Top posts of 2016

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5096

It’s not been the busiest of blogging years for me, but there have still been a few posts here. Which were the most popular?

Most popular overall was actually from 2014: Why do people join political parties (and why don’t they do it now?) This is a post that’s managed (thanks to a vaguely clickbaity title) to get itself high up in Google searches for various terms and it’s rare for a day to go by without it getting some hits.

Of posts actually written this year, the top five turned out to be:

5) Is Will Quince MP psychic? The answer may surprise you – but it probably won’t.
4) The Mandela Effect: because it’s easier to assume alternate universes than faulty memories Some of you have no memory of hearing of this blog post before now.
3) Why I’m stepping back up and running for Council again And if you don’t want to know the result, don’t click here.
2) Why the 2014 coup against Clegg was botched Yes, I wrote about 2014 events in 2016, because that’s how up to the minute my political commentary is.
1) Open to your ‘legitimate concerns’ Open Britain has been underwhelming me (and many others) from the start.

So that was 2016. Now let us never speak of this again.

My best prediction for 2016 was not predicting anything

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5094

Back in January, I explained why I wasn’t going to try and predict what happened politically in 2016 because things were just so chaotic as to make predictions pointless:

My only prediction is that all your predictions will be wrong.

Of course, my grounds for predicting that weren’t entirely right, ascribing unpredictability to just the EU referendum and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, and entirely failing to mention Donald Trump.

It feels like we’re now in a period where politics is incredibly febrile and chaotic and the sort of certainties we base our predictions on are washed away as soon as we seek to put any of our weight upon them. For instance, it’s entirely possible that by the end of 2017 Justin Trudeau could be the longest-serving national leader in the G7: Obama and Hollande are leaving office, Merkel faces a tricky election and Abe has lasted a lot longer in office than most Japanese Prime Ministers have managed.

Trying to predict the politics of 2017 in an atmosphere like this is pointless, there are just too many wildly fluctuating variables that can throw even the simplest and most obvious prediction way out of the realms of possibility. Besides, for all we know, this time next year we could be scraping through the ruins of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, far more concerned about surviving than wondering just who predicted the date and cause of the apocalypse most accurately (though for the sake of completeness: 19th August, and a viral tweet about the crispiness of bacon).

Aside from that, it’s another year of my only prediction being that all your predictions will be wrong. Though please do give me credit for predicting the Bacopocalypse when it comes.

Three party constituency tri-points

http://www.nickbarlow.com/blog/?p=5087

Following the forthcoming resignation of Jamie Reed from the Commons, there’ll be a by-election coming soon in the Copeland constituency. As someone who regularly visits the Lake District I was curious about what the full boundaries of the constituency were, both to scope out the potential for an excuse for a quick holiday campaigning hard in the by-election and to work out what would be the highest represented point in England in the period when Copeland, which includes Scafell Pike, has no MP. The answer to that is the summit of Helvellyn, which forms part of the boundary between Copeland and Penrith and the Border (represented by Rory Stewart).

I discovered something interesting while looking at that border – when I went up Helvellyn a couple of years ago, it seems the route we took up (following the stream from Dunmail Raise to Grisedale Taren, then over Dollywagon Pike and Nethermost Pike) first followed the boundary between Copeland and Westmorland and Lonsdale, then the boundary between Copeland and Penrith and the Border, which means that around where the two pictures above were taken was the tripoint where all three constituencies meet. The first picture is the view down the stream towards Dunmail Raise, so the left hand side of it is the Liberal Democrat gold of Tim Farron’s Westmorland and Lonsdale, while the right is the bright Labour red of Copeland. The second is Grisedale Tarn, in the true blue lands of Penrith and the Border.

But that got me thinking: while there are obviously plenty of tripoints where constituencies meet (and I’m sure someone will tell me if there’s a quadpoint anywhere in Britain), how many of them are places represented by three different parties like this one. From what I can work out (and I’m open to corrections) this is what I found:

Scotland: none. Despite having four parties holding seats, the three non-SNP seats don’t border on each other and even when Dumfries and Galloway touches a non-SNP seat at the border, it’s also Conservative-held (Penrith and the Border).

Northern Ireland: Eight of them, helped by having several parties in Parliament. I’m also not sure if there’s a quadpoint in the centre of Belfast, which would have been four-party between 2010 and 2015 but is only three party now.

  • Foyle (SDLP), Londonderry E (DUP) and W Tyrone (Sinn Fein)
  • Mid-Ulster (Sinn Fein), Antrim North (DUP) and Antrim South (UUP)
  • Antrim South (UUP), North Belfast (DUP) and West Belfast (Sinn Fein)
  • West Belfast (Sinn Fein), South Belfast (SDLP) and North Belfast (DUP)
  • South Belfast (SDLP), West Belfast (Sinn Fein) and Lagan Valley (DUP)
  • South Down (SDLP), Newry and Armagh (Sinn Fein) and Upper Bann (DUP)
  • Fermanagh and South Tyrone (UUP), Mid-Ulster (Sinn Fein) and Upper Bann (DUP)
  • Fermanagh and South Tyrone (UUP), Newry and Armagh (Sinn Fein) and Upper Bann (DUP)
  • UPDATE: Thanks to Nicholas Whyte for clarification that Belfast has two tripoints rather than one quadpoint:

    Wales: Seven seats, all involving Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives.

  • Dwyfor Merionedd (Plaid Cymru), Clwyd South (Labour) and Clwyd West (Conservative)
  • Dwyfor Merionedd (Plaid Cymru), Clwyd South (Labour) and Montgomeryshire (Conservative)
  • Dwyfor Merionedd (Plaid Cymru), Ceredigion (Liberal Democrat) and Montgomeryshire (Conservative)
  • Ceredigion (Liberal Democrat), Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Plaid Cymru) and Preseli Pembrokeshire (Conservative)
  • Ceredigion (Liberal Democrat), Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Plaid Cymru) and Brecon and Radnorshire (Conservative)
  • Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Plaid Cymru), Llanelli (Labour) and Gower (Conservative)
  • Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Plaid Cymru), Neath (Labour) and Gower (Conservative)
  • England: Despite having a lot more seats than the other three nations, there are only eleven in England, because so many seats are held by the Tories and Labour. Two of the seats held by other parties (Norfolk North and Clacton) are wholly surrounded by Tory seats.

  • Copeland (Labour), Westmorland and Lonsdale (Liberal Democrat) and Penrith and the Border (Conservative)
  • Leeds North West (Liberal Democrat), Pudsey (Conservative) and Leeds West (Labour)
  • Leeds North West (Liberal Democrat), Leeds North East (Labour) and Elmet and Rothwell (Conservative)
  • Sheffield Hallam (Liberal Democrat), Penistone and Stocksbridge (Labour) and High Peak (Conservative)
  • Sheffield Hallam (Liberal Democrat), Derbyshire Dales (Conservative) and Derbyshire North East (Labour)
  • Southport (Liberal Democrat), South Ribble (Conservative) and Lancashire West (Labour)
  • Richmond Park (Liberal Democrat), Brentford and Isleworth (Labour) and Twickenham (Conservative)
  • Richmond Park (Liberal Democrat), Hammersmith (Labour) and Chelsea and Fulham (Conservative)
  • Carshalton and Wallington (Liberal Democrat), Sutton and Cheam (Conservative) and Mitcham and Morden (Labour)
  • Carshalton and Wallington (Liberal Democrat), Croydon North (Labour) and Croydon South (Conservative)
  • Brighton Pavilion (Green), Hove (Labour) and Arundel and South Downs (Conservative)
  • So there we are. Twenty-six tripoints in total, which means I have another twenty-five to visit if I want to complete the set, though not quite sure how to visit the two Richmond Park ones, which are in the middle of the Thames.