Friday, September 11, 2015

Was Labour's purge worth it?

Last month the was a huge hoo-hah over the fact that the Labour party had been weeding out non-supporters from people who had signed up after the general election, removing the vote from people they suspected didn't "support Labour values". I'll declare now that I think this was the wrong thing to do, so this is the background from which I am writing this post.

I'll also declare up front that I signed up as a registered supporter and paid my £3, before the general election, on the basis I wanted a say in who the London mayoral candidate would be for Labour. Getting a vote in the leadership election was a surprise. You can see me above supporting Labour values at People's Day back in the heady days of July when no one thought Jeremy Corbyn stood a chance.

Anyway, the point of this post is to determine whether the purge of 3,000 people who had signed up to vote in the leadership election was worth it, statistically and then following on from that from a PR point of view. It's clear from the post I linked above that the purge has removed some people who were in fact genuine supporters of Labour, so from that position I argue straight off it wasn't a wise thing to do.

But onto the stats. In order to determine whether or not the purge was "worth it" we need to determine whether or not those purged could influence the result. This requires a bit of information about who gets to vote in the election and their likely voting intentions and it requires you to make a few assumptions about those who were purged.

I have taken the data on Labour party membership from the Guardian live blog on the purge (yes, they liveblogged it...) and the data on likely voting intentions from a compilation of opinion poll results on wikipedia.

So the total electorate for this leadership election was made up as follows:

Pre-election members  187,000
Post-election members 105,973
Affiliates            148,182
Registered supporters 112,799

This gives a total of 553,954.

According to the Guardian, 3,000 people were "purged". My first assumption is that all these were registered supporters, not members. In fact I know this to be false, but I think it's reasonable to assume the majority were so let's stick with that.

This gives an electorate of:

Pre-election members  187,000
Post-election members 105,973
Affiliates            148,182
Registered supporters 109,799

Next we need to decide how these people will vote. I have taken a range of opinion poll results to try to reflect the views of the different categories above. Obviously these are all assumptions. I have also assumed that 12% of the electorate won't vote and that all these are pre-election members.

I've assumed the pre-election members vote as the Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard of 14-16 June:

Burnham 23%
Cooper  20%
Corbyn   9%
Kendall 11%
Unsure  37% (it's these people I have removed from further calculations).

I've assumed the post-election members vote as the Opinium poll of 21-25 August:

Burnham 27%
Cooper  22%
Corbyn  39%
Kendall 12%

I've assumed the affiliates vote as the Opinium poll of 11-14 August:

Burnham 29%
Cooper  19%
Corbyn  37%
Kendall 15%

I've assumed the registered supporters vote as the YouGov poll for The Times of 6-10 August:

Burnham 21%
Cooper  18%
Corbyn  53%
Kendall 8%

And lastly I have assumed that every single purged supporter was an infiltrator intending to mess up the Labour party good and proper by voting for Corbyn.

Following through these numbers, it follows that if the purged voters were removed this would be the outcome:

Burnham 28.4%
Cooper  22.4%
Corbyn  35.9%
Kendall 13.3%

Removing the purged voters has the following effect:

Burnham 28.6%
Cooper  22.5%
Corbyn  35.5%
Kendall 13.3%

That's right. Removing those 3,000 people affects the result by 0.4 percentage points. That is it has absolutely no impact on the first preference results.

The eventual winner of the contest depends on what you assume happens to the second and third preferences but making some assumptions about who transfers to whom, the impact on the outcome is still 0.3 percentage points, that is keeping or removing those 3,000 people does not affect the result.

So was it worth it? I argue on the basis of the stats the answer is no. Those 3,000 people couldn't influence the eventual outcome and it's certain that some of them were genuine supporters, who may now be lost to the party forever. And that's before we get started on how incompetent and petty it makes the party look - a PR disaster.

And who will be the eventual winner? Well that really does depend on the distribution of second preferences. I worked out two, both plausible, scenarios, one of which leads to eventual victory for Burnham, the other for Corbyn. No doubt there's a third way that would lead to Cooper being victorious. The one thing that's certain is it won't be Liz Kendall. But she's philosophical about it:

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Catford's "poo patrol" take matters into their own hands

Residents of Catford's Corbett Estate have decided to act over the levels of dog poo being left around the allotments on Hazelbank Road. Overnight these chalk markings have appeared, encircling the offending excrement piles, and imploring dog owners to have some respect.

The area around the allotments appears to be a popular dumping ground for people to bring their dogs to do their business and simply leave the droppings behind rather than clearing it up. Presumably this is under some misguided notion that leaving poo by some allotments doesn't affect anyone.

This is obvious nonsense, and people who have to walk their children to school along "poo road" as my children affectionately call it, appear to have had enough.

In the past the council would have cleared this mess up on a fairly regular basis, but with cuts to street cleaning and weed control, the section of pavement surrounding the allotments is in a pretty terrible state.

What do you think? Is this a good tactic to get people to stop letting their dogs poo wherever they like? Can foxes read? Should the council be clearing this stuff up more regularly?

More poo news as we get it!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pollution monitoring in Catford and Hither Green - some shocking results

Back in February a small group of us undertook some air pollution monitoring in Catford and Hither Green (basically covering the Corbett and Culverley Green estates and slightly beyond). This was made possible through funding and support from Mapping for Change. We put up 30 nitrogen dioxide monitoring tubes - that look like this:

We put them on lamp posts and other street furniture, left them up for a month, took them down then sent them off via Mapping for Change to a lab to be analysed to determine the level of nitrogen dioxide in the air in that area. The results are in the map above. Anything between 30 and 39 is amber and is considered moderate air pollution. This would be considered harmful to health. You can see that the level outside Torridon Infant School is 34.

The level outside Rushey Green school was 36.

Anything 40 and above is above the EU legal limit. You can see that there are a number of places where the nitrogen dioxide levels exceed 40, mainly on the main roads such as Rushey Green, Bromley Road, Verdant Lane, Hither Green Lane and Sandhurst Road. What these all have in common of course is that they are on bus routes and our buses are unfortunately some of the worst polluting vehicles on out streets. Hazelbank Road also came out as red, this is a road often used as a rat run by drivers wanting to avoid the South Circular.

Ah yes, the South Circular. You'll see that some of the circles on the map are black. These are places where pollution was more than 1.5 times the EU legal limit - and these are all on the South Circular road. Those of us who live here know that the traffic on this road is horrendous and that it is snarled up at all times of the day and sometimes night! Now we know that the pollution on this road is harming our health.

Low emission zone? Ha ha.

Incidentally, Lewisham Council monitors air pollution across the borough and publishes a report annually on it. The area we covered is in two Air Quality Management Areas - which means the council recognises there is a problem and is supposed to take steps to actively reduce pollution in the area. However, it only monitors three locations in our area at present, and none of these are in the most polluted places. Incidentally, the council monitors outside Torridon Junior School and the results the council is showing for that location over the years are very similar to what we found outside the Infants. This is not a new problem.

When we got the results we were shocked, so we went to the papers with our findings. We had articles featuring our work in the South London Press and News Shopper:

Since then I've arranged to meet with both the council and our MP, Heidi Alexander, to discuss the results and consider what can be done about air quality in our area. I'd like to put pressure on Transport for London to speed up the introduction of hybrid buses on routes through residential areas like ours and I also want the council to consider stopping rat running traffic on roads like Verdant Lane and Dowanhill/Hazelbank Roads. It was also announced last week that councils may be able to opt in to the ultra low emission zone when it is introduced in 2020, and I think Lewisham should definitely do this if that becomes possible. I'll report back on the results of my discussions in due course!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The General Election in Lewisham East

(picture from Heidi Alexander on Twitter)

It won't have escaped your attention that there's a general election coming. Unless of course you live under a rock. I live in the Lewisham East constituency so that's the one I'm going to write about here. You'll have to look elsewhere for your Lewisham Deptford and Lewisham West and Penge cutting edge analysis I'm afraid.

(picture from wikipedia)

What do we know about Lewisham East? Well, it's formed of the council wards of Blackheath, Lee Green, Grove Park, Rushey Green, Catford South, Whitefoot and Downham. These wards returned 21 Labour councillors at the last local elections.

Historically the seat was Conservative from 1983-1992, when it was held by former Sports Minister Colin Moynihan (a name that might be familiar to the real politics geeks amongst you.) Interestingly, the Conservative victory in 1983 was largely as a result of Labour losing votes to the SDP, whose candidate was Polly Toynbee. In 1992 it was won by Bridget Prentice and when she stepped down in 2010, Heidi Alexander took the seat. Heidi had previously been a councillor in Deptford, and, fact fans, is 40 during this election campaign, being only a couple of months younger than me.

I had a look back through the election results from 1992 to 2010 using the amazing Political Science Resources website by Richard Kimber, to produce a couple of charts with some interesting info about previous results. Did you know, for example, that only four parties contested the seat in 1992 - Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and the Natural Law Party. In case you've forgotten the Natural Law Party here's one of their party political broadcasts to remind you:

Genius. Who could forget yogic flying?

And did you know that one James Cleverly, London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley, contested the seat in 2005, gaining 7,512 votes for the Conservatives?

Here's a chart of the historical results. I've included "did not vote" as a category.

I think it's pretty clear who's going to win in 2015, unless all those Did Not Votes decide to do something very different. The only sign that there's a general election on when you pootle about the constituency is the proliferation of these signs in people's front gardens...

What's of interest, apart from taking bets on the size of Heidi's majority, is who is going to come second. I think we can expect the Lib Dem vote to collapse, as seen in the council elections when their vote share plummeted from 27% in 2010 to 9%. They got a 28% share in the general election in 2010 if you exclude the DNVs from the equation.

The chart above shows the 2010 election results, including only the parties expected to contest in 2015. I've left off the English Democrats as they only got 426 votes in 2010 and don't appear to be standing a candidate in 2015, thankfully.

The Conservative candidate is a Bromley councillor, Peter Fortune. I guess he might fancy his chances of coming second given past form and what's happened to the Lib Dems. However, this leaflet seems wildly optimistic.

They can't even get the name of the constituency right.

I've had no election literature from the Lib Dem candidate Julia Fletcher, until last year a councillor in Downham, or from the Green candidate Störm Poorun. I'm promised something in a couple of weeks from the Greens...

We'll gloss over the complete inability to spell my name.

The Greens got 16% of the vote in the 2014 council elections, and were the second party, so you'd think they might fancy their chances at second place in this general election. But in 2010 they polled 11% in the local elections, coming third behind Labour and the Lib Dems, but managed only 1.5% in the vote for MP. So it's pretty clear that local results aren't a huge guide to what might happen nationally.

It's been suggested to me that Lewisham East is on a list of constituencies where UKIP might come second. I couldn't find evidence of that on googling but if anyone wants to point me to it I'd be interested to see where the idea has come from. They polled less than 2% in the last general election here. They did poll fairly high numbers in the council elections last year in Whitefoot, Downham and Grove Park, to the south and east of the constituency where you might expect them to do well, but even there their vote share is nowhere near sufficient to see a leap in voters of the magnitude you'd need to put them second. The UKIP candidate is Anne Marie Waters, founder of Sharia Watch (nb she is listed as Anna Maria Waters in the nomination papers).

Taking the top six parties and including only the highest scoring person from each party at the council elections last year in the wards that make up Lewisham East, you get a vote share that looks like the above chart. This sees UKIP coming last, with a share of 8%. It wouldn't surprise me too much if this isn't pretty much the order of the parties come May 7th, although I'd expect the Tories to score somewhat higher than this.

People before Profit did quite well in the council elections in some of the wards in Lewisham East, and their candidate Nick Long seems keen and willing to answer questions (more than can be said for some of the other candidates) but if we're honest, this is a bit outside their main stamping ground of Deptford, Telegraph Hill and New Cross.

So there you have it. The state of play in Lewisham East. I'm expecting a stonking victory for Heidi Alexander, with the Tories in second. The Lib Dems will collapse and I think People before Profit and the Greens will increase their vote share from 2010 significantly. I hope we see nothing of UKIP.

Any predictions, readers?

Update 9 April 17:30: The Christian People's Alliance are also standing a candidate (the link is to Lewisham Deptford candidate Malcolm Martin, they don't have a page for the Lewisham East candidate, Maureen Martin), and the UKIP candidate is listed as Anna Maria Waters, not Anne Marie Waters, but I'm 99.9% certain it's the same person. Full list of candidates here.

Update 10 April 11:15: You can see what YouGov are predicting for Lewisham East based on a whole range of factors (not local opinion polls....) here.

Update 24 April 20:30: corrected an error in the 2010 election results that had transposed the Conservative and Lib Dem vote. Oops! Still think the Tories will come second in 2015 though.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Catford Bridge Tavern fire - some pictures and some speculation on what the future holds

On the evening of Sunday March 1, Catford residents started to hear via twitter that the Catford Bridge Tavern was on fire. As this pub was, for a short time, my much-loved local, I had to go down and take a look for myself. I took some photos and video, although by the time I got there the pub had been burning for around 3 hours and the flames had died down a bit. Eventually the fire was out by about 11:30, but fire fighters from all over south and east London were dousing down the flames through the night.

I cycled past the site on Monday morning on my way into work and it was looking in a sorry state. The roof was completely gone, as was most of the upper floor and the first floor also appeared damaged:

This photo taken from the edge of the police cordon shows that a lot of the back of the pub was also damaged:

London Fire Brigade are at the moment saying that the cause of the fire was not thought to be suspicious. Some on twitter suggested it might be lightning.

Others were a little more speculative based on the recent history of the pub. Briefly, in August 2012, plans were submitted to Lewisham Council to turn it into a supermarket - with a Tesco on the ground floor and housing above.

In November 2012 it briefly closed as Antic, who were running the pub at the time, were ordered out. However, Lewisham council put a temporary article 4 direction on the pub, preventing it from opening as a supermarket without planning permission being granted. This was confirmed in April 2013 and the pub went on to win SE London CAMRA pub of the year. However, at the end of 2013, Tesco threw Antic out and they went on to open the Constitutional Club, just down the road. In August 2013, Tesco sold the lease to Solitaire, who were refurbishing the pub with a view to reopening.

Before opening as the Catford Bridge Tavern in 2012, it had been the Copperfield and had numerous problems with antisocial behaviour, and was closed in December 2011.

So where are we now? Solitaire, the current holders of the lease, say they still intend to press ahead with refurbishment and reopen as a pub. They say they will be carrying on, subject to approval of their planning application for a pub and some flats above.

What protection does the article 4 direction give? Well, the direction is on the pub rather than the site.

However, since all an article 4 does is remove ‘permitted development rights’ for a property - meaning that any proposed change of use has to go through a planning committee - in reality this has no bearing on whether or not the refurbishment will go ahead. If the building is found to be unsafe and has to be demolished, building something else on the site will require full planning consent, just as change of use would do. Whilst Local Planning Authorities have the power to make and confirm their own Article 4 directions and do not require the Secretary of State's approval in this respect, the SoS does retain the power to cancel or modify Article 4 directions. So if Lewisham council refused permission to change the use of the site, the owners could appeal to the Secretary of State. This is unlikely, as Solitaire have said they intend to proceed with their application as planned, although it doesn't appear to have been submitted yet (at least I can't find it on the planning portal...)

So for the moment, we need to wait to see what the outcome of the investigations post-fire are, and whether or not the building is too badly damaged to be refurbished. This is the biggest risk to the future of the site as a pub, and in this respect the article 4 direction doesn't protect it. Watch this space.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ace's Bar applies for change of use

Ace's Bar on Verdant Lane has applied for change of use to class A4, from its current designation of A3 (takeaway) and A5 (restaurant) use. A4 use means a "drinking establishment" and would allow the bar to serve alcohol without requiring customers to also consume food. Last month the bar was ordered to operate as a restaurant by Lewisham's licensing committee after a license review following complaints from neighbours about late night noise and disturbance. Ace's can therefore currently only serve alcohol until midnight at weekends and 11pm on weeknights.

It seems pretty clear the current application is a response to this review and confirms the owners' clear intention to operate the premises as a bar and not as a restaurant. In one of the planning documents they state that they thought they already had an A4 license granted, though this does not appear to be the case from the list of planning applications associated with the bar from the council planning portal.

I've uploaded a copy of one of the supporting statements as the council website won't let me link directly to it. It can be accessed through the planning portal though.

In the supporting statements the owners say they are operating successfully as a bar at the moment and that the community are supportive of the use of the premises as a bar. This would appear to be counter to the evidence from the license review that was prompted following residents' complaints.

The owners say they want the bar to be a part of the community and be a place for local residents to socialise.

Comments on the application can be made until 10 March.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

More through trains from Catford to Kentish Town are coming!

I'm late to this, but Govia Thameslink Railway, who run the trains through Catford amongst other things, launched a consultation on their proposed timetable changes for 2015 last year, with a closing date of 30 January.

The changes proposed for Catford are minor, so minor that they aren't asking for feedback on this part of the timetable change (see page 8 of this 29 page pdf)!  

In December 2015, they are proposing that early morning and late evening services which currently operate only between London Blackfriars and Sevenoaks will be extended to and from Kentish Town. This will provide Catford with extra connections through to St Pancras and beyond.

They propose no further changes in 2015.

From 2018 they propose that trains between Sevenoaks and London Blackfriars on Saturdays are extended to and from Kentish Town providing weekend connections to and from London St Pancras. This is also obviously good news, but one might ask why we have to wait so long? Presumably it's something to do with the Thameslink Programme.

If one were feeling churlish, one might also suggest that there is potential to run more frequent services through Catford, the service frequency can be pretty woeful! Still, it gets me to the football.

(Thanks to Darryl for the tip off)