As predicted, and more predictions…

Kevin Barron is once again our MP, and is the longest serving MP the Rother Valley has ever had.

His share of the vote fell by 10.6%, with an 8% swing from Labour to Conservative, significantly more than the national swing of 5%, but this still leaving him with a majority of 5,866 – much less than last time, but then the constituency is slightly different, so it’s hard to be certain of the figures.

It’d be fascinating to know what Kevin Barron’s views on what he thinks will happen now are, but alas I suspect all MPs – no matter how much they ‘have a mind of their own and do not always agree with their party’ are under strict instructions to keep quiet until the dust settles.

My prediction is some sort of uncomfortable Lib-Con alliance that will not have the full support of a lot of members of either party will emerge, and which the Labour party will claim is illegitimate as it give the Lib Dems more power than them, much as they cared about the possibility of the electoral system throwing up such an anomaly when they were hedging their bets by cosying up to the Lib Dems in 1997 before they had won their landslide.

I suspect too that the turmoil in the Euro zone and the uncertainty over the strength of our government will lead to a little wobble in the (fragile) recovery, which may then become a major fall if it causes confidence to evaporate. Under such pressure an already fragile alliance will begin to splinter, and we’ll have another election in 12 months – only this time the Labour prediction of a double-dip may well have proven correct through no fault of the incoming government, but that government will have already begun to make the painful cuts that everyone agrees are necessary to correct for 13 years of Labour profligacy.

In a year, Labour will have a new leader (Alistair Darling please) so will be free of the burden of carrying Gordon’s baggage, and will have the tremendous benefit of being (luckily) correct about there being a double dip, which they can pin on the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, and they will be free of blame for the painful cuts the Con-Lib coalition will have made, even though those cuts were necessary because of their mismanagement of the economy. So, much to my surprise, I can see a tiny Labour majority in 2011.

Of course the Con-Lib’s will know all this too, so perhaps they will be able to keep it together long enough to avoid this happening. It’s going to be a hell of a show though. EDIT – Nick Robinson makes the excellent point that as well as the Tories wanting to avoid another election any time soon (he adds to my reasoning that they will be unpopular in the short term the Tory shock at Labour’s resilience) the Lib Dems can’t really afford to mount another campaign soon, so they too will want the alliance, if one emerges, to last.

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Party Funding Donations in the Rother Valley

The electoral commission has a list of donors to the parties standing in the Rother Valley, which you can read here.

Lynda Donaldson has tweeted about the Labour Party being funded by the unions (as though that were news):

Labour reliant on the trade unions, in 2009 the unions provided 60% of Labour’s funding, does your MP receive Union funding from UNITE??????

But at least we know who the Unions are, and what their agenda is. We can only speculate as to who the major donor to the Rother Valley campaign for the Conservative party is, what his motivation is, or what influence he has.

How much is your vote worth? Not much.

Because of the vagaries of the first past the post voting system, a vote in one constituency is not necessarily worth the same as one a vote in another.

In fact a vote in the Rother Valley is worth 0.045 of a vote, according to voterpower.org.uk. The average UK vote is worth over five times as much as a vote in the Rother Valley, and almost half the votes cast count for nothing as they are for candidates other than the winner.

When no-one is quite sure whether the party getting the second highest number of votes will come second or third, or whether the winning party will get the most votes, and when most people agree that the third party will get disproportionately few seats, it is surely time to reform the electoral system?

All we are certain of at the moment is that whoever becomes the governing party, more people will have voted for other parties than for them.

The Recession, Graphed

The Guardian has this rather neat graph showing the depth of the current recession compared to others:

The red line of the current recession does seem to follow the Great Depression pretty faithfully, although thankfully it stopped short of the depths of that one. The government can take some credit for preventing it getting quite that bad; if the banks had been allowed to fail then who knows how far we would have fallen? It’s qualified credit though – tighter regulation of the banks may well have made intervention unnecessary.

Hopefully all parties have learned the lesson of the 1930’s and won’t plunge us into a double-dip.

The Hustings hoohah

When I rang Kevin’s office the other week to ask about hustings, they didn’t seem to know if there had been any, or if there were going to be any more. After a bit of research they rang me back to tell me I’d missed them, but there had been two.

Here is a report of one of them from The Rotherham Advertiser. Although they lead with the disappointing news that the Lib Dem candidate had given up before he started, the interesting thing to me that this was one of the meeting Kevin Barron’s office claimed was a husting, but it seems it was held at the Rotherham Pensioners Action Group – hardly a meeting to which the general public would be invited.

Have there been any generally held, open to all voters hustings at all in the Rother Valley?

Lynda Donaldson’s mini manifesto

Lynda Donaldson and Kevin Barron both seem to have missed the bit about these mini-manifestos for the Rotherham Advertiser being no more that 500 words, but here we go:

Conservative: Lynda Donaldson.
Statement: Ten good reasons to vote Conservative.
1. Tax Breaks For Businesses
Business has faced some tremendous challenges over the past 18 months with the credit crunch followed by the deepest and longest lasting recession the country has experienced in post war times.
Added to this has been an increasing burden from legislation and an overly complex tax system. We should be doing all we can to nurture business growth. Government can’t create business but it can create the conditions through which new and existing businesses can thrive.
2. More police officers on the beat
Our society is broken. It can be fixed, but it needs to start at home.
This problem will take some time to fix and it will not be an easy situation to reverse. We need less police officers behind desks and more police officers on the beat. I will work hard locally to ensure that the brave, compassionate and talented police officers within our force are doing what they signed up to do – uphold the law and serve the public.
3. Reduce the national debt and invest for jobs
The recession has been painful, and despite a very slight positive growth, our economy remains fragile.
There is a very real threat to sustained economic growth however and that is our record budget deficit. Unless some serious effort is shown to reduce this debt immediately, investment and confidence in our nation will decline as will the value of the pound, thrusting us into a longer, deeper recession. This will be painful over the short term, but beneficial over the long term.
4. Lift more children out of poverty
Poverty of any kind should be eradicated from our society given our status as one of the wealthiest developed nations on theplanet.
Child poverty is simply unacceptable. This is why we should be working harder to support poorer families and helping them in supporting their children to achieve their potential, have a healthy, active and fulfilled lifestyle and make a positive contribution to society.
5. Improve education standards Education has come under much scrutiny for many years and despite the claims that there have been greater achievements, it is debatable whether standards have actually increased. This is not poor teaching but an education system that stifles innovation and learning, burdens talented teachers with unnecessary administration and expects our schools to solve every societal problem. We need to attract the best and brightest into the profession by rewarding good teachers. We should link our schools with our employers more effectively and empower headteachers
6. Better roads and railways
There is a real need for improved transport facilities in our region.
We need to get motorists out of their cars by choice. Our motorways are grinding to a halt and trucks from overseas that use them day after day pay nothing towards their upkeep. Why are there plans to build a third runway at Heathrow when we have airports on our doorstep? What has happened to the promised rail link between our region and the channel tunnel? We need a strategy for our area.
7. Secure pensions and care for the elderly
Today people are living longer and, as a result, at some time in the next decade, the state pension age will change from 65 to 66.
The Conservatives plan to raise the basic state pension in line with earnings and, at the same time, encourage employers to offer high quality pension provision for all employees. We will also set up an independent review of public sector pensions to ensure they are fair and affordable .
8. Real apprenticeships not targets Perhaps it is not quite true that “education begins when you leave school”. Nevertheless, we plan to create 10,000 extra University places during our first year in office and for those who are less academically inclined we want to create 100,000 additional real apprenticeships and training places every year, and make it easier for companies to run apprenticeships. We will also introduce more community learning to improve skills and employability.
9.Front line spending on the NHS
For too many years bureaucracy has been slowly killing the NHS.
Targets have become more important than patient care. What is needed is decisive action and we saw examples of that when Gerry Robinson implemented changes at Rotherham hospital for his BBC programme. The question isn’t whether the NHS should change, it’s how the NHS should change.
10. Limit immigration with an annual cap
Conservatives believe that Britain benefits from talented people coming to our country, but not from
uncontrolled immigration. Unlike Labour we will control immigration properly.
Immigration to the UK has gone up threefold under Labour, placing extra pressure on public services such as housing, health and schools. A Conservative Government would:
– put an annual limit on non-EUimmigration for work;
– promote integration through an English language test for
– marriage visas;
– prevent abuse of the student visa system with tough reforms; tackle illegal immigration with a national border police force.
– We would also impose transitional controls to limit the numbers
– coming from any new countries joining the EU. These measures
– will ensure we have immigration properly under control.

Questions I would like to ask Lynda Donaldson

Tax Breaks For Businesses
This sounds great to me as I have a business, but I am aware that the government cannot afford to take in less in tax, and in fact needs to bring in more. If my business pays less tax, who will make up the shortfall? Can you give any guarantees on VAT? Do you accept that the Keynsian Multiplier effect is real, and that in order for it to work liquidity needs to move to those with the highest marginal propensity to consume (rather than save) which means getting cash from the richest to the poorest?

More police officers on the beat
What do you actually mean by ‘our society is broken’ and how can it be ‘fixed’?

Reduce the national debt and invest for jobs
How do you think you can both reduce the debt and invest? Where is the money going to come from?

We need to attract the best and brightest into the profession [teaching]
Speaking as a former teacher, you don’t need the ‘best and brightest’ and nor can you afford them. The best and brightest person I went to school with made a small fortune in banking and is living a comfortable semi-retired life at the age of 36. Teachers need to be bright enough to stretch their pupils, it is not necessary for them to be the leading lights of their generation. They need to be good teachers, who have the support they need. Nothing more, nothing less.

Better roads We need to get motorists out of their cars by choice
These two statements seem to be entirely contradictory. Are the Conservatives committed to providing a high speed rail link to Yorkshire from the Channel Tunnel, or is that bit just an attack on Labour?
What are your long term solutions to the problem of transportation? I commute to Sheffield every day, and it takes me 20 to 30 minutes by car. I would have to allow two hours to do the same journey by public transport, and it would cost me more. How might my options be different under a Conservative government? Having de-regulated the buses are you now in favour of more state intervention?

we plan to create 10,000 extra University places during our first year in office and for those who are less academically inclined we want to create 100,000 additional real apprenticeships and training places every year
How are you going to create the training places, and what will you train people to do? And how will you pay for them? Do we not produce enough graduates already – graduate unemployment is already very high.

10. Limit immigration with an annual cap
How many people will you allow in per year? How will you arrive at this value?

Kevin Barron’s mini manifesto

I’ve only just found this, from the Rotherham Advertiser:

Labour Manifesto for Rotherham
Labour Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne), Denis MacShane (Labour).
Statement (issued jointly): We are proud to stand on our record as candidates for the Labour Party whose values and work have served Rotherham well.
We want to continue the work of investing in Rotherham’s economic future.
Under Conservatives in the 1980s and 1990s, Rotherham jobs disappeared, poverty increased, schools were left without repairs and pensioners had to choose between eating and heating.
We say NEVER AGAIN!
The candidates standing against Labour represent a return to the past and the bad old days.
The Tories voted against the winter fuel allowance which benefits thousands of pensioners in Rotherham.
Both Conservatives and Lib-Dems want to see cuts to the child tax credits which benefits thousands of families in Rotherham.
Other parties want to cut links with the outside world where we send the steel and engineered goods we make in Rotherham as well as prevent free travel, investment, and study in other European countries.
We stand for a new approach to politics.
We pledge to publish all our pay and expenses and allowances as MPs.
We believe that those earning £3000 a week and more should pay fair tax. The Conservatives say they want to take £6 billion pounds out of the economy to protect inheritance tax cuts for the 3,000 richest families in Britain.
That will mean cuts in contracts for firms in Rotherham that depend on public contracts as well a reduction in public service employment and the quality of public service.
We will continue to fight for social justice like the over £120m paid out to ex-miners and their families in Rotherham under the Coal Health Compensation Scheme, set up in 1998 by the Labour Government.
We share concerns about major new house building on rural spaces but we do want to be able to answer the appeals of our constituents for homes to live in and for jobs for Rotherham construction workers. Nearly 20,000 homes in Rotherham are upgraded and cheaper to run thanks to Labour’s Decent Homes scheme. Labour will complete everyone’s Decent Homes work and start building new council homes for working class families.
We welcome Labour’s new points systems for immigration to limit workers coming here and to make sure we only have the skills we need. We believe that all who want to live and work in Britain must learn English, pay tax and obey the law
We have said that asylum seekers should now return to their countries where normal conditions have been established and the dictatorships that forced people to become refugees are now abolished.
We oppose David Cameron’s promise to have a Commons vote on fox-hunting with a view to repeal the ban on dogs being used to kill other animals in a hunt. We support fishing and other countryside sports.
We oppose David Cameron’s desire to attack Rotherham workers and their trade unions by removing the protection of European social rights.
We know that tough decisions lie ahead to get the economy going and to get the country’s finances back in shape. That requires support for not destruction of public services. We are confident that Labour’s values of fairness and social justice are worth working for and we ask for your support to continue working for Rotherham with these guarantees

If your GP suspects you have cancer you will see a specialist within two weeks and have your test results back within a week
– One-to-one teaching if your child falls behind at school and a college or training place for all 16 and 17-year-olds
– Long-term investment in new skills, new jobs and new industries
– Increase pensions every year and bring in a National Care Service so people can stay in their own homes longer
– A local police team in every neighbourhood and we will protect your frontline police

That last bit about GPs and so-on sounds tacked on, like the rest of it might have come from party headquarters, don’t you think? Of course that wouldn’t be surprising as it seems Kevin Barron is happiest when the Labour Party is telling him what to think, rather than having to think for himself.

The bits I would like Kevin Barron to explain in more detail are:

We pledge to publish all our pay and expenses and allowances as MPs.
Hmm. You are legally obliged to do this. Why did you support attempts to block the publication of expenses details in the first place, a stance which led to expensive legal action against the government which we all had to pay for? When will the mortgage statements you are obliged to make public be in the public domain?

We believe that those earning £3000 a week and more should pay fair tax.
This seems weirdly specific, but I assume you mean £3,000 and more? What do you mean by ‘fair’? And if the amount of tax paid by people earning this amount isn’t ‘fair’ now, then why have you not addressed it in the 13 years you have had?

Labour will complete everyone’s Decent Homes work and start building new council homes for working class families.
How many council houses have been built in the last 13 years?

We welcome Labour’s new points systems for immigration to limit workers coming here and to make sure we only have the skills we need. We believe that all who want to live and work in Britain must learn English, pay tax and obey the law

How are you going to monitor this? Particularly the learning English bit? Is there no room for the partners and children of workers who come here – they won’t pay tax. I’d rather taken it as a given that everyone had to obey the law – are you suggesting that immigrant workers did not have to do so previously?

We oppose David Cameron’s promise to have a Commons vote on fox-hunting with a view to repeal the ban on dogs being used to kill other animals in a hunt. We support fishing and other countryside sports.
How do you make an ethical distinction between fox hunting with dogs and, say, fishing, or the hunting of rabbits with dogs, which is legal? Hunting rabbits with dogs is using dogs to kill other animals, but is a legal countryside sport, so I’m not sure if you are for it or against it. Can you clarify where you stand, with an ethical justification?

One-to-one teaching if your child falls behind at school
You need to define ‘falls behind’ – one to one tuition is expensive, and is not always necessary. Be careful you don’t pledge to provide something that might not be needed in all cases, and is expensive. Oh.

a college or training place for all 16 and 17-year-olds
How are you going to create the training places needed, what are you going to train people to do, and how are you going to pay for it? What sense is there in paying for people to attend college and gain qualifications that will not help them, or the country? How many media graduates do we need?

Increase pensions every year
Would you care to put a figure on this, or explain how raising the amount pensioners receive will be sustainable as the number of pensioners rises and the number of workers falls? It’s a fine idea, but if we can’t afford it, it is a silly one.