Sunday, 31 March 2019

What I've Been Reading Recently

Three months have gone by since last time, so here's what I've read since the start of the year.

Obelisk by Stephen Baxter
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson
Closet Queens by Michael Black
The Thatcherite Offensive by Alexander Gallas
Ruling the Void by Peter Mair
The Great Terror by Robert Conquest
After Blair by Kieran O'Mara
Over To You by Roald Dahl
In Defence of Politics by Bernard Crick
The Functional Analysis of Politics by Roy E Jones
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
The Light of Other Days by Arthur C Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Deleuze, Marx and Politics by Nicholas Thoburn
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Roxana by Daniel Defoe
The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
Deleuze and Marx by Dhruv Jain (ed)
Billy Bathgate by EL Doctorow

Baxter and Atwood have preponderant entries on this list. Baxter is an unmissable, but I think underappreciated presence in British science fiction. His stuff is the super hard stuff and, at times, can get a bit carried away with the science-splaining. Social commentary-wise he's not a patch on Iain M Banks or Our Ken, but given his maths and engineering background Baxter's scientific imagination is astounding. I recommend all three books here, and especially The Time Ships. As a sequel to HG Wells's classic, The Time Machine, it is, well, completely bonkers but utterly gripping. Some of the stuff in there about the nature of time makes you wonder how such a book could possibly have been written and published in the mid-90s.

And yes, the Atwood. I've always found her stuff hit and miss but all three here are absolutely superb. Cat's Eye is a meditation on lifelong relationships and childhood memory, which are later weaved into the controversial art of the main protagonist. A brilliant novel and rightly held up as one of Atwood's best. Hag-Seed is a rarity because, unusually for Atwood, the main character is a man. It centres around the production of The Tempest, while the novel's narrative structure and plot points mirrors that of the play. Funny and life affirming, I couldn't help but think this is bound to turn up as a Netflix film some day. And lastly is Edible Woman, one of Atwood's earliest novels written when she was a postgrad student in the late 60s. Reflecting the ambivalence to the standard pattern of life then available to women and a sudden shift in what was becoming possible, it is a tale of a woman undergoing a slow disintegration and loss of agency as marriage and respectability approaches, and in inchoate rebellion against it. A book that doesn't get talked about often, it is worth your time.

Also, a quick work on Thoburn's book on Marx and Deleuze. This is particularly useful because he uses Deleuze to discipline some of the exuberance you find in post-Marxist reworkings of him - above all our mate Antonio Negri. Really useful and interesting to anyone who thinks Deleuze's work has something to offer Marxist analysis.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Quarter One By-Election Results

Overall, 54,576 votes were cast over 26 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. For comparison you can view Quarter Three's results here.

  Party
Number of Candidates
Total Vote
%
+/- 
Q4
+/- Q1 2018
Average
+/-
Seats
Conservative
         24
14,082
   25.8%
  -6.6%
  -12.5%
   587
     0
Labour
         25
14,788
   27.1%
  -4.3%
    -2.8%
   592
    -2
LibDem
         21
11,731
   21.5%
 +1.5%
   +6.0%
   559
   +1
UKIP
         12
 1,106
    2.0%
 +0.2%
   +0.7%
    92
     0
Green
         12
 2,418
    4.4%
 +0.0%
   +0.8%
   202
   +1
SNP*
          1
   865
    1.6%
 -1.8%
    -2.4%
   865
     0
PC
          1
   831
    1.5%
+1.5%
   +1.5%
   831
   +1
Ind***
         17
 5,779
   10.6%
+4.9%
    -4.8%
   339
    -2
Other****
         13
 2,976
    5.5%
 +3.7%
   +3.9%
   229
   +1

* There was one by-election in Scotland
** There were two by-elections in Wales
*** There were two Independent clashes
**** Others this quarter consisted of the SDP (0 and 14 votes), North East Party (74), For Britain (20 and 89), Socialist Alternative (368), Integrity Southampton (178), Christian People's Alliance (17), Women's Equality Party (46, 65), Aspire (1,012, 1,002), and House Party (89)

An interesting spread of results that reveal precisely nothing. Labour and the Tories are out in front, but both are depressed - as is usually the case in by-election results - by the disproportionate success of Independent candidates and, to a lesser extent, the others. You know none of these would get anywhere under the conditions of a general election. However, the LibDems are doing very well indeed, in terms of candidates fielded, vote tally achieved and vote averages. Can this be maintained next quarter where, if anything, the Brexit nonsense if going to get even more intense? And what if TInG, or Change UK, or CUK, or whatever you want to call them get involved at local election level? There is, after all, a small activist base and some sitting councillors who've left Labour and declared for them. They won't want to be idle during the coming local elections. 

Whatever happens, I guess we'll soon see!

Local Council By-Elections March 2019

This month saw 20,790 votes cast over 12 local authority (tier one and tier two) contests. All percentages are rounded to the nearest single decimal place. No council seats changed hands. For comparison with February's results, see here.

Party
Number of Candidates
Total Vote
%
+/- 
Feb
+/- Mar 18
Average/
Contest
+/-
Seats
Conservative
           11
 5,024
    24.2%
 +0.2%
   -10.2%
    457
     0
Labour
           12
 6,614
    31.8%
 +1.7%
    -3.4%
    551
     0
LibDem
           10
 3,626
    17.4%
  -8.8%
   +7.3%
    363
     0
UKIP
            6
  490
     2.4%
 +1.2%
   +1.2%
     82
     0
Green
            6
 1,634
     7.9%
 +5.3%
   +5.1%
    272
   +1
SNP
            1
  865
     4.2%
 +4.2%
    -2.5%
    865
     0
PC**
            0
 
    

  
   
     0
Ind***
            7
 1,777
     8.5%
 +4.2%
   +2.3%
    254
    -1
Other****
            7
  760
     3.7%
 -4.8%
   +0.3%
    109
     0


* There was one by-election in Scotland
** There were no by-elections in Wales
*** There was one independent clash
**** Others consisted of North East Party (74), For Britain (20 and 89), Socialist Alternative (368), Integrity Southampton (178), SDP (14), Christian People's Alliance (17)


Not the most terribly exciting of months in local council by-election land. Or is it? Having four seats change hands is nothing out of the ordinary, though it has to be said the Aylesbury Vale result for the Greens is stunning. To effectively come from nowhere and capture a Tory seat ... Well, it's not something we haven't seen before. I am convinced there is a section of the Tory vote who would have their heads turned by the Greens given the opportunity to support them. Not because of their programme, which in a number of ways is closer to Labour's than anyone else's, but because of environmental concerns. Remember, Conservatives are interested in conservation as well.

Also for those into their leftist trainspotting, the Southampton Coxford result is of interest. The retiring councillor there was a member of TUSC, though always "preferred" to run as an independent rather than under the coalition's label. I wonder why that is? Well, now we know. Standing as Socialist Alternative the Socialist Party, for it is really they, did well by the usual electoral standards of TUSC but came nowehere near to taking the seat.

Lastly, it's worth noting that despite Brexitgeddon ramming the news there's little in the way of life when it comes to the UKIP vote. Long may this continue.


7th March
Aylesbury Vale DC, Haddenham and Stone, Grn gain from Con

14th March
Croydon LBC, Norbury & Pollards Hill, Lab hold
Durham UA, Wingate, Lab hold
Southampton UA, Coxford, Lab gain from Ind

21st March
Basildon BC, Vange, Lab hold
Durham UA, Esh and Witton Gilbert, LDem hold
Kensington and Chelsea LBC, Dalgarno, Lab hold
Newcastle-under-Lyme BC, Holditch and Chesterton, Ind gain from Lab
Southend-on-Sea UA, Milton, Lab hold
Thurrock UA, Alveley and Uplands, Con gain from Ind

28th March
Clackmannanshire UA, Clackmannan Central, SNP hold
Sutton LB, Wallington North, LDem hold