‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Why Green voters might decide the outcome of the 2015 election

Before the last election David Cameron coined the phrase ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’. In a survey published in the Guardian today, only 16% agreed that the current government has been ‘the greenest government ever’ as David Cameron promised. The short-lived appointment of John Hayes as Energy Minister probably signalled more than anything else that greenness was no longer the top Conservative priority.

Ironically however, this lack of greenness could prove to be David Cameron’s route back into power after the 2015 election.

Many commentators suggest that we are on course for a hung parliament after the next election. Huge amounts of attention have been focused on Ukip support and the instability on the right of the political spectrum.

But, allegiances on the left could prove to be at least as unstable. Lurking, almost unnoticed in the political undergrowth on the left, is a party which has representation in the House of Commons and which once achieved 15% of the vote in a European election. A party which is in many ways the polar opposite of Ukip - a patient, low-profile, thoughtful, not-populist, female-led, party – the Green Party. Not the party which commentators are looking at for a decisive intervention in 2015.

Channel 4 News this week held some interesting focus groups with voters, who had supported the Lib Dems at the last election, but who had deserted the party after the coalition was formed. These voters appear to be on a journey, destination unknown. Many of them appear to be hovering in Labour territory at the moment, but not firmly attached to the party. Several mentioned the Green Party as a possible deposit for their 2015 vote. For protest-inclined voters who cannot use the Lib Dems as a protest vehicle any more, and who are annoyed at the lack of progress on climate change, the Green Party could be their logical destination.

A few percentage points of current Labour support comes from this group, and could go with this group between now and the election, depriving Labour of its lead over the Conservatives.

Vote Green, Go Blue?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The seat with 110,000 voters which hasn’t had a by-election for 110 years

The Isle of Wight has the distinction of being the constituency with the largest electorate in the whole country, with over 110,000 voters. It is also a constituency which has not seen a by-election for 110 years.

The last Isle of Wight by-election was held in 1904 and even then it wasn’t a very exciting by-election. There was only one candidate and he was already the sitting MP.

Jack Seely had been elected as the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight in 1900. In 1904 he resigned the seat on leaving the Conservatives, but was re-elected unopposed in the by-election.

Seely joined the Liberal Party, remaining MP for the Isle of Wight until 1906. He then moved to become MP for Liverpool Abercromby from 1906 to 1910. He then moved again to become MP for Ilkeston from 1910 to 1922.

In 1923 he came back again to the Isle of Wight and sat as the island’s Liberal MP from 1923 until he was defeated by the Conservatives in 1924.

Since then the constituency has changed hands between the Conservatives and the Liberals/Liberal Democrats, who held the seat from February 1974 to 1987 and again from 1997 to 2001.

Seely had an eventful career, serving as Secretary of State for War from 1912 to 1914. He sat for three different seats, representing two different parties. But, try as he did, he did not manage to give the Isle of Wight much in the way of by-election excitement.