On the new Doctor

Well, here we go again…
At some point this afternoon, probably around half an hour after the umpire says ‘Game, Set and Match Federer/Cilic’ we’ll find out who the new Doctor is. Whoever they are, they’ll be the fifth new Doctor since the announcement of the series’ return in 2003, and the fourth of them of them to have been the focus of massive fan and press speculation before they were announced (the exception was David Tennant, who was pretty much announced in the same press release that disclosed Christopher Eccleston’s surprise departure).

Things feel different this time as we might be on the cusp of the first female actor being cast as the Doctor. As I write this, Jodie Whittaker is currently the favourite with the bookies (the same position Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi were on the day of their announcement) while she’s also on the cover of the Mail on Sunday as the likely new Doctor (a similar position to the one Bill Nighy was on the day Christopher Eccleston was announced). While she’s not first on my list of women I’d cast as the Doctor – I’m still holding out hope for Tatiana Maslany or Natalie Dormer – i do hope it is her, because she’s a far more interesting choice than any of the men who’ve been suggested this time around, all of whom can be described as Quirky White Blokes.

The problem for me is that all the various male names that are being put forward all reek of looking to the past. In the same way that when the new series was announced people were sure Alan Davies would be the new Doctor – ‘he’s got curly hair, just like Tom Baker!’ – we’re now being treated to a succession of pound shop Tennants and focus group picks of alternate Smiths being seriously proposed for the role, entirely missing the point that those two were complete departures from what has gone before.

One of the reasons I think there is a big change coming this time is the fact that Steven Moffat has chosen to end his era as showrunner with a visit back to the show’s first ever regeneration. The end of The Doctor Falls saw Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor protesting that he wasn’t going to change just as the TARDIS took him to Antarctica to encounter David Bradley (replacing William Hartnell)’s First Doctor complaining about the same thing as he headed back to the TARDIS having also just defeated the Mondasian Cybermen. It feels to me that one of themes of the Christmas special featuring the two is going to be each Doctor having to persuade the other to accept the necessity of major change, and while Moffat hasn’t been involved in planning what comes next, he has spoken about discussing next showrunner Chris Chibnall’s plans with him.

The important thing about that first regeneration from Hartnell to Patrick Troughton is that it was an idea the production team stumbled upon in order to keep the series going when Hartnell’s health meant he had to leave. They’d discussed simply recasting the role, or doing the change quickly in a story where the Doctor would find his face had been changed by a bad guy, but the initial thought was to replace Hartnell with someone similar. It was only after many discussions that they hit on the idea of ‘renewing’ the Doctor (‘regeneration’ didn’t come around as a term till the 70s) into a completely different form and bringing in Troughton, who’d play the Doctor completely differently from Hartnell. That set the tone for all the changes to come, where the Doctor would change radically (often also marking a change in the team behind the scenes) and not just become a new take on an old version.

Chibnall’s era on the series has been spoken of as being a relaunch with a new direction, just like MOffat’s was in 2010 and Russell T Davies’ was in 2005. The announcement this afternoon is the first statement of intent for the new era of the show and the first and best chance to grab the public’s attention and build their anticipation for it. One of the important things about Eccleston’s announcement as the new Doctor back in 2004 was that it told people this wasn’t going to be the Doctor Who of nostalgic folk memory, but something new, different and worth paying attention to. If this afternoon’s announcement is yet another quirky white bloke picking up the TARDIS key, then it’s saying that if you didn’t watch the series before, it’s not going to be much different in the future, so don’t bother. If it is Whittaker, or someone else similarly unexpected and different, then it will make people pay attention and want to know more about what’s coming next. Like Hartnell becoming Troughton in 1966, it’s saying that this is a series where you don’t know what you’re going to end up with when you tune in, rather than one that’s wearing a bit thin and content to plough the same old furrow until it dwindles away from your screen.

She’s-a-coming, hopefully.

Of centrists, radicals and liberals

As the Liberal Democrat leadership election now appears likely to consist of just two stages – closing nominations, and announcing Vince Cable is the winner – attention now turns to what direction the party will head in under its new leader, with some declaring that the only way forward is for the party to become the herald of the ‘radical centre’. This is often linked to claims that what Britain needs is a new centre party and that Macron and Trudeau are examples the party should follow (click on the links to see what I wrote about those ideas before to save me from writing them out again).

The problem with the ‘radical centre’ is that it’s a phrase that’s effectively meaningless, a political buzzword that you invoke to get the nodding approval of your audience without any of you actually agreeing on what it means. Some hear ‘radical’ and think back to the radical reformers of the nineteenth century, imagining it invokes the spirit of the Chartists and others to overturn the structures of power, or they see the unfinished business of the early twentieth century to tax land and wealth, while others imagine it as a call to the spirit of Hayek and Thatcher to radically cut back the state and taxes. Meanwhile some see the centre as a nice safe place to be, just picking what they like from left and right, while others see it as merely a location of necessity on a scale they have no interest in. And all of them hear ‘radical centre’ and see something different from their neighbour whilst imagining everyone is thinking the same as them. (And I will admit to having used this empty signifier myself in the past)

And when you come down to it and ask for an explanation of what the ‘radical centre’ is you get something like this from The Economist. The exact policy detail may change between different ‘radical centrists’ but the intention is the same, wanting a centrism that “reconciles the left’s impatience at an unsatisfactory status quo with the right’s scepticism about grandiose redistributive schemes.” Or in other words, recognising that things are bad or very bad for some people, but there’s not much that can be done about it beyond a few tweaks. Despite the Economist’s claim to liberalism, there’s a strong element of small-c conservatism behind this position as it’s a belief that everything’s essentially all right and any changes that are needed to make things better are purely administrative rather than structural. Quite where the ‘radical’ applies in this centrism is anyone’s guess, and the liberalism it invokes is very much a conservative liberalism that often likes to ignore that left-liberalism exists.

One of the problems of discussing centrism in British politics is that the concept has become strongly linked with liberalism, but I think this is more by a historic quirk of the British party system rather than any ideological similarity between liberalism and centrism. British liberalism has always been a broad church movement, trying to bring together the various different strands of liberalism into one party which, in order to accommodate all these different beliefs has tended to split the difference between them and oscillate around the ideological centre. When we look to other countries we can see liberal parties that don’t anchor themselves in the centre, and we also see centre parties (especially those from the Christian Democrat tradition) that don’t define themselves as liberal but do see themselves as a bridge between left and right. While I doubt any of these parties would define themselves as radical, they do exist as centrist parties of varying levels of political success.

One train of thought I’m developing in my work on centre parties – and this is still quite nascent, so comments and thoughts on it welcome – is the concept of a political system having what I’m calling for now a ‘centrist moment’. That is to say, there’s a period of time where there’s tacit agreement of parties and electorate to agree upon a consensus politics of the centre which can either take the form of a centrist party being in power or an alternation between left and right that’s effectively about managerial differences rather than ideological ones. Systems move between a centrist moment and a polarized one (where differences are accentuated and ideology becomes more important) independently of any left-right ideological movement as they choose to accept or reject a consensus. In this view, Britain is actually exiting a two-decade long centrist moment, while France is entering one. We can’t have a British Macron, because we’ve already have one.

If we continue to conflate liberalism and centrism – whether it’s ‘radical’ or not – then we’re heading up a blind alley towards a liberalism that doesn’t challenge anything but is content to be brought out in defence of the status quo. It’s liberalism with the sharp edges filed off to make it safe and unthreatening to anyone with any actual power and of no hope to anyone without power looking in on the gilded centre from the outside. Just saying you’re radical doesn’t mean you are, no matter how many times people might say it.

Cable needs to speak up and answer questions before he gets crowned as leader

‘Can I put these back in the garage yet?’
I was once elected as a Liberal Democrat leader without a contest. Long term readers of this blog (I like to pretend there are some) or those few with memories of Colchester politics of more than four years will remember that I was leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Borough Council in 2013-14, and when I was elected to that role it was without anyone else standing against me. It’s not an uncommon thing to happen in local politics (in all parties) as often senior positions within groups and councils are allocated on the basis of who has the time to do them, but it’s still uncommon in national politics. In recent years, only Michael Howard and Gordon Brown have become leader of a major Britain-wide party without facing any form of election, but now Vince Cable appears poised to join them as all his potential rivals for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats have now pulled out of the race.

Some people appear to be relieved that we’re not going to be having a leadership contest, but I’m not one of them. Not only does it mean that we as members aren’t going to have a say on the future direction of the party, but it also means that Cable’s going to become leader without any real scrutiny or examination of what he wants to do as party leader. Now I know several of you are now muttering about how the leader doesn’t run the party, Conference is sovereign, and all that but the leader has huge power to create the image of the party in the eyes of the public. They get the bulk of the party’s media appearances, the decision about which questions to ask at PMQs and the content of the leader’s speech, which is the only bit of Conference that gets any significant media coverage. Their formal power within the party’s structures may be low, but their informal power inside and outside the party is huge, which is why we put a lot more effort and attention into party leadership elections than other internal contests.

Which brings me back to my time as a leader. When I decided to put myself forward, I sent out a message to my fellow councillors explaining why and what I wanted to do in the role. At the group AGM before I was confirmed in the role I did a further speech to them and answered a bunch of questions before being confirmed, and I then wrote to all the local members and did press interviews on what I wanted to do. The point is that even I didn’t face an election, people ha da pretty clear idea on my aims priorities for the leadership (whether I was successful in those aims is a debate for another time).

The problem we have now is that we don’t have anything other than the vaguest idea about what a Vince Cable leadership will mean for the Liberal Democrats, yet we’re now in a position where it’s almost certain to happen. We had an ‘I’m standing for leader’ statement on LDV but nothing more since. As far as I can tell, there’s not even a ‘Vince for Leader’ website and his official website doesn’t even mention he’s an MP again, let alone his leadership bid. It’s not just that his ambivalence on keeping freedom of movement is a problem, it’s the issue of how he’ll deal with press questioning on it if – as he should as leader – he now speaks up for party policy in favour of it and remaining in the EU.

Beyond that, we need to know what his focus as leader would be. Would it be on building his and the party’s media profile? Developing policy (and in which direction)? Reforming the organisation of the party? Going out on the streets to campaign on the doorstep with members? Touring the country giving speeches? Working with other parties in Parliament to defeat the government? There are many different styles of leadership – and we’ve seen most of them in the Liberal Democrats – and we need to know what sort of leader he sees himself as being, how he’d strike the balance between all those different tasks that are required of a leader. If he is going to be appointed by acclamation by the MPs, we need to know how he sees the job so we have targets and promises to hold him to.

I’m not calling for an MP to be dragooned against their will into standing against Vince, and I understand the personal reasons that have been given for not standing, but if he is going to become leader of the party in a few weeks time, he needs to be out there now putting forward his vision for the future of the party and answering the many questions members have about the future direction of the party. Expecting people who hold power to be accountable is a key principle of liberalism, and we need to know that Cable understands that he’s accountable to the membership and needs to have their support before he’s crowned as leader. Waving through his coronation in the hope that it’ll all work out fine is just about the worst thing we could do right now.

We can’t have an election, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give the only candidate for the job a thorough interview and set out what we want to see him do in the role before giving it to him.

Governing, auditing and opening up the Council

An unreviewed council meeting (picture via Colchester Chronicle)
Some of you may have heard the news that I’m the chair of Colchester Borough Council’s Governance and Audit Committee for the next year, after being Deputy Chair of it last year. As I wrote last year, Governance and Audit is a committee with somewhat of a dull reputation because its main job is to review the council’s procedures and oversee the various audits the council undergoes, and they’re the sort of things that usually only get very interesting when something has gone, is going, or is about to go wrong.

However, one thing my predecessor as chair of the committee, Chris Pearson, introduced last year was to make it a bit more proactive in looking at ways we could improve the governance of the Council. That’s why last year we had the snappily-named Review Of Meetings And Ways Of Working (the ROMAWOW, as no one has yet been heard to refer to it in public) which I wrote about here, and which has its final report coming back to the committee tonight. There are a number of changes coming about as a result of it, most notably to the public that Have Your Say public speakers at council meetings will now have the opportunity to speak again in response to the answer they’ve been given, but there are a number of other changes in how we present information at meetings and how they’re run that should hopefully make them better for members of the public and councillors. One of these changes is starting some meetings later, which is why tonight’s meeting will be starting at 7pm instead of the usual 6pm.

Having done that review, though, I’m aware that a lot of people’s frustrations can’t be addressed by just changing the way we do meetings. So, that’s why I’ll be suggesting tonight that we build on this review with another one that will look at issues around elections and public participation in the democratic process. This will hopefully have two element. First, looking at the procedural elements of how the council runs elections to see if there are ways it can be improved to make it better for the public. Obviously, this has to be done under the rules set out by the Representation of the People Act so my favoured solution to a lot of problems – change the electoral system to Single Transferable Vote, like they have in Scottish and Northern Irish local elections – is a non-starter for now, but there are other aspects that can be looked at. For instance, I know people have suggested the design and information provided on polling cards could be improved, but I’m sure there are lots of other suggestions that could be made.

The second part is a bit more nebulous at the moment, but I want us to also look at how to improve public participation in elections and local democracy more generally. One thing I’ve always tried to stress is that democracy isn’t just an event, it’s a process, and for that process to occur we need to have those public spaces – which can be physical or virtual – where people can access information and share opinion. What the council can do directly here is perhaps limited by law and current levels of funding, but how can we as a council and a wider public improve the levels of information and debate available to everyone so we can move towards a better and more responsive local democracy?

All thoughts are welcome, and we’ll hopefully have a wider discussion on this at the next committee meeting on 25th July and see how to move this forward. (And yes, I should have posted this a while before the meeting, but I was on holiday last week…)

Name that year

It was a tumultuous political time. The Conservative British Prime Minister wanted to consolidate their authority and called a snap General Election. The signs had looked good for an increased majority, but in a surprising result, they actually lost their majority and were forced to enter coalition talks with a minor party.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, it was a rare year in which a British General Election coincided with a French Presidential one. This election saw a centrist former Economy Minister win the election, and then go on to turn the movement that had won him the presidency into a full-fledged party of the political centre.

The year, of course, was 1974 with Edward Heath’s snap election losing him his majority and being forced into ultimately unsuccessful talks with the Liberals, while in France Valery Giscard D’Estaing became President and turned his Independent Republicans movement into the Union for French Democracy.

The year went on to have a second general election in the UK, and also saw the first ever resignation of a US President after a scandal about obstruction of justice grew to a point where he was likely to be impeached and removed from office.

All this, of course, bears no resemblance to anything that has happened in 2017.

Is it time for Liberals and Greens to work together?

Having taken a few days break from blogging after confessing my election punditry sins, I figured it was time to get back into the habit because who knows when I’m going to be called on to write a general election diary blog again? Will it be in September or October, or might I even have to wait until May next year for the whole thing to come crashing down?

It’s because that next election is so close that we don’t have the usual time we might have had for vacillation about things we’d like to see happen when it comes about. Not that any of them ever do, but perhaps those same good intentions that dissipate over five years might be focused into something more real when the next election might just be months away, and no one really fancies giving up another few hundred thousand pounds in lost deposits when it comes.

One promising development over the last few months has been electoral alliances between parties moving from the vaguely theoretical to the occasionally practical on a local basis. It started with the Greens withdrawing in the Richmond Park by-election in order to help Sarah Olney beat Zac Goldsmith, then was repeated in a number of seats at the general election, with the Liberal Democrats reciprocating by pulling out of Brighton Pavilion and Skipton and Ripon. Caroline Lucas was re-elected with her highest majority yet in Brighton, while in nine of the seats where the Greens withdrew, the Conservatives were defeated including the Lib Dem gain in Oxford West and Abingdon. (The Greens also withdrew from the contests in Richmond Park and St Ives where Lib Dems narrowly lost)

It feels to me that there is (despite resistance from within the parties) an appetite for more working together between Liberal Democrats and Greens, even if Labour’s attitude towards any progressive alliance is one where they insist they should take plenty but give nothing away. Especially since last Thursday, I’ve seen plenty of Labour supporters demand that other parties give them a clear run in seats where they’re second, but no signs that they’re willing to even consider withdrawing anywhere, let alone actually do it.

What also seems clear right now is that the next election, whenever it comes, is going to be framed as being a purely two party affair with every decision framed as being between Corbyn and whoever ends up with the chalice of Tory leadership when May is finally eased out of Number 10. Other parties are going to be churned up underneath that grand narrative, given just enough in the media to justify it being called fair coverage but nothing more.

In that light, would it not make sense for us to work together to not just ensure that we can survive the coming storm, but to build something for the future when the public grow disillusioned with the tired narratives of the two big parties and look for an alternative? The Liberal Democrats and Greens already have large areas of agreement: both parties are pro-European and pro-EU, both have a strong commitment to civil liberties, both want more emphasis on climate change and the environment in public policy, and both want radical reforms in the way our country is governed with power taken from Westminster and placed in the hands of individuals and communities. There’s enough agreement there, and across other policies, to provide a firm basis for exploring deeper co-operation a lot further.

Sure, there are differences between the parties – if there weren’t, they wouldn’t be separate parties – but every political movement has to make a trade-off between ideological coherence and size. I think there’s enough in common between the two parties to form a broad church that includes them both within a common alliance and show the public that we’re capable of talking out our differences and finding common ground rather than retreating behind fences and insisting that we don’t want to talk to others only those we already agree with. As ever, the challenge is that if we think our ideas are right, then surely any good follower in the footsteps of John Stuart Mill should want to grab the opportunity to persuade others of that rightness, not dismiss the opportunity out of hand?

It’s going to take a lot of political will, a lot of forgiving old slights and a lot of good intentions on both sides to make something like this happen, but isn’t it better to try and do something differently and build something new for the future? Both parties are at risk of being shoved to the sidelines as the narrative concentrates on the Tories and Labour, and this is a chance to stand together and pull the country towards a new, more hopeful, future. Who wants to try?

A tale of two leaders

Flash back eight weeks to Easter weekend, and consider the position Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron were in then. One of them was an experienced and safe pair of hands, riding high in the polls and with a small, but solid majority in Parliament, while the other was an outsider who’d never run in an election before, let alone won one and while he was doing well, there were questions about how whether he could hold off a challenge from a surging left-wing candidate, and even if he could win, how could he ever hope to put together a coalition that would allow him to govern?

Now move forward over the next two months and notice how the fortunes of the two of them have had an inverse relationship over that time. May called an election to see off a seemingly weakened left-wing and give herself a massive majority in Parliament, but instead she’s lost her majority and found that the newly enlivened and surging left are snapping at her heels. Macron, by contrast, saw off the threat of Melenchon in the first round, then crushed Le Pen in the second to win the Presidency by a clear margin.

Since then, he’s barely put a foot wrong, while she’s bounced from unforced error to unforced error, and now both countries are having parliamentary elections within a few days of each other (the first round of France’s Presidential elections happen tomorrow). The leader who had a twenty-point poll lead in April and was being projected to win a massive majority failed to even protect her small one and is now scrabbling around looking for allies, while her trusted advisers have quit. On the other side of La Manche, April’s untested candidate with little infrastructure around him has put together a coalition of support, drawn in a wide range of trusted advisers and is projected to win a massive victory in tomorrow’s elections, possibly with a majority of over 200.

One keeps on sliding as the other rises higher, and it’s definitely not the way round we expected them to be two months ago.

2017 General Election: The things I got wrong

I think it’s important, both as an academic and a politician, to look back at things and see where you went wrong in the hope you won’t make the same mistakes the next time around. It’s important to get rid of all those errors so you can make a whole set of brand new ones the next time around, rather than just repeating the same ones again and again. I’m lucky in that my chosen field within political science is parties and party systems which is related to and uses data from political behaviour and elections, but is much more about analysing things after the fact rather than trying to test theories by making predictions.

That’s why I wasn’t building a complex model to predict the election and didn’t really jump into making anything more than the vaguest predictions. However, that didn’t stop me being wrong about YouGov’s prediction which, along with the broadcasters’ exit poll, appears to have been the most accurate of all the models. I dismissed it because it didn’t match up with my expectations and perceptions, so I did the natural thing (as did so many other people) of sucking in through my teeth and muttering ‘dodgy methodology’ and ‘looking for headlines’, without thinking about why they might have come up with something that challenged my perceptions.

One importnt thing to learn is that big data crunching like this has a better perspective than you. From the bits of Colchester I’d seen and spoken to, I didn’t feel that Labour were in second place here, but until yesterday I’d never seen people queuing to vote in my local polling station either which was a clear sign of something unexpected going on. It does raise an issue I think we often elide in our discussions of voter behaviour where we assume that ‘the voters’ and ‘the non-voters’ are the same people at each election, and often neglect to consider movement between the two groups. We also – and this is something common to politicians and academics – forget that people don’t exist solely in terms of our labels. Just because we have someone down as a Tory, Labour or Lib Dem voter doesn’t mean that they consider themselves that in the same way and in some conditions – especially when the links between parties and voters are weak – they’re not going to behave in the way we expect.

I also missed the relative popularity of Jeremy Corbyn, though in my defence his election did seem to be following the same pattern as Miliband’s two years ago: the crazed revolutionary depicted in the right-wing media turning out to not be much like that when the public saw them, getting more confident as the election went on, but then a final onslaught of negative press burying them. Except this time Corbyn managed to keep that momentum up, and even if he didn’t shake it off to the extent that Blair did, he did achieve it better than Miliband.

I’ve only had a couple of hours sleep in the last thirty-six, so those are the errors that come to mind right now, but do feel free to go through my election posts in painstaking detail and point out anything else I got wrong in the comments. I’m still mulling over the questions of where we are and what comes next, but things aren’t unfolding with the same sense of post-election urgency that they did in 2010 and 2015 – possibly because everyone’s still shell-shocked from a bizarre night – so writing about that can wait until tomorrow when my brain’s capable of thinking in a bit more depth.

Tempted to call that next post Day 1 of the 2017 General Election v2, but I’ll probably resist that temptation when I’m better rested.

2017 General Election Diary Day 50: Far from golden

And so we come to the end. Seven weeks of electioneering enter their last few hours, and now we just have to wait for the people to go and vote (excluding all those who’ve done it by post already, of course). Several forests worth of leaflets have been delivered, millions of doors have been knocked (and some of them have even been opened), and thousands of carefully micro-targeted Facebook ads have been blindly scrolled past as people look for amusing things involving cats.

And what have we learned at the end of it all? On Brexit, the subject that the election was ostensibly called to settle, we know that Theresa May has a plan, but she won’t tell us what it is, and that Jeremy Corbyn would rather talk about anything but it, despite the fact that leaving the Single Market would likely lead to the Government having very little money with which to implement any of his ambitious plans. We know that other parties exist, but that they don’t really count as the media’s just too glad to be pretending that everything’s back to two-party politics again and all issues can be presented as arbitrarily binary. I have a feeling that this is going to be an election that we look back on in years to come and wonder just what we were thinking in not actually discussing important issues in any depth and allowing soundbites to no longer just describe a policy in simplistic terms but completely occupy the space that any policy would have fitted in.

But then, the other big news of the day is that Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of being behind a shooting in the parliament in Tehran, which coupled with the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar this week could lead to our general election being an amusing footnote in books about the war. Assuming there are historians around to write the books, and we don’t have to wait a thousand years for someone to uncover ‘strong and stable’ from the ashes and decide, as all bemused archaeologists usually do, that it was probably of some sort of ritual significance.

I don’t mean to sound angry and cynical about the whole process, but I am, so that’s the way it comes out.

Anyway, let’s look forward to tomorrow, when the media will be telling us that campaigning is over, and thousands of political activists will be saying they wish it was. They’ll be up at the crack of dawn to deliver leaflets, or sit on polling stations taking numbers, or drive voters to the polls, or phone people to remind them to vote, or lots of other things that make up the election day ritual. And at the end of that fifteen hour day, fuelled by cold sausage rolls and the last jaffa cake in the packet, a lot of them will be trying to make themselves look presentable to go to the count and experience the triumph or disaster that’s to be found there. Which is to say that if you do encounter an activist in the streets tomorrow, be nice to them because they’re doing this as a volunteer and they’re possibly not enjoying it but soldiering on regardless, just in case that little bit of effort might make the difference. And those people at polling stations asking for your polling number aren’t trying to use dark arts to determine how you voted, but just to know that you have so you won’t be disturbed for the rest of the day. A lot of them aren’t regular activists or even party members, so be nice to them, please.

So it’s time for our final Election Leaflet Of The Day, and people have suddenly decided to start putting lots of leaflets on the site which makes it hard to pick just one, especially as some were for elections that happened a while. I was getting excited that the Tories had a long-dead American TV star standing for them in Norfolk, but it turns out that Lorne Green has already been elected as their PCC. Then there’s this one, which hides some quite nasty views behind a jokey tone, and features ‘Note 1’ which should really be top of the list of things you don’t put on an election leaflet. However, our final leaflet of the day will have to be this one from Doktor Haze in Brighton Kemptown, who promises that we will be ‘stronger in chaos’ and that ‘in a world of horrors your country needs a ringmaster’. Finally a positive vision we cana all rally round and support.

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow (if you haven’t already), and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about the results on Twitter and here on Friday. See you on the other side.

2017 General Election Diary Day 49: Too far gone to turn around

What we could have seen on election day, December 2010.
Seven weeks since this all started, and now just a couple of days to go. I’m pretty sure it was a nice day back in April when all this began, warm and full of sunshine. Now, the weather seems to be reflecting the mood of the country after nearly two months of election related nonsense. Everything’s very grey and it feels like there’s a quest to wash us all away or at least cleanse of us of our misdemeanours. Or maybe it’s just a weather system brought on by the collective wish of the population to have a day without any leaflets being delivered, and this is the easiest way to bring that about? I’m just remembering the absolute drenching I got on the referendum day last year, and hoping that doesn’t happen again, though it’s worth noting that after 2010 returned a hung Parliament, some in the Civil Service were apparently expecting another election later than year, and pencilled in an expected date. On that date in December, much of the country was under a heavy covering of snow, which would have made things very interesting…

We’re in the stage of the election when parties are starting to shift into ‘getting out the vote’ mode, which isn’t something that just happens on election day itself. Hard as it is for us politics obsessives to believe, a lot of people need to be reminded that the election is happening on Thursday and that they have to go and vote then. That’s why you start seeing a lot of leaflets now that stress that, and we’ve also recently seen the ‘make a plan to vote’ message appear in a lot more political literature as studies have shown that if people do that beforehand, they’re more likely to remember on the day itself.

Some people’s thoughts are turning to what happens after the election and that also includes Jeremy Corbyn telling us of his plan for his first day in Number 10. Frankly, I find it all rather unbelivable in that he doesn’t appear to have included at least an hour for just wandering around the place and saying ‘holy shit, how did I manage this?’ with additional time for any conversations with new Cabinet members saying the same thing. (it’s important to use expletives at key moments of history).

And a reminder for those of you waiting until the polls settle before making your predictions: they’re not going to settle, so you might as well just try your best guess in my election prediction contest now. And while Corbyn is wandering around swearing for one reason or another, I’ll be poring over the new political maps to work out just who the winner of that contest is, and if it’s possible to visit all the tripoints during the next Parliament. If you want something to shape your prediction on, then the Britain Elects Nowcast might be handy as it’s an actual map of the country so you can see what borders with where. However, as with almost all election maps and predictions, it doesn’t attempt to give any details for Northern Ireland.

The election in Northern Ireland has been one of the hidden parts of this general election, getting at best only occasional and cursory coverage from anyone dealing with the election, and with all debates there squeezed into the same framework that applies to the rest of the UK. The potential of parties to win seats is more often depicted in terms of what that might mean to any potential coalition or minority government deal-making than it does to the political future of Northern Ireland. It’s entirely possible that there might be a third election there this year if no deal on the new Assembly is possible given the current numbers. I’m just as guilty as anyone of not paying enough attention to what’s going on there, but the results there on Thursday will matter as more than just some slightly different colours appearing on the screen but as seeing what the political makeup of the only part of Britain with an EU land border will be.

And so for Election Leaflet Of The Day we shall have what I think is the first leaflet from Northern Ireland of this campaign which helps to give an idea of the different political language and issues that dominate elections there. It’s from Gemma Weir, Workers Party candidate for North Belfast, and if you want to comprehend the different nature of politics there, ask yourself how you would explain the slogan ‘no sectarian headcounts’ to someone from the rest of the UK. Then when you’ve explained that, try and explain how the Workers’ Party evolved from Sinn Fein and the difference between ‘Official’ and ‘Provisional’. Then apologise when they tell you they just wanted directions to the train station, not a discussion on Irish politics.

Fifty-three hours to the exit poll and the big decisions are yet to be made – BBC or ITV for election night coverage?