Archive | May, 2010

UK Confidential: Lewis Baston with Richard Whitmore 20 December 2001

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UK Confidential: Lewis Baston with Richard Whitmore 20 December 2001

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

Former BBC News presenter Richard Whitmore hosting an online forum with Lewis Baston following the main UK Confidential programme (about the release of documents by the Public Record Office under the 30-year rule). Thursday 20 December 2001. Copyright: BBC Original Link

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International Electoral Commissions Conference 2009: Ensuring Democratic Legitimacy

International Electoral Commissions Conference 2009: Ensuring Democratic Legitimacy

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

Lewis Baston speaking at a Boundary Commissions and Redistricting Forum at the International Electoral Commissions Conference 16th December 2009. Copyright Centre for Parliamentary Studies Ltd Original Link

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The Euro Postcode Lottery

The Euro Postcode Lottery

Posted on 27 May 2010 by admin

An interview by Jon Pyke with Lewis Baston on behalf of the Electoral Reform Society. This film examines the differences made to democracies across Europe by their choices of electoral system. Camera and editing by Sam Care. Music by Michu under a creative commons license (see Jamendo.com for more details). May 8 2009. Copyright Electoral Reform Society. Original Link

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The Political Map of Britain

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The Political Map of Britain

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

The ultimate political reference book for amateur psephologists and political obsessives everywhere. From the team which brought you the Politico’s Guide to the General Election.

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Sleaze: The State of the Nation

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Sleaze: The State of the Nation

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Amazon.co.uk Review

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Never have these words been more true than in the 20th century. If “sleaze” is a term associated with the 1990s, another is “soundbite” and this engaging history of modern political impropriety is replete with ripe quotation, enhanced by the dramatic irony that hindsight brings to bear on the indignant bon mots. Sleaze is a positive delight for those who feed on the political bungee-jumping of the great and the grating.The adage runs that Tories fall to sexual scandal whereas Labour’s achilles heel is financial but, while this is broadly true, there are members who are happy to cross the floor. Lewis Baston assembles the usual suspects of post-war intrigue; some hapless, some unscrupulous, but most lascivious in either boardroom or bedroom: the outrageous Tom Driberg, John Belcher, John Profumo, Bob Boothby, John Poulson and Jeremy Thorpe, through to the familiar faces of the 1980s and 1990s. Understandably, most space is given to recent misdemeanours, including the Mohamed Fayed v Neil Hamilton libel case, but by then the catwalk of audacious miscreants has somewhat blurred through prolificacy. Baston adroitly chronicles the collapse of the symbiotic relationship between the press and MPs, showing how the move from deference to hostility spawned both investigative journalism and its frivolous sibling, “bonk journalism”. Sleaze, in a similar vein to Matthew Parris’s Great Parliamentary Scandals, shows that tales of hypocrisy and hubris can always stand a decent retelling. The best response to the pomposity of this rogues’ gallery is schadenfreuden and Sleaze is as stuffed with delicious bounties as a Mohamed Fayed brown envelope. –David Vincent

Product Description

A TV tie-in to a Channel 4 series, this book is based on recorded testimonies, giving a no-holds barred expose of the British government under both Conservative and Labour leadership. It investigates MP’s private lives as well as their public ones, considers what they are paid for and party funding.

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Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling

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Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Sunday Telegraph, 14 November 2004

‘Vividly written by a young academic, it is a remarkable achievement’

Product Description

In the memoirs and biographies of his contemporaries, Reggie Maudling – “hired by Winston Churchill, fired by Margaret Thatcher” – is a marginal figure: a puzzling walk-on part in the Tory leadership crisis of 1963, a witty man with a clever turn of phrase, or a tragic figure who squandered his natural talents. In histories of political scandals, he is depicted as a greedy failed politician who crossed the line in to corruption. This biography redresses the balance, presenting a picture of a man who was feared and respected inside and outside his party and who was a major influence on post-war Britain. To Thatcherites, Maudling represented the very worst of post-war Conservatism. He had given away an empire, appeased the unions, built up the public sector, welcomed the permissive society and worked for co-existence with the Soviet Union. His ideas now seem well to the left of New Labour. With full access to Maudling’s private, ministerial and constituency papers, the support of the Maudling family and from interviews with colleagues and opponents, journalists, friends and business contacts of Maudling’s, Lewis Baston tells the full story of Maudling’s rise and fall.

From the Inside Flap

Reginald Maudling, seen by the Observer in 1955 as ‘a future Prime Minister’, never fulfilled his early promise. In this, the first biography of Maudling, Lewis Baston presents a picture of a popular and respected politician with a major influence on post-war Britain whose career ended in scandal and ignominy.In the 1960s and 1970s Maudling occupied a succession of high offices and was twice a candidate for the Conservative leadership. He was also a political thinker whose ideas influenced Tory politics for thirty years. He helped liquidate the British Empire, he was the unions’ favourite Tory Chancellor, a permissive Home Secretary and an outspoken opponent of Margaret Thatcher. He now seems well to the left of New Labour.

When Maudling failed to reach the top in 1965, the impact on his life was devastating. His personal and business life started to go wrong and he lost his ethical moorings. He formed a business partnership with corrupt architect John Poulson and sought riches in the Middle East. When Poulson’s corruption was revealed in 1972, Maudling resigned as Home Secretary. In the years that followed Maudling was investigated by the Fraud Squad (who wanted him prosecuted), bankruptcy investigators, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Inland Revenue. The true scale of his involvement in the Poulson scandal is revealed here for the first time.

With access to previously secret government and police files, and interviews with family, friends, colleagues and investigators, Lewis Baston is in a unique position to tell the full tragic story of Maudling’s rise and fall, and reveal the man behind the politician. Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling restores an extraordinary man to his rightful place in the history of twentieth-century Britain.

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Liberal Democrats could lose twice if AV fails in referendum (13 May 2010)

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Liberal Democrats could lose twice if AV fails in referendum (13 May 2010)

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Favourable boundary changes may mean Conservatives have last laugh in Lib Dems’ campaign for electoral reform

The coalition agreement combines a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) system with reducing the number of MPs and rewriting the rules for drawing constituency boundaries. The parties’ interests point in opposite directions – the Conservatives would prefer a boundary review but no AV, while it would be in the Liberal Democrats‘ interests to have AV but not a boundary review – and it is not clear whether the Tories will get their new boundaries regardless of whether AV passes in the referendum.

If the Tory proposal to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 585 was implemented, the average size of a constituency would rise from 70,000 to 77,000 voters. The Tories have insisted the current rules – where variation around the average is tolerated in the interests of not having constituencies crossing county boundaries, splitting wards or with bad internal communications – would be replaced with a rule allowing only 3%-5% variation.

Wales would lose proportionately the most seats, falling from 40 MPs to about 28, with Scotland and Northern Ireland falling too. All regions of England would be reduced slightly, although the south-east would lose least (three seats out of 84) and the north-east most (four out of 29). New constituencies would be unfamiliar blends of territory, such as a seat crossing the Devon-Cornwall border, one spanning a ferry route to the Isle of Wight, and a vast Highlands and Islands seat in Scotland.

The Conservatives will gain a little from the change. Each boundary change tends to abolish a few Labour seats and create a few Tory ones, as population tends to decline in industrial towns and grow in suburbs and the countryside, although the “depopulated inner-city” constituency’ is a myth: Manchester Central has more than 90,000 electors, for instance.

The smaller seats are in Wales, Glasgow and industrial boroughs such as Wolverhampton (plus the occasional Tory shire seat such as Kenilworth and Southam), while many inner London seats are oversized. The Conservatives are also hoping that local detail will alter boundaries in their favour, because they control the most local authorities.

The coalition also plans to accelerate individual electoral registration (IER), already timetabled by Labour, to be phased in by 2015. IER will make the electorate fluctuate in size more than at present (as it has in Northern Ireland), and risks worsening under-registration of young people and city dwellers. A boundary review using inaccurate numbers that are further skewed during the IER phase-in would face allegations of gerrymandering.

The Tory policy will mean continuous change in boundaries – more than 100 seats will grow or shrink by more than the tolerated variation each parliament. This disruption of the relationship of MP to constituency will undermine the Lib Dems in particular, because they rely on personal votes. If AV fails at the referendum, but we get new boundaries, the Tories will have had the last laugh at the expense of their partners.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/13/coalition-alternative-vote-liberal-democrats

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Pollwatch: Conservative coalition could cost Liberal Democrats dear (12 May 2010)

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Pollwatch: Conservative coalition could cost Liberal Democrats dear (12 May 2010)

Posted on 12 May 2010 by admin

Lib Dem losses are likely at the next election, especially in Scotland, cities and where Labour voters backed them tactically

The decision to go into full coalition with the Conservatives will probably cost the Liberal Democrats dear at the next election. Coming to agreements in hung parliaments has not done them much good in past elections, as it inevitably involves taking tough decisions and alienating many of their supporters.

In 1923-24 they managed to relegate themselves to the fringes of politics by first installing a Labour government and then throwing it out again, and the hung parliament in 1929-31 ended with the Liberals split into three factions. David Steel was lucky to escape relatively unscathed in the 1979 election after the Lib-Lab pact. But they have always lost votes and seats following pacts and peacetime coalitions.

Lib Dem losses are likely to be particularly severe in three categories of seat.

Eleven of their 57 MPs represent Scottish constituencies, and the hostility of Scottish public opinion to anything connected with the Tories remains undiminished. There has been a substantial Labour vote even in quite rural Lib Dem constituencies. The Scottish secretary, Danny Alexander, already looks a candidate for a “Portillo moment” in the next election in his Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey constituency. Labour also came fairly close in several other seats, such as East Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh West.

The Lib Dems have won several seats from Labour in the last three elections in urban areas, intellectual middle-class seats such as Manchester Withington, Leeds North West, Hornsey and Wood Green, and grittier constituencies such as Redcar and Brent Central. There are about 11 constituencies in this category, and they will be lucky to hold any of them.

The third category of likely losses are those seats where there is a substantial latent Labour vote which has been giving tactical support to the Lib Dems to keep out the Tories. Labour-inclined voters are now unlikely to see the point of doing this, and the tactical message of supporting one coalition partner to tame the excesses of the other is a bit more difficult to sell than “keep the Tories out”.

There are around eight seats here, none of which would probably go Labour but where a big withdrawal of tactical support would throw the seat to the Tories or Plaid Cymru. Chris Huhne in Eastleigh would be a likely casualty. In other constituencies, though, the loss of tactical Labour support is probably going to be counteracted by votes gained from the Conservatives and there is less of a threat – Taunton and Eastbourne are examples of this kind of seat.

The Lib Dems have relied on personal votes for incumbents in many seats, and while some of them look safe, holding Berwick without Alan Beith or Bermondsey and Old Southwark without Simon Hughes look tough tasks.

This means that about half the party’s seats are therefore either write-offs or severely vulnerable in a future election. However, this is to assume that the next election will be fought on the same lines as the one just finished. The electoral system might change if the alternative vote (AV) is approved in a referendum. This could save many of the Lib Dem MPs because they would still attract grudging second preferences from Labour voters, and perhaps more enthusiastic ones from Tories.

Another possible change, a Tory shibboleth that the Lib Dems seem to have signed up to, is more ominous for the party. This is the plan to have a radical review of parliamentary boundaries and reduce the number of constituencies. Farewell, then, the undersized seat of Orkney and Shetland, and others.

Personal votes for incumbents will be disrupted by radical boundary reviews, with territory mixed and matched between constituencies in a way that will make it difficult for them to build up personal votes and retain constituencies.

While the referendum may not pass, the “reduce and equalise” plan just needs legislation. The Lib Dems would be wise to make one conditional on the other. But even without being carved up by their coalition partners under “reduce and equalise”, many of their MPs are dead men and women walking unless they get AV.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/12/pollwatch-liberal-democrats-conservatives-coalition

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Hung parliament: what happens now? (7 May 2010)

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Hung parliament: what happens now? (7 May 2010)

Posted on 07 May 2010 by admin

The predicted results offer many scenarios for Westminster and the next inhabitant of 10 Downing Street

Election night 2010 was extraordinary, and it is still not really over. As dawn broke on 2 May 1997, there was no doubt that Tony Blair would be heading to Downing Street and leading a majority Labour government; but while it was obvious by breakfast time on 7 May 2010 that there would be a hung parliament with no overall majority, the rest of the story was far from clear.

Doubt over the last few results, which are still trickling in, means it remains to be seen what sort of hung parliament we will get. The difference between the Conservatives having 314 and 306 seats is a crucial one: if their numbers manage to tick up to 314, there is really no prospect of forming a non-Conservative government. The combined forces of Labour and Liberal Democrats would still be outnumbered by the Tories, and the prospect of a deal spanning Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru and one or more flavours of Northern Ireland MP lacks credibility. The only option would be for Gordon Brown to resign and David Cameron to form a minority government before parliament meets.

However, if the Conservatives fall short in the remaining marginal seats being counted and end up at around 306, then the combined Labour and Lib Dem benches would outnumber them. Though Labour and the Lib Dems would still be short of an outright majority, they could probably govern if the political will were there. The constitutional position is clear: Gordon Brown is entitled to stay in Downing Street and explore his options, even if the situation appears unpromising and the rightwing press is keen to push him out.

Given the political realities, Brown could also give other Labour figures some time to find common ground with the Lib Dems and smaller parties, a process that seemed to be starting as the results were coming in, with Harriet Harman and Peter Mandelson speaking out about electoral reform and “progressive” politics.

The chance of getting electoral reform may be a distant one, but it is the best on offer.

The surprisingly bad results for the Lib Dems may well discredit Nick Clegg’s confrontational approach towards Labour. But the leader and the party would need to find some loopholes fast in their previous talk of a party with a clear lead in votes and seats having a mandate.

There is no real need to hurry. The Queen’s speech is not until 25 May, and government can continue to tick along in election purdah mode for a couple more weeks. A transition period is perfectly normal practice in most other democracies, and the world will not come to an end if there is no quick outcome.

Whatever the result, there will probably be discreet talks about how to organise the formation of the government to minimise the potential for controversy around the Queen’s role in the process, and probably also to provide reassurance if the markets have serious wobbles (although it is open to the Conservatives to play hardball).

A consideration that will loom rapidly is the possibility of a second election, later in 2010 or in 2011. A minority Conservative government would find this attractive, and probably face no constitutional problem in calling another election. A tenuous Lib-Lab coalition, on the other hand, would want to try to run for longer, to make sure that electoral reform happens.

While British precedents suggest that a second election would probably be won by the Conservatives with an overall majority, there are no certainties, and a minority government would probably be unable to remap the constituencies to its own advantage, as a majority Conservative government would do.

The British constitution gives considerable advantages to an incumbent that should not be given up lightly. While the decision-making work of government is care and maintenance only, the central institutions of No 10 and the Cabinet Office can be used to prepare a Queen’s speech agenda with which to face parliament. And, if necessary, they can work on coalition deals on policy or personnel – just as they would do on an intra-party basis for a re-elected majority government.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/07/hung-parliament-what-happens-now

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UK election 2010: Erratic swings snap Labour’s thread of support (7 May 2010)

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UK election 2010: Erratic swings snap Labour’s thread of support (7 May 2010)

Posted on 07 May 2010 by admin

While Labour has lost support, no clear swing to the Tories and the Lib Dem losses leaves this election without a real verdict

The 2010 election was even more fractured than one might have expected. There was no real national verdict, except perhaps that the thin thread of public support by which Labour had clung on to power in 2005 had snapped. The results were a kaleidoscope of peculiar local results.

National swing broke down in the 1970s; now it seems that even regional swing has become a thing of the past. Nor can one read off politics from social composition any more – how could Birmingham Edgbaston stay Labour, but Nuneaton go Tory, without politics having assumed a new form?

The swing from Labour to the Conservatives was uneven. Apparently clear patterns in past polls and local elections, such as a Conservative surge in the Midlands, did not appear when the votes were counted, and Labour even held on to the Nottingham suburb of Gedling (a seat the party had not won before 1997).

Most observers expected the Conservatives to do better than average in their target marginals, but in some that had been showered with resources and worked hard for years there were feeble swings.

In some seats, like Corby, Hastings and Stroud it was just about enough to eke out a gain. In others, mammoth swings blew away the competition – Leicestershire North West fell with a double-digit swing.

But Labour has held on well in marginals across Scotland and in ethnically mixed areas of England (holding both Luton seats, for instance).

2010 was supposed to be one of the great Liberal revival elections, alongside 1974 and 1983, but as well as the irregular gains of the Conservatives, one of the stories of the night has been the dashing of so many Lib Dem hopes. Not only did they miss most targets, including low hanging fruit in academic Labour seats like Durham and Oxford East, but some established Lib Dem seats like Harrogate and Hereford fell to the Tories – and Rochdale, supposedly Brown’s Waterloo, was a surprise Labour win.

There is better news elsewhere, and surprise victories like Redcar (where a steelworks closure led to a landslide swing against Labour), but breaking the mould of Westminster politics (as opposed to breaking the two-party grip, which happened years ago) will remain an ambition rather than a reality.

Nor has it been the year of the Independent – party politics having reclaimed Blaenau Gwent and Wyre Forest, and Esther Rantzen having flopped in Luton. The anti-Westminster mood at the time of the expenses crisis in 2009 is certainly not reflected in these results.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/07/erratic-swing-snaps-labour-support

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