Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Never before has a party suffered a total wipe-out

Labour's fear is that this time it will be the BNP that makes a sudden breakthrough

They are meant to be about the future of Europe and the delivery of vital local services such as schools and social care. But in truth it will be the future of Gordon Brown that will be the main question hanging over the European and local elections on 4 June.

If Labour does badly, the recently revived muttering and perhaps even the plotting about the Prime Minister's future can be expected to thicken. The expectation that David Cameron is on course for victory in a general election next year will grow. If, on the other hand, Labour avoids disaster Mr Brown will be safe and on the Labour benches hope will be rekindled that Mr Cameron could yet be denied.

At first glance the European elections would seem to be the more severe of the two electoral tests for Mr Brown. The whole country will get the chance to vote in a straightforward proportional representation election. Labour's success or failure will be unambiguously recorded for all to see.

In contrast local elections are only taking place in shire – and thus mostly Tory – England. Only 27 county and seven unitary councils (including five new ones) are at stake. Any shortcomings in Labour's performance would seem capable of being dismissed on the grounds that little of national significance can be read into such unrepresentative results.

In truth, Mr Brown may well have less to fear in the European elections than he does in the local contests. This is for one simple reason. When the country last voted in European elections in 2004 Labour performed abysmally. It won less than 23 per cent of the nationwide vote, not least because the party was beginning to pay for the unpopularity of the Iraq war. Yet just 12 months later Tony Blair still went on to win a historic third term. Even the most recent opinion polls still suggest the party stands at 27 per cent in Westminster voting intentions. Getting 23 per cent or thereabouts ought not be too difficult. And so long as the result is not significantly worse than 2004, Labour's spin machine will be able to argue it can recover in 2010 just as it did in 2005.

Mind you, European elections have the habit of throwing up the unexpected. In 1989 the Greens famously won as much as 15 per cent of the vote, largely at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. Five years ago, Ukip that took the country by storm, securing as much as 16 per cent of the vote, with the Conservatives (and again the Liberal Democrats) losing out.

Labour's fear is that this time it will be the BNP that makes a sudden breakthrough and Labour will take the hit. Nick Griffin's party does best in working-class areas with high ethnic-minority populations in the North of England and the Midlands – in other words in traditional Labour territory.

But if past precedent is kind to Mr Brown in the European elections, it could be a serious source of embarrassment to him in the local elections. For this particular round of elections was last contested on general election day 2005.

True, people did not vote in those local elections in exactly the same way they did in the general election – the Liberal Democrats fared better and Labour and the Conservatives rather worse.
But even so, the results will provide a direct measure of how much Labour has fallen from favour since its last election victory.

Moreover, the few scraps of power Labour does have in shire England are all vulnerable. The party is defending just four councils: Derbyshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire. All four will be lost if the swing against Labour reflects that currently registered by the opinion polls. And never before has a party suffered a complete wipe-out on local election day.

Those with long memories will recall the last and only time that Labour suffered defeat in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It was in 1977 during the darkest days of the last Labour government under Jim Callaghan, a government whose demise heralded 18 years of Tory rule. So perhaps Labour MPs would regard losing those two counties again as the clearest sign of all that Mr Brown is leading them to serious defeat.

John Curtice is professor of politics at Strathclyde University


Anonymous said...

"high ethnic-minority populations"

How can you have "High" and "Minority"????????????

Anonymous said...

There is an element of the media and political classes inflating the BNP's chances for June 4th for various reasons, the article below tells a very different story.

"the far-right British National Party is unlikely to win its first-ever seat, according to the political scientists from the LSE."

Parliament predicted to lean to the left after elections
By Jennifer Rankin 7:4;09, European Voice

Anonymous said...


Shock at BNP coin sticker

Shopkeeper: Zahid Ahmed, left, the coin with the sticker

A SHEFFIELD shopkeeper has called in the police after he was handed a coin covered with a BNP sticker.
Zahid Ahmed, aged 39, who runs DJ's News in Crookes, said he was shocked to receive the coin and believes it was deliberately given to him as a racist gesture by a supporter of the British National Party.

The married father-of-two, who is originally from Pakistan and has run his business since December, said he did not notice who gave him the coin but it was handed over last Sunday morning.

"When I spotted it I could not believe it - I was shocked and upset to think that somebody would come into my shop and give it to me," he said.

"The BNP only accept white people, so this could be the party's way of spreading their message but Britain is a multi-cultural society.

"I have lived here since 1997 and have always worked – I have never claimed benefits in my life. I am contributing to society and do not expect to be treated like this - it is disappointing.

"The police say they have not had any other reports like this but if anybody out there has received a coin like this they need to come forward so that the police can get to the bottom of it.

"I see this as a form of racial abuse."

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said the incident was being treated as a one-off.

She said: "Officers have attended at the address of the complainant. After speaking to the shopkeeper, police do not believe the £1 coin with the BNP sticker covering the back of the coin, was directly targeted at the shopkeeper.

"Police currently believe this to be a one off incident, as no other similar incidents have been reported."

Anonymous said...


Amnesty for illegal immigrants The Strangers into Citizenship campaign is calling for regularisation of some of the UK's illegal immigrants – a humane and practical move

On Monday, as London lies empty in the bank holiday sun, a hidden world will erupt. The capital's immigrant communities, together with members of parishes, schools and charities, MPs and trade unionists, will converge on Parliament Square. About 20,000 people will walk together to Trafalgar Square, holding up a bright orange banner that simply reads: "Strangers into Citizens".

In the square, those gathered will hear a call for a measure that is practical, humane and of obvious benefit: a Spanish-style regularisation of a portion of the UK's irregular migrants, also known as "a pathway into citizenship" of the sort advocated by Barack Obama.

The idea is supported by people of all political colours: the Conservative mayor of London, the Liberal Democrats, a number of members of cabinet as well as policy institutes of the left, liberals and Conservatives. A one-off, selective regularisation would be simple to do, would pay for itself and the dividends would be great. Yet the very mention of it scares the government, who are anxious for you to know that they are tough on "illegal immigration" and worry that an "amnesty" would send the wrong message.

But let's be clear whom the Strangers into Citizens campaign – backed by Boris Johnson – believes should be regularised. A report out later this month commissioned from the London School of Economics by Johnson estimates there to be 750,000 "irregular migrants" in the UK. Most of these people entered legally, either through the asylum system or on some kind of visa; they would have then fallen into illegality when the immigration rules changed or when, after many years in limbo, their asylum claim failed. The Strangers into Citizens proposal is for a pathway into citizenship for those who have been in the UK for at least six years and who present employer and character references, a clean criminal record and proficiency in English, or have a strong humanitarian case. That would total, says the LSE, about 450,000 people.

All regularisations start from an admission that there is a mismatch between law and reality. According to the law, people who have no right to be here should go home. But people aren't like that. They make new lives, become part of families and communities. Most of those 450,000 are not going home, because their home has moved. The truth that all (including the Home Office) admit yet few are willing to face is this: a mass deportation is both impossible and morally unacceptable. That is why the government's is a bogus policy. The UK Border Agency has increased its forced removal rate to 60,000 per year, at a cost of £11,000 per removal. But it's a drop in the ocean. At this rate it will take 34 years and cost £9bn to remove everybody.

So the real alternative is some form of regularisation – or the status quo, in which a large part of the population lives in a shadow world, as sub-citizens, prone to exploitation, fearful of reporting crimes, undermining the minimum wage, unable to access rights and less likely to fulfil their obligations of paying taxes. A large population outside the law benefits no one.

Regularisation is the humane and practical solution. Combined with border-enforcement measures, such as those the government is bringing in at the moment, and measures to shrink the shadow economy, it helps to deter further illegal immigration. Such is the experience of Spain, which regularised 600,000 people in 2005 as part of a package of reforms which included tighter borders. Numbers entering Spain between 2001 and 2004 were considerably higher than those that have entered since. That's why, in the United States, regularisation is backed by those who favour more restrictive immigration measures. It enables immigration authorities to concentrate on those who intend to break the law rather than those whom the law is breaking.

Spain's regularisation – the fruit of consent between employers, unions and civil society in general – took three months and cost little. Immigrants are generally young, fit, and educated at another country's expense: they are not a burden on the benefits system.

What's left is politics, the nervousness of admitting that immigration policies have not succeeded, and the perception that regularisation in some way undermines legal immigration. But if the government really believed that, they wouldn't have granted leave to remain to thousands of asylum "legacy cases" this past year. The letters these people received informed them they could stay on the grounds of their "long association with the UK" – precisely the Strangers into Citizens argument.

That is why the organisations of civil society are gathering on Monday: not to oppose more restrictive immigration policies or border-tightening measures, but to point to those already here, residents among us, strangers who are not yet citizens. Their liberation is also ours.

Austen Ivereigh is a community organiser with London Citizens, and policy director of the Strangers into Citizens campaign.

Anonymous said...

£90m bail for Briton blamed for collapse of Austrian economy

Banker whose family fled the Nazis stands accused of perpetrating 'huge' and 'highly complex' fraud


Anonymous said...

The Austrian (British born) Jew you are refering to is Julilus Meinl the Fifth. His family have been influential since the time of the Hapsburgs. This crooked Billionaire Yid has ben accused of undermining the Austrian banking system. The only political system that stopped this type of predatory specultor was National Socialism!

Theresa May left university with a 2nd class degree in Geography and was immediately given an important job at the Bank of England. Go...