A final post on boundary changes (at least until the Scottish proposals next month). This comes from a discussion I had with Mark Pack. Normally the thing we look at with boundary changes is what the party-partisan effect is, how the new boundaries would change the sort of swing that Labour need to win a general election. However, currently Labour are a very, very long way from the sort of polling lead they’d need to win a majority, so a small change in that figure really doesn’t make a lot of difference. More interesting in the current political climate is the effect it would have on Labour internal battle and any potential deselections.

The rules for how Labour will deal with re-selections after boundary changes are yet to be confirmed, so these are based on the rules set out for 2011 in the Labour rule book, on the assumption that Labour’s NEC will use similar rules this time round. A Labour MP has a right to seek selection in any seat that contains 40% or more of the electors in their existing seat. If an MP’s seat is divided up so much that no single seat contains 40% of their old electors then they’ll have the right to seek nomination in a seat with less than 40% of their old voters. If they are the only sitting MP to seek selection in a seat, they are nominated through the normal trigger ballot process. If more than one sitting MP seeks the nomination in a new seat there is a members ballot to pick between them.

Applying those rules to the provisional boundaries we can see where there may be contests under those rules. Note that this list is exhaustive, it contains every case where Labour MPs could compete against each other under the selection rules… but in some cases it will be easily avoided through either agreement (there are enough seats to go round) or retirement (an MP will be well over 70 come the general election and possibly considering retirement anyway). Of the 231 Labour members of Parliament in England & Wales, 142 of them should not face any re-selection difficulties connected to boundary changes – they may well see changes to their seat, but there is a single notionally Labour seat to which they have the sole right to seek selection. What about the other 89?

Avoidable Challenges

There are six places where more than one MP would have a right to seek selection for a seat, but where there are enough Labour seats to go round, so if MPs co-operate and agree between themselves who will stand where, no head-to-head challenge is necessary and no one is left empty handed. These are:
Alfreton and Clay Cross. Nastasha Engel and Dennis Skinner both have the right to seek selection here, but Skinner also has the right to seek selection in Bolsover, so a challenge seems unlikely.
East London. Mike Gapes’ seat is sliced up into tiny pieces, and if the NEC follow past practice he should have the right to seek selection in any of the successor seats. He is the only sitting MP with a right to seek selection in the new, ultra-safe, Forest Gate & Loxford seat so I imagine he will go there. If not, he could challenge Wes Streeting, Margaret Hodge or John Cryer (who could, in turn, seek selection in Stella Creasy’s Walthamstow)
Redcar. Andy McDonald and Anna Turley can both seek selection in Middlesbrough NE & Redcar, but McDonald is also eligible for the safe Middlesbrough W & Stockton E seat, so a challenge is avoidable.
Ashton Under Lyne. Jonathan Reynolds and Angela Rayner are both eligible, but Rayner is also eligible for the safer Failsworth & Droylsden.
Stockport. This is avoidable, but not without some pain for Ann Coffey. Andrew Gwynne & Ann Coffey are both eligible for the safe Stockport North & Denton seat. Ann Coffey is also eligible for the Stockport South & Cheadle seat, but that is far more marginal (that said, Coffey will be 73 at the next election, so may not stand).
Pontefract. Yvette Cooper and Jon Trickett are both eligible to seek selection, but Yvette Cooper also has a free run at Normanton, Castleford and Outwood.

Not Enough Labour seats to go round

The following seven areas have enough seats to go round, but one or more of them is notionally Conservative, so there may be a contest for the winnable seat or someone may be left in a seat that is notionally Conservative:
South London. Siobhain McDonagh’s seat is sliced up. Two of the successor seats, Merton & Wimbledon Common (a potentially winnable marginal) and Sutton & Cheam (no hope) are notionally Conservative, so she will have the choice of fighting one of them, or challenging either Chuka Ummuna or Rosena Allin-Khan.
South-East London. Erith and Thamesmead is split up into Erith & Crayford (a Tory seat) and Woolwich. The only option for a Labour seat for Theresa Pearce is to challenge Matthew Pennycook for the Woolwich nomination. Pennycook has the option of seeking the Woolwich nomination, or going up again Vicky Foxcroft for the Greenwich & Deptford nomination.
Coventry. Geoffrey Robinson’s seat becomes comfortably Conservative on new boundaries, but he has the option of going up against Jim Cunningham for the Coventry South nomination. He’ll be 81 by the next election, so I assume he won’t.
Nottingham. Vernon Coaker’s Gedling seat disappears. Half goes into the Conservative Sherwood seat, so there is the potential of a battle against Chris Leslie for the nomination in the Labour Nottingham East and Carlton seat.
Cumbria. The Workington seat disappears. Part of it goes into the very Conservative Penrith & Solway seat, which is unlikely to be attractive to Sue Hayman, leaving her the option of fighting Jamie Reed for the Whitehaven & Workington seat.
Wrexham. Susan Elan Jones’s Clwyd South seat is dismembered. Part of it goes into the elaborately named De Clwyd a Gogledd Sir Faldwyn seat, but that is notionally Conservative. The other part goes into Wrexham Maelor, where she would have to compete against Ian Lucas for the nomination.
Newport. The Newport seats are combined into one. Jessica Morden would also have the right to seek nomination in Monmouthshire, but that’s solidly Tory leaving one Labour seat between her and Paul Flynn. Flynn will be 85 come the next election, so the issue may well be resolved by retirement.

Straight two way fights

There are seven Labour seats where there are two Labour MPs who are eligible for that seat, and that seat only – meaning a straight fight is unavoidable unless someone stands down:
Sunderland West – Bridget Phillipson vs Sharon Hodgson
Newcastle North West – Catherine McKinnell vs Chi Onwurah
Wednesfield & Willenhall – David Winnick vs Emma Reynolds (though Winnick will be 86)
Stoke South – Rob Flello vs Tristram Hunt
Dudley East & Tipton – Ian Austin vs Adrian Bailey (though Bailey will be 74)
Neath & Aberavon – Stephen Kinnock vs Christina Rees
Cardiff South & East – Jo Stevens vs Stephen Doughty

More complicated fights

There are eight areas where there are rather more complicated fights… but where ultimately there are more Labour MPs than there are seats, so something will have to give:

Birmingham. Roger Godsiff’s seat disppears. He will have the right to seek election in four other Birmingham seats, putting him up against Gisela Stuart, Jess Phillips, Richard Burden or Steve McCabe. He will be 73 come the election though, so may choose to stand down.
Islington & Hackney. The change that got the most attention when the proposals were announced. Essentially Meg Hillier, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Rushanara Ali have to somehow share out the Finsbury Park & Stoke Newington, Hackney West and Bethnal Green and Hackney Central seats. Someone is going to get stuffed.
Rochdale & Bury. Debbie Abrahams, Ivan Lewis, Liz McInnes and Simon Danzcuk are in play, with Rochdale, Prestwich and Middleton and Littleborough & Saddleworth. If Danzcuk remains suspended from the Labour party then the problem presumably resolves itself.
Liverpool. Steve Rotheram’s seat disappears and he would be eligible to challenge Louise Ellman, Peter Dowd or Stephen Twigg for selection in their seats. Rotheram himself is standing for Liverpool mayor, so it won’t be an issue for him. If he steps down though whoever is elected in the subsequent by-election would face the same issue.
Bradford & Leeds. Judith Cummins seat disppears. She is eligible to seek selection for Bradford West (against Naz Shah), in Spen (against Jo Cox’s successor) or in Pudsey, where Rachel Reeves will likely also be seeking the nomination (Leeds West vanishes, but Pudsey takes much of its territory and becomes a notionally Labour seat)
Sheffield. Newly elected Gill Furniss sees her seat dismembered – she is eligible to seek nomination in Sheffield North and Ecclesfield (against Angela Smith) or Sheffield East (against Clive Betts).
Pontypridd. Owen Smith’s seat is dismembered and he will have the right to seek nomination in either Chris Bryant’s Rhondda & Llantrisant or Ann Clwyd’s Cynon Valley and Pontypridd. Ann Clwyd will be 83 by the next election, so it may be resolved by retirement.
Islwyn. Chris Evans’ seat also vanished, and he will have the choice of competing against Nick Smith in Blaenau Gwent or Wayne Davies in Caerphilly.

The deep blue sea

Fourteen Labour MPs do not have a notionally Labour seat they would be eligible to seek selection in. In some cases this is just because of a slight change to an already ultra-marginal seat (e.g. Chris Matheson in Chester notionally loses his seat, but there’s really little change from 2015), in other cases it leaves them with a very difficult fight:

Andy Slaughter would face a Tory majority of 14% in the new Hammersmith & Fulham seat
Gareth Thomas would face a Tory majority of 11% in the new Harrow and Stanmore
Joan Ryan would face a small Tory majority of just 3% in the new Enfield seat
Ruth Cadbury faces a 10% Tory majority in Brentford & Chiswick
Tulip Siddiq faces a 9% Tory majority in Hampstead and Golders Green
Alex Cunningham is only eligible for the nomination in Stockton West, with a 7% Tory majority
Chris Matheson doesn’t actually face much change, but Chester would have a 1% Tory majority on paper
Jenny Chapman faces a notional Tory majority of 1% in Darlington
Madeleine Moon’s Bridgend is merged with the Vale of Glamorgan to create a notionally Tory seat, but with a majority of only 3%
Alan Whitehead’s Southampton Test would have a 4% Tory majority on paper (Southampton Itchen would flip to Labour… but Whitehead doesn’t have the right to go there under Labour rules)
Melanie Orr would be eligible to seek selection in either Grimsby North & Barton or Grimsby South and Cleethorpes. Both, however, would be Conservative.
Holly Walker-Lynch faces a similar situation, under Labour rules she can apply for Calder Valley or Halifax, but they are both notionally Tory.
Finally, in the sorriest situation of all are Margaret Greenwood and Alison McGovern. They are both only eligible to seek selection in the new Bebington & Heswall seat… and even if they do get it, it’s now notionally Tory.

So, by my reckoning there will probably be around 15 re-selection battles where a sitting Labour MP faces up against another sitting Labour MP on the provisional boundaries, though remember that these are subject to change (and it only takes a small adjustment by the boundary commission to shift the number of voters from an old seat above or below 40%). It’s also worth noting that you don’t need boundary changes for a deselection – there is a normal trigger ballot process than can be used to deselect an MP and some of the speculation about deselections – Peter Kyle for example – is not due to Labour seats being merged together.


553 Responses to “Boundary changes – the impact on Labour reselections…”

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  1. @Maura

    Yep, younger peeps have lots of stuff to compete for their attention nowadays. By way of consolation, if activistas think they got it bad, they could try their hand at getting students to all show up at a nine am lecture when it was student night the night before and they were up late on cheap booze…

  2. @Rach

    “What I don’t understand is if the UK is so competitive why do we have a record trade deficit?”

    ———–

    Socialism.

  3. @Colin

    “How did this happen??-I thought our economic policies were no good…”

    —————-

    Well as it says in the Times, one of the reasons is the “efficient” labour market, for which one might read “cheap labour” etc. Don’t leave out the caveat though:

    “However, the data was collected before the vote to leave the European Union. The forum said its analysis suggested that the Brexit vote was more likely to have a negative impact on the competitiveness of the UK, because of the effect on its goods and financial markets.”

  4. CARFEW
    Been there, done that. When they turn up though ….makes it worth it.

  5. To those who are predicting severe economic problems for the UK after Brexit, this link might be of some interest:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_FDI_abroad

    It shows that we are second only to the USA in FDI (Foreign Direct Investment). i.e. UK companies and individuals own more of the world than anyone except the USA. And this excludes investment by purchase of shares.

  6. I never really found lectures very useful as a student. There was rarely time for questions, which meant it was just lecturers talking at you. It was usually more useful just to read the reading list; at least then you could take in the information at your own pace. The only value in lectures seemed to be when they hinted at a particular piece of material being especially important in lieu of exams, which you normally just found out from whichever poor soul had actually gone to the lectures that week; or if the departmental reading list was particularly poorly maintained and you needed the lecturer to point out which bits were actually worth reading.

    This might be a little biased having been to a university with the tutorial system, though.

  7. CAMBRIDGE RACHEL

    Good question.

    Its complicated……..I expect .

    http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2016-30/file

  8. So will Labour close the VI gap now?

    We have The Man & his Plan -so what do we think ?

  9. @Top Hat – I went to a leading university with lectures and a tutorial system (many years ago now!) but have to disagree. I found the lectures highly stimulating and very useful.

    I think this was on three counts. Firstly, you have to learn to listen and take notes, which is a great skill to develop. Speaking to a number of friends currently in academia at several Russel group universities, they tell me that today there is an expectation that students will have lecture notes handed out after each lecture. I don’t know if that was your experience, but it appears to be a wearily famil!ar tale of reduced expectations for students. Now, in woprk related seminars, I get highly irritated when people sit an listen to a presentation without noting, and then waste time asking for confirmation of what was just said because they couldn’t be bothered to take notes. It’s a great way to reinforce your understanding.

    The second important factor in lectures was that we got used to hearing from senior academics and thinkers what they thought was important, which ideas they supported and which they didn’t, and picked up all the nuances of opinion from leading thinkers in the field. This forces you to make judgements and develop your own thoughts.

    The third (and most important in practical terms at least) was that I found that listening to lectures was the quickest way to identify things that I didn’t understand. If I couldn’t follow parts of the lecture, I needed to do some focused work on those parts of the course.

  10. Colin

    Now I’m even more confused, we have been running consistent trade deficits for a long time but italy has been running surpluses. So why does italy have a competitiveness problem but we dont

  11. CR

    @”Now I’m even more confused”

    Me too.

    Economists init ?

  12. COLIN
    “So will Labour close the VI gap now?”

    He has set the bar high in setting out so forthrightly a socialst agenda. VI will test the left wing and anti-austerity mood in the country beyond present Labour supporters.

  13. In the comments on another site, Someone remarked that the 2015 Conservative Manifesto [PDF] includes commitments to the Single Market. Perhaps that explains May’s unwillingness to deny that Brexit will involve leaving it…..

    Starting at Page 73, it refers to the single market no less than seven times without any suggestion that the giv[ing] you a say over whether we should stay in or leave the EU, with an in-out referendum by the end of 2017 might change that, as the bullet points on Page 73 show:

    Our commitment to you:
    For too long, your voice has been ignored on Europe. We will:

    ? give you a say over whether we should stay in or leave the EU, with an in-out referendum by the end of 2017

    ? commit to keeping the pound and staying out of the Eurozone

    ? reform the workings of the EU, which is too big, too bossy and too bureaucratic reclaim power from Brussels on your behalf and safeguard British interests in the Single Market

    ? back businesses to create jobs in Britain by completing ambitious trade deals and reducing red tape.

    When the HoC reassembles, it would be interesting to see whether any MP [a europhile Con would be ideal] has the sense to ask in PMQs whether the Single Market manifesto commitment has been abandoned.

  14. John pilgrim

    He used the word socialist a lot but there really isn’t any socialist substance. It was all middle of the road European social democracy stuff.

  15. I suppose he’s trying to reablitate the word socialism

  16. He used the word six times, but only twice in the contexts of economy or society. Still, he said socialism for the 21st century.

    But it is largely irrelevant as all newspapers described it as socialist – in particular the Independent that turned sharply against Corbyn since the start of the conference.

    But CambridgeRachel is right, there isn’t any socialism in it – however, quite a bit of statism.

  17. JOHN PILGRIM

    Initially Corbyn talked of those who hadn’t voted before-the hidden ones as it were. His feeling was that they would be attracted to his pitch having waited for Socialism. There was no mention at all of reaching people who voted Conservative.

    I’m not clear what the current strategy is to achieve a majority. I listened to his Conference Speech in its entirety & didn’t hear any clues-though he did emphasise the objective of winning the next GE to an extent I haven’t heard from him before.

    I’m not sure that I agree with you about his “anti-austerity” pitch “beyond present Labour supporters”. This group-it seems to me-will contain a large part of those who continue to respond poorly in Polls to questions about Labour’s economic credibility. “Anti-austerity” is just another way of saying “more spending & borrowing”-which for that group might evoke concerns as well as approval.

    I’m particularly interested in the reaction of traditional white working class voters who have moved to UKIP, to his refusal to contemplate controls on net immigration. His solution of taxpayers money to “compensate” for adverse effects of mass immigration, and a committment to persuading EU to bring wage levels across the Union to parity might not address all the components of concern on this topic. Indeed the implication , manifest in his speech, that concerns not addressed by compensation ,rather than by control of numbers , are inherantly racist , might produce interesting reactions amongst the relevant groups of voters.

    Can’t wait for the Polls to start appearing.

  18. @Alec;

    We did have lectures notes for most lectures, though not all. I still didn’t find them that useful. Put it this way: imagine you were so good at note-taking, you could commit the lecturer’s entire speech to paper as they gave it. The advantage of this is that… you’ve effectively ended up with written material. But there’s a great deal of exceptionally well-written material out there already, in the form of whatever papers or books have been written on your subject. Unless your lecturer is either covering material that no book covers, or is doing it better than any book, they’re still redundant, and I found cases of the latter were quite rare indeed. Why go to a lecture on Mill when you could read West on Mill at your own leisure?

    You might be right there’s an independent value in learning to note-take, certainly, but I don’t think that contributed to my degree itself and I’d already learned to note-take pretty handily elsewhere.

    You’re right re: finding out what senior academics though about the nuances of the field. There were a few lecturers who did this well, and they were the few lectures I looked forward to attending: finding out about the cutting edge in the field, the stuff that isn’t really in the books yet. However, this rarely constitutes even a small fraction of lectures, I think, at least at undergraduate level, because you obviously need a fair amount of learning before you can be at the cutting edge.

    For the third part, I think this only applied if the department’s reading list wasn’t very good. Normally, I found out what I didn’t understand when I was reading about it and… didn’t understand it.

  19. Of course I think universities are beginning to adapt to this, mind. By my last year, almost all my lectures could be watched afterwards as video recordings online, complete with video annotations. I felt it was an improvement.

  20. CR

    @” It was all middle of the road European social democracy stuff.”

    Well its your field of expertise rather than mine-but I don’t think he would agree with you :-

    Socialism, according to WIKI is based on “social ownership and democratic control of the means of production;”

    Social Democracy according to WIKI is based on ” supporting economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a capitalist economy,”

    The German SPD , for example “advocates a sustainable fiscal policy that doesn’t place a burden on future generations while eradicating budget deficits.”

    It isn’t clear to me , from JC’s speeches, that he favours a capitalist economy, or acknowledges the idea of State Spending constrained by Borrowing limits.

    ………but all of this is academic outside of ideological groups. He can call it what he likes. The test is whether it appeals to Voters.

    We will see.

  21. Colin

    He is a social democrat. He doesn’t want democratic control of the means of production (so he is for the capitalist system, although there is no appetite or capability for such a democratic control anyway), supplemented with heavy statism.

    The whole debate in the social democratic movements in Europe (in particular in the SPD, culminating in the breaking with Marxism in the 1950s) since the 1890s has been whether the social democratic solution is a stage to socialism or not. I suppose history tells us that it isn’t.

  22. Laszlo
    Interesting that the newspapers have emphasised the ‘socialist’ aspects. My impression of the radio coverage was that it was more positive towards Corbyn than it has been in a very long time.

    R4 had Jess Phillips sounding as if she couldn’t quite believe she was being positive about Corbyn! They didn’t mention socialism, played clips in which Corbyn’s delivery was effecive, including the bit about needing to win elections. The discussion focused on what he had said about immigration and was measured, if superficial (it’s never anything else on the news). The take-home message seemed to be: Corbyn may actually have managed to press the reset button.

    Of course the audience for R4 is small, but if their approach was mirrored across other radio stations and BBC TV it might count for something.

  23. @Colin

    “It isn’t clear to me , from JC’s speeches, that he favours a capitalist economy, or acknowledges the idea of State Spending constrained by Borrowing limits.”

    ——–

    Your test of Socialism appears to be whether they favour unrestrained spending or not. Which might be a test of good governance but isnt a good test of Socialism…

  24. LASZLO

    As I said-it doesn’t matter what he calls it-or whether you & I think thats what it qualifies as.

    Down at The Dog & Duck what matters is-Does this make sense ?

  25. There is Socialism, then there’s the caricature of it.

    Thus, there is workers controlling the means of production and working for themselves, eg self employed, lawyers and GPs etc., vs the state as a proxy for worker ownership, state-owned businesses. The caricature tends to hype the latter and ignore the former.

    Also, in the propaganda war, the successful state ownerships or interventions are to be sidelined (e.g. Rolls, Renault) and problematic ones promoted, without mentioning that they may have been problematic in part because of v. difficult market conditions anyway e.g. oil crisis.

    Thus, there is also the promotion of the idea of unconstrained spending without limit, never to any good effect, as opposed to investment that brought a return. Positive returns on investment are sidelined, along with the times governments of the right chucked money down a hole and grew the debt.

    Another element of Socialism is “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”. This is where redistribution comes in, and it’s where you get the overlap with social democracy, to help avoid confusion. The right understandably worry that this can wind up rewarding the feckless, which is fair enough, we saw that with bankers. But it’s not an argument against redistribution per se, just an argument for doing it better.

  26. CARFREW

    Very neatly put.

    I agree that “good governance” & “socialism” are different things.

  27. @COLIN

    “As I said-it doesn’t matter what he calls it-or whether you & I think thats what it qualifies as.
    Down at The Dog & Duck what matters is-Does this make sense ?”

    ————

    Not really, no. The problem is that the media and Corbyn’s opponents are going to keep hanging the Socialist tag around his neck anyway. So he may as well reclaim it and attempt to detoxify it. Tories have their own battles in this regard. It’s normal politics…

  28. @COLIN

    “I agree that “good governance” & “socialism” are different things”

    ———

    Lol Colin that made me laugh…

  29. ” “Anti-austerity” is just another way of saying “more spending & borrowing” ”

    I think it’s come to mean something else – I think that a party that proposed tax rises on the wealthy and no spending cuts, plus deficit reduction, would be classified by most people now as an “anti-austerity” candidate.

    For whatever reason, “austerity” has come to mean “a reduction in the rate of increase of public spending”.

  30. COLIN
    The Immigration Impact Fund is not, in Corbyn’s statement or previous Gordon Brown’s introduction of it intended as “compensation” but as investment which would go beyond existing local government plans and funding to provide schooling, health. housing and support for employment and related training to meet the needs of population increase arising from immigration, specifically in areas of the country where this has impacted on existing populations and services.
    It would be good to have @CambridgeRachel’s reaction to his proposals since she lives in such an area.

  31. @Bill P

    “I think it’s come to mean something else – I think that a party that proposed tax rises on the wealthy and no spending cuts, plus deficit reduction, would be classified by most people now as an “anti-austerity” candidate.”

    —————

    Yes, this is critical. Many anti-austerity peeps want to bring down the deficit. They just don’t necessarily see cuts as the best way to do it, they prefer investment.

    The line – that’s sometimes pushed by people favouring a smaller state – is that state spending isn’t an investment, it’s just pouring money down a hole. Reality of course is that it depends what you spend it on and how.

    Some cuts are worthwhile though. Just as a business in hard times will BOTH seek to reduce costs AND increase revenue, so does an economy. Crucially they will want to only cut what won’t harm he business. it’s no good sacking all your sales peeps unless you got summat better. But peeps who have OTHER reasons for opposing state spending, will sideline cases where state spending actually works to reduce deficits.

    Including knock on effects. They might complain that sometimes spending might result in some inflation. And it might, say in conditions of full employment. But if you have a mountain of debt to inflate away, saw post WW2, that inflation might not be entirely bad.

    The proper, honest, non-partisan approach to all this, is to look at when state spending works well and when it doesn’t, instead of pretending it never works. Thus, we can look at difficulties Japan is experiencing to see how spending is challenged. It was challenged in the oil crisis too: couldn’t spend our way out of recession because inflation already through the roof because of oil prices. Cuts didn’t work well either, as Maggie discovered. Worked initially but then not as the economy suffered in consequence…

  32. @Pete B

    That is a very interesting list, yes the UK is no.2 for cumulative FDI abroad. Of course, that list doesn’t break out how much of that is in Europe, which would be affected by Brexit.

    And of course, the UK also has home FDI. That’s the foreign investment money that’s been poured into the UK from abroad. And we’re… The Third biggest recipient of FDI, behind China and the USA.

  33. Afternoon from the grey and rather dreary People’s (Socialist – as yet to be defined by UKPR) Republic of London

    @Tophat & Alec

    Whilst I left academia over 15 years ago I do know many people who work within it. A point they all consistently make is that since the introductions of fee’s etc, student’s have become increasingly demanding, and there is a significant degree of emphasis on the ratings students give lectures. Hence the move to providing them with more aids such as lecture notes which are increasingly seen as an expectation of students who want ‘value for money’. Rightly or wrongly education provision at this level has become commercialised – and I for one can sympathise with students who are facing ever high levels of debt being more demanding of their lecturers.

    On Socialism, there is no one specific definition and as with other ideologies/political movements/religions etc there is in fact a spectrum of forms categories.

    JC obviously self-identifies as a socialist and will to a certain extent select policy positions which he views as consistent with his view of socialism. So to a certain extent by the mere fact that he proposes a policy it by definition can be seen as a ‘socialist’ policy. The degree to which a policy aligns to his own core socialist beliefs, or is only a cynical tactical electoral tool can only truly be known by JC himself.

    The extent to which an individual policy can be described as ‘socialist’ can also vary over time. For instance, British socialists at the end of the c19 tended to favour free trade as it meant lower prices for food, the Labour Party in the 1970’s seriously considered adopting a policy of allowing tenants to buy their council houses. Therefore it is difficult to judge and individual’s, parties or governments level of socialism on the basis of policy, and they will also be inherently subjective judgements. As an illustration it seems counterintuitive to claim that Lenin did not believe in socialism due to the adoption of the NEP.

  34. Jayblanc

    “The Third biggest recipient of FDI, behind China and the USA.”

    One has to be very careful with FDI stats. 40% of FDI to China is from Hong Kong and 10% from the BVI. So half of the FDI to China is actually Chinese money that was cleansed (for various reasons) in the international capital flows.

  35. I’m a bit perplexed by the assertions above about universities and students.

    Student feedback matters – although not about the individual lecturer, but about the university as a whole.

    As far as I know all Russell universities have moved to electronic student support – I.e. lecture slides are uploaded where students can access them. I think lecture notes (as a coherent piece as opposed to slides) have long gone.

    Most of the universities started to move to provide readings in electronic versions (which is bad, as the access is time-limited).

    Most students use electronic devices to take notes (essentially appending the soft copy versions of the lecture slides). In a lecture theatre students use tablets and laptops, and they have wireless access, so they check on things (unfortunately on social media too).

    All Russell universities record lectures (slides and the voice), although lecturers can opt out, and students have access to these podcasts. Doesn’t really matter as students routinely use their mobile phones to record lectures, and take photos of the slides that are not available in soft copies (and also the stuff written on whiteboard).

    And there is certainly a confusion about the student’s position – user versus customer.

  36. @Top Hat

    Without going on at too much length, the act of writing notes at the time of a lecture is a fundamental part of the learning process. In order to write coherent notes, you must listen, understand, summarise and then actively record the results of that process. Each of those is a valuable active process.

    In contrast, reading notes or textbooks is essentially passive, and the information mostly passes through your consciousness without touching the sides. The same applies to lectures where you rely on the printed handout. These have almost no educational value. In order to get value out of written text, you need to go through the same process as I describe above, but without having the benefit of the nuance, emphasis and insight brought by the lecturer.

  37. I really haven’t seen printed lecture notes distributed for ages.

    Lectures are about 1.5 hours, pretty fast paced, so there is no time for the students to reflect. That’s the function of seminars and tutorials.

    In a class of 90 (masters students) in lectures about 10 would take notes by pen and paper, 30 wouldn’t take notes really, and 50 would use tablets or laptops.

    However, I agree with @Robin about the limitations of receiving mode. There is a certain level beyond which the only way to learn more is by contributing.

    I don’t know UGs well, but at masters individual learning in social science has diminished in better programmes, and group learning has become dominant.

  38. It may alarm some to learn that this is a socialist blog. I don’t mean that it is intended to promote Socialism, I mean that it operates under a socialist mode of production. Anthony doesn’t do the blog for a wage for someone else. And the rest of us who post aren’t employed by him either. We can post or not as we feel (except in cases such as election nights or when cricket’s on when obviously it’s imperative to post).

    Seems to work ok…

  39. On Universities.

    Isn’t it possible that lectures used to be a good, useful tool for education, but aren’t really any more? The world changes due to technology and attitudes shifting. In a world of Wiki and Google, does a pile of 14 books and a list of lectures really define what getting a degree is about anymore?

    On Socialism.

    The essence of socialism, for me, is state ownership. However it’s not the whole compass, as non-socialists often believe in state ownership (of the armed forces, courts, prisons and in the USA the postal service) and self-proclaimed socialists often support private ownership.

    I think you can probably detect socialist tendencies if someone essentially believes that things should be owned by the state unless there’s a good reason for them not to be, rather than vice versa.

    On Corbyn’s conference performance.

    I haven’t seen any of it, and have only heard a couple of soundbites on R4 in the car. Conferences are (or are supposed to be) a coordinated, organized, stage-managed shopfront for getting your message out there. That’s why there’s traditionally a conference boost. If Corbyn came across well, I suspect that’s a bullet dodged rather than a massive victory.

    I have always maintained that at some point in the next 2-3 years, Labour will pull ahead in the polls. ROC folks will be relaxed about this, talk about mid-term government ratings and protest votes, and predict that Labour will still lose because “they need to be further ahead than this at this stage”. LOC folks will say “this time it’s different” because Brexit/Socialism/Young People/Austerity/NHS funding etc. Then in the 12-18 months before the next GE, the government will gradually catch up, and overtake, before going on to win by a modest margin, thus defying both the current predications of a crushing landslide and the future predictions (by LOC folks) of a Labour recovery.

  40. I am always doubtful of these ranking figures; we’re third ahead of them etc.

    Partly because I used to do it myself for Scotland and then over time found that no one figure tells the story and as i have said before”A Fact on it’s Own is a lonely Thing!”

    Without context they are often meaningless and sometimes (deliberately) misleading.

    It’s a bit like me saying a the school parents race I came second on an 800m lap of the track….500m behind Mo Farah!

    Without the second part the first looks quite impressive.

    Britain comes second in Nato defence spending behind america, but right now we can field one 22,000 tonne carrier with no planes while america has ten with almost 1,000 planes and helicopters between them.

    A phrase I came across around the time of the war in Kuwait that I liked was;

    “Best pilot in the Iraqi Airforce!”

    Being better than those around you doesn’t make you great.

    When you look at the full table of FDI both ways on the world bank web site you see as Lazlo has pointed out that it’s quite a complicated picture and that’s without looking it in terms of % GDP, where Belgium does better than us of Per capita where I think Switzerland does well.

    I haven’t found PPP figures but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same investment can buy you a lot more in India than here.

    Without going over old ground it touches on the argument about using trade between the UK and Germany as a guide without looking potential displacement and changing patterns of trade in the Single Market post Brexit.

    Peter.

  41. @Laszlo

    The point I was trying to make was that there is more pressure on universities/colleges to meet the expectations of students through the provision of aids such as the ones you mention.

    From what people tell me the individual ratings of lecturers is becoming increasingly important, with it having an impact on dept funding and the career prospects of individual lecturers.

    Whether this development if for the better is obviously a matter of opinion, but it is a far cry from what I experienced in my time.

  42. @Neil A

    The fundamental point Marx was making that led to all this Socialism stuff, is that ownership confers power.

    If an employer owns the means of production, not the workers, he holds power since he can withdraw the means of their making a living.

    Hence the idea that workers should own their means of production.

    What you are talking about, is known as ‘State Socialism’. A subset of Socialism, in which the state owns the means of production’ on behalf of the people.

    It’s Socialism by proxy and can fail to satisfy, as we see with the doctors’ dispute. If the state owns the means of production they still have control over the workers. To many, state Socialism is a poor relation.

    It’s not as bad when there is plenty competition and workers can go elsewhere in the private sector besides the state business. The state and private sector can then keep each other in line…

  43. Neil A

    On universities

    UG education is largely Fordist, masters – reputation is the decisive factor. If it is important, then a lot of quasi one-to-one is provided. Well, when you charge 20,000 for a year course, it can be provided. Still, many programmes are Fordist even in these brackets.

    Most good modules fully utilise the www. As a matter of fact, YouTube videos are shown, they are in reading list (but Wiki is banned as a direct reference in any decent university). Etc.

    On socialism

    I keep out of it. But state ownership is not socialism.

    Corbyn and the conference

    Yes, there was stage management (also for Watson). You are right about that. Yet, it’s worth to have a look at the speech (excerpt). He really trained for it. Can he sell it? Depends on a number of things, so we will see. Next is the conservative conference – doesn’t look easy, but they also have good organisers.

  44. @Neil A

    Or to put it another way, you can’t really leave out workers co-operation and stuff when considering Socialism, since they’re about as socialist as it gets…

  45. workers co-operation = workers’ co-operatives

  46. Redrich

    The single most important factor in careers of lecturers in Russell universities is publication – publications in 4 and 5 star journals (with a detrimental effect on the quality of academic publications) and research grants. If the academic has one of such a year, then the student feedback can be as low as 2.5 of 5 without any effect to the career. The pressure is so high that sometimes the application of a PhD student is judged whether the proposal would be published by a 3 star journal.

    So, if an academic consistently has low feedbacks (below 3.5) it becomes an administrative matter – they get a different task, and someone else picks up the teaching if there is a research output.

    Funding by departments is extremely skewed – basically there are cash cows and cash absorbers. So, let’s say in one department can run a programme with 10 students charging 9,000, while in another department a programme with 30 students charging 14,000 is closed down.

  47. @RedRich

    Steps to improve teaching quality are (obviously) to be welcomed. The problem is that the current plans for assessing it are very likely to have the diametrically opposed effect. If you set up metrics that are important for job prospects and funcing, you will drive activity in that direction. And student ratings are being given a ridiculous prominence. What students give approval for is an easy ride. That does not equate to quality.

  48. Interesting exchange on universities. I’m with those (@Robin, I think?) who point out that the act of note taking is what is important. It really is a learning aid. There is a good deal of research into how people understanding and memory is affected by filming (or viewing a film) of something, rather than by actually participating through active note taking.

    Oddly enough, this matches research into other experiences. People who film their holidays constantly on smart phones have better memeries of specific details like colours or what buildings looked like, but have vastly impaired memories about how they felt and their own emotional state.

    I can also understand fully the points about students expectations following tuition fees. in this, students today miss the point, although it is understandable. Paying money doesn’t mean you have any less work to do, but this is what ends up becoming the norm.

    Sadly, alongside the raised expectations of students we are seeing the downgrading of standards, which just about every lecturer I know agrees has happened, as does many statistical analyses of degree grades. A 2/1 is the norm now, and many universities have thinned out the curriculum or been forced to drop more difficult sections (like maths and stats) from course content.

    These are some of the reasons why I, on balance, favour free at the point of use education. That model has it’s own problems, but it gets away from the distorting notion of the student as a consumer. It would help get us back to the point where if students found things too hard, that’s just tough, and would enable universities to push back against the inevitable grade inflation that comes when the ‘student experience’ becomes the metric by which educational institutions are measured.

  49. Re Corbyn and socialism.

    One possibly overlooked passage in his speech said “We know how great this country could be for all its people with a new political and economic settlement, with new forms of democratic public ownership……”. Sounds pretty socialist to me. He’d better not try to steal my house.

    Re FDI figures

    I posted a link to that table last night not to show that we were ahead of Germany or whatever, but rather simply that we are still a major player in the world economy and that fears that no-one will deal with us are fantasy.

  50. Carfrew

    “Hence the idea that workers should own their means of production.”

    We shouldn’t have a Marx seminar here, but you are wrong.

    The theory is that different social arrangements have different ways of encouraging the growth of productivity (the use of available working time). Marx’s point is that the need for increasing productivity gets into contradiction with the social mode in which it happens, hence the need for social change, which happens in a political process, and not automatic (cf Luxemburg).

    The separation of the ownership of the means of production and the workers is a unique characteristic of capitalism. However, the point of change is not ownership, but the control of the means of production (hence state ownership is not socialism), and its social mechanisms (combination of workplace and the place of living in the political process, combination of direct and representative democracy, the right of participation in the political process (in the Soviet Union until 1936 employers were excluded for example).

    There is actually very little written stuff about it in Marx (apart from the critique of the Gotha programme), or even in Lenin (State and Revolution really), a bit here and there in Engels.

    Not surprisingly, failed states dared the road to it, and then they failed with it (for the time being), so who knows. As Marx said, he wasn’t making recipes for the kitchen of the future (I.e. people of the time have to act, if they want to act, and they have to figure out their organisational solutions. From this comes the role of the party, but I stop here).

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