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Eagle promises to learn from “heart-breaking” election defeat as she launches bid for deputy leader

18/05/2015, 01:54:24 PM

Angela Eagle has become the fifth Labour MP to launch a bid for the party’s deputy leadership.

The Wallasey MP and former chair of the party’s National Policy Forum, said Labour had suffered “a heart-breaking election defeat.”

It was all the more painful because “the scale of it had not been anticipated.” Labour had, she said, “endured a total political and strategic failure.”

Eagle, a former pensions minister under Gordon Brown and shadow Leader of the House under Ed Miliband, launched her campaign in a video, featuring party members endorsing her candidacy.

She joins Tom Watson, Caroline Flint, Stella Creasy and Ben Bradshaw in her bid to succeed Harriet Harman.  One candidate fewer (so far) than the last deputy leadership contest in 2007.

Promising to be a “campaigning deputy” and “brutally honest about what went wrong,” Ms. Eagle said Labour needed to hear the views both of ordinary party members, but also those who did not support the party.

“I will also ensure we have a no holds barred debate about the way forward for our Party both politically and organisationally. This must be followed by robust action to learn the hard lessons and ensure that we are fit to win the many battles which lie ahead” she said.

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We’re looking for a new CEO who can take us to the next level

12/05/2015, 05:56:07 PM

Overview:

We are a progressive organisation with a great heritage and we’re looking for a new CEO to regain past glories and take the organisation to the next level.

They will also be charged with setting in place a compelling new results-based strategy and developing a dynamic new narrative for the organisation.

While we retain an excellent product portfolio and a loyal and professional sales force, our recent growth figures have been unexpectedly disappointing.

We have just undergone a challenging period, which has seen several key executives leave the organisation.  It is anticipated that this post-holder will refresh the team, embedding a new high-performance culture.

Are you the person to meet these challenges head-on and take us to the next level?

Job description:

To position the organisation as the undisputed UK market leader by 2020

To begin a process of rapid and aggressive expansion, ideally leading to early market dominance in Scotland and London by 2016

To play a key role as a champion for the sector during potential market turbulence in 2017

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Pickles’ sacking shows Cameron is trying to make peace with local councils

11/05/2015, 06:33:58 PM

The cruel jibe has it that Eric Pickles’ sacking in the reshuffle frees up two seats around the Cabinet table.

Still, it appears to have come as a shock to the former communities secretary, as he was confidently predicting a return to government and was “waiting by my phone” for the call.

Local government watchers see signs here of David Cameron trying to mend fences by replacing the abrasive Pickles with the more emollient cities minister, Greg Clark, who is widely liked across the political divide.

It seems to be a version of the same tactic tried last year when the Prime Minister unceremoniously dumped Michael Gove from education, replacing him with the balm-anointing Nicky Morgan. Consolidators following revolutionaries, as it were.

Neither is it lost on Cameron that the surge of Conservative councillors from last week has seen the party take political control of the Local Government Association.

He can do without Pickles being gratuitously rude to his party’s elected grassroots, especially as he was boasting that there was still an “awful lot of money to be still saved” from council budgets.

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Has Nick Clegg really dealt with 38,000 pieces of casework?

01/05/2015, 10:46:54 AM

Amazing guy, that Nick Clegg.

Writing in the Sheffield Star, the multi-tasking Lib Dem Leader and erstwhile Deputy PM says he has still found time as a local MP to deal with “38,000 pieces of casework”.

As any MP’s staffer will attest, that’s quite a claim.

Let’s be generous and suppose what he really means is that he’s dealt with that many cases over the 10 years he’s represented Sheffield Hallam. This works out at 3,800 cases each year.

Disaggregated over 365 days, this averages out at ten cases a day. Every day. For ten years.

Now let’s assume he and his staff don’t work every single day of the year.

Taking away weekends, Bank Holidays, Christmas and annual leave entitlements means there’s about 250 working days left (okay, that’s a bit on the high side, but let’s again be generous to him).

So now the figure climbs to 15 cases a day.

Again, let’s assume he has two caseworkers out of the £129,000 he claimed for his office staffing costs last year. That’s 7.5 cases dealt with by each caseworker, every single working day of the year.

And over the course of an average working day, this means dealing with a case an hour.

But what does ‘dealing’ with a constituents’ case generally involve?

It usually means meeting a troubled/angry/desperate constituent at a local surgery, or spending half a morning dealing with a rambling phone call, or poring over indecipherable handwriting, or wading through a densely-argued email before getting to the nub of the issue.

Then it involves writing on their behalf, often hitting the brick wall of officialdom (or the steel and glass wall of corporate indifference) while seeking a response.

It doesn’t end there. There are usually meetings with officials, site visits and even public meetings to follow.

All of which is to point out that MPs’ casework is often a slow, drawn-out process.

So is it uncharitable to point out that Clegg’s grandiose claim seems somewhat, well, implausible?

If we give him the benefit of the doubt, then it’s clear from their uber-efficiency that his office should have been put in charge of single-handedly rolling-out Universal Credit.

Or, perish the thought, could it be that Clegg’s just a fibber?

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Labour’s doomed in Scotland and Ed needs to put Sturgeon in her place: so scrap the Barnett Formula

27/04/2015, 07:45:47 PM

Seemingly, there is little Ed Miliband can now do to diminish the threat posed by the SNP’s remarkable insurgency. Poll after poll shows Labour facing a total wipe-out in Scotland. It isn’t a case of just losing badly; this is the stuff of total annihilation.

Meanwhile, the Conservative campaign thinks it’s on to something by warning that a minority Labour government, reliant on a bloc of SNP votes, will be a bad deal for England. As a message, it’s an exocet targeted at voters in battleground seats south of the border, where the prospect of the Scottish tail wagging the English dog seems iniquitous.

Ed Miliband can’t fix the first problem; what will be, will be. Scottish Labour is going down in flames. The bigger question for Labour strategists is whether its woes in Scotland are cyclical, the tail-end of the vortex generated by last autumn’s referendum on independence, or a more structural shift. Has the SNP now eclipsed Labour as the social democratic voice of Scots, as they contrast their simple promise to end austerity with Labour’s more complicated (and more realistic) UK-wide offer?

Although Labour’s campaign in Scotland is doomed, it can still use its setback to address its second problem: showing the SNP would not be left calling the shots.

All the party needs is a popular measure that confronts the Tory narrative that Miliband is in Sturgeon’s pocket. Something that shows Labour can make tough choices and, crucially, reassures voters in English marginals that it’s is on their side.

There is a policy proposal that fits the bill, a magic bullet Labour can fire that hits all these targets: scrap the Barnett Formula.

There is no-one in British politics who can make a plausible case for a public spending formula that sees a fifth more spent on Scotland than England. The only reason it has not been amended out of history by now is down to decades of political inertia and a tactical belief that it would add grist to the nationalists’ mill in the run-up to last autumn’s referendum.

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Labour’s BAME manifesto was a missed opportunity

21/04/2015, 05:07:20 PM

The problem with Labour’s ‘BAME manifesto’ – and its approach to understanding minority communities more generally – boils down to this: In the Labour lexicon, BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) is simply a question of skin colour.

The term is exclusively meant to denote non-White groups. It’s an approach that makes as much sense as assuming you need to be a wheelchair user to be a disabled person.

The party shows a poor grasp of the complexity of the UK’s contemporary racial and ethnic mix and the often very specific and nuanced issues they face.

As a result, the document falls back on 1980s norms. Hence, all the photos in the document show group shots of smiling Black and Asian people. So far, so clichéd.

The manifesto shows little understanding of just how fluid it is to be a member of, say, the Afro-Caribbean or Muslim communities these days, while seeming utterly oblivious to the concept that there may be White ethnic minorities out there and they, too, may have needs.

For instance, the numbers of Polish-born people living in the UK have increased 10-fold in a decade, from around 60,000 in 2001 to 580,000 at the time of the 2011 census. To this we can add a further 200,000 ethnically Polish children and grandchildren.

Nearly a million-strong. Yet, the manifesto utters not a single word about their particular needs.

At the very least, the manifesto could have included promises to crackdown on unscrupulous gangmasters and tighten regulation of the casual labour market, an issue that disproportionately affects migrant eastern Europeans coming here in large numbers to work.

Neither is there any mention about Gypsies and Travellers. This is especially remiss given the massive cultural and social disadvantages they face, including a level of overt public ridicule and discrimination for their lifestyles and customs that would (rightly) be beyond the pale if targeted against any other minority group.

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Prime Minister Miliband’s first U-turn: scrapping gender equality around the cabinet table

20/04/2015, 06:48:36 PM

Any coalition deal with the other parties that involves sharing cabinet positions, will inevitably mean the percentage of women sat around Labour’s top table will get smaller.

This is not due to backsliding on Ed Miliband’s part. Far from it. He promised during the Labour leadership contest – and has consistently repeated it since then – that he will deliver 50:50 gender equality around the cabinet table (and has more or less done so with his current shadow team).

It is simply that the stock of female ministers from the other potential coalition partners is extremely low. And despite watery protestations to the contrary, all the current polls indicate that Miliband will need either the SNP or the Lib Dems to join his administration in order to form a stable working majority in the Commons.

Only one of the SNP’s six MPs in the last parliament was female and, although led by a woman, just 36 per cent of their parliamentary candidates are women. (And given Nicola Sturgeon is rather preoccupied serving as Scotland’s First Minister, she would not, presumably, be available herself?)

Similarly, just seven of the Lib Dems’ 57 MPs in the last parliament were women and five of them are likely to lose their seats (although, to be fair, it’s perfectly possible this number will be replenished with newcomers).

But from day one of the next government, there will be precious few women MPs from among either the Lib Dems or SNP experienced enough in frontline politics to be considered for cabinet positions.

The only choice open to Miliband, if he’s serious about honouring his pledge, is to appoint a greater number of Labour women to meet the shortfall. This, in turn, means appointing fewer men who currently sit in the shadow cabinet.

The in-tray of an incoming prime minister is deep enough without creating that kind of explosive row and in the process generating an officer-class of senior, overlooked men who have slogged away on the frontbench for years only to have their careers ripped away from them.

No, look instead for Miliband to pepper the junior and middle ministerial ranks with women as cover for the Labour-led government’s first U-turn.

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Cameron beware: Benefit claimants lose money when they don’t turn up to an interview

16/04/2015, 05:42:54 PM

As the only national political leader taking part in tonight’s “challengers’ debate,” is it a mistake for Ed Miliband to put himself on a par with the nationalists and minnows of British politics?

We’ll soon find out, but assuming he does well enough (in a format that usually favours his softer public style) it will bolster an already confident Labour campaign and throw the spotlight on the absent Prime Minister’s reluctance to defend his own record.

Indeed, Miliband has a neat line on David Cameron’s failure to turn up: “I think if you are applying for the job of Prime Minister, the very least the British people expect is for you to turn up to the interview.”

Such bad form, especially when Employment Minister Esther McVeigh has been very clear on this point: “…jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work. We are ending the something for nothing culture,” she has previously opined.

For the first offence of failing to turn up to an interview, an unemployed benefit claimant faces losing four week’s Job Seekers’ Allowance.

Cameron should beware, the penalties increase with every no-show.

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The Ukip meltdown has begun

15/04/2015, 09:40:27 PM

Long simmering tensions within Ukip are now bubbling into public view. Earlier today, Uncut bumped into an old 1990’s Westminster stalwart who had been involved with the long and difficult development of Ukip’s manifesto. He painted a picture of a house divided, riven by personal and political enmities.

At the root of all of the problems lie Nigel Farage’s personality: a man given to fads and enthusiasms with a notoriously thin skin and a congenital inability to hold his tongue or stick by the rules he sets for others.

Farage’s elision of immigration and race is blamed for toxifying Ukip’s brand by Douglas Carswell who is now operating virtually as an independent.

Mark Reckless is said to feel that Farage doesn’t understand the scale of risk he took in defecting while Raheem Kassam, Farage’s spinner, is regarded by many MEPs and staffers as a poisonous disaster.

Douglas Carswell’s absence from today’s manifesto launch almost did not register. He was absent from Ukip’s general election campaign launch at the end of March and can barely bring himself even to mention Nigel Farage’s name.

A prolific tweeter, Carswell has managed just two tweets in more than 250 over the past fortnight that mention his leader. Probably a record for a candidate in this campaign.

Mark Reckless has always lacked a certain bonhomie, as his former Conservative parliamentary colleagues attest, and has been cut out of the leader’s inner circle. Party resources aren’t flowing into Rochester and Strood to defend the seat as volunteers are being directed to Thanet to fight for Farage and so Reckless too is coming to terms with life as a virtual independent.

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Ashcroft marginals’ polls show Labour’s not ahead enough and now needs the other parties to fail

14/04/2015, 04:45:35 PM

Where would we be without Lord Ashcroft? His metamorphosis from Belize-based Tory financier to philanthropic godfather of British psephology, has bequeathed to the statistical junkies of British politics a treasure trove of polling in marginal seats to chew over.

The latest tranche of data from ten Conservative/Labour marginals shows that the overall race remains tight, with the Tories edging the lead in five, Labour in three, while the parties are tied in the remaining two seats.

These are the kinds of constituencies that the governing party has to win. What the polls reveal is that two serious strategic threats remain for Labour.

The first, is that having successfully squeezed the Lib Dems, Labour can’t realistically harvest any more votes from them. They are down around the 5-7 per cent mark in all of the ten seats. This is rock bottom for them and the only direction they can now head in is back up. Any revival in Lib Dem fortunes during the remainder of the campaign comes at Labour’s expense.

The second, is that the Tories still have ample opportunity to squeeze UKIP. Their support ranges from seven per cent in Finchley and Golders Green, through to 21 per cent in Dover, with their support in the remaining eight seats clustered at around 15 per cent.

This gives the Tories something to target in their own attempt at squeezing their nearest rival, with Cameron’s plea to disaffected Conservative defectors to “come home” a lingering threat as we approach the midway point in this election campaign.

None of this is to discount the hard work done by Labour activists on the ground. On the contrary, these polls clearly show Labour’s ground war having an effect, with Labour’s candidates beating the Tories’ campaigning efforts by 64-47 per cent when voters are asked which campaign has been in touch.

Yet in the increasingly complex arena of British politics, the unmistakable message from these polls is that Labour is not far enough ahead in some of the seats it must win and finds itself reliant on the fortunes of the other parties.

It needs the Lib Dems to stay sunk and for the Tories to fail to peel off support from UKIP. Or to quote Gore Vidal, it is not enough to succeed, others must fail.

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