Pulsar Social Primary Index shows Sanders pulling ahead of rivals

Bernie Sanders is surging, and not just in the opinion polls. Audience interest in the Vermont Senator has exploded in the last few weeks, amid controversies involving fellow candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

An endorsement by internet personality Joe Rogan has further boosted Sanders according to a new index developed by Vuelio’s sister brand, audience intelligence company Pulsar.

As the Iowa Caucus approaches on 3 February, Sanders has been driving not only the largest volume of conversations on social media over the past few weeks (13 – 26 January, 2.6m posts mentioned Sanders; more than those of the next two candidates combined – Warren and Joe Biden, both at 1.2m) but the conversation relating to Sanders is also displaying the highest velocity (a measure of how much conversation each candidate is able to create within a given hour).

‘Our index shows Sanders riding a big wave of buzz, which is consistent with movements in the polls and prediction markets’, said Marc Geffen, VP of Research and US Strategy at Pulsar. ‘In the last two weeks, the endorsement from Joe Rogan and provocative comments from Hillary Clinton have clearly activated the Sanders audience, driving both high velocity and relatively low volatility compared to the other candidates. These factors signal that the buzz around Sanders can grow at an extremely fast clip and sustain’.

Hillary Clinton failed to confirm if she would endorse Sanders if he went on to win the Democratic nomination and added: ‘Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician’.

She has been criticised for reopening a divide within the Democratic party that arguably led to her being defeated as the party’s first female Presidential candidate, which paved the way for the election of President Trump.

Pulsar’s virality model – traditionally used by Pulsar to measure consumer trends, as well as film and gaming releases – takes into account five different factors, including: how much buzz has a candidate generated in the most recent period; how much momentum has this candidate recently acquired; how much buzz can this candidate drive in a given hour; whether the conversation about this candidate is stable and consistent, or highly variable; and to what extent is the buzz about this candidate maintaining high volumes over time.

In terms of total volumes, both Warren and Sanders saw a huge growth on the eve of the 14 January CNN Debate and the ensuing controversy about Sanders’ alleged remarks.

‘We observe an interesting pattern in that, over the full period we’ve been measuring, the buzz around Sanders and Warren seem to move in tandem. More than any other pair of candidates, these two seem tethered to one another in the public’s eye’, said Geffen.

Sanders however, has managed to sustain those volumes further during the second half of January both in terms of virality and interest in search data, thanks also in part to the ‘endorsement’ from Internet personality Joe Rogan, and his strong performance in polls that have put him ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden in Iowa.

While Elizabeth Warren has also had her fair share of attention, receiving endorsements from both the New York Times and the Des Moines Register (a leading Iowa daily), it has not translated into a comparable social buzz, with Biden overtaking her in terms of raw volumes over the last week.

Audience interest in other candidates has also shifted. Amy Klobuchar, boosted by a New York Times endorsement (jointly with Warren), has overtaken Buttigieg in terms of virality. However, interest in her appears less consistent or ‘streaky’, dependent on big buzz moments that do not necessarily sustain interest. ‘Steadier’ candidates such as Andrew Yang on the other hand, have been able to drive very consistent virality week on week, remaining in the top five by volume of social buzz.

Pulsar is the leading AI-powered audience intelligence platform. Combining conversational and behavioural signals from the world’s leading digital destinations, Pulsar helps brands understand their audiences better and create messages that matter to them. 

Hannah Bardell MP: We must focus on fair, transparent and environmentally responsible trade

I recognise the huge importance that International Trade has for businesses and families across the UK, but for many people a Select Committee can seem remote from their everyday working and family lives.

Parliament and its inner workings must be more accessible and representative, so as Chair I would very much like to take the Committee around the UK to hear from businesses, industry and communities in as many constituencies as possible.

I will also welcome ideas and feedback from colleagues and I plan to hold internal surgeries on a regular basis to meet with members and discuss the issues in their constituencies, effectively crowdsourcing topics for investigation and discussion in committee, taking a wider approach to ensure the committee is addressing priorities for the people and holding public engagement sessions in schools and organisations around the UK.

I also believe there are significant opportunities to raise the profile of the Committee and work much more closely with colleagues in the devolved nations. Good work is being done by talented individuals across the UK and we would be remiss if we were to ignore opportunities and best practise from elsewhere.

At the outset, I would develop a clear communications plan and strategic roadmap for raising the profile of the Committee and its work, including providing bespoke information on the work the committee is doing tailored to different sectors and areas and work with the education services of all the Parliaments in the UK to deliver an engagement strategy.

Building on the outstanding reports and existing work of the Committee to ensure all reports are complete, I would ensure a focus on fair, transparent and environmentally responsible trade. Diversity in trade is essential so I will ensure that the Committee focuses on both goods and service sectors and investigate how the UK Government and its agencies are supporting SMEs and minority groups to trade internationally.

I am very interested in inter-generational trade and I would like to see the Committee looking at different demographics, whether young people or silver entrepreneurs are engaged in trade and how we can do more to support them.

In keeping with my approach to making the Committee more representative and transparent, I will produce a regular newsletter from the committee to members and external organisations and stakeholders to share our work and raise the profile of the committee.

As founder and chair of the All Party Group on Deaths Abroad and Consular Services I’ve proven that, with no secretariat or staff other than my constituency team, I’ve been a very proactive and determined chair that has made sure families from many constituencies have been represented and supported to give evidence.

Aside from my work in TV and politics I’ve spent a number of years out of politics, working first for the US Dept of State advising on trade, business and political policy and then three years in the energy sector. In both roles I worked internationally and have seen first-hand how important international trade policy and relations are.

I have led on Trade policy for the SNP, working with a broad range of international trade bodies and organisations. My team and I built strong relationships with key individuals and organisations and I would relish the opportunity to further develop those as Chair of the Committee.

This blog post is part of a cross-party series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

MPs to elect new Select Committee Chairs this week

The role of Select Committees within Parliament is significant, given the important duties they undertake to oversee government departments and policy implementation.

They have regular inquiries leading to significant and newsworthy reports and are widely respected both across Parliament and outside it. They also conduct visits out to the regions and nations of the UK or overseas, depending on their remit, and frequently engage with businesses, charities, community groups or trade unions.

Crucially, although the Committee Chair’s party is decided by ‘the usual channels’ of party whips, behind closed doors and in proportion to the make-up of the House of Commons at the 2019 General Election, the Chairs themselves are nominated and elected by MPs of all parties.

All MPs can vote in the Select Committee Chair elections that take place on Wednesday, 29 January.

As the Parliament Guide to Select Committees says: ‘House of Commons Select Committees are largely concerned with examining the work of government departments. Committees in the House of Lords concentrate on six main areas: Europe, science, economics, communications, the UK constitution and international relations.’

The House of Commons Select Committees must contain 11 MPs as members, which again tend to broadly represent the make up of the House of Commons, thereby guaranteeing a majority of Conservative MPs on each Committee.

The result of the ‘usual channels’ discussions were announced in early January as the Parly political journalism project reported, with the large Government majority meaning that the Conservatives will chair three more committees than the previous 2017 to 2019 Parliament: ‘Big government majority means Tories get three more than in the last parliament. They have taken @CommonsSTC from Lib Dems, @CommonsTrans and @CommonsEAC from Labour. SNP retain their two.’

On 9 January, the Conservative, Labour and SNP leaders tabled a motion splitting the position of chair of each select committee between them, after advice from the Speaker. This motion was agreed to by MPs on 16 January. It splits the committees as follows:

  • Defence: Conservative
  • Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Conservative
  • Education: Conservative
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Conservative
  • Foreign Affairs: Conservative
  • Health and Social Care: Conservative
  • Justice: Conservative
  • Northern Ireland Affairs: Conservative
  • Science and Technology: Conservative
  • Transport: Conservative
  • Treasury: Conservative
  • Welsh Affairs: Conservative
  • Women and Equalities: Conservative
  • Environmental Audit: Conservative
  • Procedure: Conservative
  • Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs: Conservative

 

  • Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Labour
  • Home Affairs: Labour
  • Housing, Communities and Local Government: Labour
  • International Development: Labour
  • Work and Pensions: Labour
  • Exiting the European Union: Labour
  • Petitions: Labour
  • Public Accounts: Labour
  • Standards: Labour
  • International Trade: Scottish National Party
  • Scottish Affairs: Scottish National Party

 

The Backbench Business Committee must be chaired by a non-Government MP, while the chair of the Liaison Committee (which is made up of the chairs of other committees) is elected by its members.

Nominations for Select Committee Chairs close at 4pm on Monday 27 January and only contested positions will lead to a formal election between the different candidates. Candidates who are unopposed will be elected automatically.

A report by the Intelligence and Security Committee on alleged Russian interference in UK elections was heavily discussed during the recent general election, as the Government postponed the report’s publication. Whilst this Committee is not a formal Select Committee, it is elected differently as its members are drawn from both Houses of Parliament and its Chair is elected by its members.

The Committee has a ‘statutory responsibility for oversight of the UK Intelligence Community’ and it too will shortly have a new Chair, as previous Chair Dominic Grieve was not re-elected in the General Election, having left the Conservative Party and failing to be re-elected as an Independent.

To use a prominent example the previous Chair of the DCMS Select Committee and one of the candidates standing for re-election this week, Damian Collins regularly speaks our on relevant issues such as the future of the BBC, which he says needs to ‘needs to both deliver value for license fee payers and meet the challenge of the new platforms like Netflix’ and on keeping children safe online. He also attended the launch event for Vuelio’s ‘The Politics of Social Media’ report, where he warned that social media was ‘coarsening the public debate’ and potentially posed ‘a threat to our democracy—and we should not accept it’.

Vuelio has put together a briefing on the election of Select Committee Chairs which is available here.

Reject the ‘perennial prophets of doom’ or embrace ‘real zero’ emissions?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) taking place in Davos, Switzerland is dominated by discussions about new global trade deals and reducing the impact of climate change. The annual gathering first established in 1971 and formalized in 1974, sees 3,000 of the world’s richest and most powerful people gather in the Swiss resort to discuss global affairs affecting business and the economy.

Observers have been encouraged that the Forum is at last tackling environmental issues, with 17-year-old climate and environmental activist Greta Thunberg giving a keynote address.

Her speech, as reported by the New York Times, was critical of distant net zero carbon reduction targets: ‘We don’t need a low carbon economy. We don’t need to lower emissions. Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And, until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.’

She repeated her warning to the political generation of today to take real action or to face their children knowing that an opportunity to change course on emissions had been missed: ‘Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.’

Sky News’ Economics Editor Ed Conway reported that Thunberg will later be meeting the Prince of Wales, who is also attending and speaking at the WEF on climate change. Clarence House has issued a tweet confirming the meeting.

Perennial prophets of doom
President Trump’s message seemed to be directed at Greta Thunberg despite not directly naming her: ‘This is not a time for pessimism. This is a time for optimism. To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.

‘They want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.’

Donald Trump’s presence at the Forum is interesting given Boris Johnson issued a ban to his ministers from attending this year’s summit, not wanting to be part of the global elite as his re-elected Government sets about delivering Brexit and levelling up spending across the entire country. Only Chancellor Sajid Javid has been allowed to attend and he was mocked by a CNBC journalist for doing so: ‘Thank you very much for coming, and drinking champagne with billionaires here at the World Economic Forum’.

Trade deals
Despite doubts that the UK can achieve a trade deal with the EU before the end of 2020, Javid said he recognised the narrow window to conduct the trade negotiations, but that nonetheless the Government would not commence formal trade discussions with the US government on a trade deal until an EU trade deal was in place: ‘I have held a number of discussions with European colleagues and there is a strong belief on both sides that it can be done. Both sides recognise that it’s a tight timetable, a lot needs to be done. It can be done, and it can be done for both goods where we want to see zero tariffs and zero quotas, and also services’.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was disappointed to learn that the UK Government was prioritising an EU trade deal over one with the US but seemed confident one could also be agreed in 2020: ‘We are very much looking forward to a new trade agreement this year with the UK, it’s a big priority for us.’

Javid said of the UK’s ambition to conclude a trade deal with the US as well, ideally before the US election later this year: ‘A trade agreement between the sixth largest economy in the world and the largest economy in the world could benefit all consumers in terms of jobs and prices. It’s hugely important.’

Whether the UK can achieve these two major trade deals within the next 12 months is unclear, but what is expected is that the agreements will be conducted in phases and that an initial agreement will be completed this year, with the rest of the detailed negotiations conducted gradually over the years ahead.

Labour leader and deputy contests move to second stage as hustings begin

As nominations for the Labour party leadership closed this week, five candidates made it through to the next round of nominations, and a further five candidates will contest the deputy leadership vacated by Tom Watson. The party has arranged a series of hustings starting in Liverpool on Saturday 18 January.

The next stage in the contest, with a deadline of 14 February, requires candidates for both leader and deputy, to secure the backing of 5% of local Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) or at least three affiliates – two of which must be unions. This Twitter account is keeping track of CLP nominations and of the first nine, Keir Starmer has six nominations and Rebecca Long-Bailey has three.

So far the country’s largest union, Unison has backed Keir Starmer, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has backed Lisa Nandy and the Bakers Union has backed Rebecca Long-Bailey. Of the affiliated organisations, environmental organisation SERA (formerly the Socialist Environment and Resources Association) has endorsed Keir Starmer, with further announcements from other organisations expected over the coming weeks leading up to the mid-February deadline.

Shadow Treasury minister Clive Lewis withdrew from the contest shortly before nominations closed, though he had put forward a radical manifesto that included supporting a second Scottish Independence referendum ‘if the Scottish people want one’ and pledging to set up ‘democratic Assemblies for the English regions, with real powers and budgets’.

Sir Keir Starmer is the clear favourite in terms of nominations from the party’s MPs and MEPs with 89 out of 203 MPs nominating him.

Shadow BEIS Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has received the backing of the Momentum grassroots campaigning organisation and has been dubbed the ‘continuity Corbyn candidate’, though she received only 33 MP nominations. The Momentum online poll of members was overwhelmingly in favour of Rebecca Long-Bailey but oddly she was the only candidate offered with 70.42% voting in favour of endorsing her and 52% endorsing Angela Rayner for deputy leader. Just over 7,000 members of the organisation took part in the ballot with many presumably boycotting it due to only being offered one option. Ms Long-Bailey launches her campaign in Manchester this evening.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy received 31 MP nominations with Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry both receiving 23 nominations from their colleagues.

Emily Thornberry launches her campaign in Guildford today. Having first won her Islington South seat in 2005, she is the only candidate who was actually in the House of Commons when Labour was last in Government. She will say in her launch speech: ‘I’m standing to lead our party, because I want to be the woman, and I know I can be the woman, who stands up and leads the fightback against Boris Johnson.’

Whilst starting from a low base in terms of support in terms of early polling and MP nominations, Jess Phillips has built a big name recognition for herself through various interviews and TV appearances as well as her campaigning on education cuts and violence against women. She has said in a letter to party members: ‘The way to begin is to tell the truth. No more pussyfooting or pretending – we have to provide a version of the future that fills our hearts while being rooted in fact’. Her campaign slogan is ‘Speak Truth, win power’.

Keir Starmer launched his campaign in Manchester and has already generated a lot of attention with a video setting out his background as a lawyer taking on a wide range of pro bono work for trade unions, and environmental or human rights campaigns. He rose to national prominence as Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service from 2008 to 2013.

Lisa Nandy has already made a foreign policy focused speech this week with a passionate defence of free movement and ‘the opportunities and benefits it brings’, but added that ‘this would have required recognising it has flaws, and not dismissing concerns as simply racist anti-immigrant sentiment.’

She also was critical of Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement and has indicated that the UK should refuse to sign off on a US-UK trade deal until this is rectified, adding: ‘We must use trade to support climate action, not hamper it’. She is the first of the five candidates to face a grilling from Andrew Neil on his BBC show.

An article on HuffPost claims that Nandy’s team has a ‘preferential strategy’, taking into account the AV voting system used in the contest, to appeal for second preferences from Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry supporters, which would bolster her tally if those candidates drop out at earlier stages.

As in the previous two contests won by Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 and 2016, non-Labour members have been able to sign up as registered supporters over a two-day period this week. In what could be a blow to the Rebecca Long-Bailey campaign seeking to build on the previous Corbyn surges in supporters of 180,000, only 14,700 paid the £25 to take part in this contest.

All eyes will turn now to the contest itself and whether the turnout of members, affiliated union members and registered supporters reaches the high turnouts of 76.3% in 2015 and 77.6% in 2016 when 422,871 and 506,438 respectively took part in the contests.

The Deputy leader candidates who all achieved the 22 MP nomination threshold are Angela Rayner on 88 nominations, Ian Murray on 34, Dawn Butler on 29, Rosena Allin-Khan on 23 and Richard Burgon on 22.

The results will be announced at a special conference on Saturday 4 April.

Catherine West MP: Parliament has sent its solidarity to Australia. Now we must act.

This is a guest post from Catherine West, the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and a former member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

For the past few weeks we have all witnessed the horrific images in Australia; vast swathes of precious fauna and natural habitat burnt to a crisp, with both animals and people losing their homes and, sadly, in many cases, their lives. Bush fires are not a new occurrence for Australia, but the sheer scale and ferocity of these fires, the huge impact on lives, and the global interest in them, is unprecedented and a warning sign of things to come.

At the first sitting of Parliament of this new decade, a decade likely to be dominated by climate change, the Speakers of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords – working together with members from all parties – sent their heartfelt solidarity to our colleagues in the Australian Parliament, and of course to the Australian people, who continue to suffer appallingly. We also sent our thanks to the fire fighters who continue to put their lives on the line to prevent the fires from taking even more lives, and their bravery deserves universal praise.

Although these sentiments by both Houses were welcomed by Members of all parties, we cannot sit idly by and rest on our laurels. In the coming decade it will be Parliaments, not executive governments, that will have the responsibility to ensure we don’t forget the horrors of this bushfire season and keeps the climate firmly on the agenda, regardless of the changing political weather and competing priorities of governments which come and go.

With the beginning of a new decade, we do have a real chance to make progress and prevent the scenes in Australia from happening again – while we still have time to do so. It is easily forgotten by many, but unless we take action over the next ten years to have a just transition to a zero-carbon economy it may be too late to prevent further climate collapse.

If we don’t, then people across the globe will continue to suffer as scenes like those in Australia, with disasters becoming more common and more widespread. It’s already clear that disasters are spreading, and we shouldn’t treat the Australian fires as an isolated incident. We are only a few weeks into 2020, but already we are arguably seeing one of the worst years for the climate in generations, with famine and drought in Zambia and floods in Indonesia, as well as the burning of Australia. These events should be treated as a wake-up call that we need to take collective action, and we need to do so now.

Climate change is not confined to national borders, and decisions that we take here in Westminster has a direct impact on the future of the global climate, not just our own. We can move forward from this, and work with governments across the globe to tackle the climate crisis and put a stop to the disasters. With the UK Parliament being the first in the world to declare a Climate Emergency, and the UK hosting the COP26 Climate Summit in November, there is a real chance for us to become world leaders in tackling the climate crisis and preventing further disasters.

The events in Australia demonstrate what awaits us if we fail to do so.

This blog post is part of a cross-party series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy makers and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

UK Government

Private Members’ Bill ballot: The 20 successful backbenchers

20 lucky backbench MPs won the parliamentary lottery today in the Private Members’ Bill ballot.

Their numbers were drawn by Parliament’s new principal Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing, who is also known as the Chairman of Ways and Means.

The MPs will have the opportunity to introduce their chosen Bill initially on Wednesday 5 February and then will have priority in terms of parliamentary debating time on 13 sitting Fridays during this session of parliament.

Parliament’s Guide to Private Members’ Bills (PMBs) sets the context for how they operate:

‘As with other public bills their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population. A minority of Private Members’ Bills become law but, by creating publicity around an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly’.

The Hansard Society’s Guide to PMBs also explains that these new Bills must not increase Government spending or alter the tax system:

‘The primary purpose of a PMB cannot be to create a new tax or increase Government spending; these are permitted only as secondary effects. And a PMB cannot be used to duplicate a decision that has already been made by the House of Commons earlier in the session.’

In the previous session of parliament, nine of those MPs saw their Bills pass into law and become Acts of Parliament:

For MPs drawn towards the end of the list, they should still get the opportunity to raise their issue in the House of Commons, and to further their campaigning objectives.

Labour MP Jim McMahon is an example of this with his ultimately unsuccessful campaign to reduce the voting age to 16 in the previous parliament.

The successful 20 MPs drawn in today’s ballot were:

  1. 1. Mike Amesbury
  2. 2. Darren Jones
  3. 3. Anna McMorrin
  4. 4. Laura Trott
  5. 5. Chris Loder
  6. 6. Paula Barker
  7. 7. Philip Dunne
  8. 8. Dame Cheryl Gillan
  9. 9. Mark Francois
  10. 10. Dr Ben Spencer
  11. 11. Bim Afolami
  12. 12. Dr Philippa Whitford
  13. 13. Peter Grant
  14. 14. Alex Cunningham
  15. 15. Mary Kelly Foy
  16. 16. Andrew Mitchell
  17. 17. Bill Wiggin
  18. 18. Kate Osamor
  19. 19. Simon Fell
  20. 20. Carol Monaghan

Leading charities and campaigning organisations will be busily contacting MPs on this list to ensure they are briefed on various burning issues, now that they have a unique opportunity to put them right.

The House of Commons Library advises: ‘With limited time available for the consideration of PMBs, generally only bills with Government and cross-party support are successful’.

The arcane parliamentary conventions around PMBs also mean that no formal speaking time limits apply, and this often sees Bill being ‘talked out’ or filibustered due to lack of sufficient parliamentary time on a sitting Friday.

Controversially, MPs who do not support a Bill for whatever reason merely need to shout ‘object’ at the appropriate time to halt its progress through parliament. This famously happened to a Bill in the previous session to ban ‘upskirting’ after a major campaign by activist Gina Martin, who was herself targeted in this way at a music festival.

After Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope blocked the initial PMB, this issue was later taken up by the Government which brought forward its own Bill that came into force in April 2019.

Gina Martin and the Ministry of Justice received the 2019 Cause-Led Campaign award at our own Vuelio Online Influencer Awards for this ‘exceptional’ campaign. The award judges said that: ‘Gina proved her role as a trusted and authentic influencer who used her profile to make positive change happen on an issue that had been damaging to women across the UK.’

New MP Briefing: Education

While Brexit and the tensions in the Middle East are likely to dominate the next few weeks in the House of Commons, the focus will also be on domestic policy for the first time since before the 2016 referendum. 

While the UK’s future relationship with the EU and agreeing a trade deal in the short time frame of the next 12 months will be challenging, the 80seat Conservative majority means the Government can at last move on to the domestic legislation that Boris Johnson has championed since taking office in July 2019. 

With the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher achieved in 1987, and with Conservative MPs elected across the north of England and north Wales for the first time, it is clear that the Government will now ensure that key public services are better resourced. 

Education funding is likely to be a factor in this increased public spending given Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised to ‘level up school funding’.  

The Prime Minister’s speech in Downing Street the day after the election victory spoke of ‘providing better schools’ alongside a plan to deliver ‘better infrastructure, better education, better technology 

The Queen’s Speech, which was summarised by the Vuelio Political Monitoring team, set out the Government’s plans to give schools ‘a multi-billion-pound boost, investing a total of £14 billion more over three years’. This increase is in addition to an extra £4.5 billion for teacher’s pensions. 

Increases in spending for this sector mean that by 2022-23, the core school’s budget will be £7.1 billion higher than it is currently. Teachers’ starting salaries will also be increased to £30,000 nationally by September 2022. 

The Government has also pledged to renew its focus on further and technical education, providing £400 million for 16-19-year-old education, and investing in preparation for the roll out of T levels before the courses start in September 2020. The Queen’s Speech also pledged to invest an additional £3 billion in a ‘National Skills Fund’ over the course of the Parliament and to establish 20 new Institutes of Technology, offering higher technical education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

As the public affairs community, education campaigners and politicos get to know the intake of 140 new MPs and 15 former MPs returning to the Commons who served before the 2017 General Election, the Vuelio political team has profiled 19 MPs with a background in education. 

The Briefing includes Jonathan Gullis, the new Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, who was previously a secondary school teacher in Birmingham and a trade union representative for the NASUWT, and Labour’s new Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter, who was a communications officer for the University and College Union (UCU) Wales

It also includes Edward Timpson, the former Minister of State for Children and Families from 2015 to 2017, who returns to the House of Commons having lost his former constituency in 2017 to Labour. 

The Briefing also profiles Conservative MP Laura Trott, a former head of family and education policy at 10 Downing Street. She has pledged to campaign for a new boy’s grammar school for her Sevenoaks constituency, which was previously represented by the former Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon.

Get in touch with the Vuelio Political Team if you have any question regarding these briefings or if we can help your organisation get to know the 2019 intake of MPs better.  

New MP briefing: Health

As 140 newly elected MPs return to Westminster this week, the Vuelio Political team has been getting to know the new intake for our clients and stakeholders. 

Aside from Brexit, which is clearly going to dominate this session of parliament as the UK formally leaves the EU by 31 January and begins trade negotiations, it is clear from the 19 December Queen’s Speech that domestic policy will also feature much more in the coming months. 

The NHS, and ensuring it is adequately funded going forward, was a major issue of the General Election and this also featured heavily in the Queen’s Speech.  

Vuelio has written profiles for the 17 MPs who have a background in healthincluding two Conservative MPs who served in the House of Commons previously but were defeated by Labour in 2017: Amanda Solloway and Jason McCartney.  

The NHS legislation set to be debated in this parliament, which was also listed in the Vuelio Queen’s Speech Summaryincludes an NHS Funding Bill, the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill and the Health Service Safety Investigations Bill. The Conservative Party election manifesto and subsequent Queen’s Speech also included sections on mental health reforms and social care reform, after the latter issue dominated the previous 2017 general election and was a factor that deprived the then Prime Minister Theresa May of the party’s majority.  

Boris Johnson’s manifesto and Queen’s Speech sought to achieve ‘Cross party consensus on long-term plan for social care reform’ and as well as promising an additional ‘£1 billion for adult and children’s social care in every year of this Parliament’, the only stipulation listed was that ‘Government will ensure that nobody needing care will be forced to sell their home to pay for it’. 

With such a high number of new MPs elected, the Vuelio Briefing will be useful for public affairs professionals, campaigners and politicos wishing to get up to speed on the new House of Commons, especially those with an interest or background in health. This includes the new Conservative MP for Crewe and Nantwich, Dr Kieran Mullan, who is an NHS A&E doctor and was involved in local campaigns to secure additional funding for Crewe’s Leighton Hospital. The new Labour MP for Enfield North, Feryal Clark, has a local government background in health, as the Cabinet member for health, social care, leisure and parks on Hackney Council. She was also a Deputy Mayor of Hackney and her brief included responsibility for adult social care, older people strategy, health devolution and integrated commissioning and mental health. 

The new Lib Dem MP for Twickenham, Munira Wilson, succeeded the party’s former leader Sir Vince Cable, and she now has the largest majority of the party’s 11 MPs. Her previous role was Corporate Affairs Director for a science and technology company, focused on Brexit and health policy issues, and she has also worked within health and children’s charities. The Briefing also includes newly elected SNP MP Dave Doogan, who held the Health and Social Care brief when he was leader of the opposition on Perth and Kinross Council. 

The Vuelio Briefing on MPs with a background in Education will be published later this week. 

Get in touch with the Vuelio Political Team if you have any question regarding these briefings or if we can help your organisation get to know the 2019 intake of MPs better. 

Fake News Conservatives

How the election was won and lost on social media

Vuelio’s sister company, Pulsar, tracked the general election campaign across social networks and other web sources during the campaign from 6 November, when parliament was dissolved, to polling day on 12 December. 

Pulsar’s analysis of the general election campaign across social media suggests Labour had unlocked the formula for success online. So great was the difference in Labour’s, and specifically Jeremy Corbyn’s, online impact compared to Boris Johnson’s and the Conservatives’, that it was clear the heavy landslide result came as a shock to many on the night.

Further analysis of the results reveals an online campaign of two sides: one clearly focused on Brexit and the other focused on generating support among its engaged following and attacking the current Government over its claims and record.

This is evidenced in three key areas: what the successful party candidates were sharing on social media, how both made claims of ‘fake news’ against their opponents throughout the campaign and how the parties reflected the most-discussed topics in the public sphere.

What candidates shared
The infographics below show the most widely shared links by successful Conservative and Labour candidates. For Conservatives, the party’s manifesto comes out on top and it is closely followed by the party’s alternative Labour manifesto to respond to the opposition document, which was so positively received in 2017. A second alternative Labour manifesto, CostofCorbyn was also widely shared by the Tories.

A link to encourage voters to ‘register to vote’ before the deadline was shared over 100 times, which contrasts starkly with the same link being shared over 2,500 times by Labour candidates. This shows that it was far more in the interests of Labour to boost voter turnout through social media and to encourage those who might not be registered to vote to take part in the election.

Labour campaign sites to help voters were also among the top links shared including the party’s ‘polling station finder’, Labour campaign events, Labour’s Fair Tax Calculator and other Labour manifestos covering specific policy areas including Nature, the Green Industrial Revolution and ‘your personal manifesto’.

Fake news
Analysing mentions of the term fake news by Conservative candidates during the election campaign shows several spikes. The biggest, on 27 November, came when the Conservatives used the term to attack Corbyn’s financial plans, claiming they would cost every tax payer rather than just the wealthiest.

Other spikes include 19 November when Corbyn was attacked following the leaders’ debate; 5 and 6 December relates to the dossier Corbyn released which was linked back to Russian sources; and on 9 December, the story about boy on the hospital floor in Leeds was published, which was initially accused of being fake news.

Fake News Conservatives

For Labour the mentions of fake news follow a similar trend following the leaders debate on 19 November, the dossier being released on 5 December and the Leeds hospital story. However, the Leeds story spike among Labour candidates on the 10 December, following the previous day’s accusations that the story was fake news, which itself turned out to be false.

Labour candidates also collectively attacked Boris Johnson’s campaign on 1 December, accusing him of spreading fake news and running a campaign of misinformation.

Most discussed topics
This chart shows the key topics of the general election campaign by topic, which indicates that Brexit and the NHS account for over 50% of general election-related social media posts. The economy is the third most popular topic on 9.9% of posts with 9.3% for racism.

Most discussed topics

Brexit and NHS were two of the biggest topics also being discussed by Conservative and Labour candidates respectively. The question of racism, particularly around antisemitism and islamophobia, featured less heavily in the candidates’ discussions than it did in the public debate.

Conservative Candidates’ word cloud:

Conservative word cloud

Labour Candidates’ word cloud:

Labour Word cloud

Given that the Conservative campaign focused entirely on Brexit and the NHS was a Labour primary policy platform, this is perhaps unsurprising.

The overall strength of Labour’s digital campaign and the number of its members sharing the party’s message and policy pledges show it was clearly able to dominate the social media space during the campaign. However, the Conservatives were able to make up for this with paid digital advertising targeted to the right demographics in their key constituencies, a single clear campaign message and a broader voter base outside of social media users.

As the analysis of the 2019 campaign is now conducted and two parties begin to select new leaders, it is worth reflecting on David Cameron’s 2015 comment ‘Britain and Twitter are not the same thing’. Dominating the social media conversation and ensuring your party’s messaging is loudly and widely shared is not, on its own, sufficient to win.

Find out more about Pulsar, the audience insights and social listening platform. 

Trolling

The Antisocial General Election campaign?

Vuelio’s Sam Webber highlights how candidates of all parties are facing high levels of abuse in this election campaign and how many are using social media to highlight what his happening on the ground in different constituencies and to call it out. One challenge for the next government through the Online Harms White Paper will be to improve the online environment for users and to ensure it is regulated more effectively.

As votes are cast in today’s General Election, parties and policies aside, one of the more damaging aspects of the campaign has been the abuse directed towards candidates and party activists. This is often intensified by or begins on digital platforms.

Social media has also offered candidates the opportunity to highlight what has been happening on the ground in different constituencies, which might not otherwise be picked up beyond local or regional press. While not exclusively, this abuse seems to be directed more heavily towards female candidates of all parties.

Labour candidate Natalie Fleet, defending the Labour seat of Ashfield, tweeted a photo of her Nottinghamshire campaign HQ with its windows smashed.

Tweeting out a photo of the damaged shop front, she said: ‘This is the reason those that love me didn’t want me to do it. It is hard, yet I can’t stand by & see #Ashfield left behind.’

She spoke to the Guardian about the attack: ‘It’s deliberate, it’s targeted and it’s not very nice; and, unfortunately, in this climate it’s also predictable.’

A Liberal Democrat candidate, Hannah Perkin, standing in Faversham and Mid Kent said last month: ‘I have the police coming to my house tomorrow following personal threats to the safety of myself, my friends and my family. I am standing up for what I believe in. When did we lose the ability to do that? Honestly heartbroken.’

Luke Pollard, the Labour candidate for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport also reported a case of homophobic graffiti on his campaign office to the police. He said: ‘There is no place for hate in our city and I will continue to call it out wherever and whenever I see it… There is no place for hate but with each attack more and more people stand up against it.’

Only this week, the Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani tweeted out a photo of racist hate mail she received and said: ‘Today’s post – so I’m the racist & being told to go back to where I come from?’

While the number of MPs standing down at the 2019 General Election at 74, is lower than the 1997 election where 117 MPs stood down and 2010 when 149 stood down, many have noted the number of MPs and primarily women who have stepped down citing the pressure of serving in the House of Commons since the EU Referendum and indeed citing social media abuse.

Among the 74 people are a significant number of female MPs who have served as cabinet ministers including Nicky Morgan who took the rare step as the serving Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary to announce she would not be contesting the election as a Conservative candidate. Morgan said part of the reason for stepping down included the abuse she received for ‘doing the job of a modern MP’. She added: ‘I think the abuse, because of the platforms, because of how strongly people feel about the current political situation, that has changed enormously in the almost 10 years since I started’.

Justine Greening, Amber Rudd and Dame Caroline Spelman also stood down as well as prominent opposition MPs including Gloria De Piero, Heidi Allen, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and former Conservative minister and brother of the Prime Minister, Jo Johnson.

As the campaign concludes this week, the National Police Chiefs’ Council told the Press Association 198 reports around candidate safety had been made between November 15 and December 4 and that around half were serious enough to be treated as crimes. The majority of these were allegations of malicious communications online, but there were also reports of criminal damage and harassment.

Vuelio’s recent White Paper, The Politics of Social Media, which was discussed in a fringe meeting at Conservative Conference attended by Nicky Morgan looked at the changing role of social media in British politics. The 2019 campaign has only highlighted the importance of online campaigning even more. The next stages of the Online Harms White Paper, which seeks to improve the online environment for users and tighten up regulation will be a major issue for the incoming Government whatever the result of today’s election.

 

Sam Webber is External Relations Manager at Vuelio. He is a prospective parliamentary candidate in the general election, standing for the Liberal Democrats in Erith and Thamesmead.

New followers by party

Tactical voting spikes on social media in final days of #GE2019 campaigning

Vuelio’s sister company Pulsar has been tracking social media conversations across different platforms and highlighting the most popular policies, as well as what voters are saying and sharing online during the general election campaign.

The latest update of the Pulsar/89up social election index analysis of social media followers and content engagement across the main social networks and online sources reveals over 700,000 mentions of tactical voting on Twitter since the beginning of the general election, with a significant spike in interest from 5 December. The level of conversation on this topic has consistently risen since the start of the general election.

This follows prominent public figures with large social media followings endorsing tactical voting, including Hugh Grant and Deborah Meaden.

Graph 6

The 2019 General Election is primarily a two-horse race on social media with the Conservatives’ higher social media spend going toe-to-toe with the huge personal social media presence of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour campaign organisation Momentum and prominent party supporters like Owen Jones have also been amplifying the Labour campaign messages and directing activists to the most crucial electoral battlegrounds.

Analysis of social media followers and content engagement across the main social networks and online sources (blogs, forums, online news) between 8 November and 10 December 2019 reveals significantly higher volumes of engagement with content from Jeremy Corbyn in comparison to that from Boris Johnson. For both leaders, the engagement levels of their social media posts have dropped in the last week.

Post engagement

Media sources
The social election index also collated information on the media sources that have been shared most widely during the campaign. These point to sources which are arguably more favourable to the Labour campaign and show that the Guardian, the Independent and the Mirror are the three biggest websites shared during the campaign, with the BBC in fourth place.

Media sources

In terms of actual content, the most widely shared links during the campaign includes highly debated photo story of a four-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor due to a lack of beds. It also includes the ‘Register to vote’ link which ensured a large boost in voter registration early in the campaign. The impact of this spike in registrations will not be fully known until the results are in but it reveals new levels of engagement with politics.

Most shared links

Corbyn ahead
Jeremy Corbyn has been adding new followers at a much more rapid pace than Boris Johnson across social media platforms, with the Labour leader getting a major uplift in the number of his social media followers after his much-criticised interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil on 26 November. Conversely Boris Johnson received heavy criticism for not agreeing to an interview with Neil despite all other party leaders doing one. A video clip by Andrew Neil with the topics he wanted to ask the Prime Minister about became one of the most widely shared pieces of content on social media.

New followers by party

Graph 2

The Jeremy Corbyn social media surge has had knock on impact on engagement for the respective political parties with Labour staying ahead of the Conservative party in terms of engagement across Twitter and Facebook. This could make a huge difference on election day itself in terms of boosting voter turnout and ensuring that party activists are campaigning in the constituencies where they can have the most impact on the overall result.

post engagement

The major issues of the campaign

Brexit remains the topic driving the most online conversation during the General Election, followed closely by the NHS. Yet, for arguably the first time in British history, the discussion about racism has driven almost as much conversation as the economy. Social media conversation about racism, whether anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, had 484,360 mentions compared 508,124 of the economy on Twitter in the period up to 10 December. Of the 484,360 mentions of racism, 86,108 are specifically mentions of Islamophobia (18%) and 203,224 mentions of anti-Semitism (42% of total mentions).

top issues in GE

On Monday 16 December, Pulsar will compare social media success with the results of the General Election to determine the impact of social media on the results. Whether Corbyn and the Labour party can use their current social media momentum to boost voter turnout remains to be seen.

Loan Charge

Using the power of social media to make the #LoanCharge an election issue

This blogpost is part of a series of guest posts on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order, which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy makers and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and connect with those who campaign on the issues they care about. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

In this post, Steve Packham from the Loan Charge Action Group, argues that the General Election has been ‘both a challenge and an opportunity’ for the campaign and he writes that his group will continue to lobby newly elected MPs to suspend the date people must declare and pay the charge, which is still set for 31 January 2020.

In the heat and fury of the election campaign, it can be difficult to get messages heard about many important issues, with Brexit, the NHS and a few other key national issues inevitably dominating. However, for many people, there are issues that are personal to them, that affect them directly and that are more important than anything else in deciding how they will cast their vote in #GE2019.

One such issue is the draconian Loan Charge, a policy introduced by the current Government giving HMRC the power to demand life-changing retrospective tax bills for arrangements that were legal. It has led to at least seven suicides but still the Government refuses to suspend the date people must declare and pay it, which is 31 January 2020.

It is difficult to get such issues noticed above the media coverage of the election campaign, but it can be done through a combination of people power, campaigning savvy and clever use of social media.

In normal political times, for a Government policy to have led to seven people taking their own lives and with over two hundred MPs in the last Parliament calling on the Government to halt it would surely be enough to succeed in stopping the Loan Charge. Yet these are not normal times and, with so much focus on the Brexit saga, Ministers have proved astonishingly and callously stubborn.

The calling of this election has been both a challenge and an opportunity for our campaign. A challenge because all our efforts and the support of over 200 MPs had already led to the Treasury reluctantly announcing a review, but the report was then delayed till after election. The Loan Charge meanwhile remains in place and the clock is ticking.

Yet the election has proved to be a real opportunity too, with the chance to lobby election candidates up and down the country. As they hear about the retrospective Loan Charge and the damage it has done and will do to thousands of families, including in the constituency they are standing in, the more sign up to oppose this policy if elected. We have had some real breakthroughs, most notably when the Liberal Democrats pledged in their manifesto to scrap the retrospective Loan Charge; a very significant development.

With the need to get a suspension of the 31 January declaration date declared by current Treasury Ministers, we’ve taken the message directly to the Chancellor Sajid Javid, with powerful protests highlighting the seven tragic suicides, in Westminster and in his own constituency of Bromsgrove last Saturday. Although he refused to speak to the protesters – who were outside three of his local meetings in Rubery, Bromsgrove and Cofton – he was challenged on the issue by constituents at two of these meetings.   Clearly rattled by the protests, he sent out a member of his campaign staff to say that that the Chancellor wants the Morse review report published straight after the election. He did, however, again refuse to do the obvious and right thing, and suspend the January declaration date to allow the review recommendations to be implemented.

We have had amazing people who have turned up to protest in Westminster and Bromsgrove in the December cold, as well as a few months back in Runnymede – then the constituency of Loan Charge architect Philip Hammond. Real people power. Alongside this we have used social media and we have had #LoanCharge #LoanChargeSuicides and the question #HowManyMoreSajid? trending on Twitter in the UK. We have followed that up with protests aimed at Jesse Norman, current Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and at the Prime Minister himself, Boris Johnson.

So, through passion and powerful campaigning we have managed, even in this cluttered environment, to make the immoral Loan Charge an election issue. We will keep going and you can be sure that once the new set of MPs is announced on Friday 13 December (which will be lucky for some, unlucky for others) we will be holding them to their promise to #STOPtheLoanCharge and to #SaveLives.

Steve Packham, Spokesperson for the Loan Charge Action Group.

Pulsar social election index

Corbyn’s winning the social media general election

Vuelio’s sister company Pulsar has been tracking social media conversations across different platforms and highlighting the most popular policies, as well as the most engaging political parties and their leaders during the general election campaign. The influence of social media on campaigning is greater than ever, and this analysis shows who is finding success.

The Pulsar/89up social election index analysis of social media followers and content engagement across the main social networks and online sources reveals significantly higher volumes of engagement with content from Jeremy Corbyn in comparison to that from Boris Johnson.

Pulsar social election index

Corbyn is also picking up new followers at a much faster rate than Johnson, with both finding more success on Twitter over Facebook.

Pulsar social election index

He had a major uplift in the number of his social media followers after his much-criticised interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil on 26 November, as well as this tweet on 24 November, which was by far the most engaged with piece of content from the period we tracked.

Issues
The index also shows that people are developing and evolving their arguments on social media, with Brexit dominating the general election in terms of the volume of social media conversations, closely followed by the NHS.

The biggest surprise, compared with previous elections, is the dominance of Racism in the social media conversation, on par with the Economy in the discussion. This follows media coverage in recent weeks about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia largely affecting the two main parties.

Pulsar social election index

The comparatively low volume around Crime and Security and Defence, will presumably change in the final two weeks of the campaign leading up to polling day on 12 December, following the tragic terrorist incident in London on 29 November. It has already led to wider questions being asked about resourcing of the UK’s police and security services as well as the prison and probation service.

The breakdown of issues by party show which policy areas are cross-party in terms of the social media conversation and which are dominated by either Labour or the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems and the Brexit Party, who have polarised positions on Brexit, have their biggest share of the conversation around the EU, while the Green Party takes a larger share when it comes to Climate Change and the Environment as expected. Following media reports of the SNP’s position on Trident and the UK’s nuclear deterrent, it is unsurprising to see their highest share of the conversation is around Security and Defence.

Issues such as Housing, Pensions and Nationalisation see Labour dominate the social media conservation, whereas Privatisation, Crime and Immigration are dominated by the Conservatives.

Pulsar social election index

The index is noteworthy given the amount of influence social media is expected to have on the final two weeks of the campaign and the eventual outcome, which is reflected in widely reported party spend on social media advertising. Whether Labour can convert its social media success into votes remains to be seen, but this tracker will give an indication of the public’s behaviour online right up until 12 December.

The party with the greatest social media influence will also have an advantage on election day itself in terms of ensuring members and supporters are amplifying the party’s ‘Get out the vote’ messages and are also directed to the most critical target seats.

The social media analysis in the Pulsar/89up social election index offers insight into the general election campaign across social networks and other web sources, such as Blogs, Forums, Reddit, Online News and YouTube from the 8 November to 2 December. The report tracks mentions of key political issues and UK political parties and their leaders.

Old Bailey

Bob Neill: Our frequently overlooked justice system needs to be properly resourced

This blogpost is part of a cross-party series on Vuelio’s political blog Point of Order which publishes insight and opinion to help public affairs, policy makers and comms professionals stay ahead of political change and be connected to those who campaign on the issues they care about. The blog has recently published on voter turnout and opinion polling, the immigration system, the environment and tackling the climate emergency. To find out more or contribute, get in touch with Vuelio Politics.

Conservative candidate and most recent Justice Committee Chair Bob Neill says that the UK justice system is ‘as integral a part of our social services as anything else, employing, directly or indirectly, some immensely dedicated, talented and brave people’. He calls for greater investment in our prisons, more money for the legal aid system and a proper strategy for recruiting, retaining and making the best use of magistrates, who deal with around 95% of criminal cases.

For many, the justice system can seem a distant and complex web of solemn juries and impenetrable legalese. Taken together with the fact most of us rarely have any direct contact with it, it can be easy to see why the sector is frequently overlooked and often under-appreciated. However, we do so to the detriment of us all.

Indeed, the justice system underpins everything we do, managing how we deal with those who break the rules and offend; how we try constructively to prevent that, protecting the public from harm and supporting the victims of crime; and how, wherever possible, we attempt to rehabilitate those who have done wrong, giving them the tools they need to forge a second chance for themselves. At the same time, our courts system helps to protect our fundamental rights, provides us with a means of seeking redress when the law is broken, and resolves disputes between individuals and businesses. These are all measures of a civilised society.

It is for those reasons the justice system is as integral a part of our social services as anything else, employing, directly or indirectly, some immensely dedicated, talented and brave people. It needs to be properly resourced and the people working in it better supported.

Against that backdrop, the Justice Committee, which I had the privilege to Chair over the course of the last two Parliaments, has in recent years carried out an ambitious and broad programme of scrutiny on everything from bailiffs and the enforcement of debt to the probation system and the small claims limit.

So, what needs doing?

In short, from a criminal justice standpoint, we need greater investment in our prisons so we can recruit more staff and, importantly, retain experienced officers; reform the prison estate, to ensure it remains fit for purpose; and make education and training opportunities central, providing support to help offenders find employment and housing once released. The recent announcement, included in the Conservative Party Manifesto, to create a prisoner education service focused on work-based training and skills is a very welcome first step.

To those who doubt the need for reform, I would say this: with the cost of reoffending estimated to be £18 billion a year, and recidivism rates remaining stubbornly high, the stark reality is that none of us as taxpayers are receiving value for money. All but the most serious offenders will one day be released from prison. The current status quo, in which not enough support is available to ensure those same people don’t simply revert back to a life of crime once on the outside, is neither economical nor does it represent smart justice.

From a civil justice perspective, we have to make sure our courts are more efficiently run and properly maintained, also putting more money into our legal aid system to ensure access to justice isn’t hindered. One of our main concerns has been an increasingly depleted magistracy. Given these volunteers deal with around 95% of criminal cases and a substantial proportion of non-criminal work, including family law cases, it’s a challenge that needs to be urgently addressed via a proper strategy for recruiting, retaining and making best use of our magistrates, including through advertising campaigns and work-based support schemes to help those who serve.

Whichever party comes out on top on 12th December, these will be the tasks incoming ministers have to grapple with. A good start would be to move forward with a pragmatic, evidence-based approach that seeks consensus across the House of Commons on these vitally important issues.

This is a guest post from Bob Neill, who has been Chair of the Justice Committee since 2015. He is the Conservative candidate for Bromley and Chislehurst.

Polling booth

How will turnout and opinion polls affect the General Election result?

Vuelio’s External Relations Manager Sam Webber investigates the final push for voter registrations before the deadline and whether opinion polls will have an impact on turnout in the first December election the UK has had in over 90 years.

Polling day for the 2019 General Election is now less than two weeks away.

The first December election campaign since 1923 is drawing to a close with the final debates, opinion polls and seat by seat projections set to dominate the media coverage.

Postal votes are landing on doormats across the country. Many are often completed and returned within a day or two, so this weekend is in effect the first polling day of the campaign; a dry run for party activists before the main event on 12 December.

In 2017, 8.4 million people voted by post (18% of voters) and given the time of year and weather conditions, it is likely that the number voting by post this time will be higher still. Overall turnout for this election will be crucial, especially given the high number of marginal seats which are likely to decide the outcome.

68.8% was the turnout in 2017 but it could be even higher in 2019 given how important the result will be in deciding not just the next Government, but the next stage of Brexit and whether or not the UK leaves the EU and the end of January.

Equally, polls pointing to a 10% lead or more for the Conservatives and a key poll and seat projection suggesting a Tory majority of 68 might mean people stay at home if they believe that the result is beyond doubt.

It might also mean that the traditional Labour voters in the North, the Midlands and Wales who are likely to support the Conservatives on this occasion to ensure Boris Johnson has a majority to deliver Brexit, are persuaded at the last minute to stick with Labour instead.

Another factor to consider is the final push for voter registration right up until the deadline of 23:59 on Tuesday 26 November; 3.85 million people registered to vote by the final deadline which was 67% higher than the 2.3 million people who registered in the same period leading up to the 2017 poll. A significant proportion of these people will already be registered to vote though they are still counted in the total figure. However, this still points to a high level of interest in this contest despite the festive season.

67% of registrations also came from people aged 34 or under which would usually be more beneficial to Labour and proved to be true in 2017 when the party captured seats in university towns like Reading, Canterbury and Warwick and Leamington.

Labour will be hoping its dominance on social media and ability to get its party message out, drives up turnout in those key seats they need to win or retain to deprive Boris Johnson of a Conservative majority. The Conservatives will be pushing their message, that only a Conservative victory on 12 December will see Brexit delivered and take the country forward, even harder in the key seats they need to win and more widely on social media platforms. The public will decide which option they prefer.

 

Sam Webber is External Relations Manager at Vuelio. He is a prospective parliamentary candidate in the general election, standing for the Liberal Democrats in Erith and Thamesmead.

Stanley Johnson

Stanley Johnson: Rebuilding environmental bridges with the EU after Brexit should be a key UK priority

Former Conservative MEP and environmental campaigner Stanley Johnson writes that despite backing remain in the referendum, he now fully supports his son Boris as Prime Minister, who is seeking to ‘Get Brexit Done’ as long as the UK and EU can continue to work together on world-leading environmental policies.

During the seventies and eighties, I was personally involved, both as an MEP and as a senior official of the European Commission, in drafting environmental legislation on a wide range of issues such as air and water pollution, the disposal of waste, noise and nature protection; measures which have since been introduced and applied on a common basis among EU Member States.

In the run-up to the EU Referendum in June 2016, I co-founded (with Baroness Young of Old Scone) and co-chaired an all-party group called Environmentalists for Europe. We argued that the UK had contributed in important respects to the development of EU environmental policy and had derived much benefit from it.

So, I can’t pretend that the result of the Referendum, with its clear majority for Leave as opposed to Remain (17.4 million against 16.1 million votes), did not come as a shock. It was not what we were hoping for. Since then, however, my personal preference has been clear. The people having spoken with a clear voice, we have to deliver the goods and ‘Get Brexit Done’.

But that doesn’t mean that one-time Remainers like me have forgotten about the environment. Far from it. My concern now is that in leaving the EU, we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

As I write, opinion polls suggest that the Conservative Party is on course to achieve a working majority. In that context, the commitments made in the recently-released Conservative Manifesto are obviously relevant to any assessment of ‘the environmental future’.

The climate issue is a case in point. Last Monday, 25 November, the World Meteorological Office Secretary-General Petteri Taalas announced: ‘There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

‘We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of the mankind. It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer, sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now.’

The Conservative Manifesto states: ‘The climate emergency means that the challenges we face stretch far beyond our borders. We will lead the global fight against climate change by delivering on our world-leading target of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.’

It goes on to say: ‘We have doubled International Climate Finance. And we will use our position hosting the UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in 2020 to ask our global partners to match our ambition.’

As we look ahead to next year’s key Climate Summit, COP26, in Glasgow (and in the light of the woeful situation highlighted this week by WMO), UK diplomats and negotiators will have to be ready to work overtime. Whereas the eyes of their political masters may be trained on potential trade deals with other key players (Japan, US, Australia, India, China, Canada etc), our diplomats will need to focus on how the UK can continue – once outside the EU – to play a leading role in dealing with the world’s key environmental challenges.

Ironically, rebuilding bridges with the EU (retrieving the baby from the bathwater?) as far as the environment is concerned at least, may well be one of the key priorities. After all, as the Prime Minister is keen to remind us: we are leaving the EU; we are not leaving Europe.

Point of Order

On a Point of Order Mr Speaker…

For politically interested readers and public affairs stakeholders alike, Vuelio has launched a political content hub called ‘Point of Order’. All political articles and guest posts will appear here. Do get in touch if you have a blog post you would like us to consider for publication.

Vuelio has recently launched Point of Order, its political content hub on the Vuelio blog.

This hub includes regular blog posts from parliamentarians and insight from the Vuelio political team.

Recent articles from MPs and peers cover issues as wide-ranging as immigration, the Remain Alliance in the General Election, tackling the climate emergency and protecting our natural environment:

Vuelio will also build on its specialised research including its ground-breaking White Paper ‘The Politics of Social Media’, which included ComRes polling of 137 MPs in the summer of 2019.

The report highlighted the views of a wide cross section of MPs on how social media had changed their interactions with both constituents and stakeholder organisations.

Our research found:

  • 81% of MPs believe that public attitude towards politicians has changed for the worse because of social media
  • 76% believe social media has made it difficult for the public to source credible information
  • 47% believe social has improved the transparency of politicians

The report was discussed at the Conservative Party Conference in September 2019, with leading authorities in social media policy attending Vuelio’s fringe event including DCMS Secretary of State Nicky Morgan, Digital and Broadband minister Matt Warman and DCMS Select Committee Chair Damian Collins.

You can also sign up for our email bulletins including Vuelio Political Updates, which helps you to stay on top of major political developments – whether that’s Brexit negotiations, policy announcements or recent personnel changes, moves within government or the political parties and public appointments. You can also receive summaries and analysis of major political events such as the Budget and the Queen’s Speech.

The Vuelio Political Team is also monitoring all the General Election campaign activity and following updates from all the main parties.

Sign up to receive our General Election Bulletin, sent every Friday during the campaign.

It provides a summary of election campaign activity and news, gathered from media and political party sources. The bulletin will also include a roundup of key events and activities taking place the following week.

Please get in touch if you are interested in finding out more information on any of our political services, whether political monitoring or our database services.

And don’t forget to follow @Vuelio_Politics.

Immigration

Christine Jardine: ‘Liberal Democrats will build an effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect’

This is a guest post from Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary and Women and Equalities spokesperson. She is the Lib Dem candidate for Edinburgh West.

Christine writes that ‘The UK’s immigration system is broken’ and proposes that her party ‘will take immigration powers away from the Home Office so that visa and asylum decisions are made quickly and fairly’, and allow asylum seekers to work while their cases are decided.

The UK’s immigration system is broken, and it is hurting everyone. I struggle to think of a time when the mention of the word ‘immigration’ during an election campaign was a sign of anything but an announcement of more ways to denigrate and marginalise the millions of migrants who have made the UK their home – who pay their taxes and work for our NHS, who build their businesses and their families as part of an open and welcoming British society.

Instead, we see immigration speeches that are tailor-made for what prospective Home Secretaries think are the lowest common denominator of British people – scoring points off the back of hard-working people based on where they were born. I think they’re wrong. I don’t believe that British people are mean-spirited or unwelcoming – I think they’ve been let down by politicians who are all too eager to blame immigrants for their own failings. For too long, the two main parties have scored points off the backs of hard-working people. Decades of hostile policies and rhetoric from Labour and Conservative governments have created a system that no one trusts, and that fails to respect people’s dignity.

Employers can’t recruit the workers they need, leaving the NHS short of nurses and social care in crisis. People without documents are denied access to healthcare and housing. Far too many people are detained indefinitely, in inhumane conditions and at great expense. Families are separated by unfair, complex visa requirements. The Windrush generation has been failed, deported, removed from their families, and some died without an inkling of an apology. Public confidence in the system has been shattered.

And in this election, there’s a risk we’ll be taken out of the EU and free movement will end. Millions more people cast into the abject failure of the Home Office, facing the risk of deportation away from their home, their work and their loved ones simply because neither Labour nor the Conservatives believe they are worth standing up for.

Liberal Democrats believe in a different approach. We will scrap the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment, replacing their fishing-net approach with targeted, intelligence-led immigration enforcement. We will take immigration powers away from the Home Office so that visa and asylum decisions are made quickly and fairly. We will restore dignity and common sense by ending indefinite detention and allowing asylum seekers to work while their cases are decided. And we will stop Brexit and save free movement.

At the same time, we recognise the danger posed to those who attempt to get to the UK illegally. In Essex, only a few weeks ago, we saw the horrifying results of a failed enforcement system. Liberal Democrats will invest in officers, training and technology to prevent illegal entry at Britain’s borders, tackle the smuggling of people, weapons, drugs and wildlife, and at the same time help refugees and asylum seekers who have fallen victim to cross-border criminal enterprises.

With that comes a moral obligation to play our part in the world – to stand tall and welcome those whose homes, lives, and countries have been destroyed by conflict and rendered too dangerous to return by widespread violence. Liberal Democrats will meet our obligations – resettling 10,000 vulnerable refugees each year and help 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children from across Europe over the next 10 years. These people have already seen their homes destroyed – the very least we can do is open our arms to them and tell them that the UK is a place they can be safe and rebuild their lives.

With a Liberal Democrat government, every person will have their dignity respected and UK employers will be able to recruit the workers they need. Those who choose to come to the UK to work, study or join their families will be welcomed for the skills and contributions that they bring. Family unity will be protected; the rule of law will be respected; and we will ensure fairness for taxpayers. Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future, with a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

Voting

General election pacts: will they have an impact?

As the deadline for election candidate nominations passes today, Vuelio assesses the likely impact of alliances and pacts between parties.

The 2019 General Election is set to be one of the most unpredictable in living memory.

Polling is fluctuating, though in general it still shows a Conservative lead; manifestos have yet to be released; and in the last few days the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems have all been affected by candidates standing down due to controversial social media posts coming to light. Labour candidate Kate Osborne remains in post despite a row over her sharing an image on Facebook in 2017 with an image of Theresa May being held at gunpoint.

The close of nominations for all parliamentary candidates is 4pm on Thursday 14 November and after this deadline there will be a clear list of which parties are contesting which constituencies.

Nigel Farage’s ‘big decision’ announced on Monday to withdraw 317 Brexit party candidates in every seat that elected a Conservative MP in 2017 follows huge pressure on him to not oppose the Conservatives. Several Brexit Party candidates had already announced they would not stand in seats where it looked likely they would let in Labour or the Liberal Democrats and a Times leader column said: ‘So long as the Brexit Party remains on the ballot there is a real possibility that Brexit will be stopped’.

Nigel Farage was clear that his party will still contest Labour held seats and seats held by other Remain parties.

Brexit supporters have pointed out that this stance could still deprive the Conservatives of a majority, if they split the Leave vote in crucial Labour Tory marginal seats in the North and the Midlands.

The Brexit Party has argued that the Conservatives should stand down in some of these Labour heartland constituencies, which have not been held by the Conservatives for more than 100 years, where polling suggests voters are more likely to back the Brexit Party to deliver Brexit than to vote Conservative.

Despite this, Farage reports that his candidates in Labour-facing seats are under continued pressure to stand aside: ‘Our people, men and women who put themselves forward are now coming under relentless phone calls, email and abuse, and being told they must stand down. That is happening in 21st Century Britain. I think that is a complete and utter disgrace.’

Monday’s Brexit Party announcement followed a video by Boris Johnson in which he promised to pursue a Canada-Plus free trade agreement with the EU and not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.

Not to be outdone on the Remain side, Unite to Remain announced a plan affecting 60 seats in England and Wales, where a single Remain party will stand.

This initiative is between the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats. The full list of affected seats is here. Polling guru Professor Sir John Curtice said when the list was announced that, ‘their effect is going to be small’ and he suggested at best that it might mean the Liberal Democrats winning ‘half a dozen’ additional seats. Many of the seats affected effectively had similar agreements in place in 2017 too, so the impact may be negligible.

Separate to this agreement, some Liberal Democrat candidates have come under pressure to stand down in seats held by Labour, which are vulnerable to the Conservatives. The Lib Dem candidate for Canterbury, prominent Pro-EU journalist Tim Walker, has withdrawn from the constituency where Labour’s Rosie Duffield defends a majority of 187 votes.

Because Labour is not an explicitly Remain party and chose not to take part in the Remain Alliance, the Lib Dems have said a different candidate will be nominated in Canterbury. Another Lib Dem candidate has stood down in High Peak in Derbyshire where Labour defends a narrow majority of 2,322 votes but the party was expected to replace this person with a new candidate as well.

With four weeks remaining until the election, it is impossible to know the impact these agreements will have on the result, especially before the manifestos have even been published or before any tv debates have aired.

It will depend on the polling trends and whether the margin between the main parties increases or reduces. Equally in an election in the middle of winter, the weather could have a significant impact. Flooding in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire has already affected the campaign this week with visits from all the main party leaders to affected areas to speak to affected residents, and the Prime Minister being criticised for the Government’s slow response.

Voter registration numbers continue to rise with over 1.5 million registrations in the last two weeks and adverts on TV and online encouraging people to register to vote. It is worth monitoring the total number of registrations by the deadline of 26 November. Then all eyes will be on the TV debates and the party manifesto launches to see whether these lead to a significant boost in voter turnout, and if this exceeds the 69% who voted in 2017. 18% of voters in 2017 or 8.4 million people voted by post in that election. We would expect that to increase in this poll not least due to the weather and busy run up to Christmas.