Posts Tagged 'general election'

Election focus: how can the Left re-engage the people?

simon-winlow

Simon Winlow

In the second of our blog pieces focusing on the fast-approaching General Election, Simon Winlow, co-author of The rise of the right asks how it can be that, against a background of social, financial and environmental catastrophe, a political party dedicated to the neoliberalism seem set to secure a large majority. How can the Left get the people on side again?

There’s a terrible air of nihilism, cynicism and acceptance about the upcoming election. The Conservatives have made huge gains in the local council elections, and UKIP and Labour have lost quite badly. Of course, the general election could be very different. More people will vote, and the local issues that can sway council elections tend to be forgotten as the big issues of the day take precedence.

Theresa May has clearly timed the election to take advantage of disarray in the Labour Party, and in the hope carrying a large mandate into the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Pollsters are predicting a landslide for the Tory party, with UKIP disappearing as an electoral force and Labour continuing its slide toward oblivion.

Continue reading ‘Election focus: how can the Left re-engage the people?’

Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions

In the run up to the General Election we will be bringing you insightful pieces from our authors on policy-relevant subjects, including housing, health, welfare and, underpinning it all, increasing social inequality.

Let’s look beneath the distraction of Brexit and Labour’s disarray and examine the issues we really need to be thinking about as we put our cross in the box on the 8th June.

DB pic

Duncan Bowie

In this piece, Duncan Bowie, author of Radical solutions to the housing supply crisis looks at what housing policies may be included in the party manifestos and explains the radical solutions we need.

“The focus on Brexit and the negotiations on withdrawal from the European Union has meant that housing has not, at least as yet, become the key issue in the election campaign that perhaps would have been expected had the referendum not taken place.

Debates so far have focused far too much on the contrast between Theresa May’s advocacy of ‘strong and stable leadership’ and whether or not the Labour Party leader is fit to be Prime Minister or the divided Labour Party is ‘fit to govern’. There has been little focus on policy issues, though (at the time of writing), the main party manifestos have not been published.

The political parties, including the Conservatives, were all caught on the hop by the election announcement and consequently the drafting of the various electoral offers have been somewhat of a rushed process. Even a matter of weeks before the election was called, Labour housing spokespersons were reluctant to make any policy statements policy on the basis that it would be premature to give commitments before 2020, even though housing was bound to be a key issue in the local and city region Mayor elections, which were scheduled. Labour was even hesitant to commit to repealing the 2016 Housing and Planning Act, despite the fact they had opposed it in parliament.

Continue reading ‘Election focus: Housing policy predictions & radical solutions’

22 reasons to vote #imvotingbecause #GE2015 #whyvote

With hours to go until Polling Stations close and constituency level polling indicating that this is going to be a close run thing in many areas across the country, your vote can really make a difference. So if you haven’t voted yet here are 22 reasons why you might want to go and make your mark NOW!

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Hain: ‘Public investment is key to regenerating economy’

Peter Hain’s Back to the future of socialism publishes today. In his guest blog post to celebrate the launch of the book Hain questions how we got into the current financial situation of cuts and austerity. He shares his views on the need for a radical response from all politicians, but most especially the left, to take us back to a fairer future…

Labour MP Photocall

Rt Hon Peter Hain, MP

Did Big Government or Big Banking cause the global financial crisis? And what should be done?

Go for cuts and austerity, or investment in growth and jobs? Give market forces a free hand, or harness and regulate them for the common good? Forget about fairness or share the proceeds of growth?

And, one of the key questions for me is, quite simply, is democratic socialism outdated or the answer to today’s challenges?

Sense of purpose

In 1956 Anthony Crosland’s classic text, The Future of Socialism, furnished the democratic left with a new sense of purpose. By freeing Labour from past fixations, and by giving traditional Labour values a contemporary appeal, he gave the party a controversial fresh focus, reviving its spirit and restoring its impatience for progress.

Crosland’s approach – essentially one in which the state sought to spread the benefits of economic growth within, and without challenging the capitalist framework – underpinned Labour’s approach until the global economic crisis of 2008.

But the kind of capitalism we have faced since is a more internationally and financially integrated, more unstable and a more unfair system than Crosland’s generation ever anticipated: productive but prone to paralysis, dynamic but discriminatory.

It is a capitalism whose self-destructive tendencies require far more radical responses than the neoliberal, right wing orthodoxy of the post banking crisis era could ever provide. Responses that pose acute challenges to a Labour Party intent on getting the economy growing again whilst putting the public finances back in order. Responses to be made against a constant, and seemingly resonant, message through the media for more cuts to cure ‘the deficit, stupid’.

“Governments across the world allowed the financial system…to become a law unto itself”

I strongly dispute this, and believe that public investment, not ever more austerity is the answer – both to regenerate our economy and get the deficit down. It is a case for faster fairer greener growth where an active role for Government holds the key.

In truth – at the very least in terms of banking – governments were too small and too passive, not too big and too active as the right repetitively insists. Governments across the world (including Labour’s) allowed the financial system over a 30-year period to get out of control and become a law unto itself. Takeovers and mergers led to banks so big they couldn’t be allowed by government to fail. Bankers bent rules to lend ever more riskily without anything like enough capital cover, until it all unravelled to catastrophic effect.

The real choice facing Britain should be between the right’s insistence on minimalist government and the left’s belief in active government; between the right’s insistence on a free market free-for-all, and the left’s belief in harnessing markets for the common good. Politics has to change, with Labour becoming a different type of political party. And Britain’s future must be at the heart of Europe, leading a new progressive internationalism.

Back to The Future of Socialism aspires to be a defining book for the democratic left in this era, just as past generations saw Tony Crosland’s seminal book in his era. You can be the judge of whether it meets that test!

Follow @PeterHain on twitter and for latest news on the book search #backtothefutureofsocialism

Back to the future of socialism [FC]Back to the future of socialism publishes today and copies can be purchased at a 20% discount from the Policy Press website – here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The grass roots are withering and the money is drying up – what future for local parties in general election campaigns?

 Charles Pattie_for blog

By Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie, authors of Money and electoral politics: Local Parties and Funding in General Elections.

With the 2015 general election campaign now under way, political parties will again be focusing on funding of their campaigns. As in previous elections, candidates will need two resources to sustain their general election campaigns – people and money. Each is in increasingly short supply. As a result, the nature of constituency campaigning has changed very substantially in recent decades, and is likely to do so even more in the future.

People are needed to manage the constituency campaign and to promote the candidate’s/party’s cause across the local electorate: as the average constituency has some 70,000 voters, this means reaching a large number of people. In the past, most candidates could rely on activists drawn from their party’s local members, but as their numbers have declined the available pool has been reduced. Some candidates have replaced them by supporters – non-members who are nevertheless willing to promote the party’s cause – and by volunteers from nearby constituencies where there is an excess of supply relative to demand.

Money is needed to sustain the campaign organisation – its office and equipment, plus staffing – but in particular to meet the costs of posters and leaflets. Research has clearly shown that the more intensive the local campaign, as indicated by the amount that the candidate spends on those items, the better the performance: those who spend more tend to get more votes, and their opponents get less.

This relationship is clearly demonstrated in our book published by Policy Press – Money and Electoral Politics: Local Parties and Funding in General Elections. In it we found that the more marginal the seat, the more that candidates spend either defending what they hold or seeking to unseat the incumbent. But over the last two decades, even in those targeted places, the amount spent has declined – especially, but not only, by Labour candidates. It is becoming increasingly difficult for local parties and their candidates to raise funds – and central party organisations rarely transfer money to their local branches as contributions to their costs (although the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have done so for targeted seats in the pre-campaign periods).

In the four months preceding a general election, candidates can spend up to £40,000 on their campaigns– but in 2010 very few reported spending anything like that amount. The reason why is very clear from our analyses of constituency party accounts. All local parties with either an income or an expenditure of more than £25,000 in any year must lodge copies of their accounts with the Electoral Commission – which publishes them. In only just over half of the British constituencies (359) did the local Conservative party return its accounts to the Commission: even in a general election year, the Conservatives lacked a local organisation turning over more than £25,000 in over 40 per cent of all constituencies. But they were much better placed than their two main opponents: for both Labour and the Liberal Democrats there was an organisation turning over that amount in only 80 constituencies each – only 13 per cent of all seats.

Local parties derive their income from three main sources – donations, appeals, and fund-raising events. In 2010, those local Conservative parties that submitted accounts to the Electoral Commission raised over £3million in each of those categories – some £11million in total. The 80 local Labour parties whose accounts are available for scrutiny raised only just over £2million, the majority from donations, and local Liberal Democrats were in a similar situation – they raised £2.7million in donations, out of a total income of some £3.8million.

All donations to local parties above £1,000 must be reported to the Electoral Commission, irrespective of their total income. In 2010, the Conservatives reported 1,131 separate donations, totalling just under £5million. Labour local parties reported many more – 2,273 totalling £3 million: the Liberal Democrats received only 666 donations, totalling just under £2million.

So the Conservatives attracted more money, in larger chunks. And they got it from different sources than their opponents: one-third from companies, compared to just 8 per cent for local Labour parties, who got most of their donations (some 45 per cent) from trades unions. Some 70 per cent of the Liberal Democrats’ income came from individuals: Labour parties got 25 per cent of their money from this source and the Conservatives some 60 per cent.

As the money has dried up and the membership grass roots have withered, so local campaigns have become centralised – and increasingly focused on target seats. For the seats that they either hope to win, or fear losing, the parties conduct extensive telephone polling, produce leaflets for the candidates there, and send customised letters and other canvassing materials to potential supporters. Voters elsewhere are largely ignored and their candidates have to rely on what they can raise and mobilise locally.

This trend will be extended in 2015. The parties have already identified their target seats and placed control of the campaigns there in the hands of centrally-appointed staff. Voters in those constituencies (fewer than 150 out of the total of 650) will experience lots of canvassing activity – see lots of posters, get lots of leaflets, and be contacted by letter, e-mail, phone, twitter and whatever on several occasions: their votes count. That will not be the case in most of the other seats, however; candidates there may send them a single leaflet but otherwise they may be overwhelmed by the deafening silence of the local campaign; nobody will knock on their doors on election day to make sure they vote.

Might this all change if there is cross-party consensus that party funding should be reformed? Two main features of any such reform package have been discussed – and then rejected by at least one party: a cap on the total amount spent on campaigns (other than local); and a limit on the maximum size of any donations. Some hope that if such a package were introduced then local campaigning might be revived, with benefits for local democracy. But there is no incentive for the parties to campaign intensively in most constituencies: only the marginal seats matter.

And so in many parts of the country, the money available to candidates through their local parties will continue to dry up, the number of activists and supporters prepared to give their time to canvass electors will continue to decline, and local democracy will go on withering away. The trends and patterns identified in Money and Electoral Politics: Local Parties and Funding in General Elections can only breed pessimism regarding Britain’s democratic future.


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