Tag Archives: politics

What is the Sussex PCC and why should I vote?

If you feel in the dark about the upcoming Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (Sussex PCC) elections, you’re not alone. Only 15% of the electorate voted in Sussex in the 2012 elections, and it was even less in some areas.

That’s not because people don’t care about their local police force. But many people are simply unsure of what they’re voting for, or how their vote will actually affect the way police work in their community. The Green Party wants to change that – we want to show people they have a democratic vote, and they can use it to make things better.

What is the Sussex PCC?

In 2012, the government introduced local Police and Crime Commissioner post, to replace the existing Police Authority system. Each elected  PCC is now in charge of:

  1. Building the vision for policing in the community they serve. They create a Police and Crime Plan, which allows them to make a strategy and set objectives.
  2. Setting the budget, which allows them to prioritise the areas that need more money, and do away with any wasteful spending.
  3. Appointing a Chief Constable, and holding him/her to account for delivering a proper service.
  4. Making the police answerable to communities they serve. If you feel like your police service is doing a poor job, you can vote for a new PCC and make things change.

Why should I vote Green?

It’s no secret that, over the past six years, the government has been slashing the budgets of public services and selling them off to private companies. In Sussex there have been millions of pounds worth of cuts to policing, and at the end of last year £56m more cuts were announced, with up to 1000 jobs to be axed.

Unsurprisingly, that coincides with rising crime rates in the community. Recorded crime in Sussex (excluding fraud) rose by 7.9% over the last year, and over the past six years fell by half as much as it did in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, Katy Bourne earns £85,000, and with a team of staff her office’s total wages last year were £809,297, including £71,208 for her Head of Public Engagement and Communications and £84,642 for her Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer. Overall her office costs, including those salaries, was £1.37 million last year – despite the fact that she promised to cut costs in 2012.

It’s clear that there are major issues facing Sussex. That’s why I will be fighting tirelessly against the government cuts and privatisation, and against unnecessary spending that takes money away from public services. I will also be fighting for:

1) A police service, not a police force.

It’s clear that homelessness and drugs are growing problems in Sussex. I want to see a police service that doesn’t aim to criminalise and marginalise our most vulnerable people, but finds ways to support and help them. Arresting or fining homeless people is not only inhumane, it simply doesn’t work.

2) Honest, evidence-based policing

I will encourage the use of diversion programmes to help people away from re-offending. I will expand restorative justice programmes so offenders can face the consequences of their crimes.

3) Greater focus on hate crime and violent crime

Racism, LGBT and disability abuse, and domestic violence are major issues that do not get the attention they deserve. I will create a strategy and a budget that puts resources where they are needed most.

We want to see a much bigger turnout in the 5th May election. By voting, you will be strengthening our democracy. By voting Green, you will be changing our police service for the better.

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We Only Hurt the Ones We Love?

Anyone who has attended more than the occasional election count will undoubtedly have heard someone say that their party has lost a seat because of another party splitting ‘their’ vote; it might be a Conservative accusing UKIP, or a LibDem pointing a finger at Labour, or vice versa, but whether on the left or the right, partisans tend to assume that the vote on their side of the political spectrum belongs to their party, and to no one else.

It’s particularly apposite to think about this at the moment, given Michael Fabricant’s discussion paper on the hypothetical benefits from a Con-UKIP pact, and the revived myth (as definitively rubbished by Anthony Wells, http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/4444 ) that at the 2010 General Election, UKIP cost the Tories 20-40 seats.

I had already been thinking of looking at this, as I’d been assembling a large data set of local election results, for council elections in the South East England region, for the most recent election cycle (2009-2012). Whereas the General Election had a maximum of 650 data points – constituencies – to examine for evidence of potential vote-splitting, not all of which will have multiple parties from the same political wing, local elections offer several times the number of data points to analyse.

Does the data bear out the belief that vote-splitting hurts, and that it is parties who should be our best friends – or at least as friendly as that bloke from work we sometimes play five-a-side with and have a drink afterwards – who are splitting our votes?

 

Parameters of the Analysis

For the purpose of this analysis, I’m counting the following parties as right wing and left wing respectively (in descending order of electoral success):

Right: Conservatives, UKIP, BNP, English Democrats (ED)

Left: Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens

The elections used are council elections from all county, district, borough and unitary authorities in the South East region of England, from 2009 to 2012. Only main council elections (taking place in May of each year) are used; by elections may be subject to many other factors and influences, and have been excluded.

Council wards may be represented by one, two or three members, who may elected one at a time, or simultaneously. If multiple members are elected in one election, and hence there are multiple candidates from a single party, it becomes much more difficult to determine how an election might have been different if a particular party had not stood; therefore, the analysis is based only on single-seat elections.

 

The Data

Limiting the dataset to single-seat elections gives us 1,895 elections to work with. Of this number, 3 have no candidate from either left or right (all candidates are either Residents, Independents, or other, small parties); 6 wards have no right candidate, and 74 have no left candidate. Further, 38 wards were won by Residents’ Association candidates, and 30 by Independents. This leaves 1,744 seats won by a candidate of the right or left. These can be divided into four groups:

a) 1 right and 1 left candidate: 240 seats

b) multiple (2, 3 or 4) right candidates, 1 left candidate: 151 seats

c) 1 right candidate, multiple (2 or 3) left candidates: 740 seats

d) multiple right and multiple left candidates: 613 seats

 

a) The Baseline: Head-to-Head Contests

The straightforward contests in group (a) break down into 183 right wins, all Conservative (81 over Labour, 95 over LibDems, 7 over the Greens) and 57 left wins (30 Lab over Con, 2 Lab over UKIP, 25 LD over Con). So in straight 1 right/1 left contests, right wins 76.25%, left wins 23.75%. This is a baseline we can use to compare the other results against.

Right Wins Left Wins
Baseline Case: Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%

 

b) Splitting the Right Vote?

The Conservatives contested all 151 of these seats; 137 were against UKIP, 7 against BNP, 5 against the English Democrats, and 2 against UKIP and BNP

The left was represented (only one party from the left in each seat in this category, remember) by Labour in 45 seats, the LibDems in 104, and the Greens in 2.

The results were 118 Conservative wins, 1 UKIP win (i.e. 119 right wins), 14 Labour wins and 18 LibDem wins (i.e. 32 left wins)

Right Wins Left Wins
Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%
Multiple Right, Single Left   78.81%   21.19%

As can be seen, there is no significant difference in results with multiple parties on the right contesting a seat.

To go further, in 7 of 14 Labour victories, and 9 of 18 LibDem victories, the winning party’s vote was greater than the total of all right parties, meaning that even if there had been a single party on the right contesting the seat, and every right voter in the real election had voted for that party, the right would still have lost. We can therefore add these to the seats actually won by Conservatives and UKIP as seats where splitting the right vote definitely made no difference: a total of 135 seats. So this leaves us 16 seats, or 10.60%, in which a theoretical transfer of 100% of votes to the leading right party would gain them 16 seats, or 10.60%.

A YouGov survey from 2010 (http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-Pol-YouGov-BNP-UKIP-Formattedv2-291110.pdf) shows that not every voter would transfer uniformly to a party on the same side of the political spectrum (in this case, UKIP or BNP to Conservative); the net transfer (the difference between transfers to the Conservatives and a Labour or LibDem opponent) would be around 18 or 19%. If we examine some hypothetical thresholds, assuming that a net of 50%, 25% or 10% of votes would transfer, the Conservatives would gain 6, 3 or 2 seats.

Split Effect

  100% Transfer   50% Transfer   25% Transfer   10% Transfer
Head to Head Contests 0.00%
Multiple Right, Single Left 10.60% (16) 3.97% (6) 1.99% (3) 1.33% (2)

 

c) Splitting the Left Vote?

449 seats were contested by Labour and the LibDems; 20 by Labour and the Greens; 18 by the LibDems and the Greens; 253 by all of Labour, the LibDems and the Greens.

The right was represented by the Conservatives in 738 seats, UKIP in 2, and BNP or ED in 0.

The results were 446 Conservative wins (446 right wins), 135 Labour wins, 150 LibDem wins and 9 Green wins (i.e. 294 left wins)

Right Wins Left Wins
Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%
Multiple Right, Single Left   78.81%   21.19%
Single Right, Multiple Left   60.27%   39.73%

This is significantly different to the baseline case, but the left has won more, rather then fewer, seats when the left vote is split. This is a counter-intuitive result; it is possible that this is because seats that are demographically more favourable to the left attract more left candidates, but it would be impossible to verify this without considerably more research.

In 338 of the Conservative victories, the Conservative vote was greater than the total of all left parties. Adding these to the seats actually won by left parties as seats where splitting the left vote definitely made no difference gives a total of 635 seats. The 100% theoretical transfer to the leading left party would gain them 108 seats, or 14.59%. This is comparable to the 10.60% where a split right vote would make a difference on a 100% transfer. The table shows the effects at 50%, 25% and 10% transfer.

Split Effect

  100% Transfer   50% Transfer   25% Transfer   10% Transfer
Head to Head Contests 0.00%
Multiple Right, Single Left 10.60% (16) 3.97% (6) 1.99% (3) 1.33% (2)
Single Right, Multiple Left 14.59% (108) 8.24% (61) 4.87% (36) 1.76% (13)

These figures are noticeably higher than the reverse scenario. This may reinforce the speculation that multiple left parties stand in demographically more favourable territory: not only do the left win more when multiple left candidates stand, but in such areas they could benefit more from theoretical transfers. This would lead logically to a hypothesis that where there are multiple left candidates, the appearance that vote splitting is costing the left potential victories is caused by the seat containing more left votes, rather than actually being caused by split voting. It would be useful to obtain some polling data on potential transfer inclinations of left voters, to see how important this is.

 

d) Splitting Both Votes?

These 613 seats break down as follows:

Right Candidates Left Candidates
407 seats   2   2
175 seats   2   3
20 seats   3   2
10 seats   3   3
1 seat   4   2

The results were 388 Conservative wins, 1 UKIP win (389 right wins), 45 Labour wins, 178 LibDem wins and 1 Green win (i.e. 224 left wins). As the table below shows, this is similar to the previous analysis of seats where the right vote isn’t split, but the left vote is.

Right Wins Left Wins
Head to Head Contests   76.25%   23.75%
Multiple Right, Single Left   78.81%   21.19%
Multiple Right, Multiple Left   63.46%   36.54%

Further analysis of multiple versus multiple elections is more complicated than above, as theoretical transfers are possible on both sides, but we can begin by determining the number of seats in which the winning party got more votes than the total for parties on the opposing side of the spectrum: this is 290 of the 389 right wins, and 162 of the 224 left wins. In the remaining 161 seats, we apply the same transfer thresholds – 50%, 25% and 10% – to both the winning party and the leading party on the opposite side of the spectrum. The results are shown in the table; the figures are marginally higher than, but very comparable to, the case with multiple right parties and a single left party.

Split Effect

  100% Transfer   50% Transfer   25% Transfer   10% Transfer
Head to Head Contests 0.00%
Multiple Right, Single Left 10.60% (16) 3.97% (6) 1.99% (3) 1.33% (2)
Single Right, Multiple Left 14.59% (108) 8.24% (61) 4.87% (36) 1.76% (13)
Multiple Right, Multiple Left 26.26% (161) 4.89% (30) 2.61% (16) 1.47% (9)

 

Conclusions

In areas where multiple right parties stand, there is no significant evidence of vote splitting harming the right. On the left, there is some evidence of harm, but at a very low level, 1 in 20 to 1 in 40 seats. Even this may be an artefact of seat demographics, rather than actual electoral damage. Further research, and opinion poll data, might resolve this.

In short, it would seem that not only does having more parties on the ballot paper mean more choice for the electors, it does not mean more problems for the politicians. Variety may indeed be the spice of (election) life.

I would welcome comments on or criticisms of the above analysis, or suggestions of different ways to look at the figures as presented or further analysis of the base data.

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Best Foot Forward? Setting an Example on Transport

Our last county council meeting, on May 18th, fell on the last day of Walk to Work Week, and it got me thinking about how I, and other county councillors, get to County Hall for meetings; do we set a good example to council officers, and West Sussex residents, for using alternatives to the car?

Most of the time I cycle to Worthing railway station, take the train to Chichester, and walk from there to County Hall. It’s perfectly feasible to get to County Hall for 10.00 a.m., even gtting an offpeak fare. With the mileage rates councillors get for driving, I save the council money as well as feeling virtuous, or possibly smug, about my choices.

Could others do the same? Well, with a list of county councillors’ addresses from the WSCC website, Google Maps, and a website for checking train times, it turns out to be quite easy to work out who (in theory) should be able to use public transport for their trips to County Hall. Note that this does not take into account individual circumstances: there are at least two county councillors I know of who would find it physically difficult, if not impossible, to walk/train/walk to Chichester. They both do good jobs, so this is not intended to impugn them directly or indirectly; but they are included in the figures I give. There may well be other cases where personal circumstances make it difficult or impossible to use public transport.

The parameters I set for this are:

  1. Is it possible to walk directly to County Hall in less than half an hour.
  2. If (1) isn’t possible, is there a nearby railway station from which it is possible to get a train after 9 a.m. to arrive at Chichester by 10 a.m.?
  3. If (2) is true, could someone walk from their home to that station in 20 minutes or less?
  4. If it’s not possible to walk to a station in 20 minutes (3), can you drive in 10 minutes or less?

I’ve ignored the possibility of cycling, either directly or to a station, as I’d have to start making my own calculations of cycling times. I’ve also left out the option of getting a bus to Chichester; you can do this on Google Maps, but I’m not convinced the timetables are up to date, nor that it would make much of a difference to the overall figures.

Using Google Maps, you can enter two postcodes and ask for walking directions between them. It doesn’t take account of pedestrian short cuts, only using paths beside roads, so some of these calculations could possibly be slightly shorter; I’m also a little sceptical about the projected walking times in Google Maps, as it claims that my walk to Worthing station should take 18 minutes – in fact I can do it in 12 minutes, and my 3 year old can scoot it in 18. So I’ve split the difference and called my walk to Worthing 15 minutes, and hence adjusted down elsewhere by a similar factor of 5/6.

There are 71 county councillors, but only 70 give a full address on the WSCC website: still a pretty good sample.

Here’s what I found:

2 County Councillors live within 30 minutes walk of County Hall

42 live within 20 minutes walk of a station

8 live within 10 minutes drive of a station

18 really have no option but to drive

So nearly 75% could avoid car use without too much personal disruption. And happily, in all but one case the train fare would be cheaper than the mileage allowance – so, given the disruption we’ve asked council staff to put up with pay freezes, job cuts and reorganisation – perhaps even a little disruption to councillors’ lives would really show that we’re ‘all in it together’.

Breaking it down by district:

Councillors Walk Walk/Train Drive/Train Drive No Address
Adur 6 6
Arun 13 9 3 1
Chichester 10 2 8
Crawley 9 6 1 1 1
Horsham 12 8 1 3
Mid Sussex 12 5 3 4
Worthing 9 8 1

Unsurprisingly, it’s the rural areas of Chichester and Horsham, and the farther reaches of Mid Sussex, where councillors don’t have much choice about their travel mode, whereas in the coastal region from Southwick west through Worthing and Arun it’s much easier for people to choose the train.

Perhaps if more people travelled by train, there might be a keener sense of the worth of public transport? And if the bus was a feasible option, perhaps the council might have done more to protect bus service subsidies?

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This Week at West Sussex County Council (16th-22nd July 2012)

Committee Meetings:

 

July 19th Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee

2 p.m.; Hilton Hotel, South Terminal, Gatwick Airport

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/Sudrnf

Includes first presentation of new Gatwick Airport Master Plan

 

July 19th Sussex Police Authority

2 p.m.; Sackville House, Lewes

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/MaCcnv

 

July 20th Full Council

10.30 a.m.; County Hall, Chichester

Full agenda and reports at: http://bit.ly/NuxkZg

– includes motion on fracking

 

Forward Plan Decisions (July-October FP) by Cabinet/Cabinet Member

Full forward plan available here: http://bit.ly/MIqoYa

[Note: decisions outstanding from the previous month, plus decisions made during the past week]

 

Leader

Decisions made last week:

Health & Wellbeing Strategy; call-in deadline July 23rd

 

Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Communities, Environment & Enterprise

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Children & Families

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Education & Schools

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Health & Adults’ Services

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport

Decisions made last week:

none

 

Cabinet Member for Public Protection

Decisions made last week:

none

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Politics as Physics, Part One

On the front of my house I have a flagpole, and on the flagpole – currently – is a Union Jack [1]. The flag (and pole) aren’t there specifically for the Diamond Jubilee, I’ve had both for several years, and fly a selection of flags with personal connections for me [2] on the appropriate days; but on all other days, I fly the Union Jack. I’m proud of my country and nationality, and want to show it.

This is commented on occasionally by people I know politically. From the left, if anything, people find it a little overt for their tastes, but one they can understand. From the right, I usually get approval, but a somewhat querulous approval: how can I be someone who is proud to openly show my nationality,and yet be on the left politically? Surely, if I hold this one view which they perceive as sympathetic, I should hold other views which are sympathetic to their own position?

Every body in the universe exerts a gravitational attraction on all other bodies; this is stronger closest to the body, and weakens with distance, and is often represented conceptually as a gravity well [3]. When a smaller body enters the gravity well of a larger body,depending on its trajectory and velocity, it may become trapped by the gravitational attraction, or even be drawn down to collide or merge with the larger body.

In the same way, many people seem to live inside conceptual, philosophical gravity wells. To those people who mistake my flag display for a more general sympathy with their political worldview, I am a passing body whose trajectory will inevitably lead me into orbit around, or absorption by, their politics. Their political gravity well is deep, and there’s no escape velocity which can be reached to achieve an independent orbit. What they fail to recognise is that the view we share is merely one congruent factor of two separate, but similar bodies.

I’ve thought this way too – finding a Conservative councillor holds a view I find sympathetic, I’ve gone away thinking that perhaps he or she ‘isn’t really a Conservative’. Of course, they are – but we are complicated people with complicated worldviews (or, to stretch the metaphor, complex bodies in compex orbits). It’s at best misleading and unfair, and at worst dangerous, to homologate views like this – if we don’t permit ourselves to see that others can hold some views we find sympathetic simultaneously with some on which we differ, then we risk devaluing the importance to the holder of the ideas we disagree with, or even missing their wider validity.

 

[1] Union Flag or Union Jack? The former is probably the more correct, but the latter has common usage on its side; a jack was a term for a naval flag, so the use of ‘Union Jack’ probably became common due to the ubiquity and popularity of the Royal Navy; so, being from a Navy family, it’s a Union Jack to me.

[2] England; Cornwall; West Sussex; the Isle of Man; Portugal; the United States of America; Europe; the White Ensign; the Red Ensign.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity_well

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