Last night Labour held Stoke Central and lost Copeland to the Tories. As usual, by-elections don’t tell us a huge amount about the bigger political picture, but are very important in setting the political narrative.

By-elections are very unusual beasts. Because they don’t decide who will form the government for the next five years, only who will be the local MP, people are comparatively free to use them to register a protest. They are much more fiercely contested than your average seat at a general election. The constituency itself will also normally have its own local ideosyncracities that mean it can’t just be read as if it is a microcosm of Britain as a whole. So when people ask me what by-elections tell us, I normally say not much: if the change in the vote is in line with what the national polls are showing then it tells us nothing we didn’t already know, if the change is different to the national polls it’s probably just because by-elections are very different to general elections.

Looking at the two results, Copeland is a marginal seat between Labour and the Conservatives… albeit, one that had been in Labour hands for eighty years. The national polls tend to show the Conservatives about 14 points ahead of Labour, the equivalent of a 3.5% swing from Labour to Conservative since the general election. Therefore if Copeland had behaved exactly in line with the national polls it should have been on a knife edge between Conservative and Labour. In the event the Tories gained it comfortably. We cannot be certain why the Tories did better than the national picture would have predicted, thought the most obvious hypothesis is the unusual nature of the seat: Whitehaven is a town wholly dominated by and dependent on one industry – nuclear power – and the Labour party were perceived as being hostile towards it.

On the face of it Stoke Central was a less interesting result – Copeland is one for for the record books, but Stoke saw hardly any change since the general election (only the Lib Dems really saw a significant increase in their share). However it does perhaps give us a idea of the limits to the UKIP threat to Labour. UKIP were perceived as the main challengers from the beginning and it was a promising seat for them: a somewhat neglected working class Labour seat that voted strongly for Brexit, but with a Labour candidate who was remain. They seem to have thrown all they could at it, but with very little success. Again, we can’t be certain why – Paul Nuttall obviously had a difficult campaign and anecdotally UKIP’s ground game was poor, but there are also wider questions about UKIP’s viability now Brexit has been adopted by the Conservatives and without Farage at their helm. By-elections have often been an important route for smaller parties, getting them publicity and a foothold in Parliament. Whenever there has been a by-election in a northern city in the last five years or so there has been speculation about it being a chance for UKIP, but they never seem quite able to pull it off.

So what will the impact of these by-elections be? Copeland will be a body blow to Labour simply because of how incredibly unusual it is. Governments do not normally gain seats at by-elections. Lots of people will be writing about past examples today – 1982 in Micham and Morden (Lab vote split because of SDP defection, and the government got a surge of support during campaign because of the Falklands); 1961 Bristol South East (Tory gain only because the candidate with the most votes – Tony Benn – was disqualified for being a peer), 1960 Brighouse and Spenborough (ultra marginal to begin with). The fact that one has to go back that far to scrape a few examples that generally have extremely unusual circumstances underlines how freakish this is. The political narrative will go back to how Labour are in crisis…but whether that makes the slightest practical difference, I don’t know. Might it provoke another Parliamentary coup within Labour? Who knows. Might it sow some doubts among Corbyn supporters within the Labour party? Again, who knows. The point is, Labour have had terrible poll ratings for a long time, Jeremy Corbyn has has terrible poll ratings for a long time, but this did not stop him being being relected leader last year. The question of Labour’s leadership is one that seems to be a lot more about the opinion of Labour members than the wider public.


909 Responses to “Stoke and Copeland by-elections”

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  1. Well he has certainly covered all options !!

    Scenario 2 will have Cameron chewing the carpet I should think !

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/01/revealed-jean-claude-junckers-five-scenarios-future-europe/

  2. Good evening all from a damp Reigate.

    JASPER

    No cuts to benefits??

    On austerity…It was IDS who said it was “politically motivated”
    I’m not having a pop at the Tories but cutting even £100 million from out of work benefits or in-work benefits for low earners can have untold consequences for thousands.

    I mentioned a few weeks ago about the PDF document I was sent from the DWP explaining how Universal Credit will be rolled out and what the responsibilities of employers will be and some of it was quite astonishing.

    They have removed the £200 earnings allowance meaning claimant’s in work will now have 65p deducted from every pound they earn regardless if they have earned £30 or £500. So that is a real cut of £200 for a low earner.

    Someone on a wage of £800 per month will now face a 25% drop in earnings….
    …………
    “and the Tories won the last GE and are 15 points up in the polls”
    _______

    That’s true but unfortunately for some of our poorest in society opinion poll can hide a multitude of sins…

    Ok…I do believe it is well past hometime…

  3. Re debt

    My message to the greeks:

    Beware Germans bearing gifts.

  4. JASPER

    Breaking News…..
    AG Barr are halving the sugar content in Irn Bru….

    There’ll be tears and tantrums in Auchtermuchty tonight – I’m sure “Nicola” will blame the wicked Tories and see this as yet another injustice heaped upon the Scottish people by them “doon sooth”
    ____________

    I thought Irn Bru was brewed in Cumbernauld?

    Cheeky git ;-)

  5. @Carfrew

    Yes, I do get the ‘borrowing to invest’ argument, and accept the broad validity of that argument. Most of us do it, or have done it, in our everyday lives.

    But it is recognised that there are limits to how far you go with borrowing, hence the EU restrictions ( which of course they failed to enforce ). And I am sceptical about the ability of governments to distinguish between ‘good’ borrowing and ‘bad’ borrowing.

    Digressing slightly, but continuing the theme of not trusting government to think straight, I am dubious about much that claims to be ‘evidence-based’. Closer examination often shows the evidence to be very dodgy indeed. I recall challenging the evidence that encouraged Lord Falconer to support Sellers Packs for house purchasers. The interim report included 20 errors. The author eventually conceded all 20 and the final report was corrected. By that time, the legislation had already been enacted. The final report was released on Christmas Eve!

    Hate to mention it again, but the evidence for HS2 was incredibly weak. Was that wise borrowing to invest?

    Now if you and Alan were choosing the investment projects, I’d feel a lot happier…

  6. Lords amend Brexit Bill to guarantee EU citizens’ rights.

  7. @Millie

    Regarding the limits to investment…

    Perhaps I should have made it clearer. It’s problematic to compare us with countries in the Eurozone, because those countries are tied to the Euro.

    Which means, if they have problems, like Greece, Italy etc., they can’t devalue the way we did, nor can they slash interest rates the way we did. Nor can they print money the way we did.

    They’ve got this massive straitjacket we don’t have. And as a result they couldn’t borrow money as cheaply either.

    We had some of those restrictions after the war, but we did get a very long term loan which helped. And we made good calls on investment. Which brings us to your next point…

    Regarding which, yes governments can make bad investments. Peeps like Colin have this as a specialism!! But at the same time, they make good ones, like roads and schools and hospitals and research and power stations and so forth.

    They get it wrong at times, just as business gets it wrong quite often. Many businesses fail. Because it’s difficult to get right. But they get it right often enough to keep things moving along. The US government funded the development of the internet. The space programme provided a market for computer chops and gave us everything from comms satellites tomlaser eye treatments.

    It’s worth noting that govt. tends to take on the riskier stuff the private sector won’t do, or because payoff is too long term for shareholders, or can’t do it because lacks the resources of the state. Eg the space programme initially. And some of the time, government spending is critical to stop things falling apart, e.g. when the bank’s froze up in the Crunch.

    In the media you tend to get a polarised view of government spending and this is reflected online. Yes, we can both cite examples of failures, but you have to balance against successes. Sometimes people only seem to have a list of failures to draw on.

    In the end, it’s not a case of whether we should have government investment or not, but the question of how do you make sure they do it right more and more often. It is relatively early days for government investment and they’re still learning…

  8. @Millie

    I should add government may also invest in stuff private sector aren’t incentives to do because though worthwhile, is against their commercial interest. The question of whether they provide cures vs. just treating symptoms.

    Could the private sector alone have gotten the international cooperation to eliminate small pox?

    I’ll give you another to seal the deal Millie, just in case you somehow still need persuading.

    Notice how the private sector business didn’t eradicate illiteracy? That it took a combination of church and state etc. to invest to build the schools and teach people to read. Why? Surely there was a market for learning to read?? There was, but if you’re not literate it’s hard to earn enough to pay for the tuition. Catch 22…

  9. Lords Amendment 9b

    what a joke.

    The media announce it as a government defeat but in order to gain enough support to allow the lords to engage in virtue signalling it disapears up its own banality

    Firstly, it assumes that brexit will be triggered; so capitulation there;

    secondly, It only calls on the government to bring forward proposals: nothing more.

    thirdly ,it calls for the preservation of EU rights for those present at the passing of the act ie not for new arrivals prior to the trigger,not for those who arrive before we leave etc

    this was the hauling of the white flag by the Lords,the tired posturing of an elite which knows it has no legitimacy and knows that it is beaten.

  10. S Thomas

    I remember when British governments acted with similar pusillanimity to the Lords amending of the Brexit Bill.

    For example, when the colonies were given their so-called “independence”, the Brits didn’t insist on the sterilization of the entire population there either.

    Bunch of bloody wimps, if you ask me!

  11. I have to admit i was wrong.i was wrong to be critical of the efforts of Gina.M and a plumber from Pimlico to ensure that Brexit had the full support of Parliament. A Government which had proceeded on the prerog.only would have been in considerably weaker position than TM now finds herself with huge majorities for Brexit in Parliament, the opposition torn apart by the process, her position in the polls at their highest ever and the Party dominant.

    i take her assertion that she was only interested in process at face value so she will tonight be celebrating the consequences of her actions especially the unification of the Tories, the wipe out of Labour and the sheer terror of remainers in being hounded by the press as enemies of the people.All this she will be able to survey from her seat on the andrew Marr show and her promotion to a BBc celebrity commentator with expertise in precisely….nothing.I feel a peerage coming on.

    So Gina i salute you and that funny faced plumber who for some reason has not been asked to review the papers on the BBC.

  12. “this was the hauling of the white flag by the Lords,the tired posturing of an elite which knows it has no legitimacy and knows that it is beaten.”

    That must be why the Government opposed it, voted against it, and have said they will overturn it in the HoC.

  13. Hireton

    why dont you wait for Rich to post it again before replying.

    even the archbishop of york did not support it recognising it for the tokenism it represented.
    as an alternative headline:

    “lords abandon EU citizens coming to Britain”

  14. S Thomas,

    “thirdly ,it calls for the preservation of EU rights for those present at the passing of the act ie not for new arrivals prior to the trigger,not for those who arrive before we leave etc”

    That’s because the Lords don’t believe in retrospective legislation or in including things that aren’t part of the act they are discussing!

    Those “Present at the Passing of the Act” achieve the objective of securing the rights of EU Citizens currently in the UK.

    Peter.

  15. Peter Cairns

    it is not apparent how on the bill in progress the rights of EU citizens was part of the what they were discussing.

    It was warm and cuddly and made them feel good about themselves but as effective as the chocolate teapot beloved of posters on this site.

    Nor did it secure any rights whatsoever. It merely asked the government to come forward with proposals. And if those proposals refer to reciprocity? it is not going to stop brexit is it? In any event the eU and Gb will probably have reached an interim agreement on the subject by then. As i said an act of virtue signalling by the unmeritocracy

  16. oliver Kamm in the Times…

    “There appears to be a significant shift in US trade policy under the new administration. A draft policy document due to be published this week accuses other countries of unfair trading practices and indicates that President Trump will seek to reduce the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in resolving trade disputes. What’s wrong with that? Essentially, it’s an invitation to other countries to retaliate with punitive measures.

    The costs of trade protectionism are import tariffs, import quotas and export subsidies that damage living standards and create inefficiencies. They raise costs to the consumer and divert scarce resources (capital and labour) away from productive uses towards the sheltered industries. Hence every US administration since the Second World War has been committed to an international rules-based trading system. The WTO is a forum for negotiating those rules and for resolving trade disputes. Despite its superpower status, the US submits to WTO rulings. In the first case brought before the WTO, in 1996, its disputes panel found in favour of a complaint by Venezuela and Brazil that the US was discriminating against petroleum imports.”

    “Unfortunately, multilateral trade liberalisation has barely advanced since the mid-1990s. Bilateral and regional trade deals have been the means of breaking down barriers to cross-border trade. The goal for Britain of selling more goods and services in overseas markets won’t be helped when Theresa May’s government will be pursuing many bilateral trade deals at the time that the world’s biggest single economy, the US, is adopting nationalistic and mercantilist policies.

    Bilateral deals depend on leverage to force open overseas markets. The US has a lot of leverage; Britain, being a much smaller economy, has little. Our domestic market is also less significant than that of the 27 remaining members of the EU combined. It will be hard going to negotiate a favourable place in international trade relations after Brexit. We might as well be realistic about it now rather than surprised when the Trump administration and the EU fail to treat us leniently. We won’t get growth through a magical boost to trade. The government needs other ideas.”

  17. To try and summarise the above, Kamm is saying that the WTO with its rules serves to level the playing field when smaller countries have to deal with bigger ones.

    In rejecting this kind of levelling, the bigger country or union can seek to dominate more in trade deals. Which might be problematic in terms of us getting a good deal…

  18. Carfrew,

    It will be interesting to see just what the US policy draft actually says.

    So far Trump has been consistently loud on claim and weak on evidence.

    His claims about Germany and the Euro seem odd given that the Euro is a free floating currency just like the dollar.

    He can point at ECB Bond buying and low interest rates as keeping it low, but then the US Fed has been doing the same thing for just as long.

    Then of course there is the issue of the Dollar as a Reserve Currency!

    “Reserve currency”

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A reserve currency (or anchor currency) is a currency that is held in significant quantities by governments and institutions as part of their foreign exchange reserves.

    The reserve currency is commonly used in international transactions and often considered a hard currency or safe-haven currency.

    People who live in a country that issues a reserve currency can purchase imports and borrow across borders more cheaply than people in other nations because they do not need to exchange their currency to do so.

    By the end of the 20th century, the United States dollar was considered the world’s most dominant reserve currency,[1] and the world’s need for dollars has allowed the United States government as well as Americans to borrow at lower costs, granting them an advantage in excess of $100 billion per year.[2]

    However, the U.S. dollar’s status as a reserve currency, by increasing in value, hurts U.S. exporters.[3]

    Peter.

  19. @ S Thomas

    I agree with you on this one.

    The government could easily “bring forward proposals” within three months that said “subject to a reciprocal agreement being reached with the EU, we will….” – which is what they’ve said already.

    I’m not sure I understand why the government is bothering to resist this. Yes, it’s tokenism, but sadly so is a lot of what parliament agrees to.

    Still, it’s a rare moment; Leavers and Remainers can unite in the view that the HoL have not been particularly helpful tonight.

  20. @Peter C

    Yes, I’ve been reading about the strategy of keeping the exchange rate low. Obviously it’s not a new idea, but for some countries it’s pivotal, whereas for us the priority was stuff like keeping inflation in a certain range.

    Some advocate that in the wake of Brexit, and given export pretensions, we should target a low exchange rate more…

    https://johnmillsblog.com/2013/10/01/a-competitive-pound-for-a-stronger-economy/

    The idea being not only does it help exports but in the longer term encourages import substitution, helping local business…

  21. Colin

    Thanks for the response. I suppose it’s just different experiences.

    When having a session with some British women on a degree equivalent course on cognitive processes back in 2009 I had to listen to a rant on those East Europeans, and their inappropriateness. Considering that they were trained in a helping profession, and they knew that I am Hungarian, it was a bit of a surprise. But I was reassured that I was not in the same bunch. Well being a middle or even an upper-middle class person does shield a lot.

    It is an everyday experience for many foreigners I’m afraid. After all, the Balkans start at Heathrow. On the other hand, the usual English complexity, many like a few foreigners around. I really don’t know how widespread it is, but as one has a couple of thousands of encounters a day … It becomes an everyday experience.

    I don’t say that it is intentional (and I think that the UK is (or use to be) probably the most tolerant country in Europe, and nothing compares to the awfulness in xenophobia and racism in Eastern Europe – yesterday the Hungarian PM announced that the purity of ethnicity of Hungary should be defended, which statement is clearly in contradiction of the Hungarian constitution, not to mention that about a tenth of the population is actually non-ethnic Hungarian), yet even here, especially in the aftermath of Brexit there were a number of comments that I perceived as racially and ethnically insulting.

    Anyway, it wasn’t the main point in my comment.

  22. @Daiback “Still, it’s a rare moment; Leavers and Remainers can unite in the view that the HoL have not been particularly helpful tonight.”

    Yes agreed. It achieves nothing and is highly likely to be overturned in the HoC anyway. Still they can feel good about themselves because they “expressed their opinion”, even though Labour have stated they won’t hold up the bill a second time.

    One thing it did show is the Tories are as united in the Lords as they are in the Commons on A50.

  23. @S Thomas “I have to admit i was wrong.i was wrong to be critical of the efforts of Gina.M and a plumber from Pimlico to ensure that Brexit had the full support of Parliament. A Government which had proceeded on the prerog.only would have been in considerably weaker position than TM now finds herself with huge majorities for Brexit in Parliament, the opposition torn apart by the process, her position in the polls at their highest ever and the Party dominant.”

    The law of unintended consequences! I must say I do chuckle when thinking how badly this has actually backfired, with the Remain fleet now three-quarters sunk and the rest in flames or wailing in the shadows.

  24. @ CARFREW
    @Syzygy
    Seems like MMT is becoming more established now. Like peeps using it at the BoE…
    https://bankunderground.co.uk/2016/10/26/a-dynamic-model-of-financial-balances-for-the-united-kingdom/

    Yes the BoE do seem to be now … but it was quite a long time ago that Mervyn King stated that the UK could never run out of money or become broke. Funny (peculiar) that journalists and politicians persist in the mythology.

  25. Carfrew,
    ” they can’t devalue the way we did,”

    Its dangerous to belive we can devalue at will. We do not control the exchange rate. It adjusts itself according to sentiment about its real worth, rather than to where a government might wish it to go to benefit the economy. Having experienced the UK’s last fight with recession and wage cost spirals, it was not devaluation of the UK currency which stabilised the situation but internal devaluation, workers accepting lower pay and probably owners too.

    “Which might be problematic in terms of us getting a good deal…”
    Haha! Basically, Farage et al think that being a mate will encourage Trump to make an exception to his general trade policy for the UK. I doubt he will, though it is also plainly the case the established political parties are trying to get him impeached and removed from office. Which doesnt say much for democracy.

    But long term, free trade is not benefitting the US as it once did and more people will support protectionism. Trump is pushing at an open door calling for it and also in calling for withdrawal from NATO.

  26. Sea Change,
    What May has been trying to do is give herself maximum room to manoeuvre. each time she has to make a speech or outline the government’s position she reduces this. Thus she did not want anything said in parliament before article 50. Thus the lords has whittled down her options just a little more today.

    Her main aim in this has nothing to do with the needs of the nation but the electoral chances of the conservative party. In contrast to Corbyn’s strategy, which is principles first. It is impossible to tell how Brexit will work out and therefore how things will be in 2 years: In this instance, she does not know whether she will have to push to allow immigrtion or to stem it. Thus better to say little now.

    Her visit to the Lords was an attempt to show the matter was out of her hands and was the Lord’s responsibility, not hers. She was the supplicant and meant to make this clear.

  27. @Danny “Thus the lords has whittled down her options just a little more today.”

    This will be almost certainly defeated in the Commons and the Labour Lords have already indicated they will not send it back to the Commons a 2nd time.

    “Her visit to the Lords was an attempt to show the matter was out of her hands and was the Lord’s responsibility, not hers. She was the supplicant and meant to make this clear.”

    I don’t think you fully understand the constitutional power the PM has. She can appoint Lords via the Queen. Thus she can change the make up of that House at will. Her sitting there was an implicit threat – hardly as a supplicant.

    I don’t think you have read the situation correctly at all.

    “In contrast to Corbyn’s strategy, which is principles first.”

    Which principle will the masses start flocking to? The anti-monarchist position or the sympathy for terrorists one? Perhaps it will be the unilateral disarmament stance or the unlimited immigration stance?

    There are just so many wonderful principles to choose from for the public!

    The problem with Corbyn’s principles are they are clearly electoral poison. See polls. Which is why May’s strategy is working just fine.

  28. Sea Change,
    the government does not wish to reform the lords because any reform would have to give it more democratic credibility. And then it would demand powers to match. And thus successive governments have decided to keep it as it is, occasionally inconvenient, rather then properly reform it.

  29. Re: House Of Lords vote

    Thank God someone sees my wife as more than simply a bargaining chip. I thought Lamont’s interview with the BBC an absolute disgrace. He should hang his head in shame.

    Regarding my wife’s ‘right to stay’, we now discover that, provided she can produce every payslip from the past twelve years (and which of you could do that?!) and written confirmation from her various employers that she worked for them at the time she states (though it is beyond me why the Home Office cannot find this information in HM’s Revenues, who have a complete record of all her tax and NI payments) then she can stay without having to fill in that 85 page document. Confused?

    In the meantime, I am going ahead with applying for Italian citizenship, a process which requires confirmation from the UK and Italian police that I have no serious criminal record in either country, and then a payment of around £400. And an eight week wait (considerably less than the Home Office’s six months!).

    Apparently the Consulate in Edinburgh has been receiving many applications for citizenship from second and third generation folk, as well as from spouses and children of Italians. I have to say that the chap doing the work there has been kindness itself, responding personally and promptly to e-mails asking for help and advice.

    The man who owns our favourite local pizza place is going into E’burgh on Monday to start the process. His father was Italian, but until now he never felt the need to apply for Italian citizenship.

    Apparently there are many Brits in Germany who are also now applying for German citizenship. I’m sure Farage and all other xenophobes are delighted!

  30. Sea Change and others

    When will you get it into your skulls that the legal challenge (and the Lords vote yesterday, for that matter) was never about overturning the Referendum vote, and always about making sure that the process was done in a legally and constitutionally safe way.

    ‘Remainers’ lost the referendum vote. That issue is now settled, at least unless the negotiations produce something the populace doesn’t like. What is now under discussion is how to set about the leave process. That’s what yesterday’s HofL vote was about.

    So stop living in the past and start addressing the realities which now face the UK!

  31. Danny

    The UK government (or the Bank of England operating under instructions from the UK government) can influence the currency markets through judicious use of interest rates. So if the UK government wants a ‘weak’ pound it can ask that interest rates be lowered, though this may well produce inflationary pressure as a side effect. It’s not an easy game to play, but but the boyancy of ‘floating’ currencies can be altered to suit…. though the salinity or otherwise of the water may be a ‘given’.

  32. LASZLO

    @” I think that the UK is (or use to be) probably the most tolerant country in Europe,”

    I think it is too.

    Teachers struggling purposefully with a classroom of multiple languages ( 311 across all schools) -where English may be the minority language is , for me, a powerful image of the tolerance present in this country.

    But it is sorely tested sometimes .

  33. One thought on the idea of using an artificially low exchange rate for competitive advantage:

    It’s fine in theory, if you can engineer it, but it still depends on market decision makers to do what you expect them to do. In the UK’s case, historically this hasn’t been the case.

    Import prices will rise, because they have to. Export prices don’t have to rise, but might do, if your exporters use the devaluation to increase margins. This is what traditionally happens in the UK, and has happened this time.

    According to Samuel Tombs, the exchange rate has given exporters a ~14% advantage, but they have driven up prices by an average 10%, meaning there is only a pretty small net benefit.

  34. Alec

    They can pay their employees a bit less compared to international rates which is a “good thing for exports”.

    We still have a way to go to compete with Romania though.

    John B

    Sounds like a very wise plan in the face of uncertainty here.

  35. Seems a large minority of Tory activists do not particularly care about the union with Scotland

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/tory-activists-30-back-scottish-independence-conservativehome-poll-centre-for-english-identity_uk_58b74f6ce4b0284854b3d6be?ir=UK+Politics&utm_hp_ref=uk-politics

    Interesting to find out if there is any generational element in the group that don’t care e.g younger members

  36. @Danny
    I never said that the Government wanted to reform the Lords but they can rig the Lords if need be to get A50 through.

    @John B
    I think you are being either na1ve or have conveniently forgotten all the talk of the pro-Remain Parliament keeping us in the single market etc before the cases. Which is why the Government went to great lengths to avoid that. I suspect the Government also needed the time to get most of the 200 Tory Remain MPs onboard which they have achieved.

    Lamont was simply pointing out that the Government needs to take account of British nationals in the negotiation and thus a reciprocal arrangement is the correct course.

  37. @WB

    It would be interesting to get up to date polling in England and Wales on the issue. I would be surprised if there wasn’t a strong majority for keeping the Union together

  38. Another update on how the UK economy is performing from Markit/CIPS UK ConstructionPMI

    Modest rise in construction output, but cost pressures remain at an eightand-a-half year high

    Key findings:
    Solid upturn in civil engineering activity underpins growth in February
    House building activity expands at slowest pace for six months
    Input price inflation little-changed from January’s peak

    Summary:
    UK construction companies recorded a sustained expansion of overall business activity in February, with civil engineering replacing house building as the main growth driver. Residential activity increased at the slowest pace for six months, while commercial building declined for the first time since October 2016. The latest survey revealed a further solid expansion of employment numbers, despite a slowdown in new business growth to its weakest for four months. Meanwhile, intense cost inflation persisted in February, which was overwhelmingly linked to higher prices for imported materials. At 52.5 in February, up slightly from 52.2 in January, the seasonally adjusted Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index® (PMI® ) registered above the neutral 50.0 threshold for the sixth consecutive month.

    Growth continues and there have been no further increase in price inflation.

  39. @Carfrew

    I have no problem with borrowing to invest. Its all about scale.

    Government is essentially about line-drawing. I would draw that line in respect of government borrowing at a lower point than we are presently.

    I agree about the private sector being equally unsuccessful at times. I don’t like LEPs being run by self-appointed private business, for example: its completely wrong.

  40. No great surprise that the HoL voted for that amendment. I assume the Government will attempt to vote it down. I’m not sure I would bother, it is so weak that as s Thomas pointed out “secondly, It only calls on the government to bring forward proposals: nothing more.”

    Presumably having done so the Government would not proceed further with it until the EU had reciprocated, and it would lie fallow until they did so.

  41. Could this affect polling? Not sure how long those living at the bottom of the ladder can keep putting up with taking the brunt of austerity all the time.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/02/ifs-growth-uk-living-standards-worst-in-60-years-pensions-poverty-budget

  42. Well I consider myself a Tory activist and I am part of the 71% who does consider the the Union is of great importance. Any poll can find a minority interest of some sort.

    I was watching Ruth Davidson having a pop at Nicola Sturgeon the other day – she has to take great credit getting the Tories back to where they are in Scotland – the next big challenge is getting to the mid 30’s – I have quite a few family members who are Scottish and Tory although they do all live in the old Tory hunting grounds on Aberdeenshire and Moray – they tell me the SNP whilst still strong are not infallible. I am looking forward to the May elections and am expecting some moderate gains.

    I am not expecting a Tory gain in Gorton! but will be watching to see if they can get back to 1997 levels – am proposing to do a couple of days there – it will bring back memories of West Ham in the 70’s which whilst hopeless was good fun.

  43. WB
    Seems a large minority of Tory activists do not particularly care about the union with Scotland

    Thanks for the Huffington Post link – well worth a read.

    Worth noting, though, that it was a Voodooo poll:
    “Even allowing for the self-selection of respondents to this survey, it is likely to provide a fair reflection of the broad views of Conservative activists,” [Prof. Denham] said.

    Re the article’s:
    “It is striking how few Conservative activists display a whole-hearted commitment to the Union and to the retention of Scotland within it.”

    Doing a Voodoo poll of commenters on virtually any “English” news source would make you wonder why Scotland has not already been expelled from the union!

    Somehow, I don’t expect that the SNP high command are too worried about such polls.

  44. BOBINNORFOLK
    I am not expecting a Tory gain in Gorton! but will be watching to see if they can get back to 1997 levels

    I heartily concur. At the 1997 GE, Scotland elected precisely zero Con MPs, 1 fewer than their current level.

    Results were:

    Lab 56 +6 vs 1992
    SNP 6 +3 vs 1992
    LD 10 +1 vs 1992
    Con 0 -11 vs 1992

    Can’t see Lab or the LDs getting back to 1997 levels, though.

  45. BOBINNORFOLK
    I was watching Ruth Davidson having a pop at Nicola Sturgeon the other day – she has to take great credit getting the Tories back to where they are in Scotland

    I should have added to my previous post that most of the credit belongs to the current Lab leader in Scotland and her predecessor.

  46. In case you didn’t know, Northern Ireland are going to the polls today – https://statgeekuk.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/northern-ireland-voting-today/

    Not seen much in the way of polling though. Anyone?

  47. @ Barbazenzer

    Prof Denham was a Labour MP: is that John Denham? The one who resigned over Iraq

  48. Sorry missed the “O” at the end of your name

  49. WB @ Barbazenzer
    Prof Denham was a Labour MP: is that John Denham?

    Yep. Same Denham.

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