Lord Ashcroft has produced another round of marginal polling – full details here. His last batch of polls revisited the Con-held ultra-marginals with Labour in second place. This time they deal with some Conservative held marginals with slightly larger majorities and revisit some Labour held marginals. The latter aren’t of much interest at the moment (with Labour ahead in the polls there is no realistic chance of the Conservatives gaining seats from Labour, so until and unless the Conservatives start showing a lead over Labour in national polls polling Labour-held Conservative targets is a little bit academic, though I may return to them in a future post), for the immediate future the Con-held marginals are more relevant.

Lord Ashcroft’s earlier polling of Con-marginals took the eleven Con-Lab seats with majorities under 2 percent. This round of polling took the seats with majorities between 2 and 3 percent, eight of them. The average swing across these seats was 6 points from Con to Lab, the equivalent of a 5 point Labour lead in the national polls. A little larger than in national polls at the moment but, as with Lord Ashcroft’s previous waves of polling in Conservative -v- Labour seats, not that different.

As usual with Lord Ashcroft’s polls this wasn’t a poll of a group of marginal seats, it was eight fully fledged polls of individual constituencies and looking at the individual seats spits out a few interesting findings. Lord Ashcroft used the two stage voting intention question for the constituency poll, first asking people a generic voting intention question and then asking people to consider their own constituency and the candidates likely to stand there in an attempt to squeeze out tactical or incumbency effects. Normally this has a huge effect in seats where the Liberal Democrats are in contention, and very little effect in seats where they aren’t. The effect of the two stage question here was illustrative – in four seats the Conservatives did very slightly better in the second question (what we’d expect from the incumbency effect). In Warrington South (a three way marginal) and Bedford (which has a strong local Lib Dem presence) the second question boosted the Lib Dems. In Stroud the second question boosted Labour, perhaps because the ousted Labour MP David Drew is seeking to return at the next election (Patrick Hall is also seeking to return in Bedford, where the second question also showed a slightly bigger swing to Labour). Also worth noting was the healthy performance by the Greens in Stroud, up on 12%.

A final observation: Southampton Itchen, one of the four Labour held seats, showed a swing of 0.5% from Lab to Con, putting the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck on 33%. This seems unlikely, while John Denham is standing down in Southampton Itchen the last time Ashcroft polled the seat in May it had an eight point Labour lead. A more likely explanation for the rather odd result is probably that suggested by Lord Ashcroft himself in his commentary – that Southampton Itchen has a substantial university population (students and staff) who wouldn’t have been around when the poll was conducted.


382 Responses to “New Lord Ashcroft marginal poll”

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  1. @CL

    The best chance of a dead heat would be around 270 ish, as in the US! That would put Labour +20ish and the Tories -35ish.

  2. @ CB and Jim Jam

    Not sure I share quite the same views as both of you.

    There is certainly an element of the Tories not appealing to some significant sizeable parts of the electorate (ethnic minorities, gays, public sector) and that doesn’t help them as they are playing catch up before they have even started.

    However I think their current problems are much simpler than that. The bottom line is that they have been in government for a period when there has been a huge global financial crisis and carried on long after traditional recessions have ended. They also have a government borrowing problem that has led to cuts in public spending and severely restricts their room for manoeuvre and this reflects in government popularity. There’s a secondary issue that, while this is going on, globilisation has caused a drain on the ability to raise taxes and also competitive issues not easily solved without cuts in living standards in the West. Plus to some extent an energy/oil crisis with prices going up feeding through into general inflation.

    We can obviously argue about whether they have done a good job or not or whether Labour would have done better (not on here of course!) but 2010 was always a good election to lose.

    IMHO they would be doing better if they modernised and detoxified more but there are still only two parties in town and it seems hard to envisage another one making a breakthrough any time soon.

    If there had been a Lab/LD coalition in 2010 or a quick end to the world financial crisis I don’t think you’d be talking about the Tories having a problem.

  3. @REGGIESIDE
    “RE: “swingback” All these models based on swingback look to be not working. The polls have been essentially unchanged for a year.”

    A few threads back, Robin Hood posted a series of stats about polls prior to the 2010 election, and they showed stable leads for the Conservatives up until the conference season just before the election. Then it all started to change

    The polls arn’t budging right now because people arn’t really paying attention, so they give an off-the-cuff response to pollsters based on about two seconds of thought.

    Once the conference season starts and the election is in it’s home straight, they WILL start paying close attention, and it’s anyone’s guess what they’ll home on on. And don’t forget the Scottish referendum in the middle of it, just for added excitement.

    This is an odd Parliament. There are so many “firsts” playing out:

    – the first proper coalition govt in living memory
    – the first time the LibDems/Liberals have been in govt for 90 years
    – the first time the leader of the opposition is descended from immigrants since universal franchise
    – the aftermath of the Great Recession, which was itself the first deflationary recession for 70 years
    – the first time the majority is in a four-party system (previously only the 7 million people in Scotland and Wales were in a four-party system – how will it work out now that’s extended to the 50 million in England?)

    And so on.

    Anything could happen.

  4. IS is a massive global problem-they have what AQ never had-territory-lots of it. They have oil wells & banks-and if the reports are to be believed, funding & support from countries listed as allies of ours.
    ————–
    Which is why I was against what the UK did in Libya. I took a lot of ‘stick’ for that, at the time.

  5. CANDY.
    Thank you for your very interesting post at 5.12PM. as you say, the GE in May 2015 ill be a unique event, so the idea of Tories and Labour both increasing their vote and seat share is not unthinkable.
    Therefore I think it will be a very close race, dead heat a strong possibility.
    The Northern Ireland parties (not SF) and the Nationalist Parties from Scotland and Wales will be therefore in a very interesting position.
    I have just finished Peter Mandelson’s account of the 2010 debacle.

  6. Broadland District – Wroxham:

    C 400, Lib Dem 386, Lab 103. (May 2011 – Two seats Lib Dem 985, 829, C 741, 537, Lab 227, Green 197. March 20 2014 by-election – Lib Dem 482, C 341, Ukip 112, Lab 63).

    C gain from Lib Dem. Swing 7.6% Lib Dem to C.
    This result shows us the influence the UKIP vote has on closly faught seats. Makes the GE look vey volatile methinks

  7. @SHEVII

    ‘@ Mr Beeswax
    Interesting figures those- what was the question(s) asked that got you to those percentages? Also is this on the marginal poll or a YouGov one?’

    It was the marginal poll and the question asked was;

    ‘Are there any parties you would definitely not vote for in the next general election’

  8. @candy

    I agree there a lots of variables and 2010 has many unique factors over previous elections – which is exactly why those ‘swingback’ prediction models are – IMO – tosh.

    Im basing my prediction on the 2010 lib dem defectors sticking with labour and UKIP taking 2-3% of the tory vote share from 2010 – I believe the evidence of the polling and the election results over the past 3 years all points to that.

  9. Candy
    I thought Michael Howard’s family history was similar to that of Ed Miliband? If so, MH was first (I think there was a surname change involved too).

  10. AMBER- you did indeed.

    It came hard for those of us who cherish the ideas of Freedom & Democracy to concede that this status -for any citizenry-could possibly be inferior to Dictatorship/One Party rule.

    But it is certainly difficult now not to recognise that in countries with Islam as the majority religion, the tensions between the central tenets of that faith, and of Democracy, together with the unbelievably destructive forces of sectarian disagreement within Islam tend to produce one outcome only-Dictatorship. Be it Military,/Secular , or Theocratic/Sectarian.

    It is very difficult to escape this conclusion , when, today, a senior British Military Officer , floats the suggestion that in order to defeat ( as opposed to contain in Iraq) IS, you have to attack it in Syria-and to do so you must work with Assad.!

    Conversely we have heard voices today suggesting that if we had supported the Free Syrian Army against Assad, we would not have allowed the vacuum which spawned IS in Syria.

    These are difficult areas for Western Democracies to construct rational Foreign Policy -unless of course complete disengagement became policy. But IS doesn’t allow us that luxury-and whilst I feel that BO/DC are absolutely right to assert the integrity of Iraq , and only enter it at the request of its legitimate political authorities, I fear that today’s sectarian slaughter in Diyala is just a a precursor to the disintegration of that country.

  11. Amber

    “Which is why I was against what the UK did in Libya. I took a lot of ‘stick’ for that, at the time.”

    IIRC the argument that we were both making was that such interventions, designed to achieve regime change, would render genuinely international interventions for humanitarian purposes almost impossible.

  12. @Reggieside – the Tories said the exact same thing last time. And they too were looking at the “evidence of the polling and the election results over the past 3 years”.

    The point I was making was that the last three years polling don’t count because voters haven’t been paying much attention – I know my parents switch channel every time something political comes on, and I’d say that was pretty common.

    Voters do pay attention from the time of the conference season to the election though. Because they’re responsible and know they must even if politics drives them mad.

    So it’s the next six months that are crucial, not the last three years.

    Aside from this being an odd parliament and us not knowing what the voter judgement on that will be, we’ll have a Scottish referendum on independence (another “first”), then the performance of the leaders at their conferences, plus manifestos being unleashed, plus the press upping the ante. And then there’s always the possibility of an October surprise on the economy – autumn is the traditional time for that stuff.

    Any of those things could throw a spanner in the works because a) voters will be paying attention at last and b) time has run out to fix whatever the gaffe is

    So I think all the polls of the last three years have been just noise (and possibly a waste of money for whoever commissioned them all), and we’ll find out the real picture in the next six months.

    And that’s not based on “swing-back theory”, but the theory of how voters-who-dislike-politics behave.

  13. @Howard – yes you are correct – I forgot about him!

    The press didn’t make much of Howard’s background though, but they are over Miliband’s.

    The whole point of that Dacre attack on Ed Miliband’s dad was not marxism (no-one cares about defunct ideologies from the last century).

    It was to highlight that Miliband was of immigrant stock and that he was Jewish (hence Dacre’s purple prose about the “jealous gods of Deuteronomy”).

    The idea being to prize away those members of the working class who don’t like foreigners and muslim voters who are stereotyped not to like Jews.

    It’s worked in that people do now know his background when they didn’t before. But from the evidence of the May council elections, voters are refusing to conform to stereotype.

    I don’t know how the press will respond – dial it up? And of course people say one thing to pollsters and do another thing in polling booths.

    If Miliband pulls it off he’ll be the first leader of jewish descent who will have had muslim votes contributing in small part to his election. That’ll be one in the eye for the stereotypes.

  14. Candy – your comments chime with AWs remark recently that polls are re accurate at predicting outcomes in the last 6 months.

    Indeed this is Pressman’s intention (and ToH’s) belief that as the GE approaches Ed Milliband’s dire ring will become an issue and affect VI and ultimately actual votes on GE day.

    I think they are overstating the impact but their views are credible

  15. aaarghhh

    polls are more accurate…..

  16. SHEVII

    That was an interesting-and for me-perceptive analysis in response to the doctrine of “Long Slow Death of the Tories”

    Perhaps the adherants of this comfort blanket idea find it a little too uncomfortable to contemplate the complicated political circumstances of 2010 & after-as you have done.

    Nevertheless, that Jim Jam appeared to agree with the concept , sent me looking at the historic numbers . And to me they tell of surprising symmetry & some stability.:-

    I start after the 1970 GE, the last one in the post war period where LD votes were but a gnat’s whisker ( usually single digit) & Con/Lab luxuriated in constant 40% + vote shares.

    From the first of the two 1974 GEs LDs suddenly emerged as a meaningful vote share. For the next 36 years they were in double digits, averaging 20% over 10 GEs.
    Con/Lab were in a new marketplace., but one in which they shared very similar fortunes. After the boring duet of Wilson & Heath & the inconclusive elections of 1974, two charismatic & popular leaders took their parties back to 40% +-MT for four elections & TB for two.During those six elections & 22 years, the losing Lab / Con averaged the same -about 32%.
    2005 & 2010 saw Cons gain 4% pts & Lab lose 12% pts-so who was experiencing terminal decline at that point ?
    In fairness only Labour-and only twice, have plunged to the depths of sub 30% since my start point-and for the same reason-poor choice of leader.

    During those 40 years I don’t see any Terminal Decline. I see LDS holding 20% ish give or take. I see Charismatic Con or Lab leaders able to take their parties back to the heady days of 40% + , whilst the loser settled in the low to mid thirties.
    But the dog days of Labour’s administration did see one “Long Slow” feature emerge-the steady growth of “others” ( than Con/Lab/LD) -from 2% or3% pre 1970, to 6% or 7% in the early seventies , through a steady climb to 12% in 2010.

    And then post 2010-the explosion of defections to UKIP without which Cons would be on 40% or thereabouts; and the collapse of LDs to single digits again after 40 years , without which Lab would be on 30% or thereabouts.

    Well it was an interesting trip -I saw no Long Slow Death. I saw surprising symmetry, LD stability, gradual disaffection to “others”-and then all the cards went up in the air.

    How they fall will be interesting-and I still don’t think it is certain how they will.

  17. Howard — ‘I thought Michael Howard’s family history was similar to that of Ed Miliband? If so, MH was first (I think there was a surname change involved too).’

    Yes
    ”He is the son of Bernat Hecht, Romanian-born, who came to Britain in 1939” (wiki)
    On top of which he was Welsh! And jewish.
    Miliband is a Johnney come lately

  18. @ Colin

    The biggest problem I see for the Tories currently is the pressure from UKIP. Labour’s problem was the SDP- this made it electorally easier for them to tack in one direction (to the centre) to pick up votes.

    The difficulty for the Tories is whether they tack left or right. They have lost votes to the right but tacking right risks alienating more people in that centre ground, which, historically at least, has been where you win elections.

    I say historically because it feels like large sections of the electorate want a change and the more the economy struggles the more they will tolerate a more extreme solution. It is probably events that will decide what direction the Tories take.

  19. Interesting thoughts from Colin, Candy (and others)
    I am definitely on the side of ‘far too early to tell’ mainly because there are such a lot of known unknowns (Scotland, UKIP, economy) as well as relatively unknown unknowns (world issues – Iraq, Ukraine, Syria etc etc) and the completely unknown ‘events’ which may occur over 10 months.

    As to terminal decline: I don’t see it. I do think the tories are between a rock and a hard place – they need to move centre to have a chance of sustained success but UKIP and the Tea Party tendency militate against them doing so. Labour have edged marginally left, facilitated by the arrival of red dems and by the Greens not (yet anyway) being a realistic threat. I think the big threat to Lab is the immigration meme, and whether that (continues to) gain force amongst their traditional electorate.

    I think the country is in a very negative mood at present and no party is providing a convincing story of how they will make things better. Until somebody can do that I doubt there will be a decisive movement.

  20. Re Syria, Libya, IS etc – I suspect we are now paying for the Bush/Blair mantra ‘you’re either with us or against us’.

    The good guys and bad guys analysis of world affairs struggles in places like the Middle East, where we are forced to interact with regimes we may despise, as we may despise them a little less than the alternatives.

    The Bush/Blair neocon notion has been very destabilising and damaging, despite it’s charming sounding simplicity.

  21. Alec

    “The good guys and bad guys analysis of” anything struggles everywhere because it is transparent cobblers!

  22. “- the first time the leader of the opposition is descended from immigrants since universal franchise”

    Could the others all trace their British lineage back to the Big Bang then?

  23. Leftylampton

    “Could the others all trace their British lineage back to the Big Bang then?”

    Would that be the Big Bang of 1688, 1707 or 1801? I knew that the droit de seigneur (or prima nocta) idea has been around for a long time, but it seems a tad fanciful to imagine George III exercising it over the entire female population of Ireland, in addition to those in England, Scotland, Wales and the American colonies (until they discovered what being invited round to George’s house for a “nice cup of tea” actually meant).

  24. Paul A

    “I think Cameron can trace his lineage back to the Norman Conquest”.

    But was that to the Norman/Viking foreigners who invaded these islands, or the Anglo-Saxon invaders who came earlier, or the Beaker people?

    No one who cannot demonstrate their ancestry back to the original lichens that populated this part of the world, as the ice retreated, can be considered authentically British.

  25. Colin,

    I agree charismatic leaders could lift Lab or Cons beyond 40% but it is becoming harder.

    Having agreed with CB on his slow decline theory, he and I disagree about the possible Lab+Con total inn 2015, I still think 73/4 % is a strong possibility.

    I guess this means 41%, 32% could happen so I am kind of contradicting myself.

    In my defense to nuance a touch (and try to save face).

    I think the Thatcher legacy has made it very hard for the Tories to achieve over 40% and until enough of their number realise this and give DC and his ilk the freedom to genuinely modernise the party this will remain so; therefore if a 41/32 does happen it would be for Lab rather than Cons; although I think this is unlikley as well.

    ATTUK being over 40% is slightly misleading as whilst the Tories have lost more VI to UKIP since 2010 the latter have taken some LDs NOTA and some off Lab and BNP.

    Cons + the UKIP in 2010 was less than 40% and not all of the UKIP vote was ex Tories, although probably most.

  26. Construction of the Berlin-Baghdad railway started in 1903, but was 600 miles short at the outbreak of WW1. A Baghdad-Basra section was completed by British Army in 1920.
    Gaziantep-Mosul was reopened in February 2010, but closed again in April 2010.

    Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953. His government was overthrown in a coup d’état following attempts to nationalise the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (Anglo-Persian Oil was founded in 1908 and became British Petroleum in 1954).

  27. Re-reading my post I wish I had referred to Paul’s ‘ high bottom low top’

  28. @Alec & OldNat

    I always dubbed it the ‘Lord of the Rings’ view on foreign policy. You defeat the ‘Dark Lord’ (whoever that is) and then all is righted in the world.

  29. @OLDNAT

    ‘No one who cannot demonstrate their ancestry back to the original lichens that populated this part of the world, as the ice retreated, can be considered authentically British.’

    So what’s all this Scottish independence stuff about then?

  30. Mr Beeswax

    I can authoritatively state that the campaign for Scottish independence is not lichen related.

  31. Mr Beeswax

    You may, however, be glad to know that UKIP has had some coverage in the Scotsman.

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/english-resentment-increases-over-scots-freebies-1-3517631

    I didn’t spot any coverage of it in the London papers, and quite how such a story would resonate in Scotland isn’t wholly clear.

  32. “Anything could happen.”

    I don’t see a Lib Dem OM happening Candy.

  33. SHEVII

    I think some of the UKIP lost are retrievable for DC. But I also think that there are some nihilists who left.
    I think of two things in particular :-

    A friend who will defect to them next May-who doesn’t believe that a large UKIP vote might put Labour in-he thinks he is making a harmless protest.

    The bloke who wrote in some comment section of an online paper , that he was going to vote UKIP in so Labour would be in power for a short & disastrous term; DC would go; and Cons would come to their senses, appoint a new leader & be returned to power by a desperate & grateful electorate.

    DC has no chance with these people.

  34. JIM JAM

    I wasn’t suggesting that either Cons or Lab could get 49% + on the new electoral playing field.

    The votes UKIP have taken from Lab & LibDem are not relevant to Cons-they could not & cannot influence them. If Cons had not lost 6% to 7% pts to UKIP , they would be at 40% or thereabouts now.

  35. IIRC the argument that we were both making was that such interventions, designed to achieve regime change, would render genuinely international interventions for humanitarian purposes almost impossible.
    ————-
    That was one point that I made; & I still believe it was an extremely important one.

    I also pointed out that the Bengazi ‘uprising’ had attracted terrorist groups which were a more threatening enemy than Gaddafi.

    That these groups would either introduce a regime that was potentially more oppressive than Gaddafi’s (because it would be a religious regime); & that they would certainly try to destabilize any attempt to establish the kind of democracy which was promised.

    That the ‘West’ was sending out the wrong signals by clearing a path for religious regimes to take pivotal roles in the Middle East.

    That the wealth of Libya would be used to fund military & political action which would destabilize other areas of the Middle East.

    And above all, in Libya, the enemy of our enemy was not our friend so why on earth were ‘we’ behaving as if he was!

  36. Amber

    “That was one point that I made; & I still believe it was an extremely important one.”

    It was.

    I don’t specifically remember you making those other points, though doubtless you did.

    I might have disagreed with some of those points, if I had noted them. Mainly on the grounds that destabilising a set of borders created solely by, and in the interests of, the imperial powers at the time, is not necessarily a bad thing.

    It seems presumptuous, on the part of the West , to insist that the political boundaries “we” created are immutable, regardless of how people within these borders actually think about the situation.

    While it’s hard to envisage how political communities in post-colonial territories can peaceably make the transition to structures that local people find acceptable, it would make sense for their former colonial masters to try to aid that process rather than continuing to work in their own self-interests.

  37. Colin – arithmetically correct but to get the 6-7% lost to UKIP may require losing appeal to the center

  38. @Amber star

    some of us remember Yvonne Fletcher

  39. Wolf

    Some people also remember Robert Jenkins. Personal tragedies are a poor basis for foreign policy.

  40. @Leftylampton

    Have I made you uncomfortable talking about this stuff?

    What did you think that Daily Mail attack on Miliband pere was about then? All those paragraphs about “the jealous god of Deuteronomy” and “hated this country” had precious little to do with critiques of Marxism and everything to do signalling to a certain kind of voter.

    And right on cue, you got UKIPers saying EdM should “go back to Poland” and other articles suggesting that muslims hate jews.

    Someone somewhere has decided that as they can’t get the Red LibDems to leave Labour, and they are struggling to get UKIPers back to the Cons, they should go for a strategy to put a wedge between Miliband and some ethnic minorities. And also make it clear to UKIPers that a vote for UKIP is a vote for Miliband the Immigrant. Though they leave out “the immigrant” bit, which is taken as read because of the context so carefully established.

    On Miliband’s side is that he has handled both Syria and Gaza with credit, and most voters don’t conform to the stereotypes that the press assigns to them.

    But I definitely think it’s better to talk about this stuff and highlight it (sunlight, disinfectant etc), than to pretend it’s not happening and go along with the cover stories constructed to provide plausible deniability.

    And it may be affecting voting intention to a small degree on both the Labour side and the UKIP side – there has been a narrowing of the polls in the last year – and I haven’t seen anyone explore this.

    This might be the underlying cause of Miliband’s ratings. It’s nothing to do with his looks, he’s actually better looking than Cameron though not as handsome as Clegg, and he’s pretty coherent in speeches and interviews too.

  41. @ Colin

    It is very difficult to escape this conclusion , when, today, a senior British Military Officer , floats the suggestion that in order to defeat ( as opposed to contain in Iraq) IS, you have to attack it in Syria-and to do so you must work with Assad.!

    Indeed; & we will have to reach an accommodation with Russia; Syria cannot be stabilized without Russian involvement.

    Conversely we have heard voices today suggesting that if we had supported the Free Syrian Army against Assad, we would not have allowed the vacuum which spawned IS in Syria.

    To my mind, these voices are talking nonsense. The Free Syrian Army is almost indistinguishable from IS; the two are inextricably intertwined. Had we helped the FSA, we would simply have armed & cleared the path for the IS to have Libya, take Syria AND then push on into Iraq.

    I think we must now reach an accommodation with Russia & facilitate them stabilizing Syria. Russia, at the moment, are also not our friends – but at least they are our ‘peers’ on the security council.

  42. @ Old Nat

    It seems presumptuous, on the part of the West , to insist that the political boundaries “we” created are immutable, regardless of how people within these borders actually think about the situation.
    ———————
    I don’t believe that was my position. My position was: it’s not for us to intervene, except for genuine humanitarian reasons. There was no imminent genocide in Libya; we had a strong (too strong?) diplomatic relationship with the existing regime in Libya & Egypt. We were in an excellent position to use our influence to encourage progress on human rights & equality issues.

    Then our (to my mind, well intentioned but utterly naïve) government reversed these diplomatic relationships at (what to me seemed like) the drop of a hat & bit off much more than we could chew. Now we are trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.*

    * apologies for the metaphor overload.

  43. Amber

    I didn’t intend to imply that was your position! Apologies if that was how my post came across.

    However, elements of what you said seemed to resonate with the concept of keeping existing state borders in place, regardless of the consequences which such a policy seem likely to entail (although you, like all of us, would prefer that such consequences didn’t happen).

    Then, as now, we are wholly in agreement that ” it’s not for us to intervene, except for genuine humanitarian reasons”.

    Any disagreement is solely about how we might approach the more fundamental problem of how the creation of humanitarian crises might be averted.

    As citizens of the states that created many of the conditions that have generated the inter-community conflict, it seems unreasonable for us to insist on the continuity of the political divisions that our countries created in the first place.

    While religion is less of a factor in the identities of Western European countries than it once was, it was critical at previous points of history, and largely determined the borders of a number of states. Why should that process have been appropriate for Europeans, but not for others?

    Had a dominant East (led by China) imposed borders in Europe and decided that the minority Romansh speaking people should be their preferred elite in a state that they arbitrarily created in the Alpine region, should such a state have been maintained in perpetuity? Would such have been a formula for stability?

    Borders between political administrations are always rather arbitrary. As long as they have the consent/acquiescence of most people therein, there is no difficulty.

    When a consensus on that breaks down, however, there can be tensions and difficulties. Where inter-community tensions have been externally ignored, extreme reactions might be anticipated, and that has been seen in Europe, and much more forcibly elsewhere.

    We are blessed with living in a state which, for many years, comfortably coped with numerous identities until increasing centralisation provoked antithetical responses to that. Mature democracies can deal with that, as the current indyref debate shows and hopefully, can deal sensibly and reasonably with whatever outcome happens.

    Treating imperially created political constructs as if they were mature Western democracies seems to me to be the height of folly, and Western governments seem to persist in acting on that fiction, though they know it isn’t the case.

  44. RAF
    Regarding your post on British jihadist numbers, and Colin’s “British recruits to this vile “caliphate” are most certainly of concern-to us & to the world’: like all British volunteers for work and action overseas, their English speaking capability, educational level and technical skills, including IT and video, make them valuable to IS and dangerous beyond their numbers.
    Their ability to rationalise cold blooded killing as putting an end before the means adds an element to IS strategy and attitude not necessarily present in the mass of IS recruits.
    I share Colin’s view, and would add that I am surprised that the response of the UK governments is not phrased in terms of criminality and judicial process: a warrant for arrest as criminals in UK and international law does not depend on putting UK military boots on the ground, but does send a decisive message that their boots on UK or any ground other than Syria and IS occupied Iraq, will lead to the arrest and conviction as terrorists and murderers of returning jihadists guilty of offences or of inducing others to commit them.
    Their parents and communities and those of future recruits to IS must, I imagine, be aware that there will be no time or geographical limit to the legal indictment of UK or other travelling jihadists.

  45. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    If the UK government is going to criminalise UK citizens working with IS, those involved with other armies currently killing large numbers of civilians in the Levant, e.g. the IDF, should be also be targeted.

    IMO, what UK citizens get up to abroad, in other jurisdictions, should not be the concern of the UK government.

  46. AMBER

    @” The Free Syrian Army is almost indistinguishable from IS; ”

    I don’t think that is true at all. And the most extraordinary fact about IS in Syria is that it spends most of its time trying to wipe out other anti-Assad forces..

    The whole area is a snake pit of religious sectarian hatred.
    It was the PKK-outlawed by the US-who effectively got the Yazidis of that mountain !
    And Turkey-a member of Nato-has some very strange relationships in the region, if reports are to be believed.

    A quagmire for us.

    The only stable entity seems to be the Kurdish territory. I can see us fighting IS in support of an independent Kurdistan, across a failed state which used to be called Iraq.

  47. JOHN PILGRIM

    There is a transatlantic criminal investigation going on to find the identity of “John”.

  48. I don’t think that is true at all. And the most extraordinary fact about IS in Syria is that it spends most of its time trying to wipe out other anti-Assad forces..
    By “wipe out”, I believe they mean recruit/ assimilate because I am told that is the situation.

    The whole area is a snake pit of religious sectarian hatred.
    It’s certainly tempting to view it as such. From a foreign policy stand-point, one has to try to untangle the snakes or we will support the wrong groups & fail the to support ones which deserve it.

    It was the PKK-outlawed by the US-who effectively got the Yazidis of that mountain !
    Indeed.

    And Turkey-a member of Nato-has some very strange relationships in the region, if reports are to be believed.
    Yes, don’t get me started on that subject or I’ll be here all day!

    A quagmire for us.
    Again, we have to find a way to support people who need & deserve assistance without getting bogged down in the quagmire. I’m sure you agree.

    The only stable entity seems to be the Kurdish territory. I can see us fighting IS in support of an independent Kurdistan, across a failed state which used to be called Iraq.
    This illustrates Old Nat’s point about arbitrary borders being treated as sacrosanct, despite the politics of the region requiring something else. I have heard the same as you – that Turkey preferred to see the Kurds of Iraq without their own state because they did not want it on their border. Now I am told, Turkey begins to see that a buffer state between Turkey & Iraq may be no bad thing.

  49. Amber

    A “buffer” state sounds like a very large old people’s home.

  50. @Old Nat –

    re: imperialism and preserving arbitrator boundaries.

    Cheers for that – really well explained/argued – totally agree.

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