Having predicted difficult years ahead for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, almost by default I’m going to have to predict good things for Labour. In terms of voting intention polls and electoral victories they should have a good year, what matters is what they choose to do with the opportunity, to use a well worn metaphor from the past year, will they fix the roof while the sun shines?

Since the election Labour have risen from 30% to around about 40% in the polls, the majority of this increase being at the expense of the collapsing Liberal Democrat vote (there is a small amount of churn between Labour and the Conservatives, but no great shift. The overwhelming majority of people who voted Tory in 2010 would vote Tory again tomorrow).

This means that Labour are narrowly ahead in all the polls just seven months after losing the election, and it will probably get even better next year. The cuts will start to come into play with all the consequential stories of this or that bad thing being attributed to them, further sapping government support. Barring an upset in Oldham, 2011 should be a year of electoral victories for Labour. The polls in Wales suggest a very strong Labour performance there, with the party on the edge of an overall majority. Scottish polling is less regular, but they too suggest a good result for Labour. They should also make good progress in the local elections. All of this suggests Labour should enjoy some healthy leads in national voting intention polls and the way the vote was distributed in the UK at the last election, that should translate into an easy Labour majority if repeated at an election….

But, there probably won’t be an election next year. Labour’s strategy can’t afford to be based upon the assumption that the government will fall early, that the economy will still be up the spout come 2015, nor that the spending cuts will automatically bring public services to the point of total breakdown rather than being adapted to over time (of course, things could end up in utter disaster, but in that case Labour will probably win anyway regardless of what they do).

Being ahead in the polls gives a lot of advantages. The party appears on the up, people take you seriously, and it gives the leader a certain authority to act and take the party with him. Labour need to utilise this time to tackle their underlying problems so they are ready for the next election.

At present Ed Miliband’s authority in the party is uncertain because the majority of Labour’s MPs and members voted for a different leader, who was also perceived as the better leader by the public. Miliband’s current ratings in the polls are lacklustre – he already has a negative approval rating, his brother is still seen as a better option and only 27% of the public think he’s up to the job.

The worst case scenario for Labour is that Ed Miliband is their IDS – little bit awkward looking, vocal mannerism that makes it hard to take him seriously, has the right ideas about reforming the party, but fatally underminded by the fact his MPs never actually wanted him in the first place and never felt any loyalty to him.

I’m inclined to withhold judgement on Miliband so far – he hasn’t made an impression with the public, but that also means he hasn’t made a negative impression yet. Think of the rapid negative perceptions Hague built up immediately, or Michael Howard brought with him to the job. There’s still time for people to warm to Miliband – more importantly, after May 2011 he should have some victories under his belt and that will give him the aura of success. People will think more positively of him as a victor, and it should win him some loyalty amongst his MPs.

I wrote earlier in the year about the problems that resulted in Labour’s defeat in May. Gordon Brown himself had atrocious ratings, their economic record was shot and they were seen as old and tired and out of touch. Gordon Brown is a problem Labour don’t need to worry about of course, but solving the other problems is less easy and in some cases contradictory.

Building an economic reputation in opposition is nigh on impossible. We saw in my post on the Conservatives that 47% of people now think the government are handling the economy badly compared to 40% who think they are doing well. However, ask people if they trust Labour or the Conservatives on the economy and the Tories still come out top.

On this front Labour also need to worry about the narrative the coalition government build around them. In 1997 Labour successfully painted the narrative of Conservative years of boom and bust and chronic underfunding of public services. The Conservatives will want to paint their own narrative of the last Labour government, of reckless spending pushing the country to the verge of bankrupcy, and have had some success in doing so: 60% think Labour haven’t faced up to the damage they did to the economy, 47% that if Labour returned to government they’d put the country into even more debt. Labour can argue with that, try to put forward their case for the last goverment’s economic record…but that conflicts with trying to distance themselves from Gordon Brown and the last Labour government.

How Labour respond to the cuts may be the trickiest. There will be pressure upon Miliband to simply oppose all the cuts and reap the rewards of public unhappiness. This may be superfluous anyway, as the only main opposition party, Labour are going to benefit from public unhappiness at cuts whatever, but it would bring with it its own risks – it can be portrayed as Labour not having their own plan, running away from hard decisions and, worst of all, raises the question of what happens if the cuts work… if the economy comes back on track, and public services don’t collapse?

On one hand, Labour are in opposition and by the time of the next general election the deficit will probably have been addressed. It’s not the opposition’s job to govern, and there’s no point Miliband tying himself into an inevitably tricky policy on a problem that someone else has the unenviable task of solving. On the other hand, if they don’t put forward some sort of coherent stance they will firstly be mocked for it, but more importantly, the government will invent a stance for them. If Labour don’t define themselves, then come the next election the Conservatives will paint the choice as being “the party that took the hard but necessary decisions while Labour suggested nothing” or “the party that took the steps needed to bring the economy back to health, opposed at every step by Labour”. It would fall on fertile ground: if you look again at the YouGov trackers on party image, the Tories have an overwhelming lead (58% to 10%) on the perception that their “leaders are prepared to take tough and unpopular decisions.”

Then there is the fairness agenda, this is the Conservatives’ great weakness. As I wrote in the first of these pieces, polls show people increasingly think the cuts are unfair and many still see the Tories as a party that puts the rich and affluent first. That’s an open door that Labour can push at. However, in order to win Labour need to appeal to middle class and aspirational voters. YouGov polling in August found Labour was seen as being closest to trade unions, to benefit claimants and to immigrants, with comparatively few people seeing them as close to the middle classes or people in the South. In opposing the cuts Labour mustn’t allow themselves to become too closely associated with the benefit recipients losing out from cuts, or the trade unions striking against them (hence, of course, Ed Miliband’s focus on the “squeezed middle”)

Finally Labour have to make themselves seem renewed and relevant again. It will be easy for Labour to say what they are against, trickier to say what they are for.

The short term position for Labour is good, and will get even better next year. It may be that the economy sours and they have an easy ride back to power. If not though, they have an awful lot of hard work to do – Ed Miliband needs to ensure that the relative ease with which the party has re-established a lead in the poll doesn’t lead them to think that it’s in the bag. The good news for Labour is they have the luxury of being able to do all the work from the position of an opinion poll lead.

413 Responses to “End of year round up – Labour”

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  1. @ Mike & Colin

    Survation/ Surveyance – oops.

    I’ve been hearing rumours about canvassing/ private polling since a few weeks ago.

    My reporting of those, showing a clear Dem lead, was dismissed as ‘partisan expectation management’. :-(

  2. Amber-thanks.

    THat would be a huge boost for NC-& some kudos to DC- in some quarters at least

    Be honest-If LDs take it -do you think EM will suffer in any way-within the Party I mean.

    Was there really no internal expectation of capitalising on tuition fees & VAT ??

  3. @ Colin

    IMO, A win in O&S would be a boost for EM. To not win, I think it will be neutral for him.

    Within the Party, Phil Woolas had friends, hence his shadow cabinet appointment & lack of MPs willing to speak out against the tactics used by his team at the GE.

    I think the amjority of the Party understands, it is difficult to fight this by-election without saying anything about why it is being held!

    The media will spin it as a bad defeat for Ed when the Dems win & there will be anti-Ed comments – but they’ll come from people who would’ve preferred a different leader anyway.

  4. @ Colin

    If the O&S result turns out be 1,2,3 all very close, I think Ed M & Dave C will be in a similar position.

    Those who are unhappy, in their respective Parties, will make a great deal of noise about how it ought to/ could’ve been won.

    The majority of MPs & supporters will understand why each took the approach they did.

  5. Thanks Amber

    Very interesting.

    So something like-we all know it was Phil’s fault, but we liked him-so tough.

  6. Amber

    In exactly the same way as “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they’re NOT out to get you”

    “Just because you’re partisan, it doesn’t mean that you’re NOT engaging in expectation management”. :-)

    Wearing your British hat (that fetching bowler that we normally see here), you must think that the Southern Brits will only ever support your lot if you return to the Blairite right-wing model – so why bother?

    With your toorie (for those outwith Scotland – that’s very different from a tutu) on, voting against fiscal autonomy seems a bit like wearing a celice.

  7. Amber

    I take your point about the risks for DC in the event of “we were close enough to win it”

    Yes….he might get more flak than EM.

  8. @OldNat

    I took the numbers from table C11 from the Red Book and the bulk of them are HMRC receipts. Within these there is 6.5bn of offshore corporation tax and PRT. The council tax and business rates are local receipts. There was also a 3.8bn EU contribution; obviously a minus. I’m not sure that that answers your question.

    I was just highlighting the relative orders of magnitude for the different taxes. Probably the biggest surprise is just how much NI contributes and how little some of these political hot potatoes actually contribute.

  9. I wonder whether MS’s “rumour”, is a “chatter on facebook” rumour, or a “i already know the poll findings but am embargoed from releasing them” rumour.

    Hmm…i know what I think, and it’s not the former.

    EM in huge trouble, unless the LD lead can be seen to be result of heavy Tory tactical voting.

  10. Aleksandar


    I’ve always been amazed by the enthusiasm that the British Left and Right have shown for taxing those who actually work for a living (as opposed to Mrs Nat and I, [retired but on good pensions]).

    Still. I am sure that all those of you below pensionable age who really ENJOY paying more tax than I do, embrace that pleasure because it’s difficult to separate the stupidity of the politicians from the credulity of their electorate.

    However, thanks again – our generation ripped off your futures for our benefit, and you keep on allowing us to do so!

  11. Just took a quick look at the by election odds

    Lab typically 1/6
    LD typically 7/2
    Con typically 11/1

    Source: oddschecker.

    So the market is not taking the rumour into account just yet.

  12. COLIN

    I don’t see much risk to D.C because I doubt if the actual result will be that close. If the Tories in the imminent and possibly only poll are in 3rd place then I would expect a lot of their support to switch to Lib Dem (and vice versa applies).

    I believe the party leader most at risk from an unfavourable result in Oldham is Ed M given that:-
    1. It is very unusual for the main opposition party to lose a by election.
    2.. Labour on the basis of recent national polls should be well ahead.
    3. Labour up to now has been the strong favourite as indicated by the bookies
    4. Ed unlike his party is polling very badly
    5. I gather the strongest anti Labour issue in the by election has been the criticism of Ed personally in appointing Woollas as a Minister at a time when the outcome of the Special Court was awaited.

  13. Cameron’s trouble in O&S might not be so much losing, but more a perception that he let it slide for the Libs (which is possibly how the far right of his party will take it).

    Regardless I doubt it would be much of a problem for him.

  14. @ Old Nat

    Whilst wearing my very black, very pointy witches hat, I care not whether the “Rest of the South” support my lot. Labour can win without them.

    Incidentally, RoS was the only region where Labour were behind the Tories in the last poll before Christmas… & they weren’t very far behind at that.

    Obviously, having a small lead or being slightly behind isn’t the same as having won the argument for a non-Blairite approach but it encourages me to keep making the case for it.

    Winning people over to a different political view takes time & committment. Surely, with your tartan bunnet on, you will not disagree with that sentiment. :-)

  15. Old Nat
    There is a lot in what you say about the spread of the tax target but surprised you talk about the British left and right as the most extreme party to favour Mr and Mrs Nat are the SNP surely who want to greatly reduce all tax on business and do away with Council Tax and replace with a local income tax with pensioners not paying.. or has this changed? I do know that in practice they have given up on local income tax but nevertheless?

  16. @ Mike

    I gather the strongest anti Labour issue in the by election has been the criticism of Ed personally in appointing Woollas as a Minister at a time when the outcome of the Special Court was awaited.
    I agree. I commented on this factor, above; & also sketched the ‘inside Labour’ view by request.

  17. I wouldn’t hold out too much hope over the Survation poll. Judging by their website (still very much under construction) it’s a (automated?) telephone poll, but they don’t seem to have much experience in political polls – they’re marketing people branching out, who mainly seem to have done e-mail surveys in the past. They have applied for BPC membership, so they’re obviously serious, but there may be a bit a learning curve as most of their previous polling seems to be about X-factor. Still look where that got YouGov. ;)

    The only political poll I could find by them in the past is the one mentioned by Mr Staines here:

    ht tp://order-order.com/2010/12/16/demonstrations-cost-students-support/

    The poll was much quoted in parts of the blogosphere; though all the trails lead back to Guido, Political Betting or Survation’s own Facebook. However there doesn’t seem to be any further data on the poll itself (eg sample size, methods) and the result partly contradicts the more complicated reaction to the demos that YouGov found.

    Meanwhile, there’s an article on the Guardian’s website (probably tomorrow’s paper) here:

    ht tp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/03/oldham-byelection-labour-conservative-lib-dem

    Suggesting that the Lib Dems are in real trouble in Oldham and the Tories may even have a chance.

  18. Oldham?
    I have already pinned my colours to the mast on this one so i may yet take a kicking but I would be interested in Anthony’s views on the poll by survation. They are applying to join the polling council but are working with the “help” of betable a gaming company
    Locally there doesn’t seem to be much discussion of P Woolas. In the local paper the main argument seems to be the Lib Dems are focussed on Saddleworth and the other “hill villages” whilst Labour are all for Oldham. Of course the Lib Dems will win if the Tories vote Lib Dem but
    a) I don’t think even now that is likely and
    b)It will be a Pyrric victory as Labour can again prtray them as the one party with two right wings.

  19. Roger Mexico
    Keep Calm and Carry On?

  20. Barney

    Were it within the powers of the Scottish Parliament to vary NI and the full range of other taxes in Scotland, would you support the variation I suggest to tax me more heavily?

    Do you support the detailed tax changes for Scotland proposed by the current UK governing coalition (with support from your lot) – or would you wish greater or less autonomy? Let us know your views on fiscal autonomy (or Montenegro for that matter, if that varies from your “party line”).

    I was never a great supporter of LIT. I much preferred the Land Value Tax that is Green policy. Mind you, I understood the difficulty that any Scottish Parliament has when faced with the obstructions to tax changes that Westminster bureaucrats put in place.

    Be brave! Be courageous! (Be deselected :-) ) Defy your leadership (OK “Iain Gray” and “leader” may be antonyms) and define what Barney wants!

  21. @ RAF re betting odds.

    Betfair’s odds have been bouncing around a lot in the last 10 minutes so perhaps a whisper has got through?

    For what it’s worth, based on the snippets of information I’m receiving from Oldham, Labour are still on course for a very narrow win IF they can actually get their voters interested enough to vote. I believe that is their biggest worry at present.

  22. I was up in Shaw leafletting on Sunday. My take on the area I was doing was lite Tory. My gut feel was fairly positive… But then I felt that way when being beaten in local elections, so don’t trust that!

  23. Duncan

    I take it that “Shaw” is somewhere in Old & Sad?

    Emotional reactions can be confusing.

    This might be the new LD song – at least in Tory areas

    “It’s the wrong time and the wrong place
    Though your face is charming, it’s the wrong face
    It’s not her face, but such a charming face
    And it’s alright with me

    It’s the wrong song with the wrong style
    Though your smile is lovely, it’s the wrong smile
    It’s not her smile, but such a lovely smile
    That it’s alright with me

    You can’t know how happy I am we met
    I’m strangely attracted to you
    There’s someone I’m trying so hard to forget
    Don’t you wanna forget someone too

    It’s the wrong game with the wrong chips
    Though your lips are tempting, they’re the wrong lips
    They’re not her lips, but they’re such tempting lips
    That it’s all right with me”

    Kaptcha code BBC9

  24. @RJK

    Thanks. Just took another look at oddschecker and as you say, Betfair’s LD odds have shortened dramatically. But Labour still odds-on to win:

    Lab 29/100
    LD 57/50
    Con 19/1

    It would be a massive coup for the LD’s to take the seat.

  25. Mike

    Thanks-Amber seems to have a more pragmativ view of the real Labour feelings about a prospective loss.

    As for DC-some seem to be anticipating serious trouble from those in his party who are getting a bit peed off with the Help A LibDem theme.

    Perhaps a close thing at Old & Sad will flush this out?

    Soon see.

  26. Old Nat
    I am very cautious on any changes though I did not catch the change you were proposing other than land value tax. lots of people in labour are attracted to land value tax but I think implementation would be difficult. A valuer told me 34 of the 36 jurisdictions in the eu have something similar to council tax and no I am afraid I will not be seeking de-selection. things look reasonably promising for my election.
    On Montenegro, I would advise any snp supporter to read Misha Glenny’s book and get mention of the country off the snp’s site pronto.

  27. Oldnat:

    On LVT you ought to check out Henry George and see how it is bound up with his concept of nationhood.

    Something for SNP to think about. If you want to get a reputation for original thinking, refurbish an old idea.

  28. By the way, belated Happy New Year to everyone and may I join in the thanks to Anthony for his fair and scrupulous running of this dodgy Labourite website to quote the other Roger, despite Anthony’s rather obvious left wing Labour bias, so characterisitc of the website generally however much he protests his neutrality. Obviously for a hip young dude like Anthony this will be water off a duck’s back.

    Thanks to whoever recommended Paul Mason’s blog on the Newsnight site. The Keynes “interview” was a classic and I agree with a lot of Mason’s predictions (Japan definitely needs watching). I think his expectation of the coalition splitting is also possible – though like most people he seems to believe that this would be caused by a break-away rebellion against Clegg.

    However because of the structure of the Lib Dems, the Party as a whole deciding to pull out of coalition government would be a more likely scenario. Clegg would then have to go with his Party (probably losing the leadership) or leave it and hang on with the Tories. In either case, far fewer (if any) Lib Dem MPs would stick with the Tories than in a “left-wing” break-away.

    After the student fees fiasco, Clegg must have very little political capital left with his own side. Although I suspect here has been considerable moderating force on a lot of Tory policies, it’s difficult to point to exactly what they are and even harder to explain them to the electorate. Even if you do, being the pscho’s best friend, saying “you should thank me, he would have killed even more people otherwise” may not go down well.

    If May’s various electoral processes are disastrous for the Lib Dem’s; if Lansley, Pickles, Gove etc continue in bull in a china shop mode; if Osbourne reins in everyone except the banks and the rich; we could well see the Lib Dems grassroots revolting at their conference if not before.

    For the Conservatives to retain a working majority, they would need 9 “Orange Bookers” to stay with them, if they can also get the DUP to support them reliably. It would be close, I suspect, though other events could confuse things (SF taking their seats, Labour defections). Mind you, even if a complete split did occur, it would not stop the Conservatives governing alone, probably pushing policies designed to split some of the old New Labourites into supporting them.

  29. anthony

    shouldn’t there be an end of year round up for the greens, after all they are the only party who could reasonable claim to have won the election

  30. @Roger M,

    I don’t think Mason’s prediction is likely at all. But you are the first person here I’ve seen point out that the LDs withdrawing from the Coalition wouldn’t actually force the Tories out of office. Given that the hardest of the hard lifting has already been done (VAT rise, tuition fees, deep cuts), a minority Tory administration might well be able to weather a couple of years and go to the polls when the economy (and presumably their electoral fortunes) is in a healthier state.

    How ironic would that be?!

  31. AW

    I agree with R in N

    We’ll get a complaint from Old Nat now

  32. John B Dick

    You won’t be surprised to know that I have read Henry George.

    As to “original thinking” on tax – I’m not sure that any original thoughts remain to be thought :-) – simply adjustment of existing ideas to current circumstances (arguably Lysistrita’s campaign was a “tax” on sex. It was, after all, a method of adjusting public policy by placing a premium on what part of the population thought was a desirable activity).

    While Barney is right to suggest that most countries have some form of property tax, many would struggle to see Council Tax as “something similar” to what they have – except in so far as it is a property tax, as is LVT.

    All sensible taxation systems raise their revenue from a mixture of taxes on income (both personal and corporate), expenditure, wealth, immovable property, and natural resources. Getting the balance right to provide what the community sees as an appropriate level of publicly provided services, and the proportion that each individual contributes/receives is the hard bit.

  33. Howard

    Why should I complain?

    Oh, I see! RiN meant the English and Welsh Greens!


  34. Well it seems to me that everyone is getting a tad hysterical here.It is not the general election for goodness
    sake.It is only in the hyperbole of the press that any of the
    party leaders will be damaged.There are too many variables in this by election for it to illustrate anything
    about anything.The people of Old and Sad must be fed up of the whole business.

  35. Barney

    A number of people here may not find it easy to find the SNP website item on Montenegro that you urge them to read. It’s here –

    h ttp://www.snp.org/node/270

    They will note that it makes no reference to Montenegro’s internal or external policies (other than they are making progress). They simply make the point that international recognition of a new country is a relatively simple process.

    Your leader chose to criticise this on the basis that the artificial repression of nationalities within the former Yugoslavia created massive problems – somewhat similar to what the Brits produced with the same policies.

    Now, I fully understand that your preference would have been for Montenegro to have remained subject to Serbian nationalism. That you consider that to have been a preferential condition and attitude doesn’t surprise me (though it does disappoint).

    As to Misha Glenny’s view on the posturing of Westerners on the Balkans – have you read this?

    h ttp://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n09/misha-glenny/only-in-the-balkans

  36. I think that the Coalition 1 then Coalition 2, as cited by Martyn misses the point.

    MPs, not Parties, win a seat. Dem MPs who wanted to stay in government could stay, whatever their Party voted for. They wouldn’t have to become Tories; they could be an independent collective until they decided what they wanted to do.

    Therefore, there would no longer be a coalition per se, there would be Tory + independents; the government’s majority would depend on how many independents there were in the breakaway group. Clegg & co. could go on to form a new Party, join the Tories, remain independent or re-join the Dems (if the LD’s would take them back; & one can imagine that it could be in the Dems interest to do so).

    IMO, That’s quite a different scenario to simply being Coalition 2 (as Martyn put it).

  37. Amber

    “MPs, not Parties, win a seat.”

    Many of us (who detest political parties :-) ) would agree that such a situation is the theoretical basis of representative democracy – but no longer the reality.

    In extreme cases, a particular candidate can have a significant effect – but it seldom lasts.

    If your aphorism had any basis in the wider reality, your lot (along with their unionist mates) would never have agreed to have the “Leadership” / “Prime Ministerial” debates (which strangely altered their title as challenges were raised to them).

    Indeed, your own belief in that statement is challenged by the history of your own posts. Unless, your post is some form of post-modern commentary???

  38. Anthony

    Now that VAT increased half an hour ago, there are critical questions –

    Has this site passed on that taxation increase to the advertisers?

    Does our favourite host benefit, suffer or remain unchanged?


  39. @ Old Nat

    Maybe I should have said MPs ‘own’ the seats, after they are won. Pragmatically speaking, Parties ‘win’ elections – the paucity of independent MPs bears witness to that.

  40. Amber

    “Maybe I should have said MPs ‘own’ the seats, after they are won.”

    Even if you had, you would have been very wrong. For just as long as the party allows them to be the candidate at the next election, they “own” the seat rather less securely than a sub-prime mortgage holder “owns” their home.

    In that respect, political parties are even less moral than mortgage brokers or credit agencies.

  41. SoCalLiberal

    I see on the news that your freeways closed due to snow.

    Did your media demand the resignation of your politician in charge of transport?

  42. The status of MPs is so low that it’s no wonder there are so few independents. There are too many MPs, parliament has been emaciated by presidential government (and the EU), they count for very little. It’s hardly worth a constituency picking an independent unless the election result is something like the last Australian one.

    If the people of a constituency actually believed that one man or woman could actually achieve anything on their own it might be different..

  43. Neil A


    You might persuade someone that MPs are an expensive irrelevance to democracy.

    If people believed that, then what would be the function of the political parties?

    What would happen to YouGov and its contract with Murdoch?

    You want to put Anthony out of a job?

  44. @OldNat,

    Yet another area where STV could help tremendously. Both by creating a “market” between politicians in the local area, and by providing a wider range of “types” of politicians (more Scots Tory MPs, more (any) Labour Cornish MPs, more indepedents, and small party MPs).

    Ah, well…

  45. Neil A

    My only experience of STV is in our local elections – which makes me vastly more experienced than most others on here :-)

    I thoroughly enjoyed being able to rank the non-Labour candidates (this was an even more one-party state than Glasgow) in order of who I preferred / thought could reduce Labour’s dominance.

    One Labour guy almost made it onto my list as well. If the local Labour party had chosen the alternative guy from my area, he would probably have got my vote.

    Now, I know that the political system specialists are going to tell me that I only have one vote under STV – but in a 3 party ward, I can have a strong influence on more than one candidate’s election. That’s good enough for me.

    Only party hacks (and yes, I mean many on here! :-) ) would want to have an electoral system designed around the chances of the one candidate that their tiny group of activists had selected being presented to me as “the” choice.

    Actually, I reckon that very few posting on here are democrats. Most simply want to manipulate the PBI in their direction.

  46. Correction

    “If the local Labour party had chosen the alternative guy from my area, he would probably have got my vote.”

    “If the local Labour party had chosen the alternative guy from my area, he would probably have got my 3rd preference (and, therefore, increased their electoral prospects). Of course, that might have meant a pro fiscal autonomy Labour candidate getting a seat”

  47. @OldNat/Barney

    The referendum on independence in Montenegro was more complicated and dangerous than the bare facts suggest. The vote was 55.4% in favour with an 86.5% turnout but this masks the dangerous split within the country. The ethnic make-up is 43% Montenegrin and 32% Serb. This ethnic divide also splits geographically with the Serbs closer to the border with Serbia. The opposing camps formed the nuclei for the yes and no votes.

    I can imagine under different conditions that ethnic violence could have ensued. The common language and , more importantly, a common religion coupled with strong historic and family ties made trouble less likely and , of course the agreement of Serbia was paramount. However we only have to look at the situation in Kosovo to see the potential for problems.

    I am very nervous about any referendum that splits along ethnic or religious grounds. History suggests that there is good reason to be nervous.

  48. Aleksandar

    Please define the different “ethnicity” of Serbs and Montenegrins.

  49. oldnat @ Amber

    “MPs, not Parties, win a seat.”

    [is] – “no longer the reality.”

    “In extreme cases, a particular candidate can have a significant effect – but it seldom lasts.”

    The first ABT supported MP was David Steel. He lasted.

    Denis Canavan’s, far left vews were abhorrent to thousands of his voters (though not as much as to his party) but they gave him the highest vote and the highest majority.

    Then there was the saga of the enforced ennoblement of Reginald Sorensen when Labour voters went on strike.

  50. John B Dick

    There is a difference between an MP/Party which regularly wins an election in a particular constituency because they aren’t “them”, and one which regularly wins because they are one of “us”.

    In your example, Steel continued to win because of what he wasn’t – not because of what he was, and because he had a party structure behind him. Without that structure the boy David would have melted into insignificance.

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