Labour’s leadership election process – no lessons learned?

History does seem to be repeating itself. Last night I tweeted:

‘Sorry @UKLabour but I fear the same mistakes are being made as in 2010. A new leader is needed asap. September is too long to wait!’

It all takes me back to 2010, when a similar decision was made. Then I posted my concerns here,  and these concerns equally apply now. I prefer what the LibDems are doing; at least they will have a new leader in place in July!

There’s also been a lot of hand-wringing about what direction the party should take. I return to my point made many times that Labour can’t win if it only appeals to its ‘traditional’ voters (many of whom deserted them for UKIP this time round anyway). New Labour managed to appeal to a wide cross-section of voters, and while I’m not necessarily advocating a return to New Labour, the party has to position itself carefully. Ed Miliband may have been perceived by some to be too left wing, although that’s not my view.  But whoever takes over would be well advised to learn some lessons from the way New Labour were able to win three elections. Otherwise there will be a long period of opposition.

Foursquare/Swarm: return of badges, and mayorships (but not yet)

It’s almost exactly a year since Foursquare changed from its old form, and introduced the Swarm app for checking in. Since then both apps have evolved, but when mayorships were removed, Foursquare lost one of its best features.

I’ve continued to use both apps, checking in on Swarm, and occasionally adding reviews etc on Foursquare.  I have more or less got used to the new system, but now change appears to be in the air!

Last week, Swarm’s update on Android included some quite big changes. Full details are here, but essentially old badges that you gained from checking in are back (but now called stickers), and when you check-in somewhere you can search through your stickers to see if there is one to add to a particular check-in. And you can get new stickers through checking in to particular places (it didn’t take me long to get a bar-related one, for example!) The local crown stickers, for the most check-ins at a location among your friends, seem to have gone, but they were pretty meaningless anyway. Finally, the blog promises that mayorships will return ‘soon’. It seems that (at last), the Foursquare team realised that they had missed a beat by withdrawing them. I look forward to their return!

Post election thoughts and analysis

So, 3 days after the election results became clear, I finally feel able to put my thoughts into words. Although I made it clear in previous posts that I don’t take much notice of opinion polls, mainly because percentage vote share doesn’t neatly relate to our first past the post system, I didn’t expect them to be so completely wrong.  As a result I was somewhat shocked, to say the least!

I have reblogged Angela‘s post, or you can read it here. She makes some very good points, and I recommend you read it.

As for my thoughts, well it was clear that Cameron played a clever trick, using the politics of fear to paint Labour as being totally dependent on the SNP, and in spite of Labour’s protests, much of the electorate were taken in by him.

In Scotland, Labour probably paid the price for going in with the Conservatives and LibDems in the No campaign, although it is hard to see what else they could have done. I was very impressed by the words of Tom Harris, defeated Labour candidate and former Labour MP for Glasgow South, who said: ‘Let me just say one thing by way of an attempt at political analysis: it’s (probably correctly) assumed that Scottish Labour has paid the price for its support for the No campaign in last year’s referendum. If that is indeed the case, then I have to conclude that it was a price that had to be paid. I and many Scottish Labour colleagues lost our jobs last night, and that’s to be regretted. But if we had lost the referendum, we would have lost our country, and that would have been far, far worse.’ I totally echo these sentiments. We still have the union, and Scottish Labour can rebuild.

As for Labour in England, I don’t subscribe to the view that there is some great crisis that will take years to get over. Ed Miliband did a decent job in the campaign, but throughout the last parliament, and in the campaign itself, not enough was made of the fact that the financial crisis was actually a result of the banking crisis, and that things would have been far worse had Gordon Brown not acted as he did to shore the banks up. Some of these points are made by John Prescott in his Mirror article which appeared over the weekend.  Instead, Labour need a new leader (soon, let’s not wait until September like last time), and a period of strong opposition needs to start. There are many unpopular policies (the bedroom tax to name but one), and the Tory majority is not large.

The European Union referendum is also cause for concern, and a concerted effort needs to be made to emphasise the benefits of our membership. The debate will not be balanced, with so much anti-EU sentiment in the right-wing press, but I am encouraged by the work of groups like British Influence who are already campaigning strongly.

Now it’s time to move on. I will be doing what I can to support Labour’s cause, and the UK’s continuing membership of the EU.  And as if that wasn’t enough, the SNP will probably push for another Independence Referendum in a few years. Difficult times lie ahead indeed.


Rob Jackson:

This was written on the day after the election, and says it all. I am still struggling with writing my own post-election blog post, but it will undoubtedly draw on this one for inspiration!

Originally posted on angiesallsorts:

Prime Minister David Cameron has more than the minimum requisite number of seats to hold a Conservative majority government. The outcome seems to have surprised the TV pundits who expected days of negotiations to form another coalition alliance. My more politically savvy husband Rob is absolutely crest-fallen at the election results, although he admits that I sagely predicted weeks ago the shock waves that have reverberated from this vote.

In 2010 Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg faired very well in the 3 party election debates, and gained far more seats than expected as a result. This enabled his party (third in size) to form a partnership with the Conservatives to govern the country. However, that un-holy alliance I believe caused the support harnessed five years ago to disappear. Thus the 57 seats from 2010 have diminished to just 8 today. Areas deemed a bastion for Liberal Democrat support have…

View original 412 more words

Pre-election thoughts

With the election a few hours away, it’s a case of being patient and controlling expectations. The polls suggest a close result, but as I’ve said before, I don’t take much notice of them, since percentage vote nationwide may not correspond to the results of our first past the post system. I discussed this in detail in a previous post.

For me, the worst outcome would be the Conservatives being returned with enough seats to form a government outright. I’m very concerned about the possibility of a EU referendum (which they have promised), because the result could well be that we leave the EU. (There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the benefits of our EU membership, but that’s a discussion for another day). Another coalition with the LibDems would be a slightly less scary scenario, but it remains to be seen how many seats they get this time. Whether they would have enough political muscle to prevent an EU referendum probably depends on this.

I hope that Labour don’t do as badly in Scotland as predicted (again, see a previous post). A sizeable number of SNP MPs in the Westminster parliament only hastens, in my opinion, the formation of a separate English parliament, and further devolution.

So, while there’s still a chance of Labour getting enough seats to form a government, there’s hope. But it’s a tough call. More once we know the result.

The Labour vote in Scotland and the SNP effect

With the election less than a week away, I have been thinking about what may or may not happen in Scotland regarding the Labour vote and the possibility that the SNP will take Labour seats. I say the ‘possibility’ because I don’t take opinion polls too seriously, as discussed in my last post!

Just over 7 months ago the Scottish Independence Referendum was coming up. Labour in Scotland rightly (in my opinion) sided with the No campaign. At the time many who voted Yes confused unpopular domestic policies (e.g. the bedroom tax) with the real issues surrounding independence. Although Labour would abolish this tax (for example) if elected, they may have lost support of some of the electorate now, simply because they were against independence. Add to this the fact that the areas that voted Yes contain several Labour seats (and are areas of high population density, which explains the number of seats), and the threat becomes clear. There is the distinct possibility that some voters in previously strong Labour seats will vote for the SNP because they still resent Labour’s support for the No campaign.

So, although I don’t believe anything can be predicted reliably in this election, if Labour lose seats in Scotland, there is no need for a serious post mortem. Instead they must campaign against the SNP on policies that will win them votes in future elections. Once the dust has settled on the Independence debate, the ‘progressive’ agenda of the SNP will come into focus, and its deficiencies hopefully exposed. It is difficult to do this at present, while Nicola Sturgeon rides on a tide of post-referendum hype. Scottish Labour needs to be patient; their time will come again.

Academic Year ‘disorganisation’

We have a new style academic year at Keele in 2014/15. Up to Easter it felt pretty much the same as previously, but the differences began to become apparent last week. Before going any further I should say that the changes were intended to ‘improve the student experience’, and only time will tell if they have achieved that aim.

The first change was shortening the Easter Vacation from 4 weeks to 3. For many people, the Easter Vacation has been an essential catching up period, both for marking, but also research. In the past I’ve been able to go to conferences or even research collaboration visits; colleagues elsewhere in my school have run field trips. A 25% reduction in the time available makes all these things a bit harder to arrange.

Previously the 4th week of the Easter Vacation was used for resit exams, and then the finals started. Now we have a full 3 weeks before the finals start. OK, it gives more time for revision, but there was no evidence last week that this extra time was being used actively. Instead the campus still had a vacation feel, but with a few students around. Officially classes continue for 1st and 2nd year students for another 2 weeks (so 3 weeks in total), but previously the use of time post-Easter by many parts of the university for these students has been variable, to say the least.

It gets even sillier in a few week’s time. All the exams are crammed into 3 weeks instead of 4 (which was supposed to work because there would be less exams, which hasn’t happened as far as I can see). This means that the chances of students having exams bunched together increases. So much for improving their experience! And then, once the main Spring Semester exam period has finished, the Autumn Semester resits start, with just over a week in between. I simply don’t believe this is a better time for resits than having them in the last week of the Easter Vacation. Students may have several resits, so they will only have a week after their Spring Semester exams to prepare for them.

Of course, we won’t know the overall effect of these changes for some time, but I’m unconvinced by them so far. And a final note – the changes were largely the brainchild of a previous pro vice chancellor, who retired before they came into effect!

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