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Issue

28.04.15

312

election2015 Interviews

Analysis

Comment

Predictions


Joe Jameson & Dan Falvey Comment and News Editors

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elcome to Concrete’s General Election Supplement! We’ve put this special publication together in order to have a detailed look at the upcoming election which will most likely be one of the most important for a generation. While it is certain to be a landmark moment in British politics, many have questioned just how much this one election will change the political landscape, which is the subject of the article opposite. We have tried to capture as many voices, from as many parties, which are relevant to students first and foremost but also relevant to Norwich South, whilst striving to ensure that we have remained neutral in our coverage. We have interviews with five local candidates, as well as interviews from big names in those parties, which should provide an overview of what they stand for but also how they differ from their rivals. For those who are undecided about how to vote, we have tried to ensure that the articles are as open and engaging as possible, as well as providing a very brief rundown of where the parties stand on some of the biggest issues in this general election. Norwich South is the third most marginal seat in the country, Simon Wright’s majority in 2010 was only 310 votes. UEA has a serious opportunity to swing this vote, with a home student population of nearly 14,000, our vote could decide who represents this constituency come May 8th.

We spent an afternoon on campus, canvassing your opinions on the election, political parties, and important issues which matter to students. It is interesting to see that the views expressed here reflect the national mood. This can be seen in Chris Hanretty’s predictions, which show that there is no clear winner as we approach polling day. Since the last general election more people have become disengaged with politics, so we have included an article which explores the reasons why you should or should not vote and a guest article by the ex-Home Secretary and Norwich South MP, Charles Clark, on what happens after the polls close on election night. We hope that these provide an interesting insight into why elections are not just about political parties. We would like to thank everyone who has made this supplement possible, from the many writers and reporters who have interviewed candidates and individuals as well as written the comment and analysis pieces, to those who have given us the time to be interview. Obviously we would also like to thank Geri Scott and Peter Sheehan, for the endless help, advice and Concrete wisdom, without which we would almost certainly have been lost. We hope that you find the range of articles both informative and interesting, irrespective of who you are voting or for, or even if you don’t plan to vote.

Front cover Ed Miliband: Flickr, the CBI; David Cameron and Nick Clegg: Flickr, Number 10; Nigel Farage: Flickr, Gage Skidmore; Nicola Sturgeon: Flickr, First Minister of Scotland; Natalie Bennett: BillyMay Jones, Concrete

This page Union flag: Flickr, Adrian Clark; Palace of Westminster: Flickr, Max Bisschop


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Will this election change British politics forever?

Chris Roberts

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or those of us that enjoy a good teen drama (think Gossip Girl, The OC, etc.) there’s always a point a couple of series’in when the soppy, cliché relationships that began the show predictably run out of steam. It’s at this point writers begin a process of mixing ever-increasingly bizarre couples together in the hope of keeping their show ‘interesting’, ‘relevant’ and most importantly ‘on television’; and this is basically where British politics stands approaching the 2015 general election. Increasingly, the parties that have dominated Westminster politics are struggling to connect with voters; in the eyes of many their offering has become stale. So now the system has splintered open and offers a number of compelling alternatives from across the political spectrum. Parties that before would have been considered ‘single issue’, such as the Green Party or Ukip, and others that were considered ‘national’ parties, such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru, have now been presented for the entire country to see as genuine alternatives to the status quo. This has of course led to an election which could leave us with a number of curious parliamentary relationships for the next five years: Greens and Ukip teaming up

on electoral reform? Lib Dems and the SNP teaming up against EU withdrawal? Perhaps even Labour and the Conservatives teaming up to force their austerity agenda upon us? Yes, in the bizarre world we will awaken to on the 8th May, anything is possible. Unlikely, perhaps, but possible. So will this election change British politics forever? Unfortunately, the answer is still probably going to be no. Sure, according to some of the latest polls there will be around 40% of voters that will stand up against the two-party politics that has characterised Britain for a century on 7th May. But don’t expect that to lead to 40% of Parliament sharing that sentiment, we have the archaic first-past-the-post electoral system to blame for that. If the Commons were considered a business (an argument for another day) then it would certainly have been referred to the Competition Committee by now over its voting system that suffocates the chances of small parties and elects governments on the basis of 30-odd percent of the vote. In this environment, political reform happens at the same rate as the white cliffs of Dover beat their retreat from the shores of France. So let’s not bother. Let’s not bother voting. Let’s not bother campaigning. Let’s all give up, go home and get on with our lives knowing that we have the country’s least-worst option in charge, right? Wrong. This reasonably logical view is about the worst thing we as citizens and voters can do. Whether we are 18 or 80, whether we are women or men, whether we are students or not, we only get one tangible chance every five years to let them know how we feel. And the only way they listen is if you vote. To illustrate this, which societal group do you think is most likely to vote? The answer is pensioners. Their rewards? Protections on their pensions and reductions on inheritance

Photo: Flickr, Eric Hossinger tax. The group least likely to vote? Young people. Our reward? Well where to begin

“In the bizarre world we will awaken to on the 8th May, anything is possible” – tuition fee rises, benefits cut, affordable housing cuts – the list goes on and on. So when we consider that question: will this election change British politics forever? I guess a more appropriate answer is no but that does not mean it cannot start the process. Every journey has a beginning and this election could be a dramtic step change in the way in which we do politics forever if we really want it to.

At the end of the day any election, in any place, under any voting system has the chance to change a country’s political establishment, but only if that is the will of the people, the will of all the people, not just 64% of them. At the recent general election hustings on campus Lesley Grahame, the Green Party candidate, said that we could either “rearrange the deckchairs or change the direction of the ship”. This sums it up pretty nicely because change is going to come after this election, but how much and how quickly depends upon all of us getting out to the polling station and making a choice. Otherwise the British political system will end up like so many good teen dramas have over the years: losing all its viewers, dragging on a series too long and ending with a whimper.


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y interview with Lisa Townsend probably couldn’t have been more Norwich. Sat in a Delia Smith owned cafe next to Carrow Road, home of Norwich City FC, I half expected Alan Partridge to walk in at any moment. It’s five in the evening and Lisa Townsend has spent all day canvassing, trying to persuade the people of Norwich to vote for her come 7th May. Since leaving university with a Law degree from Sheffield Hallam and then a Masters in Islamic Law from UCL, Townsend has spent a good proportion of her career in politics. Initially volunteering on the Conservative campaign in Sheffield during the 2005 election, with roles as an assistant and a researcher for an MP, and a brief stint at a London PR firm. Experience in the world of Westminster is certainly her strong suit, so one could be forgiven for tenuously labelling her a ‘career politician’. When I put this to the Tory, however, she was reluctant to take the label:

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“I admire anyone that’s prepared to dedicate their career to public service” “Going into politics wasn’t something I grew up thinking I would do, with the background I have growing up for a time in a council estate, going to a comprehensive school and being the first in my family to go to university, the idea of even working in Parliament as an intern was something that felt so beyond my reach. We didn’t know anybody, there was no family friend, I just had to work really hard to get there. That informs my decisions more than any time working in the House of Commons”. She then followed up her justification by saying: “I admire anyone that’s prepared to dedicate their career to public service”. Growing up in Hertfordshire, I asked Townsend whether she felt that not having particularly close ties to Norwich, with only a family connection to the area, really put her in a position that meant she could represent the views of such a close knit community. She was quick to dismiss the suggestion: “It’s an interesting one” she says, “but one of the great things about an election campaign is people coming to you because they want to share their experience with you and you get to go talk to them and that’s great”. She adds that “last week I met an 18-yearold man in a wheelchair and until last week I had no idea what the right thing for an 18-yearold man in a wheelchair would be. And I still don’t know, but now I know somebody that does. What’s important is that you listen and talk to people whether that’s in Norwich or wider Norfolk, because everybody’s experiences are going to be different, and finding out what their concerns are”. Issues and policy are at the forefront of every MP’s mind, and Townsend makes no secret of the issues that are her priorities: boosting the local economy, quality of public transport and the provision of mental health care. I asked the Conservative candidate her thoughts on the living wage, and whether she felt that replacing the national minimum wage with a living wage would be a good idea given that the increase in wages would arguably promote spending in the area, thus boosting the local economy; she said that “I would absolutely back any company that was looking to introduce the living wage and would actually support them to do so, what I don’t want to see is any company forced into paying the living wage at the expense of jobs. “I would rather somebody was in a job and earning as opposed to someone earning a bit more at the expense of someone else”. I then touched on the cost of public transport, an issue close to the heart of any student that lives beyond the golden triangle, pointing

LISA TOWNSEND Photo: Phoebe Lula Harper, Concrete Photography

The Conservative candidate for Norwich South spoke to Sam McKinty out that maintaining a bus pass for a year at university can cost close to £400. Townsend pointed out “competition is an issue within

“I would absolutely back any company that was looking to introduce the living wage” Norwich, so maintaining a constant dialogue with the bus companies within the area is very important to ensure students get the best deal possible, whilst also ensuring bus companies still get out of it what they need. “I do have some concerns about the routes, any reduction to the routes is something I think always effects students and I’ll ensure that a good area of Norwich is covered”. Then we began to discuss to mental health provision within Norwich, and wider Norfolk. I pointed out that earlier this year Norwich and Suffolk Mental Health Trust had been placed into special measures, all this in spite of North Norfolk being represented by Norman Lamb, the Minister for Care. I asked Townsend what she felt she could offer to the issue in the local area that the

Minister for Care couldn’t. She responded: “One thing I’d like to see certainly within Westminster is someone whose role would focus just on mental health. “The other really important thing is that mental health shouldn’t just be an issue for the Department of Health, it should be an issue for every department, and that’s something we’ve made enormous progress on. “If you look at something like the Crisis Care Concordat, which has been signed by a lot of businesses across Norwich. What we need to now is make sure is that organisations talk to each other on a local level, so mental health trusts talking to GPs or Housing Associations to ensure that care is being received at all levels”. Townsend confessed to being a Conservative voter from the very first time she voted, and when I asked why UEA students should vote Conservative she was keen to highlight that the last five years proved that her party’s ‘long term economic plan’ was working: “In the past five years the economy has approved greatly, a lot more money is going into teaching and resources and we’ll be making sure loans are available beyond undergraduate level. “For those graduating, more homes are

going to be built with an expansion of the Help-to-Buy scheme and there are two million more people in jobs than there were five years ago”. Would you vote for Conservatives as a student today, I ask: “Of course, because it’s the party that helps invest in my future.” By the end of our conversation we had spoken for nearly an hour. With exactly two weeks to go until polling day Lisa Townsend is eager to spend every minute of every day

“It’s the party that helps invest in my future” doing all she can to maximise her chances of winning Norwich South. Election Forecast’s current polls imply that she is currently set to finish second. Just as we were finishing our conversation I asked her: “why should students vote for her over any other candidate?”; “Why vote Lisa Townsed as an individual?” Without any hesitation she said: “Because students all have individual concerns, a different story, and listening to those individual voices is something I’m passionate about, and will do”.


election2015 ndrea Leadsom, fifth most senior member of the Treasury, and currently campaigning for the Conservatives spoke to Concrete last week about youth unemployment, political tactics, and why it’s better to be a graduate in Yorkshire than France. Throughout the campaign the Conservatives have been keen to highlight that youth unemployment is falling, however while it is heading in the right direction, many students still feel that it is far too high. Yet Leadsom believes this is all down to perception. She said: “I think there is a difference between perceptions and what is happening, and I think there is a time lag. Over the last five years there has been a fall in unemployment for young people, but it takes a while for people to feel that there are jobs out there. “It was an enormous recession - the biggest in peacetime - and it shocked the economy, not just for young people. But the economy is just starting to recover. There are now two million apprentices, mainly young people, and 80 per cent of which are full time. Quality and decent pay is just starting, but it takes a while for people to see what is happening”. But have they done enough to help young people? Leadsom said: “Ultimately everything we do is to help young people. At the moment, we have so much debt because we are spending so much beyond what we can afford. We have this mountain of debt and it falls to young people. For example, Greece doesn’t have a credible plan or any hope of paying back their debt because of their mad economic policies. They have 57% youth unemployment”. However, Labour still seems to be the party of choice for young people, particularly in Norwich South. Leadsom tackled this issue straight on and said that she believed this was because young people are more optimistic and idealistic when it comes to politics: “Young people aren’t cynical; they tend to be very optimistic. The problem with this specific election is that the more left wing parties are effectively saying that living within your means is an optional choice, not a necessity. They say it’s fine to continue borrowing. Young people aren’t necessarily naïve but they are optimistic. They need to face the harsher realities that older people are more prone to accepting. “Young people are more inclined to believe Labour, that they’ll lower tuition fees. They aren’t cynical, and are very tender hearted, as I’ve seen with my own children. However, the Conservatives offer a very realistic view at life. In order to pay for good quality you have to

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an the Tories be proud of their record in Government? “Hell yes” (to quote a preposterous man), the Tories can be proud of their record! Over the past five years, the Conservative-led government have successfully managed to make Britain the fastest growing major economy in the world. It has been repeated often, especially in the run up to the election, but the Conservatives’ ‘Long-Term Economic Plan’ has worked and has got the country back on track, fixing the disgraceful mess Labour left behind. When Labour left government in 2010, their Chief Secretary to the Treasury left a note “I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left”, acting as if the way in which Labour left the economy was a joke! The economy is no joke. A successful, strong and growing economy is fundamental to a more prosperous nation, which the Conservatives have produced over the past five years in government. The economy grew at a rate of 2.8% in 2014, the fastest growing major economy in the world. They achieved this economic growth whilst also reducing the massive deficit left behind by Labour by a half, a huge achievement for the Tories, and for the country. Every Labour government throughout history has left unemployment higher than when they entered government, a record

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Andrea Leadsom The Economic Secretary to the Treasury spoke to Megan Baynes about the Conservative election campaign have good incentives to create wealth within the economy. Saying let’s tax the rich is not reasonable. People work hard because they want to do well for their families. Conservatives are more realistic, and young people are more idealistic and less critical. They think with their hearts, not their heads, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing”. his might explain why a lot of the Conservative campaign has been largely negative in its portrayal of Labour post general election, arguing that they will be a ‘puppet’ to the SNP. This is an interesting tactic to use, rather than focussing on Conservative achievements over the past five years: inflation has decreased, unemployment is down, and wages are now increasing higher than inflation. Do PPCs, such as Leadsom not worry that this style of campaigning will put young people off politics entirely? Apparently not; however, that didn’t stop the high flying Tory from condoning her party’s tactic: “I don’t think, with regard to the mud-slinging, people by virtue of their age are more or less keen. I personally don’t like the negative politics, but my son who is nineteen likes the cut and thrust. “We should be singing from the rooftops about our brilliant economic achievements, and not be talking about anyone else. It’s all thanks to hardworking people and it’s a superb achievement. The UK has produced more jobs in the last five years than all of Europe. Yorkshire has produced more jobs than all of France! We shouldn’t be talking about anyone else. We’ve got to use the positive movements in the economy to get us back living within our means. “If we don’t solve the problem with the debt, then the problem is going to be left to the younger generation - to your generation. And if they can’t pay it off it will go to your children’s. I am determined to not let that happen”.

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Photo: Flickr, Policy Exchange

The Conservatives can be proud of their record in government Gary Walsh COMMENT

to be ashamed of. The Conservatives have proven over the past five years that they are the party of employment, massively reducing the levels of unemployment, with two million more people now employed than when Labour left office in 2010, an increase higher than all the other EU countries put together. When the Labour, Green party and other leftwing ‘activists’ try and demean this exemplary record on employment by whinging about zero hour contracts, the truth is that only 2% of employed people are on zero-hour contracts, and 2/3 of these people don’t even want any more hours. Working people are also much better off in terms of wages thanks to the Conservatives, with wages rising faster than inflation, meaning that those who have worked hard to gain employment are experiencing the benefits of having more money in a successful and growing economy. The Conservatives

have achieved this by providing for a positive economy built around those who want to work hard and get along in life. Not only did Labour tax the rich less than the Conservatives (with a 40p tax rate up until their last year in office), they taxed the poor more. Under Labour you would begin to pay income tax when you earned £6,475, meaning the poorest in society were unfairly paying taxes on their earnings. Under the Tories, this has been raised to £10,600 and is set to rise again to £12,500 after the election, meaning that the lowest earners in society can keep more of their wages, thanks to the Conservatives. The Conservatives have had to make some tough decisions to get the economy to where it is now, including the raising of tuition fees, a policy unpopular with some students. This policy was essential, as students now pay for themselves to go to university, rather

than relying on the tax payer. Why should somebody who didn’t have the opportunity to go to university have to pay for me to do so? It was a deeply unfair system. Whilst the Conservatives raised the cap on fees universities can charge, they also change the rules on paying the loan back. The Tories increased the minimum earnings from when the graduate starts paying the loan back from £15,000 to £21,000, meaning that those who earn more will pay back more of the loan. The lowest earning 30% of graduates will now pay back less of the loan than before the 2012 changes came into play, whilst the richest 70% will pay back more. This has been an important factor in encouraging more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply for university, who are now a third more likely to apply to university than five years ago. Looking back over the past five years; The Tories have overseen the fastest growing major economy in the world. The Tories have reduced unemployment and increased employment. The Tories have increased the numbers of disadvantaged members of society going to university. The Tories have taken the poorest members of society out of paying tax, and will continue to do so if re-elected on 7th May, ensuring those who work hard are being rewarded. A record to be proud of.


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Harriet

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The deputy leader of the Labour Party spoke to UEA:TV

Words by Geri Scott

big name in modern politics, Harriet Harman is known to many as a comeback queen. Earning this accolade due to the way she has rebuilt her standing in the Labour party after being sacked from Tony Blair’s cabinet in 1998, she is still a key player in this year’s election as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, a PPC for Camberwell and Peckham and an avid campaigner on women’s issues. When Harriet Harman first entered parliament in 1982, it was a parliament made up of 97% men. It would be another 15 years until the role of Minister for Women was introduced (now known as Minister for Women and Equalities), a change that was spearheaded by Harman herself. Now, however, she feels that the role has fizzled out. In an interview with UEA:TV back in January Harman said: “Equality is not going to happen on its own, it needs to be fought for” and she sure has fought. Throughout her time in politics, Harman has focussed on women’s representation, including the controversial women-only shortlists in 50% of all target seats. Introduced in 1993, this campaign resulted in the election of 101 Labour women MPs in 1997. However this didn’t go without criticism, with some claiming women-only shortlists send the message that women are not able to make it alone. Nonetheless, in 2015 Harman is disappointed with the progression and development of the role, asking if anyone has even heard of the Equality and Human Rights Commission recently. In this, she moves her answer away from focussing purely on women. She said that unless there is a minister there to support the grassroots desire for equality for the disabled, for the LGBT+ community, for those who are unfairly treated due to race or ethnicity and for women, that equality simply won’t happen. Naturally critical of the ConservativeLiberal Democrat coalition, she believes that progress towards equality has stalled and that the clocks are beginning to turn back, stressing that if these parties are reelected the case will only worsen. However, it seems that Harman is only concerned about one of the two coalition partners this election, telling Zoë Jones of UEA:TV that: “there will only be one Prime Minister in number ten Downing Street, and the reality is that that will only be a Labour or Tory Prime Minster”. With a lot of

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Livingtstone The former Mayor of London spoke to Dan Falvey about the Labour Party under Miliband

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oncrete and UEA:TV were lucky enough to catch a few minutes with the Labour veteran politician to ask him a few questions on his thoughts about the Labour Party and the general election. Confident on how his party will perform on 7th May he said: “Ed Miliband will be the next Prime Minister. I’m absolutely certain about that. The question is just whether it’s a majority or whether it will

Photo: UEA:TV for Concrete media attention over the last few days being dedicated to the possibility of a Labour/SNP coalition, it could be the case that the Prime

“Equality is not going to happen on its own, it needs to be fought for” Minister will be from the Labour party, but the possibility of a coalition may not be something which sits well with Harman. She believes that if you have coalitions, you get a situation where promises are made and

be a Labour and SNP coalition”. Speaking passionately about his love for Labour and the party leader Livingstone claimed that voters faced a stark choice this election: “This is the most important election for the next thirty years or so” he indicated. “Britain can go down the route of a fair society with Ed Miliband but if Cameron wins a second term this won’t be a country worth living in. The NHS will be wiped out, they’ll introduce an American style insurance policy, and they won’t build any council housing. They are there just to serve an international elite; the mega rich”. However, while he was clear in his belief that only Labour could truly represent the people in the next parliament, he was not afraid to argue that he wanted to see Labour be more socialist in their policies: “I’ve always been in favour of Labour being more radical. I think when we moved to the centre we laid the foundations for electoral defeat. Blair

then broken due to the power-sharing nature of a coalition, citing the Liberal Democrats as an example of this. If you vote for a manifesto then you want it to be delivered, she said, and that is “not going to happen if you vote Ukip, Green or Lib Dem”. Later in the interview, Harman was asked how important she felt the student vote was to the Labour Party. Starting out by reaffirming that it is “really important for the legitimacy of our democracy that everyone is on the register and is entitled to vote”, she then identified two key problems she saw with student voting figures. These were that students are either not

registering to vote at all, or are registered but aren’t voting. Whilst she didn’t reveal exactly why she thought those in the latter group weren’t voting, she did use this opportunity to highlight Labour’s criticism of the coalition in terms of encouraging people to register to vote. In her criticism of the current government, Harman said that those who were older, who lived in the countryside and those who own their own home are much more likely to be registered to vote. On the other hand, young people, those who rent their home, those who live in the city or those who come from a black and minority ethnic background were likely not to be registered, creating an inequality in the system. It is for this reason, she says, that although Labour wants everyone to be voting for them, this is even more true of young people as if only older people vote “democracy is skewed”. Considering that policy was most likely still being devised in January, when this interview took place, it is unsurprising that Harman was not able to offer much in the way of what Labour would be promising voters this election. However, she was able to share the Labour proposal for a Time to Care fund which would increase the numbers of doctors, nurses and home carers, as well as combining the health and social care services. It has since been revealed that this £2.5bn fund does not match the £8bn budget shortfall which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have promised to meet. The interview finished by returning to an issue close to Harman’s heart, women’s rights. Speaking about The Sun’s Page 3, controversial on campus due to the boycott of the Sun in union outlets, Harman said that her objection to the feature wasn’t about the young women who are posing for the newspaper, but instead with “the editorial decision that this is news and in a newspaper the role of women is not what women are doing in all walks of life”. She went on to emphasise that: “they report news about men, but when it comes to women they seemed to be dressed only in their knickers”. Since her beginnings in politics in the eighties Harman has spoken for women, and seems to be loved and loathed in equal measure. But, the truth is that come 7th May 2015, if the Labour party take victory, she could be the first female Deputy Prime Minister – and that is something for women everywhere to be extremely proud of.

did it in ’97 but he didn’t need to. We would have got elected whoever was leader. People just wanted to get rid of the Tories and [Blair]

“If Cameron wins a second term this won’t be a country worth living in” believed we had to live off the centre ground. We have a choice, there’s a neo-liberal agenda and there’s a socialist agenda. There is no real agenda of the middle, it doesn’t work”. The ex-Mayor of London had been in Norwich canvassing on behalf of the local parliamentary candidate Clive Lewis. Judging from Livingstone’s comments, Lewis is clearly the type of Labour MP he wants to see: someone who claims to be a socialist at heart and wants to see Labour quickly become more left wing.

Photo: Zoe Jones, Concrete Photography


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The Labour candidate for Norwich South spoke to Dan Falvey

and the fact that my dad came from the West Indies. Everything this country has done for me I am so grateful for and I’ve made the most of it. I don’t think that should be denied to others who want to come here and contribute to our economy and society”. However, despite his disagreement with Labour’s immigration policy, Lewis firmly stated to me that international students had no reason to fear a Labour government: “The Labour party has been quite specific that we are not targeting overseas students, they will not be in any target or any quota system on immigration. They are free. They are fantastic for our country”.

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hen meting Clive Lewis your immediate impression is of a man who feels confident in his own ability and a person who is not afraid to speak their own mind. In the half hour that I interviewed him in one of the upstairs rooms of the Union of UEA Students’ premises, it became increasingly obvious that this first impression was correct: Clive Lewis happily gives his own opinions, even if it means openly criticising his own party. Clive Lewis grew up on a council estate in Northampton and so the most obvious starting point to our conversation was: “why the move to Norwich?” “I got accepted onto the BBC trainee scheme for journalism” he explained to me, “and after my year as a trainee contracted to BBC East Midlands I sought a full time position with BBC Look East. I grew up with BBC Look East and so I went down to the old building back in 2001 and I got the job so that’s when I first came to Norwich… To be working in the newsroom that I grew up with watching on television was quite amazing. It weirded me out at first”. As a man who appears to have always been heavily political and staunch supporter of the Labour party, it seems strange that Lewis did not try to enter the world of parliament earlier and first sought to be a journalist. However, when I questioned him on why he was not a prospective parliamentary candidate for a constituency until 2012, the first evidence that Lewis does not always tow the Labour party line emerged. “When I finished at the NUS I kind of annoyed the Labour party a bit because I stood against some Labour student candidates because we disagreed over issues. I wanted a free education, I thought that was best and what the NUS should be arguing for, even if negotiations with the Labour government came out with a different outcome, you go in with the strongest possible hand which was obviously free education… So we hasdthis complete disagreement over this period where New Labour was in the ascendency and for socialists like me, that wasn’t always

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here were two terms that came to define Labour’s 2010 General Election campaign and their resultant removal from Number 10 after thirteen years in power: those two terms were ‘banking crisis’ and ‘Gillian Duffy’. Gordon Brown’s government had to bear the brunt of the world economic crash that had begun two years previously and almost bankrupted the nation; and if you can’t quite remember why that name rings a bell, Gillian Duffy was the woman that confronted Gordon Brown on his approach to immigration just weeks before the general election. Their widely photographed, tense encounter in a Rochdale street led to Brown labelling the woman a ‘bigot’ in front of the nation as he didn’t realise that his television microphone was still active. The banking crisis and Gillian Duffy: as far as the British people were concerned, Labour were bad with people and bad with their money. Why were this economically incapable and out-of-touch party deserving of votes and a place in Downing Street? Unsurprisingly, Labour lost in 2010. The past five years have not all been plain sailing for the opposition. The loss of power in 2010 led Gordon Brown to revoke his role as leader of the party, a move that many people, both supporters and oppositions of the party, welcomed. Gordon Brown was considered

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CLIVE LEWIS Photo: BillieMay Jones, Concrete Photography

going to be compatible. “I was told… how do I put this… that I had burnt a few bridges with the Labour Party back then... I was told to just go away for a little bit. But then the thing that made me want to go back into politics was when I was serving in Afghanistan in 2009”. Explaining his experiences on what was one of the most deadly tours of the country, Lewis says that his experiences in the army suddenly made him realise what he still wanted to achieve in life: “It really hit home [when on tour] that I might not be going home, or that I might not be going home in one piece… I was thinking about all the things I hadn’t achieved in my life and all of the things that I wanted to do still and it dawned on me that I still wanted to make a difference in politics”. As we moved away from his experiences prior to being selected as Labour’s candidate for Norwich South in 2012 we began to talk more about his views on Labour party policies. Here again he highlighted that he is very much to the left of the Labour party:

“I believe that my party needs to move away at an increasing velocity from what I call the extreme centre. “I think that the trajectory on which Miliband is now taking the Labour Party is the right trajectory, we might not be at the end of that trajectory yet but it’s heading in the right direction”. However, while Lewis made clear that he was happy that Miliband was taking his party in a direction which he agreed with, he was not afraid to indicate that he still did not believe some of Labour’s policies represented his own opinions. When I asked him his thoughts on Labour’s plans to reduce tuition fees to £6000, given that he had fought within the NUS to keep higher education free, he made his thoughts quite clear: “That figure needs to go”. During our meeting he also highlighted his staunch opposition to Labour’s crack down on immigration policy: “On the record, I’ve questioned our rhetoric on immigration… I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for immigration

After five years in opposition, is Labour a changed party? Caitlin Doherty COMMENT by many to be the problem of the Labour party, he had never been actually elected and his record with the electorate, as highlighted by the Gillian Duffy incident, wasn’t great. Party members envisioned the departure of Brown as a new start for the party, resetting themselves on the road to success. Such renaissance wasn’t achieved as quickly as many as hoped. The election of Ed Miliband to the top spot within the party in October of 2010 surprised and disgruntled many. People were convinced that the role was going to be awarded to Ed’s brother, David, and thought that his longer record in politics made him better for the job. Ed was not a popular choice. Despite several blunders in the immediate aftermath of the previous election, Labour have slowly, but surely, managed to win back the support of the general public, the key to which probably resides in their adoption of new policies. Five years is a long time in politics. Five years when you’re not at the forefront of

politics is a long time to sit back and watch other people get a lot of things wrong. Five years is a long time to sit back and perfect your approach to the election challenge. Labour’s policies serve as a correction of all of the mistakes that have been made under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition,

“The past five years has not all been plain sailing for the opposition ” as well as adapting to the changing trends in British politics, mainly those of the rise in parties that were previously considered parties of a speciality interest, such as Ukip or the Green party. They’ve listened to people’s concerns and have moulded their manifesto to fit the needs and wants of the British people. They pose a challenge to the shockingly high tuition fees that have been hated by so many, they intend on tackling the extent to

iven his clear differences in opinions with some aspects of Labour party policy I asked the Norwich PPC whether he believed that Labour needed to be more radical in their move away from the political centre ground: “The problem is, if you look at the polls on economic competency, the Greens are offering, I think, a very left wing, radical alternative to the economy but they’re kind of bumping around six and seven percent in the polls. They’ve doubled that from three percent to six, that’s great, but why haven’t the British public flocked to their banner, to their economic outlook? “When you look at the polls, even Labour ,who I think have quite a moderate approach to reforming the economy, isn’t getting the traction and support from the public. The public overwhelmingly trust the Tories, the people who delivered austerity… that begs the question, we on the left, those who want to see a fairer and slightly more radical approach to the economy, we haven’t made the argument with the British public. Some people say ‘well that’s because Labour haven’t been radical enough’ but that’s not just a failure of the Labour party, that’s a collective failure of the left”. Just before we parted I gave Lewis the opportunity to explain why he as an individual was the right person for be elected as the MP for Norwich South. His answer almost summed up everything that he had been trying to say over the last half an hour: “I’ll bring to the job passion and life experiences. I’ve packed a lot in from being a student leader, through to being a BBC reporter, a soldier in the army, I’ve worked in telephone call centres, I’ve worked in factories, food factories, I’ve had real world experiences of life. That’s the first thing but secondly, I think I will speak up, I’m happy to say what needs to be done”.

which the rich have become richer under the tax breaks allowed by the Conservative government by implementing a mansion tax upon Britain’s wealthiest home-owners. The rise in zero-hours contracts and unpaid internships that have left thousands of people struggling to find the money to live and eat are to be banned, alongside a rise in the minimum wage. The party’s manifesto, accompanied by a leader that, according to recent polls, is growing in popularity on a daily basis thanks to a recent improvement in public speaking skills and impressive performances in televised debates, has led to a sudden spike in popularity meaning that many political experts believe that it will be Ed Milliband sitting in Downing Street come May 8th. Have Labour changed in the last five years? At their core, no. They still remain Britain’s best hope for a left wing government, committed to welfare, taxation, education and a universally free NHS. But Labour have changed. They have managed to rebuild themselves from the disastrous remains that were left in the wake of the 2010 election. They’ve managed to reignite their passion and core values, demonstrating themselves to the British public as the party that cares for the interests of the many, rather than the privileged few.


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Nicola Sturgeon has turned failure into victory for the Scottish National party, and should be taken seriously Peter Sheehan looks at the rise of the Scottish National party, and analyses their post-election prospects in a hung parliament he Scottish National party has done a mighty good job of turning losing into winning. A little over six months after having its raison d’être pulled sharply out from under it, the SNP looks set to send the largest contingent of Scottish MPs to Westminster and could, if the maths plays out to its advantage, play king maker to a minority Labour government. If this is a party of failure, there must be plenty of others in politics who’d like to be failing with them. It is illuminating to view the SNP’s popularity in the context of the wider disengagement with Westminster politics. England lacks a party that can build a positive, pro-English message into its narrative: English nationalism has long been associated with the far-right, and Ukip, for all its antiestablishment blustering, is strongly rooted in negative campaigning. What’s more, England does not have the same appetite for anti-union politics as Scotland. In contrast, Nicola Sturgeon can position her party as the left-wing replacement of a discredited Labour that is tied to Westminster centralism and has tacked too far right. Independence may be the centre of the SNP’s politics, but losing the referendum has not dented its strong Scotland-first message; it can still portray itself as Scotland’s champion in Westminster, something that is much harder for parties with national reach. Yet, for all her pro-Scotland rhetoric, Sturgeon takes a more mature and constructive approach to the rest of the UK than Alex Salmond ever did. Whereas the former First Minister seemed to rather enjoy baiting the English establishment – and no-one more so than David Cameron – Sturgeon has made a concerted effort to assure voters outside of Scotland that, at Westminster and within the union, the SNP will work constructively with other like-minded parties to advance its agenda. It’s working. After the first debate, the percentage of people who said that Sturgeon had come out on top was, allowing for the inherent blunderbuss accuracy of these polls, broadly comparable to the percentage who gave the debate to Farage, Miliband and Cameron. You don’t get that kind of reception on the national stage from Scottish voters alone. (Interestingly, audiences at debates for Scottish leaders have given her a harder time.) There is a lot that the SNP has to contribute to national politics, and not least because they represent a significant portion of the population. Their anti-austerity message chimes with those in England who are similarly opposed to Cameron’s economic policies, and their pro-immigration, proEurope platform is one that is as much a part of politics in London as it is in Edinburgh, if not more so. This is a point that Sturgeon has made when talking to voters in England. By deliberately reaching across the border, she has made the SNP significant and constructive, and part of national politics to a far greater extent than it has been at previous general elections. This contrasts with the approach of Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru, whose focus on talking to voters in Wales has made her seem somehow less relevant. On something of a side note, I can’t help but feel that another part of

Sturgeon’s popularity, at least in England, may well be down to her robust disagreements with Nigel Farage. Since the advent of Ukip, it seems that the debate on topics such as immigration has been held very much on its terms. Until, that is, Sturgeon gets going. She set the precedent in the first debate; in the second, Wood, Miliband and Natalie Bennett were noticeably more combative towards, as Wood put it, “my friend on the far right” – in particular, I cannot remember seeing Miliband speak so positively of the EU. Yet, once again, it was Sturgeon who delivered the most assured attack.

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o what lies in store for the SNP after the election? Contrary to what the Conservatives and seem to believe, the party’s negotiating position is actually rather weak. Unlike the Liberal Democrats five years ago, the SNP has already showed its hand: under no circumstances will it prop up a Tory government, and as both Sturgeon and Miliband have said they will not enter into a formal coalition deal the only option is for the SNP to support a minority Labour government on a vote-by-vote basis –assuming, of course that the centre-left has enough votes to defeat the centre-right. Unless both leaders change their minds and do form a coalition, this is the only course of action open to them. Sturgeon has indicated that she would be happy to ensure that her party supported a minority Labour administration, although the lack of a formal coalition deal would keep her MPs out of cabinet. The advantage of such an informal arrangement is that both parties can keep their hands clear: Labour could count on the support of the Tories for renewing Trident, while the SNP would not have to formally water down its drive for independence. It’s an arrangement that could work well for both parties, and there’s no reason why it should be any more unstable than the outgoing coalition government. On the face of it, the SNP and Labour have far more that they agree about than did the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats five years ago. Granted, the question of independence could prove to be a thorny one, but the outcome of last year’s referendum could settle the issue for at least the length of the next parliament. It would be an alliance, formal or otherwise, with substantial differences to that of the ToryLib Dem coalition. In the new age of multiparty politics, it could be an exciting thing to try. And, perhaps for the first time, it would truly force Westminster to look outwards.

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Photo: Flickr, First Minister of Scotland

IN BRIEF The SNP for English voters

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he SNP’s most well-known proposal is, perhaps obviously, the creation of an independent Scotland. But, as with the other political parties, they have a raft of other pledges in their manifesto. Given that Nicola Sturgeon’s MPs may play an important but as-yet uncertain role in a post-election, centre-left government, these other policies are receiving more attention nationally than previously. The SNP is very much a centre-left party, hence

why it would likely side with Labour rather than the Conservatives in a hung parliament. But the campaign so far has proved that Sturgeon is further to the left than Miliband. In its manifesto, the SNP declares that it wants to “put fairness back at the heart of Westminster”: the fine print makes clear that this will be done by raising and spending more money; ending austerity has been a common theme of its campaign. The party wants to increase govenment spending by 0.5% each year – areas earmarked to receive this include the NHS and education – and proposes to fund this by raising taxes: bringing back the 50p tax band, taxing banks and bankers more heavily, and introducing a so-called mansion tax.

Other headline elements of the manifesto include the pledge to vote against the renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons programme – the navy houses its missile-carrying submarines at Faslane, near Glasgow; the party’s committment to keeping Scotland in the European Union; and a promise to build 100,000 affordable house across the UK every year. The SNP has never received so much attention outside of Scotland – nor has it ever gone looking for it. But given that multi-party politics seems to be here to stay, and with a campaign that has so explicity acknowledged voters outside of Scotland, people across the country are starting to look more closely at the policies that sit behind the SNP’s demand for independence. Peter Sheehan


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To vote or not to vote

Concrete takes a look at the arguments on both sides of the debate on whether it is worth voting.

Yes Emily Fedorowycz ver the past few years, the lines between the political parties have become increasingly blurred, and for some this has been a source of discouragement when it comes to poll time. But don’t let it! Just because the politics scene isn’t quite as clear-cut as it used to be, doesn’t mean we should just shrug off the whole thing or vote for the first candidate that says something we agree with. Your vote matters. We often take it for granted that we live in such a free and democratic society, but people have fought long and hard to get us here: some have even given their lives. To date, it’s not even been 100 years since women first won the right to vote, In the past century we’ve come a long way towards equality and each being able to have our say, so making the most of your vote is important, if not for you, but for every person who has fought to give you that right. But don’t just do it for them. You should do it for you more than anyone! Politics affects everything in your life: your education; your work; your community; your roads; your justice system; your healthcare. Your vote today will change the way everything around you will develop in the next few years, and all of these things will impact your life in unimaginable ways, as well as those who will come after you. Your choice now will have a huge influence on the society the children of today will grow up in, and perhaps, someday, even your children. So when you vote for party policies that will make education better, vote because you have the power to make studying at UEA the best it’s ever been, now and for all the students that are to come. Speaking of the ways in which politics will directly affect those at UEA (and in the Norwich area), voting also gives you say on who will be representing you locally, and knowing what they hope to do within your community can sometimes mean more than national party politics. The policies your local

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No Yes, it might involve a little bit of research, or even having a quick glance through a few of the election leaflets before they go into the recycling bin, but it’s worth the effort now for the impact it will certainly have on you later. Plus, it’s never been easier to do the research in the first place. You have the great advantage of living in the age of technology, so this research is possible to do anywhere, anytime, on the go or from the comfort of your own home, so you don’t have to go out

“In 2010 nearly 16 million people didn’t vote” of your way to listen to party reps spiel on at a public event. There are also hundreds if not thousands of websites to help you collaborate all of this information, and quizzes to help you understand your own political views. (Try whoshouldyouvotefor.com) And whether or not you’re one of the inordinate amount of people who are put off thinking that their vote won’t make a difference, know this: Your vote will make the difference. According to The Mirror’s statistics, in 2010 nearly 16 million people didn’t vote. That ended up being 5.2 million more than the winning party recieved. If even half of those 16 million had voted, they could have completely changed the 2010 elections and perhaps some of the issues we have today might have been very different. Plus, of all the years to vote, this year is looking to be “the closest election in living memory” according to the Telegraph, so you can rest easy in the knowledge that your vote is going to have an even bigger impact! So vote for the people who gave you the right in the first place, vote for the things that you believe in, and change will happen.

o not vote in elections, especially to the progressive university student, is often seen as a grievous crime. Yet in the past abstaining from voting has been a powerful tool for showing public dissent; there is more to the choice to not vote than something Russell Brand said. If you feel that our current political system is broken then next election could be your chance to show it. It is clear to anyone who looks closely that first past the post is broken. Any system where 49% of the votes are wasted cannot be fair or representative. I don’t have enough time to relate all the failures of first past the post, but if the electoral system used does not reflect accurately who the people voted for I would say that it is not doing its job. By continuing to vote and partake in elections we legitimise this system that isn’t representing

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“If you live in a safe seat, there is no point in voting... your vote will be wasted” us. It’s highly unfortunate that the referendum on introducing the alternative vote system closed down this debate but by not voting you can show your dissent. Another failure of our voting system is the number of safe seats. 59% to be precise. Over half of the seats in the House of Commons will not change and so if you are living in a safe seat there is no point voting. If you agree with the prevailing party then your choice is secure

and if you disagree your vote will be wasted. So you feel as if your vote doesn’t count. Once every five years you supposedly are able to change your country’s political landscape and you might as well not have wasted the ink. Once every five years. But what about between elections? We are all part of a social contract where we agree to give the government day to day responsibilities of running the country in exchange for a vote that is most likely useless, once every five years. So what if you feel the election system used is unrepresentative or you feel government favours privileged Oxbridge graduates or that you aren’t listened to between your potentially pointless vote? What if you want to opt out of this social contract? You can’t. Not voting is the only way you can show your displeasure with the government’s side of the deal. Join a pressure group, go to a protest, but if you feel the contract isn’t working you can’t vote. Though there is another option. By not voting you risk being lumped in with that group of lazy, disinterested folk who politicians demonise and dismiss. When you choose to abstain from voting you have no way to tell them why you didn’t vote. So go to the polling booth, make the effort and spoil your ballot. Spoiling your ballot counts, it says that you do care about politics but don’t want to vote for any of the candidates. et should we have to spoil our ballot if we disagree with the small selection of candidates available to us? Some countries have ballots with a ‘none of the above’ option so that citizens can democratically express their dissatisfaction with the candidates. If enough people spoil their ballot or tick ‘none of the above’ then it illegitimates government and sends a clear message that the people didn’t vote for them. So why do we need a ‘none of the above’ vote? Because the major political parties are all the same. What is the point in voting if you know that no matter which party gains power,

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“Spoiling your ballot counts, it says you do care about politics, but don’t want to vote”

“We often take it for granted that we live in such a free and democratic society” MPs propose can also give you a small-scale insight into the priorities of the party, whilst showing you which ideas you can really get behind to make your local area a better place to live. However, when all’s said and done, nobody can make you vote; it only matters if you make it matter. But many people will agree that if you don’t vote, you can’t really complain. Sure every political party has their flaws, but the only way to see change in politics is to get involved. Even if you vote and your candidate isn’t elected, at least you can say you took a shot, and at least your one vote went towards trying to put someone sensible in power or get some good policies passed (and one less for the not-so-good parties, ensuring that some racist or homophobic totty doesn’t take over).

Susannah Smith

Photo: Secretlondon123, Flickr.com

the outcome will be virtually the same? Before the 2010 election Labour was planning on implementing 80% of the cuts the coalition brought in since. So even if the election system was representative, even if you are in one of the few swing seats, if you don’t want to spoil your ballot and haven’t got a ‘none of the above’ option, then your vote still makes very little difference. However, don’t choose not to vote because you don’t care about politics, or because you don’t know what each party stands for. Most of all don’t choose not to vote because you can’t be bothered. Once every five years we are asking you to have a peek in a newspaper, switch on your television or to just be on the internet for a while, and if then you still don’t want to vote, that’s okay. Make an informed choice and make sure to show your disillusionment because sometimes disengaging with politics can be just as powerful as engaging in it.


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How Great Britain is likely to vote... Leading psephologist and UEA lecturer, Chris Hanretty, presents his predicted election results

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efore this election campaign started, I should have made myself a promise. I should have promised to keep a count of every time someone on radio, on television, or in the press said that this was “the most unpredictable election” ever. I didn’t make that promise, so I don’t know how many times someone has claimed this: but it’s a big number. The claim sounds exciting: but interpreted literally, it’s false. No one really means that this election can’t be predicted *at all*. We might not be able to predict exactly and without error the number of seats won by each party (which is what really matters, rather than vote share). But ask anyone who believes that the election is “unpredictable” whether they think Ukip will get three hundred seats, or whether the Conservatives will start winning seats in Glasgow. They’ll prevaricate, because everything we know – from past elections, from polls – tells us that these scenarios are incredibly unlikely. The trick, of course, lies in combining these different sources of information – electoral history, demography, and polling – in a principled fashion. Together with colleagues at the London School of Economics and Durham University, I’ve developed a website which does just that. electionforecast.co.uk has been producing daily forecasts of the general election outcome since September. We supply Newsnight with their Newsnight Index, and have also tied up with the American site 538, whose founder Nate Silver won fame for correctly predicting all but one of the 50 states

in the presidential election of 2008. Our predictions haven’t changed much since that time. Nor should they: a forecast aims at a point in the future, and shouldn’t be distracted overmuch by “shock” polls today or tomorrow. The key message of our forecasts is that this election is very unlikely to produce single party majority government, and may require more than two parties to form a legislative majority of 326 seats. We’ll either see another coalition

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Scotland The SNP leave Labour with only four seats in it’s former stronghold

“No one really means that this election can’t be predicted” government, or that if we do see single party government, it’ll be a minority government, forced to negotiate all its major policy proposals with other parties in the parliament. That legislative arithmetic is finely balanced. At the time of writing, we predict that the Conservatives are likely (59%) to finish as the largest party in the Commons, with 284 seats compared to Labour’s 274. The SNP is very likely to finish as the third largest party ahead of the Liberal Democrats, who we expect to win 28 seats. That means that the Conservatives, as the largest party, might claim the right to govern – only to find they can’t get anything through a hostile Commons. But if forecasting the election is difficult, forecasting the government that forms after 7th May is even more difficult.

How Election Forecast gets its results lection Forecast is widely considered to be one of the most reliable predictions of what will happen on 7th May. This is because their predictions are made not based on the opinions of voters on one particular day but rather take into account a large range of data: past election results, frequent current and historical polling. This information can is used to understand the proportion of people who intend to vote for each party. By using the outcomes of recent elections Election Forecast can set rough boundaries for what is likely to happen at any given election. For example, they state on their website that it is very unlikely that the Conservative party will get less than 25% or more than 45% of the vote. This provides them with an initial outline to work within. Further, it helps to identify how well other sources of information predicted previous election results and therefore help decide how useful information that is available about the current election is. Another aspect of data which is taken into account by Election Forecast when making their predictions is the individual characteristics of each constituency. Each

Ross, Skye & Lochaber Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, is unseated by the SNP

constituency will have their own incumbent party, population density, average age and religious distribution along with many other characteristics. Using a special model, Election Forecast try to predict how these characteristics relate to who people vote. The stronger the correlation between characteristics and an individuals’ choice of vote, the more confident Election Forecast claim they can be in estimating how vote shares are likely to be split within a constituency. Many people are sceptical of seat predictions and whether it is actually possible to accurately predict the outcome of a general election, let alone how many seats each party would get. However, in order to test their model, Election Forecast have applied their methods to the 2010 election to compare their retrospect predictions with the actual outcome of the election. They were able to predict every party’s share of the votes within a margin of just nine seats. This means that Election Forecast’s new method of prediction would have produced the closest result to reality when compared to all other predictions at the time. Dan Falvey

Sheffield Hallam Nick Clegg defeats Labour by the slimmest of margins

Wales Plaid Cymru make modest gains in the far west

Buckingham John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons and former Conservative, is standing for re-election as an independent

Bristol West The Green Party are pushed into third place, behind the Lib Dems, in their numberthree target seat

IN BRIEF Polling predictions, party Conservatives The party has held a steady position over the past fortnight. It is very likely that they will lose seats and it is very unlikely that they will be able to form a majority. However, a plurality government is possible. Labour Party Has seen a slight rise in the number of seats they are predicted to win in recent weeks. It is probable that they will gain seats at the election but it is unlikely

that they will win a majority. Like the Conservatives it is possible that they could form a plurality government. Liberal Democrats The predicted number of seats for the Liberal Democrats in the next parliament has held steady: it is almost certain that they will lose seats. SNP The projected number of seats for the SNP has also remained


on2015

11 COMMENT Dan Falvey examines why we bother forecasting the results of elections

P Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath Gordon Brown’s old seat falls to the SNP

Graphics reproduced by kind permission of Election Forecast

Norwich South Labour’s Clive Lewis comfortably defeats the Green Party’s Lesley Graeme (see breakdown below)

Labour Conservatives Green Party Liberal Democrats Ukip Other

35.1% 21.1% 18.9% 14.7% 7.7% 2.5%

olling elections has proven to be a tricky business. The number of times that polls prove to be wrong is phenomenal. Further, the different results that arise from polls taken at the same time have often provided amusement. In this election we have seen one poll that predicted that the Liberal Democrats would lose three quarters of their seats while on the same day a poll implied that the party would see gains in their seats. More famously, in the 1992 election, pollsters predicted that Labour would form the new government or that there would be a hung parliament. However, in reality the Conservatives won a fourth consecutive term and win by a comfortable margin of 7.6%. The truth is that polls have often proven to be unreliable and fluctuate on a daily basis. Again in last year’s Scottish independence referendum one poll five days before the day of the ballot implied that the majority of Scots would vote ‘yes’ to independence. Since then this poll has been accused as an anomaly following the clear victory of the ‘no’ campaign by 55% to 45%. These results clearly indicate that polls are untrustworthy, so why do we bother to conduct them in the first place? In some cases polls provide a snapshot of the national opinion and how the public would be likely to vote if there was a general election tomorrow. For example, following the release of their manifesto a party will usually see a fluctuation in their share of the popular vote in the polls; if voters like their manifesto they can expect to see an improvement in their

ratings, while if voters disagree they can expect to see a decrease in their share of the polls. This can provide amusing analysis about how voters perceive election gaffs such as Lord Prescott punching a heckler or Gordon Brown calling an old woman a “bigoted lady”. However, more importantly it can help us see what voters think of an isolated incident. Further, by looking at the polls over time we can attempt to grasp an understanding at the direction of a party’s popularity. A stead increase may imply that a party can be expected to perform particularly well come polling day. Most interesting, at this election is the fact that polls taken by different companies on the same day are providing a much wider variation in results compared to normal. However, when this is all taken into account in a poll of polls the clear result is that the Tories and Labour are neck and neck. This in itself tells us a great deal. It tells us just how much the p u b l i c cannot decide which party it wants to govern. It proves exactly why the country is heading towards a hung parliament on the 8th May. While some voters see certain acts by a party in a positive light, others are seeing them in a negative one; there is no general consensus, the polls help us understand just how undecided the nation is.

Polling over time

Great Yarmouth Ukip fail to take their key target seat from the Tories

Clacton Douglas Carswell holds onto Ukip’s first parliamentary seat

Brighton Pavillion Green MP Caroline Lucas is re-elected

by party steady and it is almost certain that the party will gain seats on 7th May. Plaid Cymru The numbers for the Welsh party have held stead over the course of the forecast. It is possible that they will gain seats at the election. Green Party With just one MP in the last parliament it is unlikely that the party will lose seats. Their predicted seat numbers for the next

Shading indicates the region of uncertainty

parliament have remained steady. Ukip The party has held steady in terms of how many seats it is predicted to hold post polling day. While Ukip currently has two MPs due to by-elections, they did not win any seats in the 2010 general election. It is therefore likely that they will see an increase in the number of seats they hold when compared to May 2010.

Sep 15 Last party conferences before the election 9th Oct 14 Clacton byelection: Ukip’s first MP elected

Jan 15 “Green Surge” 30th Mar 15 Disolution of Parliament


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The Liberal Democrat candidate for Norwich South spoke to Dan Falvey itting in the small reception area of Simon Wright’s workplace just off Dereham Road there is no doubt that he is the incumbent MP for Norwich South. Framed on the wall are newspaper clippings and cards highlighting his record in government and thanking him for some of the things he has done. When Wright takes me through into his office, we start our conversation by discussing what exactly drew the Liberal Democrat into politics and why he had sought election in 2010: “One of the things that I found as a teacher before I was elected was that education policy had an enormous influence over how you go about your day to day job� he explained to me. “Whether it’s the way the national curriculum was prescribed, whether it was resolutions around the profession, there were a lot of things, some of which were quite frustrating and quite restricting on how I felt I was able to be as a teacher so for me, standing for parliament was partially about being able to represent issues which communities care about�. Indeed, education policy is something which Simon Wright is very interested in and admits that aspects of the Liberal Democrats education policy that have been implemented in government are among the things he is most proud of his party having done in government: “I’m really proud of the pupil premium, the front page of the last Liberal Democrat manifesto was a commitment to give schools more resources to specifically support children from less welloff backgrounds. One of the greatest scandals with education outcomes in this country is how closely correlated likelihood to achieve in school is with the wealth of the parents�. However, while Simon Wright was happy to explain how proud he was of this aspect of education policy, there was one policy, one which the Liberal Democrats are notoriously

to stay here�. Throughout our conversation Simon Wright gave off a sense of great enthusiasm and belief that he could secure his place as the MP for Norwich South once again on polling day. Speaking to him about his narrow majority of just 310 votes in May 2010, something which he described to me as being “permanently imprinted� on his mind, I questioned him on whether he was being realistic in his belief that he could be re-elected. Election Forecast, put together by UEA lecturer Chris Hanretty, claim that there is a 97% chance that Labour’s Clive Lewis would be the next MP for the constituency. “I don’t accept that conclusion at all� exclaimed Wright, brushing away the idea that the election battle in this constituency had already been won. “I think the idea that you can somehow create a percentage likelihood of how each candidate is likely to do seems quite bizarre�. Finishing off our conversation he argued that his experience over the last five years in government made him the perfect candidate

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“I think that supporting the next generation is absolutely crucial�

Photo: BillieMay Jones, Concrete Photography

SIMON WRIGHT /FXT'FB

“My biggest regret is tuition fees; that we weren’t able to get a way forward within the coalition agreementâ€? known for not sticking to, that he wasn’t so happy about: “On behalf of my party, my biggest regret is tuition fees; that we weren’t able to get a way forward within the coalition agreement that was satisfactory. “The deal that was stuck was that Liberal Democrats could abstain when there was a vote on tuition fees. But for some of us, having looked at the deal that was on the table and having discussed it, whilst there were elements of the policy that were more progressive in terms of how the loan repayments work, none the less the deal fundamentally included a significant raise in tuition fees which for a lot of us we weren’t going to be able to supportâ€?. In 2012 Simon Wright voted against the rise in tuition fees to ÂŁ9000 despite it being a part of coalition policy. However, in 2012 when an opposition bill was brought forward that sought to lower tuition fees to ÂŁ6000, Wright voted against the motion. “It wasn’t fundedâ€? he indicates. “It’s very easy in opposition to come up with token gestures, but unless you’ve got a plan to deliver it then it is nothing more than

to represent Norwich South for the next term of parliament: “I’ve had five years of representing Norwich South and the experience that comes with that means that I’am aware of a wide range of issues that affect the local communities�. Just as we are about to shake hands and end our conversation he adds that he has one final message to give to students who are planing to vote: “I think that supporting the next generation is absolutely crucial and my commitment as an MP is that if I’m reelected I will carry on fighting for a fairer deal for Norfolk schools, fighting for education, fighting for the opportunity that young people need to succeed�.

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thatâ€?. Since the coalition introduced tuition fees the Liberal Democrats have seen a large drop in the polls in their popularity.OU However, T THAT HE WAS THE lRST ONE Simon Wright does not believe that this drop TOSAYTHEBANKSSHOULD hCLOSE means that students in Norwich will not trust LOO him with re-election on 7th May: “ITHE stuck toPH a OLESv (E BELIEVES THE IR commitment that I made which was to oppose ECONOMIC POLICY IS NO W higher tuition fees. I think it’s reallyhBO important THCREDIBLEANDRADICALv that we do recognise the day to day challenges 7HENASKEDABOUTTHE ,EFT that students face which is why we’re AND THE 2IGHT AND WH proposing a young person’s bus discount ETHER THEYRE that MERGING HE SAYS THAT card for under 21s. I think it’s important HE BELmore we help students out and young people IEVES THE,EFT2IGHTDIS generally with thatâ€?. TINCTION TO HAVE hDIED IN THE He was also eager to highlight how his S v (E party wanted to address other issues which ARGUES THAT hITS CHANGED NOW n HOW DO YOU students face including housing and youth CAT EGORISE THE DECISION unemployment: “One in five of my constituents ON are living in private rented housing and a disproportionate large number of those will 7HEN ASKED IF DURING A be students at the universityâ€? argued RECESSWright. ION ITS LIKELY FOR THE “We know that there are rogue landlords out hTHIRDPARTYvTOHAVEIT there and we do need to make sure that those SVOTES EEZED BY THE TWO MA renting in the private sector areSQU adequately JORS RESPONDEDh)TSSIMPLY protected. So ensuring that thereHE is protection NOT against retaliatory evictions andHA bad practice PPENI NG 7EVE REMAINED by landlords is something that needs to be taken forward more and progressed over the INGS THOUGH THERE IS next parliamentâ€?. SOME mUCTUATIONthe

FAR FROM ALL THESE Moving on to youth unemployment candidate said: “Creating jobs and getting the economy back on its feet is absolutely crucial. Unemployment has halved in Norwich .ICK#LEGGWITH,IB$E since 2010, the economy is getting back on M0ARTLIAMENTARY#ANDI DATE3IMON7RIGHT 3O

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Photo: Norwich Liberal Democrats

Shirley Williams S The baroness, a founding member of the SDP, and later a Liberal Democrat peer, spoke to Joe Jameson

tanding in Chancery Hall, which is tucked just around the corner from Chapelfield shopping center, surrounded by a small army of volunteers stuffing letters and preparing campaign material for Simon Wright. Baroness Shirley Williams spoke to me about the Liberal Democrat campaign, and why it was important that the party was able to influence government policy from within. Shirley Williams explained that it was “almost certain” that we would see a hung parliament in May, but I wanted to know what would be different between what the Liberal Democrats had to offer the Conservatives in

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fter decades of two party politics, with Labour and the Conservatives swapping and in and out of No. 10 Downing Street the British public had the surprise of their lives in the run up to the 2010 election. Faced with the prospect of not two, but three viable candidates, a coalition government was voted in. Nick Clegg and David Cameron may have been uneasy bedfellows and even unlikelier political colleagues these last five years but amongst the compromises and arguments of splitting power between the Tories and the Lib Dems, out of the ashes has emerged a new way of seeing politics and a set of brand new expectations for Prime Ministers, general elections and everything in between. Heated debates between party leaders are nothing new, but the involvement of such a wide range of political parties and groups in so many different formats demonstrates that something has fundamentally shifted in British politics. We are no longer content with two opposing viewpoints, two economic plans and two colours of tie to choose between. The 2015 election campaign has been more fractured and contested than ever before with votes and seats split between far greater ranges of candidates. From the idealism of the Greens, the threat to Scottish Labour of the SNP and the controversies of Ukip, it all began with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats back in 2010. Coalition government throws up a whole range of issues, the consequences of which will play out in this general election and the choices of voters. Loyal Lib Dem supporters may feel the party has lost appeal and capitulated to the Conservative economic ideology of austerity far too many times and students were rudely awakened to the brutal reality of broken political promises over tuition fees. However, while “Cleggmania” doesn’t

2010, and a potential partner in 2015. Would it be more of the same, or had there been a re-think in their strategy following five years in government? “I think there is something new, that is to an extraordinary extent over the last few years, the Conservatives have run… very much a set of domestic policies”. Baroness Williams said that this had also been the case with Ukip following Nigel Farage’s comments about non-British citizens who seek treatment for HIV in the UK, which she thought represented Mr. Farage’s desire to “stop the world, I want to get off”. Williams claimed that “quite simply, if we [the Lib Dems] are about anything, then we are about being part of the world, and I think particularly being part of Europe, the Lib Dems are committed internationalists”. Baroness Williams explained that David Cameron had made a series of shortsighted mistakes over Europe. “The most foolish things that he ever did was to leave the Christian Democrat grouping, which would have given him the leading position in the European Parliament. What he gave up, essentially, was the position of leading influence in Europe”. I was curious to ask whether the Lib Dems would present a compassionate side of a coalition, not just domestically, but also internationally. “Absolutely, the best example, is that it was our MP, Michael Moore, who not only sponsored, but actually fought all the way through, for the building the commitment of 0.7% of GNI to be spent on the international aid budget, which is now statutory”. The Baroness expressed a desire to see it raised to 1%, but said that the most pressing issue was national debt. As we spoke about the Lib Dem’s committed internationalism, Baroness Williams mentioned, in reference to UEA’s student population, just how important the number of international students in Britain is. “Students should not be considered as part of the immigration figures, which we have fought like mad for, Teresa May is not the easiest person to fight with, to put them in as though they will all live here forever is completely dotty”.

in the toxic and competitive atmosphere of Westminster, and hopefully within the government itself. The media will try to convince us that the party will be decimated by 7th May. A dramatic headline that will sell more newspapers but not reflect the truth of the change that has been brought into politics. Truthfully, the Liberal Democrat’s record in government could have been far worse and many examples of where Nick Clegg and his party have had a noticeable impact in this government, such as scrapping the plans for an ID cards system, saying no to a replacement

“Politics does not have to be about ideologies, winning and losing” Photo: Flickr, Liberal Democrats

The liberal Democrats have changed the face of British Politics Jessica Frank-Keyes COMMENT

look set to be sweeping the nation this time around, the Deputy Prime Minister could be in

“Coalition government throws up a whole range of issues” a far worse off position this close to the 7th May. He remains the leader of the only party either Labour or the Conservatives would willingly,

if not happily, enter into a coalition with and the Lib Dem’s clever positioning of themselves as moderates, centrists, “the heart of a Tory government” and “the brain of a Labour one,” is sure to win them votes from those who see the value of balance and compromise in Westminster. The Lib Dem’s have always focused on community politics, social justice, equality and fairness for all. It would be good to give them the chance to continue sharing those values

of Trident and investing over £1bn to crack down on tax avoidance all suggest the Lib Dem’s brand of reasonable policies combined with social justice and welfare would be an ideal ingredient in the makeup of our next government. Politics does not have to always be about ideologies, winning and losing arguments and the endless cycle of opposition. Shouting at each other across the chamber floor should not be our overriding image of the people we elect to lead us. I, for one, would like to see a process of consensus, coalition and compromise becoming the norm both in Parliament and government and I believe that despite the failings and mistakes that rightly anger people about Clegg and Cameron, we have made the first step into improving the way we run our democracy in the long term future. Changing the system will always be difficult but a vote for the Liberal Democrat party is in no way a vote wasted.


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election2015 The economy

Conservatives

Labour

Liberal Democrats

Ukip

Greens

SNP

The NHS

Europe & the world

The two main themes of the Conservative pledges on the economy include reducing taxes – increasing the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500, raising the 40p tax threshold to £50,000 and freezing income tax, national insurance and VAT – and bringing down the deficit: the party aims to have Britain running a surplus by 2018-19. It says this will require a further £30bn of “fiscal consolidation” up to that point. The manifesto also talks about building a “northern powerhouse” in an effort to boost regional growth and create jobs.

The Tories pledge an extra £8bn, above inflation, for the National Health Service by the end of the next parliament. They also want to introduce seven-day opening hours for GP surgeries, and say that people over 75 will be able to have a same-day doctor’s appointment by 2020.

The party’s headline pledge is to hold an in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017. In advance of this, the Conservatives want to renegotiate the country’s place within the union, to repatriate certain powers from Brussels and keep Britain out of the single currency.

The Labour manifesto opens with the party’s “budget responsibility lock”, a pledge that every proposal in the document has been paid for, and that a Labour government will reduce the deficit annually. Labour says it will increase taxes for people earning over £150,000 a year, reintroduce the 10p tax rate to lower taxes for those on low incomes, and raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour by late 2019. In addition, the party will end non-domicile status and close tax loopholes.

Labour would seek to ensure people could see a GP within 48 hours, and will spend £2.5bn more than the Conservatives in order to hire more doctors and nurses. It also pledges to reverse what it calls the “government’s privitisation plans”, and to link up various care services.

The party commits to employ a further 1,000 border guards, and plans to reduce net unskilled migration. On the EU, Labour says that Britian’s membership is important for economic growth, but says it wants to reform the workings of the union and guarantees that no further powers will be transferred to Brussels without an in-out referendum.

The headline message of the Liberal Democrats’ economic message is that the party will “borrow less that Labour”, but “cut less than the Tories”. Specifically, the party says that it will borrow only for capital investment that leads to economic growth, and that it will reduce spending reductions to half of that agreed for 2015-16. The Lib Dems also want to introduce a banking levy, and to increase corporation tax for banks.

The Liberal Democrats pledge to spend £500m annually on mental health provision in the NHS and want to introduce standards for waiting times. Financially, the party would spend an extra £8bn on the NHS in England, and says it would also make extra funds available for healthcare in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Once the budget deficit has been eliminated, spending would increase in line with economic growth.

The Lib Dems are in favour of the UK’s membership of the EU but, like Labour, want to reform the workings of Brussels and increase accountability. The party would hold an in-out referendum if further powers were to be transferred.

Ukip pledges to ‘restore incentives for workers by cutting taxes’, which would see the personal allowance raised to £13,000, inheritance tax abolished, and the threshold for the 40p rate of tax raised to £55,000. Ukip insists that it is committed to reducing the national debt, and outlines key savings in the budget: £9bn from direct EU contributions following Britian’s exit; £4bn from ending HS2; and up to £11bn from reducing the international aid budget from 0.7% of Gross National Income to 0.2%.

In their manifesto, Ukip claim that Labour and the Conservatives have treated the NHS as a ‘political football’, but insist that Ukip would deliver value for money. Ukip’s headline pledge on the NHS is that they would invest another £3bn a year on frontline patient care. This increase in spending on the NHS will deliever 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 more midwives.

Ukip’s outlook to Britain’s committments abroad would see the UK leave the EU and build closer ties with countries in the Commonwealth. Ukip, however, remains firmly committed to trading relationships with the EU, and plans to negotiate these as part of the UK’s exit. Ukip also wants to overhaul the immigration system, by adopting an Australian style, points based arrangement.

The Green party wants to build an economy that “works for all”, and tackle the divide between the rich and poor. As part of their aims to transform the economy, the Greens plede to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020, and create over one million public sector jobs which pay the living wage. This would be paid for by a new wealth tax on the top 1%, and a one off Robin Hood Tax on the banks.

In their manifesto, the Greens express their concern that the NHS is currently being eroded by gradual privitisation, and pledge to remove the profit motive out of public healthcare, in an effort to ensure that the NHS remains, a public health service which is free at the point of use.

The Green party wants to see the UK rethink its approach to international conflicts, whilst maintaining a “defensive defence” policy, which would not imtimidate, but would show resolve to not capituate to any external threat. The Green party is resolute to see the UK take an active role in international agreements on global climate change which are both just and effective.

In the SNP’s manifesto, they outline their stand against austerity, whilst maintaining that the deficit must be cut each year. The SNP hopes to ensure that by reducing the severity of austerity, there will be money available for investment in skills and employment around the whole of the UK.

The SNP pledges that its MPs would vote against any further privatisation of the NHS, and rise to the funding challenge which the NHS will represent by 2020, when the NHS is projected to require a budget increase of £24bn.

The SNP has consistently been in favour of scrapping Trident, the UK’s nuclear capability, as they believe that the expected £100bn required to overhaul the programme could be better spent on housing, welfare and the NHS. In their manifesto, they outline how they would like to see an immigration policy which works for the Scottish economy.


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The view from the Square

We asked people what they thought about the general election “I don’t really know any of the policies of the parties really”.

“For me it’s more about the person who is the party leader rather than the party themselves because for example, David Cameron could make it to one of the debates out of his own choice but as a Prime Minister you want him to be there so he lost my vote. Whereas the others all went head to head and I don’t see why he thinks he is so special and sees himself above it”.

“I don’t believe [the Greens] are a realistic alternative. I think they offer a bit too much. It’s great to see but I don’t think they have the facts to back it up and the financial evidence as proof. They just say ‘we’ll give you this free and that free’ and that’s just not enough”.

“I’m not completely sure who exactly I align with but I think that party politics is a load of crap”.

“I just haven’t got round to registering to vote”.

“I’m voting for the Greens. I did one of those little quizzes online that show you policies but don’t tell you which party they belong and the Green party I agreed with 90% of their policies apparently [also] I find it difficult how Labour is arguing that they’re going to get rid of tuition fees [at £9000] because I don’t think it’s going to work”.

“I registered to vote at the ‘Goats for Votes’ campaign… It prompted me to do it straight away, I probably would have missed the deadline otherwise”.

“I’m a bit unsure whether to vote Green or Labour because I feel that Labour might help the nation but Green might help get Norwich South a louder voice”.

Photo: Dan Falvey, Concrete Photography “I don’t think [the Greens] have a realistic economic plan but I’m going to vote for them anyway because [they] will kick balls”.

“I think the Lib Dems are the only ones who care about mental health within the NHS”.

“I’m going to vote Labour, definitely. Simply, I just don’t feel the Conservatives have done enough over the past five years and I don’t believe that the coalition itself has really worked because of the differences between the two parties”.

“This is my first election and I feel like because I’ve only just got to the age where it’s going to affect me I almost don’t feel ready to vote in the election because I don’t know enough about it. I feel it’s really difficult to access what policies are out there”.

“I’d say Ed Miliband [is the best leader]. I don’t know if I’m going to vote Labour but if I had to vote for an individual It would be Ed. He got a lot of stick about him and his brother and people saying he’s not fit to run the country and he has dealt with that stick well. I know Paxman gave him an absolute grilling… but Ed dealt with it really well. I think if he can deal with personal issues then that can translate into dealing with issues in the country quite well”.

“I think to an extent [all the parties] are the same and also, I feel that uni is a bit of a bubble that’s not quite connected with the outside world”.

“I think Labour will do a good job if they keep to their policies but that’s unlikely to happen”.

“I think the NHS is important. That’s the one most important thing that I’m voting on”.

“I started off quite interested in [the general election] but that’s kind of dwindled as it’s gone on. By May 7th I’ll be completely bored. I feel like the first week every party says something and then the next four weeks they just say the same things again. It’s so cyclical. We already know what everyone thinks so why do they need to keep saying it on TV”.

“I don’t have a problem with the Cameron and Clegg coalition that’s existed over the past five years. So in that sense I almost feel that they haven’t caused any problems and there’s nothing I don’t like about them so they must be doing a good job”.

“[In the TV debates] the smaller parties seemed to shine the most. Farage and Miliband seemed to just crumble whereas the three women seemed to just kick their arses. I think to a certain extent, because they are smaller parties they are freer to make elaborate claims whereas larger parties are more restricted”.

“As a foreigner I think that the parties have differences which are quite deep”.

“There’s going to be change whether we like it or not because the smaller parties are gaining a lot more power and the big established parties which were keeping political stability are losing their credibility which is good because it’s more representative or the voice of the people so in a democratic sense it’s probably good. But it means there could be weaker governments who aren’t able to get as much done”.

“I’m desperately apathetic”.

“It’s all become so beside the point. Five years ago and certainly ten years ago, if you didn’t want to get the Tories to power you would vote Labour but now if you don’t want to get the Tories to power do you vote Greens or Plaid Cymru”.

“I was unsure whether to vote Lib Dem, Green or Labour. I’ll probably vote Labour in this constituency just because I think they have a better chance of winning”.

“I think it’s just the same every time we have an election, parties have one policy you like and the other policies you don’t like. I just wish that you could have just that one ideal party that you want to vote for but it doesn’t exist”.

ANALYSIS Joe Jameson reflects on the views on campus

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eading through the responses that we received on campus, it is clear that this election has made its mark upon us as a group of students. One theme which stands out through a lot of the comments is that this election will be characterised by tactical voting, rather than an increase in ideological, or partisan politics. What is telling is that people are aware of differences between the parties, whether they are ones of image, policy, or respectability, whilst other students seemed to be generally despondent about politics, remarking that parties rarely say anything outside of the box, or that they have little personal interest in this election. Many people who we spoke to weren’t sure whether they should vote because they believed in a party’s message, or for a party which would prevent a different party from winning. This is particularly interesting, as some people were caught between voting for the party who they felt

would be better for Britain, and the party who they felt would be better for Norwich South. Campus also seems to mirror national interests such as the future of the NHS, and the economy, with some people raising concerns about the financial plans and reputations of parties. One thing that is quite interesting is that there was little mention of the coalition, positive or negative, while a couple of people did think that the coalition had done a good job, it is perhaps surprising that nobody raised the issue of tuition fees as a reason why they felt disengaged from politics, or that they would not vote for one of the coalition partners. This perhaps represents the sentiments of a number of students, who felt that campus is a bubble, some highlighted how that without initiatives, like ‘Goats for Votes’, they would have been unlikely to vote. Others said that as this is the first general election for a lot of UEA’s population many feel there are few issues which will directly affect them whilst they are at university.


16 don’t promise to keep this schedule up!” Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green party, is on her second visit to Norwich in as many weeks, proof of the attention that the party is paying to its number-two target seat in next month’s general election. “Norwich South is one of our incredibly important seats. It’s an area where we’ve been strong for a very long time: we’re the opposition on the council – and obviously it’s a very strong student seat”. The Greens pay a lot of attention to the student vote. Polling shows that the party has high levels of support among 18 to 24-yearolds, with some surveys putting it on a nearequal footing with Labour. Why does Bennett think that the party’s message resonates so strongly with younger generations? “Young people are really looking at imagining their life, looking forward and thinking: ‘I’ve done everything right. I’ve worked hard at school, I’ve got the degree, I’ve done the masters – and what does my life look like?’ And they really feel like: ‘This isn’t working for me, I need a different kind of society where my efforts are gonna be rewarded and where everybody’s really gonna have a fair chance of a decent life’. And young people saying: ‘This isn’t being delivered, we’ve got to look around and do something different’ ”. Then again, one could be forgiven for thinking that it should be higher, not least because the Greens have pledged to abolish tuition fees, while Labour will only reduce them to £6,000. “It’s interesting if you look at the directions of travel. Ever since, really, the debates issue erupted we’ve got a little bit of air time, a little bit of space, so that people are actually having the chance to hear our message. And so, if you look at the trends, people are hearing us more and more, liking what they’re hearing and are coming in our direction”. In Norwich South, what is it that sets Lesley Grahame, the Green candidate, apart from Labour’s Clive Lewis? “Well, I don’t know much about Clive, and I wouldn’t personalise it. What I’d focus on is the fact that the Green party is offering real change in politics. We’ve got three business-as-usual parties who are really just tinkering when it’s clear that we’ve got an economic, social and environmental crisis. And just continuing to do things pretty much as we are with a little bit of fiddling isn’t an option. We need jobs you can build a life on; we need housing you can afford to live in; and we need to live within our environmental limits. And that means big change”. The Green party talks a great deal about the disintegration of the two-party system. Indeed, its 2015 manifesto includes a pledge to introduce proportional representation in the House of Lords and switch to the singletransferable vote system for elections to the Commons. How does Bennett think that her party can fit into the new multi-party world? “Well I think that the certain loser of this election is gonna be the first-past-the-post electoral system. It looks very stale, very failed now. We might see quite a significant number of people elected on not much more than 25% of the vote: it’s going to be clear that we need change. So we’re heading into an entirely different political landscape. The future of politics doesn’t look like the past. “But I think there’s a real possibility in this election that we could see something like the [Scottish independence referendum], where we saw an 85% turnout, 97% of eligible people registered to vote, young people voting in almost the same proportion as the over-60s. And if that happens we could just have an utterly transformative election. It’s really in voters’ hands to deliver a peaceful political revolution”. After the election, transformative or otherwise, what possibilities does Bennett envisage for enacting some of the Green party’s policies, especially given that we may very well end up with another hung parliament? “We’ve said we would not in any way support a Tory government: line one. Line

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election2015 two: if we were looking towards some sort of Labour coalition or minority government that we might support on a vote-by-vote basis, we’d be starting very much with an anti-austerity [objective]. Austerity is a failed policy that’s making the disadvantaged poor, the young pay for the error and the fraud of the bankers. “But actually someone the other day asked me: ‘Where would you start?’. And one of the places that we really wanna start is: who’s been disadvantaged? Who’s suffered awfully under this government? And disabled people is an area [where] there’s huge suffering. So [we] would be campaigning to restore the Independent Living Fund and lift Personal Independence Payments back up to the level of need . “Benefits: lifting them up to, at an absolute

minimum, the real level they were in 2010. And particularly the benefits that affect single parents, because it’s single-parent households that have really suffered enormously under this government. And we also very much want to restore public-sector pay. We’ve seen the real levels of public-sector pay plummet – these are people who are doing really important, good jobs we all need and they should get a decent wage for it”. But the Green party will not be forming a government after the election, so what, if anything, would Bennett be willing to compromise on if, for example, Green MPs were to support Labour, either formally or informally? “The thing is, rather than becoming a coalition, you operate on a voteby-vote basis”. She uses the issue of the Trident nuclear weapons upgrade as an example.

NatalieBennett Photo: Patrick Sumner Stokes, Concrete Photography

The leader of the Green Party spoke to Peter Sheehan and Dan Falvey Words by Peter Sheehan

“Sadly, at the moment both Labour and the Tories support a Trident nuclear replacement, so presumably that would be something they’d be able to get through anyway – and it’s not something we would dream of voting for. But we wouldn’t necessarily have the numbers to stop them”. e ask about a more student-focused issue. Students are always complaining about the bus service in Norwich – “As long as you don’t ask me about bus route 47A, because I probably won’t know the answer!” – so what would the Green party do to improve public transport? “We’ve said that we’ve got a transport hierarchy that starts with walking and cycling, and local buses are the next step up where we want to see a lot of investment. We’d put in money to reduce bus fares by about 10% across the board. But that reliability and regularity are two of the really key things. If people are actually going to be relying on buses – and this means a lot ,not just students but people who might have the option of using a car, but who would use the bus if it was reliable and ran when and where they needed it to. How would the party pay for this kind of increase in expenditure? “The short answer to that is we need to make multi-national companies and rich individuals pay their way. We’ve got a real problem under this government: corporate tax take is down 14%. We have the website Amazon which last year paid 0.01% of its turnover in tax. And that means it’s a parasite: it’s taking profits out of Britain but not paying for the roads it needs for its lorries to run down on. And that can’t continue. “And also, in terms of inequality in society, the richest 1% just keeps getting richer. And that’s why we’re calling for a wealth tax, which would take one or 2% from [people] worth more than £3m. And that’s not a punitive measure: that’s a reflection of the fact that your wealth came from society – Bill Gates on a desert island wouldn’t actually make any money at all. You need customers, you need workers, you need the whole infrastructure of society to make money. And also the fact that the rich are actually people too. If they get really ill they’ll probably end up in an NHS hospital. They need roads, they need policing, they need all that stuff. And they would have a better life as well as everyone else if they paid for decent public services”. Part of the problem with tax avoidance, though, is that companies take profits offshore. So isn’t Bennett trying to solve an international problem? “In terms of the multinational companies, there is international action. How far or well it will go is the question. “Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, had a private member’s bill in 2011 – the tax and financial transparency bill – and that’s got a whole host of detail. But just to focus on one bit of it: [she proposed] country-by-country reporting, which means if you do business in Britain – so this is a rule that Britain can make on its own – you have to report: every other country in the world you operate in; your profit there; your turnover there; and the number of staff you have. So if you’re a big company with a whole lot of business in Britain, but somehow 50% of your profits are made in a tax haven where you employ two men and an office dog, [the government] can really start to do something about that if you insist on the country-by-country reporting”. Bennett talks quickly: from the beginning of the interview, she fires off long answers that cover a lot of ground. She sounds most assured when reciting the kind of stock phrases one hears a great deal from poiliticians, but she nevertheless comes across more naturally than, for example, in the debates. And she may not be going to end up in Wesminster herself, but this is undoubtedly the election where people started to take her party seriously.

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The Green Party candidate for Norwich South spoke to Dan Falvey

how was it possible to trust another party given the broken promises of the past? “You can’t demand people’s trust, you’ve got to earn it and we’ve been earning it as councillors and campaigners on justice issues for the last thirty years” argues Grahame before pausing. For a second she asks whether she can have a minute to think about the question before quickly changing her mind as she thought of what she wanted to say: “I suppose one of the things about trust is, if I were a normal career politician, do you think I would have joined such a small party?” A small party it may be, but they are currently surging in support and Norwich South is their second target seat and one area of the country that the party is keen to be representing in parliament. When I asked Grahame about whether she believed that the seat could possibly be retained by the incumbent Liberal Democrat MP she was very confident in her opinion: “occasionally strange things happen but it’s unlikely”. “You have to remember that [Simon Wright] had a majority of just 310 which is one of the smallest in the country”.

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he Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Norwich South is Lesley Grahame. Sitting in Marzano café inside The Forum, literally 100 metres away from where she launched her campaign back in January we discuss her campaign so far as I try to get to know a bit more about the softly spoken candidate that the Green party have chosen to represent them in this constituency in May. Up until when she took leave in January to focus on her election campaign, Lesley Grahame was a district nurse in the NHS. Her role is one she takes great pride in and is eager to tell people about on her campaign leaflets. “The NHS is a really critical issue within this election because it’s one of the institutions most unifying in British politics” she says to me when explaining why she campaigns so passionately about her job. “Everyone cares about it and one way or another everybody is likely to use it at some point in their lives. Even if they always use private healthcare they always know that it’s there if they need the NHS in an emergency”. Working inside the public service, she claims, has provided her with a unique insight into the decline of the health service. “I want to be elected to stand up for patients and nurses. I’ve been standing up for patients as a nurse and part of that role is advocacy in supporting patients. I’ve watched services deteriorate and nursing moral tumble over years and years and it’s really important to reverse the rot”. Passion is one thing which Lesley Grahame clearly has and her willingness to stand up for causes such as the NHS has been proven through active campaigning throughout her life. Most notoriously she was arrested in 2008 for trespassing at RAF Lakenheath, I asked her whether she believed that the way she had acted was wrong and whether she would ever consider doing something similar again: “I’m really passionate about the rule of law” she stated. “I don’t think you should ever break the law unless you have a really good

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he Green party is set for its most successful general election result so far on the 7th May and is likely to retain its one MP – former party leader Caroline Lucas, in her Brighton Pavilion seat. The Green candidate for Norwich South, Lesley Grahame, stands a very real chance of becoming the party’s second elected MP. Despite this imminent success, however, the media coverage around the Greens often focuses on questioning how their policies would be paid for, as well as branding them unrealistic. Current party leader Natalie Bennett stated in numerous interviews that the funding would be spelled out in great detail in a fully costed manifesto, which has now been launched and is available to read online. The mainstream media may pursue questioning the merits, but the policies the Green party aims to implement are logical ways to reduce inequality, improve the quality of life of the population and to combat climate change. Green policies are not utopian, they are reasonable and realistic ways to change the country, because the Green vision is one based on sustainability. There is a huge issue of growing economic inequality around the world and in the UK. Oxfam calculated that the richest 1% of people in 2014 hoarded 48% of the world’s wealth. Everyone can see that this is an unfair way for society to exist. It is completely ridiculous that those 1% of humans control so much

Photo: James Dixon, Green party

LESLEY GRAHAME A reason to. We had a good reason to”. She highlighted that despite breaking the law to make her point she received praise for her efforts from members of government: “They took us to trial and on the day that the verdict was reached David Miliband was in Oslo signing the cluster ammunition convention which outlawed the sale, transportation and use of cluster bombs. He commended the societies and campaigning organisations that had brought the convention about”. She went on to explain that if she was in power she would still consider using such methods of direct actions if she believed it necessary: “It’s not something you’d do lightly as a parliamentarian, you aren’t and you shouldn’t be above the law [but] being a parliamentarian is campaigning by other means. Similarly I would say campaigning is politics by other means and you have to use the techniques which are most available to you”. Sipping our hot drinks in the vibrant atmosphere of the café we had found ourselves located in we quickly moved on to discussing tuition fees: “If you look at our education policies you’ll see that they’re the

most student friendly on offer. We believe education is a privilege and that tuition fees are a huge barrier to people receiving the education they need and deserve and want. So if your education makes you rich you should pay for it through your income tax, you shouldn’t have to pay for it before you start”. With the number of people studying at university having continued to rise over the past few years despite tuition fees tripling, some people have argued that there is no need to get rid of tuition fees because it is having no impact on demand. However, when I put this to Grahame as an argument she was quick to respond with why the argument was wrong. “Why should anybody have to start their career with a debt which is so large? When you first start your career you might want to think about buying a house, you might want to think about settling down, you might want to go travelling and if you’ve got fifty grands worth of debt pulling you down how can you do these things?” While the Green Party’s pledge on tuition fees is likely to be popular with students I reminded Grahame of the feeling of being let down by the Liberal Democrats that students felt in when tuition fees increased in 2011,

The Green Party’s vision is not utopian, it is the change that the country desperately needs James Chesson COMMENT while hundreds of thousands of people in the UK must use food banks. The Green party will introduce a wealth tax on the richest 1%, taking surplus money and using it to create living wage public sector jobs. This is

“The economy remains largely dominated by people with interests in oil” not a utopian idea, this is simply making the country fairer. The living wage is what the Living Wage Foundation calculates as the minimum amount of money that a person can actually live on. Unfortunately, successive governments so far have chosen to allow companies to continue paying workers below this and, as a result, we have a huge number of working people requiring benefits just to survive. That is a

blatant example of a failing system, as paying people the minimum amount that they can actually survive on has to be a priority in a fair society. The Green party wants to implement a living wage and to combat the current economic model being based on infinite growth in the economy, which clearly is impossible on a planet with finite resources. This finite planet is still being stripped unsustainably of its resources, with little consideration towards fighting climate change. We know that we face a major crisis in the form of climate change, but despite constant campaigning and appealing to the government, they still do not do enough to fight it. Sadly, the economy remains largely dominated by people with interests in oil firms, and consequently the mainstream political parties allied with such people refuse to act. It is thought that we could transition to having renewable energy sources as our major

s our conversation slowly moved on and our cups of tea began to get cold from talking rather than drinking we moved on to discussing the perceived belief that the Green party was sometimes seen as a one issue party. However, Grahame was keen to argue the exact opposite: “I think we’re the only party that’s not a one issue party!” she exclaimed. “The one issue preoccupying the other parties is GDP growth. Well GDP measures the amount of money people spend but it doesn’t tell you anything about the distribution of wealth. If you or I got knocked over by a bus that would increase GDP because an ambulance would be sent and we would be treated in hospital, we might even employ a caretaker… the point is GDP doesn’t tell you everything you need to know”. As our conversation is drawing to a close I ask Lesley Grahame one last question. The question that has been asked to all Norwich South candidates at the end of our interviews: “Why should people vote for you?” At first the question caused Lesley Grahame to stumble: “That’s the one that always fools me!” But, after a few moments to gather her thoughts she responded: “I have a long history in campaigning on peace and justice issues, I have 20 years’ experience in the NHS, three kids – one of them disabled-, and a lifelong commitment”.

energy supplier within 15 years if we tried to. If we can move away from the dependency on fossil fuels, then that is definitely the most logical course of action. The Green attitude is not about a utopia, it is about making sure the planet we have survives. By scrapping tuition fees, we can build a sustainable economy, for the present and the future. Studies suggest that 45p per pound of student debt will never be repaid, which produces an inevitable funding problem 30 years in the future when such loans have to be written off. Tuition fees are a way of freeing up and redistributing some government funds in the short term, but will create a long term crisis. The Green party will fund higher education through general progressive taxation, because it is a public good and should therefore be paid for as one, as part of a significantly more sustainable system. With a hung parliament a near certainty there is a clear movement in British politics away from the two main parties that dominate the arena. The Green party is a genuine alternative, a party that puts people first, not money. A party that has a realistic vision for making the country a sustainable one that we can actually be proud of. This election will be a major platform for the Green party. A vote for the Greens is not a wasted vote, it is a vote for the change that our country desperately needs.


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election2015

hen we were shown into the meeting room for the interview with Douglas Carswell it was clear that he wasn’t fazed or nervous, and was every inch the professional MP. His recent move to Ukip had obviously been a major landmark in his career, and one which was particually controversial. Concrete was eager to interview the Tory rebel, who made a splash defecting to the anti-establishment party, in order to better understand the man beneath the headlines. Dan started off our round of questions by asking whether the Ukip campaign would be able to make inroads into the student vote, given the fact that the party has always received a strong backing from an older proportion of the population. “Historically I think that’s absolutely right, Ukip has tended to draw more support from an older demographic, rather than a younger demographic, but in the Clacton by-election we saw the opposite, so I think that can be

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“Ukip is a different sort of party, it’s a genuine grassroots organisation” turned around”. Carswell went on to explain that he felt Ukip appealed more strongly with voters who are tired with; “Cartel politics, with the cosy clique, who run our political system, and I think that message will resonate with younger people”. Dan jumped in, interested to know what he thought Ukip would need to do in order to achieve this. “Absolutely, in politics you start with your base and you have to work out beyond your base. Political parties like to talk to themselves where they’re strongest, Ukip I think is a different sort of party; it’s a genuine grassroots organisation. I think that a really important pre-condition of being able to do that is to make absolutely crystal clear that Ukip’s values are in tune with modern Britain”. Without prompting from either of us, Carswell dealt with the issue of Ukip’s history of troublesome candidates. “Lets go straight to the issue. There have been one or two people who were standing for Ukip who had views that were obnoxious, and offensive, and those individuals are not Ukip candidates”. Dan swiftly brought the interview back to focus on what Ukip’s chances were in winning the support of UEA and Norwich South, following the postponement of an event on campus where Steve Emmens had been due to speak. “You get these small groups of people who find a new idea quite challenging. Sometimes the innate conservatism of people, who ironically wouldn’t see themselves as conservative, shines through. I think most people realised that was the wrong response, if you disagree with people you have to engage”. Clarifying Carswell’s opinion, Dan wondered if he still felt that Steve Emmens could win the Norwich South seat. “Absolutely, he’s a good candidate, he’s doing the right thing, and there are a lot of voters out there in Norwich South [who have been let down by the other parties], which shows that there is a certain volatility in the local electorate”. Moving the interview along, I was interested to see, as a humanities student, what Carswell (who graduated from UEA with a degree in history) had to say in relation to Ukip’s policy on tuition fee reductions for science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. “I start from the position, that the principle of tuition fees, allowing people to invest in themselves, is not a bad one. However, one of the unintended consequences of the tuition fees proposal as its been implemented, has created an bizarre incentive, particularly for doctors, to in effect, get their degree and look at the pile of debt they need to pay back and think ‘you know what, I’d be better of if I moved to Australia,

Douglas Carswell Photo: UEA:TV for Concrete

The first MP for Ukip spoke to Dan Falvey and Joe Jameson Words by Joe Jameson Canada or somewhere else’”. Mr. Carswell went on to explain that it was right to say that there are certain skills the country needs, so that it is right that the taxpayer covers the cost of those degrees. “If you have anything other than 100% universal state funded higher education, you are going to have to draw the line somewhere”. Dan opened up the discussion, interested to know how Ukip reflected some of the decisions taken by Union Council, such as how Ukip planned to address issues like tax avoidance, which he responded to very quickly. “Tax avoidance is possible because EU rules allow big corporations to choose which EU jurisdiction they pay their tax in. Until we leave the European Union it is going to be a growing feature of inequality and injustice”. I was keen to see what Douglas Carswell thought about the fact that Ukip doesn’t have a central whip, unlike most other parties, and whether he thought that this was part of the reason why the party seemed to have proportionally more disciplinary issues than

“Ukip recognises that we do need whips, but they are voters” others. ‘Where do we get this doctrine of party discipline from? What is a parliament? A parliament is a group of people who are elected by voters to represent them, historically against the Crown. The Crown, who wants to spend our taxes and declare

foreign wars and impose laws on us. Where did we get this idea, that our representatives should be disciplined by an internal party machine. I think that it is one of the reasons, regardless of which lot of muppets holds office, is badly run. Ukip recognises that we do need whips, but they are voters”. e then expanded by saying the the presence of whips in British politics had been disastrous for the country, and that the British political system needed a serious overhaul. “Lets get away from the idea of party whips; we need more free votes, we need a right of recall so that constituents can sack their MPs if they don’t think they are up to the job, and open primary candidate selections, so that we can install candidates who have a popular mandate, not people who toady up to party whips”. It became clear that we were running out of time, so we started to wrap up the interview by asking Carswell why Ukip has proposed to take international students out of immigration figures. “I think it’s sensible. We need to control our borders and we need to have a sensible migration policy which allows us to attracts the brightest and the best. I am very smitten by the Australian approach, where they actively integrate the fact that their universities are very popular, and attract very able people. If we were to include international students it would ultimately damage this because it would mean that very able people would go to America, Australia or somewhere

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else”. Dan quickly interjected and suggested that this could perhaps be detrimental to British students, because universities can charge international students a lot more.

“Universities that are attracting international students are doing something right” “If you scrapped tuition fees, then I think you’d create an incentive for British universities not to have any British students at all. Lets not blame overseas students for some of the unintended consequences of the tuition fees policy that needs to be slightly refined. universities that are attracting huge numbers of international students are doing something right. There should be scope for universities to expand to accommodate all”. Just as the interview was wrapping up I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask Carswell why he defected to Ukip in the first place. “I used to think what was wrong with this country was the colour of the rosettes that ministers used to wear. Now I’ve realised that politics is a cartel, run by the same sort of people for their own convenience, you don’t really get any change, and the cartel needs to be broken. I think that Ukip could become a revived version of Gladstone’s party, free market, small government, pretty hands off, sensible in terms of its foreign policies, and a wide base of support from all sections of society who are sceptical of patrician elites”.


election2015

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The Ukip candidate for Norwich South spoke to Megan Baynes

answers, but Ukip have also said they want to scrap tuition fees entirely, but only for particular degrees. Questioning the Ukip candidate on this policy led to a moment of uncertainty in which Emmens had to ask: “What do you class as humanities? Sorry, I’m not a student, I don’t know what that means”. Clearly still uncertain about the definition of ‘humanities’ subjects after I gave him examples of such subjects he said: “We want a policy that means no loans for certain degrees; for examples medicines, sciences and mathematics. We will give grants for them. We

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teve Emmens looks like your average guy; he moved to Norwich 20 years ago in the pursuit of love, but then fell in love with the city and never left. He has been married to wife Tania for 15 years, has a cat called Marmalade and an enthusiastic smile when he talks about what he loves most about our ‘fine city’. He told me, “I love the cathedral and the museum and the shopping’s awesome and the people are lovely. I really like Norwich. I can’t consider going anywhere else. Derbyshire, near where I grew up is very beautiful, but there is just something about Norfolk.” But there is more to Steve than meets the eye, and my first clues are the gaudy yellow and purple tie, and the small ‘£’ badge on his lapel. Steve is more than a Norwich enthusiast: he’s also a member of Ukip, one of the country’s most reviled political parties, and is running for Parliament in May. He maintains Ukip has something unique to offer Norwich South, and is proud of his party’s reputation of being “radically different”, and breaking the status quo. “You’ve got green-labour, blue-labour, yellow-labour and red-labour, and they are all very, very similar and they all offer the same sort of solutions. We offer something different.” But do the students at UEA really want something so radically different? Emmens was postponed from speaking on campus in December due to one student publishing a petition on Change.org, which gathered over a thousand signatures. The people who supported the petition were unhappy that their feelings were disregarded, opinions were not consulted and that a highly controversial event was organised in such a secretive manner. Emmens however, is dismissive of

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ith the general elections drawing ever closer, Britain’s parties are naturally being increasingly scrutinised. However, due to the political agendas of Britain’s media, the militant acts of ‘progressive liberal’ protest groups, Ukip and its leader have been criticised far more than the other parties. One of the points raised by this is whether the party exists beyond Nigel Farage. And the answer to this is undeniable. It most certainly does. Many would argue that Ukip is based around Nigel Farage purely because he is the only ‘face’ of the party. But this is not the case. Ukip remains to be a new force in British politics, much like the Green Party. How many people can name a prominent Green party politician other than Natalie Bennett? My guess is very few. And this is the same reason why many people cannot name another prominent Ukip politician; for neither party has had the time to establish themselves. The three main parties have had decades to establish their politicians and members via Parliament and cabinet ministers. Ukip, as of yet, has not been able to do so to the same degree, so Nigel Farage is naturally at the forefront of the party, being its leader. In his role as leader, he has been establishing the party within Britain’s political environment through his appearance on televised debates and interviews along with coverage in the press. And it is this that has seen Ukip’s popularity rise, along with the rising role of other Ukip politicians. People have also failed to take into account that Ukip does in fact have two well-known politicians in the light of the party gaining its first two MPs: Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, a UEA alumnus. The media coverage surrounding this at the end of 2014 is evidence

“What do you class as humanities? Sorry, I’m not a student, I don’t know what that means”

STEVE EMMENS Photo: Steve Emmens, Ukip

their actions; “Free speech is enshrined in the Education Act. I just thought to myself, what on earth are they doing? All they did was give us publicity, they didn’t actually achieve anything.” As a man who feels “quietly confident” in the run up to May, what is he doing to win back a big part of his potential constituency that clearly do not support him? Chris Jarvis, Campaigns and Democracy Officer at the union said: “the student vote is going to play

a key role whatever happens”, so clearly the winning party will need to win over UEA as well as the rest of the constituency. Well, Emmens assured me: “We won’t triple your fees. The Conservatives are going into the election with £9,000 a year student fees and won’t rule out any increase. We are looking to reduce that down, but until the manifesto comes out I don’t know where we are going to go with that.” So not the most promising or specific of

There is more to Ukip than just Nigel Farage Harry Austin COMMENT

just feel it’s wrong. I mean £9,000 a year, so you’re coming out of university on the wrong end of nearly £40,000 worth of debt, now that can hardly be right, can it?” He went on to clarify that he could not comment further on the policy before the publication of the Ukip manifesto. Of course, this won’t make much difference for those of us coming out the wrong end of £40,000 worth of debt with a humanities degree in our grasp. So it appears although Ukip would indeed make life a bit easier for students, it would only be those with an interest in a science, or mathematic-based degree. Above all, Emmens is a realist and he knows of his party’s reputation, particularly in the media and on campus: “I would say to everyone, we are not beasts, we just have our own point of view and we would rather put our own people first”. That’s all very well, but it seems ‘our own people’ still only refers to a very specific group, and some UEA students are actively rebelling against this. If the recent petition showed anything it’s that they seem to be saying ‘if you don’t want all of us, you can’t have any’.

of this. Now that Ukip is making advancements politically, new faces are joining Mr Farage as Ukip’s popularity has increased. The involvement of the two MPs supporting Ukip via the political establishment and the media is further proof that the party is no longer based entirely around Nigel Farage. Indeed, Nigel Farage himself is not currently an MP, so in this sense Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless are playing a role just as crucial as that of their leader, if not more so. The 2015 general election will see Ukip move away from being the party of Nigel Farage. With the inevitable victories Ukip will have in at the very least several constituencies, more faces will join Nigel Farage by acting

“Nigel Farage himself is not currently an MP, so Carswell and Reckless are just as crucial”

Photo: Wikimedia, Euro Realist Farage

as well known representatives of the party. Admittedly, there was a stage when Ukip was a single policy party, which was viewed as being a party run by one man. When I met Nigel Farage at a lecture in a modestly sized lecture theatre at UCL over four years ago, this was certainly the case – Ukip was a party in the wilderness. However, that is something which the party certainly cannot be accused of now. Following the party’s victory at the European elections in 2014 where they recieved the largest share of the vote and after the result of the general election on 7th May, I am certain that Ukip will prove that there is more than just Nigel Farage in its political arsenal.


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After hours

election2015 What happens after voting closes at 22:00 on the night of the election?

Former Home Secretary and Norwich South MP, Charles Clarke, explains what happens at the election count...

COMMENT Joe Jameson explains the value of marginal seats

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harles Clark’s experience in 2010 highlights the importance of marginals, and how the whole election can come to hang upon the campaigns run in those constituencies. Some marginal seats have a history of voting in the candidate from the part which goes on to win the election, and have become crucial for number crunchers, and electoral strategists. What is interesting is that while the Lib Dems snatched up Norwich South as part of ‘Cleggmania’, it is not certain that they will retain the seat due to the high number of students registered in the constituency, and the total collapse of Student support for the Liberal Democrats. Marginals can highlight the growth of a new party, but they can also result in disappointments, not only for the candidates, but also for supporters, to lose by only a few hundred of votes, is harrowing, and very dispiriting. Living in a safe seat, as my parents do, can make you feel entirely disconnected from the national issues, because the high-flyers never visit your town, or talk about your local schools, hospitals and railways, which are in need of attention and investment, just as much as those in marginal seats. Living in a safe seat can be fine if the party is in government, but when the party is in opposition it can be very frustrating, because it is so unlikely that the incumbent will be usurped. However, there are always going to be a few surprise results where big names are caught in the middle of a snap swing, or surprisingly high turnout. One of the most famous scalps, was back in 1997, when Michael Portillo, a charismatic member of the Tory party in the 90s, and solid leadership material, lost his safe seat to Labour. Elections are never certain, and we will surely some surprise results in an election as undecided as this.

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he election count which concludes all parliamentary elections has its own rituals and procedures - similar in every parliamentary constituency. In Norwich the count takes place in St Andrews Hall, a splendid medieval building full of history which conveys its own sense of significance for all those in the hall. Events are overseen by the Returning Officer, the Chief Executive of the City Council, whose legal responsibility it is to conduct the count accurately and fairly, a process concluded by her reading out the formal statement of the result, concluding with “I declare ………. the duly elected Member of Parliament for Norwich South”. She is supported in this work by dozens of City Council staff who actually do the counting. They sit on one side of long tables running the length of the Hall. Directly opposite them sit representatives of the candidates. Their job is to confirm that they are happy with the way that the counting has been done and they affirm that, from their point of view, it has all been done fairly – no ballot papers put into the

“In 1997, my count didn’t conclude until about 05:00 and I still wasn’t confident that Labour had won until we got out of the hall” wrong pile, none introduced from some other nefarious source, none tampered with to alter the voter’s true preference. From about 22.15 onwards, after the polls have closed, the ballot boxes start arriving from each of the different polling stations throughout the constituency, at which voters have been casting their ballot from early that morning. Brought by council staff, and sometimes escorted by police, they arrive at a room in St Andrews Hall to join the ballots already cast by post in the days before election day itself. Once the boxes have all arrived and been checked, they are sent to the tables and the count begins. At each table the ballot boxes are emptied out, and then each paper is picked up by a counter and allocated to a pile, one for each candidate and one for doubtful papers where the voter’s intent is unclear. And the tension of the evening begins. The piles start to rise, votes then sorted into bundles of 100, and the speculation begins as to who is winning. In Norwich South attention this time will centre on five piles, those of the Liberal Democrat sitting MP, Simon Wright, Clive Lewis, seeking to regain the seat for Labour, the Conservative Lisa Townsend, the Green Lesley Grahame and possibly Ukip’s Steve Emmens though he’ll be doing well to compete with the top four. Around the rest of St Andrews Hall are the candidates, their agents and supporters, and the media with cameras and microphones. They are all tense and nervous, all well informed with their own often detailed assessments about what happened during the day, all interested in what’s happening in the rest of the country but pretty ignorant as televisions and radios aren’t allowed though of course information drizzles through giving

Photo: Flickr, Policy Exchange their partial illumination of what is happening. In 1997, my count didn’t conclude until about 05.00 and I still wasn’t confident that Labour had won until we got out of the hall. And the count always drags on. As only a limited number of party supporters are allowed into the hall most are gathered in the upper room of a nearby pub to wait and then hopefully celebrate a win for their candidate at the end of the night. So by about two or three in the morning the ballot papers have all been counted and put into their bundles, the bundles put into their piles and then totted up. If it’s close, no one will know who has won. Emotions wax and wane. The Returning Officer gathers together the candidates’ representatives, their agents, to consider the doubtful ballot papers and decide how they should be allocated – to a particular candidate or to the spoilt ballot pile. The crowd watches all this happening, trying to read the runes and speculating ceaselessly. Once the ballot papers have all been resolved, the Returning Officer then has a provisional result. She will again bring

together the candidates’ agents to tell them. As she does everyone tries to read from their expressions the fate of their candidate.

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n 2010 my agent came over to tell me that I had lost by 310 votes (out of 47,551 cast) and to ask if I wanted a recount, which is the right of any candidate who wants to go through the whole process again to check the results if they are close. I decided that 310 was too many to be changed by a recount and so my agent went back to the Returning Officer to accept the result. At that point the Returning Officer asked all the candidates to go up to the platform for the result, and we formed our line to listen to our fates. She read out the results, declared the Liberal Democrat the winner (as it turned out resulting from the postal votes cast at the swell in Liberal Democrat support which followed the first 2010 election debate – It seems that Labour won the votes cast on polling day itself). We all then made our brief statements of thanks to the Returning Officer and her staff,

to our own supporters and to others and the ceremony came to its dramatic end. I then went to face the media barrage to express my own thoughts, and then back to the pub where our supporters were commiserating and warm, despite the disappointment. And then back home. The whole process is thankfully brutal. The people decide, as is their right, and then

“In 2010 my agent came over to tell me that I had lost by 310 votes and to ask if I wanted a recount” everyone else responds to what they have decided. The often vapid speculation and punditry is over. The business of creating a new government begins and all the individual players start to rebuild their own lives in response to the verdict which has been delivered. That’s the way it’s been over centuries and that’s the way it will be again this year on 8th May 2015.


Politics Supplement - 28/04/2015