Another success for ‘Global Britain’

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This is now 12 days old so the level has shot up further – and sadly other countries are beginning to see the Delta wave, too. Just as Johnson did his bit by bringing this variant here from India, we have helped to export it (as we did with the ‘Kent’ variant – to other countries).

Sadly, the growth of the third wave vindicates the concerns I expressed in my Midweek Herald article

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Covid cases are rising, with a dozen cases in Seaton a week ago and a class in the primary school sent home. Hospital admissions for Covid are also rising in the South West.

Sadly, my warning about the third Covid wave on this blog weeks ago, which I repeated in this article in the Midweek Herald ten days ago (not previously posted here) have been vindicated.

This remains a dangerous disease. Even double vaccinated people can become really unwell, although crucially, the vaccine is likely to keep them out of hospital. Younger, unvaccinated people make up a substantial proportion of those in hospital. For everyone over 18 the message is – get vaccinated!

I remain very concerned about schools. In echoes of the ‘herd immunity’ strategy, the Government is effectively allowing the virus to sweep through our child population. Why is there no nation-wide ventilation programme, and why have masks not been reintroduced – both of which could seriously reduce the risks of transmission? Why are vaccinations not available to 12-18 year olds who need them? A small minority of children will suffer seriously and transmission in schools is helping pass the virus – via parents and teachers – into the wider population. As ever in this pandemic, the Government seems astonishingly complacent.

The housing market is out of control: time to remove subsidies for speculation, and focus on real need

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The Royal College of Nursing points out that house prices have risen by 6 times the rate of increases in nurses’ pay over the last 6 years.

If older readers are tempted to congratulate themselves on the (unearned) increases in wealth this is bringing them, you should just remember the younger people squeezed out of the market altogether by never-ending price inflation, deliberately stoked by the Tory government as an alternative to sustainable economic growth (and to reward its voting base).

This latest frenzy is the result of a topsy-turvy system which encourages wealthy people to invest more and more money in property – unneeded extensions which increase the value of their homes, second homes, rental properties, holiday homes to rent. Yet however many 4-bedroom villas are built, it doesn’t produce better-quality, affordable housing either to buy or to rent, which the people shut out of the market need.

The housing market needs radical change and I am waiting for the first national party to grasp the nettle. As a mininum:

  1. Put capital gains tax on ALL property gains, including first homes – nurses’ pay is taxed, so why not unearned property gains?
  2. No schemes like stamp duty holidays which simply send the market crazy.
  3. Increase council tax on second homes and make local bans easier where communities want them.
  4. Stop developers land banking – force them to build where permission has been given, or remove the permission.
  5. A national plan to ensure adequate housing for all – not a planning free-for-all which rewards landowners and developers while harming our environment.

Advice on aerosols, ventilation and making work/school spaces safe

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It is now understood that Covid is mainly aerosol-transmitted – imagine it like smokers’ exhalations spreading in inside environments. This page links to simple videos giving crucial advice on how to make spaces safe.

A great victory for the Lib Dems – and the Progressive Alliance. Let’s follow it up in East Devon.

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Peter Brooke in The Times

The Lib Dems have scored a great by-election victory in Amersham, helped by Labour and Green voters putting the Progressive Alliance into effect by voting tactically to defeat the Conservative.

Voters in two areas of East Devon have an opportunity to follow suit on July 8th, in two EDDC by-elections, which are crucial for keeping the progressive alliance in control on the council. In Feniton, the Lib Dem, Todd Olive, is best placed to win, while in Honiton, it is Labour’s Jake Bonetta. I hope progressive voters in these two wards will unite around these candidates. Let’s show Boris Johnson that the blue wall is crumbling in Devon too!

Tactical voting is great, but we still need agreements between parties

It’s important to remember that this was a by-election, which is why the Lib Dems were able to do a lot better than they did in the same area in May’s nationwide local elections. In the general election, Labour and Green candidates will take votes back from the Lib Dems in Amersham, while stay-at-home Tories may come out again, as the national campaigns for all the parties kick in.

So the Lib Dems may struggle to hang on to the seat, as has happened before after by-election victories, and Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, was wrong to say that we don’t need arrangements between parties. Labour and the Greens could make it much easier for the Lib Dems to consolidate their by-election victory, in return for similar gestures elsewhere.

Under First Past The Post, we need a Progressive Alliance with two pillars: progressive voters to rally around a single candidate AND agreements between parties to give the strongest anti-Tory candidate the best chance.

Proposed new Honiton constituency offers the opposition a chance – let’s have an open Progressive Primary to select a candidate

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The Boundary Commission’s proposal of a new Honiton parliamentary constituency (name in red, red boundaries in above map), stretching from Axmouth to Cullompton and Sidmouth to Yarcombe, and including the Seaton and Colyton area, gives the opposition to Conservative misrule an opportunity to get its act together and send Neil Parish on his way to early retirement.

Because the new constituency is more compact and (apart from Cullompton) it is all in East Devon district, it will be easier to campaign in, and the various opposition forces know each other through local politics. On the record of recent general elections in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency, it should be very safe for the Tories, and it is not obvious that any of the opposition forces, by themselves, can defeat them. Labour have been second in the last three elections in Tiv & Hon, but very far behind.

HOWEVER the constituency includes Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth, the base from which Claire Wright ran the Tories ever closer between 2015 and 2019, and all the constituency’s towns – Seaton, Axminster, Sidmouth, Ottery, Honiton and Cullompton – are represented by opposition councillors at district level, while in several the Tories were run close in the recent county elections.

If the opposition parties and Independents stand against each other at the next General Election, a Tory victory is a foregone conclusion. But what if we have a Progressive Alliance between the main opposition forces, and an open PROGRESSIVE PRIMARY in which supporters of a united opposition candidate sign up to vote for the best person to stand against the Tory candidate?

This would be a fair and democratic way to decide who the standard-bearer should be. The person who’s voted in will have the wider legitimacy of being chosen by several thousand local people and supported by all the parties and groups which have signed up to the project. There will be none of the divisive arguments about tactical voting that marred Claire Wright’s campaign.

What’s not to like? Obviously, this goes against current Labour, Lib Dem and Green approaches to elections. But we have two years, perhaps, to persuade the parties to change.

To those who say this is unrealistic – how else can we dislodge the Tories under First Past The Post in areas like this?

(PERSONAL DISCLAIMER: I am NOT interested in standing.)

The reopening is now under threat, after Johnson made the same mistake yet again

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Everyone who is looking forward to further relaxation of restrictions could be in for a big shock, it seems, as the new Delta (Indian) variant of Covid is spreading rapidly and has caused the beginnings of a surge in cases nationwide – not just in Bolton.

It is beyond mind-boggling that Boris Johnson could have yet again made the same mistake of not controlling entry to the UK from places where the virus is widespread – this time from India. It was clear in March that there was a huge epidemic there, and on 1st April the UK knew that the new variant was arriving. But it was only on 23rd April that the Government put India on the red list.

In those 22 days, and indeed over the previous month, travellers were arriving in numbers from India and as a result the new variant started to spread in parts of the UK. Now it has become dominant in lots of places – not yet in East Devon, but it is in Teignbridge and Exeter, among others.

The surge is small at the moment but the current level of restrictions does not appear to be slowing it much. All this points to tightening, not lifting, as the Government’s next move. Moreover, if the vaccinations do not protect so fully against this variant, which has been suggested by experts, these decisions will have put the gains of the programme at risk.

People talk as though Johnson’s pandemic mistakes, which Dominic Cummings highlighted last week, were in the past. But they are still threatening our safety and our chances of resuming normal life.

RD&E gave no information in response to FoI request about patients who caught Covid in hospital

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Hospitals have been accused of “unnecessary secrecy” for refusing to disclose how many of their patients died after catching Covid on their wards.

The Patients Association, doctors’ leaders and the campaign group Transparency International have criticised the 42 NHS acute trusts in England that did not comply fully with freedom of information request for hospital-acquired Covid infections and deaths. 26 trusts, including the RD&E, did not give any information at all.

The Guardian revealed on Monday that up to 8,700 patients lost their lives after probably or definitely becoming infected during the pandemic while in hospital for surgery or other treatment. That was based on responses from 81 of the 126 trusts from which it sought figures. Clearly with figures from all trusts, the total is likely to have exceeded 10,000.

The British Medical Association, the main doctors’ trade union, said the 42 trusts that did not reveal how many such deaths had occurred in their hospitals were denying the bereaved crucial information.

“No one should come into hospital with one condition, only to be made incredibly ill with, or even die from, a dangerous infectious disease,” Dr Rob Harwood, chair of the BMA’s hospital consultants committee, said.

Analysis of DCC results shows the challenge facing the opposition in East Devon

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Analysis of the 6th May election results shows the challenge facing the opposition in future elections in East Devon. The bottom line, reported here before, is that the Tories got 83.3 per cent of the seats for 43.8 per cent of the vote. The non-Conservative parties and Independents between them got 16.7 per cent of the seats for 56.2 per cent of the vote.

These figures make an overwhelming case for (1) proportional representation and (2), so long as we’ve got the First Past The Post system, a Progressive Alliance, if the opposition is to win under the existing system.

Indeed a serious worry emerges. The Tory share of the vote which gave them this majority of seats, 43.8, was 7.6 per cent higher than their vote in the EDDC elections of 2019 – when they lost control of the council for the first time (see bottom line of the table). The Tory vote in 2019 was exceptionally low (the result of the pre-Brexit confusion), meaning that even with split opposition votes, they lost a lot of seats.

If the Tories consolidate their return to their normal 40-45 per cent range in 2021, the current progressive majority at EDDC will lose ground unless more serious steps are taken towards a Progressive Alliance strategy.

ConLabIndInd EDALib DemGreenOtherturnout %
EXMOUTH & BUDLEIGH230747846074750314638.7
FENITON & HONITON2094149132134.1
OTTER VALLEY128113432248020443.5
SEATON & COLYTON2321306217616017942.5
Total votes2338276436592604649474436325
Average vote per candidate19486371648201549588781
Per cent43.814.312.411.
Average % per division43.814.332.74110.1121.7
Per cent EDDC 201936.26.31415.315.33.41.1

The opposition could have sharply reduced the Tory majority in the Devon County Council elections, with a Progressive Alliance

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My analysis on West Country Bylines shows how the undemocratic First Past The Post system gave the Tories 39 seats out of 60, when they deserved only 26 based on their share of the vote (42 per cent). For the fourth successive election, the majority of Devon voters showed that they are NOT Tory, but the electoral system gave the Tories a very comfortable win.

In 11 seats, listed in the article, the split in the opposition vote let the Tories win. With a Progressive Alliance, opposition parties or Independents could have taken many of these seats from the Tories, producing a narrow opposition majority or in the worst case, a sharply reduced Tory majority.

As the table below shows, all sectors of the opposition, Liberal Democrats, Labour, Greens and Independents, were underrepresented compared to their shares of the vote.

  (2017 resultsin brackets)distributionadvantage
Conservatives10869242.4 (44.4)39 (42)2613
Liberal Democrats4539517.7 (21.7)9 (7)11-2
Labour4064015.9 (15.2)7 (7)10-3
Green Party2850111.0 (5.4)2 (1)7-5
Independents2743610.8 (9.8)3 (3)6-3
Other parties31841.2 (1.5)0 (0)00

Overall results of the 2021 Devon County Council elections