May elections, does the bell toll?

May elections, does the bell toll?

I have learned to wait before commenting on election results particularly since many local authorities now count on the Friday during the day to avoid the overtime bill and so unless one runs an exit poll, one can’t know until the weekend. Also, I’ve been away and avoiding the news but I wanted to make three points about the elections last week. Labour did well across the country, although there are one or two self-created greyclouds, Brexit is either less important or the pendulum has swung, and the Green’s finally get a result their positioning and polling deserves.

This is some controversy about how one projects from May 3rd to a general election which is likely to be held at least 12 months in the future. I am of the view the Labour did well and if last Thursday’s results were replicated across the country then there would be a Labour government with a solid working majority. Some disagree, and I link to the Guardian and Labour List opinions below; they both follow the Curtice line that these results are not good enough to get Labour a majority. I haven’t studied the statistical tools that they use, but if you plug the raw numbers into electoral calculus, it predicts a Labour absolute majority with a substantial Lib Dem presence in the new parliament. However, Curtice defends his view in an article in the independent, he argues that people don’t vote the same in a local election as they do for Westminster, he argues that the swing from the Tories to Labour is below that of its opinion poll lead, that winning seats in a first past the post election does not illustrate growing support, because Labour’s vote was not growing; it’s that the tories vote is collapsing.  He says,

On average across 27 constituencies where it is possible to use the BBC’s data to compare the parties’ performances in the local elections with that in the 2019 general election, the Conservative share of the vote was down 19 points while Labour’s own tally was unchanged.

Prof John Curtice, The Independent

There were some important wins, in the South of England, including the capture of Dover council by Labour and the election of one of the country’s leading refugee rights campaigners as a Labour councillor in Folkestone and Hythe. This is a good result for Labour stretching across the county. The Guardian says, about Labour,

Retaking Stoke-on-Trent and East Staffordshire councils from Conservative control, along with picking up seats and councils in the north-west, and across the West and east Midlands, suggests a potential return to Labour competitiveness in Westminster constituencies that voted heavily to leave the EU in 2016. Winning Thanet, Dover and Medway in Kent shows the post-Brexit dynamic could extend beyond the ‘red wall’, while capturing a perennial bellwether town like Swindon provides further encouragement.

The Guardian

It remains obvious that this is, like the polls, a Tory loss, and the Lib Dems and Greens both did well winning, 13 councils between them over 25% of the Tories’ losses.

EuActiv and Labour via the Guardian and Labour List are documenting the results as the return of Brexit voters to Labour.  This underestimates two factors, the first being that people have changed their minds now they see what a Tory Brexit looks like and the second being the effect of the changing demographics over the last seven years. Articulating the idea that, “your Brexit is safe with us”, or that “Brexit voters have returned to Labour” may not be as clever politics as the Labour front bench and their advisors think. Two pieces of evidence from last Thursday suggesting caution. The success of the Lib Dems and the Greens in winning council seats and vote share suggests again that tribal loyalty is weakening. Also the large cities and Scotland did not vote last Thursday; and these are areas where Labour’s young, educated and internationalist voters live i.e. while the Lib Dems seem to be taking Tory votes and seats in the shires, we have little recent evidence as to whether the core and majority of Labour’s 2019 vote will support a manifesto that only tinkers at the edges the cost of living crisis and continues to triangulate on relations with the EU. The timing of Labour’s statement on not abolishing tuition fees was particularly crass and Streeting’s defence of this appears to be a result of him reliving his past.

Furthermore the 2017 general election shows that the campaigns matter and polling leads can change dramatically. We could also consider the 1970 and 1992 campaigns which everyone expected Labour to win, but where its appeal was polluted by its anti-working class legislation and rhetoric.

Labour’s strategy seems to be based on winning back the red wall, mainly leave voting seats lost in 2019. The problem would seem to be that Labour strategists have a recidivist view of what those voters want. Their other problem being that even if they are successful in winning those seats, it takes Labour back to the 2015 results, which it lost and the risk is that in appealing to the imagined blue labour voters they will lose support in the cities (and frankly the red wall too in many of those seats the majority of Labour voters were also remain voters).

In Curtice’s response, he also says,

As well as claiming that the local election results showed that Labour was on course to win an overall parliamentary majority, Labour spokespersons were also keen to argue that they demonstrated that Sir Keir Starmer’s success in changing his party has transformed its electoral prospects. In truth, the local election results raise questions about that claim too. What is much more apparent is the scale of the public’s disenchantment with the Conservatives.

Prof John Curtice, The Independent

This is equally shown by the fact that another thing that Labour needs to worry about, is that it did badly in areas where the leadership pursued an aggressive interference in council candidate selection processes. In Liverpool, in Portsmouth and Leicester Labour lost seats to candidates that had either resigned, been expelled, or just deselected. I don’t expect the NEC to learn from this.

My final point is that the Green Party increased its vote share by two percentage points and won 481 council seats, taking control of one council and becoming the biggest party in one more.  They must now be considered a national party in contention and the media, in particular the BBC, must give them equal air time, and certainly more than the Reform Party or whatever the Faragistas are calling themselves today. …

Labour’s next council slates

It looks like the Labour Party plan to go ahead with Candidate selections for the 2021 local authority elections and possibly the 2022 whole council elections. This is despite the lockdown, and due to the 2019 Conference Rule changes which planned to change the committee structures that manage this process, the bureaucracy’s response was to suspend the old committees and prohibit their AGMs. For most areas, this wouldn’t have mattered, since AGMs must take place after May and the meetings would have to have been postponed due to lock down although the size of the meetings would have made meeting and voting via video conference possible.

I have written previously about the rule change, in this article, which includes a link to the rule change which should now be incorporated in the current Rule Book.

I am worried about the transition to the college based LGCs and I have written a “principles” document, to highlight some outstanding issues and challenges, which includes the size, the electorate for all 3 colleges, candidate eligibility, counting abstentions, conflict of interest, the nature of the due diligence and that TU & CLP delegates are included in the selection committees and that the Procedures Secretary is not a councillor. However it seems that the selections will be done by the incumbent LCFs, so we can postpone those worries.

One area of concern, irrespective of the committee structure, is that the due diligence of candidates is often onerous and factionally biased, I believe it is necessary that candidate assessments may only withhold an endorsement on the grounds that a candidate is not eligible to stand, fails to meet the Labour Party’s eligibility rules, states that they will not conform to the rules on Group conduct and/or other Labour Party rules or for other good reason; the holding of opinions on policy shall not be a reason for non-endorsement.

Two further issues, which ideally required rule changes are the existence of trigger ballots, which it seems for Councillors are not going to be held, but we are unclear what will happen to the Borough Mayors.

The other issue is about conflicts of interest. At the moment the rules only state that familial or marriage relationships are considered conflicts of interest. We should seek to ensure that business relationships, some other commercial relationship such as a rent agreements, a supervisory/supervised relationship in employment or any other issue which might reasonably deemed to exist are declared and appropriately managed. I have written a rule change on this but it is a direct textual amendment to Appendix 4, and Conference can’t amend the Appendices, and there isn’t going to be one. The rule change can be amended to be valid by amending Chapter 5.

Labour Briefing published a scorecard on the LCF’s and found it wanting, an article called, “Local Government Committees – Has the NEC scored an own-goal?“, it seems we won’t find out. This article was written late last year after Conference changed the rules to introduce the ⅓, ⅓, ⅓ based LGC. …

The subversion of democracy by big data

The subversion of democracy by big data

The fabulous Carol Cadwalladyr brings us the next instalment of undoing the surveillance states control over our democracies.

In an article “The Great British Brexit Robbery”, she and the Guardian showed how the Tories and the Brexit Leave Campaigns had used US Data Aanlytics companies to influence the Brexit referendum. It is alleged that the personal data was obtained illegally, its processing was illegal and that it was an undeclared election/referendum expense. The evidence was sufficient for the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission to launch investigations.

Over the last two days, Facebook have suspended Cambridge Analytica & one other company and the latter’s Principal for breaking their terms and conditions and in one case a breach of contract not to pass data on. The story is reported in the Guardian in a story called, “‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower” , which documents the contractual paper trial. This happened two years ago and it is alleged that Facebook knew of it then. It is a crime in many jurisdictions, including California to not notify either the regulators or the data subjects of a breach/leak of personal data.

Sadly 🤔 they have been accused of misleading the House of Commons, select committee inquiry into Fake News. It has been denied that Cambridge Analytica had Facebook data in a verbal submission. Its Chair, Damian Collins, is quite forthright, accusing Facebook of sending under informed representatives to answer the committee’s questions. The word wilful ignorance comes to mind.

As Brits, we need to see if crimes were committed during the 2015 & 2017 General Elections and/or the Brexit Refrendum but this can’t be good for Facebook’s reputation.


I wish we still had Storify, this is one for them.

The image is from the Guardian on the story on Parliament’s reaction. …


A day out in Brentford and Isleworth campaigning for a Labour Victory; this is the second most marginal Labour seat in London. Fab company, the team came from all over London.

I met my first voter who loved Corbyn but was abstaining because he couldn’t stand the local Labour candidate’s anti-brexit position.

A comrade came across someone who claimed to be a life long Labour voter who was leaving us because we plan to repeal the Tories inheritance tax give-aways. They have set the start point to  £850,000 up from £325,000. This makes a difference in London and plays to my argument that tax bills deter not only those that will pay them, but those that hope to do so too. We tried the triple lock and dementia tax, maybe should have tried the abolition of tuition fees. (I wonder if this is the sort of stuff that the Tories are putting out through their Facebook advertising campaign, now if there was only a crowd sourced rapid rebuttal site that I could post this to.) …


A quick trip around the Lewisham Deptford constituency canvassing for the Labour Party. A couple of accusations about getting Brexit wrong, i.e. the nuance in Labour’s front bench position upsets i.e. pisses off London remainers. Labour’s candidate for re-election, Vicky Foxcroft , voted against the Article 50 notice bill, twice! It makes life easier for people like me; I am glad I don’t live in Vauxhall.

I am surprised at the large number of EU citizens I meet who cannot vote in the general election. Mistakes were made; it’s wrong that people who’ve been here for more than 5 years, in employment, paying tax can’t vote in the general election; nor in the referendum.

One issue came up which I had missed and not expected. The Tories have abolished the council tax support for those on the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Councils have had to develop ways of making up the shortfall, by either cutting (discretionary) services or levying council tax on ESA claimants. There are other laws that stop councils levying the council tax on the wealthier residents, if they have them…. It’s another Tory cut ensuring that Labour councils and the Party take the blame.

I’ll finish by stating that there were a few who say they’ve left Labour because of Corbyn. It’s sometimes hard to determine if this is actually about Brexit, or about other aspects of his politics, but I met one person from Northern Ireland who can’t support him over his record on that subject. Someone else did the talking, but I think these conversations have to start with whether they support the Good Friday agreement or not. From my point of view, the anti-corbynism on the doorstep is less frequent, if more vitriolic,  an occurrence then those who couldn’t support Ed Miliband because they didn’t like the way he ate a bacon sandwich, or something!. Labour supporters who repeat these damaging slurs need to remember the way that Ed was attacked as not being up to it and let’s not forget the attacks on Kinnock either.

A final note, Vicky is well known, although some still ask where Joan’s gone! …


Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus explore the latest in Election winning software as sold by Cambridge Analytica and used by the Republican Party in the US General Election. It was also seemingly used by the Brexit campaigners in the UK. Their article explores the evolution of the pyschograph model and data collection techniques developed by academics and then looks at its more sinister uses via Facebook profiling data and big data analytics.

There are two lessons from this. The first, easier and personal one is to seriously consider how one uses Facebook, if at all. I feel it harder to give up now that messenger has E2E encryption but I shan’t be doing any more quizzes, not even what D&D class would you be;  I suppose especially not what D&D class are you, (Wizard by the way). Even the fact that I did an ABBA quiz yesterday and not Lady Gaga seems to give these nosy bastards data that they use.

The second lesson is for the Labour Party and relates to the fact that Trump’s campaign (and to some extent the Brexit and UK GE 2015) have updated the IT playbook. Up until then Obama’s 2012 campaign was the model to match and beat. To compare with this, in 2015, Labour spent more on the “Ed Stone” detailing the infamous five pledges than on Facebook and while some message prototyping, where messages are tested for effectiveness and then targeted and a tiny amount of crowd sourced message design occurred, we have to do better.

In the run up to the election, both Labour and the Tories brought in consultants from the Obama campaign, Labour brought in David Axelrod, and the Tories brought in Jim Messina. Messina would seem to have been the big data champion in Obama’s campaign and with the help of Cambridge Analytica they rewrote the political IT playbook.

The Electoral Commission are now looking into the legality of the Tories expenditure; micro-targeting and message customisation has been shown to cause campaign accounting problems since local and national expenses need to be accounted for separately and have separate limits.

And this is all before the authorities consider the data protection and privacy implications.

There are dangers from micro-targeting as promises made to some groups can be used against the authors. The Motherboard article highlights Clinton’s problem over relief in Haiti and in the UK, Ed Miliband’s mansion tax did not play well in London and the way the British deal with racism in politics has always given hostages to fortune, as we can see on some of the attacks on Ken Livingstone and aspects of the 2016 London Mayoral campaign.

The use of pyschographs and the messages it creates is a reinforcement of the the move from a transactional politics to perception based campaign; it’s one of the reasons that Ed Miliband failed and Labour’s new left, but aged leadership can’t break through to the electorate and one of the reasons why May can adopt elements of Miliband’s programme on energy and the minimum wage. Programmes and promises don’t count as much as they used to.

How to change perception is hard. I have been struggling with “Perception is reality” for many years because it isn’t. There are facts beyond perception and ignorance is ignorance.

Fixing Labour’s IT is easier, and the answer isn’t PHP and an updated voter ID system, it needs a modern applications architecture, a big data platform and it would seem they need to resurrect the once famed rapid rebuttal system. The excuse we can’t afford it no longer holds true. Did you know Labour is debt free?


This is a longer comment based on what I said facebook yesterday, I have made a story @ storify which has some further sources. This article was published on, it has tool tips and should probably have been posted on the blog. …

The struggle of the class

The struggle of the class

I stayed up the People’s History Museum after the meeting and had a quick wander round the standing exhibition. Since it’s a museum of the working class, it’s stronger on the period after the industrial revolution and focuses on the coming of the franchise, the foundation of the trade unions and the Labour Party and the suffragettes. I did however stop at their exhibitions on Thomas Paine and even earlier the Levellers. It opens with two panels on corruption of power and the secret societies which were the precursors of the trade unions, both of which are becoming more accurate by the day.  …