Archive for May, 2013

Cameron has blundered on the EU

31/05/2013, 04:09:46 PM

by Malcolm Clarke

There cannot possibly be a more endearing sight for the left of centre politician than the sight of Tory MPs rabidly attacking one another over the issue of Europe, their reaction to the word ‘Europe’ as predictable as the salivating dogs trained by Pavlov’s bell.

But I do not believe that the issue of Europe is solely about UKIP, although they have seen big gains as a result of this issue. Europe severs the right and UKIP could have expected better results having mopped up floating Tory voters who are Euro-sceptic, the standard protest voters who used to vote Lib Dem and also the mid-term ‘we hate politics’ voters who look to inflict damage on the main parties.

If you consider the positive climate for UKIP gains given the heightened public consciousness on issues surrounding EU membership, getting 25% of the vote is underwhelming and I question the extent of the success that the media are heralding for UKIP. They have filled a void in protest politics, nothing more. That is not to say their position will not develop in time to a more established position, but as we saw in Scotland two days ago, there is no Cleggmania-like wave for Nigel Farage at present.

At Westminster, the Tories are treading familiar ground with a virile battle raging over the issue of Europe once again. The Tories just cannot resist a good row over Europe but I believe they should be dealing with the difficult domestic situation we face like the ever-increasing cuts to public services, the ideological attack on councils and the flat-lining economy. They have reverted to type and it’s the same old Tories. They showed it over the NHS and they are showing it over Europe.

Many of their ills are self-inflicted by a strategic error by David Cameron. By declaring that he will defer an in-out referendum until after the next general election and after a renegotiation on our terms of membership within the European Union, he walked headlong into three big problems.

Firstly, whilst in opposition Cameron gave a ‘cast-iron guarantee’ for an in-out referendum. Now he has gone back on his word and people have noticed, particularly those in his own party who were previously appeased by this pledge. Cameron now faces distrust to the extent that a private members bill has been tabled by Conservative MP for Stockton South, James Wharton, to ensure the matter is cast out in binding legislation. As no party can legislate to bind their successors, Cameron is dangling a carrot to the electorate and to his disparate MPs saying, ‘stick with me and get your referendum’. Unfortunately for Dave, they electorate may well kick him out of Number 10 for not delivering an in-out referendum now.


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Friday caption competition: YMCA special

31/05/2013, 01:39:24 PM

h/t @planbsean

Just what is the mayor saying to the Tories’ cowboy MP for Burton & Uttoxeter, Andrew Griffith?

Captions please.

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Letter from Wales: Despite the cuts, money keeps getting poured down the Welsh language drain

31/05/2013, 10:31:26 AM

by Julian Ruck

Welsh Labour isn’t red, it isn’t new and it most definitely isn’t blue, it’s just plain old and totally out of date. The Welsh Labour government holds on to an exclusive reliance on the state with a stubbornness that would have made even Pyrrhus think again!

It continues to obsess on policies of devolved isolationism and ‘You don’t give….but you get, get get as much as you like and to hell with the British tax-payer!’

England owes us.

For an example of profound arrogance and a total denial of austere times where the ruling Welsh ‘elites’ are concerned, consider the following.

A separatist Welsh language, that has had literally billions of tax-payers’ money thrown at it over the last 40 years, has resulted in bi-lingual signs that few understand, pyramids of bi-lingual paperwork that the overwhelming majority of Welsh folk throw straight into the bin, a Welsh Health Service smartphone ‘app’ for Welsh speakers costing £26,000 being dumped because less than a 1000 people used it, a Welsh language S4C television channel that  no-one watches (and not to mention its history of rampant management skulduggery), and a radio station – Radio Cymru – that demands £13 million pa of license fee  money.

A couple of weeks ago Radio Cymru’s audience figures dropped to their lowest level ever (119,000 listeners per week), according to respected Radio Joint Audience Research (16.5.13).

In comparison BBC Radio Cornwall receives a modest £1.3 million and yet it has higher audience figures!

Overall, BBC Wales receives £167 million pa of tax-payers’ money for Welsh language broadcasting, which some might feel is fair enough. After all, in any civilised society minorities should be respected and their views always accommodated where possible; but here’s the rub, none of this money has resulted in any kind of increase in Welsh speakers, indeed the opposite obtains.

10 years ago 40% of welsh schoolchildren could speak Welsh, now it’s only a paltry 24%.


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3 years on: Labour is a happier place

30/05/2013, 09:25:51 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. Kevin Meagher looks at party morale

“Let sunshine win the day” urged David Cameron speaking to his party’s conference a few years ago. Derided at the time, “Ibiza Dave” was on to something.

One of the noticeable changes to Labour over the past few years is that it’s a happier party. Not pleased to be in opposition (I don’t think), but a party, relatively speaking, at ease with itself.

After a decade and a half of the Blair/Brown psychodrama it is a welcome change of mood. Labour is more open these days. The era of top-down party management, vibrating pagers and lines-to-take are largely over. Not rejected per se, more absorbed into the party’s bloodstream. This is a sensible, social democratic party of incremental reform. We have made our peace with the pager.

What has been rejected though is overbearing centralisation. The days when frontbenchers actually shaved off their moustaches and beards at the behest of image consultants are thankfully long gone. The obsession with the media has eased, driven by the increasingly pluralistic ways of talking to voters and getting the party’s message heard.

Indeed, it is interesting to think how a Blair or Brown leadership would react to the rise of digital media, which has done so much to alter the terms of political discourse in the past few years. A gust of free speech has blown through the Labour party, allowing members far more say over its direction. The world has not ended.

In terms of the leader, there is no cabal of Millibandites (the Milliband perhaps?) running around stitching up their rivals. Spats between Unite, Labour’s main trade union backer on the left and Progress on the right are, in Labour party terms, fairly anaemic.


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3 years on: Ed isn’t in the Hobbit and needs to bin the invisibility cloak

30/05/2013, 07:39:44 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. David Talbot looks at Ed Miliband’s public profile

Ah, the Daily Express. What to say about this esteemed presence amongst our media? Last content sometime during the Boer war, today its coverage sticks to the traditional middle class issues of house prices, cancer survival rates and Princess Diana. A friend to the Labour party it almost certainly is not. Indeed, under the tutelage of its chief political commentator, one Patrick O’Flynn, the Daily Express can have a serious claim to be amongst the first members of the fourth estate to take the UKIP threat seriously.

O’Flynn seems an amicable, if slightly misguided, chap who nonetheless stumbled across pertinent analysis as we consider the three year anniversary of Labour’s demise, and Uncut’s rise from the ashes.

Three years on the Labour party is out of government, out of sight and out of mind. O’Flynn dubbed this Labour’s “invisibility cloak” in his leader last week, which was a charitable way of highlighting that three years on from a historic defeat, the party’s hierarchy has not constructed a coherent strategy for Labour’s return to power.

Ed Miliband continues to be Labour’s invisible man. Still virtually unknown to the British public this void in the British political realm can surely continue no more. Cameron was known to taunt the then novice Labour leader at the back end of 2010 noting that “he had been in the job for the past few months” before adding, woundingly, “people are wondering when he’s going to start?”

Too much of Labour’s strategy at present appears to be based on the coalition’s unpopularity, and frankly keeping low and not saying anything too stupid.

Indeed, as a political strategy it is well worn and often successful in the short-term. But three years on, Labour has rightly set itself an ambitious target of returning to power after just a single term out of office – a feat, historically, that has been near impossible to muster. Wearing an invisibility cloak for the next two years simply won’t achieve that high aim.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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3 years on: Ed Miliband has created Blue Nun Labour

30/05/2013, 06:20:09 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. Mark Stockwell gives the other side’s view of Labour’s progress

You could see it on Ed Miliband’s face, that far-off day in September 2010 when he snatched the party leadership from under his big brother’s nose. David had led him in every round of the ballot, eclipsed him over every fence, but at the end, somehow, Ed had snuck through on the rails and won by a short head. And the new leader of the opposition was as surprised as anyone. In truth, he wasn’t ready for the responsibility that had been thrust upon him. Over the last three years, it’s shown.

Granted, he didn’t start from the most auspicious position. For all that the Conservatives had failed to win a majority, this only served to disguise the scale of the defeat Labour had suffered at the hands of the British electorate. When what Labour needed was to face up to the manifold reasons for that defeat, too many have sought comfort in the travails of the coalition and revelled in the difficulties of the despised Liberal Democrats.

It fell to Miliband to drag his party away from this comfort zone. He has failed. In truth, he hasn’t even tried. Yes, senior Labour figures have queued up to utter insincere pieties about how the leadership had been wrong in the past to dismiss the concerns of the party’s supporters about immigration. But the party as a whole continues to give the impression it doesn’t think it got much wrong in office – on the domestic front, at least.

It is no use Labour going into the 2015 election telling voters it was a mistake to kick them out last time. Asked to review their verdict (and you may be sure Conservative strategists will happily play along with such an approach), the good people of Britain will apply a swift coat of polish to their boots and find their own way to make sure Labour “reconnects with the voters.”

Miliband’s lack of preparedness has manifested itself in his desperate casting around for a distinctive, coherent agenda. It is rather as if, like the second year politics undergraduate he so closely resembles, finding himself unexpectedly home alone one evening, he has set himself the task of coming up with a tasty supper using only the ingredients he can find already in the kitchen.

Blue Labour? Hmmm, yes I remember picking that up on the way home after the leadership election. Maybe I’d had one or two glasses of wine. Anyway, it sounds interesting, in it goes.

But hang on, it’s missing something. I know, there’s that half-empty packet of incomes policy that’s been hanging around at the back of the cupboard since, ooh, about 1979. If I stick a big label on it saying “predistribution”, maybe I can kid myself it’s not past its sell-by date.


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3 years on: Is being the “other guy” enough for Ed to win?

30/05/2013, 04:26:50 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. Peter Goddard gives a member’s perspective

I am not immersed in politics. I am not obsessed, absorbed or professionally involved.

For people like me, or as I like to call us, ‘normal people’, politics only consists of the big events.

Three years ago, there were two big events: Labour lost the election and there was a new leader of the Labour Party.

I wasn’t a particular friend or foe of Ed Milliband’s, but what I did know was that he wasn’t the other guy – the disastrous Gordon Brown.

It was a chance, I thought, for a new start. Ed Milliband’s Labour party could be shaped, moulded and presented to the nation afresh.

Three years passed.

Cameron stopped hugging huskies and sharpened his economic scythe. Disability allowances were targeted, tuition fees introduced, a bedroom tax launched.

In response, Labour presented… the same stuff, but not as much of it. And maybe not as fast.

Two years ago, there was another big event: an election took place for Mayor of London. The Tories put forward their wild-haired wild card candidate.

In response Labour presented… that guy from last time.

Last year, a conference happened. Everyone got excited about how Ed Milliband was going to define and shape the party’s future.

Labour presented ‘One Nation’.

So three years on I’m still not sure what Ed Milliband’s Labour party is all about. If it has a story to tell that has just failed to cut through to people like me, or if he is simply keeping things vague in order to remain flexible up to the next election, I don’t know.

But what I do know is that, until someone like me can clearly describe what today’s Labour party is all about, Ed Milliband remains reliant on the same appeal he had on his initial rise to the leadership – simply not being the other guy.

Let’s hope that’s enough.

Peter Goddard is a sales and marketing consultant

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3 years on: The Labour party is allergic to making decisions

30/05/2013, 02:00:22 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. Atul Hatwal looks at how Labour is led

When Gordon Brown departed the Labour leadership, there was a sigh of relief across Westminster on both the left and right of the party. For many, the problem with Gordon hadn’t been the policies, though there was clearly room for improvement, but leadership.

Decisions would sit on his desk for weeks and months, sometimes years. By the time a choice was made, the moment would have passed and after all the haggling and deliberation, those involved felt exhausted.

The advent of a new leader was meant to change that. Regardless of his politics, Ed Miliband’s swift and determined decision to stand against his brother boded well for his style of leadership.

Unfortunately it seems that was the last major decision Labour’s leader made. Stories abound about landmark speeches being constantly rewritten with endless debate in the leader’s court on the correctly nuanced line to take.

Everyone has an opinion and all are heard with the result that little substantive is ever said.


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3 years on: We’re still at square one on the economy

30/05/2013, 12:23:58 PM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of  what has changed for Labour since 2010. Jonathan Todd looks at Labour’s progress, or lack thereof, on the economy.

As anticipated in my first Uncut piece, the deficit has defined the politics of this parliament. The political premium on being able to say where the money will come from has remained high, while the interest on government debt has stayed low.

George Osborne claims these low interest rates as City endorsement for his policies when really they implore him to borrow to invest. The market, it seems, is always right but only when it’s politically convenient.

While ministers struggle to offer the Treasury the cuts that the spending review demands, the political potency of the cuts narrative hardly seems diminished. This is in spite of the government failing to meet their stated objective: deficit reduction. As they reap a whirlwind of youth unemployment and stagnant growth.

Yet the economic debate stubbornly refuses to turn to Labour. The public seem trapped in a doom loop that is economically self-fulfilling and debilitates Labour, which must convince that a better economy could be achieved under prime minister Miliband.

As well as winning on bread-and-butter issues, Miliband has to address the deep structural problems that the nasty hangover from the NICE – non-inflationary continuous expansion – decade has revealed. Economic rebalancing requires rebalancing our top heavy state. The best chance for this in this parliament came and largely went with the mayoral referendums.

Having worked on Siôn Simon’s campaign, it was a big disappointment that Birmingham rejected this way forward. I’m working with Demos to try to think through new ways ahead for our cities.

These are times laden with immense challenges and without the resources that the delusions of the NICE decade conjured. Solutions urgently demand bold imagination. “One more heave” isn’t enough, as my first Uncut piece concluded.

Jonathan Todd is Labour Uncut’s economic columnist

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3 years on: Ed Miliband has one of the most experienced shadow cabinets’ since the war

30/05/2013, 07:00:10 AM

It’s 3 years since Uncut started so, in a series of pieces, we’re taking stock of what has changed for Labour since 2010. Kevin Meagher looks at a battle hardened shadow cabinet.

Like many of you, dear readers, I vividly remember watching the 2010 election count, taking heart from every morsel of comfort on a losing night (‘we’ve held Birmingham Edgbaston!’) and cheering on every small advance (‘Simon Danczuk took Rochdale – even after the Mrs. Duffy incident!’) It was bad – we were out; but it could have been worse.

The share of the vote was abysmal – the lowest since 1922 – but the Conservatives hadn’t won. This was undoubtedly a rejection of Labour, but not a sea change. It was becoming clear gazing at the goggle box in the wee small hours that there would have to be a coalition government and, at that stage – and against all expectations – Labour was still in the game.

The rest, of course, is history, but it seems this sense of relief that the result was not as bad as it could have been for Labour averted any exodus of talent from the top of the party.

After all, here you had a bunch of experienced ex-ministers, many in their early 40s, who could easily have transferred their talents to the worlds of business or academia. Why hang around with no guarantee you will ever sit round the cabinet table again – and even if you do is it worth slogging through five years of opposition only to do a job you’ve already done before?

After all, the immediate effect of losing ministerial office is a fifty per cent pay cut, closely followed by the realisation that your retinue of officials, drivers, security people, diary secretaries and assorted hangers-on are no longer trailing behind you. You are back to running a shadow operation from your pokey Westminster office.

It’s a big psychological readjustment and they could be forgiven for for facing an existential crisis about what they were doing with their lives.


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