Friday, June 5, 2009

Exeter update

Congratulations to my MP Ben Bradshaw, who has been promoted to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. He's a likeable, eloquent chap, often seen cycling between appointments in Exeter.

It's just a shame Ben belongs to a government that was responsible for the illegal invasion of Iraq, that often fails to resist authoritarian measures, and that is stumbling over the climate change.

Meanwhile, the Devon County Council elections have produced little change in Exeter. Four Labour holds, three LibDem holds, one Conservative hold, and one gain by the Conservatives from the LibDems (Duryard and Pennsylvania - look who failed to mobilise the student vote).

What should have been the overriding issue of the campaign - fighting Devon County Council's plan to abolish Exeter City Council - was scarcely discussed.

British Government abolishing ministry for universities

So it appears that universities are now subsumed entirely into the business agenda. From being part of the education ministry until quite recently, higher education is now overseen by the “Department for Business, Innovation and Skills”, whose remit is “to build Britain’s capabilities to compete in the global economy” (BBC News)

Surely state support for science should be more than just about business, at a time of threats from climate change, infectious disease and discoveries of earth-like planets.
Surely state support for higher education should be more than just about business, at a time when we are seeing afresh the importance for our society of the development of ethical integrity, personal growth, creativity and critical engagement in democracy.
Surely state support for research in the humanities and social sciences should be more than just about business at a time when work purely dedicated to furthering the knowledge and capacities of humankind is being devalued by a narrow commodity agenda.

Devon Election Results (2)

Further to the overall view of yesterday's election results for Devon County Council, there are some surprising things about the 21 electoral divisions that changed parties.

All but three changed from LibDem to Conservative. But talking about a "swing" from LibDem to Conservative could be a bit misleading. Of course this does look like what happened in a few places. For example, in Holsworthy Rural, the LibDem share of the vote went down by 22 percentage point and the Conservative share went up by 18 percentage points. But in other divisions, the situation is more complex.

A good example is Seaton Coastal. In 2005, the LibDem had a majority of about 900. In 2009, the Conservative had a majority of 135. But, bearing in mind that the turnout almost halved, look at the share of the vote. The Conservative share of the vote actually remained exactly the same in both elections. The reason they won is that the LibDem share went down by 17 percentage points. The UKIP vote went up by almost the same amount.

This pattern of the LibDem vote going down and the UKIP vote going up ocurred in many of the seats won by the Conservatives in Devon. That's not to say that other factors weren't in play - the Labour vote getting cut, the role of Independents, votes for the Greens - but this does look like a major factor.

Devon Election Results

Some reflections yesterday's elections to Devon County Council...

On the face of it, a clear transfer of councillors from LibDem to Tory:

Caveat: These figures, taken from DCC's website, include the results of three by-elections since 2005.

These figures might lead you to a headline of "Conservatives up by 78%, LibDems down by 58%". A massive endorsement of David Cameron, you might think.

But if you look at share of the vote, rather than councillors, a different story appears:

Some observations:
  1. The massive majority LibDems have enjoyed in Devon over the last four years was based on slightly fewer votes than the Conservatives received.
  2. Far from a massive endorsement of Cameron, the Tory vote went up by just 4%.
  3. Support for Labour halved, yet they received the same number of councillors.
  4. Almost four times as many voters supported UKIP, the Greens and others as supported Labour, but their views are represented by fewer councillors than Labour.