voters from the ‘middle ground’ in British politics. Of course, the ‘middle ground’ had shifted so far to the right in elite political discourse at that time, that it was probably not an exaggeration for him to claim it as a left wing position, as being akin to the Edward Heath led Conservative party of the 1970’s is indeed to the left all three main parties these days.

David Cameron depicted himself as a ‘One Nation’ Tory when he was attempting to detoxify the Conservative party brand, and so appeal to ‘middle ground’ voters, who are generally the most fickle anyway, and it worked, in a fashion for him too. I don’t think Cameron can play that card anymore though, with pressure from within the right of his party so strong now. So, in terms of positioning in the consciousness of the public, Labour and Miliband may well be onto something. Political ‘cross dressing’ doesn’t really surprise anyone these days, and it may be purely a presentational tactic.

But on top of the other portents that have been revealed at the Labour party conference this week, about the direction of Labour and the likely approach they would take to governing the country if they win the general election in 2015 (if the ConDem government lasts that long), this may well be more significant. Because make no mistake about it, the Labour party has staked its flag firmly on the already overcrowded centre right political compost heap, in Manchester this past few days.

The huffing and puffing of the unions has been ignored yet again, and it makes you think what on earth do the unions get out of funding a party that pursues policies that are so bad for their members? Hope of some crumbs here and there, I dare say, but is that really enough for the millions of pounds they put into Labour? Union members should ‘vote with their feet’ and support parties that represent their interests, and I think the Green party comes into this category, whatever union  leaders say about reclaiming the Labour party for working people. This is just a fantasy.

Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow welfare secretary, is on record as saying that welfare benefits are likely to be slashed further under a future Labour administration, in line with Ed Balls taking a ‘zero-based’ review of public spending. Byrne claims that more benefits will be means tested, rather than universally available, such as free bus passes for the elderly, which is bad enough in itself, but does anyone really believe that Labour will restore Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance to those who have cruelly had it withdrawn from them under the ConDem government?

The leader of Scottish Labour, Johann Lamont went even further, claiming that we need to end the "something for nothing" culture, as applied to benefits in Scotland, and blaming the Scottish National Party led government north of the border for issuing ‘election bribes’ to voters. 

With no visible sign of irony, Andy Burnham the shadow health secretary, called for the reversal of the ‘rapid privatisation’ of the NHS, when the last Labour government opened the door to NHS privatisation with exorbitant Private Finance Initiative deals to build new hospitals whilst hiving off the most profitable parts of health service provision to private companies.  

And Ed Balls has ruled out taking the part nationalised RBS and Lloyds banks into full public ownership and using them as investment motors to get the economy moving again. He also refuses to confirm that a future Labour government would raise the top rate of income tax to 50%, let alone the 75% that the socialist government in France is introducing, or to raise corporation tax from the scandalously low rate it is, by even one penny in the pound.

The generous side of me thinks Ed Miliband would like to inch Labour slightly to the left, but it is clear that powerful voices within the party will not stand for it, and they get listened to carefully, unlike the unions.

So there you have it. The right wing press falls over each other in its praise of Ed Miliband’ speech and performance, and well they might. Nothing to fear here, on the contrary, business as usual for the establishment, as the rest of us continue to get shafted.

So much for the self-styled, ‘People’s Party’.