Saturday, 24 January 2015

Labour throws out green energy titbits - but would they do it without Green Party votes?

For Green energy supporters, both large and small, Labour seems to be a much more appealing prospect than the Conservatives. But only because there are other parties also offering a greener agenda than the Tories - and the Green Party is important here.

The Lib Dems support onshore wind - in contrast to the Tories - so it's a no-brainer here for Labour to back plans for more onshore wind. Labour's energy spokesperson Tom Greatrex (who is beginning to demonstrate that he has some ideas of his own) has taken three further useful steps. One is that he has backed the campaign to stop the corporate neo-liberals ban ordinary people raising ethical investment for renewable energy projects. He evidently wants to reverse the Financial Conduct Authority's drive to effectively ban renewable energy cooperatives. There's an article about this in The Guardian.

Greatrex has also distanced himself from the latest piece of largesse being handed to EDF in respect of the capacity mechanism payments their nuclear power plant output will receive as a consequence of the capacity auctions. There's sense in that. Why on earth people want to pay nuclear power stations for keeping running at peak times of the day when they would want to keep running anyway beats me. See:

Of course this falls a long way short of doing the UK a great service by avoiding the coming nuclear construction disaster that is Hinkley C.

Third, Labour has been making supportive sounds about the notion of a 'community feed-in tariff''. Now, that's a good idea (even if it falls short of the real feed in tariff that this blog was founded to promote!). Labour has allowed its long standing (and long suffering!) SERA to get some mileage in pushing this one. See

So, Labour is giving us green titbits - but how come all of a sudden! Well, the Green Party is getting a lot of votes. Labour of course will argue that green votes often come at Labour's expense, but the trouble is, that without the Green Party votes, and for that matter some distance between even the Lib Dems and the Tories on renewable energy, Labour would probably offer nothing new. 

But it's worse for the Tories. I remember one officer of a (actually rather conservative) countryside pressure group telling me that if the Tories were to win power they had to gain the support of 'the NGOs'. I am sure he meant the green lobby that David Cameron is now feeling necessary to ignore in order to pacify his right wing who threaten defection to UKIP. But the price is very high. A party like the Tories that can't even offer a few scraps to the green lobby looks like one that is heading out of office.......

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Why the SNP will have to moderate its demands on Labour in a hung Parliament

According to at least one election forecast (at the time of writing this post) the only Government with a majority that could be formed after the May 7th election would be a Labour led one, but one that would involve Labour having some sort of agreement with both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP). But if you think that this would mean it is open season for the SNP to make Labour bow to a lot of demands, think again! That's because the SNP would have no credible alternative to providing Labour with a 'supply and confidence' majority. So in order to gain any political concessions the SNP would have to ensure that demands were both moderate and not incompatible with Labour's overall programme. They could do best by allying with existing interest groups within the Labour Party who favour certain priorities.

This emphasises the importance and usefulness of renewable energy in party political terms as something Labour could take on board and demonstrate that the SNP is gaining political benefits from any alliance with Labour. See my earlier post

In theory the Government's existence would be in the hands of the SNP. But in practice the SNP would face severe damage (and lose many seats it is likely to gain in May 2015) at the following election if its actions resulted in the actuality or greater prospect of a Conservative Government at Westminster. They would simply confirm Labour propaganda about the SNP letting the Tories in to power at Westminster.

However, unless the Conservatives make significant gains by May 2015 on what the polls are at the moment, a Labour Government with pacts with the Lib Dems and SNP seems the most likely outcome. Many commentators seem to be saying that so long as the Conservatives emerge as the largest party, then they will form the Government. That's not necessarily the case at all. The Conservatives need to be able to mobilise the largest block of MPs, which is not the same as being the largest party. The SNP will not support a Conservative Government, and the SNP need to be seen to be backing a Labour administration as an alternative.

If Labour, together with the SNP (and others such as PC, SDLP and Greens) achieves a larger number of seats than the Tories, DUP (and maybe UKIP) then the Lib Dems are likely to back a Labour minority government. The Lib Dems have a preference for Labour. See, for example:  The Lib Dems would, if Conservatives were the largest party, follow convention and talk to them first about forming a Government. But if the Conservatives end up with less than 300 seats that could be a very short conversation. Instead they would have more serious talks with Labour.

Imagine the following scenario of parties and seats:

Conservatives   290

Labour               271

SNP                     32

Lib Dems            30

DUP                      8

PC                         3

SDLP                     3

UKIP                     3

Greens                   1

SDLP                     3

Sinn Fein               5

This is a variation on the numbers coming out of the website:
  which in fact at the time of writing gives Labour a seat lead. Even this calculation by Hanretty et al assumes that the Conservatives will be doing better in the polls at the time of the election than they are now. - so the seat scenario I make above assumes that there is a significant swing towards the Conservatives between now (Jan 16th) and the election to give them a lead of 2.5- 3 per cent in votes cast over Labour.

At least 323 seats are needed for a practical majority in the Commons since Sinn Fein do not attend the Commons votes (otherwise it would be 326 out of 651 MPs). Using my scenario the Labour 'bloc' (Lab plus SNP, PC, Green, SDLP) will be 310. On the other hand the Tory bloc, even if we were to include DUP and UKIP (the latter being a questionable ally for the Conservatives in practice since they would repel the Lib Dems) would be only 301. Who would the Lib Dems go with in that scenario? Well the arithmetic favours going with the Labour bloc since that gives a more secure majority anyway, but the party political preferences also make Labour a more attractive option.

Note I am talking about supply and confidence pacts here as the mode of forming and sustaining a Government (perhaps for no more than 1 year). Coalitions seem much less likely (and not at all involving the SNP).