Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

Ed Miliband’s position on immigration is incoherent and will hand Labour votes to Ukip

29/10/2014, 02:26:39 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Is Ed Miliband a Ukip sleeper agent?

At PMQs today, the Labour leader parroted Ukip’s lines on immigration at David Cameron: broken pledges to cut numbers, a system out of control, the need to be tougher; it was a miracle Miliband didn’t rehash talk of being swamped.

All the while, the Labour leader seemed blissfully unaware of the staggering, juddering, dissonant incoherence at the heart of the case he was bellowing, across the despatch box, at the prime minister.

Here are some basic facts: out of total net annual migration of 243,000 into the UK, 131,000 came from the European Union. That’s a significant chunk and represents a rise of almost 40% in the past year.

Europeans can come to the UK because freedom of movement across the EU’s member states is a central pillar of the union.

If Ed Miliband is going to make cutting immigration a centre-piece of Labour’s electoral offer, he will need to cut EU migration and that means either a change to freedom of movement or accept that Brexit is inevitable.

We can discount the former, because here’s what the new President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, had to say on the matter last week,

“We have a treaty. Freedom of movement since the Fifties is the basic principle of the European way of co-operating. These rules will not be changed.”

So presumably, Ed Miliband is about to announce that Labour is prepared to leave the EU?

Er, not so much. Here’s what the Labour leader had to say on British membership of the EU in March this year. (more…)

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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…)

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If the West is serious about defeating Isil, a deal with Assad is unavoidable

19/08/2014, 11:30:16 AM

by Atul Hatwal

I recall speaking to Syrian friend last summer about the impending parliamentary vote on military intervention.

He had been one of his country’s leading surgeons, and a classical musician, appearing regularly on national TV. Until his dissent against President Assad had become a little too public. Imprisonment and torture by Assad’s secret police were followed by a lucky escape, both from Assad’s jail and a country degenerating into civil war, to seek asylum in Britain.

I’d expected him to be supportive of action against the regime. After all, it had taken everything from him and his family.

But all I found was despondency and, on balance, opposition to military action.

By this time last year, the primary threat to Syria was no longer President Assad. It was the rise of the Islamist militias and the collapse of secular centre in the opposition. We could bomb Assad. We could send him a bouquet of flowers. Both would have been equally relevant to the suffering of the Syrian people.

In summer 2013, the reality of life in Syria was that it was more dangerous to live in territory controlled by the Islamist militias than Assad.

The discussion that my friend saw unfolding in this country was facile and pointless. The knee-jerk opposition of much of the left to any intervention that involved the Americans – who, by coincidence are also the only country that can mount any meaningful humanitarian or military intervention – was borderline offensive.

Yet the position of the interventionists, although motivated by good intentions, was barely better informed.

Targeting President Assad’s military infrastructure with some limited bombing might have made the hawks in London and Washington feel happier, but it wouldn’t have helped Syrians living under Isil, the Al Nusra Front, the Syrian Islamic Front or any one of the other dozen or so, hardcore jihadi groups.

And if this potential action had materially degraded the Syrian regime’s military capability, the threat of advances by the Islamist militias would have been all the greater.

(more…)

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The legacy of Gaza will be a one state solution, with all that entails

05/08/2014, 05:36:17 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The carnage has ceased for the moment in Gaza. The guns are silent. We’ve been here before: the anguish on both sides, the depths of bitterness and the certainty that at some point in the next few years, we’ll be here again.

However, while it has been a visceral and traumatic few weeks, in terms of the underlying politics, Gaza has not fundamentally changed the situation in Israel and the occupied territories. Rather, it has accelerated existing trends and entrenched current positions.

The Israeli public, which has consistently voted for governing coalitions that cannot deliver a two state solution, will be even less likely to countenance the compromises needed. The pain of tens of thousands of settlers being forcibly removed by the Israeli army, in the West Bank, is now inconceivable. No coalition could deliver it, even if somehow enough politicians could be persuaded, because the public do not want it.

The Palestinians will be equally hostile to compromise. The concessions needed to rebuild any confidence within Israel that the first acts of new Palestinian state would not involve more tunnels, rockets and terror, will not be forthcoming from any Palestinian government that wants to hold onto any legitimacy in the eyes of its people.

Gaza has finally killed the two state solution. There can and will only be one state, which raises an existential question for Israel. One for which military superiority alone cannot provide a ready answer: what will be this state’s nature?

Currently in Israel and the occupied territories, there are roughly 12.5m people, just over half are Jewish Israelis, just under half either Arab Israelis or Palestinian.

At the moment, while the vague hope for a two state deal nominally flickers on, the Palestinian population of the occupied territories are not considered part of Israel.

(more…)

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It’s “not flash, just Gordon” redux. And is likely to be even less successful.

25/07/2014, 01:47:16 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s been said that he is the son of Brown and today Ed Miliband made a quintessential Brownite move.

His speech on leadership could have been lifted wholesale from Gordon Brown’s back catalogue. In fact, if it wasn’t quite lifted, it was almost certainly written by some of the same hands that crafted Gordon Brown’s attempt to address his image problem.

Back in 2007, Gordon Brown was struggling against a telegenic Conservative leader. Plus ça change. Brown seemed awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin. The response? “Not flash, just Gordon.” Saatchi & Saatchi designed the poster below and the message was clear: substance over style.

Not flash just Gordon

To bolster Gordon’s credentials as a serious but normal kind of guy, his wife was deployed for media opportunities.  A Mirror headline trumpeted in 2008 that she was to be Labour’s “secret weapon.”

Sound familiar?

Fast forward to today and its Ed’s turn to be self-deprecating about his media talents and attack and the emphasis on “photo-opp politics” in contrast to his own sincerity and conviction. And here’s the Huff Post headline for the Justine Thornton interview from 3 days ago, “Could Ed’s wife turn out to be his secret weapon?”

We’ve been here before and we know how this story ends. In fact, its likely to go even less well for Ed than it did for Gordon, for three reasons.

First, Brown was prime minister. Whatever the shortcomings of the politician, the office bestows authority and Gordon Brown’s experience at the top of British politics meant he did have a certain gravitas. The most successful line his team used in this campaign was “no time for a novice.” Not something Ed Miliband can say.

Second, Twitter was not a factor before the last election. It is now. As Ed Miliband delivered his speech, my timeline filled up with his photo-opps, from the 7,000 mile round trip for a photo with president Obama, to this absolute peach from the pasty tax campaign (h/t James Manning),

Photo opp

(more…)

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Cameron’s reshuffle reshapes the battlefield to exploit Labour weaknesses

16/07/2014, 01:18:15 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Forget the breathless minutiae of who’s up and who’s down or biographies of the newly promoted, most analyses of the Tory reshuffle have missed the most important point: this was a reshuffle defined by Labour. Labour’s lines of attack and Labour’s vulnerabilities.

Ed Miliband was the silent witness, standing in the corner, at the back of David Cameron’s mind as the prime minister worked out his new ministerial jigsaw.

In each of the three major changes David Cameron announced – the promotion of women, the demotion of Gove and the installation of Phillip Hammond at FCO –  the same motivation is evident:  to reshape the battlefield with Labour. To make the Tories a smaller target, minimise the potential for distracting internal conflict and focus the national debate on the two areas where David Cameron is confident he has the beating of Ed Miliband: leadership and the economy.

It is debateable whether Labour’s repeated attacks on Cameron for sexism have won over many wavering voters, but they certainly had media resonance and diverted the political conversation away from the Conservatives preferred topics.

Ta Dah! David Cameron now has a defensible position on women’s representation. Labour will continue with its attacks, as was evident at PMQs today, but the traction is gone. Broadcast journalists are notably less opinionated than their newspaper comrades, but these tweets by ITV’s Chris Ship are indicative of the mood among the lobby.


(more…)

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The Labour leadership’s reaction to Thursday’s strike action is incoherent

08/07/2014, 10:14:26 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Can you hear it? Those creaks and squeaks disrupting the heavy, doleful silence. That’s the sound of people squirming,  uncomfortably in their chairs. And its emanating from the upper echelons of the Labour party.

The cause is what’s happening on Thursday: industrial action on a scale rarely seen. Heallth workers, teachers, local government employees, fire fighters, university staff, civil servants and rail workers are among the groups that will strike.

Their reasons are understandable: real terms pay cuts, deteriorating pensions provision and redundancies. If the unions didn’t strike in these circumstances, there really would be little point to them. They are accountable to their members and their members are mad as hell.

What is less understandable is the reaction of the Labour leadership. There seems to be no collective line to take.

Tristram Hunt was on Marr on Sunday giving his particular rendition of the Sound of Silence. He neither opposed nor supported the teachers’ strike action, casting himself as a rather odd, impotent observer of events. Certainly for someone who aspires to be the secretary of state for education.

Then there was Owen Smith yesterday on the Daily Politics, initially trying to stick to the no-line-to-take-line-to-take but finding himself compelled, by the pressure of his own logic, to back the strikes as the interview unfolded.

In the 44 press releases issued by the Labour party over the past week, not one has addressed Thursday’s action and given an official Labour line.

(more…)

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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.

(more…)

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How Labour is losing the battle for media relevance

26/06/2014, 07:00:08 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Last week Ed Miliband, gave a major policy speech at the IPPR. One of the biggest of his leadership. The Labour party mounted a significant press operation around it: there was the mandatory trail to the Guardian the previous night, lots of morning chatter on Twitter among Milibelievers about what a big deal this all was with shadow ministers deployed to comment immediately following the speech.

But within two hours of Ed Miliband finishing his Q&A, the story was elsewhere. Rather than discuss the deeper policy or electoral ramifications of the intervention, the media’s attention was captivated by something else entirely: owls.

The Labour party’s twitter account was hacked with this tweet going out.

Owl Tweet

The rest is history. An analysis completed for Uncut by Twitter analytics experts, of tweets by the Westminster media (lobby, press gallery, columnists, political reporters and bloggers) illustrates the extent to which this one rogue tweet overshadowed the big Miliband speech.

From the point Ed Miliband stopped talking, to the end of the day, there were over double the number of media tweets about owls compared to Ed Miliband’s IPPR speech.

Owls vs Ed

By the early evening, loyalist MPs were having to use the owls meme to crowbar Ed Miliband’s speech back into the Westminster conversation.

(more…)

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We’ve been here before on welfare reform. Now the backlash is coming, will Labour hold the line?

19/06/2014, 01:07:25 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The much quoted definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Today, the Labour party is testing this proposition.

For the third time in seven months, Labour is attempting to re-position itself on welfare. For the third time in seven months the pre-briefing before a welfare reform speech has been about “toughness,” how Labour will cut benefits for young people and respond to public concerns on welfare spending.

We’ve been here before.

As a taster for what’s likely to come, this is what happened the first time Labour went down this road, back in November last year. James Kirkup at the Telegraph wrote a story on potential Labour cuts to benefits for under 25s if they were not in training or ‘intensively’ looking for work, based on an IPPR report and a briefing from the party. 

The backlash from the party forced an immediate denial, with Rachel Reeves tweeting “This is not and will not be our policy” “it’s not our plan” and “it is totally not my position!” Cue much relief,

These weren’t the reactions of random activists, Matthew Pennycook is the PPC in Nick Raynsford’s seat and will be an MP in 2015, Gemma Tummelty works for Ed Miliband and Mark Ferguson edits Labour List.

Take two. In January this year, Tom Newton Dunn at the Sun wrote a similar story about removing benefits for the young unemployed, which was, once again, based on another IPPR report and a briefing from the party. Cue a repeated denial from Rachel Reeves and more relief,      (more…)

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