Archive for October, 2010

We need ideas as much as we need footsoldiers to deliver them

31/10/2010, 05:29:50 PM

by Adrian Prandle

As rival leadership campaign activists settle back into normal routine and the commentariat gets back into the groove of marking PMQs performances, Ed Miliband faces the job of leading Labour.

There are reasons for optimism: encouraging opinion polling, the shadow chancellor’s assured response to the CSR announcement, growing confidence, and no disasters worse than a leaked briefing. The party can be fairly happy with a stable month.

But let’s not forget the scale of the task facing Ed. It is the responsibility of party members to remind him of all aspects of the job with which he has been entrusted. Leadership (of this party, at this moment in time particularly) is more than just PMQs. The diversity of challenges right here, right now doesn’t allow for the eye to be taken off the ball; and our leader must be many things at once. From being a respected, popular and credible figurehead, to being the driver and organiser of a passionate, innovative and exciting campaigning force, to developing policy that can be understood and that will change lives. (more…)

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The week Uncut: Dave le Jaune

31/10/2010, 11:30:10 AM

David Cameron is a war leader. We know this because he has told us so. Outside is a gathering storm. We face tribulations without modern parallel. But he will unite a nation, and, together, we will persevere.

The leader at a time of crisis requires many attributes. He must have the foresight to project a clarity of purpose. He must have the humility to reach beyond the confines of party, and embrace his opponents. He must also have a fair slice of luck.

As Labour has found to its cost, David Cameron has those attributes. He would not be prime minister without them. He has set out a cruel, but clear, strategy on deficit reduction. Entered coalition with the Lib Dems. Narrowly prevailed in an election against a demoralised and exhausted opponent.

But leadership, especially war leadership, requires one quality more than any other. Courage. And David Cameron is not a brave politician. He is a cowardly one.

This week he had a choice. He could stand up to his partners in Europe. Or he could stand up to his euro-sceptic back benches. He did neither.

Cameron surrendered to demands for a 2.9% increase in the European Union budget, having initially talked brazenly of a freeze, or even a cut. Then he pandered to the europhobes by pretending to have secured a “spectacular” victory.

His only true achievement was the way he managed to unite both left and right in ridicule. “He’s tried to swing his handbag but simply ended up clobbering himself in the face”, said Yvette Cooper. It was a “Vichy style” betrayal, raged Norman Tebbit.

As Uncut has noted previously, David Cameron has a history of marching away from the sound of the guns. His child benefit panic. The u-turn over his plan to reform the 1922 committee. The ditching of “compassionate conservatism” when he feared Gordon Brown would call a snap election.

To date, style and spin have masked these deficiencies. Labour must also take its share of responsibility for failing to expose him. But “Yellow Dave” is as much reality as “Red Ed” is caricature. And it is Cameron’s, and the Conservatives’, Achilles heal.

We are indeed facing turbulent times. The enemies of fairness, social justice and tolerance are at the gates. It requires a bold and brave leader to confront them. Dave le Jaune is not that man.

Here are  Uncut’s best-read pieces of the last seven days.

Stella Creasy says the loan sharks are circling, and the government doesn’t care

Jessica Asato on negative campaigning

Tom Watson’s anatomy of a Downing St spin day

John Woodcock finds glimmers of hope amid the grey

Chris Bryant’s poetic take on the cuts

Dan Hodges says PMQs is no playground – Parliament matters

Eric Pickles the ‘transparency champion’ refuses FoI request

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Sunday News Review

31/10/2010, 09:06:42 AM

Cameron puts spin on EU back down

Eurosceptic Tories were meant to avert their gaze from a retreat in his campaign to freeze next year’s EU budget as the prime minister hailed his success in winning support from 12 EU leaders for a 2.91% increase in the budget. “As a result of Britain’s intervention, the spotlight has now shifted to reining in the excesses of the EU budget,” the prime minister declared as he hailed a British success in rejecting a call from the European Parliament for a 6% increase in the budget. The prime minister’s opponents saw the letter as chaff when they pointed out that he had been campaigning for a cut or a freeze in the EU’s £107bn budget. Glenis Willmott, the Labour leader in the European Parliament, said: “Cameron is trying his hardest to appear Thatcheresque. While I don’t have much positive to say about Britain’s first female prime minister, I doubt she’d have allowed herself to be caught out in the way Cameron has been this week.” Labour believes the prime minister’s belated decision to champion a position he had been campaigning against highlights the weakness of his overall position in the EU. Cameron is a marginalised figure, they say, after abandoning the main centre right grouping in the European Parliament. – The Observer

There was something very odd about the fiasco of David Cameron’s much-vaunted claim that he was going to bang the table at the European Council and demand a halt to the proposed £6 billion rise in the EU budget. No doubt Mr Cameron had in mind those heroic days when Mrs Thatcher spent five years at European Councils demanding her budget rebate. But the annual EU budget has nothing to do with the European Council. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the real power over this now lies with the EU Parliament, which voted for a 6 per cent increase – although this still has to be agreed with the Council of Ministers, a quite different body from the European Council. That is why Mr Cameron’s bid for glory was not even on the European Council ‘s agenda. If the Council of Ministers is now asking for the increase to be cut from 6 per cent to 2.9 per cent, the Parliament may still gets its way in the end, keeping the increase to the 6 per cent it voted for. – The Telegraph

Mitchell makes “intervention” for donor

A Conservative cabinet minister intervened on behalf of one of the world’s richest cocoa dealers to get a ban on trading lifted after receiving £40,000 in donations from the millionaire’s company to his parliamentary office. Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, reportedly made the intervention after he was asked for help by Anthony Ward, whose firm, Armajaro Holdings, had been banned from trading following allegations that a contractor was involved in smuggling cocoa out of Ghana. The minister telephoned the British high commissioner in Ghana on the issue, according to internal government documents cited by the Sunday Times, despite the fact it involved British business interests overseas, which is outside Mitchell’s remit. Officials in Mitchell’s office also contacted the Foreign Office to say that the matter required “urgent attention”. – The Oserver (more…)

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Labour has become too focussed on winning

30/10/2010, 04:34:04 PM

by Simone Webb

Reading Jessica Asato’s article on negative campaigning yesterday, I felt deeply uncomfortable. While delighted that we won the Kentish town by-election, the tactics described in the article worried me. I don’t disagree with negative campaigning if it’s confined to revealing the flaws in opponents’ arguments or criticising their actions in power. But the deception and trickery involved in dressing our leaflets up as Tory leaflets or, later in the article, using “ever so in-accurate bar charts” seems to me to be wrong on several levels.

First, it’s the idea at the heart of it: the idea that Labour needs to win, almost at any cost, even by trickery. Now, I believe people are better off under a Labour government. I wouldn’t be a party member otherwise. However, I also believe that people have a fundamental right to make an informed choice about which party they elect into power. If Labour party candidates are distributing leaflets which are even superficially deceptive, or show inaccurate data, or mislead the voters, then they are misinforming the electorate. (more…)

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The loan sharks are circling, and the government doesn’t care

30/10/2010, 10:30:25 AM

by Stella Creasy MP

Some facts are already depressingly familiar: the spending review will put half a million public sector workers out of a job; another half a million people in the private sector are expected to be fired as the economy slows.  Measures which support family incomes – whether tax credits, child benefit or the child trust fund and the savings gateway – are being stripped away. It is the perfect storm that occurs when liberal and conservative dogma are combined: a government imposing draconian cuts with one hand and taking away mechanisms to help people stay afloat with the other.

Here’s a consequence of the budget less widely publicised: the (loan) sharks are now circling Britain’s poorest families, watching them struggle financially and sensing a business opportunity. Indeed, the dishonestly named Peter Crook, chief executive of Provident, is delighted with the turn in events. It is no coincidence that following the comprehensive spending review his company’s share price rocketed by 5%. Provident offers short-term credit with a typical APR of 272% to those for whom banks and credit cards are out of reach – mainly women, the low paid and those with poor credit histories. It is a company that makes money by locking people into cycles of debt, interest on debt, late payment charges and interest on late payment charges. (more…)

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Saturday News Review

30/10/2010, 09:13:42 AM

“No great achievement” for Cameron on EU budget

The Prime Minister clashed with BBC2 Newsnight’s Michael Crick over how he could hail a deal that will see Britain hand an extra £430million to Brussels as a victory. Days ago Mr Cameron called for the amount the UK pays the EU to be cut or frozen but yesterday he claimed to have “succeeded spectacularly” by limiting the rise to 2.9%. Answering Mr Crick, the Conservative leader said: “I would explain patiently – as I hope you will on Newsnight – that we were facing a 6% increase. We have pegged it back to 2.9%.” – The Mirror

David Cameron claimed a “spectacular” victory yesterday in keeping an EU budget increase for 2011 down to 2.9%amid calls by MEPs for one of 6%. However, critics pointed out that the Prime Minister had, given the straitened times, initially demanded a freeze or even a cut in the European Union’s annual budget and that a 2.9% rise still meant Britain would be forking out an extra £453 million a year to Brussels. Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, branded Mr Cameron’s “grandstanding” a “complete failure”, saying: “European governments decided on 2.9% in August, so he has achieved absolutely nothing. He’s tried to swing his handbag but simply ended up clobbering himself in the face.” Eurosceptic Conservative MEP Roger Helmer accused the PM of “rolling over” and said the outcome had been “no great achievement”. – The Herald

The Prime Minister had faced criticism for failing to fulfil his ambition to freeze or cut this year’s budget. Instead ministers agreed to reduce a planned 6 per cent increase to 2.9 per cent. “We’ve prevented a crazy 6 per cent rise in the EU budget, we’ve made sure the EU budget must reflect domestic spending cuts, and we’ve protected the UK taxpayer from having to bail out EU countries that get themselves into trouble,” he said at a press conference[…]A 2.9 per cent increase is expected to see Britain’s contribution to the EU budget grow by about £400 million a year. Tory right-winger Lord Tebbit has described Mr Cameron’s agreement to the rise as a “Vichy-style” betrayal. – The Telegraph

Cameron shot by both sides

The Government endured sustained criticism of plans to cut housing benefits led by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, who likened the policy to ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. It faced difficult questions over child benefit reforms and suggestions it was watering down the planned immigration cap. And Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, stole Mr Cameron’s thunder at the CBI by mocking his Tory partners’ lack of economic judgement. As Mr Cameron travelled back from Brussels, the mood in the Coalition camp reflected the reality of running a two-party government in a country with no money. Government sources acknowledge the Coalition faces a “hard grind” following the upheaval of the power-sharing deal and the announcement of huge spending cuts. They are realising that in a coalition, attacks can come from all sides. This week saw not just a Labour onslaught and Liberal Democrat protests, but also an attack from Boris Johnson from the Tory left, criticism from Norman Tebbit from the right and whispers of “chaos” in the Treasury. Labour’s return to the political fray after months of introspection added to the pressure. Mr Miliband has made a confident start as Opposition leader, while Alan Johnson has confounded sceptics with a sure-footed debut as shadow Chancellor. – The Independent (more…)

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Negative campaigning: it’s not very nice, but it works

29/10/2010, 03:07:46 PM

by Jessica Asato

Does negative campaigning work and how should Labour people feel about it in the ‘new generation’ era? 

I asked myself this question last night while watching the Kentish Town council by-election result in London flash up on Twitter. Labour’s Jenny Headlam-Wells trashed the Lib Dems, who held all three seats in the ward just six months ago. Having spent a few hours coaxing people out of their warm homes to the polling station, I was of course delighted. There are few more satisfying activities than participating in a successful Labour election, particularly when the government is taking us back to the 80s. But something was niggling me.

During the election, the Liberal Democrats accused Labour of underhand tactics for distributing this leaflet. Printed in blue, without a Labour logo, it could be easily mistaken by a voter for Conservative literature. Richard Osley, North London political blogger extraordinaire, called it a “feast of negative campaigning”. My first reaction was that Labour would have failed in its political duty if it had not brought the Lib Dems’ broken promises on tuition fees, VAT, cuts and child benefit to the attention of Kentish Town residents. The fluffy community campaigners cannot hide from the fact they form a government presiding over public sector cuts three times the scale of Thatcher’s. (more…)

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Caroline Flint writes to Eric Pickles over FoI refusal

29/10/2010, 12:21:08 PM


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Tom Watson’s anatomy of a Downing St spin day

29/10/2010, 12:05:43 PM

Yesterday, we were opaquely conned.  Downing Street heralded a “forging ahead in the transparency agenda.” We were misled.

“This is the first time any government has proactively published information on special advisers’ gifts and hospitality. All this information is being published quarterly which will mean more regular and up to date information”, said Downing Street.

The rhetoric was soaring; the action was far more subterranean.

What actually happened was a cynical, but well executed spin exercise to kill the story and deflect attention on to the last Labour government – with Downing St spinners taking lobby journalists for patsies.

The statements were delayed – the first to be published was a statement on the cost of government cars for the last financial year of the Labour government. The next statement was not released for three hours.

Then the number 10 spin machine kicked into overdrive. The information about Labour special advisors for the last 12 months of the last Labour government was placed in the House of Commons library – great, transparent, easy to access. What about the statements on Tory and Lib Dem advisers, where were they? Well they were tucked away online, hidden from view, released in dribs and drabs.

PA led with the easy to find Labour information, comparing figures on the number of advisors. Cameron has reduced the number they say, or has he just moved the goal posts? How many lackeys from CCHQ have now found their way on to the civil service payroll?


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Another country, another campaign room: lessons from the US mid terms?

29/10/2010, 09:00:46 AM

by Dave Roberts

I spent the spring working on Jim Knight’s valiant but ultimately doomed campaign to hold Dorset South for Labour. Then summer saw me on the Ed Balls leadership campaign. Equally valiant. Equally doomed. Now, with the US mid term elections only a few days away, I’ve taken flight from grey and damp Britain for the campaign trail in sunny South Florida. I am working in the area stretching along Florida’s south east coast from Fort Lauderdale northwards, where the incumbent Democratic Congressman, Ron Klein, is facing a huge challenge from former army Colonel and Tea Party favourite, Allen West.

I want to understand how the Democrats organise on the ground, and to see if there is anything that Labour could learn. Many in the UK have written about the Obama election. Yet few have looked at how the more humdrum mid-term elections are organised. In many ways, though, it is these elections – especially at a congressional district level – that have more in common with a British general election. These elections are numerous, local and personal. They are often contested against a backdrop of national issues and questions over the national leadership, for which the candidate has little or no responsibility, but will be held accountable. (more…)

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