Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

Polls: Labour’s surging. Non-London doorstep: It’s a “nuclear winter for Labour.” Party braces for worst

05/06/2017, 10:51:57 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Just over two weeks ago I posted a projection of huge losses for Labour – over 90 seats – based on dozens of conversations with activists, candidates and officials who cumulatively had sight of tens of thousands of canvass returns.

Since then, I’ve continued those conversations as Labour has apparently surged in the polls.

The result is a marked improvement in London but precious little to cheer about outside the capital.

The last few weeks have seen a strong rise in Labour promises in key seats across London, although constituencies such as Dagenham and Eltham remain very difficult.

But in the West Midlands, Yorkshire, North West and the North East, any improvement has been nugatory.

One campaigner from London who spent time in the North East last week described it as a “nuclear winter for Labour.”

The doorstep returns outside of London are saying that Labour is still running substantially below its 2015 vote, that Ukip votes are transferring in huge numbers to the Tories with losses in prospect of the mid-60s to mid-90s and a lingering possibility that the situation could be even worse come Thursday.

What on earth is happening? Are the doorstep results wrong? Or is it the polls?

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Muscular centrism is needed after Manchester

24/05/2017, 09:40:42 PM

By Atul Hatwal

Manchester isn’t the first and is unlikely to be the last. As the shock slowly subsides, action is needed, but not of the kind yapped out in the hot takes of some on the left and right.

On the left, there are too many whose efforts to explain, blur into a case to excuse.

Talk of the iniquities of the Prevent strategy, marginalisation of Muslim communities and British foreign policy, is irrelevant.

Just as it is irrelevant to talk about poverty or cultural anxiety when explaining the radicalisation of Thomas Mair, the man who killed Jo Cox last year.

There is no explanatory leap that connects life in Britain today to ideologies such as Islamism or Nazism.

Inflicting terror on innocents is always an unacceptable means to an end, but sometimes it is used in the service of a cause which can be understood, if not agreed with.

The IRA, PLO, ETA and Irgun would all fall into this broad category. The presence of justice in the cause is an essential prerequisite for a route to eventual peace  – it is the underpinning for a rational discourse between opponents.

But Islamism, like Nazism, advocates slaughter of the impure as an intrinsic part of the cause.

There can be no understanding or engagement with this.

No wittering about context is required. We don’t need a sociology debate. This is a matter of winning or losing.

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New poll analysis: Watson, Skinner and Flint facing defeat. Cooper, Miliband, Reeves and Rayner on the edge

20/05/2017, 11:11:11 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour is facing a parliamentary wipeout on June 8th. The defeat will be greater than 1983 with the leading figures such as Tom Watson, Dennis Skinner and Caroline Flint facing defeat while many others, including Yvette Cooper, Ed Miliband and Angela Rayner, are teetering on the brink.

Currently Labour is set to lose just over 90 seats but a relatively small deterioration of the party’s position on the ground could see dozens more fall.

These are the findings of new analysis by Uncut based on the views of dozens of Labour candidates, party officials and activists following the past three weeks of intensive canvassing.

In this time, thousands of Labour members and supporters have knocked on tens of thousands of doors in constituencies across the country. While social media is a place where hackneyed tropes about a “great reception on the #Labourdoorstep,” are trotted out, in reality Labour’s army of canvassers has been gathering huge amounts of intelligence and feeding it back through the party’s operation.

Uncut has focused on two questions in conversations with Labour campaigners to understand the situation on the ground:

  1. What is the scale of switching from Ukip to the Tories? This issue has been highlighted widely in the media and is evident in the Tories rising poll rating and Ukip’s symmetrical slump.
  2. What is the drop-off in 2015 Labour vote? Every area is reporting the Corbyn effect on the door with Labour voters refusing to back the party, but this hasn’t been clearly captured in the public polling.

For both questions, the estimated shift has been quantified at a regional level based on feedback from campaigners and applied to the 2015 vote share for each constituency in that region. In line with feedback from across the country, the Lib Dems and Greens are assumed to be on track to repeat their 2015 performance.

The results are not pretty.

While the national polls suggest Labour’s vote is holding up, potentially even advancing on 2015, in the constituencies that matter, something very different seems to be happening.

A net loss of 91 seats would be devastating.

The two factor model on which these findings are based for England and Wales is rudimentary and mechanical (agricultural even). But then, so is what is happening to the Labour party.

The combination of Ukip voters turning to the Tories with Jeremy Corbyn’s impact on 2015 Labour voters has created a perfect storm.

Scotland is an anomaly. North of the border an entirely different election is being conducted. One where the defining issue is the union and if Labour can position itself as a vehicle for unionists, there are grounds for optimism that some small but significant gains can be achieved.

The situation is very bleak (the detailed seat by seat breakdown is below) but there is still action that Labour can take to limit the damage.

One of the salutary lessons of the 2015 election was the futile manner in which Labour diverted significant resources to seats where there was barely a glimmer of hope of victory. If the effort and organisation that went into the quixotic hope of defeating Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam had been directed a few miles away towards protecting Ed Balls in Morley and Outwood, he might still be an MP.

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It sounds counter-intuitive, but better for Labour’s survival to lose seats to the Tories than the Lib Dems or Ukip

09/05/2017, 10:26:26 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The future seems bleak for Labour. Catastrophic local election results, Mayoral losses in heartlands like the Tees Valley and West Midlands and a general election wipeout in prospect. It’s hard to think how things could be worse.

But they could.

There are three ways to lose: on points, knocked-out and retired from the ring.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, the last of those three options has been a real possibility. A defeat so total and damaging that it will be lethal to Labour’s chances of ever returning to power.

A beating of this scale would involve the long term fracturing of Labour’s coalition of voters with a mushrooming of Ukip representatives in the North and Midlands and losses to the Lib Dems in parts of London, the South West and university towns

This is the road to retirement.

Both of these parties thrive as vehicles of protest against the status quo, whether the metropolitan elite or establishment elite or both.

Labour campaigners have years of experience of how difficult it is to dig out Lib Dems once they have taken root locally. A combination of effective organisation and the ability to always promise that grass is greener, made them political knotweed (that’s not a criticism).

It’s no coincidence that Lib Dems were only removed from places like Bermondsey and Southwark, islands of orange in Labour territory, after the Lib Dems threw their lot in with the Tories, entered government and had to defend government policies.

Ukip’s strategy has been explicitly based on the traditional Lib Dem approach and after the Lib Dem’s 2015 electoral experience, Tim Farron has taken them back to basics in their local campaigns.

If Labour’s collapse in the local and Mayoral elections had been synonymous with Ukip and Lib Dem gains, it would have been a portent of an extinction level political event on June 8th.

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Theresa May’s dead EU cat shows the fragility of her campaign and paucity of political judgement

03/05/2017, 06:04:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The question is why? Why would Theresa May make that speech on the EU in this election? She’s already guaranteed a huge majority. Reports from all parties make it abundantly clear that the number one doorstep issue for switchers is Jeremy Corbyn.

She also knows that this speech will have a long term impact.

In France, Emmanuel Macron, most likely victor in this week’s second round is sure to be asked about it and will harden his line on Brexit. Merkel, approaching her own campaign, will do similar.

The Tory right will use May’s words to  make any backsliding towards the perfidy of compromise for an interim deal that much harder.

The chances of a Brexit disaster on Theresa May’s watch, in the next two years, just leapt exponentially.

So why do it?

A big part of the reason is that her team have been bounced: criticism of the Tories’ lack of policy, her own sheltered campaign which has studiously avoided contact with the public and the robotic repetition of the same lines, has clearly had an impact.

It’s hard to fill an election grid when the only policy commitment is to not make a commitment, journalists are getting restive and bored of anodyne events and the principal lacks the basic retail skill to deliver her core message without sounding like a ZX Spectrum speech program from the 1980s.

This is why Theresa May has thrown a dead EU cat onto the general election table.

Now, the next 48 hours will all be about May versus Brussels.

A great short term media win for the election campaign, disastrous for the premiership that follows.

That Theresa May would sacrifice her own prospects in office for this transitory triumph when facing Jeremy Corbyn says it all about the fragility of her campaign and her underlying lack of political judgement.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Election 1997 20th anniversary: “Who the hell is Claire Curtis-Tansley?”

01/05/2017, 10:50:22 AM

In a series of pieces, Uncut writers look back at election day 1997. Atul Hatwal was a press officer at Millbank HQ and gives a personal take on the day.

By May 1st, party HQ at Millbank tower was almost empty. Most staff had been shipped out to key seats to knock doors in the last week.

The press desk was silent. The morning dragged by with a couple of international press  queries on timings but other than that I wiled away the time looking out of the window at the glorious blue sky and ringing people I knew in committee rooms in various key seats, bothering them for updates on whether the vote was coming out.

This wasn’t official business mind, just curiosity and something to do.

These were the days when pagers were modern and the internet was still called the information super-highway. The equivalent of Twitter was sitting, staring at Lotus notes (that’s what we had rather than Outlook) on a desktop screen, waiting for an e-mail to appear.

I was rostered to work the morning through to late afternoon; then some time-off before coming in for the evening shift at eight, on duty for results and at the party through to the morning.

The time-off wasn’t really time-off though – all staff working these sorts of shifts were expected to spend their downtime knocking up in a key seat.

Earlier in the week the whole key seat operation had been refocused with canvassers moved out to an entirely new list of seats with much higher Tory majorities.

At the time the decision was announced I had committed a minor heresy.

I asked one of the key seats team why we were shifting at such a late stage? What did we hope to achieve with 4 days of canvassing in seats that hadn’t been touched in years.

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The cult of Ed Balls tells you everything you need to know about the hole that Labour moderates are in

29/04/2017, 09:45:09 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Nothing is more revealing of the emotional and political lacuna at the heart of the non-Corbyn Labour party than the veneration of Ed Balls.

It’s not just Ed Balls day. On its own that’s transitory Twitter fluff. More problematic is the way he’s viewed by so many moderates as this huge Labour presence. A lost sage, sprinkled with sparkly Strictly stardust.

His interventions are treated by MPs, former advisers, journalists and swathes of the Labour Twitterati as if he some extraordinary combination of Attlee and the Fonz. You can almost hear the giggling in the tweets gushing over him.

Labour’s problems with Jeremy Corbyn are well documented but less aired is the dire state of the alternative. In Michael Dugher’s valedictory interview with the New Statesman, explaining his reasons for standing down as an MP he said it was, “no good moderates blaming Corbyn. Labour members were lured to Corbyn out of desperation. What we offered didn’t inspire, it wasn’t radical, it was more of the same.”

Dugher is right and his long-time friend, Ed Balls, is a case study why moderates failed.

Balls was a very good economic adviser to Gordon Brown, an average performer in parliament on a good day (sometimes, as with his response to the Autumn Statement in 2014, he was atrocious), patchy on broadcast and an absolutely dreadful political strategist.

When he became shadow chancellor in early 2011, he set a benchmark for success as getting ahead of the Tories on the economy. Labour went into the 2015 election almost twenty points behind. That’s his responsibility.

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More signs Corbyn’s cabal has abandoned Labour’s key seats and is focused on the next leadership contest

24/04/2017, 09:15:51 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The starting pistol for the election has been fired but when it comes to candidate selection, Labour has been left on the blocks.

According to Labour’s selection timetable, Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in seats where the MP has stood down, are being chosen by the NEC between Sunday 23rd April and Friday 28th April and in seats without Labour MPs, between Sunday April 30th and Tuesday May 2nd. Sitting MPs have been automatically reselected.

Think about those dates for a moment.

Six days to pick 14 candidates in seats Labour already holds where the MP is retiring, three days to pick 416 candidates, out of which just under 100 are the key seats needed to win a majority.

Actions speak louder than words and the focus on seats where MPs are standing down tells us two things.

First, the party has written-off anything not already held.

Candidates in seats needed to form a Labour government are likely to be two weeks behind their incumbent Tory opponents, at the stage they are confirmed after the May bank holiday.

Labour officials suggest that based on past election experience, sitting Tory MPs will be on their third or fourth leaflet to voters by the time Labour has candidates in place.

Given the snap nature of the election, where the sole opportunity to introduce the Labour candidate to electors is the eight week window starting from Theresa May’s announcement, this is a major handicap.

There are doubts whether Labour’s candidates will even be able to make the first of the two free election mailings – that’s how late our selection process runs.

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Labour’s general election campaign will be dominated by the battle to succeed Corbyn

18/04/2017, 06:53:07 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The shock of the election announcement is already subsiding. The grim reality is clear.

A common expectation across the PLP is that Labour will lose 70 to 80 seats, reducing Labour’s Westminster representation from 231 (232 including Simon Danczuk) to around 150, its lowest level since 1931.

Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be prime minister. He’s not going to be Labour leader by close of business on June 9th.

The primary purpose of the general election campaign, for a doomed Labour party, will be as a prologue to the leadership election that is now inevitable over summer – the third year running that Labour has voted on its leader.

Brexit will define everything.

During the general election campaign, Labour’s frailties on Brexit will be brutally exposed.

Keir Starmer might have set some tests for what constitute acceptable terms for Brexit but Labour’s current position is that the party would not vote against the final deal, regardless of whether the tests have been met or not.

This position will fall apart over the coming weeks.

It’s inconceivable that Labour spokespeople can make a case that Theresa May is pushing for a hard Brexit that would wreck the lives of Britons while saying in the same breath that the party would not oppose such a deal in the final vote.

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Nicola Sturgeon has gambled with her move for independence. It’s not such a bad bet

14/03/2017, 03:39:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There are three stages to processing the news that we seem to be heading for a sequel to the Scottish independence referendum.

Stage one: why the shock.

What is surprising about a Scottish nationalist politician calling for independence from the rest of the UK? Surely, the clue is in Nicola Sturgeon’s party title.

Brexit offers a justifiable opening to ask the question which was meant to have been answered for a generation. The fundamental circumstances of Britain’s position have changed and the post-2014 settlement was predicated on a United Kingdom in Europe.

Stage two: Sturgeon has miscalculated.

But once the campaign begins, the same economic pressures will be brought to bear again on the electorate. Set aside for a moment the ludicrous hypocrisy of a Tory Brexiteer government running a facsimile of the Remain campaign’s economic arguments about leaving a union, the threat that will be articulated is not only real but potentially greater than in 2014.

Many will talk about the importance of identity and nationalism but that doesn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table.

There was a reason the SNP lost in 2014 by 10%: the economy, stupid.

Stage three: hang on, what if the UK is about to crash out of the EU without a deal?

The kicker for unionists comes courtesy of the Tory government’s approach to Brexit.

At the weekend, Boris Johnson was on our screens giving his considered view as Foreign Secretary that exiting the EU without a deal would be just fine.

If, and it’s a big if, the SNP could promise some form of ongoing EU membership while the rest of the UK wilfully stepped off the trade cliff, babbling about empire, the nineteenth century buccaneer spirit and British pluck, which outcome would represent the greatest economic danger for Scotland: independence or remaining in the UK?

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