Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Do We Love Our MPs?

Apparently not, is the conclusion from a recent British Election Study survey which Philip Cowley uses for a fascinating piece of analysis.  I'd recommend any politics student to make a regular point of visiting the Nottingham University Politics department blog (Ballots and Bullets) on which Cowley and his colleagues post for just this sort of interesting, slightly off the beaten path form of analysis.

I won't repeat all of Cowley's points here - you can after all go and read it yourself - but suffice it to note that MPs individually don't seem to score that much more highly in the public's esteem than MPs as a whole, who as we know are generally (and yes, unfairly) despised.  There is also a small crumb of comfort for the Lib Dems in the survey, suggesting that Lib Dem MPs are both more familiar in terms of name recognition n their seats, and that they score slightly higher positive ratings individually than MPs from other parties.  Those of us who believe the Lib Dems will do badly but not go into meltdown at the next election are basing much of that expectation on this very factor - that a decent number of Lib Dem MPs are well enough bedded in to their constituencies to buck the national trend.  This may not, however, apply to prominent government office holders such as Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, who may find themselves more favourable to an unreformed House of Lords than ever after May 2015.

Also on the subject of the next election blogger and radio presenter Iain Dale is currently going through every Westminster seat with a prediction as to how they will go in May - an immense but very thorough task.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Obama has no intention of letting Republicans write his political legacy

President Obama shouldn't by rights be entering 2015 with much political joy in his heart. He may still have two full years as chief executive to run, but the set-back of the mid-term Republican gains, which saw that party gain control of the Senate and keep control of the House of Representatives, meant that his chances of any satisfactory legislation in the remainder of his presidency are precisely zilch.

If anything, though, the Republican win seems to have fired the president up to make sure he finishes his final term on a high.  He clearly has no intention of letting the Republicans dictate his political legacy and, as this New Republic article suggests, he may also be seeking to ensure that any Democratic successor - most people think Hillary Clinton at the moment -  has something to fight for and preserve in 2016.

Obama made an impact when, not long after his party's mid-term defeat, he went on the offensive over deferring deportation of illegal immigrants, using the executive order to do so.  He's been at it again in his bid to normalise relations with Cuba.  Clearly, the executive office is going to be the source of much pro-active agenda-setting, and the essentially negative Republicans in the elgislature may find themselves on the wrong end of the Obama executive presidency.

As Brian Beutler suggests in New Republic, Obama will have to be wary of over-using executive orders, but there are ways in which he can stake out his legacy and give Hillary something to fight for by appealing to his still very large political base.  After all, he has the largest electoral mandate of any politician in the country.

Obama has already done much to re-shape America, and rescue international affairs from the disasters of his predecessor's foreign policy.  It looks as if he is far from finished and that the next two years might even see a liberated president, with no more elections to fight, pursue some of his most distinctive policies yet.  The Obama story is far from over.