The Communion of Saints

The Communion of Saints
I hope there's room for me.

Welcome all - especially Mancunians.

Hello anybody lost in the blogosphere. Welcome to the ruminations of a politically left of centre, Man United supporting, blues loving, history-fixated, Catholic wanderer. Be warned, I am a bit of a curmudgeon.



Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Prayers please.

Would you please keep my sister, Paula, in your prayers, as she has just been diagnosed with lung cancer and will be having most of one lung removed in the New Year. After this, they will decide what next steps may be necessary.
Please also keep her husband, Stuart, and daughter, Becky, in your prayers, in what is a very difficult time for everyone, not least my mother, who has already buried three of her children.
Please offer Mass, light a candle, pray a decade of the Rosary, ask for the intercession of St. Peregrine, or whatever else you feel may help.
Thank you.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Tuam septic tank story continues to crumble.

Of some interest, I hope, to those who have been baffled by the whole "Nuns and septic tank story":
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kathyschiffer/2014/06/associated-press-apologizes-for-its-coverage-of-the-irish-orphanage-story/#
This has never been true, will the major press sites now retract their claims and will all those people who have made dishonest hay out of this admit they have, at the very least, jumped the gun a bit?
The interesting part reads:

DUBLIN (AP) — In stories published June 3 and June 8 about young children buried in unmarked graves after dying at a former Irish orphanage for the children of unwed mothers, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that the children had not received Roman Catholic baptisms; documents show that many children at the orphanage were baptized. The AP also incorrectly reported that Catholic teaching at the time was to deny baptism and Christian burial to the children of unwed mothers; although that may have occurred in practice at times it was not church teaching. In addition, in the June 3 story, the AP quoted a researcher who said she believed that most of the remains of children who died there were interred in a disused septic tank; the researcher has since clarified that without excavation and forensic analysis it is impossible to know how many sets of remains the tank contains, if any. The June 3 story also contained an incorrect reference to the year that the orphanage opened; it was 1925, not 1926.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The true story continues to emerge.....

Another response to the "Babies in Septic Tank" story. This whole sorry saga and the lack of any sort of media standards in reporting it is shameful, if unsurprising.

http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the-tuam-tank-another-myth-about-evil-ireland/15140#.U5lX3Ja9LCR

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Nuns, the children's home and the septic tank.

Across the world, aided by social media, a story has been hitting the headlines and been hyped in the most bizarre and unbelievable ways.
If you believe what is being said, 796 babies' bodies were buried in a septic tank in the grounds of a home for unmarried mothers by the Bon Secours sister who ran the home in Tuam, County Galway, Eire, between 1925 and 1961. You will also believe that these children's deaths are suspicious.
I agree that it is appalling the way that unmarried mothers were treated and the terrible ways in which their children were treated by the wider community, let alone within homes, is a deep shame. Does this mean we are to believe that these nuns were a group of mass murderers?
I ask it as starkly as that because I have been fairly stunned by what I have read - one person asked me whether I would be changing the Catholic part of my moniker in the light of "the burial in a septic tank without Christian ceremony of 796 children of unmarried mothers who died of neglect while supposedly in the care of the Catholic Church in Ireland." This was the first I had heard of this story and I declined to comment without more knowledge.
I then saw a comment of Facebook by someone saying he would "punch a nun in the face" if he saw one due to this story and then, what has lead me to post today, is that a respected Cornish politician tweeted the headline "Nuns and mass murder, still getting my head around this crime against humanity".
Because of this, I finally joined twitter today and tweeted her the foregoing article by a respected journalist which has been in the public domain for a few days but seems not to have stemmed the tide of hyperbole, disinformation and hysteria. It makes clear that the bodies of 796 babies were not found in a septic tank, it reveals that the deaths were all registered by the home - which is how the figure of 796 was reached, due to the death certificates issued - and that as shocking as the number of deaths is, it was not so unexpected in a crowded home in the west of Ireland at that time. It is an awful and depressing tale, but it is not Rwanda and is not just to those who have worked to make sure that the children are remembered.
I urge others to read it, share it, tweet it, explain it - this is not a defence of the way that we treated umarried mothers and their children, it is a plea for truth and request that we stop buying into media inspired hysteria.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/tuam-mother-and-baby-home-the-trouble-with-the-septic-tank-story-1.1823393

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Stockport Council Elections, 22nd May 2014

So, tomorrow is Local and Eurpean election day, and I usually give an overview and make predictions for Stockport council. So, late in the day, here we go:

After the last elections in 2012, the Liberal Democrat group remain in minority control with 29 councillors out of 63 - they maintain control due to the policy of the three-member Heald Green Independent Ratepayers Group to support the largest party. Keen-eyed observers will notice that the Liberal Democrats had only 28 councillors after the last round of elections but have been strengthened by the defection to them of Councillor Pat McAuley, who was elected for Labour in Manor in 2011 but who quickly left the group to sit as a People Matter councillor. His defection was not too surprising as he supported the present Leader of the Council, Sue Derbyshire, in her re-election bid in 2012 (see below).

The last time these seats were fought was 2010, at the same time as the General Election, so with a significantly larger turnout than normal. As ever, given the fact that there are three councillors in each seat, we can take the 2011 and 2012 results as a guide.

The Liberal Democrats are defending 12 seats from 2010, Labour are defending 5 seats, the Conservatives 3 and the Heald Green Independent Ratepayers defend their 1 seat.

In 2010, the Liberal Democrats took 40.8%% of the vote across the borough, Conservatives took 30.3%, Labour took 22.1%, Independent R/P 2.4%, BNP 2.3%, Green 1.6%, UKIP 0.3% and Independents 0.2%.

Last year, Labour took 33.4%, Conservative, 25.3%, Lib Dems 31.0%, Ind R/P 3.0%, UKIP 3.2%, Green 2.0%, BNP 1.8% and Independents& Liberal Party 0.2%.

The Lib Dems won 10 wards last time, Labour won 8, Conservatives 2 and Ind R/P 1.

If Labour simply holds its own after last year, they will gain 3 seats (2 from Lib Dem and 1 from the Conservatives), the Lib Dems will lose 2 (both to Labour) and the Conservatives will lose 1.

However, as ever, things are never that simple and with the European Parliamentary (EP) elections occurring on the same day (hence the delay of the local elections by a fortnight) with UKIP having a strong showing in the polls for the EP elections, will that have a knock-on effect locally - or will it serve the major parties who are fighting hard with more established election teams and who might get their vote out better for the EP elections? Local issues and local personalities will effect each ward battle and there will be surprises, as ever. Democracy is a wonderful thing and, when it a local election, differential turnout is crucial - those who can target their supporters and get them to the polls (or postbox) will win the day.

UKIP have 16 candidates up this year, failing to nominate in Stepping Hill ward and the old Lancashire wards of Heatons North, Heatons South, North Reddish and South Reddish.

As with all of my overviews and predictions, I will look at the seats I believe are in play and I invite views on the outcome of the local elections in each or all of them.

Labour target seats:

Davenport and Cale Green

This is an interesting ward which had swung heavily to the Liberal Democrats in the years since the boundary changes and all out elections in 2004. It has had a significant Conservative vote from the Davenport end of the ward which been somewhat squeezed over the years. Cale Green is a much more working class area with a traditional Labour vote that had moved significantly to the Liberal Democrats. In 2004 with the creation of the present ward, all three Labour Councillors who had represented the old Davenport seat were defeated by the Lib Dem councillors of the old Cale Green seat. Two of the Liberal Democrat Councillors, Roy Driver and David White, defected to Labour over Coalition policies, but neither chose to defend the seat with Cllr White standing down this year.
In 2011 and 2012, Labour gained the seat from the Liberal Democrats, with Ann Smith losing her seat last time.

In 2010, the Lib Dems managed to hold the seat quite comfortably, taking 39.4% of the vote to Labour's 32.7%, despite the bigger turnout which one would expect to favour Labour so it was quite a shock to see the scale of the turnaround in 2011 where there was a 19% swing from the Lib Dems to Labour between 2007 and 2011. The Lib Dem vote falling to 21.2% and the Labour vote rising to 54%. The Conservative vote was 15.7%, Green 8.3%.

The defections of Lib Dem councillors Roy Driver and David White to (eventually) Labour undoubtedly had an effect on the result but the Coalition government where the Liberal Democrats joined with the Conservatives nationally won't have gone down well with the voters of Cale Green, even without the unpopular decisions made by the national government last year. Benefit changes for the unemployed and those in rented accommodation have not been popular in this area and it'll be interesting to see if signs of economic recovery have reached the voters of this ward. David White is not defending his seat for Labour so this year sees the return of Ann Smith, who lost her seat in 2012, as the Liberal Democrat candidate (so, technically defending the seat) and Elise Wilson standing for Labour. For the Conservatives, experienced candidate Julie Wragg will be hoping to avoid repeating the heavy squeeze on the Tory vote experienced in 2012. Phil Shaw returns as the Green candidate for his fourth bite of the cherry in this ward, whilst UKIP is fielding Doreen Hopkins; UKIP last had a candidate here in 2007 when they came fifth with only 3.1% of the vote. They should poll better this time.

Ann Smith is a popular lady and she will put up a strong fight in what is an open seat this year, but I still feel that this is Labour's to lose. I will predict a fairly narrow Labour victory here, with UKIP's share of the vote perhaps playing a crucial role.

Labour Gain.

In 2010 (2012) the ward results were:

Liberal Democrat David White 2,453 39.4% (38.0%)
Labour Co-op Brian Hendley 2,032 32.7% (45.9%)
Conservative Beryl Charlesworth 1,321 21.2% (8.6%)
Green Phil Shaw 415 6.7% (6.3%)
(Liberal 1.1%)

Majority 421 6.7

Full Candidate List: Doreen Hopkins (UKIP), Phil Shaw (Green), Ann Smith (Lib Dem), Elise Wilson (Lab), Julie Wragg (Con).

Manor ward

Manor is on the edge of the political dividing line of Stockport, sandwiched between normally Labour voting North and Central Stockport and the normally Lib Dem redoubts of Eastern and Southern Stockport (Bredbury, Offerton, Stepping Hill, Marple, etc) and it is in this sort of seat that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are fighting toe-to-toe.

The Liberal Democrats were safely ensconced in this ward for many years with the nearest they came to losing a seat being in the all-out elections of 2004 when Labour's Brigitte Lechner came within 97 votes of taking the last seat from the Lib Dems' David Robert-Jones, comfortably out-polling the other Labour candidates by 500 votes. She was subsequently Labour's candidate in the 2006/7/8 campaigns but was swimming against the tide of an unpopular Labour government and a popular Lib Dem Council.

In 2010, the Lib Dems still managed a comfortable 575 (9%) majority over Labour on the increased General Election turnout.

This changed in 2011's local elections when Patrick McAuley gained for Labour with their vote rising by 12% since 2010 whilst the Lib Dem vote only fell by 4.9% since 2010. There seems to have been some tactical voting by Conservatives to save the Lib Dem councillor but disillusionment as I have described above will have effected the voters. There was a 12.515% swing from the LDs to Labour between 2007 and 2011, the Lib Dem vote falling 7.87% and the Labour vote rising by 17.16%. The Con vote rose by 0.72%, the BNP vote fell by 7.01% and the Independent by 3.1%.

As I noted above, Councillor McAuley has now joined the Liberal Democrats as I had predicted he would in 2012. The results last time showed, on a reduced turnout, the Labour vote share (not votes cast) remaining remarkably steady at 43.6% (just 0.4% down on 2011) but a formidable campaign by sitting Councillor Sue Derbyshire saw the Liberal Democrat vote share rise by 8% for her to hold onto her seat from Labour's Walter Barrett by a nerve-jangling 24 votes. A drop in the Conservative vote share of 7.5% will surely count for much of this and it was a masterfully executed squeeze by the Liberal Democrats.

Councillor Daniel Hawthorne is defending his seat this year, having first been elected in the 2010 election. Returning as Labour candidate, after losing so narrowly last time, is Walter Barrett, who will hope to be a tad luckier this year. For the Conservatives, Beverley Oliver will hope to avoid the heavy squeeze that was suffered in 2012 but I think she will be struggling, not least because of the appearance of a UKIP candidate, in the shape of John Kelly. There is no ward history for UKIP so it is all a bit up in the air as to how they will do. One candidate who will be unhappy with UKIP's appearance will be Duncan Warner of the BNP who has stood at every election since 2004 (when he snatched second place from the Tories); Mr Warner's vote share has fallen since 2010 and many of his supporters will have been disillusioned Labour voters. BNP's recent travails and the appearance of a more respectable form of protest in UKIP, added to the squeeze coming from the two front-runners, could lead to Mr Warner's worst result (one would be devastated if this proved to be true.....).
I am not sure how to call this one, it is going to be a close run one again I would guess, and I am tempted to make a prediction but...........

Too close to call.

2010 (2012)

Liberal Democrat Daniel Hawthorne 2,605 40.9% (44.3%)
Labour Paul Moss 2,030 31.9% (43.6%)
Conservative Alex Raisbeck 1,269 19.9% (7.4%)
BNP Duncan Warner 464 13.8 (7.3%)

Majority 575 9.0%

Full Candidate List: Walter Barrett (Lab), Daniel Hawthorne (Lib Dem), John Kelly (UKIP), Beverley Oliver (Con), Duncan Warner (BNP).

Offerton

Offerton is in the Hazel Grove constituency, located in the centre of Stockport borough, between Marple, Bredbury and Manor wards.

Offerton offered the big news of the 2012 elections, when the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Council, Councillor Dave Goddard, was beaten by Labour's Laura Booth after a fairly stormy campaign. This year, due to the decision of sitting councillor John Smith (elected as Liberal Democrat but defected to the Conservatives) to retire, it is likely to be a straight fight again between returning Lib Dem Mr Goddard and Labour's Charlie Stewart. Labour took the seat last time with a nail-bitingly close majority of 45, but proving that they can win here will mean that the seat is likely to be heavily-targeted again by Labour. In 2010, the Liberal Democrat candidate won comfortably with 49% of the vote, the Conservatives took 23.7%, Labour 18.5% and the BNP 8.8%.

Labour has risen from the political grave in this ward (it is hard to believe that they came fourth behind the BNP in 2008 with less than 10% of the vote) and it will be the aim of Mr Goddard to squeeze the Conservative vote and, as with the other parties, discourage Liberal Democrat voters from toying with a vote for UKIP as a form of national protest. This may have been helped by the suspension by the national party of returning UKIP candidate, Harry Perry, who proves yet again that some people shouldn't be allowed near a twitter account. For the Conservatives, Bill Law will be hoping to build up the party's vote share and avoid being squeezed out of the race. It would be interesting to know how Councillor Smith might have fared if he had chosen to defend the seat as a Tory candidate but I suspect he would have been pushed out by Labour and the Lib Dems.

As mentioned already, UKIP's Harry Perry returns for a third shot at the seat, but his 10% of the vote is unlikely to rise much due to the two-way battle and his own problems with his party. Mind you, voters make a habit of voting in maverick ways, so who knows?

Last year, Laura Booth had a history in the seat and was standing for the third time, this may serve to put Labour's candidate, Charlie Stewart, at a disadvantage but he has been a public campaigner so should be fairly well known. Mr Goddard has a very high-profile, which can work for or against a person.

I am sure Labour and the Liberal Democrats will fight hard here and it is a very tough one to call, but with Labour proving it can win and thus showing those who have voted tactically for the Liberal Democrat's in the past that a Labour vote is not a wasted one, Labour's vote might rise. Having said that, the Liberal Democrats will be targeting the Conservative vote very hard. This could be very close again and I will not make a prediction.

Too close to call.


2010 (2012)
Liberal Democrat John Smith 3,173 49.0% (35.6%)
Conservative Julie Wragg 1,536 23.7% (18.1%)
Labour Laura Booth 1,199 18.5% (36.8%)
BNP Stephen Maher 573 8.8% ( - )
(UKIP 9.5%%)
Majority 1,637 25.3% (1.2%)

Full Candidate List: Charlie Stewart (Lab), Dave Goddard (Lib Dem), Harry Perry (UKIP), Bill Law (Con).

Heatons North

This covers what was formerly a very safe Conservative seat taking in Heaton Moor and parts of Heaton Mersey. Labour only began to gain the seat (or its predecessor seat of Heaton Moor) in 1994 when the then Conservative government was limping from crisis to crisis. From the year 2000, the Conservatives started to win the seat back and, by 2004, the seat was safely Conservative again and remained so even with the high turnout in the General Election when Councillor O'Neill held on by 284 votes (3.9%) and this was partly due to the unusually high vote for the Lib Dems, possibly boosted by the 7% student population voting in favour of the 'no student loans' pledge of the Lib Dem manifesto. This is one of the few seats in Stockport where the battle is directly between Labour and the Conservatives with the Lib Dems as also-rans. This was one of the crucial factors with the collapse of the GE Lib Dem vote to normally low figures and the huge rise in the Labour vote. In 2012, Labour's David Sedgwick comfortably gained the ward from the Conservatives with a 360 majority, confirming the swing back to Labour in this ward since 2010.

The candidate hoping to make it a hat-trick of victories for Labour in this ward is John Taylor, who will be facing Rosalind Lloyd for the Conservatives after the retirement of Anthony O'Neill of a fairly longstanding family of Conservative councillors and aldermen. I wonder if Ms Lloyd is related to the former Conservative councillor and Councillor leader, John Lloyd, who used to represent this area? Actually, I think she is related to Councillor Syd Lloyd in Bredbury Green and Romiley.

For the Greens, we see the return of Janet Cuff, who has stood regularly in this ward (and in the old Heaton Moor ward), with a couple of years off here and there. Her best result was 10.2% in 2004 and she obviously has some following.
This is one of the wards where there is no UKIP candidate.

Labour Gain.

2008 (2012)
Conservative Les Jones 2,069 52.9 (38.9%)
Labour Margaret Pollard 1,000 25.6 (47.9%)
Liberal Democrat Kevin Dowling 358 9.1 (4.1%)
Green Janet Cuff 336 8.6 (9.1%)
UKIP Gerald Price 150 3.8 ( - )
Majority 1,069 27.3

Full Candidate List: Janet Cuff (Green), Rosalind Lloyd (Con), Jenny Humphreys (Lib Dem), John Taylor (Lab).

Bredbury and Woodley

Former Davenport and Cale Green Lib Dem councillor Roy Driver (defected back to Labour, see above), came remarkably close to winning this ward in 2012 and he is back again to take the battle to his former Liberal Democrat colleague, defending Councillor Chris Gordon.

From the 2008 nadir for Labour of 9.5%, Mr Driver gained 35.6% of the vote last time and the Liberal Democrat's Christine Corris only held on by 181 votes. The long-time Liberal Democrat councillor, Stella Humphries, had retired so her personal vote will have gone but Labour had made solid progress in this seat in 2009 and this year should be very interesting. The question is whether the Conservatives can bounce back from their very low 14.5% in 2012 or will they continue to be squeezed in a tightening two-horse race between Labour and the Liberal Democrats? Conservative candidate Sue Howard has a tough fight on her hands.

UKIP are fielding a candidate this time with Richard Ellis flying their flag, one can only guess at the effect this will have as they have not had a candidate in this ward before. It is possible that it may boost turnout amongst those who wish to make a positive vote for the party and who might normally stay at home. Who they will take votes from is difficult to tell, although a recent study continues to show that most votes tend to come from the Conservatives. The BNP again field Andy Webster, who polled 8.7% of the vote in 2012; I suspect his vote will fall this year.

Last year I said that if Mr Driver stood again, he would win this seat; now I am not quite so confident as Mr Gordon has been around for a lot of years and will have a strong personal vote. Political circumstances change and it'll be interesting to see how UKIP's entrance into the race plays out. If anybody could gain this seat for Labour, it is Mr Driver but it'll be one tough battle. I expect that a lot of party workers will be working this ward very hard and the ground game will be important.

Too close to call.

2010 (2012):
Liberal Democrat Christopher Gordon 4,009 59.3% (41.2%%)
Conservative Rosalind Lloyd 1,723 25.5% (14.5%)
Labour Clifford Stanway 1,025 15.2% (35.6%)
(BNP 8.7%)
Majority 2,786 33.8% (5.6%)
Full Candidate List: Roy Driver (Lab), Richard Ellis (UKIP), Chris Gordon (Lib Dem), Sue Howard (Con), Andy Webster (BNP).

Conservative Target seats

Hazel Grove

This was a very close run battle last year and the Liberal Democrat's victory by 68 votes over the Conservatives was a sign of how much this seat has come into play over the last couple of election cycles. It had been a real shock when the Conservatives gained this formerly reliable Liberal Democrat ward in 2011, and much of this can be attributed to Labour's rising vote share due to a tactical unwind because of the national Coalition. Last time, the Conservatives, on a smaller turnout, managed to increase their share of the vote but with the Labour share dropping slightly and a much more prepared Lib Dem campaign, the Lib Dems managed to hold on.

This year, the three main parties are joined by UKIP's Tony Moore; the party last stood a candidate in the ward in 2011 and achieved 6.7% of the vote. Will it do much better this time? The make up of the ward suggests not, but we shall see. Also joining the fray is the Green Party's Rob Turner, who will doubtless be not receiving a warm welcome from defending Lib Dem councillor, Stuart Corris.

Councillor Corris has been around a long time and I would guess this is the toughest bettle he has fought. The Conservatives are certainly re-invigorated in this ward and they have always managed to maintain a solid share of the vote. The Tories' 2011 victor, William Wragg, is their PPC for the constituency and he would surely like to gain a second seat here.

The big questions - will UKIP's entrance cause damage to the Conservative hopes this year; will Labour still manage a solid high teen's share of the vote thus undermining Mr Corris's hopes; will the Greens make any impact on the race?

Undoutedly a key marginal in the battle for control of the council, and of the Tory hopes of re-establishing themselve as a major party of local government in Stockport, this will be a really testing battle for Cllr Corris. It is possible that the anger with the Coalition has dissipated somewhat and Labour voters may again be tempted to vote tactically to keep the Conservatives out, but it is not a certainty and where the UKIP vote comes from will be the main issue, I suspect.

The Conservatives are again fielding Oliver Johnstone, who came so close last year, and that should help them present a familiar face to the electorate.

On balance, and because of UKIP being more likely to take Tory votes, especially on a EP election day, I predict a Liberal Democrat hold here and Councillor Corris will heave a huge sigh of relief, but it should still be relatively close.

Lib Dem hold (just).


2010 (2012):

Stuart Corris LD 3,777 51.3% (42.1%)
William Wragg C 2,697 36.7% (40.4%%)
Karen Vickers Lab 884 12.0% (17.5%)

Maj: 1,080 14.6% (1.7%)

Full Candidate List: Stuart Corris (Lib Dem), Oliver Johnstone (Con), Janet Elizabeth Glover (Lab), Tony Moore (UKIP), Rob Turner (Green).

Bredbury Green and Romiley

This is a classic Lib Dem/Con marginal, and has often been won by very small majorities since 2006. In 2012. I thought that the Tories would grab this ward, following their success in 2011 but, as with other results, the collapse in their post-Budget support only began to show close to the election and the Liberals comfortably held on in 2012. Surprisingly, Labour's votes share, which had been at its highest in many a year in 2011 at 20.3%, actually rose slightly to 20.4%, so it wasn't a case of Labour voters returning to tactical anti-Tory voting. With a much reduced turnout, I would surmise that the Liberal Democrats were much better at the GOTV operation and many Tories stayed at home.

Nonetheless, going from a 658 majority in 2011 to a 262 loss in 2012 was a heck turnaround. The Conservatives have certainly targeted this ward and, as with Hazel Grove, really need to be using this ward as a base to rebuild their party machine and increase the size of their group on the Council.

Lib Dem candidate Councillor Mags Kirkham is completing her first term, having just snatched the ward on a general election turnout in 2010 from Cllr Syd Lloyd (regained a seat in 2011), and will be determined to continue the success of last year. With the Conservatives not as toxic as they were a couple of years ago, she will be aiming to squeeze the Labour vote to win.

For the Conservatives, Sally Bennett returns as candidate and, with the experience of last time, will doubtless have a better GOTV plan. She has a real chance here and will doubtless be fairly confident in an area which has swung from Liberal Democrat to Conservative (normally in the shape of Syd Lloyd) over the electoral cycles.

Keen to avoid being squeezed, Labour's Brian Wild will be looking to again advance the party's vote share to closer to 25%, but I think he will have a tough job on his hands.

The BNP again field Tony Dean, who is likely to suffer at the presence of another anti-politics candidate in the shape of UKIP's Brian Stanyer. I am interested to see how UKIP do here as there is no history to help us speculate.

This will be a close call but I will just give it to the Liberal Democrats.

Lib Dem hold.


2010 (2012):

Mags Kirkham LD 3,123 44.3% (41.1%)
Syd Lloyd C 2979 42.3% (34.4%)
David Sedgwick Lab 945 13.4% (20.4%)
(BNP 4.1%)

Full Candidate List: Sally Bennett (Con), Tony Dean (BNP), Mags Kirkham (Lib Dem), Brian Stanyer (UKIP), Brian Wild (Lab).

Cheadle and Gatley

Cheadle and Gatley was a disappointment for the Conservatives in 2012, with the loss of Mick Jones's seat to the Liberal Democrat candidate, Keith Holloway. The ward now has three Liberal Democrat councillors and, with the defending candidate this year being Councillor Iain Roberts, I really don't see much changing for the Tories.

As long as the Liberal Democrats can keep over 40% of the vote, they seem safe to hold on here and they will be looking to do considerably better than that and will doubtless be looking at the Labour vote which has grown to over 20% in the last two electoral cycles. In the past, Labour voters have lent their support to the Liberal Democrats to keep the Tories out, but that has become less of a temptation since the formation of the Coalition government. For Labour, long-time candidate Colin Owen will certainly be aiming to hold onto and, if possible, continue to improve the vote share, but it is likely to be difficult although, given his high visibility as a regular candidate (every election since 2004), he will have some confidence.

For the Conservatives, Graham Haslam is facing an uphill battle, not helped by the appearance of a UKIP candidate. To win here, the Conservatives would normally need to be achieving a 40%+ vote share, and this is unlikely as the larger number of candidates is likely to effect the three major parties.

UKIP have Graham Bradbury standing for them and, with the EP elections on the same day, will hope to pick up a decent vote share. I would think this is not the kind of ward where UKIP would do too well, but they don't have to do brilliantly to have an effect on the wider result.

Also likely to be a bit of a spoiler, Natasha Brooks for the Green Party is also hoping to make her mark. Whether her presence damages the Liberal Democrats or Labour more than others remains to be seen, but I can't see her doing too well. The last time a candidate stod in this area was in 2002, under the old boundaries, and he only managed to accrue 152 votes (3.6%).
I cannot see Councillor Roberts losing here.

Lib Dem hold

2008 (2011):

Iain Roberts LD 4332 53.2% (42.5%)
Adam Calmonson Con 2964 36.4% (37.1%)
Colin Owen Lab 848 10.4% (20.4%)

Full Candidate List: Graham Bradbury (UKIP), Natasha Brooks (Green),Graham Haslam (Con), Colin Owen (Lab), Iain Roberts (Lib Dem).

So - my predictions?

Labour to gain:

Davenport & Cale Green
Heatons North

Too close to call between Labour and the Liberal Democrats:

Bredbury and Woodley
Manor
Offerton


Ones to watch between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats:

Bredbury Green and Romiley
Cheadle and Gatley
Hazel Grove

Friday, 16 May 2014

Portsmouth Council Elections, 2014.

It is that time again when I need to dip my toe into the waters of Portsmouth electoral politics and to try and give an idea of what might happen this year at the local elections on 22nd May.
Portsmouth, along with neighbouring Eastleigh, has managed to buck the electoral trend since the formation of the Coalition government and not just see the Liberal Democrats hold onto control of the council but to increase their majority.
The story of the last two electoral cycles is that of a formidable Lib Dem party machine which has managed to effectively target seats, even when, as in 2011, they have slipped into second place in terms of votes cast. Once very competitive in local government in Portsmouth, Labour slipped into the doldrums towards the end of the Labour government, managing to garner only 13.4% of the vote and no seats in 2008, their worst result ever. For the Conservatives, they have managed to poll well in local elections, but still have been pushed back by the Liberal Democrats where they have been targeted.
Last time, Labour had high hopes of making significant progess in the city, but whilst they managed to increase their share of the city-wide vote from 25.9% in 2011 to 27.1% in 2012, they only took two wards out of the 14 up for election. Much of this was due to the fact that their vote, whilst it rose in several wards, slipped back a little in the ones that they were targeting as the Liberal Democrats responded to the challenge, even coming from a distant third place to snatch the Cosham ward, which Labour should have gained.
The story of 2012 was the big rise in the Liberal Democrat vote, with a 4.85% swing from the Conservatives to them compared to 2011.
For an overview of the wards, I point you in the direction of my former post for the 2012 elections: http://catholicleft.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/portsmouth-local-elections-overview-and.html. Sorry if it is a bit lazy, but I am overwhelmed with work.
This time, UKIP and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) are standing candidates in all 14 wards. To add some interest, the European Parliament (EP) elections are taking place on the same day.

The seats I believe are of interest:-

Central Southsea

Once a Conservative/Labour marginal, the Liberal Democrats shot up from 3rd to 1st place in 2004 and then battled with the Conservatives with Labour pushed into position of distant also-rans, struggling to maintain 3rd place over the Green Party. Since the general election, Labour has rebuilt themselves as the main challengers to the Liberal Democrats, but this has come at the same time as the Conservative vote has heavily fallen back (they lost their last seat here in 2010) and appears to have swung behind the Liberal Democrats. Having successfully picked up the former Labour anti-Tory vote in the past, the Lib Dems have now picked up the former Tory anti-Labour vote.
Labour has campaigned hard in this seat, but saw their vote slip back from 27.9% in 2011 to 25.7% last time, probably not helped by the intervention of the Green Party (who did not stand in 2011 and TUSC). For Labour, they really should be aiming to get around 30% of the vote here and appealing to left-of-centre voters who seem attracted by the Green Party (who got a decent 9.6% in 2012) and TUSC (5.4%) candidates, both of whom have candidates again this year.
The unknown factor in this election is how well that UKIP will do with their candidate, Derek Wareham. There is no history of them in this ward and one can only speculate at the effect that he will have. I would guess that the Conservatives' returning candidate, Kevin Chippindall-Higgin, will be less than delighted at his entrance, but no party feels too safe this year where UKIP is concerned as they appear to be riding a not particularly ideological anti-politics wave.
The Liberal Democrats should be safely home here, but Labour really should be closing the gap.

Liberal Democrat hold.

Charles Dickens

I predicted a Labour gain here last time, and was not alone in doing so, therefore I was a bit surpised not just by Labour's failure to gain the seat, but that they slipped back in terms of vote share from 32.1% to 31.7%. The big rise in the Lib Dem vote (36.3% to 46.1%) seems to be at the expense of the Tories, who were squeezed down from 22.5% in 2011 to 11.4% in 2012. Also, the Green candidate and TUSC candidates managed to take 10.7% of the vote between them, nonetheless, when Labour were only 125 votes behind in the ward the question has to be asked: why could the party not have successfully attract voters from the Liberal Democrats in the face of an unpopular coalition government in an area badly effected by the welfare changes - one of the poorest in Southern England outside of London? This time, long-serving Liberal Democrat councillor Jacqui Hancock is defending the seat and, especially given the very divided opposition, will be confident of being returned for another term.
For Labour, Sion Reynolds is hoping to once again reduce the deficit and take the seat, but will do so with the TUSC candidate Paul Smith figting for the left-wing vote. TUSC only managed to take 3.8% of the vote in 2012 but, with the absence of a Green candidate (quite surprising, given that they usually have a candidate and the EP elections are on), they might hope to raise their vote.
For the Conservatives, Shaun Rogers will hope to push back against the squeeze and raise the vote share again but will be hindered by the entrance of UKIP's Paul Godier.
Of course, with UKIP, we just don't know how much damage they will do to the different parties nor do we know how they will effect turnout among those who might not normally vote.
There is also a Justice and Anti-Corruption Party candidate, Jason Packer, who, given that they are only standing candidates here and in Fratton ward, seem to be targeting the Hancocks.
Labour really should be winning in seats like this if they are to be taken seriously as a party of the poorest in society and I am aware that they have been campaigning hard in the ward over the past couple of years. Despite believing they would take the seat in 2012, I believe it will be beyond them this time unless the disparate candidates create vote patterns that seem a little unlikely.

Liberal Democrat hold.

Copnor

Usually a fairly safe Conservative ward with a usually divided centre-left opposition, Copnor has been most marked by being a place that produced a surpringly high vote share for the English Democrats Party and its regular candidate, David Knight (17.3% in 2007), who stood in 5 elections in a row until 2011. This changed in 2012 when long-standing Conservative councillor Malcolm Hey fell out with his party and stood as an Independent. I had thought that this might lead to the Liberal Democrat candidate (and former councillor for Milton) Alex Bentley, snatching the seat. In the end, the Conservatives held on with a greatly reduced share of the vote (32.3% from 38.3% in 2012), over a very divided opposition.
For the Liberal Democrats, great disappointment last time when they must have hoped that the fallout with Mr Hey would have reduced the Tory vote enough for them to take the seat, the problem was that their own vote fell back sharply from 29.9% in 2011 to only 21% in 2012.
This year the Conservative candidate is Jonathan Kemp, who replaces long-serving Councillor Michael Park. In the absence of Mr Hey splitting the vote, "Copnor Community Campaigner" Mr Kemp will hope to be comfortably home this year.
Looking to undermine this in the Labour interest is nurse and expectant mum Sam Jones; in 2012, it was Labour who reclaimed the silver medal in this race, but with only 22.5% of the vote, down from the 23.6% they got in third place in 2011. Labour used to take a solid mid-thirties share of the vote in this area and will be seeking to re-establish themselves as the main challengers.
For the Liberal Democrats, roofer Steve Fletcher will be wanting to spread the good news about the improvement in the general economy brought about by the national coalition as a way to garner votes and try to at least regain second spot after 2012's surprise slippage.
The TUSC are again fielding a candidate, Ben Norman, and will hope to improve on 2012's 5.1%.
UKIP are, as ever, the fly in the ointment as we have no real way of telling how they will do here - will they attract a chunk of the 19% garner by Mr Hey in 2012, thus undermining Mr Kemp, or will they grab votes equally from all parties, or even fail to make any impression? The formerly high EDP vote may be an indicator, only time will tell, but I would guess, given the EP elections, that their candidate, Alicia Denny, might do well on those coat-tails.

Conservative Hold

Cosham

This was a bit of a surprise result last time, with the Liberal Democrats coming from a long way behind in 2011 (17.2% and third place) to grab the seat from the Conservatives. The surpise was that one would have though that the most likely party to gain from the Conservatives post-Budget travails were Labour, who had a solid 35% of the vote in 2011. University lecturer, former Cosham councillor and long-time candidate, Graham Heaney, must have been shocked to see his vote share fall to 31.9% whilst the Liberal Democrat's Aiden Gray nearly doubled the Liberal Democrat share to 33.3%, taking the ward with a majority of 43 over Labour. This is especially a shock given that the Liberal Democrats have never really challenged in this ward in the past.
The Conservatives fell into a close third place on 30.2% of the vote and only 95 votes behind Mr Gray. It is possible that the Conservatives' candidate, being a sitting councillor for Baffins, was not particularly welcome and this boosted Mr Gray' vote.
For the TUSC, Simon Ward's 4.1% of the vote may well have cost Labour the election and their return to the fray with Adi Graham as the standard-bearer, along with the Greens being represented by Gavin Ellis, might not make Mr Heaney feel too happy.
Defending for the Conservatives is Hannah Hockaday, as April Windebank (a couple of marvellous names) is not defending for them.
For UKIP, Michael Jerome is standing and, once again, we cannot be sure what effect this will have or who will be most damaged by this, although most surveys continue to show that it is the Conservatives who are, on balance, more effected by voter defections to UKIP.
So, who will win? On the face of it, one might be tempted to plump for the Liberal Democrat's Kirstine Impey on the basis of the large swing last year, however, shortly after being elected for the Liberal Democrats, Mr Gray quit the party and joined the Labour Party and group on the council. This might give Mr Heaney the boost he needs to finally snatch this seat for the first time since he was defeated in 2004 after 9 years as local councillor. It certainly is a must win seat for Labour and one would assume that they are targeting resources appropriately.
I would also guess that the Conservatives will see themselves as certainly in the hunt to hold the seat whilst the Liberal Democrats, undoubtedly stunned by Mr Gray's defection (they are more used to Tory and Labour councillors defecting to them in Portsmouth), might hope to repeat 2012's success.
Given the splitting of the vote on the left and right, I believe this is going to be a very close result, maybe closer than last year. My prediction for last time was a close reult with the Conservatives as slight favourites, this time I am going to nervously predict that Mr Heaney will finally return to the Council Chamber.

Labour Gain

Eastney and Craneswater

Often a Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginal, this fairly prosperous ward is being defended this year by sitting Councillor Luke Stubbs for the Conservatives, who has managed to hold this seat by fairly small margins over the Liberal Democrats (he gained it by 18 votes in 2006 and held on by 162 votes in the General Election turnout of 2010). The last Conservative in the ward, Cllr. Stubbs is well-versed in the get out the vote (GOTV) campaign and I would assume that he will have a lot of support from Tory activists in the city as they will be determined to avoid their seat total slipping below double figures in the Council Chamber.
Suzy Horton, for the Liberal Democrats, will undoubtedly be throwing the kitchen sink at this campaign to try to take the final seat from Mr Stubbs, and the signs should really be in her favour, the unknowns are whether Mike George for UKIP will undermine the Tories more than the Lib Dems and whether the intervention of the Green Party, in the shape of Michael Meuhl, will make things more difficult for Ms Horton.
Labour don't really have any hope in this ward and their candidate, Hannah Wright, will be aiming to make a good showing and raise the Labour vote.
For UKIP, it'll be interesting to see how their pitch appeals to the more affluent voter demographic and for Sean Hoyle of TUSC, increasing on 2012's 4.4% will be the plan.
For the Tories to have any hope of holding on, Cllr. Stubbs needs to be getting their vote back of 40%, and maybe quite a bit more than that. Given that the Liberal Democrats' party agent for these elections is a local councillor (last year's victor, Matthew Winnington), I am sure they will be fighting very hard for this seat.
My prediction for last year was pretty much spot on, but I am not so sure this year; even with Mr Stubbs history of pulling it off at the last minute and the rise in the Tories' national ratings, I am making this a tenative Liberal Democrat gain (I think).

Liberal Democrat Gain

Fratton

Once a Labour seat, this ward has been solidly Liberal Democrat for a very long time. represented, initially for Labour, then Social Democrat and, after the merger with the Liberals, Liberal Democrat, by Mike Hancock, also the MP for Portsmouth South. Mr Hancock is defending his seat this year and one would normally assume a safe hold with a large majority, but things have changed somewhat over the past year or so.
I do not wish to go into too many details but sufficce it to say that Mr Hancock is standing as the Independent candidate this year as he no longer belongs to the Liberal Democrat group on the council whilst ongoing issues are resolved.
Controversially, the Liberal Deomcrats initially allowed Mr Hancock, though suspended from the party, to remain as a Cabinet Member and to attend the Group as a non-voting member. Due to this, fellow Liberal Democrat councillor for Fratton, Eleanor Scott, resigned from the group (though not the party) and now sits as a non-aligned Liberal Democrat.
Controversially, the Liberal Democrats have decided not to field a candidate against Mr Hancock, and this has led to Cllr. Scott complaining that she does not have a Liberal Democrat to vote for in her own ward.
The Liberal Democrats have stated that they are not offering any official support to Councillor Hancock, although it seems unlikely that many local party members are not campaigning for him.
Labour's candidate is Thomas Coles who will doubtless be hoping that the bad publicity around Mr Hancock will lead to a swing to Labour and a strong showing for the party, improving on the decent 25.4% they received in 2012.
The Conservative candidate is David Tompkins but, given how much the Conservative vote has slipped back in recent years (only 17.1% in 2012), they are unlikely to mount a serious challenge.
TUSC candidate John Pickett is back again this year and will be looking to gain from disgruntlement with the national parties to increase the 7.9% he received last time.
Steven George, a campaigner for the rights of disabled people and planning on standing at the General Election, is aiming his attack pretty squarely at Mr Hancock, but he doesn't appear to be a very seasoned campaigner. He may attract aome protest votes.
UKIP are represented by Julie Swan and, as above, I have no idea how she might do or whom the UKIP vote is most likely to damage in this ward.
Given Councillor Hancock's massive name recognition, his 40+ years on the Council and his well-established campaigning ability, it is hard to see anything but a comfortable hold here. He is reported as saying he is too unwell to carry out his duties but seems determined to defend his seat and he may achieve a set back in terms of vote-share as he normally polls around 60% of the vote, so anything under 50% would be a bit of a personal blow to him, but he should be safe enough here.

Mike Hancock hold (technically a gain from the Lib dems but, in reality, a hold for them)

Hilsea

This was one of Labour's outstanding results of 2012 with a swing to them of 9.75% from the Conservatives. However, the Conservatives managed to hold onto the seat with a majority of 74 over Labour's Sue Castillon (down from 794 in 2011).
This year, the defending councillor is the Conservative's Frank Jonas, first elected when he gained the ward from Labour in 2006. Ms Castillon has moved to Paulsgrove (where she will be elcted) and is replaced by Sue Greenfield. Given it is in Labour's former Portsmouth North constituency, the party will be campaigning hard here. In 2012, Hilsea was an "open seat" with no defending councillor so it'll be a tougher ask against a sitting councillor, but we shall see.
Unusally for Portsmouth, Hilsea is a Labour/Tory marginal without much threat from the Lib Dems and I do not expect that to change and their candidate, Simon Dodd, is likely to face a squeeze.
Brian Dolley is standing for TUSC, although I do not imagine they will do too well. There used to be a fairly decent EDP vote here, but that seems to have swung to Labour although it might now be susceptible to the charms of UKIP's Barry Young. Will Mr Young cause more damage to the Councillor Jonas or Ms Greenfield?
I am going to guess that Labour are in with a decent chance here and, if pushed, will go with a Labour gain.

Labour Gain

Nelson

One of Labour's two gains in 2012, Nelson was formerly a safe bet for the party but, with two councillors falling out with the party and subsequently defecting to the Liberal Democrats (including the former Labour leader, Leo Madden), it swung strongly to the Liberal Democrats.
Last year, Labour's Ken Ferret gained the seat from the Conservatives, who had managed to snatch the seat in 2008 on a low share of the vote (31.4%) due to the split vote for the Lib Dems, Labour and others.
Defending the seat this year is the Liberal Democrat councillor Jason Fazackarley, who was originally a Labour councillor for this ward. He held the seat as a Liberal Democrat quite easily in 2010 but might find it a bit more difficult this time.
For Labour, history teacher Rob Smith is the candidate and Labour has been campigning hard in this ward over the past couple of years.
The Conservatives are not a natural fit for this ward and I believe they face the danger of a squeeze, not just from the Liberal Democrats but also from Colin Galloway from UKIP.
For the TUSC, Gordon Spellman is the candidate but one is not able to guess how they might, and they might appeal to voters from both the Lib Dems and Labour.
It is tough to call here but Cllr. Fazackarley, the Cabinet Member for Traffic and Transportation, is not likely to get an easy ride. Mr Smith, having being somewhat chastened by his failure as Labour candidate in Central Southsea in 2012, will doubtless have learned the lesson of that campaign and, with a team that know what it takes to win behind him, he might manage to be elected this time.
As with others, a tough one to call and, given the strained personal relationships between former comrades, these elections can be quite personal.
Given that, I am just going to favour a Labour gain here as it is a seat that makes up Portsmouth North, so Labour will be keen to win it in a constituency they will want to target at the General Election. There are signs of Labour voters returning from the Liberal Democrats and there is a strong party campaign.

Labour Gain (I wouldn't been surprised if Cllr Fazackarley proved me wrong).


Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Church of Torres Strait to join the Ordinariate.

I am very grateful to Conchur for his link to the announcement that the ACCA Diocese of Torres Straitis to become a Territory within the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.
This is a quite wonderful announcement as it brings to a conclusion a long process whereby the unique position of this former Diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia and then the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia.
Somewhere over a thousand people will be part of this process and, with their Bishop and priests, have something of a journey still to travel. I offer them my prayers and gratitude for the steps that they are taking to represent a unique form of visible unity in the Church, that of the Ordinariates.

http://ordinariate.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/140409-Announcement-re-THE-CHURCH-OF-TORRES-STRAIT22.pdf