Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Coalfield Challenge

There is a myth that some areas are out of bounds to Conservative campaigners. A council estate is assumed to be a Labour stronghold and a leafy suburb assumed to be Conservative. While this is the stereotype it doesn't have to be true.  In ConservativeHome today Mark Wallace hit a nail so squarely on the head it hammered home in a single blow. Go back to the Coalfields. I live in Leigh which was home to two large collieries until 1992 and there were more, lots more, in the outlying areas. I've campaigned in Leigh for the Conservative Party for years (more about that later) and one thing that gets repeated time and time again on the doorstep is how Thatcher closed all the mines. The truth is that there were two mines at the beginning of Margaret Thatcher's tenure and there were still two at the end of it. The picture is of me at Astley Colliery near Leigh. Even here while out canvassing an angry resident yelled at full volume about the 1000's of miners who worked there until Thatcher closed it. The truth, the mine closed in 1970 on the orders of Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. This is an uncomfortable truth for many in Leigh where, to some, voting Labour is part of the DNA but this is no reason to concede defeat. At its lowest point the local vote in the heart of Leigh barely got into double figures. After just a few years of targeted campaigning this has risen to almost 35%. In neighbouring wards the success of hard campaigning is clearer where Conservatives have been successfully elected. The lesson is, it can be done. Mark Wallace's analysis is correct but I've found it takes a special kind of Get Out The Vote in the coalfields. In communities like Leigh it isn't enough to have a campaign of voter ID, GOTV and knock up. There is an added dimension of overcoming the WSIBTAW (Why Should I Bother They Always Win).  There are more Conservatives in these areas than you might imagine but you really have to earn their vote. This cohort has a tipping point which, if past, brings the votes in. This is evident in areas just outside Leigh where the tipping point has been tipped but Leigh's core still has someway to go, but it can be reached.

Monday, 11 May 2015

All UKIP Roads Lead to Nigel

Following the recent resignation and subsequent unresignation of Nigel Farage, UKIP can no longer claim it is not a one person party. It is all about Nigel Farage.
Before the General Election Nigel Farage announced he would stand down as leader of UKIP if he lost South Thanet.  To his partial credit this is what he did very publicly soon after the election result. Even then he left some wriggle room by announcing he may put himself forward as a candidate. This alone was not an honourable course of action no matter how much he tried to exaggerate that part of his speech where he confirmed he was a man of his word. What followed was nothing more than a fudge to reinstall Nigel Farage as leader come what may. The practical reasons for this are clear. Since his announcement that he'll resign as leader the party membership must have been seriously concerned that this would spell the end of their party and Nigel, too, must have realised this very quickly. The news breaking today that the UKIP NEC "did not accept his resignation" shows very clearly that this has been a well rehearsed route to keep Nigel Farage as leader. The claim by the UKIP NEC that there was "overwhelming evidence that members did not want Nigel to go" maybe true but that does not make them relevant. The UKIP constitution (Link to The UKIP Constitution)  has no power to refuse a resignation. Farage has the right to resign and and only he has the right to rescind. Indeed it gives very clear steps on how to hold a leadership contest after a leader resigns. An extract of the relevant piece reads;

7.7          A Party Leader shall communicate his decision to resign in writing to the Party Chairman, who must then summon an emergency meeting of the NEC within 28 days.

7.8          If there is only one valid nomination for the post of Party Leader the candidate so nominated shall be declared elected as Party Leader without the need for a ballot. Any contested election for the leadership shall be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast. Those eligible to vote shall be members “in good standing” of the Party on the date when the election is called, subject always to the restrictions on voting set out in the final paragraph of Article 4.1.2 above.

7.9          When a vacancy in the leadership occurs due to the Party Leader's death, incapacity, resignation or removal following a vote of no confidence, the procedure for a leadership election shall be initiated by the Party Secretary. 

To repeat, the UKIP constitution gives no power to the UKIP National Executive Committee to refuse a resignation. The decision to carry on as leader is Farage's and his alone. As if in ancient times all UKIP roads lead to Nigel.