Saturday, 7 May 2016

My 2016 elections analysis, part 1: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London.

'Super Thursday's results counts are nearly over, although Bristol's will not be released until tomorrow for some reason.

London Assembly and Mayor of London:

Being a London commuter and postgraduate student at London Metropolitan University, this is the election I heard most about and helped the Green Party with on occasion during the campaign. It started off close between Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith before the short campaign kicked off, but it became clear towards the end that Sadiq would score a decisive victory for Labour in the Mayoral election, which is just what he did. He had to wait until the second round to be elected as the new Mayor of London, but in the final round he trounced Zac by a margin of 56.85% to 43.15%, with Labour achieving nearly twice as many second preferences as the Conservatives in round two.

This cannot be attributable merely to London trending towards Labour as a whole (which was shown in the last general election)-the Conservative campaign was lacklustre and resorted to negative and offensive tactics such as playing off Hindu voters against Muslim voters in Outer London; similar scandals over alleged anti-Semitism by prominent Labour figures during the campaign did not do nearly as much damage to Labour as was speculated.

Sian Berry, however, has done well, by becoming the first ever Green Party candidate for Mayor of London to save the £10,000 deposit, which is something that both the Liberal Democrat and UKIP Mayoral candidates failed to do once again. 5.8% is an excellent performance given the tight squeeze between Labour and the Conservatives. As for George Galloway, the voters of London clearly refused to give him or his Respect Party another chance and he finished a poor seventh behind Women's Equality Party candidate Sophie Walker, although at least he was ahead of both Britain First and the BNP.

Meanwhile in the London Assembly with respect to single member constituencies, Labour gained the Merton & Wandsworth Assembly constituency for the first time ever; this covers Tooting, the seat Sadiq is MP for, so he probably played a direct role in that victory, although they did not gain Havering & Redbridge despite UKIP being on the rise (with their well-known candidate, Lawrence Webb) and the marginality of the seat. My Green colleagues performed well despite not finishing first or second in any single member Assembly constituency, although we have clearly established ourselves as London's third party.

Within the list vote, we also finished third, with Labour and Conservatives in first and second as per usual, but we sadly could not gain an extra Assembly seat due to there only being 11 to go round. Nevertheless, congratulations should definitely go to Sian Berry and Caroline Russell on being elected AMs, particularly with their excellent knowledge of local and environmental issues. UKIP re-entered the Assembly with two seats (going to Peter Whittle, UKIP's Mayoral candidate, and David Kurten) and fourth place, doing well enough to deprive the Conservatives of an extra list seat to compensate for their loss of Merton & Wandsworth. The Liberal Democrats lost one by finishing fifth, with only their Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon remaining in the Assembly on their behalf now since Emily Davey, wife of former Lib Dem MP for Kingston & Surbiton Ed Davey, was the one to miss out in that psephological game of musical chairs. The WEP performed the best out of the parties who failed to cross the 5% threshold for list seats, getting 3.5% and more than twice as many votes as Respect. As for other candidates in single member constituencies, candidates for the All People's Party almost always finished bottom (except in Croydon & Sutton where they beat National Front activist Richard Edmonds in the poll) and with less than 1% of the votes cast despite having the most presence out of parties not in the main five i.e. Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP and Green. Respect also performed poorly, losing all three of their deposits in SMCs.

Welsh Assembly:

The results for the Welsh Assembly are the ones I found the most disappointing personally-no constituency changed hands except for Rhondda, which was won spectacularly from Leighton Andrews by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, and no Green Assembly Members were elected. In fact no Green candidate managed to retain their deposit, not even Amelia Womack in Cardiff Central (where UKIP also lost their deposit) or Brian Williams in Ceredigion where we had saved it before, despite the fact the Greens saved three deposits in Wales at the last general election. No list Green AMs were elected either, and somehow the Greens' vote share fell in South Wales Central and slightly so in Mid & West Wales.

Labour were denied a majority, but did not perform nearly as badly as predicted despite nearly losing Cardiff West and Blaenau Gwent to Plaid Cymru, since they held on to both Gower and the Vale of Clwyd and only lost one seat overall. Plaid Cymru only gained one seat but overtook the Conservatives to become the new opposition in the Welsh Assembly; this Assembly elections is more noted for things that did not happen than for things that did; Plaid Cymru's other miss in constituency terms was Aberconwy, where they at least reduced the Conservative majority in a close three-way marginal.

The Conservatives lost out in this election, by finishing third and losing three seats (list seats only); UKIP played a strong part in those losses. UKIP won 7 seats and obtained strong performances in traditional Labour heartlands in the same way Plaid Cymru did (but not nearly as well), with for example 22% in Caerphilly. They also have some responsibility for the electoral stasis that happened in single member constituency terms when they hit the votes of both Labour and Conservative in notable marginal seats such as the Vale of Glamorgan. All this happened in spite of the notoriety over selecting Neil Hamilton and Mark Reckless to top UKIP lists, which caused some Welsh UKIP members to publicly resign in disgust over alleged carpet-bagging, and the infighting within UKIP locally and nationally.

The Liberal Democrats nearly got wiped out of the Welsh Assembly in the same way they nearly lost out in the London Assembly, only retaining Kirsty Williams' seat of Brecon & Radnorshire with an increased majority; she resigned as Welsh Lib Dem leader shortly afterwards despite retaining her seat over retaining just 1 seat out of the 5 they had. They slipped back in Montgomeryshire, lost all four of their list seats, and lost more deposits than in 2011, which was one of their worst years elections wise across the UK. Out of the parties who did not win any seats, the Abolish the Welsh Assembly, formed by ex-UKIP members of Wales, did best by passing the threshold in one region (Mid & West Wales). In future, the Welsh Assembly needs more members to function effectively, and there need to be more list seats to make sure it is actually proportional (true proportionality in elections cannot be achieved with only 4 seats in a list constituency!).

Scottish Parliament:

It was a better night for green politics in the Scottish Parliament, though, with 6 Green MSPs elected (2 in Lothians, 1 in Glasgow, 1 in Highlands & Islands, 1 in Mid Scotland & Fife, and 1 in South Scotland) . They were Patrick Harvie, Alison Johnstone, Andy Wightman, Maggie Chapman, Mark Ruskell, and Ross Greer, who at 21 years of age is the youngest MSP to date. The Scottish Greens also saved all three constituency deposits, with Patrick finishing a good second to the SNP in Glasgow Kelvin, Alison achieving 13.6% in key marginal Edinburgh Central, and John Wilson achieving 5.7% in Coatbridge & Chryston, whose closest Westminster equivalent had no Green candidate at all back in 2015. We also came ahead of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who despite recovering two constituency seats (particularly North East Fife by their Scottish leader, Willie Rennie) did not poll well enough to retain the list seats as well, so they remain on five seats.

One major story of that election is that the SNP lost six seats out of 69, and crucially lost their single party majority despite winning many seats from Labour that they could not win back in 2011, including every single seat in Glasgow and their last remaining central belt seats, often with substantial majorities. This was however expected of Labour, having been flattened at the last general election due to their long-term complacency (this will come back to haunt them in their Welsh heartlands as well!) and failing to make any recovery from it.

More importantly overall, Labour lost their status of official opposition to the Conservatives, who more than doubled their seat total under Ruth Davidson, who herself won Edinburgh Central from the SNP; they now have just under half as many seats as the SNP. Their other important gains included Eastwood (with Jackson Carlaw) where the SNP pushed Labour incumbent Ken McIntosh into third place. One surprising Conservative gain was Aberdeenshire West, a stark reminder that the SNP must avoid the same complacency which Labour once fell into.

Anti-SNP voting from voters of 'unionist' political parties in Scotland (Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats) was evident in many places, but most of all in the capital, Edinburgh. Pro-unionist voting has been effective in Northern Ireland before, where Nigel Dodds held on against Sinn Fein's efforts in Belfast North and where a unionist pact unseated Naomi Long in Belfast East last year. Edinburgh Central, Southern, and Western were the clearest examples of this, as those three seats were lost by the SNP to the Conservatives, to Labour (this was in fact the only seat Labour gained from the SNP rather than the reverse), and to the Liberal Democrats respectively. This also helped the Conservatives defend Ayr despite the SNP reducing their majority to just 750 votes and also ensure that they gained Dumfriesshire and Eastwood from Labour instead of the SNP who made a strong effort nevertheless.

Northern Irish Assembly:

Another good result for green politics in the UK-Steven Agnew easily held his seat in North Down despite former Green MLA Brian Wilson also standing as an Independent (he was not eliminated until stage 9, in fact) in North Down. Clare Bailey also became the second Northern Irish Green Assembly member elected, winning the last seat in Belfast South from the SDLP; Ross Brown sadly lost out on the last seat in Belfast East losing only at the very last stage. The Northern Irish Greens also stood in every other constituency in this Assembly election this time, so everyone in the six counties had the opportunity to vote Green.

The nationalists lost out in this Assembly election, particularly to the radical socialists known as People Before Profit, perhaps spurred on by their recent performance in the Republic of Ireland's general election earlier this year. Although PBP only fielded two candidates, Gerry Carroll and Eamonn McCann, both of them were elected as MLAs in Belfast West and Foyle, showing a strong desire for change in traditional nationalist, heavily Catholic areas. Northern Irish politics as a whole is becoming more diverse, with more MLAs outside the DUP, UUP, Alliance, SDLP and SF being elected than ever before, especially in Belfast.
As in Scotland, UKIP found little favour and did not win themselves any seats, or even make it to the last stages of any constituency's STV count. The Northern Ireland Conservatives once again completely flopped just as they did in 2015, usually finishing bottom of the poll.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my 2016 elections analysis-coming tomorrow.

Alan.

















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