07.11.2019

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The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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Thank you!


Last week I asked you for some help. Well, OK, that's a euphemism, I asked you for cold hard cash. You responded by clicking the link and parting with money that you have worked hard for.  You said some wonderful things.

I was hugely moved and incredibly grateful. I definitely didn't cry. You can't prove anything.

With the money you gave, I've managed to put together a team of four (including me) to cover this election in a way that I never thought would be possible. In next week's email, I'll introduce you to them. 

Thank you.

Tatton

What a start.


Officially, it's day three of the campaign. For the blue team and the red team, it's not going very well. Here's what's going on.
 

Conservatives


Picture the scene. Deep in the bowels of 10 Downing Street, a crack team of election experts with laptops, flipcharts and a sense of excitement craft together an election strategy. In the middle of the chart are the words 'strong start'. Whatever ideas they may have had, things have not gone to plan.

It's not that any one thing, in particular, has blown up, but a series of events have made the wheels come off the bus.

I'm not sure what the actual order was, but it feels like it started with Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting that the victims of Grenfell died because they had no common sense. It was insensitive and wrong and almost certainly not what he meant to say. He apologised soon after, but the damage was done. The Conservative Party were out of touch.  Andrew Bridgen's defence of JRM was to suggest that he was cleverer than the Grenfell Victims. Bridgen has now apologised, too.

What was next? I think it was the video that they doctored to make Kier Starmer look silly. They were quickly called out and it became an easy win for Labour to call them manipulative and lying. James Cleverly, senior Conservative man, said that the video was always supposed to be satirical.

Oh, and then the Welsh Secretary (don't forget that while MPs have no jobs, government ministers continue to run their departments until a new government is formed) resigned.  Why did he resign? Because he lied about how much he knew of one of his team collapsing a rape trial.  

I can't think of three events that could make a party look more aloof, out of touch and dishonest.

Yesterday was all about getting the show back on the road. Shake off what's happened, move on. Talk about getting Brexit done, talk about the economy, talk about the danger of 'Comrade Corbyn'.

They know these are the things that work for them, so these are the messages they'll come back to time and again these next five weeks.

Labour

Just like their friends over in the Conservative Party, it's not been a dream start.

Tom Watson, who was elected by party members to be the Deputy Leader, announced he was stepping down and wouldn't be standing in the election. He has claimed family reasons, but nobody really believes him.

Ian Austin, who for decades was big Labour and an MP since 2005, has criticised Labour under Corbyn. He left the party in February over anti-semitism and has been critical for a long time, but yesterday he encouraged people to lend the Conservatives their votes until the Corbyn era is over.  It's not a huge surprise, but nevertheless, it's not ideal.

Chris Williamson has been thrown out of Labour before. He was then let back in. Now he's out again. This is all about whether he is antisemitic or not. In the past he has said that the party has been 'too apologetic' over the issue. Anyway. He's gone now, but will stand as an independent in Derby North. He has encouraged the Labour Party not to stand against him, saying that if Labour choose to split the cote and let a Conservative in, that's on them. 

These issues may not have quite as much impact as some of the Conservative ones, but the public will be aware that life isn't perfect with either of the big beasts.

Away from that, we've had a few policy announcements. Labour will borrow £150bn to invest in the North. They will buy properties to house the homeless. They will negotiate the best possible deal with the EU and will then put it up to the people (against an option to remain) in a second referendum by the end of June.

Today we have seen another raft of policies from Labour, all about workers rights. The want to promote flexible working, give longer maternity statutory maternity pay, work on the gender pay gap and give women going through the menopause more rights.

Lib Dems

Big news out of Lib Dem world is that there is a Remain Pact to get as many Remain MPs elected as possible. This is between the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru. It covers 60 different seats. These are a mix of seats where one of these parties is already in charge, some close run seats (ie - Richmond where Zac Goldsmith has a wafer-thin majority) and somewhere there is no hope whatsoever.

Team Jo Swinson are particularly optimistic about this election. Not just because they see themselves as the clearest party of Remain, but also because there is much more expectation of floating voters.  The olden days of everyone voting the same way all their lives appear to be over. That gives the third party (or fourth, if you're counting by the number of seats in the Commons) a huge opportunity. There is a lot of frustration from many people with the Big Two. Anecdotally, I have spoken to many people who aren't clear for whom they will vote. 


SNP

If I'm feeling a little low. Maybe because a promised election speech was full of meaningless rhetoric and totally empty of content, I like to have a cup of tea, a sit-down, and a think about how much the SNP love the EU and the idea of a blissful world in which Scotland is an independent country, nestled into the northern end of the trading bloc.  It's a special kind of love. A deep love. Meaningful.

Honestly, from this end of the country (I'm based about as far from Scotland as you can be), I've not seen much of the campaign. We know their message, though. We know that they're talking about the Conservative Party ripping them out of the EU against there will.

The big news so far this week has been that the SNP have been ruled out of both the ITV debate on 19th November and the Sky debate on 28th. The ITV one is head to head Johnson v Corbyn, while Sky have also invited that Jo Swinson off of the Lib Dems.  Sturgeon is furious. She says that they are the third biggest party in terms of MPs.  The response comes that they are only putting up candidates in Scotland so the vast majority of those in the UK can't vote for them.

Greens

A big election launch this week. They are saying that the climate emergency is much, much more important than Brexit. They say they will borrow £100 billion every year for ten years. Every year. That's a lot of money. But. The climate is crumbling, they argue. What use is money when the earth is barren?

There are various seats in which the Lib Dems (or Plaid) won't run against them. One of them is Caroline Lucas' Brighton Pavillion. This should help keep her in the Commons into 2020, but the chances of her being joined by a Green colleague are very thin on the ground.

Plaid Cymru

Seven of the Remain Alliance seats (out of eleven) have gone to Plaid. It may be of help, too. in Arfon Plaid beat Labour by just 92 votes. If the 638 votes of the Lib Dems transfer over, that's going to be a big help in retaining the seat. Two others are safe PC seats.

Conversely, in seats like Caerphilly, Llanelli and Pontypridd, PC has almost no chance of winning, even if the Lib Dem votes also support them.

In short - the pact is almost certainly not going to help them win any more seats than they already have, but it may help them keep Arfon.


Northern Ireland

While politics in Northern Ireland is complicated, General Election politics are a bit easier to follow. That's because most areas are pretty heavily pro the UK, or pro a United Ireland.  Generally, the North and North East areas vote DUP. IN their own seats, they often win with over 50% of the vote.  All of which means that seats don't often change hands. This is particularly likely as in the last election, people rallied around the two main choices, with other parties losing the few seats they had.

Fear not, there is some extra drama going on. DUP leader Arlene Foster is rumoured to be planning to stand for election to Westminster. Don't forget, if she chooses to stand, she's definitely in. 

One seat that will definitely change hands is North Down. Lady Hermon (Previously of the Ulster Unionists) has represented the seat for the past 18 years, nine of which have been as an Independent. She's stepping down. There has been some talk of a possible win for the Alliance Party, but it's right in the heart of DUP Land, so I'd expect it to go that way.
 

Projection


Last week I gave some very clever and scientific and in no way made up numbers. I'm not going to repeat that now. 

We're in an odd situation, though. Everything feels on a knife-edge. Individual constituencies are hard to call. Leaders seem to be battling for attention and struggling under the weight of a public feeling of being underwhelmed. 

And yet... the polls all seem to agree that the Conservatives are heading for a healthy majority. Winning over 30 extra seats overall. 

So, lovely reader, your guess is as good as mine!
Chew Valley tickets
Bristol tickets

Looking forward


It may feel like it's been going on forever, but next week is the first full week of the election.

Both main parties will want to put this week behind them. They'll remind themselves that it's how you finish not how you start. Expect policies to be announced and big speeches from the biggest of names.

OK, I'm going to be honest with you, lovely reader. I have no idea what's going to happen next week. It's an election. It's 2019. Anything is possible.


Have a lovely week, enjoying the campaigning or hiding till it's all over. I'll be back with another email next Friday, unless something really exciting and complicated happens, in which case I might be back earlier.

Peace and Love.
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