UNCUT: Uncut review: Labour’s Spring rally was a tale of two Britains

16/03/2015, 10:42:33 AM

by Jonathan Todd

On Saturday, I met a friend for coffee and took my son swimming. Normal life, that simple, that complicated. Labour’s Spring Rally came in-between. This made the coffee and swim seem Damascus living: normal life accompanied by artillery’s distant thud.

There is not one nation but two Britain’s. The Britain of my coffee and swim. The Britain of the rally. Here the artillery is loud. War has been waged against the country by the government . “Britain can’t afford another five years of Tory government,” Shaun Dooley, the actor and one of Ed Miliband’s warm-up acts, implored.

“If we go on at this rate, the nation must be ruined,” Adam Smith was told by a student following a reversal for British troops in the American revolution. “There’s a great deal of ruin in a nation,” retorted Smith. It would take more than a prime minister as second rate as David Cameron to ruin us.

In rally Britain, however, all is at stake. We might be ruined. Or milk and honey might flow. A country where the next generation can do better than the last. Where the NHS has time to care. And working families have higher living standards.

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UNCUT: Nigel Farage has destroyed himself and Ukip. He might yet take the whole Eurosceptic movement down too

13/03/2015, 07:00:55 AM

by Atul Hatwal

When the history of Ukip is written, yesterday, Thursday 12th of March, will go down as the day the bubble burst.

It wasn’t just the banal manner in which Nigel Farage admitted he was a racist in his interview with Trevor Phillips.

To believe in discrimination based on someone’s background, to admit to wanting to scrap anti-discrimination laws and legalise racism, would have been damaging enough.

But it was his blustering, obfuscating and dishonest reaction that made matters so much worse. Claiming he was being “wilfully misrepresented,” when the original interview was widely available and the evidence so stark, was utterly incredible.

Five points are salient for the election campaign and beyond: the impact on Ukip’s brand, the opportunity for the Tories, the reaction of the journalists, the danger for Eurosceptics and the broader lessons for politicians talking about immigration.

First, Farage has injected arsenic into Ukip’s already toxified brand.

It’s hard to imagine who will be convinced to switch their votes to Ukip as a result of his latest intervention. Maybe some of the BNP’s dwindling support will be reassured that Farage is a true racist and peel off to join the purple army.

But many who might have considered Ukip will take fright.

According to a ComRes poll a few weeks ago, 44% already thought that the party was racist. As yesterday’s events percolate into the public consciousness, the number who think Ukip racist will rise to cross 50%.

A leader embodies their party and a vote for them says something about the elector. Not many would like that to be “I am a racist.”

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INSIDE: Clarkson may be obnoxious, but Cameron’s loyalty to his friends is admirable

12/03/2015, 06:29:26 PM

“I don’t know exactly what happened” says David Cameron about motoring motormouth Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘fracas’ with a Top Gear producer, but “he is a constituent of mine, he is a friend of mine, he is a huge talent.”

Yet again the Prime Minister stands by his friends and allies, even when their backs are against the wall, despite brickbats from his critics and for no discernable short-term advantage to himself.

There’s a pattern here and, in the snake-pit of British politics, something of a curiosity.

Think of the way Cameron kept Andy Coulson under his wing until the bitter end, despite early warnings about his seamy conduct as editor of the News of the World.

The Prime Minister is a reluctant butcher in a business where carving up enemies and allies alike is second nature. Look no further than the way he has kept ministers in cabinet jobs for the full run of this parliament.

It is inconceivable that Iain Duncan-Smith and his, as yet, unfurled universal credit reforms would have been given so much latitude under either Blair or Brown.

Or that Andrew Lansley would have stayed in post long after it was abundantly clear he had made a complete hash of the politics of his NHS reforms.

Or that a figure like Oliver Letwin, the brainy but bumptious ‘Minister of State for Government Policy,’ would become a mainstay of the government frontbench.

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UNCUT: Six reasons why Labour should rule out an SNP deal

11/03/2015, 02:26:41 PM

by Rob Marchant

There is a rule in electoral pact-making, and pretty much any card game, which is fairly universal: don’t show your hand to the other players.

That is, don’t rule anything in and don’t rule it out. You have nothing to gain (you can fritter away your negotiation leverage when agreeing the pact) and everything to lose, in the event that you find yourself in a different situation from that expected and have to eat your words. Obvious, really. Wait until the moment comes and deal with things when you have all the information.

But it could also be argued that there one sensible exception to that rule: if the mere hint of a pact with another party could be damaging to yours even before the election. Especially when things are balanced on a knife-edge and almost anything could affect the result.

That has never really been the case with the Lib Dems: until 2010 they were a slightly dull, modestly successful and broadly respectable opposition party, whether we liked it or not. Now they are bloodied with the hard work of actual government and potentially facing a big hit at the polls, they are possibly less attractive partners. But neither are they toxic.

The same cannot necessarily be said for some other parties. Cameron would have to tread very carefully indeed in the unhappy event of ending in a coalition with UKIP, unlikely though that might seem – the toxicity of some of its members could sit ill with his (mostly) respectable party.

But worse still is the idea of a partnership between Labour and the SNP. Here’s why.

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UNCUT: Enjoy your daily paper during the campaign. It might not be there next time round

10/03/2015, 01:17:46 PM

by Atul Hatwal

This election will be the swansong of an institution which has dominated the media landscape for well over a century: the daily newspaper.

By 2020, if the trends established over the past five years continue, four out of 11 daily newspapers will likely have ceased print production.

Old certainties will crumble: the Sun will set – it will no longer have the biggest daily print circulation – and the Telegraph’s commanding lead as the most popular of the old broadsheets will almost entirely evaporate.

The papers likely to cease publication by 2020 are the Independent, the Guardian, the Financial Times and the Daily Star.

Dailies cease print 2020 v2

The Independent will probably be the first to end its print run. If the trend in print sales over the past five years continues, then it will literally run out of readers at the start of 2017.

This does not of course mean the Independent will cease to exist. It can continue online but unless the Lebedev family, or a new owner, is prepared to fund the print run of a paper that absolutely no-one buys, there will be no Independent newspaper in a couple of years.

Compared to the Independent, the Guardian seems relatively healthy. With 185,000 daily sales it still has a significant audience. However, by 2020 a combination of the high operating costs of print and declining sales will tip the balance towards the end of the physical newspaper.

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UNCUT: The northern road to prime minister Miliband

09/03/2015, 01:09:09 PM

by Jonathan Todd

You wait an eternity for a female Cumbrian MP and then two seem set to come along at once. Lee Sherriff, Labour’s candidate in Carlisle, is regularly applauded in speeches by shadow ministers. Sue Hayman has more recently been selected by Labour to fight Workington, a seat the party has invariably held throughout its history.

Polling by Lord Ashcroft suggests that Sherriff is set to turn around the 853 majority of Conservative MP John Stevenson. Iain Dale also calls the seat narrowly for Labour. Assuming Labour suffer no Cumbrian losses, this would give Labour at least four of the six Cumbrian seats.

Labour faces tougher fights in Westmorland and Lonsdale, where Tim Farron defends a majority of over 12,000 for the Liberal Democrats, and Penrith and the Border, a Conservative citadel, granting Rory Stewart a majority of over 11,000. These seats have never been red and cover much of the Lake District National Park, which draws visitors from across the globe. The more Labour inclined seats have their charms but are less well travelled.

Stevenson is Carlisle’s first Conservative MP since Ronald Lewis won the seat back for Labour in 1964, the year Harold Wilson first became Prime Minister. In 1983, an unhappier general election year for Labour, the party’s commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament allowed Cecil Franks, the Conservative candidate in Barrow and Furness, where the building of nuclear submarines has long been a major source of employment, to ask at every opportunity: “If Labour gets elected, what will the lads do on Monday?”

John Hutton defeated Franks for Labour in 1992, meaning that four of the six Cumbrian MPs again were Labour, but it took another five years for the government to become so too. If Sherriff were to win Carlisle, it might herald another period in which four of the six Cumbrian MPs are Labour but the government is not. Equally, Carlisle is the kind of seat to give Ed Miliband hope.

As average weekly earnings in Carlisle lag the average for Great Britain by around £120, it is a place where Labour’s cost of living focus is likely to have had resonance and decisions taken by the Tory-led government are unlikely to always have been well received. With diligent local campaigning, it should be possible to transfer this grievance with the government into support for Labour. A recent profile in the New Statesman indicates that Sherriff is providing such campaigning with aplomb.

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GRASSROOTS: Just not good enough – a story of Labour selection

06/03/2015, 03:49:55 PM

by Paul Wheeler

I had an interesting conversation with a well connected Labour councillor recently. We both had an interest in a recent Parliamentary selection contest.

His preferred candidate won and it was clear why. He had the better website, he had been full time contacting members for months, he was bright, articulate and union sponsored. In fact he was so well organised he even got his supporting union to provide a breakfast to ensure his supporters turned up for the early morning selection meeting. As my new friend put it cruelly but accurately my preferred candidate ‘just wasn’t good enough’

And he was right. He ran a slip shod campaign with a pretty poor website and relied on old contacts and promises. All he had going for him was that he was born and bred in the constituency and as a leading councillor had helped turned the town around when everyone else had written it off.  Critically for a lot of new members to the area he hadn’t been to university and was therefore not ‘quite up to the job’ of being an MP.

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INSIDE: Don’t blame Cameron. A sitting PM would be mad to agree to TV debates

06/03/2015, 07:00:28 AM

The gap between being in opposition and government is thrown into sharp relief by the debate (squabble?) around televised election debates.

Don’t blame David Cameron for not wanting to have them. No sitting prime minister in his or her right mind would willingly choose to participate. The stakes are stacked against you from the start.

Most obviously, you are defending a record while the other participants are free to attack it.

What’s more, the prep time needed to brief a prime minister is massively greater than that needed to pick at their record.

For a leader more popular than his party, having Cameron grounded in London rehearsing how he defends his record across the board is wasted time for the Tories.

Prime ministers, even those as callow as David Cameron, appreciate that being in government is a complex business.

It’s made harder by the fact that a prime ministerial brain will be stacked full of the nuance of policy issues, making instant snappy rebuttals hard to craft on the hoof.

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UNCUT: Nigel Farage doesn’t understand his own policy. Net migration would be 200k not 50k under Ukip

04/03/2015, 10:34:41 AM

by Ranjit Sidhu

On the Today programme this morning, Nigel Farage demonstrated that he did not understand his own immigration policy. He talked about targeting annual net migration in the range 20-50,000 while describing measures that would mean net migration under Ukip would actually be over 200,000.

Here’s why Nigel Farage got it so badly wrong.

Last Thursday the latest immigration statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) broke down the figures into the general categories of the reason for coming into: a. work b. formal study c. to join a relative.

When we look at these figures, we see the overwhelming reason for net migration of 298,000 is not those searching for work, but rather those coming to this country to study at our universities (57%). As Nigel Farage has said, Ukip would not stop genuine international students from coming to the UK to study.

Inflow outflow by migration type

Further, this is the group with the most significant difference between inflow and outflow, with 192,000 in the year ending September 2014 coming to the UK to study, with only 22,000 of our own leaving the UK to be educated abroad. This is a long term trend with those coming to the UK for formal study accounting for an average 66% of net migration.  In fact, in 2011 the balance of those coming to the UK for formal study was actually larger at 213,000 than the total net migration of 205,000.

Study vs net migration

How can that be?

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UNCUT: Uncut Review: Blue Labour, Forging a New Politics, edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst

02/03/2015, 10:43:34 AM

by Jonathan Todd

This book is reviewed in advance of the launch event at 7pm tonight in Portcullis House

Blue Labour was a useful vehicle for Ed Miliband. He wanted to move on from New Labour. Blue Labour helped him to do so without backing into too many left-wing cul-de-sacs. But Maurice Glasman, the original Blue Labour guru, grew frustrated with Miliband, having probably already alienated the party leader with his predilection for colourful comment.

Reflecting on this in Blue Labour, Forging a New Politics, a new book edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst, Glasman laments that “in a rationalist, tin-eared and ungenerous Westminster village” he has fallen “into trouble” as a result of a fondness for “paradox, something that sounds wrong but is right”. While the book contains chapters from Labour’s Policy Review Co-ordinator (Jon Cruddas), as well as potentially the next Labour London mayor (David Lammy) and next deputy leader (Tom Watson), it is uncertain whether Blue Labour can again be the Westminster village force that it appeared when Miliband was elected leader.

Appropriately for a public philosophy propagated by Miliband, it is ceded within academia. Four book contributors are current holders of academic positions, while the University of Kent’s website indicates that Pabst’s “research focuses on contemporary post-liberal politics”. It’s not so long ago that I was commenting on drafts of a Demos Quarterly essay by David Goodhart, who also appears in this Blue Labour collection, on post-liberalism, never having previously encountered post-liberalism as a term. Now post-liberalism is subject to academic research, while Blue Labour, Pabst claims, “emerged as part of a wider ‘post-liberal’ turn in British politics in the wake of the 2008 economic crash and the 2011 London riots”.

The financial crisis, of course, wrought deleterious consequences. Through its analysis of the interactions between globalisation and financial liberalisation, Martin Wolf’s latest book provides a powerful account of how this happened. Wolf was caustic at an IPPR seminar last autumn on what he perceives as Labour’s failure to provide policy solutions big enough to meet the challenges that he poses.

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