­­Most of London’s mansion tax properties are flats or terrace houses

City A.M reports that ­­’Most of London’s mansion tax properties are flats’. Their article says,

‘Three quarters of London properties which would fall into the so-called “mansion tax” bracket are flats or terraced houses, according to Knight Frank figures.’

Crikey, that’s 75% which you wouldn’t define as a mansion. Although in London large blocks of flats are often referred to as mansions, such as Cavendish Mansions. Confusing eh.

Review of the County Council candidates

Here’s what I know about the candidates for Surrey County Council in Surrey Heath. These are local elections, and residency in the ward is one of my judgements in any election, which I’ll be focussing on in this review. Apologies for this being a rather long post.

There are six county council wards in Surrey Heath, two of which have changed significantly. These two new wards for County Council elections are; Lightwater is now part of a new ward comprising Bisley, Lightwater, and West End; while Chobham joins with Bagshot and Windlesham to create the other new ward.

Bagshot, Chobham, and Windlesham: In this ward two candidates are local parish councillors – Ruth Hutchinson [LibDem] and Mike Goodman [Conservative]. Hear Mike being interviewed HERE. Both have strong links into their communities. Robert Shatwell [UKIP] on the other hand is not resident in the ward – living in Woking. I do think ward residency is a requirement in local politics. Richard Wilson [Labour] brings tribal politics to local elections, which I believe is not appreciated by the majority of the local electorate, being more suited to national politics. He’s also given to gratuitous comment on Twitter and elsewhere about local councillors and others, a sure sign of the lack of the necessary ability to work with others to improve our communities.

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Graphics of 2010 election turnout & other stuff

With Parliament in recess political debate won’t return until September 6th. So, to keep you fed on political stuff, following my earlier post on voting systems, I thought you might be interested in seeing fascinating graphical representations of voting in the 2010 elections.

MapTube, created by the wonder-people at UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, has national maps of voting patterns for each of the three main political parties. The site also has maps on MP’s expenses and other stuff, and the Centre has a blog in which these maps on UK politics are discussed.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions from looking at these maps. That Labour retained quite so many seats is amazing, when one considers just how much of the country voted blue, and looking at the share of the vote is also instructive.

PMQ’s analysis: Clegg confident

I managed to catch Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday before having to dash off to a meeting.

There were high expectations on how Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, would perform. He was pitted against Labour’s old warhorse Jack Straw. As Jerry Hayes splendidly writes, the omens were not good for Nick Clegg.

Well, well. What a turnabout. Jack Straw was a rambling wreck of himself of old, yet still well-turned out in double-breasted suit, which merely seemed to accentuate that’s all that was left of him, a veneer of importance.

Let’s get to Nick Clegg. He was polished, confident, well-briefed, amusing, and even managed an edgy self-defining comment about the illegality of the Iraq war. If Labour think that they can prise apart this coalition, then they’re going to have to work a darn sight harder than Jack Straw did.

Political commentator’s and Labour politicians seem to want to skewer Nick Clegg on some sort of mis-speak on the cancelled government hand-out for Sheffield Forgemasters. Much as they both think that this will run and run. The public, in my view, aren’t interested. It’ll be one of those topics that interests political propellor-heads but no one else

Verdict in marks out of ten: Nick Clegg – 9; Jack Straw – 4; John Bercow – 3.

Shouldn’t have to mention the Speaker’s performance, but what an irritating personage he’s become. This was an end of term PMQ’s. The next one isn’t until September. Where’s the harm in a little boisterousness. Anodyne political debate is much more dangerous than a rowdy PMQ’s.

Question Time analysis: a useless blood sport?

I’ve pondered whether it’s time to bin the BBC’s Question Time programme in its current form. I said then that “the format does not work when the country has a coalition government and is in the midst of an economic emergency”. Big national issues need intelligent discussion, not to be treated as a point scoring blood sport.

Last night’s programme was again a humourless affair, shedding no light on any topic.

I’m wondering whether a change of presenter might make the difference. I get the impression that David Dimbleby sees himself as some grand inquisitor, trying to draw blood from sharp jabs of questions. In this he’s aided and abetted by producers whose aim seems to be to create unbalanced panels where the most strident opinion is favoured over the most thoughtful.

What were the delights we were offered last night? There was George Galloway, no longer an MP, with views at the very margins of our society; Sally Bercow, famous, or is it infamous, for the verbal dribble she commits to Twitter, and who happens to be the wife of the supposedly impartial Speaker of the House of Commons; Francis Maude, a rather earnest government minister with the rest of the panel likely to be against him; Andy Burnham, a failed Labour minister seeking to justify his recent political judgements and to promote himself as the new leader of the Labour Party – enough of elections, pleeeeease, and finally Nick Ferrari, a talk show radio host given to offering pithy and populist opinion.

Where, oh, where was the thoughtful discussion? I rest my case.

Review: This Week of two weeks ago and political honeymoons

Reviewing old news, what use is that? Well, there are a few useful conclusions from Andrew Neil’s This Week programmes that I’m not sure have been fully commented on.

Two week’s ago one of Andrew’s guests was lead singer with Scouting for Girls, Roy Stride. He was revealing on the thoughts of youngish and keen LibDem supporters. His view was that the coalition is positive development in British politics, and that it should be given a chance to succeed. Roy felt that the coalition has rid the country of the overly tribal nature of British political discourse and reporting.

Know what, I think he’s right. For years the internecine warfare among the Labour hierarchy, and the twisting of the truth by Labour spin doctors, has poisoned the well of goodwill towards politicians of all parties. The other notable thing in the interview with Roy Stride was the strength of his optimism about the coalition. This was said in face of strong political negativity from others on the programme.  

A small point on political honeymoons. I believe this one to be different, in that there’s a separation of honeymoons for individuals in government, from the hopes of what a coalition might be able to achieve that a single party could not. That’s why this honeymoon will be longer than might be normally expected.

Andrew Neil has invited all the Labour leadership candidates onto the sofa with Michael Portillo, and then grills them hard on their political vision. He despatched Diane Abbott’s ambitions with cruel efficiency the week before. In this show it was the turn of Andy Burnham, who fared little better than Diane. Pressed hard about why he should be Labour leader, Burnham’s replies were insipid. Again Neil was a clear and easy winner in the exchanges, leading to the conclusion that another contender had bitten the dust of political disappointment.

Question Time analysis: Is it time to bin it?

Watching BBC’s Question Time this evening from Canary Wharf, I’ve concluded it’s time to bin the programme, or at the very least to make major changes to its format.

While the make up this week’s panel is left-wing, last week’s was right-wing. Whatever, the format does not work when the country has a coalition government and is in the midst of an economic emergency.

Having panelists airily criticise the changes being made to save the nation from bankruptcy serves absolutely no purpose. Frankly, I’m not any longer interested in a programme that sees value in creating argument over a national disaster. For example with the polarised views of a Marxist, in Caroline Lucas, or the delusions of political columnist, in Peter Hitchens.

One possible solution is to take one or two ‘hot’ topics and have a couple of politicians, and academics or experts discuss the topic in detail. Just take a look at blogs on the internet, there’s plenty of thoughtful comment and analysis there. The time will come again when Question Time is the perfect format for political discussion. Now is not that time. Now is the time for serious analysis of the financial threats to the UK and world economies, and the nature of work in a globalised business world.

Continuing with a programme format that designs in partisan and tribal argument adds nothing to public discourse or enlightenment.

Here are my marks out of 10: Peter Hitchens, brevity is not his forte, nor is sound argument – 5: Caroline Lucas, a panelist twice in as many months is enough, no more please, too full of convoluted Marxist babble – 4: Ed Balls, all Labour politicians are in denial on the scale of our economic woes – 5: Vince Cable, more animated, impressive and cerebral than I’ve seen before – 8; Brent Hoberman, most probably an intelligent and thoughtful businessman, but not a worthy panelist, although he didn’t interrupt as Lucas and Balls were allowed to do – 6.

Finally, it’s going to get very boring if all the opposition aims to do is find, or promote splits in a coalition.

What today’s budget has to address

The budget, today, has to address our dreadful overspending – otherwise known as the deficit. If you keep on borrowing, the amount you owe keeps on increasing, until such time that the lenders cry out, enough.

This is our problem. My favourite economist, Liam Halligan, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that ‘Courage and conviction needed to tackle the worst crisis since 1976’. I agree with him in the need to sort out our debt, as I’ve written here often before. This graph gives the pictorial image to the sudden scale of our increase in indebtedness.

It’s surely just as sensible to rein back the debt almost as fast as we accumulated it. This is the nub of the argument. I guess we’ll see later just how courageous is our new Chancellor.

As an interesting aside, I commented in January that the bond markets were giving us a stark warning. Well, here’s a view, from Citywire, that one part of the bond market had it wrong on the frailty of UK bonds. Always interesting to read alternatives views on hot issues.

PMQ’s analysis: Cameron commanding

Can’t believe that the last time I posted an analysis of Prime Minister’s Questions was on April 7th. Such a lot has changed since then.

The biggest change in Prime Minister’s Questions is that David Cameron answers questions. What a pleasing change from the Gordon Brown era. By the way, where is Gordon Brown? What’s the point of being an MP if you don’t turn up to Parliament. I seem to remember that Margaret Thatcher occupied the back benches for a while.

Onwards to the analysis. While Cameron was commanding, the biggest smile came from Harriet Harman when she talked about CCTV , and how she’d talked to Theresa about it. Not apparently Theresa May, the Home Secretary, but Theresa from a housing estate in her constituency. Big chuckles all round, and delivered in an appealing self-deprecating way.

While Harriet comprehensively lost the argument with Cameron over electoral registration and boundary changes, she, never the less, put in a good performance.

The Football Connection: For footie fans it was good to see Cameron agree to have the flag of England fly over Downing Street while England are in the World Cup. The other point I noted was that in wishing England success in the World Cup, Cameron wished Capello and the team good luck. Nice that no one player was picked out, but that Capello was mentioned. 

Marks out 10, not easy when the opposition is not fielding its first team, and no really tough questions or answers. Cameron: oozing control and competence – 8 out 10; Harman: competent yet underwhelming – 7 out of 10. Odd not to have a Lib Dem to mark.

My election result prediction: Tory majority of 8

Prompted by Iain Dale’s request to Help predict the election result, I suppose I ought to let you know my submission to his survey.

On January 10th this year I predicted a Conservative majority of between 35 and 45. Too far out to be a sensible prediction. Wiser heads than mine, notably Iain Dale, were predicting a majority of 12 at that time.

I stick firmly to my view that this is the hovering pencil election. The electors pencil will hover over the voting paper in a moment of quiet contemplation in the polling booth. Pondering five more years of Gordon Brown, beguiled by Nick Clegg, but rationally deciding to dump Gordon, and to reject the leap into the unknown with Clegg, settling for change with the Conservatives.  

So, here’s my prediction in number of seats: Conservatives-334; Labour-221; LibDem-70; SNP-7; Plaid-2; others-16; Total 650

 Am I confident in my prediction? no. Am I optimistic? yes. Am I hopeful? you betcha.