Archive for December, 2013

Letter from Wales: Understanding the Tory threat in Wales

04/12/2013, 07:08:49 PM

by Julian Ruck

Some might argue that without the Falklands War and internal Labour warfare Margaret Thatcher might never have imposed her ‘revolutions’ upon British society. Politics is always about luck (and of course Machiavellian expediency) and let’s face it, she had plenty of it. The grand irony perhaps being, that she dared to increase state control way beyond the temerity of any of her Labour predecessors, a fact often forgotten or ignored by the 21st Century politeness of please all and even their poodles, political endeavour.

No-one would argue that Thatcher’s sons ie Major, Blair and Brown carried her No 10 torch around the globe in one way or another.

So, how has Welsh Labour, and more particularly the Welsh Labour government, evolved over the years of  modern, innovative and more realistic Labour social democracy vs Tory Mammon worship?

It hasn’t, must be the only sensible answer. Years of complacent take for granted mandate has demolished new thinking and allowed the Welsh Labour political elites to wallow in unchallenged bowers of old Labour bucolic detachment and arrogant disregard for the norms of democratic oversight and scrutiny. Welsh Labour has undoubtedly added a new dimension to de Tocqueville’s ‘… socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.’

Carwyn Jones, his cabal of Ministers (although to be fair as far I know, there isn’t one Nell Gwyn amongst them), his pliant media apparat have managed to build up a reputation of non-engagement with the Welsh media, such as it is, that would shame even Paul Flowers into going straight!


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The shadow cabinet league: Sadiq takes an early lead

04/12/2013, 12:53:58 PM

by Alan Smithee

Rebooting a franchise is always a tricky task; for every Batman Begins, there is a Phantom Menace or Superman Returns. This reboot is rather cheaper and less sexy than your average Hollywood blockbuster, having been calculated on open-source software. As it is the first month back, it is hard to draw major conclusions from such a small data of pool. However, there are data points that bear discussing.

Shadow cabinet work rate table - November 2013

Shadow cabinet work rate table – November 2013

Storming into a surprise lead is Sadiq Khan, shadow justice secretary. Much of his media comment and written answers that underpinned his high score have been under-the-radar. He has constantly hammered away at the DoJ on prisons, focussing on rising costs and issues with places. His mayoral ambition seems to be drifting, but he has mastered the skills of opposition and could well turn up a political gem with his relentless digging.


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Labour must hope that Cameron and Osborne do not have Merkel’s political nous

03/12/2013, 07:00:45 AM

by Callum Anderson

On Thursday, George Osborne will give his penultimate Autumn Statement before the 2015 general election. It is likely to be a highly political Autumn Statement. But whilst most of its content has yet to be leaked (at least at the time of writing), save for the likely rolling back of green levies – an attempt by the coalition to tackle the “cost of living” crisis – there is still scope for the prime minister and the chancellor to create huge problems for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, if they can demonstrate that they are beginning to understand the economic concerns of voters, and shift to the centre ground.

Hopi Sen has already entertainingly set out how Osborne and the Conservatives could steal a march on the two Eds on the ‘cost of living crisis’. Increasing the minimum wage above inflation each year for the next five years, subject to the advice of the Low Pay Commission; raising the tax free personal allowance by £500 each year, and thus lifting millions of people from the burden of tax; reintroducing the 10p tax rate temporarily, benefitting all full-time workers on the minimum wage; and announcing an immediate cut in domestic energy bills, funded by a tax on overseas buyers of expensive property, are just a few measures that would leave the Labour hierarchy scratching their heads as to how to respond.

Indeed, such a strategy has been expertly executed by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, since she was elected in 2005. Her Christian Union party (CDU) – Germany’s conservative party – has been the lead partner in the previous two coalition governments: first with the Social Democrats (SPD) between 2005 and 2009, and second with the Liberals (FPD) between 2009 and 2013, and is set to enter another Coalition with the SPD within the next month.

Ms Merkel has been particularly adept in not only keeping the CDU resolutely on the centre ground of German politics, but also shifting the balance of responsibility disproportionately to her junior coalition partners. For instance, during her first term, Ms Merkel astutely took advantage of the unwillingness of SPD members to enter a coalition government with her own CDU to, in the first instance, solidify the “Hartz” labour market and welfare reforms of her SPD predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, as well as ensure that both parties shouldered the responsibility for the substantial austerity measures taken in response to the 2007-08 financial crisis.

Likewise in her second term, Ms Merkel has been, perhaps too successful, in allowing the FDP to shoulder much of the blame in the slow response to the Euro crisis of the last few years. I say too successful because the FDP, who have traditionally had more in common with the CDU than any other party in the German parliament, crashed at the federal elections in September to such an extent that they have no seats for the first time since 1945.


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Labour history uncut: the Socialist League is sent packing

02/12/2013, 05:55:31 PM

by Pete Goddard and Atul Hatwal

When Stafford Cripps got up to speak to Labour students in Nottingham on the 6th January 1934, the reporters in attendance did not expect too much excitement. A brisk refresher on the Socialist League’s plan for an imminently Socialist Britain, then tea and biscuits if they were lucky.

Addressing the audience, Cripps declared,

“I do not believe in private armies, but if the Fascists started a private army it might be for the Socialist and Communist parties to do the same. When the Labour party comes to power, we must act rapidly and it will be necessary to deal with the House of Lords and the influence of the City of London. There is no doubt we shall have to overcome resistance from Buckingham palace and other places as well.”

The press sat up and took notice.

Because Cripps was airing the possibility of a Labour party private army? No. Because he was suggesting Labour join forces with Communists? No.

The Rubicon that Cripps had crossed was in voicing the great unmentionable, “Buckingham Palace.”

Outrage abounded. Within a day, Cripps had had to issue one of the finest political clarifications ever,

“There seems to have been some misconception of what I intended to convey by the term ‘Buckingham Palace’. I most certainly was not referring to the Crown…I cannot understand why anyone should have thought I was referring to the Crown.”

Indeed, the fools. Its obvious Cripps was talking about resistance to socialism from all those other people in Buckingham Palace. The servants maybe. Or the corgis.

Among the NEC there was a collective rolling of eyes at the gaffe. Dalton was apoplectic while Bevin was disgusted. Fortunately for Cripps though, one senior member of the party continued to back him – a member who also happened to be the acting leader – Clement Attlee. Thus Cripps swapped his red flag for a red face but remained free from formal censure.

1934 – Riding out to battle the impending socialist army, Buckingham Palace wondered if it should maybe have modernised its forces

1934 – Riding out to battle the impending socialist army, Buckingham Palace wondered if it should maybe have modernised its forces


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The questions facing George Osborne in the Autumn statement

02/12/2013, 07:00:20 AM

by Jonathan Todd

We all live in a George Osborne submarine. Or so he wishes. Doing his work beneath the surface, emerging periodically to bestride events, such as this week’s distinctly wintry Autumn statement.

Osborne saw Gordon Brown use these set piece occasions to determine the terms of political trade. He’s equally keen to exploit his bully pulpit. He faces, though, a number of challenges to doing so:

1.) Has the relationship between economic and Tory recovery broken?

The Autumn Statement is wintry in the sense that it’s being delivered in December. The economy, however, is more mid-March. The darkest days feel behind us and something better nearly upon us.

Given this, Benedict Brogan asked a pertinent question recently: Why are the Tories not doing better in the polls?

The Todd thesis – as Lewis Baston called it – appeared to break down as soon as it was expounded. This thesis was based on a regression analysis of economic sentiment and Labour’s lead over the Tories. It was expounded at the end of October and held that for every 1% increase in the proportion of the electorate reporting the economy as doing well, the Tories would close on Labour by 0.6%. Since then, there has been a 3% increase in the proportion of the electorate reporting the economy as doing well. But, while there is some fluctuation, Labour’s lead has held firm enough to prompt Brogan’s question.

It may be that the Todd thesis will reassert itself over a longer time horizon. If economic sentiment keeps improving, growth in Tory support will eventually catch up. Less positively for Osborne, it may be that the Todd thesis has collapsed because something has happened to disrupt the causality between improving economic sentiment and growing Tory support.

Ed Miliband’s focus on the cost of living may mean that even though people increasingly feel the economy is doing well, they don’t believe this improvement will benefit them, so it doesn’t translate into Tory support. Alternatively, the better people feel about the economy, the less Labour’s reputation for profligacy may trouble them. In better times, Labour becomes a risk worth taking.


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