If Labour were credible on the deficit, Cameron’s speech would have been a disaster

02/10/2014, 11:53:39 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Lucky David Cameron.

Lucky, because the global economic upturn has dealt him a kind hand on the economy, just as the crash dealt Labour a dud.

Lucky, because the lack of serious alternatives within the parliamentary Conservative party has assured his tenure as leader, no matter how jittery or demented his backbenchers have become (imagine how different the situation would have been had there been a Heseltine or Portillo lurking in the Commons’ corridors instead of Adam Afriye.)

And, most of all, lucky because David Cameron faces Ed Miliband’s Labour party.

A party so denuded of economic credibility that the Tories can increase the deficit by £75bn, miss all of their fiscal targets, and still maintain a double digit poll lead over Labour, on who is most trusted to manage the economy.

It’s why David Cameron could make the speech he did yesterday. A speech offering an unfunded £7bn+ tax cut just 48 hours after George Osborne talked up the need for an extra £25bn in cuts.

We have passed through the looking glass and entered a world of Wonderland economics: where tax cuts are all self-funding and public spending cuts have no consequence.

If Labour had done what it needed to four years ago; demonstrated that it understood the public’s anxieties over spending with the last Labour government, and moved to win back public trust, then David Cameron would now be in serious trouble.

The public would be listening as Labour spokespeople point out the political hypocrisy and economic insanity at the heart of David Cameron’s speech.

Years of Tory message discipline on the need for fiscal rectitude would be lying in ruins. Mistrust of the Tories on public spending would be taking off in the polls.

But none of that is happening.

Instead, as far as the public is concerned, Labour remains on mute. Whatever the party says on the economy is tuned out because of the deeply held belief that however bad the Tories are – and there’s lots of evidence that the public have little faith or confidence in Cameron and Osborne’s economic judgement – Labour will be worse.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour’s strategy for dealing with The Sun is ludicrous

29/09/2014, 12:15:05 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Last week, The Sun newspaper ran a feature inviting each party leader to wear a wristband showing their support for the Help for Heroes charity. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage featured. Ed Miliband did not.

There are conflicting accounts about exactly what happened, with the paper maintaining it made several attempts to secure the Labour Leader’s buy-in; while party sources claim they weren’t given enough time to comply with the request. In the event, the paper ran its front page piece, with a blank space reserved for Miliband, blaming his no-show on a “fear of offending Labour lefties.”

Amid the accusations and counter-accusations, what is clear is that the party’s explanation for not co-operating – citing Ed Miliband’s prior diary commitments – was disingenuous nonsense. It would have taken a press officer five seconds to grab a quick photo. But worse than being disingenuous, it was stupid, too, given the paper would inevitably “empty chair” Miliband for refusing to participate.

In fact, it was so obvious how things would turn out that there must have been a deeper motive. Indeed, there remain many voices in the party that want to boycott the paper as punishment for its coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy as well as the illegal phone-hacking scandal; and the party’s strategy is clearly driven by these considerations.

But boycotting The Sun is a disastrous tactic, the worst form of gesture politics. What’s the desired result? To make a principled stand against the quality of its journalism? To hurt Rupert Murdoch commercially? Of course, if anyone’s serious about punishing Murdoch or boycotting The Sun, then why not its News UK stablemate, The Times, as well? Or, better still, cancel your Sky subscription.

Worse, Labour’s approach is unevenly implemented. Ed Miliband was content to pose with a World Cup edition of the paper back in June before u-turning and apologising for doing so after ruffling the feathers of some within the party.

Disgusting though The Sun’s coverage of Hillsborough was, many other papers at the time published similar slurs against Liverpool football fans, egged on by media briefings given by South Yorkshire Police. And now the Mirror Group has conceded that some if its staff were also eavesdropping on private voicemails, so will Labour figures shun The Mirror, too?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

After Reckless, Labour must understand the real message of UKIP

29/09/2014, 07:00:51 AM

by Jonathan Todd

When Douglas Carswell joined UKIP, James Kirkup asked, “what is UKIP?” It’s worth revisiting this question now that Mark Reckless has made the same journey. That Carswell and Reckless were both Conservatives seems to support the dominant answer. That UKIP is a dissident Tory faction.

“But there is another explanation for Ukip,” Kirkup wrote, “one that extends the party’s significance beyond the boundaries of the Conservative movement and into the way British politics is done.” He went on:

“In this view, Ukip isn’t about Europe, or immigration, or any other policy. It’s about trust, and its absence. It’s about a political system dominated by politicians who look and sound the same regardless of party, who go to the same universities and follow the same career path to Westminster, where they implement policies that are fundamentally the same.”

If UKIP are a Conservative problem, there must be a Conservative solution. David Cameron’s commitment to an EU referendum was intended to be this. But didn’t stop UKIP winning the European elections and the defection of two Tory MPs to UKIP. It is striking that both Carswell and Reckless put as much focus on issues that they feel undermine trust in domestic politics – the lack of a recall mechanism for MPs, for example – as the EU.

This might suggest that Cameron has been looking for the Conservative solution in the wrong place. If this is the case, if he were to fully deliver on, say, the Zac Goldsmith line on political reform, this would stem the seepage of support from his party. And certainly, in an attempt to limit UKIP mileage and isolate Labour, we will get a strong line from Cameron on one matter of political reform: EVEL.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Why is it right to carry out actions against ISIS in Iraq, but not in Syria?

28/09/2014, 05:26:50 PM

On Friday 26/09/14, the House of Commons debated military action against ISIS. The vote was in favour, but only in Iraq. In a particularly pointed parliamentary contribution , Pat McFadden eloquently articulated the challenges in stopping anti-ISIS operations at the Syrian border and the wider issues in how the debate has been framed. At Uncut, we felt this speech deserved a broader readership, so here it is – Atul Hatwal (editor)

by Pat McFadden

“The immediate decision before us in this debate is about military action, but behind that, this is about values. This is not a war against Islam. Islam is one of the great world religions, which is practised freely, without any harm to anyone, by millions of people in this country and around the world. This is not about Islam, but about co-existence.

Co-existence is absolutely fundamental to our society—the ability to elect Governments who are freely chosen by the people, equality of rights between men and women, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fundamental—but ISIS rejects every tenet of it. That is why ISIS kills, with impunity, fellow Muslims, Christians and Yazidis; engages in sexual exploitation of, and the trade in, women; and cares nothing for anyone who does not sign up to its single truth. This is not about Islam, but about co-existence.

The shadow of past decisions—particularly the 2003 decision to invade Iraq—is a long one in debates such as this one. That is because there is a live debate about the degree to which we are responsible for creating or fomenting violent jihadism. It is important to be clear about that. I accept that past decisions have angered jihadists and perhaps encouraged some people to join them, but it is a fundamental mistake to think that we are responsible for violent jihadism. Let us not forget that the bombing of the World Trade Centre on 11 September took place two years before the invasion of Iraq. Syria, until recent days, has been a byword for non-intervention by the west; yet it is now the headquarters of the global jihad.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour shouldn’t stand a candidate against Mark Reckless

28/09/2014, 08:30:51 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Everything about politics is relative and after a stinker of a week for Labour, it’s clear the Tories’ conference this week is going to be even worse after the shock defection of Rochester and Strood MP, Mark Reckless, to Ukip.

All those sneering gags about Ed Miliband that David Cameron had planned for this week will fall flat as the edges of the Prime Minister’s authority over his own party continue to fray and his future now firmly lies in the hands of Ukip’s “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

In saying that, it is only fair to concede that by resigning his seat as part of his defection, Reckless is allowing the electorate to determine what they make of his decision. It takes bravado, and, frankly, some measure of integrity to do so. Defecting Labour and Tory MPs have never taken the risk of triggering a by-election in such circumstances.

So this is a high-wire act for Ukip and if they fail to win Clacton in two weeks’ time and now Rochester and Strood, then they will land hard. But if they win, the political pay-off will be enormous, and their insurgency will quicken.

How should Labour react? Party chiefs need to make a quick calculation about whether they can benefit from a Conservative-Ukip dog-fight and sneak through the middle. Conversely, the risk is that failing to win this by-election will serve to dampen expectations about Labour’s ability to win southern English seats more generally.

In 2010, Labour came second in Rochester and Strood with 28.5 per cent of the vote. This belies the fact that the seat (or most of it before boundary changes) was represented between 1997 and 2010 by maverick Labour MP, Bob Marshall-Andrews.

But if not now deemed winnable, Labour should move quickly to rule out standing a candidate. Ukip didn’t field anyone against Reckless in 2010 because of his strong Eurosceptic credentials. Labour should recycle the tactic for its own benefit.

This has two effects. First, it guarantees the race turns into a slugfest between Reckless and the Tories and, just as importantly, it insulates Labour from the charge that it isn’t making headway in seats it once used to hold. (A stark reminder is Newark, which Labour held between 1997 and 2001, yet could only manage a dismal third place in last June’s by-election).

In fact, putting up token resistance could see Labour aid the Tories in holding the seat, with Anthony Wells from UK Polling Report cautioning that it won’t be a “walk in the park” for Ukip. Better to give Cameron a few more of those sleepness nights about Ukip that Ed Miliband joked about last week.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Let us build our way to growth and well-being

26/09/2014, 06:02:30 PM

by Kieran Quinn

Many of us have direct experience of friends and family that aspire to own their own home but fail at the first hurdle due to the spiraling cost.

According to the latest census information, meeting housing demand will require the building of 245,000 new homes each year. This is 145,000 more than is currently being built per year. House building levels are now only slowly rising from the lowest level of activity since the 1920s.

This housing shortage has led to a massive increase in the price of housing, excluding many young first time buyers from getting their first foot on the property ladders

In 1997 it took an average family 3 years to save up for a proper deposit on a home, today this can take 22 years. Ed Miliband announced plans that go someway towards addressing this. The pledge to commit the Labour Party to increase the level of house building in the UK to 200,000 homes per year is a welcome step.

A key part of stimulating new house building will be to unlock capacity in small house builders.

25 years ago 2/3 of new homes were built by small builders, this has fallen to less than 1/3 today. The number of firms building between 1-500 units has also fallen from 12,000 to less than 3,000 over the same period. Labour’s “Help to Build” scheme will attempt to address this through improving access to finance by guaranteeing a proportion of bank loans to small house builders.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The politics of mutualising the NHS and reviving National Insurance offers Labour a big opportunity

25/09/2014, 06:20:52 PM

In the second of an occasional series of posts, from Uncut contributors, that look at the policies and political positioning needed to win the next election, Jonathan Todd reflects on Frank Field’s case for restructuring how the NHS is funded.  

by Jonathan Todd

In March 1992, 22 per cent of voters thought the Conservatives had the best policies on the NHS. 52 per cent thought Labour did. This didn’t stop the Tories winning the general election two months later. This experience should caution us against seeing the lead that Labour currently enjoys on the NHS as sufficient to secure Labour general election victory. Labour’s trust and popularity on this issue is not a passport to election victory. But it is a political asset that might be deployed to create such a passport.

Some perceptions of Labour strength and weakness that are relevant are:

The support Labour enjoys on the NHS is emblematic of the sense that Labour’s heart is in the right place. No one believes that Labour enjoys seeing nurses being made redundant, whereas there is a lingering suspicion, perhaps unfairly, that Conservatives do. Nonetheless, there is also a widespread recognition that government involves taking tough decisions, as well as a sense that the Conservatives are more prepared to take such decisions than Labour. While there are relatively few doubts about Labour’s heart, there may be more about Labour’s judgment and resolve around difficult decisions.

As popular as the NHS is, there is also a recognition that tough choices need to be made on healthcare. Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) consider the NHS to be one of the UK’s greatest achievements. Yet more than four in ten believe the NHS will not survive in its current form to the end of the current decade.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Labour case for an NHS mutual

25/09/2014, 11:42:22 AM

In the first of an occasional series of Uncut posts that look at the policies and political positioning needed to win the next election, today we are looking at the NHS. Here, Frank Field sets out the policy case for a radical restructuring of how the NHS is funded.  

by Frank Field

A programme of fundamental NHS reform – on financing and ownership – could, paradoxically, convince the electorate of Labour’s financial competence and play a crucial role in rebuilding Labour’s fast collapsing core vote.

Labour has to combine two financially opposing objectives.  About two thirds of the structural budget deficit remains to be eliminated.  So, while cutting at twice the scale of the so-called ‘tough’ Coalition, Labour will face the mother of all NHS crises.  The Coalition’s pledge of maintaining the real value of the £95 billion NHS budget is now hardly a mirage.  Real cuts in the NHS budget have been in progress over most of this Parliament and there is an impressive array of witnesses reporting to this effect.

Differential NHS inflation, a growing aged population that makes disproportionate health and social care demands, and an abundance of advances in ever more expensive medical technology, will take an even greater toll on NHS budgets during the next Parliament.  NHS England estimates a deficit to end all deficits of £30 billion in 2020-21 – very nearly a third of current NHS expenditure.

The electorate senses the NHS is facing mounting difficulties.  They are willing to input additional monies into their NHS.  But, despite the supportive showing the polls for significant increases in NHS contributions, neither Labour nor the Coalition is currently prepared to address the issue.  They present getting through the election without seeking a mandate on NHS finance as what the clever boys do.

But, as events all too often show, the clever boys – and they are still largely boys in every sense of the word – have lost the plot.  Either the NHS is refinanced or, during the next Parliament, it will cease to exist as we have known it.

We can conclude that, as the collapse of the NHS as we have known it will send the electorate into a god almighty spin, there will be a major injection of new funds into the NHS during the next Parliament.  But, if the current cross-party evasion continues, the next government will have no mandate to raise new revenue.  Ever greater cynicism will be the result of what will inevitably be a broken promise. But will the current Tory position hold?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Milibelievers were thin on the ground at Labour conference

24/09/2014, 02:54:20 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Throughout Ed Miliband’s leadership there have been those at Labour Party conference prepared to mock and criticise him. There have also been Milibelivers. In between these pessimists and optimists have been pragmatists, seeing both positives and weaknesses in Miliband, seeking to accentuate the former and minimise the latter.

Milibelivers felt thin on the ground this week. I made a point of asking everyone I spoke to how they assessed the mood. “Flat,” was the usual response. After Miliband’s speech, I also enquired what they thought of it. The elderly delegate from a Labour constituency in the north east of England who described it as “the icing on the cake of his week” was the exception in speaking wholly warmly about it.

The dearth of Milibelivers had the effect that pragmatists felt less conference peer pressure to align themselves with the optimists and more to mirror the concerns of the pessimists. We entered a spiral of negativity. The conference vibe was much like twitter where the cheerleading tweets of MPs during Miliband’s speech were drowned out by the mirth of others.

The grounds for optimism cited by elected representatives, however, were not always without foundation. One told me of a Labour business breakfast attended by many more businesses and senior business people than in previous years. Public affairs agencies informed me that they were bringing more clients to conference than in recent years and clients were keener to attend.

Business is preparing for Labour government. They are right to do so. After Douglas Carswell’s defection to UKIP, presuming he succeeds in retaining his seat in the upcoming by election, the idea that UKIP will poll something in the order of 10 per cent in 2015 seems plausible. While an effective ground game is likely to secure the Liberal Democrats many more MPs than UKIP, probably somewhere between 30 and 40, their national polling has been on the floor for so long that it also seems plausible that they might poll somewhere in the same 10 per cent region. Both the persistence of UKIP and the non-recovery of the Liberal Democrats favour Labour over the Conservatives. As do the parliamentary boundaries. As does the incomplete nature of David Cameron’s half-baked detoxification of his party.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Ed’s speech needed to change the political weather. It didn’t

24/09/2014, 12:53:19 PM

by Rob Marchant

23 September, 2014: the culmination of four years as leader. Milliband’s last major pitch to lead the country, for this parliament at least.

From now, time can only tell whether it has been the gateway to a whole new vista of politics for Miliband and the keys to No. 10; an attempt to convince his party that he would be still the best option after a narrow defeat; or some kind of a swansong.

Now, the central message of the speech is one which resonates – with the Tories, you’re on your own. The many not the few. We all believe in that, it’s what makes us Labour. And Miliband rightly points up the transparent makeover that David Cameron made of his party, in order to get elected, only to be swiftly ditched shortly thereafter. Good attack lines.

The question is, of course, with eight months to a general election, whether we are perceived as offering a credible, viable alternative. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Presentationally, the decision to offer a ten-year plan, while admirably long-term thinking, seems a tactical error (at least we might thank our lucky stars it was not a five-year plan, although the echo of Chairman Mao was still enough to please the headline-writers).

And let’s be honest: after four years, the “I met this guy” format is starting to look a little tired. As the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow put it: “if I were David Cameron’s speechwriter, I would already be working up a passage for Cameron’s conference speech about how Labour policy is now being decided…by whichever stranger Miliband happens to meet in his local park.”

But these are quibbles. It is the meat we need to evaluate.

To start with, it was telling that the centerpiece of the speech is a conversation with a former Lib Dem voter. Worryingly, whether or not we believe in the existence of the fabled “35% strategy” of attracting former Lib Dem voters, we certainly still seem to be aiming for the Lib-Dems-plus-a-few-other-odds-and-sods strategy, a patchwork quilt of support from different interest groups.

And we can see it in the speech – there is a nod to practically everyone. While some of this is normal in a conference speech, here it veered towards the extreme: the gay vote, pro-Europe liberals, public service workers, boxes were being ticked for parcels of leftish voters in every other sentence. To ensure we don’t lose either Muslim or Jewish voters, dammit, the man is even going to bring peace between Israel and Palestine.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon