Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Why Eastleigh isn't a big test for Ed Miliband

I've read countless articles this week claiming that Labour need to do well in Eastleigh in order to prove that they're capable of winning the next general election.

Apparently the Eastleigh by-election is a 'big test' for Ed Miliband and a poor showing for Labour, would mean that he would be the "real loser" on the day.

So does this argument stack up? Not really.

As things stand Labour are projected to do only slightly better in the Eastleigh by-election than at the last general election.

That isn't great, but it doesn't tell us much about the national picture either.

In the run up to 1997 Labour suffered two truly dreadful results in Liberal / Conservative marginal by-elections in the South.

At both the Newbury and Christchurch by-elections Labour received an abysmal 2% of the vote and lost their deposit.

A few years later they went on to win the most parliamentary seats they've ever held in their history.

Similarly the Tories suffered a dreadful result at the Liverpool Edge Hill by-election in 1979, losing more than half of their support from the previous general election.

Just two months later they went on to win the general election and stayed in power for eighteen years.

The reason Labour and the Tories did so badly at those by-elections, is because they were in seats that voters knew they had no chance of winning. 

Of course all parties would rather do well in un-winnable by-elections, but it doesn't really tell us very much.

If you want to know how a party is doing then you need to look at their performance in by-elections which they have a chance of winning. 

So far this parliament Labour have done reasonably well in both safe Labour seats and marginals.

Similarly the Lib Dems have done abysmally in un-winnable seats, but appear to be holding up relatively well in this winnable one.

That isn't to say that Labour have an easy route to victory in 2015. They don't.

Voters' unease about Ed Miliband and mistrust of Labour's record on the economy could still deny them a majority at the next general election.

Alternatively Ed Miliband could go on to win a convincing majority and consign the Tories to opposition for a generation.

We don't yet know which of these will happen. What we do know is that the Eastleigh by-election won't give us much of a clue either way.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Does the Telegraph ever check Boris Johnson's columns?

It was this big!
Boris Johnson likes to pose as something a history expert, and has fronted a number of books and programmes on the subject.

Unfortunately nobody seems to bother checking any of his historical claims.

Take this howler in his Daily Telegraph column today:

"Whatever happens on Thursday, it will be a victory for the Coalition that the Conservatives lead, and a defeat for Miliband; and if Maria Hutchings pulls it off – the first Conservative by-election victory, in government, for more than 30 years – it will be stupendous."

And stupendous it would be, if it were actually true.

You see the Conservative party have won not one, but EIGHT by-elections while in government over the past thirty years.


What they haven't done in over thirty years is gain a seat at a by-election, while in government. The last time they did that was in 1982.

Perhaps Boris had meant to write that. Perhaps he simply didn't care to check.

Either way, shouldn't somebody at the Telegraph check his columns from time to time? 

I mean it was only last week that he got the name of the Housing Minister wrong.

Other recent columns have been riddled with inaccuracies and falsehoods.

As Mayor he has repeatedly made falsehoods about cycling deaths, council tax, and much much more.

There are two types of politicians. The first type get their facts wrong. The second type, don't care whether they get their facts wrong.

Boris Johnson is unfortunately one of the latter.

-UPDATE- See also this recent response to another dodgily researched column.

Facts eh? Who needs them?

Monday, 18 February 2013

10 years of the congestion charge: time for a radical solution

New article for MSN: London congestion charge not radical enough

Boris Johnson's £2.6 million interest in the mansion tax

Boris Johnson is livid about plans by Ed Miliband to tax houses worth over £2 million.

"I cannot believe Miliband will pursue this policy through to the election. If he does, he will have signed his political death warrant."

His political death warrant? This mansion tax must threaten a lot of voters then?

Well no. According to the ONS, just 1.2% of all properties are priced over £1 million in the UK and they don't even bother to give a figure for properties over £2 million.

I wonder how much Boris's home is worth?

Well according to the Land Registry, Boris bought his Islington home four years ago for £2.3 million:


Since then it has risen in value to over £2.6 million, according to one estimate:


A £326,000 increase in just four years. Trebles all round!

So what's Boris so worried about?

"The end result [of a mansion tax] would be in many cases to force sales, and to reduce the value of property – and for a country whose wealth is, for better or worse, so tightly tied to property, that would not be a good outcome."

Well it certainly wouldn't be a good outcome for Boris and his £2.6 million home. What about the rest of us?
"Yes, of course we need people to be able to afford to live in Britain. But the answer is not to make it even more punishing to own a home in an expensive part of the country. The answer is to get going with a massive programme of house-building on the many brownfield sites."

Ah housebuilding. We're finally on to something to do with Boris's day job.

"If you listen to Nick Boles, the housing minister, you can see that he understands the urgency of the problem."

Which of course he would, if he was still the Housing Minister.

The current Housing Minister is actually Mark Prisk. 

You might have expected the Mayor of London to know that...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Equal marriage is a big win for David Cameron