Monday 9 May 2016

Last week's elections

Last week saw the most significant set of elections since the general election of 2015. If we learnt anything it's that the old certainties of the two party system are cracking and fragmenting.

I didn't vote myself. There were no local elections in High Wycombe which is where I now live after moving out of London at the end of last year. I thought about whether or not I would have voted in the London mayoral elections.

I'm quite pleased that Sadiq Khan won the mayoral elections and there are many reasons why I would have been happy to vote for him but the fact remains I wouldn't have as I'm sticking to my vow that I will not vote Labour while Jeremy Corbyn is in charge.

We've already seen a number of Corbyn supporters claiming that Sadiq's victory in London is an endorsement of Corbyn. It isn't and it's telling that throughout the campaign Khan made a clear effort to distance himself from Corbyn.

What does appeal to me about Sadiq Khan is that he's always given the impression that he really wants to be London Mayor something that can't be said about his Conservative opponent Zac Goldsmith.

Zac Goldsmith: Always the wrong candidate

Why an earth did the Tory Party choose Zac Goldsmith? I know why. He's always been seen as an independent minded Liberal Conservative, passionate about environmental causes and it was assumed that he would be the kind of Tory that could be a success in London. Unfortunately he was no Boris!

I keep hearing about how London is a Labour city and I do agree with this view. It means that you have to be a certain type of Tory to stand any chance of winning in London. Boris was that type of Tory. He's a one off and has a certain charisma and X Factor that transcends party politics. That partly explains why he was able to win two terms as London Mayor.

It was always going to be difficult for Zac but as many commentators noted. Was Zac even that bothered about being Mayor of London? This was his fatal flaw. If I had the chance to speak to Zac the first question I'd ask him is 'Why do you want to be Mayor of London?'.

Zac came across as your classic Tory who simply stood for election because that's what someone of his background and upbringing is meant to do. There was no passion what so ever with his campaign.

Knowing how difficult it would be to win in Labour leaning London he then resorted to what critics called a 'dog whistle' racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, trying to link Khan to Muslim extremist groups and sympathisers.

It totally backfired on Zac, and such an attack was ill suited to a city like London. It was divisive and tried to play on people's prejudices and fears but to some extent it's part of politics to highlight the past associations of your opponent. Those on the left may as usual try and claim the moral high-ground over Zac's campaign but judging on Labour's recent problems with anti-Semitism they perhaps need to get their own house in order.

Zac was simply a poor candidate. If the Tories want to succeed in London it might help if they found someone who wasn't an Old Etonian and the son of a billionaire. We've already got an Old Etonian PM, the last Mayor was an Old Etonian is it asking too much for the Tories to find someone from a more normal and modest background?

Corbyn's Labour Party going nowhere

Jeremy Corbyn's supporters can spin things as much as they like but last week's election results were pretty poor for Labour. Okay, so they managed to maintain most of the councils in the UK already under their control but if they were going to present evidence that they are on course to win the 2020 General Election the party failed miserably.

If I was a Tory I really would laughing. The Tories should be in turmoil. The party is in the midst of a civil war over Europe and the EU referendum vote. Unpopular in the country as people get fed up with cuts and austerity but despite all of this Labour under Jeremy Corbyn still can't make the Tories suffer!

Labour's failings don't surprise me. For all of the euphoria of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership victory, those Labour members who voted for him are not representative of the wider UK electorate.

There is so much I could say about where the Labour Party is going under Jeremy Corbyn all I do know is that he isn't going to end up at number 10. What annoys me the most about Corbyn and his supporters is that despite the party's poor results none of it will be down to him or the party's policies.

As usual with many elements of the hard left and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn; all of Labour's failings can be and will be blamed on bitter 'Blairites' the right wing media, the biased BBC, the stupid ignorant electorate.

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn are a party dominated by middle class, London liberal Guardian reading types( I say this as someone who reads the Guardian) I wonder just how in touch some of these people are with the rest of the UK.

The problem for Labour is that the party has done just well enough for Corbyn to continue as leader but not well enough to give any indication that they are the next government in waiting.

The Scottish question

The situation in Scotland fascinates me.

Last week's elections confirm that the SNP remain the dominate force in Scottish politics despite not winning an outright majority in the Scottish Parliament.

What's really interesting is that the Conservatives under the leadership of Ruth Davidson are now the official opposition party in Scotland, replacing Labour. How did this happen? Weren't Scottish Conservatives a dying breed facing extinction?

The Scottish election results were a total disaster of the Labour Party and it raises some very difficult questions not just for the present day but also for the future.

We were told by many Jeremy Corbyn supporters that the reason the SNP crushed the Labour Party at the last General Election was that they were a genuinely more left wing alternative to Labour. it was thought that all Labour needed to do was turn more to the left and they would regain many of those lost Labour voters from the SNP.

Last week's election showed what total rubbish that idea was. Scottish Labour under the leadership of Kezia Dugdale put forward a distinctly left wing manifesto to the Scottish electorate and they still came third behind the SNP and the Conservatives.

What Labour fail to understand is that in Scotland they have been the establishment party for generations and part of the appeal of the SNP is that they were and are seen as being an anti establishment party that puts the interests of Scotland first.

In Scotland the success of the SNP is very much about being seen to put Scotland's interests first. Labour don't appear to understand this sense of identity and cultural politics. They've chosen to make the mistake in believing it's all about who is more left wing or not.

The Conservatives under Ruth Davidson have done a great job a re-positioning themselves. They've created an identity that's separate to the London and English Tory Party and positioned themselves as the Unionist party ready to hold the SNP to account.

It's worked brilliantly and what's interesting to note is that there appears to be some sort of realignment taking place in Scotland. The Labour Party are being squeezed and they're finding it difficult to position themselves in a unique way to the Scottish electorate.

If Labour cannot win parliamentary seats in Scotland then it's highly unlikely the will ever form a majority government within the UK unless something drastic happens and they start winning more seats in the south of England.

The situation in Scotland tells me the Labour Party have some serious issues to worry about.

So a mixed and strange set of results in last week's elections. The conventional narrative should be of the government suffering huge loses after six years in power but the reality is that it's the opposition of the Labour Party that have so many questions to ask themselves.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Leicester City: Premier League Champions

The improbable became a reality last night when Leicester City became Premier League champions.

Just writing such a sentence seems ridiculous, bizarre and incredible in equal measures but it's a fact and over the last 12 months they have been without question the best team in England.

What I love about this story is that it transcends sport and football. It's a significant news story and this explains why its been the lead story on each news bulletin throughout the day. It's also a world wide story that's been covered across Europe, Asia and America.

I wrote a few weeks ago that Leicester winning the League would be the biggest achievement in English football and that remains the case. I identify with Leicester City as they are a similar club to my own team Birmingham City.

Like Birmingham Leicester have spent most of their history bobbing up and down between the two top divisions. Always too good for the old Second Division always struggling in the top flight.

For most of their fans winning the league was never a serious consideration and in the Premier League era it was something that all football fans accepted couldn't happen but we've all been proved wrong.

With stories like this you start thinking about the wider lessons Leicester's success can teach us. It gives people hope. In a football sense there are so many clubs of a similar size to Leicester who may now believe that can achieve more than they imagined.

There are bigger clubs like Everton, Newcastle, Villa and Sunderland who may be asking themselves that they should be doing much better but I think one thing Leicester's victory has shown is that things can change.

We've all just accepted that the same select group of super rich clubs will continue to keep winning the league and occupying the top places in the league but their own failings and complacency has shown their monopoly can be broken.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into things but in our society we see an elite super rich getting richer, we sometimes feel that nothing can change as the odds are stacked against us to change anything or overturn the 'natural' order but Leicester have shown that nothing is set in stone.

Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic and reading too much into things. It's quite possible that next season Leicester will finish mid table or in the bottom half of the league. But so what, they've achieved something that will be difficult to ever repeat. They've created history, put their unfashionable Midlands city on the map, given a shot in arm to football in England and across the world.

All I can say is, well done Leicester and thank you!