How Midlanders narrowed it down to a hung parliament

  • 14 June 2017
  • From the section England

Electing a hung parliament takes some some doing

For good or ill, our "first past the post" system has a habit of producing disproportionate majorities one way or the other. It's a narrow statistical window through which the results must pass to end up with neither fish nor fowl. Supporters of the status quo argue that whatever its undoubted faults, it does at least usually produce stable governments.

So how have we managed to defy this logic in two of the last three general elections, especially since Theresa May was luxuriating in 20%-plus opinion poll leads less than two months ago when she called the election?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption You are luxuriating one minute and the next, the Midlands has its say

Two prime factors stand out.

First, the electorate is generally much more volatile than it was, say, 20 years ago, when the parties could sense genuine solidity in their support. Tony Blair had known for many months that he would gain the keys to No 10 on 1 May 1997. The very idea of a "landslide" conveys this image of rock-like certainty. But with the demise of so many of the old political, employment and social tribalism has come something much more plastic and unpredictable.

Second, the more the contest becomes a two-party (rather than a multi-party) affair, the more you get a a pulley effect between them. If the leading party's support dips by, say, five percent, the gap between it and its main rival narrows all the faster when the bulk of those five percent switch straight from the one party to the other, rather than distributing themselves between a range of smaller parties.

Midlands Marginals

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GE2017: Why so little changed so much

  • 9 June 2017
  • From the section England
Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Getty Images

It's certainly been an epic drama.

And yet the net effect here in the Midlands, with its famous clusters of 'marginal' seats is that the Conservatives have one more seat than they did before and Labour have one fewer.

Read full article GE2017: Why so little changed so much

Why the Midlands mean so much in general election week

  • 5 June 2017
  • From the section England
Erdington
Image caption The Conservatives have been fighting hard to take the seat of Erdington, in the north of Birmingham

The tenth general election I have covered for the BBC was always going to be one of a kind.

Weeks of speculation came and went. The very idea of an early election was emphatically dismissed. In the event, it came out of the blue just when the engine room of local politics was fully-engaged with the mayoral and county council elections.

Read full article Why the Midlands mean so much in general election week

Keeping on track towards polling day on 8 June

  • 19 May 2017
  • From the section England
New Street tram

One of the most striking new features of our changing urban landscape has to be the glistening tram tracks snaking their way through our towns and cities.

And as regional devolution gathers pace like one of those shocking pink Midlands Metros, we know there will be plenty more, criss-crossing our West Midlands conurbation.

Read full article Keeping on track towards polling day on 8 June

Who'll call the tune in June if the Midlands swings?

  • 25 April 2017
  • From the section England
Dudley castle Image copyright Dudley Council
Image caption Dudley North: Where Labour could be vulnerable

"It ain't got a thing if it ain't got that swing."

That's what the old song says.

Read full article Who'll call the tune in June if the Midlands swings?

Knife-edge battle for West Midlands metro mayor?

West Midlands map Image copyright Getty Images

The first 'metro mayor' of the West Midlands will lead a population of nearly three million people across Coventry, Birmingham and the Black Country.

They will have powers over Economic Development, Education and Skills, Housing and Transport to be downloaded from Central Government and emphatically not uploaded from local authorities.

Read full article Knife-edge battle for West Midlands metro mayor?

Theresa May Triggers An Indefinite Article

  • 29 March 2017
  • From the section England
Theresa May signs the letter which will trigger Article 50, confirming the UK's departure from the EU. Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May signs the letter which will trigger Article 50, confirming the UK's departure from the EU.

Long, long ago in those distant days when I was an undergraduate student of politics, I read a seminal account of Britain's relationship with post-war Europe by the British economist Andrew Shonfield.

"Europe: Journey to An Unknown Destination" was first published in 1972, just one year before the UK joined what was then the Common Market. Shonfield set out why "The Six", as they were known, the founder nations, had embarked on what was to become known as "the European project", and attempted to explore the uncertainties of the journey that lay ahead.

Read full article Theresa May Triggers An Indefinite Article

Brexit, Elections and Revolts. But what about Labour?

  • 23 March 2017
  • From the section England
Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright PA
Image caption Are the Labour Party working together? Or are they fighting amongst themselves than against the opposition?

In normal times this would be a gift for a Labour opposition.

The Conservatives anxious about Europe yet again, just as Theresa May confirms she will trigger Article 50 next Wednesday, setting Britain on course for two years' of intensive and, for her party, divisive negotiations over the terms of the Britain's exit from the EU.

Read full article Brexit, Elections and Revolts. But what about Labour?

Politics of marriage proposals and divorce petitions

  • 14 March 2017
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images

Divorce talk seems to be catching

So Theresa May now has Parliament's permission to initiate the divorce proceedings that will end end Britain's 44-year marriage to what is now known as the European Union: a 'union" in name only, perhaps, given its fractured politics even before the Brexit vote.

A similar charge could be levelled at the so-called United Kingdom, now that Nicola Sturgeon is also petitioning for divorce.

Read full article Politics of marriage proposals and divorce petitions

A soggy Budget Day mixes metaphors and messages

  • 8 March 2017
  • From the section England
Village Green at Westminster
Image caption The Village Green at Westminster: Torrential rain before the Spring Budget

This was the soggy vision of Westminster's famous village green when I arrived for Philip Hammond's first and last Spring Budget before he switches to Autumn Budgets and Spring Statements.

I should have known the torrential rain would signal what was to follow.

Read full article A soggy Budget Day mixes metaphors and messages