Archive for March, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Worthy

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Well so far, so meh.

Performance wise I’d give the night to Cable who showed Osbourne how to do the fireworks properly. Darling was solid and dependable, and that’s actually a good look for him. He’s not running for leader (is Vince, I can’t help feeling that he flirts with it, but actually prefers the freedom not being leader gives to be a “maverick”) so doesn’t need to be Mr Charisma.

Policy-wise I will of course give it to Darling. I think he’s managed this crisis superbly. Cable was very populist, but his union bashing was pretty disgusting. How will that sit with the left flank of his party I wonder?

Gideon didn’t fall flat on his face, and so may have won the expectations game, but his performance at the end was his undoing. His line about the “there’s not going to be a Liberal Democrat Government” was awful. Like saying – I know I’m second best, but vote for me anyway as the other guy can’t win. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want people to vote Liberal Democrat (unless dong so tactically against the Tories) but I support their democratic right to do so, and refuse to disenfranchise them. Also George, there may or may not be a Liberal Democrat Government, but if a hung Parliament gives Dave excuse enough, there may well be a Liberal Democrat chancellor.

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Update on Peerages

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Hmm, seems I may have spoken too soon. I do hope Mandelson isn’t able to wreck this one. I never did quite learn to love him, but was working towards a benign tolerance which this will dampen considerably.

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Why Peerages for Goon, Blewit and Bought are a non-issue

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

There has been a fair amount of comment in the Tory Blogs about Brown not ruling out peerages for the Taxi Three (for example here is Iain Dale on the issue). I’m guessing this is an attempt to make Brown look bad when compared to Cameron who did rule out giving Sir John Butterfill a peerage. 

The problem with this comparison, is that people who care about the Lords are are that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are now committed to a wholly elected second chamber appointed through a form of PR. The Tories, on the other hand are committed only to “work to build a consensus for a mainly elected second chamber to replace the House of Lords” which leaves plenty of wiggle room.

In three of the four likely electoral outcome scenarios, a party in favour of a fully elected second chamber is likely to have a say in the matter. Given this, it’s quite presumptuous of Cameron to assume he will have peerages in his gift.

I posted earlier about the Tories’ Rovian technique of taking their own weaknesses and parading them as strengths and it seems to me that this is another case of the same.

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Obligatory Budget Post

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I thought that was good. Very Darling – steady as she goes, no fireworks, no crazy surprises (except the Belize wheeze), no huge pre-election give-aways. And all the better for all this. That’s the thing about Darling, he doesn’t really do flashy, but he does do right, and slowly and steadily he’s steered his way through this crisis magnificently.

The green investment fund is great – and the Lib Dems deserve some credit for pushing on this (see Mark I can give credit when it’s due!). The Stamp Duty policy has the double bonus of being both good policy and good politics.

Cameron’s response was very lite on substance, but he did have some good lines that will resonate (I thought the “no question…” line was his best).

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Well done America. As a proud user of the 60 year success that is the NHS, you won’t regret it.

Also, on a process point, I think the Republicans are probably wrong that this will cost the Democrats heavily in the mid-terms – certainly that it would cost them more heavily than not passing it would have done.

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Is New Labour to Blame?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

So today’s lobbying scandal is profoundly depressing, coming as it does at a peak point during the election campaign. And on the same day that SamCam announces she’s pregnant too. To be horribly cynical for a moment, that announcement couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tory campaign (though of course congrats to the Camerons, and I wish you every luck with your fothcoming arrival).

Part of this is of course the job interview factor. Byers et al haven’t had to go for a job interview for a long time. They are leaving the security of their long term careers and heading off into unknown territory, and as such it’s not a huge surprise that they exaggerate their influence, access and ability in a meeting about their futures.

But I think this does go deeper than that. It goes to the odd relationship that a very small coterie of the core New Labour MPs have with business. They say a general is always fighting his last war, but for New labour, they are always, always fighting the 1992 general election.

We are largely seen to have lost this election over tax and an image of Labour as inimical to business. The reaction to this has been to make New Labour business friendly in a way the Labour Party hadn’t been in the past. That doesn’t mean that we have rolled over completely – the minimum wage and the Social Chapter were both brought in against fierce opposition from voices like the IOD and the CBI.

However, I think along the way, certain members of the New Labour team lost the balance. Labour shouldn’t be friendly to business for it’s own sake, but for the betterment of the UK. The New Labour voices see the private sector as an ideal model to emulate (trust me I’ve worked private sector and seen just as many inefficiencies and useless practices as in any public sector organisation) and take the view that business must be kept onside, even when the public, our politics and even our morality should be telling them not to.

I think this culture of cosying up to business has had benefits, and all government’s need to hear the voice of business as well as all other voices. Labour must not return to an anti-business stance which would allow policy purity and political annihilation. But we should be able to be nuanced enough to listen to business without bowing. I think Byers et al have forgotten that business interests are not always the same as the interests of  the country, and I think that may be as a result of being too focused for too long on the needs of the business community.

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House of Comments 18: Unite against Ashcroft

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I was delighted to be invited to participate in this week’s House of Comments Podcast with Mark Thompson, Stuart Sharpe and Old Holborn discussing recent political events.

edit: Seems I’ve rather touched a nerve with Old Holborn, must have been my demolishing of his silly fire-fighter analogy. Shame as he was a rather charming old duffer during the recording.

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Tories Advised by Karl Rove?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Following the revelations from leaked RNC documentation earlier this month that Republicans were planning to sell access to David Cameron to raise funds, I can’t help but wonder if recent political developments in the UK have a touch of the Karl Rove “magic” about them. Maybe it’s reciprocation? Who knows?

Certainly the Tories attempts to make the focus of the story the Unite union’s funding of the Labour Party has all the classic hall marks of a classic Rove campaign.

Take your own candidate/party’s most high profile weakness:For example, when Bush was running against Kerry as a “war president”, Bush’s appalling record of service contrasted terribly with Kerry’s well earned decorations.

For the Tories, for quite some time, one of their weakest flanks has been Lord Ashcroft. Not only that he was a non-dom, not only that he took the best part of a decade to declare that fact, not only that as a donor he is also a high ranking official in the Tory party but also the fact that he has accompanied William Hague on foreign policy trips where his interests were far from clear.

Use exactly this area to attack your opponents: The Tories started with Lord Paul a fellow non-dom and Labour donor. It didn’t get much traction though as it’s quite clear that Lord Paul doesn’t have anything like the sway within Labour that Ashcroft does with the Tories.  

So they moved on to Charlie Whelan and Unite. Whelan is a pretty perfect candidate. He’s not known for his discretion, he seems to relish a certain public profile and a sense of his own importance that feeds into the Tory narrative. He also used to work for Gordon Brown, and crucially, currently works for a Union currently threatening a high profile strike. Whelan isn’t the head of the organisation. Attacking Whelan ties the whole story quite neatly to GB so he’s been the principle target of the Tory vitriol.

This classic piece of Rovian campaigning is having the desired effect in some ways. It isn’t designed to simply damage the Labour Party with the classic old Tory refrain of “Union rampage” or to link the Labour Party closely with the potential industrial action – though these are a bonus issue.

No, the main reason this move is so insidious, is that it is an attempt to reinforce public opinion that “they’re all the same” which always works better when you are actually the party behaving the worst. It’s classic Rove tactics, and as Labour supporters we shouldn’t let it work.

We need to fight this smear, not by bowing to it and giving it credence – that never works, look at poor John Kerry – but by taking it on and fighting with it. Labour is rightly and should remain proud of our union links, and we should never let the politics of Rove win.

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Being Arses

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Not all strikes are good. Not all employers are bad and we’ve come a long way since the 1980s.

That being said, BA seem to be going out of their way to behave completely unreasonably. Taking deals off the table before union members have a chance to vote on them, declaring all sick workers guilty of striking until proved otherwise and attempting to sack union officials on what have to be spurious grounds given the sheer weight of number of officials put on disciplinary charges since strike action was declared.

I realise that we are likely to have a less union friendly government soon, and that situation isn’t helped by the likelihood of this strike. In the longer term Unite aren’t helping their members by choosing to strike and helping to usher in defeat for the Labour Party. But as far as many of their members see it, they can[t think of the longer term when so many could lose their jobs and benefits.

BA are pushing them so hard it feels like there could be a political motivation to back Unite into a corner. I’m sure the airline are looking for less regulation, and with issues like climate change and the EUETS, a Tory Government would suit them just fine. Is Willie Walsh an Ian McGregor for our times? A man motivated as much out by ideological intransigence as the bottom line?

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Ashcroft and Unite are Not Equivalent

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The Tory media line today is that the Labour Party is in the pocket of the Unions and therefore unable to stand firm against them, and even more insane that Unite donating to Labour is equivalent of the donations recieved by the Tories from Michael Ashcroft

let me break it down for you:

Ashcroft = One Tax Dodger who gave millions and has unparalleled access and power within a political party

Unite = thousands of UK taxpayers who legally contribute to a legal political fund with the Party whose values closest match theirs.

Cameron when questioned on Ashcroft refused to answer, even coming up with that awful “flogging a dead horse” line.

Brown when talking about threatened strike action called it “unjustified and deplorable”.

Sorry Daily Mail, Sun et al. Like a grounded plane, that one just won’t fly.

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