Joe Jameson & Dan Falvey Comment and News Editors
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
Will this election change British politics forever?
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.
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:
“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
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
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”.
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.
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
Livingtstone The former Mayor of London spoke to Dan Falvey about the Labour Party under Miliband
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
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”.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Photo: Flickr, First Minister of Scotland
IN BRIEF The SNP for English voters
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
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
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
“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,
“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).
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.
How Great Britain is likely to vote... Leading psephologist and UEA lecturer, Chris Hanretty, presents his predicted election results
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
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
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
The Liberal Democrat candidate for Norwich South spoke to Dan Falvey itting in the small reception area of Simon Wrightâ€™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: â€œOne 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 jobâ€? he explained to me. â€œWhether itâ€™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 aboutâ€?. 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: â€œIâ€™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 parentsâ€?. 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 hereâ€?. 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 â€œpermanently imprintedâ€? 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 Labourâ€™s Clive Lewis would be the next MP for the constituency. â€œI donâ€™t accept that conclusion at allâ€? exclaimed Wright, brushing away the idea that the election battle in this constituency had already been won. â€œI think the idea that you can somehow create a percentage likelihood of how each candidate is likely to do seems quite bizarreâ€?. Finishing off our conversation he argued that his experience over the last five years in government made him the perfect candidate
â€œI think that supporting the next generation is absolutely crucialâ€?
Photo: BillieMay Jones, Concrete Photography
SIMON WRIGHT /FXT'FB
â€œMy biggest regret is tuition fees; that we werenâ€™t able to get a way forward within the coalition agreementâ€? known for not sticking to, that he wasnâ€™t so happy about: â€œOn behalf of my party, my biggest regret is tuition fees; that we werenâ€™t able to get a way forward within the coalition agreement that was satisfactory. â€œThe 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 werenâ€™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. â€œIt wasnâ€™t fundedâ€? he indicates. â€œItâ€™s very easy in opposition to come up with token gestures, but unless youâ€™ve got a plan to deliver it then it is nothing more than
to represent Norwich South for the next term of parliament: â€œIâ€™ve had five years of representing Norwich South and the experience that comes with that means that Iâ€™am aware of a wide range of issues that affect the local communitiesâ€?. 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: â€œI think that supporting the next generation is absolutely crucial and my commitment as an MP is that if Iâ€™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 succeedâ€?.
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 TO SAY THE BANKS SHOULD hCLOSE means that students in Norwich will not trust LOO him with re-election on 7th May: â€œITHE 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 itâ€™s reallyhBO important TH CREDIBLE AND RADICALv that we do recognise the day to day challenges 7HEN ASKED ABOUT THE ,EFT that students face which is why weâ€™re AND THE 2IGHT AND WH proposing a young personâ€™s bus discount ETHER THEYRE that MERGING HE SAYS THAT card for under 21s. I think itâ€™s important HE BELmore we help students out and young people IEVES THE ,EFT2IGHT DIS 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: â€œOne 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 â€œWe know that there are rogue landlords out hTHIRD PARTYv TO HAVE IT there and we do need to make sure that those S VOTES EEZED BY THE TWO MA renting in the private sector areSQU adequately JORS RESPONDED h)TS SIMPLY 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