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Westlake Legal Group > Green Party

Ian Courts: In Solihull, we are protecting the environment and increasing economic prosperity

Cllr Ian Courts is the Leader of Solihull Council and the Chairman of the Meriden Conservative Association.

Solihull has benefited from stable Conservative leadership for many years, with strong economic growth delivering gross value added above the national average. This has allowed us to keep Council Tax rates at one of the lowest in the region. Solihull has also received the accolade as the best place to live, work, invest, and spend leisure time in the region.

We are the home of a number of key regional economic assets, such as Birmingham Airport, Birmingham International Station, the NEC, the JLR Solihull plant, to name just a few, as well as several important business parks and a regionally important shopping centre. Two thirds of our borough is Green Belt.

When the proposals for HS2 were first announced, Solihull Council developed its own response to maximising the benefit of having the first new HS2 station out of London in the borough. This will be accomplished by a new economic strategy with the UK Central brand, as well as building a powerful economic zone and interconnected transport hub, less than 40 mins from London.

The decision to move forward on HS2 needs to be taken. The economic arguments are powerful enough, but the opportunity to free up so much more capacity on the existing train lines, for both passenger and freight services, must not be missed. We need this extra capacity, to work with local public transport, if we want to deliver the low-carbon future that we now seek.

Solihull was instrumental in setting up the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in 2015 and our Conservative Leader at the time was its first chairman amongst a majority of Labour Leaders. The identity of the West Midlands and strong sense of collaboration was reinforced when Andy Street was elected as the first Mayor in 2017.

Each of the current Leaders has a portfolio role and I was pleased to take up Environment, Energy, and HS2. The question has been asked about whether HS2 is really a good bed-fellow with the other two. However, Solihull Council and local people have fought hard to mitigate the effect on the environment. In my opinion, the HS2 team has just not made enough of the significant environmental compensation work that they are doing. In Solihull we have always been clear that economic growth from HS2, our UK Central programme, and the West Midlands Economic Strategy, is the way to support our services and Inclusive Growth is an integral part of our approach.

Our comprehensive regeneration programme in the north of the borough involved the rebuilding of all its schools, two village centres, and another one in Kingshurst to follow, alongside housing and social programmes. We continued this work when the recession, at the end of the last government’s tenure, had caused other programmes to close.

A key policy emphasis since I took over as Leader in May has been the need for stronger action on climate change. We have already cut our carbon emissions by nearly half in ten years and established a Climate Change (Green) Prospectus several years ago which addressed a number of themes including Greening the Economy, Energy and Resources, Buildings & Efficiency, Transport, Natural Capital & biodiversity, Communication & Education. However, our ability to combat climate change depends upon the need to work with nature as well as retaining a prosperous market economy. I commend the excellent work of the Conservative Environment Network in this.

Within a few weeks of taking over the WMCA portfolio, I was able to bring leaders of the seven Mets together on a cross party basis to make a Climate Change Declaration for the West Midlands Combined Authority. Solihull Council’s own Declaration was also cross party and commits the Council to net carbon zero by 2030 and the borough as a whole by 2041, in line with the regional target.

Conservatives have a majority of just one on the Council since May, down from 15 a year ago. Our main opposition is the Green Party, which envisages a very different economic policy and administration to our own. Apart from our own local elections in May, there will be an election for the post of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner. Andy Street’s term of office also expires in May, and we need to see a continuation of his strong leadership in the region.

The recent General Election saw ex-Chamber of Commerce President, Saqib Bhatti elected as Conservative MP for Meriden, to take over from stalwart Dame Caroline Spelman, and the re-election of Julian Knight for the Solihull constituency. The need for continued Conservative thinking both in Solihull and the West Midlands has never been stronger, to protect and foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth for our borough and the region as a whole, and to support our newly invigorated central government led by Boris Johnson.

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David Shiels: The upheaval caused by Brexit is still rocking the fundamental assumptions of Northern Irish politics

Dr David Shiels is a Policy Analyst at Open Europe and also works on contemporary political history.

Since the new Brexit deal emerged in October, the relationship between the Conservative Party and unionism in Northern Ireland has been under strain. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), along with the smaller Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), are pledging to oppose the new Protocol on Northern Ireland (the replacement for the Backstop). Boris Johnson, who once articulated the unionist case against the original Withdrawal Agreement, has been accused of ditching the Unionists in his hurry to secure a deal.

The narrative that Johnson has betrayed the DUP is a powerful one and suits the purposes of the party’s opponents. Although the nationalist parties oppose Brexit and are more critical of Johnson’s deal than Theresa May’s, they are making the most of the Unionists’ discomfort. In the Republic, the persistent view is that Johnson conceded the EU’s demands, agreeing something like the original Northern Ireland-only backstop. The British Prime Minister certainly altered his red lines on customs arrangements, but it is not unhelpful for Leo Varadkar that Irish commentators are giving more attention to the British concessions than to Ireland’s. The Taoiseach also moved by agreeing to a consent mechanism on the new Protocol, effectively removing the guarantee that there would never be a hard border in Ireland. The Agreement in theory allows that the Northern Ireland Assembly could overturn the Protocol arrangements in 2024 or later. The DUP complains that this does not respect the principle of cross-community consent but there is nothing to stop them or the Unionist parties together campaigning for a majority in the Assembly, something they had as recently as 2016.

After the referendum, it quickly became clear that Brexit involved a choice between a close EU-UK relationship and a deal allowing for greater EU-UK divergence but with special arrangements for Northern Ireland. The Remain vote in Northern Ireland, the strength of the Irish Government’s position in relation to the EU, and the institutional tendency on the part of the UK to see special treatment for Northern Ireland as normal, were all powerful factors moving against the sort of outcome that the Unionists might have preferred. In the view of the party’s critics, the DUP is now reaping what it sowed by supporting Leave in 2016. There are signs that the DUP is regretting not voting for the original Withdrawal Agreement. One DUP MP described Johnson’s deal as “worse… than the Agreement that Theresa May brought forward.” But if they wanted a softer Brexit they never articulated it and their alliance with the ERG influenced the debate in the Conservative Party away from such a course of action. A painful break was always possible. The Prime Minister has simply brought forward the decision while securing concessions on the ‘undemocratic’ nature of the Backstop.

Notwithstanding these points, the perception that that Johnson cannot be trusted on the Union may yet seal his political fate. If the Conservatives fall short of an overall majority at the election, they will struggle to convince the DUP to enter into a new confidence and supply arrangement. The DUP could demand he return to Brussels to re-open the deal, a process which would risk a No Deal Brexit. Despite the Unionists’ misgivings about Jeremy Corbyn, some may quietly prefer Corbyn’s alternative plan of a referendum between a soft Brexit and no Brexit. The newly-elected leader of the UUP has said that Remain is better than Johnson’s deal.

A surprising feature of this election in Northern Ireland is the emergence of an informal anti-Brexit pact, which will make a number of DUP seats vulnerable. In South Belfast (a DUP gain from the SDLP in 2017) Sinn Fein are standing aside to give the SDLP a clear run. In North Belfast, held by the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, the SDLP are returning the favour for Sinn Fein, giving anti-abstentionist Remainers an intriguing choice about whether to vote for a candidate who will take his seat to vote the deal down. In East Belfast (which was won by the Alliance Party in 2010 but by the DUP in 2015 and 2017) and North Down (the seat of the retiring independent unionist MP, Lady Hermon) the two nationalist parties are endorsing Alliance, though Alliance is not reciprocating anywhere. The Greens are not standing in these seats and are also endorsing the Remain candidates. The pact is also a response to the old Unionist arrangement which will see the DUP stand aside for the UUP in Fermanagh and South Tyrone (currently held by Sinn Fein but won by the UUP in 2015) while the UUP will return the favour for Dodds in North Belfast. The NI Conservatives are standing in four seats and the Greens are standing in three seats. Only the Alliance Party is running a candidate in each of the 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland.

To some extent, the anti-Brexit pact is really an anti-DUP pact, and the General Election is about scrutinising the DUP’s record in the previous Parliament. On a good day, the DUP might return with ten seats (losing South Belfast but gaining North Down), but the party is very nervous about losing North Belfast to Sinn Fein. On a bad day three of their seats could be vulnerable. As for Sinn Fein, with its abstentionist policy under scrutiny, the party could lose Foyle to the SDLP and Fermanagh and South Tyrone to the UUP. But any increase in the number of Sinn Fein MPs would be a psychological blow to Unionism and would reflect growing disillusionment with Westminster. Unionists are still adjusting to the fact that they can no longer confidently speak as the representatives of the majority voice in Northern Ireland.

Having been unprepared for the consequences of Brexit in the first place, the important thing is that the Unionist parties develop a strategy for the next phase of the negotiations. Indeed, they now have an opportunity to make common cause with business groups and other parties in Northern Ireland as they seek clarifications about how the deal will work in practice.

The fact that there was a visible majority for remaining in the EU in 2016 (and one that appeared to translate into a majority for the Backstop later on) has been disorientating for the DUP. But it may be that many of the voters who gave Northern Ireland a Remain majority in 2016 are constitutionally conservative, and that what they actually want is to maintain the Union with Great Britain as part of the UK while also remaining close to the European Union. The exact balance of that relationship is yet to be worked out, but Unionists should be open to making the new arrangement work.

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Henry Hill: Johnson ‘vows to end persecution’ of Troubles veterans

Prime Minister promises action on troop prosecutions…

Boris Johnson’s stock in and on Northern Ireland is not high after his u-turn on what he previously claimed was implacable opposition to a border in the Irish Sea.

His deal is already being dubbed the “economic equivalent of the Anglo-Irish Agreement” in some unionist circles, and whilst Conservative MPs have rowed in behind him he still appears to feel the need to offer something to unionist feeling.

Therefore this week the papers splashed with a pledge from the Prime Minister to end the “unfair trials” of soldiers who served in Ulster during the Troubles. According to the Times: “The party will pledge to amend the Human Rights Act to exclude any death in Northern Ireland that took place before the act came into force in October 2000.”

Claims that this will amount to an amnesty have been rejected, with Ben Wallace claiming that it will only apply to soldiers whose cases have already been investigated. This chimes with the argument advanced by Johnny Mercer in the Sun, in which he argues that the Tory policy is aimed at “repeated and vexatious legal claims”.

All very well. But the stock of solemn vows on such subjects from Johnson is understandably low. Would his Government, elbows-deep in the future relationship negotiations and with Northern Ireland in a very sensitive spot, really open up yet another front on anything related to the Belfast Agreement?

…as he’s criticised over Ulster claims…

Whilst we’re on the subject, the Prime Minister has been accused of “deceit or ignorance” over attempts to deny that his new deal does create an economic partition inside the United Kingdom.

Speaking to manufacturers in Northern Ireland, Johnson declared that they could put any forms they were asked to fill out on goods shipping to the mainland “in the bin” – contradicting Steve Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, who had previously said that “some information” would be required.

Kwasi Kwarteng has backed the Prime Minister, claiming that his remarks were “bang on the money”. Michael Gove managed to go even further and distil the Tories’ muddled position on the subject into a single sentence: “It will be the case that there will be some administrative processes but in no way are they checks.”

Given recent developments, even the Northern Irish Conservatives are understandably sceptical. Irwin Armstrong, their former leader and the man who asked Johnson about the checks, apparently said that “I want to believe him, but is he just being bombastic and being Boris?” The answer is almost certainly yes.

Nor is that the only criticism. Remainers have seized on his claim that Northern Ireland will get a “great deal” to attack the harder Brexit his terms deliver for mainland Britain.

…and takes a firm stance against a Scottish referendum…

He’s had somewhat greater success in shoring up his credentials on the Scottish question – aided and abetted by Jeremy Corbyn’s kneecapping Labour’s credibility on the subject, of which more below.

This week, Johnson “emphatically ruled out” authorising a second referendum on Scottish independence if he’s returned to Downing Street next month. This marks a hardening of the Conservative stance over recent months as it implies refusal even in the event that the Scottish National Party (and their separatist allies, the Greens) win a Holyrood majority in 2021.

Such a stance is intended to help shore up the Tories’ credentials as the ‘Party of the Union’ and consolidate pro-UK voters in seats such as East Renfrewshire. In a previous column I wrote about how a dissenting minority of election-watchers suspect the Scottish Conservatives could do much better than anticipated through anti-Brexit. (Ian Smart set out the full theory on his blog, and he’s followed it with another interesting read on what might be worrying the SNP.)

Unlike his promises on Northern Ireland, it is easier to imagine the Prime Minister keeping this one – perhaps a sign of how much more effective the Scottish Conservative approach is over the Democratic Unionist one when it comes to influencing the Tory leadership.

…as Corbyn swithers on the Scottish question

If the Scottish Tories’ best hope at the next election is to consolidate the pro-UK vote, they ought to be made to declare the Labour leadership’s conduct on the independence question as campaign donations in kind.

This week saw another slew of bad headlines for Scotland’s once-dominant party, most prominently when Corbyn u-turned on whether or not he would authorise a re-run of the 2014 vote within a matter of hours of appearing to rule it out – leading to claims that his party was in “complete disarray” on the subject.

Yet whilst obviously trying to keep the door open for Nicola Sturgeon, he has nonetheless publicly rejected calls for a “progressive alliance” with the Nationalists, perhaps fearful that the Conservatives might be able to successfully re-run their “Vote Miliband, get Sturgeon” campaign from 2015. Michael Gove is certainly trying.

The SNP are not making it easy for him, either, with senior Nationalists this week making headlines with claims that they will not only drive ‘a hard bargain over independence‘ but even demand a Labour-led government scrap Trident as the price for installing Corbyn in Downing Street. Music to the ears of Tory strategists, no doubt.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead.

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s visit to Edinburgh last week, I polled Scots to measure support for a second independence referendum and to gauge opinion on independence itself. I found a small majority in favour of a new vote – and the first lead for an independent Scotland for more than two years.

I found 47 per cent agreeing that there should be another referendum on Scottish independence within the next two years (Nicola Sturgeon has demanded a new vote by 2021), with 45 per cent disagreeing.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.08.17 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   While more than nine in ten Conservatives oppose a referendum, a return to the polls is favoured by more than one third of 2017 Labour voters, more than half of EU Remain voters, and by more than one in five of those who voted No to independence in 2014.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.09.52 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked how they would vote in such a contest, 46 per cent said they would vote Yes to independence, and 43 per cent No. Excluding those who say they don’t know or wouldn’t vote, this amounts to a lead of 52 per cent to 48 per cent for an independent Scotland. This is the first lead for independence in a published poll since an Ipsos MORI survey in March 2017, and the biggest lead since a spate of polls in June 2016, shortly after the UK voted to leave the EU.

One third of Labour voters, a majority of EU Remain voters and 18 per cent of those who voted No to independence last time round said they would vote Yes. Again, more than nine in ten Tories said they would vote No, as did just over one in ten of those who backed independence in 2014. A majority of voters up to the age of 49 said they would vote Yes, including 62 per cent of those aged 18 to 24.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.11.04 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Overall, a majority of Scots thought that if a second referendum were to be held, the result this time would be an independent Scotland. Only three in ten – including just two thirds of Conservatives and fewer than half of 2014 No voters – thought Scotland would vote to remain part of the UK. A further 18 per cent said they didn’t know.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.12.08 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   More than six in ten Scots – including 38 per cent of 2017 Conservatives and two thirds of Labour voters – said they think Brexit makes it more likely that Scotland will become independent in the foreseeable future. Indeed, more than half of 2014 No voters think this is the case, with 32 per cent of them saying it makes independence much more likely.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.14.09 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Just over half – including a majority of Labour voters, nearly one in five Tories and two thirds of EU remain voters – say Brexit strengthens the case for Scotland to become independent.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.22.36 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Nearly half (46 per cent) of all Scots agree with Sturgeon’s claim that a No Deal Brexit would be disastrous for Scotland, including half of Labour voters and nearly one in five Tories. A further three in ten (including most Conservatives) think the risks have been exaggerated but there would be some difficulties.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.23.54 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked what their preferred Brexit outcome would be, most 2017 Conservative voters backed Boris Johnson’s position that the UK should leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal – though one in five said they would be prepared to wait longer than October for a better deal, and nearly a quarter said they wanted to remain in the EU. Remaining is the most popular outcome, though favoured by only half of all Scots.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.24.35 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Scottish voters are closely divided as to whether – if it were not possible to do both – it would be more important for Scotland to remain part of the UK, or to remain in the EU. While 43 per cent would prioritise the Union, 45 per cent would prioritise the EU. While Conservatives and SNP voters were leaned heavily as one would expect, Labour voters were split: 46 per cent would choose the UK, 40 per cent would choose the EU, and 14 per cent say they don’t know.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.25.33 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   More than half of Scots said there should be a second referendum on EU membership, including 69 per cent of SNP voters, more than half of Labour voters and one in five Conservatives. Should this take place, 67 per cent of those giving an opinion said they would vote to remain.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.27.15 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   As for Boris Johnson’s first week as Prime Minister, while nearly half of Scots said they expected him to do badly, a quarter of those said he had done better than they had anticipated.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.28.07 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   While only just over one third of 2017 Conservatives they expected him to do well and he had, a further one in four said they had had low expectations but been pleasantly surprised.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.29.15 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Compared to other politicians, Boris Johnson ranks relatively low among Scottish voters – though still above Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. He scores well below Ruth Davidson, both among Scots as a whole and, to a lesser degree, 2017 Conservatives.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.30.15 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked which of the two most likely candidate would make the better Prime Minister, 29 per vent of Scots named Johnson, 23 per centnig said Corbyn, and nearly half said they didn’t know. Fewer than four in ten 2017 Labour voters said they thought Corbyn would make the best Prime Minister.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.31.07 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Despite this, when forced to choose, Scots said they would prefer a Labour government with Corbyn as Prime Minister to a Johnson-led Conservative government by 57 per cent to 43 per cent. A quarter of Labour voters said they would prefer the latter, as did the same proportion of SNP voters – perhaps calculating that this circumstance held out the best prospect of independence for Scotland.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.31.55 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   3Those who voted SNP in 2017 are the most likely to say they will stick with their party in a new general election. They put their mean likelihood of turning out for the party at 88/100, compared to Conservatives’ 71/100 chance of voting Tory again; 2017 Labour voters put their chance of voting the same way in a new election at just 56/100. Some Tories were tempted by the Brexit Party (their mean likelihood of voting this way being 35/100), and some by the Lib Dems (26/100). The SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all held some appeal for Labour voters. In terms of overall mean likelihood to vote for the party, both Labour and the Tories ranked behind the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Greens, whose score was boosted by an average likelihood of 55/100 among 18-24 year-olds.

Full data tables for the survey are available at LordAshcroftPolls.com.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Boris bounce: where are the votes coming from, and where might more be available?

As you’d expect on the Sunday after a new Prime Minister takes office, there are a raft of new polls out in today’s newspapers, each trying to judge what impact Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street is having on the electorate.

The four polls vary in various details beyond being from different pollsters – some include different lists of parties (Greens or no Greens), some are based on more recent fieldwork than others and might therefore pick up the effects of more news about the new Government, and they each test rising or falling vote shares by comparing back to differently dated previous polls, ranging from earlier this week to all the way back to the start of June. Here are all the details:

ComRes

Conservative: 28 per cent (+3)

Labour: 27 per cent (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 19 per cent (+2)

Brexit Party: 16 per cent (-3)

Green: 4 per cent (-1)

Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Thursday 25th July. Changes compared to 16th July.

YouGov

Conservative: 31 per cent (+6)

Labour: 21 per cent (+2)

Liberal Democrat: 20 per cent (-3)

Brexit Party: 13 per cent (-4)

Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 24th July.

DeltaPoll

Conservative: 30 per cent (+10)

Labour: 25 per cent (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 18 per cent (+2)

Brexit Party: 14 per cent (-10)

Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Saturday 27th July. Changes compared to 1st June.

Opinium

Conservative: 30 per cent (+7)

Labour: 28 per cent (+3)

Liberal Democrat: 16 per cent (+1)

Brexit Party: 15 per cent (-7)

Green: 5 per cent (-3)

Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 5th July.

There are few things to note.

First, the Conservative vote is up in each poll. Which you believe, +3, +6, +7 or +10, is up to you, but the presence of a shift in the same direction in the findings of each company is hard to ignore.

Second, the Brexit Party appears to be being squeezed, with changes in their vote share of -3, -4, -10 and -7. Watch how closely those match the Tory rise in each respective pollster’s results.

Third, the Liberal Democrat vote is essentially unchanged across the board: +2, -3, +2, +1. They gained a new leader this week, just as the Conservatives did, but Jo Swinson appears not to have changed their standing much at all as yet.

Fourth, Labour is essentially unchanged, too: -1, +2, -1, +3.

So what we’re currently seeing is not a single, two-sided race, as is traditional; nor a simple free-for-all melee in a country which has become a four-way marginal.

Rather, there are two electoral contests underway. The Conservatives under Boris Johnson are squeezing the Brexit Party, to try to reunite the old Vote Leave majority for getting out of the EU. At the same time, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are battling over territory which is varyingly lefty and Remainy.

In the former contest, Johnson’s early days show some promise, but in the latter it appears Labour are unable to win back the votes they lost to the Lib Dems, while Swinson is in search of a moment to cut through to further eat into, and maybe even overtake, the Labour vote.

Each race has one new participant within it, which makes both unpredictable and subject to potentially swift change as voters get to know the new leaders. While the Conservatives have made early progress, any actual seizure of voters from the Brexit Party at the ballot box is for obvious reasons dependent on actual results in delivering Brexit. By contrast, Swinson inevitably had difficulty cutting through in the media in a week dominated by Boris Johnson, but as the only female leader among the four top parties, and the youngest leader too, she has a clear chance to differentiate herself if she gets and seizes the opportunity. She must be hoping hard for a TV debate along the lines of the one that created Cleggmania in 2010.

The final thing to consider is that while these early stages of Johnson’s leadership involve a battle for votes with the Brexit Party, there’s nothing confining the Prime Minister to that conflict forever. If – and it’s not a small if – he can really squish down Nigel Farage’s vote, or somehow form a pact with him, then he can turn, secure in his Brexit flank, to focus more fully on Labour. The nightmare scenario for the Opposition is one in which they lose Remainer and moderate left ground to the resurgent Liberal Democrats and Leaver plus working class ground to the Conservatives.

In a four-way contest, currently divided into two skirmishes, the race is on to find who will be trapped fighting two opponents at the same time.

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Damian Flanagan: What drives the Conservatives’ underlying problems? For answers, ponder our exile from the cities of the north.

So why am I even writing about this secretive group of no-hopers? Because they happen to be called “The Conservative Party” – and it currently runs the country. Also, I happen to be one of them, having recently taken over the running of the newly reformed Manchester, Withington Constituency Conservative Association.

The position of the Conservative Party not just in Manchester, but in cities across the North of England is so dire that it is probably beyond the imaginings of people in the rest of the country and certainly seems to be a blind spot for Conservative Campaign Headquarters. There hasn’t been a single Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for over 25 years, and until two years ago, the council was a hundred per cent Labour, with no opposition whatsoever – leading to zero scrutiny of any Council policies.

In the recent local elections,t he Conservatives sunk to a new low in Manchester, attracting just 6.5 per cent of the vote, half that achieved by both the Greens and Liberal Democrats, and barely 1/9th of the 58.8 per cent achieved by Labour.

The opposition to Labour in Manchester now consists of three Liberal Democrat councillors (who recently complained that the council was too “right wing”). There is also not a single Conservative councillor on the councils in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle…

So why should people elsewhere care about this? If Northerners like Labour so much, shouldn’t they just be allowed to get on with it?

You could argue that the local elections were an aberration and that people were venting their frustration with the Brexit stalemate in Westminster, that two unrelated issues – local government and national government – were being conflated.

Yet the crisis over Brexit and the full-scale retreat of the Conservative Party from many cities in the north of England are profoundly connected.

Think back to the last time that the Conservative Party enjoyed thumping majorities of over 100 in the House of Commons and was able to act decisively. You have to go back to Margaret Thatcher and the 1980s, a time when the Conservatives still had MPs in urban constituencies in places like Manchester, had a considerable group of representatives on the council there and could appeal to voters in northern cities.

Since being rooted out of those northern cities in the 1990s, the best the Conservatives have been able to hope for are slim majorities in general elections, leaving them highly vulnerable to party divisions over Europe.

Having the vision and doggedness to produce policies that re-engage with the inhabitants of places like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, Tyneside and Newcastle has seemingly not been in the mindset of anyone in the Conservative Party. That needs to change urgently.

The fact is that the Conservatives have for over 22 years been incapable of ruling without the support first of the Liberal Democrats and now of the Democratic Unionists. Parliament has been paralysed, Brexit frustrated and finally the Conservatives went begging to Labour for agreement with their policies. All these things are intimately connected to the fact that there has not been a Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for 25 years.

Imagine, though, that the Conservatives were to declare their determination to win back these “lost” Northern cities, starting by setting up a permament office in Manchester and sending some of their best people to find out what exactly is going on and to find a solution to the ingrained antipathy to Conservatives. Supposing we were to make it a marquee policy that we will not, as Conservatives, accept the age-old, north-south wealth divide – why should we? There is no reason whatsover why the north should be poor.

Let’s commit ourselves as Conservatives to those neglected northern cities by taking radical measures: offering tax incentives for companies to set up there and moving government departments north – the relocation of sections of the BBC to Salford and the creation of Media City there has been transformational in the economy of that area.

Let’s commit ourselves to the end of failing, inner city northern state schools which trap many children in a cycle of ignorance and poverty for life, and demand that minimal standards are met instead, and that we will closely monitor and put in targetted resources to these areas until that happens.

Imagine if people in the North began to think of the Conservatives not as the “Nasty Party” only concerned with their own interests and support base in the south, but rather as the visionaries who lifted them, once and for all, out of relative poverty and offered unprecedented opportunities, rediscovering the entrepeneurial drive and world-beating heritage of these post-industrial cities.

In Manchester, the populace are constantly told, over and over, that the source of all problems are “Tory cuts”. It is a matter of almost existential, religious belief.

The local governments of such cities as Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle – cities which once led the world as centres of invention and industry – tend to focus on a culture of welfare. There is little sense that a spirit of enterprise, self-reliance and sense of public good is required to guarantee a prosperous future: it’s this compassionate and engaged Conservative vision that the North needs to rediscover.

As Conservatives, we need to support and nurture such a vision. But we are not going to manage it as a London-centric organisation that just views the cities of the north as largely unwinnable provincial backwaters.

The Conservative revolution that needs to begin in cities across the North should also transform the Conservatives nationally. The Conservatives cannot be merely a party of the South and the countryside: it must strongly engage with the interests and concerns of England’s northern cities.

Many people think the great irresolvable fault line in British politics lies between Britain and the EU or else on the border of the Irish Republic. But delve further into what exactly is causing the underlying weakness and reliance on coalitions in Conservative governments, and you will see that it is the long Conservative exile from the cities of the North which is a chief cause of what is stopping the UK advancing forward with decisiveness and unity as a nation.

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Judy Terry: Suffolk is no longer a safe haven for the Conservatives

Judy Terry is a marketing professional and a former local councillor in Suffolk.

Conservatives are supposed to be the party of competence, effective fiscal management and delivering on clear manifesto commitments. So, the frustration at the leadership vacuum in Government manifested itself across Suffolk in last week’s local elections, and will no doubt deliver a hammer blow in the European elections at the end of the month, especially when loyal activists are refusing to participate.

Suffolk voted Brexit, although significant gains by the Greens raises questions as to whether the mood is changing, especially amongst young voters who weren’t eligible to vote in 2016, and are undoubtedly energised by recent environmental protests.

Whilst Labour consolidated its power in Ipswich, despite its Remainer MP, taking two seats from the Tories who lost another to the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives were also punished elsewhere across the county, with the Greens claiming some significant scalps to put them on every rural council for the first time The average percentage turnout was in the low to mid-30s.

In the first elections for the new East Suffolk Council, boundary changes reduced overall councillor numbers, following the merger of Waveney and Suffolk Coastal, which deserved support for achieving in excess of £20 million in savings through joint working. The Conservatives took 39 of the 55 seats, retaining overall control, whilst losing the former deputy leader of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney’s former leader, both of whom would have been in contention to lead the new council.

In his 21 years, Mark Bee, had also led Suffolk County Council, but he wasn’t surprised at the outcome:

“The Green environmental agenda is very much the zeitgeist at the moment, and people are clearly responding to that.”

Labour now have seven seats, alongside the Green’s four, Lib Dems’ three and two Independents.

Meanwhile, over in West Suffolk, where Forest Heath and St. Edmundsbury had merged into a single authority, 64 councillors were elected, down from the previous 72. Although retaining overall control, with 36 councillors, the Conservatives lost key people, including the former leader of Forest Heath, and another recent County Council leader. Labour took five seats, the Greens one, with the balance going to Independents.

Commenting on the losses, former St. Edmundsbury leader, John Griffiths, whose seat was uncontested, said:

“We have lost some very good councillors, but I’m delighted with the overall majority.”

The merger has already saved £20 million, alongside a major investment programme for new housing and job creation.

Over in Mid-Suffolk and Babergh, which share management and offices at the County Council, but resisted a full merger, neither councils retained Tory majorities. A single vote in Mid-Suffolk could hold the balance of power! The Conservatives now have just 16 seats, with the Greens increased to 12 and the Lib Dems five, with one Independent.

Sadly, the former Leader was amongst those who lost their seats. Nick Gowrley told the Star that, ‘it’s the national picture affecting us. Brexit is at the root of most of it. We have had people saying they are not going to vote Conservative until it is sorted.”

Boundary changes in Babergh reduced overall numbers by 11, resulting in no overall control. But, with Conservatives the largest single party, on 15 out of 32, the council leader, John Ward, will now meet with the eight Independents (including two former Tories), four Greens, three Lib Dems and two Labour councillors in a bid to try to form some sort of coalition with one or other group/s.

Ward blamed the poor performance “on the national picture, and the Greens have been the primary beneficiaries of a protest vote. But I think we can work together to form an administration representative of all views.”

Let these results be a warning: Suffolk is no longer a safe haven for the Conservatives. It will take time to rebuild confidence in what has become a very disappointed and sceptical electorate.

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Where does the Liberal Democrat revival leave Change UK’s cursed campaign?

As the ‘Change UK – The Independent Group’ saga continues to unfold, it no longer seems entirely outside the realms of possibility that Chuka Umunna got it going by wishing on a monkey’s paw.

Wish for a new party to emerge out of nowhere and shake (if not yet break) the mould of British politics? Step forward, Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party. Attempt to correct by wishing for Remain voters to break from Labour and start rallying to an explicitly pro-Brexit force? Lo, several hundred new Green and Liberal Democrat councillors.

Of course, in real life there is nothing so exculpatory as black magic underlying CUK-TIG’s growing catalogue of missteps, which appear instead to be rooted in an unfortunate combination of lofty ambition and inattention to detail.

Being a broad-church, establishment party whose general principles are largely understood to speak for themselves is a privilege our system only affords to Labour and the Conservatives. Smaller parties need to build a distinct identity, find themselves a niche, and then exploit that ruthlessly.

CUK-TIG have signally failed to do this. Their original identity – ex-Labour MPs who would no longer tolerate their old party’s descent into the antisemitic gutter – was muddied by the admission of three Conservative defectors, one of whom (Anna Soubry) remains an unabashed advocate of the Coalition’s austerity agenda. This meant their only obvious unifying theme was opposition to Brexit, but because this is not a long-term foundation for a party (as we pointed out two years ago) they have refused to lean into that either.

The result is a party comprised mostly of Labour defectors which apparently intends its MEPs to sit with the centre-right EPP in the European Parliament and whose most eye-catching intervention on domestic policy was a call for the reintroduction of conscription.

And all of that is before you get to the fine-detail failures such as the failure to choose an eye-catching colour, the ever-changing, vacuously corporate branding, losing control of their Twitter handle, angering their activists by picking minor celebrities as candidates and failing to provide basic campaign infrastructure

…getting Have I Got News for You cancelled

Unsurprisingly, the net result of all this is that not only have they failed to attract any new defectors, but one of the two MEPs appears to have defected back out again. Meanwhile the Remain wave, such as it is, has passed them by. History may not repeat itself, but there’s a David Owen-esque rhyme to the fact that CUK-TIG gambled on breaking the mould by playing hardball with the Liberal Democrats, and have now squandered what might well prove to have been their best shot at a favourable merger.

The original tale of the monkey’s paw ends with the hapless wisher banishing the thing he’d summoned back into the ground. If current polling is any indication, the electorate might yet play that role for CUK-TIG in the upcoming European elections.

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Local elections: An analysis of results in the south east

The overall results of the local elections were very bad for the Conservatives. But there was great variation between regions and within regions. So we are providing a series that will attempt to get a better grasp of what happened in different parts of the country. We will start with the south east. In terms of accepted bureaucratic definitions, this area covers the following local authorities which held elections.

First of all, these unitary authorities had all their seats up for election:

  • Bracknell Forest
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Medway
  • West Berkshire
  • Windsor and Maidenhead

These unitary councils had a third of their seats up:

  • Milton Keynes
  • Portsmouth
  • Reading
  • Slough
  • Southampton
  • Wokingham

The following district councils had all their seats up for election:

  • Arun
  • Ashford
  • Canterbury
  • Chichester
  • Crawley
  • Dartford
  • Dover
  • East Hampshire
  • Eastbourne
  • Epsom & Ewell
  • Gravesham
  • Guildford
  • Horsham
  • Lewes
  • Mid Sussex
  • New Forest
  • Reigate and Banstead
  • Rother
  • Runnymede
  • Sevenoaks
  • South Oxfordshire
  • Spelthorne
  • Surrey Heath
  • Swale
  • Test Valley
  • Thanet
  • Tonbridge and Malling
  • Vale of White Horse
  • Waverley
  • Windsor and Maidenhead

These districts had a third of their seats contested:

  • Basingstoke & Deane
  • Cherwell
  • Eastleigh
  • Elmbridge
  • Hart
  • Havant
  • Maidstone
  • Mole Valley
  • Tandridge
  • Tunbridge Wells
  • West Oxfordshire
  • Winchester
  • Woking
  • Worthing

How did the different political parties fare?

Conservatives

This is a strong part of the country for the Conservatives. We also started from a particularly impressive position in terms of previous election results.

In Surrey, the Conservatives lost control of Tandridge, Guildford, and Waverley. In other places – notably Surrey Heath – there were heavy losses but control of the council maintained.

Apart from Brexit, the challenge for Conservatives in this area is to meet the twin demands for more homes and protecting the greenbelt. The answer to the conundrum is for new housing to be beautiful and attractive – and to identify pieces of land for development that might be within the “greenbelt” but are decidedly brown and scuzzy. Another factor might be that Conservative district councillors are suffering due to the failings of their profligate county council colleagues. A couple of years ago Surrey County Council contemplated holding a referendum on 15 per cent Council tax increase.

The Guildford results were shocking. The Conservatives lost 25 seats to end up with just nine.

In Kent, the Conservatives lost control of Shepway (which has been renamed Folkestone & Hythe). The Conservatives there are seeking to negotiate a coalition. Swale was another defeat, where independents were the biggest winners. Tunbridge Wells saw seats lost to the Lib Dems and Labour but also to the Tunbridge Wells Alliance. Their pitch was anti-development (a particularly popular message when the new developments happen to include “shiny new Council offices”). But if proposed new developments are ugly, is it any surprise that they are unpopular? Ashford saw the Conservatives keep control of the Council, but lose 13 seats. Sevenoaks provided better results – as already reported here.

Chichester in West Sussex saw the Conservative hold onto control – but lose 13 seats.

Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats gained Mole Valley from no overall control. They picked up seats here and there. But the news from Guildford, while disastrous for the Conservatives was also salutary for the Lib Dems. True, they won 17 council seats. But “Residents for Guildford and Villages” won 15, while the Guildford Greenbelt Group won four. It is not for me to claim any inside knowledge regarding the relations between Residents for Guildford and Villages and the Guildford Greenbelt Group. Perhaps they don’t get on. But I note that, combined, they have more councillors than the Lib Dems. Guildford returned a Lib Dem MP in 2001. The Lib Dems used to run the Council. No longer does a Conservative defeat mean a victory for the Lib Dems.

Labour

The main victory for Labour was gaining Gravesham. But how much of this was due to Tory disarray? Several Conservative councillors – including the council leader – became Independent Conservatives. Several of them stood in the elections and a couple won seats. Perhaps the Corbynista message is always unlikely to resonate in this area. Yet the Green Party made progress not only in Brighton and Hove. They also gained three seats in Reigate and Banstead, where Labour didn’t win any. Why does Mid Sussex have three Green Party councillors but no Labour ones? The explanation might be that the Conservatives have failed to show people how extremist the Green Party is.

Conclusion

It is easy to conclude that the Conservatives were the biggest losers. The question of who won is more complicated. Nationally the focus may have been on Brexit. That has certainly been huge. It has prompted hitherto loyal Conservatives to look around for alternatives. But it is also significant that often the alternative has proved to be anti-development independents protesting about the arrogance of planners who impose unpopular schemes on their communities. The Conservatives cannot afford to be anti-development. Sharply increasing the housing supply is an imperative. But nor can the Conservatives, of all people, be indifferent to those seeking to defend the fabric of the communities they love. The answer is for the new homes to blend in, to be sympathetic. They should be an enhancement rather than a blight. It really should not be that hard to go back to building to the standards we managed to achieve in previous centuries.

So certainly there is a message to get on and deliver a proper Brexit. But also for the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission to produce some tangible results. There is a difference though. While councillors can’t do much about Brexit, they can ensure development is popular by requiring it to be attractive, or at least to cease the routine requirement for it to be ugly. There has been a lot of talk about “hard-working” councillors losing seats. How many are sufficiently hard-working to write their own planning policies? How many adopt the lazy (and disastrous) option of leaving it up to the planning officers?

 

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Local elections 4) The minor parties: Greens surge, UKIP collapse, localists and independents thrive

11.30 am

A notable feature of the local elections has been the unusually strong performances for some minor parties, not to mention the sheer variety of them (something perhaps presaged by Newport West by-election). Here are the top lines:

  • The biggest beneficiary by far are the Greens, who at the time of writing have got 48 seats, a net gain of +42. They are likely beneficiaries (along with the Liberal Democrats) of Labour’s failure to make headway.
  • UKIP, by contrast, are having a torrid time of it, with the BBC reporting that at present they hold just 17 seats, a net loss of -54. They have managed to make a few pick-ups in places such as Sunderland, but have been wiped out in their former stronghold in Thurrock.
  • But the biggest surge is in what the BBC classifies as ‘Others’, who currently hold 367 seats – a whopping net gain of +230. With the Tories and Labour having shed between them over 500 council seats, and the Greens and Lib Dems picking up only 350 or so, this represents a significant weakening of the national party pattern in town halls.
  • Unfortunately, the ‘Others’ category can be unhelpfully imprecise at times. The bulk of the councillors in this group are either independents or ‘localists’ – representatives of hyper-local parties. In Bolton, for example, Labour lost a slew of seats to groups such as ‘Horwich and Blackrod First’ and ‘Farnworth and Kearsley First’, a result which the Bolton News reports could lead to the Tories taking control of the council for the first time in four decades. Some larger groups, such as the county-wide Lincolnshire Independents, also did well.
  • But sifting through this group more finely – and thank you in particular to Election Maps UK for so doing – we also find that a perhaps surprising number of very small national parties have gained new town-hall footholds. For example, the continuity Liberal Party picked up a seat in South Kesteven (no word on Patrick O’Flynn’s continuity SDP).
  • Perhaps benefiting from the weakness of UKIP, several right-wing and far-right outfits also managed to gain representation. Democrats & Veterans took two seats in Barnsley, whilst the Veterans & People’s Party and For Britain took a seat apiece. It remains to be seen whether one of these can consolidate these toeholds into a proper local government base in the years ahead, but this is perhaps an early warning of what might be in store for British politics if Brexit remains unresolved.

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