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Don’t hold your breath for the devolution revolution

By Alison Gardner

The Smith Commission’s recommendations towards ‘devo-max’ for Scotland have dragged the question of English devolution out of Whitehall’s cupboard of forgotten political options and thrust it blinking into the political spotlight.  English local authorities have seized this opportunity to lobby Parliament to move beyond the Westminster-centric debate of ‘English votes for English laws’ and decentralise key powers and funding streams to local authorities.

In 2011, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, promised a public service revolution built around the principles of “localism”.  However, local government academics, Jones and Stewart, found that the subsequent 2011 Localism Act contained multiple centralising powers, particularly in respect to finance.  By 2013 the English local government funding system was declared to be “broken” and in need of fundamental overhaul.   So what are the prospects for the current localist movement to reach beyond technical reforms to overturn the existing pattern of central-local relations?  Are there now favourable conditions for a ‘localism revolution’?

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UKIP: A flash-in-the-pan or a long-term insurgent?

By James Dennison, Matthew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo

New political parties, it was once said, can shoot up like a rocket but come down like a stick. Since its sharp rise from 2010 the UK Independence Party (Ukip) has been described in similar terms; a protest party that has captivated our attention but which is unlikely to remain on the political landscape.

Nigel Farage and Ukip might have won the European Parliament elections in May, and two parliamentary by-elections in Clacton and Rochester and Strood, but they do not have sufficient ‘staying power’ to remain as a significant political force. Thus one commentator concluded: ‘I doubt now that Ukip will ever establish itself as a serious force. There simply isn’t the time before the general election, and after the election everything will be different’.

But to what extent, if at all, is this true? With less than five months until the 2015 general election, is Ukip likely to fall out of the sky like a stick or might the party be attracting a more durable following?

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Not Love, Actually

By Philip Cowley 

Everyone knows that people don’t much like MPs. But spend any time around Westminster and you’ll hear a much-repeated caveat: whilst people don’t like MPs as a species, they quite like their MP. For politicians it’s a bit of a comfort blanket; after years of press and public hostility, they can reassure themselves that the animosity is nothing personal, that whilst other politicians may be disliked, they personally are OK. More than a few are banking on this helping them out come next May.

It’s only partially true, though.

There is a difference between how people view MPs in general and their own MP, but the difference is often exaggerated.

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The Rise of ‘Britain First’

By Matthew Goodwin 

FOLLOWING several turbulent years for the far-right in the UK, Britain First is probably the most significant group currently in operation.

Nick Griffin’s British National Party used to be the dominant movement but has now essentially collapsed after financial issues, disastrous election results, and political infighting.

Similarly the English Defence League, which first emerged in 2009 to oppose what it claimed was the ‘Islamification’ of British society, has also disintegrated following the imprisonment of its young leader and internal divisions.

Britain First, which focusses on opposing Islam and British Muslims, is led by former BNP member Paul Golding who in earlier years was Nick Griffin’s right-hand man.

Despite being a registered political party, they seldom contest elections. When they stood in the parliamentary by-election in Rochester and Strood, they failed to win even 60 votes.

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Will Nigel Farage win Thanet South?

By Matthew Goodwin 

After by-election victories in Clacton, and Rochester and Strood, Ukip is now hoping to establish a larger presence in the House of Commons. With little over five months to go until the general election, and aside from these two seats, Ukip’s top prospects in May 2015 include seats like Boston and Skegness, Castle Point, Thurrock, Great Yarmouth and Great Grimsby. Another seat that is firmly on the radar is the Kent seat of Thanet South, where after much deliberation Nigel Farage has decided to stand.

But last week the assumption among Kippers that Farage will join Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless on the green benches was challenged by a constituency poll from Lord Ashcroft. It painted a bleak picture for Farage. In sharp contrast to the 44 per cent lead that Carswell enjoyed in the first poll in Clacton, or the 9 per cent lead that Reckless had in the first poll in Rochester and Strood, the snapshot suggests that in Thanet South Farage might not even be looking at victory.

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