12:29pm Friday UK Labour has retained Birmingham Erdington at a by-election by a 55.5-36.3 margin over the Conservatives, up from 50-40 at the 2019 election. The Lib Dems and Greens had about 1% each.
Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
Vladimir Putin began Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Historically, attempts to conquer sovereign countries have not been unusual. Alexander the Great and Napoleon are still famed as conquerors. The Roman empire did much conquering, and European colonial powers were very cruel to native populations. The UK’s Queen Elizabeth is the descendant of William the Conqueror, who conquered England in 1066.
Occasionally invasions by more powerful countries are repelled. Two examples from the UK are Scotland repelling England in the 14th century, and the UK repelling the Nazis early in WW2. But in most cases, the only feasible protection for smaller countries is to be allied to bigger powers that will fight if the smaller ones are invaded.
Putin’s gamble was that the West would not send major military equipment, such as tanks, warships and aircraft, to support Ukraine. Without this support, it is likely that weight of numbers will eventually allow Russia to conquer Ukraine. While sanctions will damage the Russian economy, they won’t stop the Russian tanks or artillery. In a drawn-out invasion, civilian casualties will be high.
I am sceptical that Ukraine will continue to resist if conquered. Tyrannical regimes are effective at brutally suppressing dissent. There isn’t news anymore about Chechnya, which rebelled against Russia in the 2000s.
The polling is not like the reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The only leader who has received a massive jump is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose approval surged 59 points since December to 91%.
US: Biden’s ratings down, 62% say invasion wouldn’t have occurred under Trump
In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, 53.0% disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance and 41.5% approve (net -11.5). Biden’s net approval has dropped about one point since the invasion.
In a poll conducted at the start of the invasion, 62%, including 38% of Democrats, thought Putin would not have invaded had Donald Trump still been president. 59% thought Putin ordered the invasion because he saw weakness in Biden, while 41% thought Biden was not a factor.
I believe this polling highlights that the fallout from the Afghanistan troop withdrawal in August 2021 has crippled Biden on any national security issue. It also continues to affect his ratings on eg the economy because voters have lost confidence in his competence.
In US redistricting news, courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania have finalised new maps. The new NC map was created after courts rejected a Republican gerrymander, while Pennsylvanian courts resolved a dispute between the Democratic governor and Republican legislature. In Ohio, Republicans used their majority on a redistricting commission to pass a gerrymander, but it is likely to be rejected by state courts.
Overall, there are currently 179 Democratic-leaning seats in the FiveThirtyEight tracker, 171 Republican-leaning and 33 competitive. Democrats are up 11 seats from the old maps, Republicans down six and competitive down six.
Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer on the US Supreme Court. If confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate, Jackson will be the first Black woman Supreme Court judge. But she will replace a left-wing judge, and the 6-3 right majority will be retained.
France: a Macron vs Le Pen runoff more likely
The first round of the French presidential election will occur April 10, with a runoff April 24 between the top two. Since the Ukraine invasion, incumbent Emmanuel Macron has gained to be in the mid to high 20s from the mid 20s. The latest polls suggest the far-right Marine Le Pen has moved ahead of both the more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse.
Pécresse had appeared to be the most competitive runoff opponent for Macron, but the latest two runoff polls have Macron winning by about 60-40. Le Pen is now closest, with Macron leading her by about 56-44.
UK: Little change as Labour faces by-election
The Ukraine invasion has not changed the polls very much in the UK, with Labour ahead of the Conservatives by a low single digit margin, reflecting a continuing recovery for Boris Johnson from “Partygate”.
Polls close at 9am AEDT Friday for a by-election in Birmingham Erdington, which Labour won by a 50-40 margin over the Conservatives in 2019.