|Party||2015 Votes||2015 Seats||Pred Votes||Pred Seats|
Prediction based on opinion polls from 04 Jul 2016 to 26 Jul 2016, sampling 7,952 people.
|Con choice of Lib/Nat|
|Nat choice of Con/Lab|
|Lab choice of Lib/Nat|
|No overall control|
The future is never certain. But using our advanced modelling techniques, we can estimate the probability of the various possible outcomes at the next general election. ('Nat' means SNP+PlaidC)
One of the worst things of the EU is the Common Agricultural Policy or CAP. And two of its key effects are positively harmful to poorer people in this country and abroad. It makes food more expensive in shops and supermarkets, which acts as a regressive tax which hurts most those with the least cash. It also restricts agircultural trade with countries outside the EU, which include many less developed countries whose farmers are kept poorer because of it.
Let's look at the details. The CAP has three main legs: direct subsidies to farmers, artificial rules to keep food prices high, and restrictions on food imports from outside the EU.
The direct subsidies are fairly well known. European farmers receive around £50 billion of subsidies a year, most of which goes to the largest farms. The big net recipients are France, Spain, Poland, Greece and Ireland. The UK pays in to the CAP around £5 billion annually, slightly more than it gets back . The direct cost of CAP subsidies is £78 for each man, woman and child in the UK.
The Government has recently said that agricultural subsidies will continue to at least 2020. This has relieved some short-term political pressures, but the longer-term considerations point to a change.
These subsidies are despite agriculture making only 0.7pc of Britain's total GDP . Less than one pound in a hundred. And it takes up a lot of space on our otherwise crowded islands. Agriculture and forrestry occupy a staggering 78pc of land use in Britain . We are devoting three-quarters of all our space to an industry that is economically insignificant. And that mismatch comes with a real cost to people. Housing costs for everyone are high because so much land is reserved for agriculture, and so little land is available for people to live in. Land is a scarce resource and should be sensibly allocated. As well as housing and offices, current agricultural land could also be used for recreational purposes - everything from football pitches to paintballing forests, theme parks and golf courses.
Agriculture also creates a dull and monocultural rural environment, with a loss of wildlife diversity and increased use of chemicals and pesticides. That isn't illegal, but it is not something that deserves a subsidy equal to half its total profit.
New Zealand abolished all farm subsidies in 1984, and have had a flourishing agricultural sector since then.
But worse, much worse, than the direct subsidies are the indirect subsidies through high food prices. Economists estimate that UK supermarket prices are 17pc higher because of the CAP . This is a cost of around £900 per household each year. And this cost falls most heavily on those who are least able to bear it. Everyone needs to eat, so food costs are a larger part of the weekly shop for the less well-off. A recent report from the Food Foundation , based on UN data, shows that 8.4 million people in Britain have some food insecurity, and 4.7 million of those had "severe food insecurity". In simple lanaguage this means that people are sometimes going without food, for a meal or for a day.
If we abolish the artificially high food prices of the CAP we will do a great deal to ease this.
People of all parties should be able to support this reform. The Corn Laws of the mid-nineteenth century were overturned by working people coming together along with the moderate Tory PM Robert Peel, who took on the vested interests of the big landowners. So these modern day Corn Laws can be swept away by new PM Theresa May, who said in her first Prime Ministerial statement :
"I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours."Let's end the folly of high food prices which cause so much misery to so many.
The contrast between the Conservative and Labour leadership contests has already been marked. The Conservatives finished theirs in a matter of days while Labour's looks set to continue until late September. But Labour's problems go a lot deeper than the transient tumult of the leadership election.
The most likely outcome of the Labour leadership contest is that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected leader. A YouGov poll of Labour members for the Times in mid-July  has him winning 56−34 over the (then hypothetical) challenger Owen Smith. Even allowing for polling error, that points to a clear victory.
What happens next depends on the Labour members of parliament. Three-quarters of them, 172 out of 232, have already voted against Corbyn in a vote of no confidence at the end of June. They will not welcome his re-election, but what will they do about it? They have two main options: stay or go. But both have strong drawbacks.
If they stay they have to contend with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, as well as the strength of the party's energised left wing, a possible general election defeat, and the potential threat of deselection. And selection processes will really happen since the new boundaries scheduled for 2018 will shrink the number of seats from 650 to 600. Only about one in eight Labour-leaning seats might be left unchanged, and so most seats will face some change to their boundaries. And that means 232 MPs will be fighting for about 200 winnable new seats.
Their hope in staying would be to ride out the deselection risks, anticipate a defeat at the next general election and attempt to regain control of the party and rebuild afterwards. The historical parallel would be the recovery of Labour after Michael Foot's defeat in 1983.
The alternative to staying is leaving. A group of MPs could choose to leave the formal structures of the Labour party, which is equivalent to leaving the party and setting up a new one. One quick advantage would be that the new party could instantly become the official opposition if at least 117 MPs make the change. Their new leader would become the Leader of the Opposition and face Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions each week. But the rump Labour party would retain the name, offices and (possibly) the annual £6 million of parliamentary "Short" money .
The new party would need a new name and aim to take a good chunk of the current Labour membership with it. But a majority of Labour members would likely stick with Corbyn, since they would have just voted for him. Also Labour enjoys long-term support in much of the country, sometimes from generation to generation. These long-term ties may not be easily broken, and some of those loyal party supporters will stick with Labour through thick and thin. So the new party should aim both to take voters from "old Labour" as well as other existing parties. The obvious historical parallel is the formation of the SDP in 1981 when twenty-eight Labour MPs left the party to create the new Social Democratic Party. The SDP achieved poll ratings of up to 50%, but never won more than six seats at general elections. Could a larger breakaway group do better?
Electoral Calculus has analysed a set of likely scenarios to find out. There is not yet polling evidence on the two key questions: how much would left-of-centre total support change, and what share of it would the new party get. So a range of possibilities is considered. Total Labour support ('Old Labour 'plus 'New Labour') could go up or down, depending on how messy the separation looks and the electoral appeal of the new grouping. The scenarios run from −5pc (total Labour support decreases from 31pc to 26pc) up to +20pc (support increases to 51pc). The split of these votes between 'Old' and 'New' is perhaps more likely to favour the new grouping, particularly if they can gather a majority of existing MPs. These scenarios run from 50pc (total Labour votes split equally between the two successor parties) to 70pc ('New Labour' gets 7 Labour votes out of every 10).
|Overall Labour vote share change on 2015|
|'NewLab' share||Party||Lab −5%||Lab +0%||Lab +5%||Lab +10%||Lab +15%||Lab +20%|
|50 / 50||Con||407||394||381||370||358||344|
|60 / 40||Con||403||390||377||366||351||337|
|70 / 30||Con||394||379||366||354||339||319|
The table has a stark warning for Labour. In almost all the scenarios, the combined Labour parties win fewer seat than they did at the last general election. Only if overall Labour support increases by 20pc, do they equal their 2015 performance. And in all cases, the Conservatives remain the largest party in parliament and are almost certainly in government.
Let's look at a central realistic scenario where overall Labour vote goes up 10pc and 'New Labour' takes 60pc of the split. Then the Conservatives win 366 seats to have an increased majority of 82 seats, 'New Labour' is on 141 seats and 'Old Labour' has only 59 seats.
And this is before the effect of the new constituency boundaries. Using the projected new seat boundaries the Conservatives win 351 seats to have a majority of 102, with 'New Labour' on 125 seats and 'Old Labour' on 52 seats.
In a less favourable scenario, where opinion polls stay at current levels, then the results with the projected new boundaries are: Con 391 seats (182 seat majority), 'New Lab' 92 seats, 'Old Lab' 38 seats (well behind the Scottish Nationalists).
The message to Labour MPs is clear: look at the fire before leaping out of the frying pan.
This article appeared earlier in the Daily Telegraph online (link)