Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Adonis’

Brownian big numbers don’t persuade anyone, so why does Labour keep announcing them

01/07/2014, 12:59:44 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Today, the disconnect between Labour’s approach to political communications and the general public was on full display.

To accompany the launch of the Adonis Growth Review, the topline of Labour’s story was that it would devolve up to £30bn of central government funding to new regional partnerships of local authorities.

The model of regional co-operation that Labour is advocating has had demonstrable results in Greater Manchester, where 7 North West local authorities are working well together. The incentive of greater devolution of funds from central government would surely prompt other areas to follow Greater Manchester’s lead.

As a policy, there is much to recommend today’s announcement. Which is why the way it has been packaged for the media is so depressing.

Gordon Brown was notorious for bludgeoning audiences with lists of gargantuan numbers to demonstrate his commitment to Schools-n-Hospitals. Notorious because, while these types of big numbers have a certain resonance within the Westminster bubble, they are positively off-putting for most voters.

I’m currently conducting a series of focus groups for the day job, looking at how people understand political messages. The topic we’re looking at specifically is immigration, but the findings are applicable to most political issues.

When confronted with a statistic, particularly a Brownian big number, there is typically a two stage response: “I don’t understand your number,” swiftly followed by, “I don’t trust your number.”

Dealing with the first response is comparatively straight-forward. It’s all about context.

Abstract statistics mean very little to voters. Cash numbers in the billions or percentage growth rates lack any practical resonance with peoples’ lives.  They tend to simply fade into the white noise of politicos’ stat chat.

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Sunday review on Thursday: The not-the-London-Labour-mayor hustings

28/11/2013, 01:14:49 PM

by David Butler

When is a husting not a husting? When it is a Progress Campaign for a Labour Majority event on winning in London. That all the invited panellists, including the curiously absent Sadiq Khan, are considered potential nominees for Mayor of London was just pure coincidence.

The event was less a tale of two Londons (or One London Labour or whatever today’s vogue is) but of two de Blasios. David Lammy and Diane Abbott sought this mantle both through reference to New York’s Mayor-elect and through the language and policies on offer. Lammy provide a toned down version of de Blasio’s message, whilst Abbott raised the rhetorical and policy stakes, offering a clear left-populist platform. This, and her potential support from the remnants of Ken’s old machine, makes her a serious contender within a party and electorate to the left of the national norm. Even Andrew Adonis and Tessa Jowell, neither of whom particularly fit the de Blasio mould, referenced “two cities” and “One London” respectively.

However, in many ways, it felt like a London housing policy seminar that happened to have a different title. Both Abbott and Lammy announced support rent regulation, albeit with Lammy obfuscating by calling for “fair rents”. Lammy subsequently redeemed himself with an eminently sensible proposal to build housing on the Green Belt. Jowell warned about the impact of the mansion tax on “asset rich but cash poor” families, a rather surprising move in the circumstances; worrying about those who do well out Britain’s over-inflated housing market should not be high up her priority list. As expected, Adonis had the more innovative ideas proposing to explore shared equity schemes and a “housing bank” to take a stake in future developments in order to prevent land banking.

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Labour’s back on track on HS2, but it should never have been off it

01/11/2013, 07:00:47 AM

by Kevin Meagher

A week ago Labour was going wobbly on its support for HS2, spying, it seemed, an opportunity to discomfort the government in its efforts in selling the case for the controversial scheme.

This followed warnings from shadow chancellor Ed Balls at last month’s party conference that there would be “no blank cheque” for the £42 billion project if costs escalated. Then there was the shadow cabinet reshuffle where the strongly pro-HS2 Shadow Transport Secretary Angela Eagle was moved to make way for the more sceptical Mary Creagh.

Yet last night the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill passed its third reading with a measly 11 Labour MPs voting against, a mixture of the hard left’s usual suspects and London nimbys like Frank Dobson. The flirtation with opposing HS2 is over. The centre of gravity in the parliamentary party is resolutely behind the project – especially as the North West sends the largest contingent. This matters. As Sky News reported yesterday:

“…up to 40 MPs turned up to a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s transport committee, which would usually only attract a handful of MPs, to express their anger [at creeping scepticism towards HS2]. Seventeen Labour MPs, many representing constituencies in the north, spoke out in support of HS2. Only two said anything against. Jack Straw, the former Cabinet minister, warned that he would bring a motion to the PLP if the party shifted its position.”

Now Ed Miliband is letting it be known he has asked Andrew Adonis, Labour’s last transport secretary and the man who got the ball rolling on HS2, to advise him on how to make the most of it.

This is pretty much inevitable. To have British politics divided between the pro-growth, pro-Keynesian, pro-North Tories and a Labour party seemingly committed to burnishing its credentials for fiscal hawkishness, even to the point of entrenching the south of England’s economic dominance by opposing HS2, is a paradox too far.

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The Sunday review: Education, education, education: reforming England’s schools by Andrew Adonis

16/09/2012, 07:00:06 AM

by Anthony Painter

There are many peculiarities in our politics. Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of current political debates centres on education policy. The Conservatives, relying on a single international and heavily caveated measure of relative educational performance, seek to discredit Labour’s period in office. Simultaneously, they have basically adopted Labour’s approach to structural reform of secondary education. Academies and their close relative, free schools, university technical colleges (UTCs), studio schools, the Teach First initiative, are all initiatives supported by or initiated by the Labour government. It’s too easy to forget.

At the same time, Labour is almost embarrassed to be associated with this reform programme. While it ums and ahs, Michael Gove will take full credit for the improvements the academy movement is likely to bring. Shy reformers lose their voice. So Labour’s interventions in the education debate are suddenly sotto voce. Andrew Adonis, the architect of these reforms, is looking to raise the volume once more.

In Education, education, education – part memoir, part “how to do reform” manual, part education reform history, part ministerial diary, part manifesto – Adonis reminds us that Labour consistently drove reform in office. The end point of these reforms is inevitably “an academised system.” Quite why Labour should resist is perplexing.

Adonis is generous – rightly so – to Conservative reformers of the system and Lord Baker in particular. City Technology Colleges were the precursor of the academy programme as was local management of achools. The introduction of the GCSE is also identified as a key educational reform, opening pathways for the majority. Lord Baker is now the driving force behind the UTC movement. At the same time, a number of Labour figures are given a less than rosy assessment. Tony Crosland who set out on a mission to “destroy every fucking grammar school in England” is served particularly poorly by subsequent developments. As “secondary modern comprehensives” – Adonis’s phrase – resulted from educational reforms on the 1960s and 1970s, so the majority were ill-served. Margaret Thatcher, of course, went along with all this in the early 1970s.

So both parties have their heroes and villains. Adonis is clear about wanting to take the politics out of education so this is perhaps not surprising. If there is a default setting then the left has a tendency to support the status quo and producer interest over innovation and the consumer – kids and parents. The right too often sees educational advancement in a social Darwinian fashion – useful only for a minority beyond a certain level. Yet, despite the noise surrounding the debate, reform has been consistent for two decades or more now. There seems to be a critical mass of reformism; a radical centre of educational improvement.

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Clegg summons all ministers to secret 8am by-election inquest tomorrow

13/01/2011, 01:51:49 PM

A leaked government meeting document passed to Uncut reveals that Nick Clegg is gathering his ministers into emergency session early tomorrow morning. None of them is in any doubt just how serious is the situation for the Liberal Democrats. If they win the Oldham by-election, they’ll need to use it to buy time with a bemused media and hostile electorate while they struggle to find a distinct identity. If they lose, Clegg will use the opportunity to bind his ministers close. He will need to project a united front as the Lib Dem grassroots react to the result.

As they munch breakfast in the comfort of the offices of “the institute of government”, Clegg will kick off a private session to discuss the “implications of Oldham”.

For a leader to gather his entire ministerial team to discuss the implications of a by-election result is without precedent. It simply does not happen. Though the spin doctors will downplay the significance, be in no doubt: Clegg understands how perilous his position will be if they do not win today.

Then the session will open up to civil servants and journalists who will help frame a discussion on “Making the coalition work as a partnership of equals”. When ministers have their constituency diaries cancelled in order to attend sessions with titles like this, you know they are in crisis. Über-mandarin, Jeremy Heywood, who has known a few crises in his time, will try and steady the troops with tales of his experience. Peter Riddell, of the Liberal Democrat-supporting Times of London, will attempt to steady the frayed nerves of tired ministers.

Former Labour ministers, who still believe in the progressive alliance, will attempt to pitch some positive alternatives for the junior partners in the Conservative-led government. Though Andrew Adonis has confirmed in today’s papers that he will not take an advisory role with the government, he still holds out hope of a progressive alliance between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. He will wrap up the session with Clegg.

Even hired-hand, John Hutton, will get in on the act. He is leading a session on the “review of public sector pensions and public sector reform”.

The Liberal Democrats lack a unique identity. Electors no longer get what they stand for. Think about it for a minute. Ask yourself the question “what does Nick Clegg stand for”? Tell me that your first answer wasn’t “lying about tuition fees”.

The opulence of Carlton Gardens might calm his lieutenants tomorrow, but Clegg’s crisis will not go away. His party no longer has a reason to exist. They’ve mopped up the toxins in the Conservative party and it has poisoned their own brand. No end of reassurance from old hands will take this elemental problem away.

If any lobby journalists would like a list of agenda items, please contact Uncut and we’ll send it over.

Tom Watson

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