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British Politics

The polls in Scotland just before the last election showed a 21-point lead for SNP over Labour. The SNP went on to take all but one of Labour’s 41 Scottish seats. This week Theresa May called a general election in the wake of polls showing her Conservative party 21 points ahead of Labour. Could Labour now be headed for a Britain wide meltdown of the kind that they suffered in Scotland two years ago? Intriguingly, the distribution of the 2015 Labour share of the vote across the seats they are defending now is very similar to the distribution of their 2010 share of the vote in the Scottish seats that they were defending in 2015. In both sets the vast …

When Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention to call a snap election on June 8, she took a political gamble. Two polls over the Easter weekend put the Conservatives 21 points ahead of Labour. Mrs May will be hoping to translate this polling lead into a crushing electoral victory and a personal mandate that will free her from the constraints of working with her current slim majority of just 17. If she succeeds, she would be empowered politically to deal with factions within her own Conservative Party and the opposition. But how are voters likely to respond to this surprise move by the government? Party leaders are currently trying to frame the electorate’s views of it. Mrs May is …

With the Chancellor’s 2016 Autumn Statement formally burying the previous “austerity” target of achieving a budget surplus by 2020 and instead adopting a new, more expansionary fiscal rule, how does the recent era of fiscal austerity compare with major fiscal squeezes of the past? Christopher Hood and Rozana Himaz put the data into historical perspective and consider the implications for the future. The Recent Fiscal Squeeze and the Longer Term Pattern Since 2010, the UK has been subjected to one of the longest periods of public spending restraint over the last century. But according to our research that episode also seems to fit a long-term pattern of changes in the depth and composition of fiscal squeezes. When we look back at the historical data …

The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (as it then was) on 1 January 1973 after negotiations by the Conservative government led by Edward Heath. In the run up to the subsequent 1974 General Election the Labour Party pledged, in its manifesto, the United Kingdom’s first nationwide referendum on whether to stay part of the Economic Community on renegotiated terms or to completely part company. With a Labour victory, the new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, followed through on his promise and a referendum was held on 5 Jun 1975. The outcome was an overwhelming victory (67%) for the ‘In’ campaign. The 1975 vote in favour of Europe did not, however, end the debate on the United Kingdom’s membership of what …

In earlier generations voters were spoiled for choice. Between 1832 and 1885 many had more than one vote in general elections. The British parliament contained county and borough constituencies and these, depending on size, would return two to four MPs with voters able to vote for as many candidates as there were seats to be filled. A recipe for chaos, perhaps, but there were advantages to these multi-member constituencies. For instance, the Liberals could put up a left-wing radical as well as a traditional Whig, thus broadening their appeal to the electorate. [One wonders whether such an approach could appeal to the modern Labour party]. The upshot was that electors had a choice of which MP to turn to for …

In just under a week, Jeremy Corbyn will almost certainly be re-elected as Leader of the Labour Party – and, if all the credible indications we have are correct, perhaps by a wider margin than the 60 per cent or so of the votes that he received last year. Yet less than a couple of months ago, his position looked worse than precarious. His first nine months in office had been marred by laughable debacle after ludicrous gaffe after embarrassing spectacle. Most of the organised, professional Labour Party at the centre were deeply unhappy with Mr Corbyn’s role in the Remain camp’s defeat in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. He had either under-performed so badly that he was not fit for his office, …

A long time ago I was a Labour councillor who inadvertently brought down the 1974-9 Labour government. The government could only have lasted a few weeks longer in any case, so I have no regrets. The story deserves retelling, because it has important lessons for today. The Labour government elected in 1974 was the first to realise that it faced an existential threat in Scotland. The Scottish National Party (SNP) won 30 per cent of the vote, but only 15 per cent of the seats, in Scotland in October 1974. The Labour Party’s leaders had forgotten Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald, who both started in politics as campaigners for Scottish home rule. After 1945, Labour became the party of the welfare state, …

There is no shortage of lessons to be learned from Brexit and its fallout – for politicians, businesses and the public alike. For strategists, analysts and advisors, these past few weeks have provided a host of examples of both good and bad practice. Surveying recent events, four take-aways stand out: 1) Forecast, don’t predict No one predicted this. Nor did the polls or the betting markets. Even the leaders of the Leave campaign did not predict Brexit. More than this, though, no one predicted that within weeks of a vote all of the Leave campaign’s victorious leaders would have resigned from the field and a new Prime Minister (who supported Remain, however quietly) would be installed in Downing Street. Polling …