A lot has been made of the fact that Labour under Corbyn gained many votes in the June 2017 election, enough that some think the party has full victory (in the sense of an overall majority) in its grasp. I wanted to look at some comparative figures, so compiled the following chart of votes (not seats) and percentages in each UK election since 1979:
Year Conservatives Labour Lib Dems SNP UKIP
1979 13.7m/43.9% 11.5m/36.9% 4.3m/13.8% 0.5m/1.6% (Liberals)
1983 13.0m/42.4% 8.5m/27.6% 7.8m/25.4% 0.3m/1.1% (SDP/Lib Alliance)
1987 13.7m/42.2% 10.0m/30.8% 7.3m/22.6% 0.4m/1.3% (SDP/Lib Alliance)
1992 14.1m/41.9% 11.6m/34.4% 6.0m/17.8% 0.6m/1.9%
1997 9.6m/30.7% 13.5m/43.2% 5.2m/16.8% 0.6m/2.0% 0.1m/0.3%
2001 8.4m/31.7% 10.7m/40.7% 4.8m/18.3% 0.5m/1.8% 0.4m/1.5%
2005 8.8m/32.4% 9.5m/35.2% 6.0m/22.0% 0.4m/1.5% 0.6m/2.2%
2010 10.7m/36.1% 8.6m/29.0% 6.8m/23.0% 0.5m/1.7% 0.9m/3.1%
2015 11.3m/36.8% 9.3m/30.4% 2.4m/7.9% 1.5m/4.7% 3.8m/12.6%
2017 13.6m/42.3% 12.9m/40.0% 2.3m/7.4% 1.0m/3.0% 0.6m/1.8%
So Labour under Corbyn did well, gaining 3.6m votes, but the Tories under May did even better. Two factors are of primary importance: (a) the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in 2015, following the Tory/Lib Dem coalition (see my earlier blog putting this in context); (b) the collapse of the UKIP vote in 2017, following the EU referendum, after having done exceptionally well in 2015, quadrupling their vote from that in 2010.
Labour certainly did manage to benefit from getting more young people to vote, but they also gained from the UKIP losses, which were threatening them in various traditional constituencies. But the Tories gained more, though the first-past-the-post electoral system threw up the bizarre result by which May gained 2.3m more votes than Cameron did in 2015, but won 13 less seats than the latter. The Conservative vote has not fallen, far from it (May won more votes than any Tory leader since John Major in 1992, and more than Thatcher in 1983), it is really just a question of how it is distributed.
The widespread tactical voting generally believed to have occurred from 1997 onwards, which helped the Lib Dems more than double their seats in 1997 (from 20 to 46) and go onto peak in 2005 (with 62), must be assumed to have disappeared, unsurprisingly as Labour voters are disinclined to vote for a party which spent five years in coalition with the Tories, even where they are the primary alternative in some constituencies to the latter. But the current voting system still works against Labour, and it should not be forgotten that they only won 262 seats in 2017; to win an overall majority by one seat they need another 65, whereas for a workable majority (not too vulnerable to backbench rebellions over contentious legislation) they need at least 85.
I cannot see this happening, certainly not with Corbyn as leader. The electoral landscape has changed fundamentally since the pattern between 1997 and 2010. The Lib Dems and UKIP have collapsed, the Tories have swung to the right (though could move further right still) while Labour has swung to the left. Brexit has changed a lot; the good result for Labour and Corbyn this year came about in part through triangulation on this issue, managing to convince both Leavers and Remainers that they supported them. I cannot see this holding up further, and without a major and clear shift of policy, I believe Remainers will move away – though many, like me, feel politically homeless at the moment (a reason why a new centre party would be no bad thing).
On Tuesday Parliament will reconvene, and will start to debate the EU Repeal Bill. There has been talk of the government being defeated on this, which I would hope for greatly, but am not too hopeful, again for reason of numbers. There are four Tory MPs identified by John Rentoul as possible rebels – Anna Soubry, Nicky Morgan, Kenneth Clarke and Dominic Grieve – and possibly a few more, but nine Labour MPs who supported Leave in the referendum – Ronnie Campbell, John Cryer, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer – while Caroline Flint indicated this morning that she is not prepared to help obstruct the bill. The Tories and DUP together have 327 MPs, whereas the opposition (not including the seven Sinn Féin MPs who will not take up their seats, nor the Speaker) have just 315. Even if all the four Tories listed above voted against the government, and the DUP abstained, they would still have 313 votes and could comfortably beat the opposition if just the nine Labour MPs vote with them. If things got tighter, May could take the same course of action as John Major did twice when facing defeat, and turn a vote on legislation into a vote of confidence. With no parliamentary majority, it is hard to imagine many Tories (most of who, when in the last parliament, voted for Article 50, including Soubry) voting against the government then.
Labour have proved themselves utterly incapable of proper opposition on Brexit. The Michel Barnier/David Davis press conference on Thursday was quite farcical, and it is clear the talks have hardly progressed, yet there was hardly a squeak from Corbyn and Keir Starmer until Starmer’s ineffectual interview this morning, which only served to muddy the party’s Brexit policy further. Never has there been a time during which proper scrutiny of the government and their approach to negotiations was more important; never has Labour proved so inept at providing this.
Where I have some hope, paradoxically, is in the possibility of a large-scale grassroots Tory revolt following acknowledgement that the government is preparing to pay a large Brexit divorce bill (with some leaks in the press today suggesting a figure of €50 billion). A recent Guardian/ICM poll suggested that two-thirds of voters would find a figure of €10 billion or more unacceptable, and the government has done nothing to try and explain the reason (not even clamping down on Boris Johnson over his ‘Go whistle’ remark). While the legal obligation to pay such a bill has been questioned, Barnier has made it clear that without the government coming clean on their position on this issue, they cannot proceed with trade talks. With time ticking down until Article 50 expires in March 2019, the UK government cannot really afford to keep delaying this, when the chances of even coming up with a workable transition arrangement – which all the other EU nations will accept – are slim in the time available.
So I think we will hear the sum confirmed soon, despite the denials. May will try to wait until after her party conference in Manchester, 1-4 October, but this may be difficult. The Tory membership have already indicated their wish for May to stand down; if she is conceding a major Brexit bill, then the pressure may become unbearable. May appears to be trying to keep Davis and Johnson close, so that they cannot dissociate themselves from what results, and so would go down with her; in that situation, I still do not think it impossible that the membership might make a crazy choice like electing a figure like Jacob Rees-Mogg or Andrea Leadsom, beloved of Conservative Home and the like.
Then, if a new leader was feeling optimistic or simply deluded, they just might call another election. I do think (or hope?) that a lot of decent Tory voters could not vote for a party led by someone so right-wing. But in order for a different government, Labour will have to make a proper case for an alternative in terms of Brexit, and make more overtures to the Lib Dems and others. I cannot imagine the Lib Dems or SNP supporting a Labour government which is going ahead with Brexit. At present I still cannot support Labour because of Brexit, and am sure they are a very long way from being an electorally viable party.
Call for All Political Leaders and Leadership Candidates to Pledge Full Co-operation with Abuse InquiryPosted: July 9, 2015
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is now underway. Despite two previous chairs rightly standing down due to some of their connections, and unpleasant politics between some other panel members and other individuals, resulting in the loss of several very good people, nonetheless what is now in place is strong, focused, and has real powers. I am very pleased at the access to intelligence files and also the pledge that no-one who comes forward will face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. And personally, I am especially pleased that the Terms of Reference make clear that music tuition will be an area of investigation, for which I have campaigned qnd lobbied for several years. The website is at:
Some survivors and campaigners have unfortunately expressed grave reservations about the inquiry. I would implore them to at least try engaging with it, difficult though this might be, in full recognition of the fact that they have more reason than anyone to be distrustful of any such venture. But I believe the chair and panel do wish to get to the bottom of this terrible factor afflicting our society for so long, and help to build a better society in its place.
In an interview I gave earlier today for Sky News:
I called for the leaders of all the major political parties to pledge full co-operation with this inquiry (and make all relevant documentation available) and want to repeat this now, and hope others will help with urging publicly not only current leaders, but also leadership and deputy leadership candidates, to do so. Much evidence has come to light suggesting that abuse by senior politicians in many parties was either ignored or actively covered up, and that other politicians had connections to paedophile organisations. It is paramount that this is fully investigated in order to understand better how high-level abuse could go on for so long with apparent impunity.
So I ask people, journalists, campaigners, bloggers, tweeters and others to help keep the pressure on the following politicians in England and Wales to give such a pledge, and if not, explain not.
Leader: David Cameron
Future Leadership Candidates: Boris Johnson, George Osborne, Theresa May
Leader: Nick Clegg
Leadership Candidates: Tim Farron, Norman Lamb
Leader: Harriet Harman
Leadership Candidates: Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn
Deputy Leadership Candidates: Tom Watson, Stella Creasey, Ben Bradshaw, Angela Eagle, Caroline Flint
Leader: Nigel Farage
Leader: Natalie Bennett
Leader: Leanne Wood
The loss of all but one Labour seat in Scotland to the SNP appears to have sent shockwaves down the political establishment, as if Scotland were a much larger part of the United Kingdom – in terms of population and seats – than it actually is. It’s time for some perspective in terms of figures:
There are currently 650 seats in the whole of the United Kingdom. 18 of these are in Northern Ireland and are generally uncontested by the major parties in the mainland. This leaves 632 for England, Scotland and Wales. Of these, 533 are in England, 59 are in Scotland, 40-in Wales. England has nine times the number of seats of the next largest region.
In 2015, the breakdown of seats in the three constituent parts of the mainland were as follows:
Total: Conservatives 330, Labour 232, SNP 56, Lib Dems 8, UKIP 1, Green 1, Speaker 1
England: Conservatives 318, Labour 206, Lib Dems 6, UKIP 1, Green 1, Speaker 1
Scotland: SNP 56, Labour 1, Conservatives 1, Lib Dems 1
Wales: Labour 25, Conservatives 11, Plaid Cymru 3, Lib Dems 1
Labour continue to have a clear commanding lead in Wales; there is not at present any sign of Plaid Cymru making major advances comparable to the SNP, though of course this situation may change. The Conservatives, however, have an overall majority in England of 107 seats. Were Labour to recapture 20 seats in Scotland (which would now be a significant gain), say, they would still be a long way from denting the Conservatives majority in England.
But Labour have achieved this before. Consider these results in England alone:
1945: Labour 331, Conservatives 159, Liberals 5, Labour Independent 1, Independent Conservative 1, Common Wealth 1, Communist 1, Independent 3
1950: Labour 251, Conservatives 242, Liberals 2, National Liberals and Conservatives 4, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and Natural Liberals 2, Liberals and Conservatives 1, National Liberals 1,
1951: Conservatives 259, Labour 233, Liberals 2, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and National Liberals 2, Liberals and Conservatives 3, National Liberals and Conservatives 5
1955: Conservatives 279, Labour 216, Liberals 2, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and National Liberals, Liberals and Conservatives 3, National Liberals and Conservatives 5
1959: Conservatives 302, Labour 193, Liberals 3, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and National Liberals 6, Liberals and Conservatives 2, National Liberals and Conservatives 3
1964: Conservatives 255, Labour 245, Liberals 3, Conservatives and National Liberals 4, National Liberals and Conservatives 2, Speaker 1
1966: Labour 285, Conservatives 216, Liberals 6, Conservatives and National Liberals 2, National Liberals and Conservatives 1, Speaker 1
1970: Conservatives 292, Labour 216, Liberals 2, Speaker 1
February 1974: Conservatives 267, Labour 237, Liberals 9, Independent Labour 1, Social Democrat 1, Speaker 1
October 1974: Labour 255, Conservatives 252, Liberals 8, Speaker 1
1979: Conservatives 306, Labour 203, Liberals 7
1983: Conservatives 362, Labour 148, Liberals 10, SDP 3
1987: Conservatives 357, Labour 155, Liberals 7, SDP 3, Speaker 1
1992: Conservatives 319, Labour 195, Lib Dems 10
1997: Labour 329, Conservatives 165, Lib Dems 34, Independent 1
2001: Labour 323, Conservatives 165, Lib Dems 40, Independent 1
2005: Labour 286, Conservatives 194, Lib Dems 47, Respect 1, Independent 1
2010: Conservatives 297, Labour 191, Lib Dems 43, Green 1, Speaker 1
2015: Conservatives 318, Labour 206, Lib Dems 6, UKIP 1, Green 1, Speaker 1
In five of the eight elections since 1945 in which Labour won a majority nationwide, they also won an overall majority in England. The exceptions are 1950, when the Conservatives together with associated conservative parties had a total of 252 to Labour’s 251 in England, and Labour’s overall majority in the country was just 6 seats; 1964, when Labour had a nationwide majority of only 5, excluding the Speaker; and October 1974, when Labour had a nationwide majority of only 4. Attlee in 1945 and Blair in 1997 and 2001 won commanding three figure overall majorities in England alone; Wilson in 1966 had a respectable majority of 59, and Blair in 2005 also had a perfectly serviceable majority of 45.
Furthermore, in 1945, 1997 and 2001 Labour had an overall majority in the whole of the country on the basis of its English seats alone; in 1966 it would have scraped one from its seats in England and Wales (317 out of 630). 2005 was different, however; then the total of seats in England and Wales was 315, which would still have made it the largest party by a comfortable margin, but not able to command an overall majority in the UK if the SNP had performed like they did in 2015.
Labour can win, and win decisively in England; being able to do so is key to their winning a comfortable overall majority in the country again.
My predictions from January for the election results turned out to be significantly out; but then so did almost everyone else’s, including those of Iain Dale and Peter Kellner which I cite in the above link. One small consolation, in predictive terms, is having forecast a bigger collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote than many others did; it always appeared to me that with the loss of the major tactical vote which had doubled the Liberal Democrat representation in Parliament in 1997 from what it had previously been, the party would fall away to less than 20 seats, though it is still shocking to see them fall to 8.
But in the midst of an emotional aftermath and a large amount of disappointment and disillusionment for many on the left following the unexpected result, have a look at the actual results in terms of votes and percentages, compared to 2010:
Conservatives: 10,806,015, 36.4% in 2010; 11,334,920, 36.8% in 2015.
Labour: 8,609,527, 29.0% in 2010; 9,344,328, 30.4% in 2015.
Liberal Democrats: 6,836,824, 23.0% in 2010; 2,415,888, 7.9% in 2015.
UKIP: 919,471, 3.1% in 2010; 3,881,129, 12.6% in 2015.
SNP: 491,386, 1.7% in 2010; 1,454,436, 4.7% in 2015.
Greens: 265,243, 0.9% in 2010; 1,154,562, 3.8% in 2015.
Plaid Cymru: 165,394, 0.4% in 2010; 181,694, 0.6% in 2015.
Turnout: 29,687,604, 65.1% in 2010; 30,691,680, 66.1% in 2015.
So in 2015 there was a very small increase in both Conservative and Labour votes. UKIP and the Greens had the biggest success in votes terms, both quadrupling their numbers (though UKIP started out from a much bigger base and are a very much more significant force); the SNP trebled theirs. The Liberal Democrats had by far the worst result of the above, falling to almost one-third of what they had before. Plaid Cymru achieved a very small increase.
But then look at the results in Scotland:
Conservatives: 412,655, 16.7% in 2010; 434,097, 14.9% in 2015.
Labour: 1,035,526, 42.0% in 2010; 707,147, 24.3% in 2015.
Liberal Democrats: 465,471, 18.9% in 2010; 219,675, 7.5% in 2015.
SNP: 491,386, 19.9% in 2010; 1,454,436, 50.0% in 2015.
UKIP: 17,223, 0.7% in 2010; 47,078, 1.6% in 2015.
Greens (Scottish Greens): 16,827, 0.7% in 2010, 39,205, 1.3% in 2015.
Turnout: 2,465,722, 63.8% in 2010; 2,910,465, 71.1% in 2015.
The Conservatives slightly upped their number of votes, but fell in terms of proportions by about one-eighth; Labour fell drastically, to almost half of their percentage votes, and the Liberal Democrats even more so. The SNP had a massive rise to two-and-a-half times the percentage their received in 2010, and interestingly the Greens doubled their vote, and UKIP did even better (doing better than the Greens by all measures in Scotland).
So if we therefore look at the votes for the five major national parties in England and Wales alone, we get the following figures:
Conservatives: 10,393,360, 38.2% in 2010; 10,900,823, 39.2% in 2015.
Labour: 7,574,001, 27.8% in 2010; 8,637,181, 31.1% in 2015.
Liberal Democrats: 6,371,353, 23,4% in 2010; 2,196,213, 7.9% in 2015.
UKIP: 902,248, 3.3% in 2010; 3,834,051, 13.8% in 2015.
Greens: 248,416, 0.9% in 2010; 1,115,357, 4.0% in 2015.
Turnout: 27,221,882, 65.2% in 2010; 27,781,215, 65.6% in 2015.
So here the patterns are similar to those for the UK as a whole, except for the fact that Labour gained 3.3% in England and Wales (compared to just 1.4% in the whole UK) and the Conservatives 1% (0.4% in the UK). UKIP and the Greens’ increases were both larger in England and Wales compared to the UK as a whole.
In terms of seats, in 2015 Labour gained 10 seats from the Conservatives, but the Conservatives in turn gained 8 from them, a net gain for Labour of just 2. Labour won 12 from the Liberal Democrats, but the Conservatives won 27 (their net gain in the election of seats from any other parties was 29). The Liberal Democrats had previously had a strong presence in Scotland with 11 seats; with all but one of these falling away.
Without the loss of 40 seats in Scotland, Labour would have a total of 272, 16 more than in 2010; without the huge gains from the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives would have had 304, just 2 more than in 2010. Labour fell because its gains from the Liberal Democrats (12 seats) and Conservatives (2 net) were too modest to match their losses to the SNP (40 seats). The Conservatives lost no seats to the SNP at all and scraped a majority primarily through winning seats from the Liberal Democrats.
So the pattern appears as follows: in England and Wales Labour upped its vote by 3.3%, respectable but nothing like enough to make a real difference, largely through the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, but this benefited the Tories much more, either through directly taking votes or the collapse of an anti-Tory tactical vote. Labour were thrown back immensely above all by their drastic fall in Scotland. The Conservatives are very far from having won over a decisive section of the UK population; they have around 8% more than Labour in England and Wales, but have not hit 40% of those who vote. They are in a similar position to Harold Wilson after the October 1974 election, and a worse one than John Major after the 1992 election.
But for Labour, consider the percentages of the vote they have received in elections since 1964:
After the massive losses in 1983, Neil Kinnock was able to get the party almost to their 1979 levels by 1992. Ed Miliband has achieved considerably less than this. Tony Blair did not achieve the share of the vote of Harold Wilson in the 1960s (or even when Labour lost to the Conservatives in 1970) but benefited from a Conservative Party which had moved considerably to the right and lost a significant vote to the Liberal Democrats, who were also prepared to help Labour defeat the Conservatives through tactical voting. These factors have now changed; few would now appear to vote Liberal Democrat tactically against the Conservatives, and David Cameron has just about managed to convince wavering voters that the party is less toxic than it was during the Blair years.
Labour have not lost their key base of around 30% of the vote which translates into somewhere between 200 and 250 seats – though inevitable boundary changes will hurt the number of seats they can gain with the same votes. To win again, they need to regain a significant amount of their seats in Scotland (which may be the biggest challenge) and also make some inroads into that Conservative 8% lead in England and Wales. The apparent difficulty seems to lie in the fact that these aims seem mutually incompatible. However, I do not believe that the Scottish vote represents a significant move to the left and would ask how many would have voted for the SNP if they had the same programme except for the demand for independence, or any other rhetoric about being ‘Scottish’ or ‘national’; their performance might then be more comparable to that of the Greens. A situation of full financial autonomy, and its economic consequences (let alone those of full independence) might change the view of a great many Scottish people towards nationalism, though either such move would be very difficult to undo. Personally I find it extremely sinister when 50% of the people of an area unite under a flag, and find ludicrous suggestions that Labour would surge forth to victory if they became more like the SNP; they might find themselves closer to the position of the Greens.
Without the charismatic figure of Farage at the helm, the UKIP vote may wither away, but the consequences of this remain to be unseen. It will take a great deal for the Liberal Democrats to rebuild themselves; their decline may be terminal. Nick Clegg has returned them to their situation under Clement Davies in the 1950s, and completely undone the efforts of Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy to make them into a major third party force (see this post for a wider analysis of the results for the Liberal Democrats in historical perspective). But this just might offer an opportunity for Labour to reclaim some of the previous centre ground, but this would take a major cultural shift in the party such as they have only taken previously under Blair (and would have done under Gaitskell had he survived) in times of desperation following successive defeats. I will always resent deeply much of Blair’s foreign policy, but still acknowledge that New Labour did make possible some genuinely progressive social policies on the home front (as much because of others around him as Blair himself) and made the UK into a more internationally-minded and European country than that to which it has slipped back since. To achieve what Labour achieved under Blair, at least in the first term, may be as much as Labour could hope for now. This would still be a good deal better than what we have now.
Various predictions have been made for the 2015 UK General Election, which looks like being one of the closest-fought in living memory.
In 2010, the result was as follows:
Liberal Democrats 57
Scottish National Party (SNP) 6
Plaid Cymru (PC) 3
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 8
Sinn Fein (SF) 5
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 3
Since May 2010, there have been 21 by-elections. Respect gained one seat from Labour, Labour gained one from the Conservatives, and UKIP gained two from the Conservatives; all others were held by the party which won in 2010. So the modified or added figures to the above are: Conservatives 303, Labour 259, UKIP 2, Respect 1.
My own predictions are below (corrected from an erroneous set of results before). These are nothing like as carefully picked as, say, those of Iain Dale, but are based upon various factors and predictions of particular swings in different areas (and a lot of reading on British politics and electoral trends). I do believe that the SNP will eat quite deeply into Labour’s vote in Scotland, that the Conservatives will lose a similar number of seats to Labour as they did in 1992, but I also believe – and to a greater extent than many other commentators – that the tactical anti-Tory vote for the Liberal Democrats which has existed ever since 1997 will slump to a very large degree. In 1992, the Liberal Democrats won 17.8% of the vote and 20 seats; in 1997, with a massive increase in tactical voting, they won 16.8% of the vote and 46 seats; this would rise to 52 seats in 2001, and 62 in 2005 (with 22% of the vote – the best ever Liberal Democrat election result, with the underrated Charles Kennedy as leader). I believe the ratio of votes to seats is likely to revert to pre-1997 levels. With this in mind, I think 2015 will be a disastrous election for the Liberal Democrats, which will set them back more than 20 years in terms of seats, though they are still likely to play a part in any post-election coalition. The Tories will benefit more from this collapse than Labour, playing a part in negating the seats Labour will otherwise gain.
Labour 290 (+33)
Conservatives 288 (-15)
Liberal Democrats 18 (-39)
Green 1 (-)
(Respect 0 (-1))
SNP 26 (+20)
UKIP 5 (+3)
PC 3 (-)
DUP 8 (-)
SF 5 (-)
SDLP 3 (-)
Alliance 1 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)
With this result, Labour/LD have a total of 308 seats, Con/LD 306, Labour/LD/SNP 334 seats, Con/LD/UKIP/DUP 319 seats. As any party needs at least 325 seats to command a majority (or 323 if the Sinn Fein members continue not to take up their seats), the Labour/LD/SNP grouping (perhaps joined by PC, SDLP, Green) looks the only possibility. However, I do not believe a formal coalition between Labour and the SNP will be feasible (nor would it be politically acceptable), so I predict a confidence and supply arrangement between these three parties. This will make getting most other legislation through Parliament extremely precarious; furthermore, there will be a number of Labour MPs unhappy with any such arrangement.
Here are the predictions of Iain Dale, who has done an exhaustive study of every seat (The figures I give for the change in seats relate to the numbers at the time of posting, not to those in 2010).
Labour 301 (-42) Conservative 278 (-25)
Liberal Democrats 24 (-33)
UKIP 5 (+3)
Green 1 (-)
Respect 1 (-)
SNP 18 (12)
PC 3 (-)
DUP 9 (1)
Sinn Fein 5 (-)
SDLP 3 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)
And here are the predictions of Peter Kellner of YouGov:
Conservative 293 (-10)
Labour 277 (+18)
Liberal Democrats 30 (-27)
UKIP 5 (+3)
Green 1 (-)
(Respect 0 (-1))
SNP 23 (+17)
PC 3 (-)
DUP 8 (-)
Sinn Fein 5 (-)
SDLP 3 (-)
Alliance 1 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)
(Kellner does not give details of the Northern Ireland parties’ results, nor for Plaid Cymru, so I am assuming these will remain as in 2010).
Some other predictions can be found at the link for Kellner above.
I am not a professional opinion pollster, just an amateur with a keen interest in British politics, which I have followed very closely for almost 30 years. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of the above results proves closest to the final outcome.
Former Liberal Party President Des Wilson has written a scathing piece about Cyril Smith and the Liberal/Liberal Democrat Party for today’s Mail. Wilson writes in disparaging terms of a self-serving parliamentary party out of touch with its own activists, of feeble MPs too afraid to stand up a sexual and political bully like Smith, the ineffectiveness of David Steel as leader, and so on. The following passage is especially interesting:
Oh, I remember them all.
There was the MP who virtually sustained the whisky industry on his own. If you lit a match too close to his breath you could have made Guy Fawkes Night look like a back-garden barbecue. Many a bar would have been bankrupted without his presence. (And this was before the days of Charles Kennedy.)
As for affairs, Paddy Ashdown was not the only parliamentary party member whose secretary was valued for more than her typing skills.
Then there was the local party leader from well to the north of Watford who had to be woken from his bed on many a Friday and Saturday night to attend a local police station and rescue his MP from trouble after he had been picked up in one dubious circumstance or another. This MP once asked me to travel for three hours to speak to his local party one Friday evening. When I arrived at his house he was just welcoming two attractive ‘boys’ who had also travelled from London on the same train. I was put in a taxi and sent to the meeting without even the offer of dinner while the MP headed to some dodgy backstreet club with his much younger friends.
And, then, there was Cyril Smith who somehow survived more than 140 complaints to the police. How could that possibly happen?
So who in particular was this MP from north of Watford to whom Wilson refers, who may also have been guilty of criminal offences (depending upon the age of the ‘boys’)? Wilson was involved in the Liberal Party from 1973, becoming the President of the Party from 1986-87 (just before the merger with the Social Democratic Party in 1988, producing the Liberal Democrats), then running the 1992 election campaign, after which time he stepped down.
I intend to look at Wilson’s other books presently to see if there are any other clues, but though for now I would list all Liberal or Liberal Democrat MPs for seats North of Watford during this period. It is unlikely to have been Steel, Smith, Kennedy or David Alton as they are all mentioned in other contexts in the article. I would also imagine the MP in question to have been in Parliament during the period of Wilson’s Presidency from 1986 to 1987, or possibly during the run-up to the 1992 election campaign.
Jo Grimond, Orkney and Shetland, 1950-1983 (Liberal) (deceased)
Emlyn Hooson, Montgomeryshire, 1962-79 (Liberal) (deceased)
Russell Johnston, Inverness, 1964-83; Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Steel, Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, 1965-83; Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Richard Wainwright, Colne Valley, 1966-70, 1974-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Michael Winstanley, Cheadle, 1966-70; Hazel Grove, 1974 (Liberal) (deceased)
Cyril Smith, Rochdale, 1972-88 (Liberal), 1988-92 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Austick, Ripton, 1973-74 (Liberal) (deceased)
Clement Freud, Isle of Ely, 1973-83; North East Cambridgeshire, 1983-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Alan Beith, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1973-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Geraint Howells, Cardigan, 1974-83; Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire North, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-92 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
David Alton, Liverpool Mossley Hill, 1979-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Michael Meadowcroft, Leeds West, 1983-87 (Liberal)
Malcolm Bruce, Gordon, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Alex Carlile, Montgomeryshire, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97 (Liberal Democrat)
Archy Kirkwood, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2005 (Liberal Democrat)
James Robert Wallace, Orkney and Shetland, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2001 (Liberal Democrat)
Richard Livsey, Brecon and Radnorshire, 1985-88 (Liberal), 1988-92, 1997-2001 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
Elizabeth Shields, Ryedale, 1986-87 (Liberal)
Menzies Campbell, North East Fife, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-present (Liberal Democrat)
Ronald Fearn, Southport, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-92, 1997-2001
Janet Ray Michie, Argyll and Bute, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-2001 (Liberal Democrat) (deceased)
Charles Kennedy, Ross, Cromarty and Skye, 1988-97, Ross, Skye and Inverness West, 1997-2005, Ross, Skey and Lochaber, 2005-present (Liberal Democrat)
Robert Maclennan, Caithness and Sutherland, 1988–97; Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, 1997–2001 (Liberal Democrat)
Michael Carr, Ribble Valley, 1991-92 (Liberal Democrat)
Nicol Stephen, Kincardine and Deeside, 1991-92 (Liberal Democrat)
Other MPs not North of Watford:
Jeremy Thorpe, North Devon, 1959-79 (Liberal)
John Pardoe, North Cornwall, 1966-79 (Liberal)
Graham Tope, Sutton and Cheam, 1972-74 (Liberal)
Christopher Mayhew, Woolwich East, 1974 (Liberal) (deceased)
Paul Tyler, Bodmin, 1974 (Liberal); North Cornwall, 1992-2005 (Liberal Democrat)
David Penhaligon, Truro, 1974-86 (Liberal) (deceased)
Stephen Ross, Isle of Wight, 1974-87 (Liberal) (deceased)
Bill Pitt, Croydon North West, 1981-83 (Liberal)
Simon Hughes, Bermondsey, 1983; Southwark and Bermondsey, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-97; North Southwark and Bermondsey, 1997-present (Liberal Democrat)
Paddy Ashdown, Yeovil, 1983-88 (Liberal), 1988-2002 (Liberal Democrat)
Matthew Taylor, Truro, 1987-88 (Liberal), 1988-97; Truro and St Austell, 1997-2010 (Liberal Democrat)
David Bellotti, Eastbourne, 1990-92 (Liberal Democrat)
All of the MPs listed above should also be asked what they knew about Cyril Smith.
This week, at Prime Minister’s Question Time, Labour leader Ed Miliband tore into David Cameron for the representation of women in his party, pointing to the all-male frontbench in front of him, in contrast to his own. Miliband did not care to mention the ethnic make-up of that front bench, perhaps because of fear of alienating xenophobic Middle England from which he needs to gain votes, or perhaps because his own wholly white front bench on display that day would score no better. At present, the cabinet consists of 22 members, of whom 18 are male and 4 female. Not one member belongs to an ethnic minority. The shadow cabinet contains 25 members, of whom 14 are male and 11 female, with 2 members from ethnic minorities. What is not visible, but no less important, is the representation of different educational backgrounds amongst both cabinets. Of the cabinet, 12 were educated in the state sector, 10 privately; of the shadow cabinet, 19 were state-educated, 5 privately; for one member it is unclear. The difference in the break-up of either cabinet in terms of educational background is as stark as that for gender and ethnicity. With this in mind, I decided to assemble some wider statistics concerning the MPs in the three major parliamentary parties, not least to draw attention to the least commented-upon form of discrimination and favouritism, to do with the vast over-privileging, above all in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties, of those who were privately educated. This is a subject frequently evaded by many leading politicians in any of the parties; the New Statesman have recently referred to ‘education’s Berlin Wall’, a term even taken up by Education Secretary Michael Gove, though as an NS leader pointed out, the privately educated Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt declined to comment on the subject.
UK Population by Gender and Region
According to the 2011 census, as provided by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the population of the UK was 63,182,000 million people, made up of 31,028,000 million men and 32,154,000 million women. In percentage terms this means 49.1% men, 50.9% women. Between the four regions, this breaks down as follows:
England: 53,012,456 – 26,069,148 (49.2%) men; 26,943,308 (50.8%) women.
Scotland: 5,295,000 – 2,567,000 (48.5%) men; 2,728,000 (51.5%) women.
Wales: 3,063,456 – 1,504,228 (49.1%) men; 1,559,228 (50.9%) women.
Northern Ireland: 1,810,863 – 887,323 (49%) men; 923,540 (51%) women.
Total Population of mainland (England, Scotland and Wales): 61,370,912 – 30,140,376 (49.1%) men; 31,230,536 (50.9%) women.
Total Population of UK: 63,182,000 – 31,028,000 (49.1%) men; 32,154,000 (50.9%) women.
Percentages of UK population represented by region:
Northern Ireland: 2.9%.
The gender discrepancy can mostly be explained by different life expectancies, certainly amongst the existing population who are now aged over 50, as the differences in numbers become more pronounced and regular in the upper age bracket. As can be seen, the overall discrepancy is relatively consistent amongst the regions, except for Scotland, where it is around 3% (compared to 1.6-2% elsewhere, smallest in England).
UK Population by Ethnicity and Region
The ethnic break-up of the United Kingdom as a whole can be compiled from individual results for each region. In England and Wales, according to the 2011 report by the ONS, 86.0% of the population are classified as White (divided into ‘White British’ and ‘Any Other White’, with populations of 80.5% and 4.4% respectively). After this, the next largest groups are Indian (2.5%), Pakistani (2.0%) and Black African (1.8%). Overall, Asian and Asian British groups account for 7.5%, whilst Black African, Caribbean, Black British and others account for 3.3%. 14% of the English and Welsh population can be considered as belonging to non-white ethnic minorities. Wales itself is the least ethnically diverse region (closely followed by South West England), with 95.6% white population, 4.4% ethnic minorities. Using the population figures above (England 53,012,456; Wales 3,063,456; England and Wales 56,075,912), this amounts to numbers of approximately 2,928,663 white, 134,793 ethnic minorities in Wales. In England and Wales combined the figures will be 48,225,284 white; 7,850,628 ethnic minorities. Thus in England alone the figures are 45,296,621 (85.4%) white; 7,715,835 (14.6%) ethnic minorities.
The 2011 census results for Scotland show that 96% of the population are classified as White. Of the remaining 4% (Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Other Asian, African, Caribbean, Black British, Arab, and Other), the largest ethnic minority is Pakistani (1%). Asians make up around 3% of the population, and Black African, Caribbean and other around 1%. Thus from a total population of 5,295,000, approximately 5,038,200 are white, 275,000 ethnic minorities.
The representation of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland is much smaller than in the rest of the UK, with 98.2% of Northern Ireland residents classified as White. From the remaining 1.8% split (in descending order of prominence between Chinese, Irish Traveller, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Other Asian, Black Caribbean, Black African, Black other, Mixed and Other). The largest ethnic minority in Northern Ireland, Chinese, accounts for just 0.35% of the population. Thus from a total population of 1,810,863, approximately 1,778,267 are white, 32,596 ethnic minorities.
If these figures are weighted relative to the population of each region, the following figures are obtained:
England: White 85.4%; Ethnic Minorities 14.6%.
Wales: White 95.6%; Ethnic Minorities 4.4%.
Scotland: White 96%; Ethnic Minorities 4%.
Northern Ireland: White 98.2%; Ethnic Minorities 1.8%.
From this, figures can be calculated for the mainland (population 61,370,912) and the UK as a whole (population 63,182,000). The population of the mainland, from the figures above, is approximately 53,263,484 white; 8,125,628 ethnic minorities. For the UK as a whole, the figures are approximately 55,041,751 white; 8,158,224 ethnic minorities. In percentage terms, this amounts to:
Mainland (England, Scotland and Wales): White 86.8%; Ethnic Minorities 13.2%.
UK: White 87.1%; Ethnic Minorities 12.9%.
UK Population by Education
Historical statistics for state or private education in England and Wales can be found in a 2012 report by Paul Bolton. They show a proportion of pupils educated at independent and direct grant schools falling from 8.1% to 5.7% between 1963 and 1978, then rising again, peaking around 1990 at around 7.4%, then falling slightly to around 6.5% in the years approaching 2000, then rising slightly again over the next decade, with a small fall from around 2010. The following figures are provided for percentages of pupils at independent schools at five yearly intervals from 1950 (from 1963 they apply to England alone):
For those aged roughly between 25 and 70 in 2010, who thus were educated from age 7-18 between 1947 and 2003, I will take an average percentage from the figures from 1950 and 2005, which works out at around 6.2% of those in such an age range who were privately educated. For Wales the figure in 2011 was 1.9% and for Scotland in 2013 , 4.5%. Applying a weighting to these figures in line with that for the average over this period compared to the present number in England (thus 6.2/7) gives the following figures
For those aged between 25 and 70 in 2010:
England: 6.2% privately educated
Wales: 1.7% privately educated
Scotland: 4.0% privately educated
These three sets of figures can then be weighted according to the population of each mainland region (England 83.9%, Scotland: 8.4%, Wales: 4.8%), thus calculating (6.2*83.9/100) + (1.7*4.8/100) + (4*8.4/100) = 5.6% of the mainland UK population born aged between 25 and 70 in 2010 who were privately educated, and thus also 94.4% who were state educated.
Figures for MPs
The House of Commons website with data on elected MPs (see here and other pages linked to at this site), and the study of MPs compiled by the Smith Institute following the 2010 UK general election serve as the basis for most of my calculations. A few seats have changed hand following by-elections, but as these types of changes have generally been atypical of changes at general elections, I will use the figures from immediately after the election for my calculations. The following are the figures for those elected by party, with the brackets after the numbers giving the number of re-elected MPs, followed by the number of those newly elected.
Conservatives: 306 (166 + 140)
Labour: 258 (190 + 68)
Liberal Democrats: 57 (46 + 11)
Others: 28 (20 + 8) [Independent MPs: 1; Green: 1; Scottish National Party: 6; Plaid Cymru: 3; Democratic Unionist: 8; Sinn Fein: 5; Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3; Alliance: 1]
Total number of MPs: 650
Total number of MPs in three main parties (Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats): 621
I will concentrate solely on the three major parties, as the numbers of MPs represented by any of the others are generally too small to be able to discern meaningful trends. There are three measures of the representativeness of the MPs in each of these three parties which I will apply – in terms of gender, ethnicity (belonging or not belonging to an ethnic minority), and state/private education. The results are revealing.
MPs: Representation of Gender
Number of male/female MPs by party after 2010 UK General Election:
Conservatives: Male 257 (84.0%); Female 49 (16.0%).
Labour: Male 177 (68.7%); Female 81 (31.3%).
Liberal Democrats: Male 50 (87.7%); Female 7 (12.3%).
All three main parties: Male 484 (76.7%); Female 137 (23.3%).
These can be expressed relative to the numbers in the mainland UK as a whole (49.1% men, 50.9% women) by taking the taking the ratio of the representation in each party to that in the nation, converted into a percentage. So, for example, the ratio of male Liberal Democrat MPs (87.7%) compared to the percentage of the male mainland UK population (49.1%), expressed as a percentage, is 87.7/49.1*100 = 178.6% over-representation.
The figures for representation are thus as follows:
Conservatives: Male MPs 171.1% over-representation: Female MPs 31.4% under-representation.
Labour: Male MPs 139.9% over-representation: Female MPs 61.5% under-representation
Liberal Democrats: Male MPs 178.6% over-representation: Female MPs 24.2% under-representation:
All three main parties: Male MPs 156.2% over-representation: Female MPs 45.8% under-representation.
MPs: Representation of Ethnicity
Number of white/ethnic minority MPs by party after 2010 UK General Election:
Conservatives: White 295 (96.4%); Ethnic Minority 11 (3.6%)
Labour: White 242 (93.8%); Ethnic Minority 16 (6.2%).
Liberal Democrats: White 57 (100%); Ethnic Minority 0 (0%).
All three main parties: White 594 (94.1%); Ethnic Minority 27 (4.3%).
(It is worth noting here that the Liberal Democrats have only once ever had an ethnic minority MP, Parmjit Singh Gill, who only held the seat of Leicester South for less than one year after winning a by-election in July 2004, to be defeated in May 2005 – see http://www.theguardian.com/politics/person/6766/parmjit-singh-gill )
Using the same principle of measurement as for gender, representation can be calculated as follows, on the basis of percentages of 86.8% white, 13.2% ethnic minority for mainland UK:
Conservatives: Whites 111.1% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities 27.3% under-representation.
Labour: Whites 108.1% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities 47.0% under-representation.
Liberal Democrats: Whites 115.2% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities completely unrepresented.
All three main parties: Whites 108.4% over-representation; Ethnic Minorities 32.6% under-representation.
MPs: Representation of Educational Background
These calculations are a little more complicated than the previous two, because of the need to produce averages of those in the wider population who were educated in the state or private sector over a period of time (because of the varying ages of MPs). The Smith Institute gives the following figures for state and private (fee-paying) education of MPs elected or re-elected in 2010:
Labour: State 88%; Private 12%
Conservatives: State 46%; Private 54%
Liberal Democrats: State 59%; Private 41%
All MPs: State 66%; Private 34%
This can then be expressed as ratios relative to the figures for the population aged between 25 and 70 as given above. On the date of the 2010 General Election (May 6th), there were 15 MPs elected who were aged 70 or over – 13 Labour (Gerald Kaufman, Dennis Skinner, Stuart Bell, Joe Benton, David Winnick, Austin Mitchell, Paul Philip Flynn, Glenda Jackson, Ann Clwyd, David Allen Keen, Geoffrey Robinson, Michael Meacher and Frank Dobson) and 2 Conservatives (Peter Tapsell and Alan Haselhurst). The two Conservative MPs were both privately educated; of the 11 Labour MPs whose schools are known, 9 were educated in the state system, 2 at independent schools; the Labour figures roughly tally with the averages for the party, whilst the Conservative sample is too small to be significant. The youngest MP elected in 2010 was Pamela Nash, who was aged 25 at the time, so there were no MPs aged under 25.
The representation of state and privately educated persons in parliament can thus be easily calculated in the same manner as above, by taking a ratio of the percentage represented in parliament to the percentage in the nation as a whole, always using figures for those aged between 25 and 70 in 2010 (state educated 94.4%; privately educated 5.6%). Figures here are used just for the mainland, as no Northern Ireland MPs are not part of the sample.
The figures for each party then are:
Labour: State educated 93.2% under-representation; Privately educated 214.3% over-representation
Conservatives: State educated 48.7% under-representation: Privately educated 964.3% over-representation
Liberal Democrats: State educated 62.5% under-representation: Privately educated 732.1% over-representation.
All three main parties: State educated 70% under-representation: Privately educated 607.1% over-representation
In the three main parliamentary parties, by far the most over-represented group is the privately educated – 607.1% of their representation in the population as a whole. This is followed by male MPs, 156.2% of their representation in the population as a whole, and white MPs, 108.4%. If one looks however at under-representation, then ethnic minorities fair worst in terms of numbers of MPs, at just 32.6% of their representation in the population as a whole. This is followed by female MPs, at 45.8%, and then the state educated, at 70%. In all of these three measures, whether considering over- or under-representation, the Labour Party come out best, with the smallest under-representation of female, ethnic minority and state-educated MPs; the Liberal Democrats are worst in terms of under-representation of female and especially ethnic minority MPs; whilst the Conservative Party are worst in terms of massively disproportionate numbers of the privately educated, over-represented to a huge 964.3%, the worst of any type of over-representation.
Of the 49 Conservative women MPs, I was able to establish the education of 42: of these, one was home-schooled and another had a military education; of the remainder 17 were privately-educated, 23 state-educated, so the privately-educated are less disproportionately represented amongst female than male Conservatives (though still very much over-represented with a figure of around 42.5% privately educated (I will calculate similar figures for female Labour MPs at a later date, when time permits). Only 2 out of 49 (4.1%) female Conservative MPs belong to ethnic minorities (though this is still larger than the representation of ethnic minorities in the whole parliamentary party), however; for Labour the figure is 7 out of 81 (8.6%) (again larger).
There are wider questions to address and more detailed breakdowns of figures to consider (for example, the relationship between representation of ethnic minority MPs and constituencies with larger minority populations, not least in London and other major urban centres). But it is clear that more work is needed on all three fronts of Parliament is to be reasonably representative of the nation as a whole. Labour have gone the furthest to increasing the number of female and ethnic minority MPs, but both categories remain underrepresented; there have been some real moves by the Conservatives to do the same in recent times, which should not be ignored, but there is still a long way to go; as for the Liberal Democrats, their record on both is abysmal. But I have yet to hear of an initiative to redress the balance of state versus privately educated MPs (least of a problem for Labour, though even they should not be complacent); until the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats address this, Gove’s appropriation of the ‘Berlin Wall’ term is hollow and the both parties’ claims to representativeness are wafer-thin. It should be pointed out that it would be possible to have cabinets and shadow cabinets which contained roughly equal numbers of men and women, with members from ethnic minorities commensurate with their representation in the UK population; but if large percentages of these people remain privately educated, then they are still drawn predominantly from a mere 5.6% of the population, and claims to equality are meaningless.
I am not a professional statistician, and do not rule out the possibility that in the above there may have been some miscalculations, or that some of my methodologies might be open to question. I welcome any corrections in these respects; if I feel these to be appropriate, I will happily modify figures and if necessary conclusions as well.