By saeed sobhani

Political ambiguity in London

December 6, 2019 - 11:5

TEHRAN-The UK general election is being held as many polls show the Conservative Party over the Labor Party. However, many political analysts believe that, as of now, Boris Johnson cannot be considered the definitive winner of the UK general election. Here's a look at some of the latest news and analysis on the UK general election:

How Britain's political parties got their colors

As CNN reporte,with the UK's general election less than two weeks away, British voters have seen their TV screens, mailboxes and newsfeeds fill with color.Just like commercial brands, political parties know that using a single, bold shade can make them easier to recognize -- whether that's out on the campaign trail or checking the latest polls.

If the last election is anything to go by, the blue of the ruling Conservatives will go head-to-head with the red of Labour. Yellow and orange (the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats, respectively) will likely make up the race for third.Elsewhere, the British political system offers a veritable kaleidoscope of differing -- and sometimes duplicate -- colors. The newly formed Brexit Party uses turquoise, Change UK has opted for black and white, while Northern Ireland's Sinn Féin and Wales' Plaid Cymru are represented by nearly identical shades of green.

A poll conducted by the BBC is projected on to Big Ben at the moment voting finished for the 2010 general election.

Although the older, established parties trace these associations back to their foundation, the importance of color in campaigning blossomed with the advent of new technology and advertising between the 1950s and 1970s, explained Dominic Wring, a professor of political communication at the UK's Loughborough University.

"The advertising industry itself underwent a change around the introduction of color television, so, increasingly, colors and more ambitious or innovative designs became quite significant," he said in a phone interview, adding that, during this time, "parties began to simplify their messaging."

Beyond simple brand recognition, certain colors have long been associated with various values and ideologies. Yellow, for instance, is often linked to liberalism, while black has traditionally represented anarchism or fascism -- especially in Britain, where followers of the British Union of Fascists in the 1920s and 1930s were known as "Blackshirts."

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wears a red tie to deliver a speech in Northampton, England.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wears a red tie to deliver a speech in Northampton, England. Credit: Darren Staples/Getty Images
For the Labour Party, the use of red was a natural choice for a group allied with trade unions, social democrats and democratic socialists. Since the French Revolution, the color has been widely associated with left-wing politics, symbolizing the blood of workers who died in the struggle against their oppressors.

Upon Labour's inception at the beginning of the 20th century, the party used a red flag as its official logo. "The color is central and symbolic to the labor movement, and has been since that period," said Wring, noting that the party logo has since changed to a red rose.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, has historically adopted all the colors of the United Kingdom's flag -- red white and blue -- in order, perhaps, to promote itself as a defender of British values. Of those three colors, an ultramarine blue emerged as its predominant shade (though the party's current tree logo is a paler shade than some of its predecessors).

Traditionally the most expensive color to produce, blue has long held connotations of wealth and conservatism.

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, delivers his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference.

Among the smaller parties, color choices have sometimes been relatively straightforward -- the Green Party uses green, unsurprisingly, due to its obvious connections with environmentalism. Others have been more pragmatic. Take the Liberal Democrats' orange, for instance, which emerged from the combination of the two parties it was created from: the Liberal Party (yellow) and the Social Democratic Party (then associated with the red of Labour, which it broke away from in the early 1980s).

Yet for the Liberal Democrats -- the UK's third largest party until the 2015 election -- the color orange had another benefit: it was otherwise unclaimed. With the Scottish National Party growing in prominence in the 1970s, switching from a clashing yellow made it easier for the Lib Dems to differentiate themselves.

Indeed, for recent newcomers -- like the short-lived Referendum Party in the 1990s (pink), or the UK Independence Party (purple) -- distinct colors may simply help them stand out in a crowded political marketplace.

The Liberal Democrats' leader Jo Swinson steps off an orange bus to be greeted by supporters.
 while some colors have historical links, none are indelibly tied to ideologies. Elsewhere in Europe, orange is associated with both the Christian Democrats and, in the east, post-Soviet uprisings (see Ukraine's so-called "Orange Revolution"). In other countries, green may represent Islamic parties rather than environmental ones. And while brown has longstanding links to Nazi groups, it also features prominently in the logo of the Marijuana Party of Canada.

Even the simple idea that blue and red represent right and left-wing parties, respectively, is inconsistent. In the US, Democrats are blue while the more conservative Republicans are red (though before the 1988 presidential election, TV networks often did the opposite, and the current notion of "red states" and "blue states" only came into common parlance until the 2000 presidential run-off).

Of course the irony, in both the US and Britain, is that despite the color-coded campaigning, when people get to the polling booths on voting day, the various shades won't be displayed for their final, crucial decision -- that's because the ballot papers are printed in black and white.

UK election: the tactical fight to beat Boris Johnson

As Fainancial Times reported, When pollsters asked voters in Finchley and Golders Green in early October how they would vote in a possible general election, 41 per cent backed the Liberal Democrats ahead of 29 per cent for the ruling Conservative party. Labour trailed in a distant third.

The constituency — a Conservative-held marginal seat in north London — has been shared in recent elections by the two main UK parties. But the internal Lib Dem polling appeared to vindicate the decision to parachute in Luciana Berger as the party’s candidate. The former Labour MP quit the party in February over its failure to address anti-Semitism within its ranks. Finchley and Golders Green, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU at the Brexit referendum, has the largest Jewish population of any seat in the UK.

Yet five weeks later, by which time the election had been called, a second survey, conducted by a different pollster, Deltapoll for The Observer newspaper, asked 500 constituents the same question. This time the Conservatives led on 46 per cent, the Berger campaign had slipped to 32 per cent and Labour was even further behind.

The two polls graphically illustrate the huge uncertainty surrounding next week’s British general election. They highlight the volatility of the electorate — the 17-point gain for the Conservatives between two surveys just five weeks apart is unprecedented — in a campaign which has been dominated by Brexit and the breakdown in traditional party loyalties it has created.

They also help explain why tactical voting is set to be one of the decisive factors in the election. The latest polls indicate the Conservatives could be on track for a majority because the party has managed to consolidate a large section of voters who supported leaving the EU in 2016 behind its “Get Brexit Done” sloganeering. The final result, however, could depend on whether Remain supporters, armed with opinion poll data, will vote tactically for the party most likely to beat the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson — which in most constituencies is either Labour or the Lib Dems.
 

Yet its 2017 success has given a sense of infallibility to MRP that its record elsewhere doesn’t necessarily warrant. YouGov was not the only pollster using MRP in 2017 — the other, Michael Ashcroft’s company, forecast a hefty 64-seat Tory majority.

Outside the UK, MRP polling has been most accurate in strict two-party systems where the link between politics and demographics tends to be neater, but unlike the UK where several parties from the Lib Dems to the Brexit party who could all have an outsized impact on the outcome.

“MRP won’t work as well for smaller parties,” says Kevin Cunningham, an independent political statistician who built one of the MRP models being used in the 2019 election. “A party on 15 per cent may not even appear [among the respondents] in many constituencies.”

This imprecision is clear in the MRP models that are circulating. YouGov’s model estimates that the Lib Dems are running in second place in 117 constituencies, but another model, carried out by data analytics company FocalData on behalf of pro-Remain tactical voting site Best for Britain, gives them only 96 second-places.

Yet, there is consensus among pollsters, political scientists and statisticians that MRP is the best available election-forecasting tool for estimating at scale what is happening in individual seats.

The core challenge of modelling how different people will vote, comes down to which factors — from education to ethnicity and past voting records — the model-builders allow into their calculations. Another issue — one that thwarted some pollsters in 2015 and 2017 — was modelling turnout. “The people who are very hard to poll are also very unlikely to vote,” says Mr Lauderdale, “so you end up missing out on parts of the population that don’t vote and don’t show up in the poll.”

These decisions on factors can influence the shape of the electoral results map that each model generates, and there are early signs that some of the models circulating in public are falling into the trap of producing unnatural swings in vote share between parties.

“This can happen if you have a model that is failing to capture the ways that Labour voters in really Labour places are different from Labour voters in places that were less Labour,” says Mr Lauderdale. “That’s not to say it’s not happening, but it’s probably not happening to that extent.”

UK election: halt US trade talks until NHS off table, Corbyn tells Johnson

As Guardian reported, Jeremy Corbyn has urged the prime minister to break off trade talks with Donald Trump until any reference to pharmaceuticals is struck out of Washington’s negotiating objectives.

As the US president prepared to fly in on Monday evening to attend the Nato summit alongside other world leaders, Corbyn wrote to Boris Johnson to urge him to give fresh reassurances about NHS privatisation.

The Labour leader has repeatedly accused the prime minister of preparing to sell off the NHS, and Labour activists at recent rallies have taken up a chorus of “Not for sale! Not for sale!”

Johnson has described Labour’s claims as “total nonsense”. But in the letter, sent on Monday, Corbyn called on him to take a series of concrete steps to show he is serious.These include bringing all services back in-house; repealing the Health and Social Care Act, and suspending trade talks until Washington changes its negotiating objectives.

Corbyn says Johnson should decline to press ahead with talks on a bilateral trade deal unless Trump excludes any reference to pharmaceuticals from US negotiating plans and accept the role of the regulator – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in setting drugs prices.

Washington’s negotiating objectives, a public document, include the demand that “state-owned enterprises” should “accord non-discriminatory treatment with respect to the purchase and sale of goods and services”.

It also calls for “full market access for US products”, for what it calls “government regulatory reimbursement regimes” for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Trump’s public appearances during his visit will be scrutinised closely for any comments about a future trade deal.When he and Johnson met at the Biarritz G7 meeting in August, the US president lavished praise on Johnson, saying: “I’ve been saying it for a long time: he’s the right man for the job.” He has also criticised Corbyn in the past.Labour hopes switching the debate back to the NHS will help it to persuade traditional supporters to stick with the party.

The Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, acknowledged in an interview with HuffPost on Monday that Labour-held seats across the Midlands and the north were the party’s “achilles heel” at this general election.

“Our achilles heel is in our communities, in what’s known as our heartlands, that voted leave and are not quite sure yet whether they will give their vote to Labour,” he said.

“If we can engage people listening to what’s on offer, what type of Britain and country we want as we go into the future, then we are on a winner. It’s very much a question of how we do that, whilst at the same time tackling the very real issues we’ve got over Brexit and with Jeremy in some places.”

Some Labour candidates fear the party’s blizzard of generous spending pledges, the most recent being a 30% cut in rail season ticket prices, are raising questions among some voters about whether they could be delivered.

At a press conference last week, Corbyn produced 451 pages of uncensored documents, which showed that between July 2017 and July 2019, senior UK and US trade officials discussed the NHS, drug patents, the pharmaceutical industry, health insurance and medical devices as part of the post-Brexit trade deal.

Experts have warned that the documents show the US wants the UK to rip up the way it sets drug prices – potentially leading to billions of pounds a year in added costs for the NHS.
 

Can Jeremy Corbyn Lose the British Election and Still Win?

But The New Yorker reported that ritish politicians tend to avoid December elections. Darkness falls early, the weather is bad, and optimism is hard to come by. The last one was in 1923, when the recently installed Conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, called an election four years earlier than necessary, in order to rally the country behind a contentious trade policy that he was pursuing. It was a terrible idea. The Conservatives lost power and the Labour Party formed a government for the first time. In theory, it’s not hard to imagine something similar happening to Boris Johnson, on December 12th. Like Baldwin, Johnson wants the upcoming contest to have a single focus—his Brexit deal—but he and the Tories have other things to answer for.

Conservative Prime Ministers have led Britain since 2010. During that time, the Party’s signature policy has been a program of austerity that has protected the country’s finances at an immense human cost. Crime has risen, schools have suffered, and poverty is increasing. Patients arriving in the emergency rooms of the National Health Service are facing the longest waiting times since 2004. Average wages in Britain, unlike in the U.S., are yet to recover to their level before the financial crisis. And that’s before you even get to the soul-grinding shit show that is Brexit, which has been a Tory production from start to finish, except that it hasn’t finished yet. Under vaguely normal political conditions, the Conservatives wouldn’t stand a chance in next month’s election. Johnson has his talents but he is hardly a flawless candidate. It might not tell you everything about a Prime Minister if he won’t tell you how many children he has, but it must tell you something. Last week, during the first televised debate of the campaign, Johnson was asked whether the truth mattered. “I think it does,” he replied. “I think it’s very important.” The audience burst out laughing.

But these are not vaguely normal conditions. Johnson’s main opponent is Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party. Since he was elected to the post, four years ago, Corbyn, a seventy-year-old socialist Member of Parliament, has remained almost uniquely unimaginable as a British Prime Minister. Most voters look at Corbyn and simply can’t picture him doing the things that Prime Ministers do: living in Downing Street, hobnobbing with the Queen, taking charge in an emergency. Corbyn is more your guy for a rally or a picket line, or a chat at the bus stop. This hasn’t always counted against him. In the spring of 2017, Theresa May, who was every inch an orthodox Prime Minister, gambled that she could crush Corbyn in a general election. Early in the campaign, Labour was twenty points behind in the polls. But Corbyn’s underdog status—combined with some popular left-wing policies, like nationalizing the railways and providing free college tuition, which seemed both radical and achievable—turned him into a low-risk, feel-good alternative for many voters. There was a chant, “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn,” to the tune of “Seven Nation Army,” by the White Stripes. There was a Stormzy meme. Corbyn is relatable; he seems to care. May was stilted and dour. Labour gained thirty seats and the election ended in a hung Parliament. May’s authority—and her command of Brexit—never recovered.

Since Johnson called an election, last month, the question has been whether Corbyn and Labour can pull off a similar performance. But the past two years have been awful for almost every well-known British politician, caught up in the inertia and viciousness of Brexit. When I wrote a profile of Corbyn, shortly before the Brexit vote, he was still riding a bicycle to appointments and knocking around in mismatched jackets and pants. These days, he is mostly crammed into a dark-blue suit. Since the spring, he has worn a pair of corrective glasses for muscle tiredness in his right eye. One of Corbyn’s telling characteristics is his seeming passiveness, his tendency to shrink at vital moments. Earlier this month, at a campaign stop in Blackpool, in the north of England, John Crace, the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch-writer, was struck by Corbyn’s lifelessness. “He could barely keep his eyes open as he introduced a showcase programme for lifelong education that should be at the heart of his party’s manifesto,” Crace wrote. “It was almost as if he was punch-drunk. Years of being the underdog, of disproving the doubters, of always bouncing back, have finally taken their toll. Now it looked as if he had had enough.” In recent weeks, most national polls have had the Conservatives ahead by at least ten per cent. On November 14th, John Curtice, a professor at the University of Strathclyde who is regarded as Britain’s preëminent polling expert, described the chances of Labour winning a majority in December as “as close to zero as one can safely say.” While Johnson’s net approval rating hovers around zero, Corbyn’s is minus sixty.

Last week, I went to Birmingham to see Corbyn launch the Labour Party’s election manifesto. The event took place in the atrium of a faculty building at Birmingham City University, overlooking a construction site for HS2—an eighty-billion-pound high-speed-rail project championed by the Conservatives. Unlike May, who was fiscally cautious, Johnson is promising voters both tax cuts and higher public spending, which gives the campaign the feel of competing Christmas lists, after years of gruel. Corbyn appeared on the stage, which was decked out in clashing pinks and reds, just after 11 a.m. Students peered down from the floors above and he raised two thumbs up to greet them. At his best, Corbyn is personable and direct, possessed of moral certainty. He held up a copy of the Labour manifesto, a red booklet marked with “For the Many, Not the Few,” the Party’s slogan under his leadership. “Labour’s manifesto is a manifesto for hope,” Corbyn told the audience. “But you can’t have it.” He paused for effect. “At least, that’s what the most powerful people in Britain and their supporters want you to believe.”

To take on Johnson’s Conservatives—who raised £5.67 million in the first week of the election campaign, twenty-six times the £218,500 raised by Labour—Corbyn has adopted a newly confrontational tone toward Britain’s élites. At the beginning of his speech, he assailed “the tax dodgers, the bad bosses, the big polluters,” and the “billionaire-owned” media. He quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred,” he said. And then Corbyn outlined a plan, in his words, to “rewrite the rules” of the British economy. In 2017, Labour’s electoral promises implied an extra seventy billion pounds of public spending—around a ten-per-cent increase in the government budget. Last week, Corbyn doubled down, with proposals that would come to more than a hundred and thirty billion pounds a year. There was truly something for everyone: thirty hours a week of free child care for two- to four-year-olds; more nurses for the N.H.S.; a hefty increase in the minimum wage; more generous pensions and a halt to a rising retirement age; free college (again); free fibre-optic broadband; free music lessons for children; a “green industrial revolution,” promising a million new jobs; partial re-nationalization of the nation’s railways, post office, and energy suppliers; and a reinstatement of trade-union rights. “Ignore the wealthy and powerful who tell you that’s not possible. The future is ours to make, together,” Corbyn said. He quoted Pablo Neruda. “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

In the mouth of a different candidate—an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or an Elizabeth Warren—Corbyn’s agenda could sound very different, even transformative. Labour’s plans are meant to address inequality and to undertake a British equivalent of the Green New Deal. Even Corbyn’s much-derided Brexit policy—negotiate yet another deal and put it to the British public for a vote—isn’t much crazier than Johnson’s promise to secure a new trade deal with the E.U. by the end of 2020. But the messenger matters, and Corbyn is Corbyn. He and John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow Chancellor and the architect of its economic policies, are veterans of strikes and internecine Labour disputes about wealth creation and the role of the state that go back to the early seventies. Unfairly or not, whenever Corbyn speaks about setting up a new “National Education Service” for adult learning, or bringing utility companies into public ownership, he evokes an age of high taxation, inefficient bureaucracy, and national stagnation.

“These are vast numbers, enormous, colossal,” Paul Johnson, the director of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, said, of Labour’s declared spending plans. Johnson described Corbyn’s claim that its policies could be funded by tax increases on the richest five per cent of the population as “simply not credible.” Beyond the economy, the inclusiveness of Labour’s policies—toward migrants, disabled people, and other minorities—is undermined by Corbyn’s continuing failure to disentangle anti-Semitism from the Party’s left-wing turn under his leadership. Earlier this month, two Labour parliamentary candidates were forced to withdraw from the election, one for using the term “Shylock” during a council meeting, the other for claiming that allegations of anti-Semitism within Labour were “orchestrated by the wealthy establishment.” This week, Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, described the anxiety felt by many Jews about the prospect of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. “A new poison—sanctioned from the top—has taken root in the Labour Party,” he wrote in the Times of London, warning voters that the “the very soul of our nation is at stake.” Whenever Corbyn is challenged about the most troubling aspect of his record, he adopts a more or less rote response. He raises his voice and declares angrily that the scourge of racism and anti-Semitism is unacceptable in all walks of life. And then it happens again.

During Corbyn’s first months as leader of the Labour Party, people in Westminster used to compare him to Chauncey Gardiner, a character in the 1979 film “Being There,” in which a homely gardener (played by Peter Sellers) is almost accidentally elevated to the U.S. Presidency. He was a blank, seemingly genial man on whom it was possible to project all kinds of things. In the past four years, the public sense of Corbyn has narrowed, while the scale of his job has grown. Holding together the Labour vote in Britain—and growing it sufficiently to dislodge the Conservatives—is not dissimilar from the challenge facing the Democratic Party, as it tries to muster a coalition to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. The Party is increasingly torn between its younger, more diverse urban voters and its traditional working-class base, in the Midlands and the North. The Brexit vote made Labour’s internal tensions explicit. In 2016, around a third of Labour voters chose to leave the E.U. (Corbyn himself is a long-term Euroskeptic.) In the election next month, some sixty per cent of Labour-controlled constituencies will have a majority of Brexit voters. The big story of British politics recently has been about how the main parties have adapted to the new, tribal identities of Leave and Remain and how they go about amassing those voters into a parliamentary majority. Under Johnson, the Conservatives are now an unambiguously pro-Brexit party. Under Corbyn, Labour has attempted to make room for everybody, which is either unifying or a disastrous misjudgment, depending on your point of view.

In late October, political analysts described the figure of “Workington Man” as vital to both parties’ chances. Workington is a seaside town in Cumbria, on England’s northwest coast, which has voted Labour in every general election since 1918. This spring, however, the Brexit Party won the European parliamentary election. “Workington Man” is a white, male voter, older than forty-five, with a high-school education, who voted for Brexit and is hesitant about sticking with Labour under Corbyn. The term was coined by Onward, a center-right think tank, and expresses a hope, pursued by the Tories in recent years, that the Labour coalition is about to collapse. “Brexit has unlocked a load of voters for the first time,” Will Tanner, Onward’s director, told me. “If you look at some of the Labour Party’s policies and, specifically, their tone, they are clearly focussing quite heavily on a socially liberal, probably metropolitan-dwelling, probably not very old socialist. It’s not about working-class politics at all.” Tanner used to be one of May’s senior advisers and witnessed her failure, close up, to win those voters. But Johnson is a more adept and vigorous campaigner. The day before Corbyn’s manifesto launch, the Prime Minister was in Teeside, a historically Labour-voting region in the country’s industrial northeast, accidentally letting slip a tax cut that will benefit lower earners.

The truth is that both of the main parties are going to find it very difficult to win in December. The more that Johnson looks like a populist Brexiteer, the more he risks alienating traditional, middle-class Conservative voters, of whom about four and a half million voted Remain. The Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit altogether, are chasing those votes in the South and the West of England. The reach of Corbyn’s state-building radicalism, meanwhile, may have found its natural limit. Last week, in the first round of polls after the manifesto launch, Labour’s share of the vote barely moved, leaving the Conservatives still some twelve points ahead. But unstable loyalties around Brexit and the oddities of the British electoral system mean that it is almost impossible to translate national polls into an accurate prediction of seats in the House of Commons. “There are lots of dynamics at play which should make the Conservatives worry or at least be very careful,” Tanner said. One of those dynamics is that, if Johnson falls short of an outright majority, Corbyn would be strongly placed to lead a loose coalition, made up of Labour, the Scottish National Party, and the Liberal Democrats—all opposed to Brexit in one form or another. It would be an unusual way for a veteran socialist to enter Downing Street, but nothing stranger than what happened at Britain’s previous December election. Tanner brought up what happened in 1923. “The Conservatives throwing away a majority and the first Labour government ever being ushered in with the support of the Liberals,” he said. “History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme.”

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