I’ve had confirmation from the Green Party membership officer that membership of the Green Party of England and Wales has grown by 40% this year, putting us now on 19357.
At this rate we will pass 20,000 in October (I dare say the Clacton by-election will give us a push “UKIP got elected?! I must do something about this rather than leaving politics to other people!”) and at the start of November I could be blogging about a 50% rise. And we could finish the year on anything between 22,000 and 25,000 people. Where our membership will be in June 2015 is anyone’s guess.

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Just a quick blog on my thoughts on how UKIP did in the European elections here in Manchester.

In the local elections, UKIP got the 5th highest amount of votes in Manchester. This has led many people to claim that UKIP did particularly badly in Manchester and that they pose no threat here. The only reason this happened, however, is that they only stood in 1/3 of the wards. If they had stood in all of the wards, they would have got the second highest amount of votes. Particularly worrying is how well they did in areas such as Moston, where they almost claimed a seat.

In the European elections where people could vote UKIP wherever they lived, Ukip achieved the 2nd highest vote share out of all the parties in Manchester, with 15.8% of the vote. In comparison with the North West however, they got 27.5% in the region. In addition, their vote in Manchetser was their lowest vote in the North West by a considerable margin, with their next lowest votes being in South Lakeside (20.1% – the Lake District area in layman’s terms. Also the Lib Dem’s best area by far.) and Liverpool (20.8%). Although UKIP did considerably well in Manchester, Manchester certainly didn’t join the UKIP bandwagon to the same extent as other areas in the region.

Hopefully with next year being a general election, Labour’s vote will come out and also vote for Labour in the Local elections meaning that Ukip do not gain any council seats here. Ukip may be organised and stand in all the local seats in Manchester and we can expect them to poll reasonably well and pick up many second places in the North of the city and South of the river Mersey. 2016 is too long a way off to predict what the state of UKIP will be nationally and whether UKIP can pick up any local seats in Manchester.

I’m writing this blog post to today’s BBC’s article “Why are credit unions not very popular?”, which is a very odd article in my opinion.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27804947

For over half a year I have volunteered at a Credit Union every other saturday morning, so I have gotten to know the positives and negatives of credit unions and why people choose to use them. 

This article giving the only reason for credit unions not being very popular as being their “low” dividend rate compared to some current accounts is  nonsense. If that was the only reason, then current accounts with low interest rates simply wouldnt exist , because nobody would put their money into them and everyone would be putting all their money into relatively high interest rate accounts. However, plenty of current accounts with an interest rate below 0.5% do exist. The article itself states at the end that “many banks pay less than 1% on some accounts, so credit unions can offer a better deal” .   So the whole thrust and argument of the article falls flat on its face at the end. 

lets not forget that even if an account is offering 1% is bettered by an account that is offering 2%  , and the 2%  account has an interest rate double that of the 1% one (wow!), the difference isnt actually all that much. If you have £100 of savings, then the 1% interest will give you £1 and  the one double that will give you £2. So thats still only a £1 difference, which if people thought it might be a good idea to switch accounts each year or so to  chase the account which offers the best rates of interest – its hardly worth them searching for the best account, getting all the documentation together, filling out all the paperwork (which with new current accounts would also involve a fair bit, including switching standing orders and direct debits) and then dealing with the new paperwork. People are often too busy to switch to new accounts , simply because of the rate of interest because all interest rates are low these days so it’s often not worth the bother.

Secondly, comparing credit union dividends with current account interest is completely disingenuous and like comparing apples with oranges. Many people who use credit unions for savings also have  a current account which they use as their main day to day banking , and use the credit union as a separate savings account. Furthermore, high-interest current accounts often require a certain amount of money to be paid in each month (typically £500 – £1500), which not everyone can do – such as children and the unemployed who can’t access these high-interest current accounts but can save in a credit union.Compared with easy access savings accounts, credit unions dividends can be quite competitive. Santander has an easy access savings account at 3%, but that requires a minimum deposit of £500 each month. The next best are then Britannia (which only allows 4 withdrawals a year) at 1.65% and Coventry at 1.4% (12 withdrawals a year and access is by post only!) – both of these require an initial deposit of £500 , which not all members of credit union members have (the minimum deposit at my credit union is £1) – against this the previous dividend of 1.25% at my credit union isn’t too bad. If people could only have one bank or credit union account, then as outlined in the above paragraph if people only cared about interest rates then it might not be worth switching from a current account in a bank to a credit union. As people can, and do, have multiple accounts and places for savings however, Credit Unions can offer a sensible and attractive alternative to banks’ easy access savings accounts ( and banks’ savings accounts where money cant be touched for a year, which currently  only offer a very slightly higher interest rate than easy access savings.) 

So why do people use credit unions for savings, apart from their dividend rate, which can be quite competitive? They do it because it is something that is local, a community-run organisation run for its members rather than a faceless multinational bank trying to squeeze as much profit so that its CEO who lives thousands of miles away can get a few more million pounds. When they enter the credit union they know they can pause and have a quick chat with someone theyve seen before dozens of times and will see again, not standing in-front of Cashier Number 4 in a bank who is having to do their job as efficiently as possible. The do it because it gives them access to low interest loans, rather than having to use Wonga (A fair few people who save also take out loans. This I dont understand personally.)  . They do it because they want to get into the habit of saving, and stick with it when they realise that it is easy and beneficial to have that habit.Going into the CU builds up a routine of putting a certain bit of money aside each week or month for a rainy day, or holidays, or for a child or grandchild’s future. Although Credit Unions are increasingly making money in accounts more accessible, such as by online systems, many people who use credit unions for savings actually like having some money that is a bit more inaccessible so that they cant splurge it on an unnecessary luxury item in a moment of weakness.    

So Why are credit unions not very popular? – or How could Credit Unions get more people to fill in the paperwork to save with them within the context that we are living at a time when all interest rates are low and people generally have less money to save as bills increase and wages rise below inflation?

As mentioned earlier, Credit Union are increasingly giving people easier access to their savings and this is an area that can be improved on to make credit unions a viable alternative to banks’ savings accounts (however, as mentioned earlier, many credit unions’ members actually also like tucking their money away and not being able to access it easily). 
Publicity is also an issue. Credit Unions have a winning formula and the people who save in them do like saving in them. Many people are  unaware of credit unions in general, let alone if there are any operating in their area. For those who do know about credit unions, many will only know them for their function as providing loans and will not necessarily consider using them as savings accounts.    Multinational banks spend millions of pounds on advertising and branding to make people aware of their accounts, which is money that credit unions often do not have access to. There will be, however, ways in which credit unions can increase their profile in their local area with their limit budgets.
Also, better news coverage rather than unhelpful articles which make false comparisons would be good. 

Let’s examine a few of the tweets about the North West European election results.

According to Labour Liverpool Councillor Nick Small “in the NW the most effective progressive vote was for Labour as last seat was UKIP v Lab – [Green votes] were wasted” and “we weren’t lying when we said only way to stop UKIP was to vote Labour”.
Also, Macklesfield Labour Councillor Steve Carter tweeted “With @wajid4europe who missed out on the 4th Labour North West seat by 0.7%”
Also, Manchester Labour Councillor Kevin Peel tweeted “0.7% away from Labour getting fourth seat in North West. Green surge helped UKIP get third. #EP2014”
Manchetser Labour councillor tweeted “If Labour had retained c12000 more .. votes would have won 8th seat. ”

4 Labour councillors can’t all be wrong, can they?

The voting system in the European elections is the d’Hondt method – Wikipedia has a pretty good page on this. In the North West, 8 seats are allocated.

In the d’hondt system seats are allocated using the following process: 1) Award a seat to the party with the highest total 2) Divide the total number of votes by 1+ the number of seats allocated 3) Repeat 1 and 2 until all seats have been given out. Simple? Theres a few good web-pages out there giving examples on this, such as the Wikipedia page , I’m not going to attempt to better them here!

In the North West, the seats were allocated: 3 Labour, 3 UKIP, 2 Conservative and 0 to everyone else.
Labour are arguing that they needed fewer additional votes than the Greens needed to get one seat in order to take one seat away from UKIP (the 8th and final seat) and for them to then have 4 seats.

In the election, labour got 594,063 votes and 3 seats – UKIP got 481,932 votes and 3 seats and Greens got 123,075 votes and 0 seats.
UKIP getting the last seat means they got it with 481,932 / 3 = 160,644 votes.
How many more votes would Greens have needed? Well, that’s pretty straight forward. 160,644 – 123, 075 = 37569 more votes. Disappointingly large
How about labour? Well to get the 4th seat they needed 160,644 – (594063 / 4) = 160, 644 – 148515 = just over 12129 votes.

So Labour only needed 12,000 extra votes and Greens needed 37,569 more votes. So anyone who voted Green was just splitting the vote and let in a 3rd UKIP seat and so 12,000 people should have voted labour instead of Green.

Right?
Wrong .

What happens if I do 12129 + 594063 . Well, that’s 606192 . And when I divide that by 4 ; 606192/4 = 151548. But…wait..that’s still lower than UKIP’s 160,644. What went wrong?

Well, to get the Labour vote needed for the 4th seat, we need to do 160,644 x 4 = 642576 votes.
And the additional votes on top of what Labour actually got is 642576 – 594,063 = 48513 votes.

Another way to do this is
4 x (160,644 – (594063 / 4)) = 4 x (160, 644 – 148515) = 48513.
In their maths, Labour councillors seem to have been missing the factor of 4, because this would be their 4th seat.

What does this work out as in % ? Well, labour certainly didn’t need an additional 0.7% – again we need to times this by 4 to get 2.8%. Greens, meanwhile, needed an additional 2.1%.

So, there we have it, Greens needed 37569 more votes and labour 48513. Greens needed fewer aditional votes than labour. An easy way to do this would have been for Labour voters to ‘tactically’ lend their vote to the greens to stop UKIP from have getting their 3rd seat.
Or, maybe, either of the parties campaigning harder to get additional votes from the two thirds of the voters who didn’t bother to vote.

Dear Editor

I read, with great interest, your article this week which reported our MP Nigel Adams calling the propposed £7600 increase in MPs wages “nonsense” and adding that there should be “a cut in the cost of politics”. Whilst this was a great gesture of our MP, I wonder what his comments would be to costly politicians such as Nigel Adams, who last year claimed £1387 for his gas and electricity, and in 2010/2011 claimed £26,144 for his children to visit him on top of his generous salary.

Regards,
Mr J Clough, Snaith

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