UNCUT: Labour’s campaign is a mess. So much wrong, so little right

27/02/2015, 09:39:29 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour has achieved something remarkable this year. In the space of eight weeks the party has managed to focus the national debate on some of its strongest issues – the NHS, equalities and tax avoidance – and yet still failed to land a blow. The average of this week’s YouGov polls is a very small Conservative lead.

The NHS should be a campaign winner, every time for Labour. But when Andy Burnham decided to use the rise in NHS spending outsourced to the private sector, as his key evidence to prove the Tories’ privatising intent, he turned political gold to base metal.

Given two-thirds of the rise in outsourcing happened under Labour, with the rate of increase actually slowing under the Tories, it doesn’t take David Axelrod to work out why Labour was on the back foot almost immediately.

Then there was Harriet Harman’s pink battlebus. There’s nothing wrong with the bus being pink and the issues raised by the women’s tour are important, but when Labour frontbenchers have been campaigning vociferously that equating the colour pink with girls is sexist then, once again, who couldn’t have predicted disastrous headlines?

Most recently there has been Ed Miliband’s offensive on tax avoidance. It’s difficult to think of territory more uncomfortable for David Cameron. Yet by broadening the Labour attack onto the principle of tax avoidance, rather than the narrow specifics of the jaw-dropping appointment of HSBC’s Stephen Green as a Minister, even when government officials knew all about HSBC’s illicit activities, Ed Miliband blew it.

Cue embarrassing questions about whether shadow ministers collected receipts for every odd job or window cleaned and the circumstances in which Ed Miliband’s mother seems to have avoided tax on the house in which he now lives.

Individually, these incidents seem like discrete gaffes but a common thread runs through each failure.

Andy Burnham, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband all walked into such eminently predictable elephant traps because their moral certitude blinded them to the politically obvious.
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INSIDE: Balls for chop in future Labour/SNP coalition deal

26/02/2015, 09:52:58 PM

Ed Ball’s will be the sacrifice that seals a coalition deal between Labour and the SNP, if senior members of Ed Miliband’s inner circle have their way.

As private debate within Labour circles intensifies on the terms of a potential deal with the SNP, Uncut has learned that some of Ed Miliband’s closest advisers are plotting to sack Ed Balls in a bid to secure Ed Miliband’s tenure in Number 10, in the event of a hung parliament where Labour is not the largest party.

Insiders familiar with these discussions over the past few weeks describe a scenario where Labour would have to “reset its economic standing with the public” and demonstrate to the SNP that it would not be “wedded to austerity-lite.”

For some of Ed Miliband’s closest and oldest advisers, removing Ed Balls would achieve both objectives as well as ridding them of a potentially truculent and obstructive Chancellor.

The animosity between Ed Miliband’s inner circle and Ed Balls is well known. Last year Uncut revealed how team Miliband had plotted to sack Ed Balls in the Autumn reshuffle only to be thwarted by the Labour leader’s weakness coming out of conference season. And just last week the Sunday Times reported on the depth of the recurring tensions between Miliband and Balls.

The recent bitter negotiations between the shadow Chancellor and Labour leader on how to fund Ed Miliband’s cherished cut in tuition fees, are said to have hardened views within Miliband’s circle.

Now this enmity is centre-stage in Labour’s developing psycho-drama over whether to strike a coalition deal with the SNP.

A sizeable section of the parliamentary party, not to mention Labour’s newly elected leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, would be bitterly opposed to treating with the Scottish nationalists.

However, Murphy’s rage at any potential deal with the SNP only sweetens the prospect of a coalition agreement with the SNP for some of Ed Miliband’s advisers, as well as a section of MPs close to the unions, who would be pivotal to bolstering PM Miliband’s position within the parliamentary party.

As one disillusioned shadow cabinet adviser put it to Uncut, when describing the way the disparate coterie around Ed Miliband viewed a deal with the SNP,

“Half of them want to shaft Balls, half of them want to get Murphy and most of all, they all want to keep their jobs and not be out on their ears as failures. Most will say yes to a deal enthusiastically, no-one is going to say no.”

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UNCUT: A Labour/SNP deal would be a disaster for Britain and Miliband

26/02/2015, 01:30:18 PM

by Samuel Dale

It’s May 13th 2015 and Ed Miliband is walking down Downing Street after being asked to form a government by the Queen.

It’s been an unpredictable and gruelling week of horse trading and backroom deals.

Labour and the Tories tied on 285 seats each and Miliband has done a deal with Alex Salmond to seize power.

His pact with the SNP – which won an incredible 45 seats – has put him into Number 10 but he is the weakest prime minister in decades, maybe ever.

As he makes his first speech outside that famous door, Sterling starts to plummet.

The FTSE 100 has already fallen almost 10% in the first part of the week as the likelihood of Miliband in power became clear. It tanks further as he talks.

The creme of Britain’s financial services industry are implementing their plans to leave London.

Hedge funds quickly plan moves to Jersey, big asset managers to the US while big banks look to Asia and New York.

Energy firms instantly scrap investment plans as the price freeze becomes reality while pension funds put their UK infrastructure investments on hold.

The SNP-Labour deal has promised to “end austerity” and increase spending in cash terms every year this parliament. Investors are spooked.

The International Monetary Fund has already warned that the UK must stick to its deficit programme and Angela Merkel has subtley warned London not to turn itself into Paris, or even Athens.

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UNCUT: IS is on the shores of the Med. Putin is rampant. Does anyone in British politics even care?

25/02/2015, 01:18:03 PM

by Rob Marchant

As if it were not enough that the EU’s two principal member states – in the form of their leaders, François Hollande and Angela Merkel – spent much of the last few weeks happily handing to Vladimir Putin parts of another European country on a plate in return for “peace”, chickens have now come home to roost in another benighted country only a few hundred miles from the EU.

It was not, as some have tried to maintain against all logic, that the West intervened in Libya and provoked a reaction against it. It was self-evidently that it did not intervene enough. In timidly restricting itself to a no-fly zone, it did not remotely attempt to help set up a functioning democratic state in the aftermath or prevent a power vacuum being filled by jihadists. In fact, NATO left early, against the wishes of the new government.

It is by now painfully obvious that wherever there is unrest in the Muslim world, jihadists will not be slow in moving in. The trick is not to let them get established. Proactive, not reactive; a stitch in time.

There is very little about Iraq on which critics and supporters of intervention agree, but most would concede that the Allies carried out a fairly effective military action and then botched the peace. For all the current crop of world leaders criticised their predecessors over that episode, it didn’t stop them repeating the exact same error in Libya.

By the time it got to Syria, of course, the alliance which had helped free Libya of Gaddafi had lost its appetite even for that kind of limited, genocide-preventing intervention. Hear no evil, see no evil. And what was the result of that? Well, genocide, naturally: 220,000 dead and counting.

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INSIDE: The smaller parties are niche vehicles for protest voters. They shouldn’t try to be coherent

24/02/2015, 02:51:50 PM

Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument” observed William Gladstone. “The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic.

Natalie Bennett has experienced that chill touch in what has inevitably been dubbed a “car crash” interview with Nick Ferrrari on LBC this morning.

Amid long, deathly pauses, the Greens’ leader couldn’t explain how she would fund the 500,000 new social houses the party is committed to building.

Commendably short on spin, she later described her performance as “absolutely excruciating”.

Her strategic mistake was to even try.

Although the Greens, like UKIP, have no realistic prospect of forming a majority government in May, they have fallen into the trap of accepting the burden of proof expected of the main parties who do hope to.

So Bennett shoots for financial credibility and misses. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage cracks down on UKIP’s red-trousered eccentrics for saying the ‘wrong’ outrageous things. They shouldn’t bother. They are succeeding despite their obvious flaws.

We may expect ministers and their shadows to have detailed policy on everything from agriculture to youth services, but is there anyone considering voting UKIP or Green because of their views on apprentices, or business support grants?

They are what we used to call single-issue parties, representing, to borrow Aneurin Bevan’s phrase, “an emotional spasm”. People aren’t voting for them because of their realism.

They are a release valve for those who are either terminally disenchanted with the mainstream or are well-off enough to avoid the appeal of pocket-book politics and let their cross on the ballot paper reflect their “post-material values”.

UKIP is home for those who rail against the dying of the light as Johnny Foreigner’s jackboot looms over this scepter’d isle. By embracing low-fi political correctness and reacting to media stories about the endless gaffes from its candidates, UKIP undermines its essential raison d’etre.

Similarly, the Greens’ anti-growth, anti-car, hemp-shirted idealism chimes with well-educated urban trendies who don’t like Labour and are turned-off the Lib Dems. Their appeal is not going to grow because Natalie Bennett suddenly embraces fiscal rectitude.

The smaller parties are niche vehicles for protest voters. They are not going to sweep the country in May. The best they can hope for is to localise their support in enough places to make a bridgehead.

The danger for them is that by playing to the big boys’ rules, our smaller, newer, woolier insurgents will get found out in the intense glare of a general election campaign. They need to keep their offer simple.

What Natalie Bennett should have said this morning is that the Greens want a law compelling central and local government to work in partnership to plan and provide enough social housing to meet need.

Simple, rhetorical and internally coherent enough to bluster through a radio interview.

“Yurts for all,” so to speak.

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UNCUT: Labour’s strategic priority must be to demonstrate how it will lead

23/02/2015, 05:52:03 PM

by Jonathan Todd

At the end of last year, I wrote on three reasons for Labour victory in 2015: brand, economy, and leadership. Let’s revisit them.

Brand

The Good Right - Tim Montgomerie’s campaign – understands the Tories’ brand problems. There has been a 7 per cent rise over the past year to 85 per cent in the proportion of people that see the Tories as being close to the rich. By having the likes of Peter Stringfellow along to a black and white ball and allowing Lord Fink to mishandle Ed Miliband’s questioning of his tax affairs, the Tory campaign appears determined to win over the remaining 15 per cent.

Reckless decisions over this parliament – the bedroom tax, scrapping the 50p income tax rate, and NHS restructuring – wouldn’t have happened if the Tories had been the Good Right throughout. To use the reported language of Miliband, they are “running out of runway” to turn around the perception before the election that they are “the party of the rich”. Given the Tory leads on economy and leadership, we might wonder what keeps them flat-lining at 30 per cent in the polls and the failure to address this perception is a prime candidate.

Economy

What could happen between now and 7 May to eradicate the Tory poll lead on the economy? It’s not hard to imagine scenarios emanating from Greece, the Middle East and Ukraine that have serious negative economic shocks. But would the Tories be blamed? Or the nurse that is held more tightly for fear of something worse?

When looking toward Labour victory, I wrote that George Osborne “overplayed his hand in the Autumn Statement, leaving bombs, unexploded since the 1930s, beneath the Tory campaign”. Have they gone off? Do you discern a widespread anxiety about what Osborne portends for the size and capacities of the state?

If such anxiety were deep enough to overhaul the Tory lead on the economy, we might have expected it to have done so by now. There is an argument – which Uncut has been preeminent in advancing – that if Labour had been clearer about how we’d go far enough on the deficit, the way in which the Tories are going too far would become more apparent and more damaging for them.

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UNCUT: Europe is a bystander to human tragedy, yet again

20/02/2015, 06:00:50 PM

by Ranjit Sidhu

A few weeks ago, at the 70th year commemoration of Auschwitz, Roman Kent, a survivor of the Holocaust made a speech about his fear, that we again become bystanders to tragic events.  With tears in his eyes, he said,

“When I think of the holocaust as I often do …I think of the righteous gentiles who endangered their own lives, and their families to save the life of a stranger…We must ALL be involved and stay involved, no one, no one ever should be a spectator, I feel so strongly about this point that if I had the power I would add a 11th commandment to the universally accepted 10 commandments, you should never, never be a bystander.”

The indifference of those around them is both the most haunting refrain of many holocaust survivors and also the most pressing warning for the future. Elie Wiesel, the writer of Nightin 1999 said,

“…to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman… Indifference is not a response for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.”

Elie Wiesel in the same speech went on to mention the totemic event of indifference to the plight of the Jews in Europe before the Second World War started, The Voyage of the St Louis,

“Sixty years ago, its human cargo — maybe 1,000 Jews — was turned back to Nazi Germany. And that happened after the Kristallnacht, after the first state sponsored pogrom, with hundreds of Jewish shops destroyed, synagogues burned, thousands of people put in concentration camps. And that ship, which was already on the shores of the United States, was sent back.”

The St Louis was not an isolated event, many ships full with Jews fleeing the rise of Nazism were turned back in 1938 to 1939 be it from the UK, US or Denmark or the then colonially controlled Middle East and Africa.

Looking back now, with 76 years passed, we can look back in shame how the world was a bystander to those fleeing Europe and genocide.

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UNCUT: Give our cities the tools to do the job and we will

20/02/2015, 05:00:45 PM

by Joe Anderson

The signing of Magna Carta 800 years ago was a demand from the provinces for checks and balances on the power of the centre. Then, it was about curtailing the rights of kings. Today, the focus is on limiting the power of central government.

Last week, leaders from our largest Core Cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – joined together to call for an irreversible transfer of control over tax and spending decisions. Power, in other words, devolved from Whitehall to the town hall – freeing-up locally elected and accountable councillors to shape the destinies of the places they represent.

The call coincides with a major new report from the think tank ResPublica: Restoring Britain’s City States: Devolution, Public Service Reform and Local Economic Growth’, which makes the case for cities being given new tax-raising powers, gaining greater control over business rates and even retaining a slice of income tax locally.

The report suggests a pilot project to allow a city-region to pioneer these ideas, becoming the first to be able to vary income and corporate tax rates and see if this helps with the task of rebalancing the UK economy.

Radical stuff, but long overdue. Too often in the past, governments have flunked the opportunity to devolve real power, leaving London to blossom, but manacling the capital with the weight of carrying the national economy as well. This is crazy.

We only need to see the state of London’s housing market to see how unbalanced our economy has now become – and how much potential across the rest of the country we are wasting as a result.

Although the Core Cities already deliver a quarter of the combined economic output of England, Wales and Scotland, much more can be done if we are given the tools to do the job. Remove the dead hand of Whitehall and let cities play to their strengths.

The outcome of the Scottish referendum on independence and the renewed focus on devolving extra powers means that the traditional foot-dragging about doing the same within England cannot be ignored any longer. The status quo is undemocratic and concentrates wealth, power and opportunity in the South.

Let the Core Cities now show what we can do.

Joe Anderson is Mayor of Liverpool

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GRASSROOTS: A little boost to British defence spending would go a long way to helping keep the international peace

18/02/2015, 10:13:13 PM

by Karl Johnson

It’s good to know what other countries are thinking about us. I was drawn to a recent article in the American Spectator by Australian lawyer Hal G P Colebatch, entitled Setting the Stage for a Losing Falklands War: Are Britain’s Armed Forces Going Over a Cliff? It mentions our delays in completing our new aircraft carriers, speculative reports in our press that the British army might be cut to 60,000 troops in the near future, and the sale of Russian fast jets and helicopters to Argentina. Colebatch concludes that with a defence budget of less than 2% of national income and a ‘bath-tub Royal Navy’, Britain will be unable to protect its territorial interests against an increasingly nationalistic Argentina, with the inference that we will similarly fail to add our weight against Russian expansionism and the spread of Islamist extremism.

My first impression was that it’s encouraging to know that there are sufficient Anglophiles in America to warrant a concerned piece about the state of our armed forces. Then I considered that the article was quite misleading. Yet I still find myself in broad agreement with its substance.

Colebatch’s argument is one that needs taking down and building up again slightly differently, because it is very nearly right. The truth is that the Falklands are fine. The British armed forces have undergone a painful reduction in the past 25 years, but this is part of a wider trend of demobilisation that has affected most of the world since the end of the cold war. The dissolution of the iron curtain led to an era of globalisation and growth in trade in which large-scale defence expenditure was a hindrance. Britain’s defence cuts have been less stringent than those of most other countries in recent years, and our budget is still one of the largest in the world even at 2.3% of our GDP.

Argentina remains in steep national decline and has not experienced any substantial military engagement since the 1982 conflict. There are mischievous rumours that the Argentine government is reluctant to let its warships visit foreign ports for fear of them being seized by creditors (a result of their policy of using the state’s assets as collateral for debts), and according to the South American Mercopress, a flypast of the air force to mark the country’s bicentenary in 2010 was cancelled due to “the risk of the obsolete aircraft over Buenos Aires.”

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GRASSROOTS: It’s my first time voting and I live in Rotherham. What should I do?

18/02/2015, 09:51:44 AM

by Chloe Staniforth

I’m born and bred in Rotherham, your typical working class Northern town with a Labour council since 1933.

Throw into the mix the fact my family are Labour supporters too and it’s pretty obvious who I’m expected to vote for in this year’s general election.

Yet it seems my first time voting isn’t quite as simple as that.

After all, my home town is receiving a lot of attention at the moment for all the wrong reasons.

Professor Alexis Jay was commissioned in November 2013 to lead an independent inquiry into allegations of child sexual exploitation in the town and the local council’s handling of cases.

Her report last August revealed the hidden scale of the problem in Rotherham over a 16-year period.

Now, a follow-up report from local government inspector, Louise Casey, has concluded that the council is “not fit for purpose” and identified some necessary measures for preventing further cases.

In short, Rotherham has become a by-word for negligence, callousness and incompetence. Labour couldn’t have a worse backdrop for their campaign.

I’ve grown up being educated to vote. I appreciate and thank the Suffragettes for their campaigning all of those years ago which allow me this opportunity to vote.

But, I’m afraid, I’m in an impossible position in a town where well over 1,000 females have been abused and abandoned.

I don’t feel I can trust the Labour party to rectify their awful handling of the situation, nor begin to put things right.

Rotherham has since become a major target for UKIP and a hot bed for the far right. Neither of which I would ever want running Rotherham.

So I’m left with the Conservatives – an unprecedented choice for me considering my upbringing. And a vote for the Tories seems awasted vote and would open the door for UKIP.

I feel my only choice is to act like a sulky teenager and spoil my ballot paper, but I really don’t want to lose my first vote.

What should I do?

Chloe is a first time voter

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