Kieran’s posts below, and the various discussions I’ve seen in the papers, and heard on the radio, have got my wondering: isn’t it rational for the Labour Party to split, now, before it saddles itself with a new leader?

Why should it do so? Well as many people have said, it is too right wing to defeat the SNP, given the SNP’s savvy (and in my view largely cynical) adoption of left-social democratic political positions that appeal to the Scottish electorate. But to have any chance of restoring its hold Scotland in the short term, it needs to become more obviously left wing than it dares to be, for fear of losing antsy English voters. Two, quite separate, parties (preferably with identifiably different names) might have a better chance of becoming a governing coalition. As it is, all three of the major English parties refrain from fielding candidates in one part of the Union — Northern Ireland. An amicable divorce might help, not hurt, the Labour Party’s prospects. And, simultaneously, help save the Union by giving Scots a prospect for an actual voice and real influence in government (eventually).

Through the looking glass

by John Quiggin on May 10, 2015

The New York Times has a piece about Obama’s push to gain “fast-track” authority for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would preclude any amendments by Congress after the deal (still secret, except for what Wikileaks has revealed) is announced. The key para, buried a fair way down

To the president, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would counter the economic weight of China and set rules on labor, the environment, intellectual property and investor protections for the growing economies of the Pacific Rim. For members of Congress, it’s about jobs.

shows how differently the debate is playing out in the US compared to other countries involved, such as Australia, and how much leading papers like the New York Times are missing the point

In the Australian debate, it’s generally understood (based on both economic modelling and past experience) that there won’t be much effect on jobs either way, at least not through the direct effects on trade. For the critics (just about everyone on the left), it’s precisely the “rules on labor, the environment, intellectual property and investor protections” that represent the big concerns. All of these rules benefit corporations at the expense of workers, the environment, the free flow of information and national sovereignty. It’s the general strengthening of corporate power, and not the flow of goods, that will harm jobs, wages and working conditions Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions, for example, have been used to challenge minimum wage laws.

Leading US critics like Elizabeth Warren and the AFL-CIO have raised some of these points, noting (for the benefit of Republicans in particular) that the ISDS provisions will enable unaccountable arbitrators to override US federal and state laws.

The use of trade deals as an instrument of geopolitics is also unwelcome for a country like Australia that needs to balance itself between the US and China. Despite its enthusiastic support for the US and the TPP deal, the conservative government here signed up to join China’s regional infrastructure bank, developed largely in response to China’s exclusion from the TPP.

But US news coverage can’t seem to get out of a frame set by the trade deals of last century, such as NAFTA.

Politics and the English Landscape

by Kieran Healy on May 10, 2015

I’m still playing around with the [UK Election data](http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2015/05/09/who-came-second-in-the-uk-election/) I mapped yesterday, which ended up at the Monkey Cage blog over at the [Washington Post](http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/05/10/what-the-runners-up-tell-us-about-britains-election/). On Twitter, Vaughn Roderick posted a [nice comparison](https://twitter.com/VaughanRoderick/status/596967966647971840) showing the proximity of many Labour seats to coalfields. That got me thinking about how much the landscape of England is embedded in its political life. In particular, what do the names of places tell you about their political leanings? I looked at English constituencies only, and searched constituency names for some common toponyms like “-ham”, “-shire”, “-wood” and -field”. Then I looked to see what proportion of seats with these features in their names were won by the Conservatives and Labour. For simplicity of presentation, I omitted the Liberal Democrats and UKIP who won a very small percentage of some of these seats. Here’s the result.

Constituencies by toponym and winning party.

I think that’s rather nice. The Tories are the party of shires and fords, and to a slightly lesser extent of woodland clearings (-ley, -leigh) and woods. Labour meanwhile are the party of -hams (as in, a farm or homestead), of -tons (or towns), and of fields.

Note that some double-counting occurs, because the naming categories are not necessarily exclusive. I did focus on suffixes, so for example “Northampton” would be counted as a -ton but not a -ham, and constituencies with ‘ton’ in their name but not at the end of a word would not be counted in that category.

Sunday photoblogging: Hotwells and Cliftonwood

by Chris Bertram on May 10, 2015

Hotwells and Cliftonwood