30.10.2019

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The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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I know I asked you yesterday, and I won't bang on about it here. I'm aware I was a little verbose in my appeal yesterday. We do need money to cover this election properly. There were some very generous readers yesterday. Ver generous. And we're hugely, hugely grateful. 

If you saw this yesterday and thought 'oooh yes, I'll do that', but then Corbyn's launch of the Labour campaign came on the TV and the next thing you know, you were on the street, chanting about the NHS and waving a placard, you'd be forgiven for forgetting.

So, in case you forgot or didn't open yesterdays missive, if you've got some loose change at the moment, please click below and throw it into our bucket.
Yes, I'd like to chip in.

Big Vote thoughts


The campaign is upon us. In six weeks time, it will be over. A new / the same PM will be on the steps of Downing Street. Proper political journalists will be very tired. I will be pottering off to bed, wondering if my tweet about Bury North could have been funnier. 
 

So what are we looking forward to? 


There will be arguments over Brexit, over who would be better for the NHS, a more statesmanlike PM, etc etc etc.  You know this. It's an election.

Wednesday saw a wonderful example of the nonsense that goes on. At PMQs, Corbyn challenged Johnson on Cancer waiting times.

He asked why more people were waiting longer than allowed than ever before for cancer treatment. Johnson fired back that survival rates of cancer are at a record high and that more people were being seen on time than ever before.  I've not fact-checked, but presumably, each claim is true.

So, what's more important? What is down to the government?  As voters, what on earth can we take from this? I suspect that both parties are playing to the home team on this. Labour fans think they are the only party for the NHS. Johnson says the Conservatives have the NHS's back. Neither side believes the other. T'was ever thus.


A quick run down of party hopes.


Conservatives

Quite simply they need to win and win big. If this comes back as a hung Parliament, even with Boris Johnson at the head, it's bad news. The election plan would have failed, just like his votes in Parliament. He might resign, but he's not really the resigning type.

What would be good news is a Conservative majority. They'd love that. Get the WIthdrawal Agreement Bill through, leave the EU in at the end of January, press on with the domestic stuff. This is the dream. Five years of steady and stable Conservative government.

Labour

Jeremy Corbyn wants to be Prime MInister. He is well aware that being in Opposition, Labour policies can't be put into action. 

The trouble is that it's hard to see a path to that happening. They currently have 244 seats. A majority needs approx 320. They would have to pick up 76 seats, if they don't lose a single one. That would be a heck of a campaign. 

Good news is that Labour are good at campaigning. IN 2017, Corbyn enthused many, many people and defied the polls to do much, much better than expected. The shock of the exit polls was, well, shocking. Can he do it again? People know him better now and the enthusiasm seems to have wained somewhat. There didn't seem to be the same passion for him at Glastonbury this year. Two years after he addressed crowds from the main stage to rapturous applause and the entire crowd chanting his name. This year he didn't pitch up but that same reception seems unlikely.  

Liberal Democrats

What a time to be a Lib Dem. As of this morning, they have 20 MPs as former Conservative Antoinette Sandbach announced she will stand this election under the parties banner. They're resurgent in the polls. They have momentum from all those MPs flocking to the cause. They have a really, really clear Brexit policy.

What do they want? They say they want Jo Swinson to be Prime Minister. That would mean gaining 300 seats. I don't mean to rain on their parade, but that's just not going to happen. I think a gain of about 20 might be on. They may or may not be the third party in Parliament.

What can they do as second opposition? They will be pushing for a second referendum. Hard.  Except they say they won't go into coalition with Labour. Not under the current leadership. Nor into a Confidence and Supply vibe. What they would do is support a minority Labour government on a vote by vote negotiation. That means yes to a second referendum. No to renationalisation. 

SNP

They have big plans. There are currently 13 Conservative MPs in Scotland. They want to get rid of all of them.  One of the most engaging battles in the Commons is that between Scottish Conservatives and the SNP. They hate each other. They sit opposite each other and look disgusted when the other one says anything.  Safe to say the SNP want them gone.

Scotland is heavily remain. They voted 62% to stay. They feel cheated because at the Independence Referendum, they were told that the only way to stay in the EU was to stay in the UK. They did and they won't.  There's also the Ruth Davidson factor. The former Scottish Conservative leader  - no fan of Johnson - was a great vote winner north of the border. She won't be campaigning this year.

Let's say they do get most of the 13, if not all. Let's say 10.  And then they hold onto all 35 they currently hold. That would give them 45 MPs and a big say in any opposition coalition, or Team Everyone Else if you've been following these emails.

What they want is another IndyRef.  They will work with almost anyone to get one. Corbyn has suggested that they can have one in year two or three of a Labour minority government. Whether that's enough, we shall see.

Plaid Cymru

With votes at a knife-edge this Welsh party might find themselves pushed further into the spotlight. They'll hope to pick up a couple of seats, which would leave them on 6. Their big focus right now is a second referendum.

Greens

Very unlikely to pick up another seat, but I can't see Caroline Lucas won't be back in her seat on the backbench. It's always welcome to have as wide a variety of voices in the Commons s possible so I like having a Green in town.

Northern Ireland

It's a different set of parties in Northern Ireland. Normally it's the DUP and Sinn Fein who win the seats. Who wins tends to be dependent on whether areas are Catholic / people who want a united Ireland, in the EU (Sinn Fein) or if they're protestant / want to be in the United Kingdon (the DUP). Sinn Fein MPs don't take their seats in the Commons because they refuse to swear in because of the reference to the Queen. They also don't recognise Westminster as the seat of power for Northern Ireland.

For these reasons, seats rarely change hands. Expect a very similar number of DUP MPs in the Commons by lat December. Whether they will snuggle up to the Conservative Party is yet to be seen. They really don't like the Brexit deal, but they also really, really don't like Jeremy Corbyn.
 

What's going to happen?


Anything could, of course, happen. Here, though are some thoughts.

If the Conservative Party are going to win their majority, they need to gain roughly 20 seats.  They will probably lose around 10 seats in Scotland. They will probably lose another 10 (at least) to the Liberal Democrats. That means that they need to take around 40 seats from Labour. They're unlikely to win any more in Wales, so that's 40 seats from Labour in England. 

The Labour Party need to gain almost twice that. With an on form SNP, they probably won't win any extra in Scotland. They've already got 70% of Wales, so it will be hard to gain many there.  Which means it mostly comes down to England. If Labour are going to win, they need to take 76 seats in England. Probably mostly from the Conservative Party.

If the 76 seats for Labour is unlikely (it is), the next job is to prevent a Conservative majority. They will win some seats of the Conservatives. Hastings looks vulnerable. They lost Southampton Itchin by just 31 votes last time out. But the Conservatives will win some, too. Canterbury (my home constituency!) looks like a close thing. Kensington, too. 

With blows being traded across England, how many do Labour need to win to stop the Conservative majority? It's hard to tell. If they can keep the overall loses at 20/30, it should ensure that Johnson won't have it all his own way until 2024.

All of which makes marginal seats in England very, very important battlegrounds. 
Chew Valley tickets
Bristol tickets

The other Big Vote


The real tragedy in all this is that the Speaker election has been hugely overshadowed. I love a Speaker election. It's all about the future of Parliament. What should the Commons look like? How should the government be held to account?

Sure, it can feel a little nerdy, but this stuff really matters. Brexit has been shaped by the Bercow regime. He allowed the Benn Act to get through. He also massively increased the number of Urgent Questions, where MPs can force a minister to come to the Commons and explain what's going on in particular areas.  

The Speaker matters.

(A quick note on the last Speaker - you'll find no fawning tributes here.  There are the famous alleged bullying allegations. Alleged. When I was at Parliament I saw some of these alleged incidents. I, allegedly, spoke to staff in tears because of what was going on. Still. Nothing has been proved and I must have misinterpreted what I saw. Whatever. Not that upset he's gone.)

The process

It's such a fun day. On Monday at 2.30, the father of the House (Ken Clare) climbs into the Speaker's Chair.  All the people who want to be Speaker need (I think) 15 nominations from other MPs, three of which must be from other parties. 

Once the nominations are in, all the candidates get a few minutes to make a speech. These are well worth watching - competing visions for what the Commons should look like, how it works, how the rules might bend.

UP next are the votes. Very unusually, MPs vote on a paper ballot. This is done in rounds. The candidate that comes last (and anyone who gets less than 5%) is removed from the process.  The next round starts again. Sometimes candidates drop out along the way, too.

The candidates

There are loads and loads of candidates. I'm not going to go through them all because they haven't got a chance.  Here's who you need to know about:

Lindsay Hoyle

I just can't see anything other than a Hoyle victory. He's the current Deputy, so it's more of the same, but a bit toned down. He's continuity. He's consistency. He's a safe pair of hands in volatile times.

Harriet Harman 

The longest-serving woman in the COmmons. Briefly in charge of the Labour Party. SUggestions are that she would continue to focus on how Parliament can scrutinise the government. The only serious challenger to Hoyle.

Chris Bryant

The bookies suggest he has an outside chance. I don't think he does, but he's a Labour MP who wants more civility in the COmmons. He wasn't a fan of the scenes of protest in the Commons at prorogation, nor the increasing levels of applause creeping in.

Eleanor Lang

Poor Eleanor Lang. She's a Deputy Speaker, just like Hoyle. She wants to be Speaker, just like Hoyle. She says she will do continuity and calm vibes, just like Hoyle.  Unlike Hoyle, though, she isn't favourite. Or second favourite. Or third. She is fourth, so it's not allllll bad.

There are five or so other MPs in the race, but as they won't be sitting in the big green chair any time soon, I won't bore you with the details.
 
Oh dear. I forgot again. I'll chip in now, please.
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