Sunday, 7 February 2016

Socially Engineered

In London, Zac Goldsmith has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the London Mayoralty this coming May. Labour's Sadiq Khan is widely tipped to win instead, a few think by quite a margin.

Why? Is it because Sadiq is better for the job than Zac would be? No: the exact opposite is the case – though Zac doesn't have the charisma of the incumbent, Boris Johnson. He'd still be vastly better for London, especially in the upcoming years, but it will take a lot for him to win. It is definitely possible, but far from easy.

Why should this be? It's down to the social engineering of London during the Labour years in government, especially the vast influx of immigrants from what were known would be Labour-favourable (one way or another) origins. The scale of that situation has been reported in a few places in recent months, and there are a number of associated aspects of all of that which show just bad that purely politically-motivated policy has been – most notably for the newcomers themselves.

We here in Medway have also witnessed social engineering at work in places such as Troy Town, which is an area within Rochester. Back in the 'eighties, the then Labour-run predecessor council to today's Unitary Authority arranged for a lot of social housing to be built in Troy Town. If you were to wander around that area, you'd no doubt be surprised at just how much of this ill-fitting 'square peg in round hole' accommodation there is there. It isn't vast, but there is a fair amount of it, and of course it's generally high-density – so there are a lot of votes embedded in those quarters.

A former mayor, who has lived here much longer than I have, gave me the low-down on this, including names and dates. It explains why that ward (when it was a separate ward) was the only part of Rochester to have Labour councillors even after the Unitary Authority came into being, and even after the following local elections when Labour lost its other Rochester seats. They are still there today, though not very well liked – and that is a whole 'nother story, which is very interesting in itself but doesn't concern us today.

Interestingly, because there was already a fair amount of social housing and similar in neighbouring Strood, and Labour seemed to think they had those seats by default, perhaps too much of their effort went into the 'Troy Town project' – and there are still signs of that going on today, I notice whenever I pass through there. The consequence seems to have been that the good folks of urban Strood (the rural part is a separate entity) saw what was going on in other places that had Conservative representation and grew ever more marginal in their voting at each successive local election.

By the year 2003 they had switched over (grown up?) and elected five out of six Conservative councillors, with Fred Bacon holding on in what was by then called Strood South ward only because of his strong personal vote. Since then, Labour has held only one or none of the three seats in each of Strood North and Strood South wards, and now has no seats there at all.

Other Labour 'safe' territory on our council also had the odd seat lost to Conservatives last May: Twydall, and Luton &Wayfield. No longer do they have any safe seats on Medway Council, despite all they have done to try to wangle things (including their ward boundary changes that were accepted by the Local Government Commission, taking effect in 2003).

The overall lesson in all of this is to at least be aware of any such political manipulations in the local community and nearby. Even if there is little if anything any of us as ordinary citizens can do about such social engineering, at least we ought to know of it and realise what is really going on.

Of course, this could equally well be done the other way around by Conservatives or other elected representatives on the political right, but my experience has been that this is rarely done for political reasons and in most instances is done just to improve the quality of an area – which is surely what those they are representing would wish them to do. I have seen this from the inside: different motivation, different goal in view; so let us not be misled on that.

Meanwhile, Labour here are fighting a losing battle – and I have seen a number of signs that, behind the public face, they do realise this – especially since the advent of the Corbyn & company party leadership, which makes an already bad situation for them even worse. The rest of us here in Medway, though, have to live with the fallout from their manipulations from years past – just as Londoners are having to cope with a raft of acute and in some cases severe consequences of the last Labour government's self-serving policies that ripped apart our Capital's core being and transformed it entirely.

At least it never got anywhere near that extent here...

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Who Is In Poll Position – January 2016

Indicative of the general trend, here are some interesting polling results from Ipsos MORI that are out today, kindly shared by the 'Britain Elects' Twitter account...

The party which 'has the best team of leaders to deal with the country's problems':
CON: 43%
LAB: 16%
UKIP: 4%
LDEM: 2%

The party which 'has the best policies for the country as a whole':
CON: 35%
LAB: 25%
UKIP: 6%
LDEM: 4%

The party which 'would be best at looking after the interests of people like you':
CON: 33%
LAB: 29%
UKIP: 8%
LDEM: 5%

The last has Labour closer to the Conservatives than with the other questions, but still behind by several percentage points.

We can also see that (as I predicted) UKIP support has really fallen away, as more and more people see them as (a) not as credible as many once thought, and (b) a dead end, going nowhere. None of this is surprising, of course, and merely continues a trend that became well-established several months ago.

Indeed, UKIP has become irrelevant (as I had predicted for some time) and the Lib Dems still are, leaving us with the very real prospect of no proper opposition party before much longer. As I have indicated before, including recently, that is not a good thing.

The only prospect I foresee is the one I have been anticipating for several years (as some reading this will be aware) which is that the Lib Dems will need to get their act together and be prepared to take on that task within the next three or four years. No-one else is set to do it!

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Re-arranging the Deckchairs

Three months or so after Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn appointed his initial Shadow Cabinet, already an upheaval is under way as that entity is being reshuffled at this very moment.Some has already happened, no doubt more is to come. A running 'blog is being run here.

As many expected, this has become an exercise in removing at least some of those who voted against the Dear Leader's wishes in the free vote (i.e. not Whipped) on military intervention in Syria – although the initial perceived threat to Hilary Benn (who made the strongest case for intervention, from the Labour side of the Commons) was later dismissed but has today re-appeared.

My feeling is that he has to go if the Corbyn leadership stance is not to be weakened, especially during this reshuffle. We shall find out this afternoon!

Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher has written about what he and others have termed a 'revenge reshuffle', calling it neither good politics nor the supposed Corbyn 'new politics'. He is right – and in fact his piece is (perhaps surprisingly) well worth a read, though one does need to grit one's teeth when reading the predictable references to the supposedly 'wicked Tories' and just ride over all of that.

However, the point of it was – as Dan Hodges has long been aware, and has written about – for Corbyn to stamp his personal authority on his leadership of the party, and in the process eliminate most if not all of the significant dissent that had been occurring in recent times. It is useful to read Dan's piece to realise just how effective this has been.

This is not to say that the whole was handled well, especially by 'Jez' himself – unless his intention was to produce the exact side-effects that Iain Martin documents here. As one sometimes finds when looking at something sideways-on, there might have been a deliberate purpose to handling all this the way he has done, camouflaged by the broad perception that he was botching it as usual. Perhaps yes, perhaps no...

Overall, this is a moment in the Labour party's long history that will be marked as a turning point, one way or another, and whether it survives as a viable influence could very well be being determined right now. That old saying about 're-arranging the deckchairs on The Titanic' springs to mind: whatever is done on the inside, without regard to the world beyond, will make no difference to the party's sinking below the political waves.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Just the Business!

I have been thinking about the shift away from central government funding for councils – which is a good change as it will remove the historic tendency of certain-flavour governments in particular to manipulate the funding formula (along with 'tweaks' and suchlike) to favour those councils their party runs – and how it will affect us here in Medway, Kent.

The change to retention by councils of Business Rates in their entirety, instead of a large chunk of those funds going to central government for re-distribution, as has been the case for decades, makes local government much more truly 'local' and less susceptible to (largely-hidden from public view) control from Westminster and Whitehall.

It will, however, necessitate sufficient business rates income to make up the difference, and perhaps could even exceed the original overall council income including Council Tax revenues. Not all communities or council areas as a whole have the same level of local businesses as, say, a typical London borough or other notably commercial area.

Here in Medway, we do have a lot of business, from retail (two shopping centres, dozens of shopping parades, several standalone shops & stores, plus a few retail parks) via offices to a good chunk of commercial and industrial businesses.

Apart from all the industrial and similar enterprises on the Hoo Peninsula, especially at Grain and by Hoo St Werburgh, we also have Gillingham Business Park, Medway City Estate, Rochester Airport Industrial Estate, Second & Third Avenues in Luton, and the Knight Road area of Strood.

We also have a considerable tourism sector, primarily but not exclusively in Rochester.
Overall we should be set fair to pull our own weight, and once we are settled in to the new arrangements we might well find we are much happier in this regard than we have been for many years, ever since the Blair government really started manipulating the grant funding they controlled back then, which was the largest chunk of income that council's received.
Readers might not be aware that, for example, the very similar to us (in council terms and needs) Brighton & Hove received over £50 million more than Medway in central government grant every year. They, of course, were a Labour-run council.
Such gerrymandering will not be possible from 2020, so expect Labour to find ways to complain about this change being 'unfair', 'discriminatory', or one of their other favourite labels for things they don't like. In this case, it will be because the councils they run will have to perform much better than many of them have tended to endemically, and they will no longer be bailed out.
Interestingly we saw an example of that here in Medway when Labour ran our council's finances some 16 or 17 years ago. The council was bailed out by the then Labour government because their local bods messed up hugely – even delaying paying bills until after the end of the financial year – and needed several million Pounds.
Their replacements have consistently produced balanced budgets ever since (though it wasn't easy with that gerrymandered funding I mentioned above) so it could have been done by a competent council administration – and that is what will, over time, come out once these new funding arrangements are fully in place.
A lot of Labour-run councils are going to come under the spotlight, and their profligacy and incompetence will become very public. They will have to either shape up or in all probability be voted out of control of those councils. Thus much of the rot within local councils will be excised, along with its subsidy by the rest of us – and that will be good for everybody in the long term, also in restoring confidence in local government.

Divide and Not Rule

Further to the Corbyn/Labour situation, this short item at Political Betting shows how dire things already are. Bearing in mind that it was the public who overwhelmingly selected Corbyn to be the new party leader, not Labour MPs, and it is that same pool of people who are polled for both leader approval polling and voting intention surveys, this makes it even worse than could otherwise have been the case. That initial broad support in August/September is no longer there.

Though, as it says at the linked post, "things can happen", and there is a long time to go until the next scheduled General Election in May 2020, the conclusion at the end is unambiguous: another Conservative majority seems almost certain.

In fact, it might not work out that way, but unless there is a drastic change to Labour, they at least look set to become either the third or possibly even fourth largest party group in the House of Commons after that election.

It is unlikely that Labour will regain any of their former seats in Scotland, which is a crucial factor; indeed the SNP might well take the remaining three seats north of the border, making them possibly the third largest group in the Commons, with UKIP (if they are still around by then) gaining a large number of frankly undeserved seats via the back door, as the only remaining perceived to be non-establishment Britain-wide party.

I hear that UKIP are doing particularly well in Wales at the moment, so watch out for signs of this growing over the months and years to come. I personally think that their tactics there will continue to bring dividends for a while, but will falter after next May if they can't turn that into seats anywhere, or in subsequent years as more and more council seats in Wales come up for re-election.

An alternative scenario – and the one I have been anticipating for a while now as being the more likely, despite what some insiders are saying right now – is an SDP-like split and a new party being formed. My thinking is that this is most likely to occur soon after next May's council and police & crime commissioner elections if (as expected) Labour do at all badly.

This new party would probably hold most of the seats that the immediate defection takes with it, come May 2020, and could pick up a number of the remaining Labour MPs' seats as well, reducing the latter group to a very small number of members. This would be a healthy thing for British politics, both national and local, as again a Communist totalitarian-tendency movement will be marginalised, just as has always happened in the past – and that is what they are looking set to become exclusively.

Okay, the whole of Labour is essentially 'mild Marxist', tempered and slowed by its long-standing Fabian practices, but has generally been manageable and has never quite completely wrecked our nation – though it has been close once or twice, including just a very few years ago. A Corbyn-led (and, essentially, selected) set of Labour-labelled candidates is a very different proposition!

Interestingly, all of what has been happening with Labour has been more-or-less inevitable from the moment the Conservatives formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, back in May 2010.
A very few people around these parts might remember that I have been smiling as I told them in years gone by something of what I expected to follow over the period ahead; and most of that has now panned out – actually slightly better than I had predicted back then.

It was so easy to predict, simply because of the underlying nature of the Labour party, its rules, and both its higher echelons and the ordinary and Union-based members – and there is much more yet to come, equally predictable!