Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

Team Brexit’s political misjudgements have turned a campaign drama into an existential crisis for their cause

26/05/2016, 07:00:53 PM

In a three part series Atul Hatwal looks at the state of the two EU referendum campaigns and the likely winners and losers from the vote. For his second post, he reviews the performance of the Brexiteers.

Few would describe the Labour party as a model of electoral success in recent years.

But the two-headed Brexit team of Leave.EU and Vote Leave have contrived to ape Labour’s biggest mistakes over the past six years, combining the worst of Corbyn and Miliband to create a Frankenstein campaign that frequently defies belief.

The Faragists of Leave.EU are the Corbynistas of this campaign.

For Farage its immigration, for Corbyn its austerity, either way their mode of monomania is the same.

Britain’s electoral experience and current polling suggests that the economy matters most to voters.

But the Faragists don’t care about evidence.

Their faith-based approach to argument ignores the niceties of engaging with swing voters’ priorities in favour of shouting the same thing about their pet issue, EU migrants, over and over again, more and more loudly.

The stock response to set-backs or public rejection is to retreat into a nether-sphere of conspiracy theories about media bias, skewed polls and conniving, establishment lizard overlords.

The louder the Faragist tendency shouts, the more the anti-EU cause is seen by mainstream voters as a fringe concern propagated by advocates nearer David Icke than David Cameron on the credibility spectrum.

About the only thing that can be said in defence of the Faragists and Corbynistas, is that their position is at least constant.

In contrast, the Vote Leave campaign, who were meant to be the Brexit adults in the room, seem to have taken Ed Miliband as their model.

Like Miliband, they understood that banging on endlessly about what animates activists is not a route to victory.

They saw the importance of swing voters.

But like Miliband, they haven’t been able to bring themselves to act on voters’ concerns.

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It’s unfashionable to say this but the Remain campaign is doing a bloody good job

22/05/2016, 09:50:05 PM

In a three part series Atul Hatwal looks at the state of the two EU referendum campaigns and the likely winners and losers from the vote. First up, the Remain campaign.

At the start of the year, the Remain campaign had one job: to make Brexit more scary than Bremain.

It’s a job that they’ve done bloody well.

The brief for this campaign never included a requirement to persuade people of the imminent arrival of a new, fully reformed EU utopia.

Neither did it involve turning around years of frustration about the bureaucratic exigencies of the EU.

Who even thought that would be possible in a campaign of a few months?

But to read the drumbeat of criticism of the In campaign from pro-Europeans (Hugo Dixon, Natalie Nougayrède, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond and Charlie Cooper to name but a few) is to be trapped in the impossibilist dream of enthusiasts who do not understand their fellow Briton.

These are the people who measure success by the volume of cheers in the hall not the weight of votes outside.

For this category of commentator and politician, Scotland is independent, Ed Miliband is prime minister and this is what a good football manager looks like.

They frequently use that word which presaged defeat for the Scottish pro-independence camp and Labour last year: passion.

Talk is of turnout and their silver bullet, the enthusiasm gap.

Paradoxically it is the utter commitment of the enthusiasts which is their critical flaw.

It robs advocates of empathy, the keystone of any campaign.

Hobby-horse arguments, shrilly pitched dissolve into the irrelevant drone of a Euro-anorak.

In contrast, the Remain campaign has understood the two essential truths of this and any election.

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Goldsmith’s campaign was a disgrace but not for the reason many in Labour think

08/05/2016, 11:59:38 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Zac Goldsmith’s campaign was a disgrace. But not for the reason many in Labour think and the party is about to learn the wrong lesson as a result.

The consensus is that Goldsmith’s attacks on Khan’s links to extremists and innuendos about his radicalism – a barely coded insinuation about Labour’s candidate being an Islamist – backfired.

Londoners resiled from the evident racism and prejudice

That much is true.

However, there is a distinction between the principle and practice of Goldsmith’s campaign strategy.

Several within Labour are busily convincing themselves that the principle of raising Khan’s connections to unsavoury characters was itself an inflammatory act (just a few examples here, here and here.)

Wrong.

It is legitimate to hold a Mayoral candidate accountable for their connections. As a voter, I would want to know if Zac Goldsmith was linked in any way with fascists and far right agitators.

A Labour campaign that publicised these links would only be doing its job.

The work of all the main parties to expose the racists, reactionaries and fantasists that populate Ukip’s ranks has been a public service.

Voters need to know who is asking for their mandate.

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Moderates must wait to challenge Corbyn

06/05/2016, 12:55:59 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Friday 6th May  2016 could be the date that Labour’s slow awakening began.

For moderates, the electoral consequences of Jeremy Corbyn have  always been obvious. This dreadful set of election results is confirmation of the expected.

But it doesn’t matter how angry moderates are at the loss of English council seats, the reverses in Wales or the devastation in Scotland. Corbyn, or a hard left alternative, can only be beaten in a vote of the membership and supporters.

What matters most is how Labour’s internal swing vote, the soft left, react to the results.

At last year’s leadership election, their position could be characterised as apathy at a return to Brownite grind with Yvette; outright opposition to the late-Blair confrontation proffered by Liz and scepticism at Andy Burnham’s all too effective impression of Ed Miliband’s muddled equivocation.

In the absence of an alternative, Labour’s largest grouping voted for the only choice not to have failed them in the past twenty years – Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left dreaming.

It’s quite a shift to go from there to defenestrating Corbyn, eight months later.

Until now the soft left stance has largely been to give Jeremy Corbyn the benefit of the doubt.

“Sour grapes” is a phrase I’ve heard frequently used to describe the moderate response to the leader. The narrative about “Bitterites” and internal division undermining Labour’s message has gained some traction.

But given the paucity of Labour’s performance, to blame everything on the enemy within, a phantom army of Blairites, simply isn’t credible.

The Conservative party has been in a state of open civil war over the EU referendum but they still performed amazingly strongly for a government that is in it’s sixth year.

Up and down the country, local Labour parties have seen months of doorstep effort count for nothing when the votes have been tallied.

If the best that Jeremy Corbyn can say about these results is that “Labour hung on,” questions will start to be asked by those who have been supportive if not convinced.

For the first time under in Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as leader, moderates have permission to speak within Labour’s grassroots debate.

To paraphrase Churchill, in the moderates’ battle for the party, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Ed Miliband knew Livingstone was an anti-Semitic conspiracy nutter FOUR YEARS ago but STILL backed him for London Mayor

01/05/2016, 09:21:31 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Revelations on Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitic views might have led the news in recent days, but Ed Miliband was fully aware of them in 2012.

Despite this, he still gave Livingstone his full backing at the last London Mayoral election.

The evidence that Labour’s leadership understood the detail of Livingstone’s opinions came yesterday in two devastating tweets from Miliband’s top spinner and consigliere, Tom Baldwin.

The purpose behind Tom Baldwin’s tweets was to highlight the anti-racist bona fides of his old boss but inadvertently he made the classic PR’s mistake: to confuse presentation and substance.

Before the 2012 Mayoral election, when Ed Miliband was on the stump for Livingstone, he knew exactly what Livingstone thought about Hitler, Zionism and the Jewish people.

He knew enough to force Livingstone to excise the relevant passages from his memoirs but did not feel sufficiently strongly to take action against the candidate for the substance of his anti-Semitic views.

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The inside story of why Corbyn forgot to mention IDS when responding to THAT Cameron statement

07/04/2016, 10:31:00 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Wondering how things could possibly get worse for Labour? Ponder no more. Here’s a mess involving Damian McBride, Jeremy Corbyn, splits in the leader’s office and quiet preparations for a move from the left to replace Corbyn.

Uncut has learned that Damian McBride is back, secretly working for the Labour leader.

Although he is nominally employed by Emily Thornberry as a political adviser covering the defence brief, a significant part of his work has been for the leader’s office, writing briefings and speaking notes for the Labour leader.

Uncut understands that McBride was asked to prepare Jeremy Corbyn’s response to David Cameron’s EU statement before Easter – a statement that fell the day after Iain Duncan Smith’s explosive appearance on Marr where the former Cabinet minister excoriated the government for deepening division in the country.

By all accounts, Damian McBride prepared a robust and effective rejoinder for Labour’s leader with Iain Duncan Smith’s barbed words at the heart of the brief.

Jeremy Corbyn had the notes with him before he entered the chamber. He’d read them and his office expected him to use them.

But he didn’t.

Instead, Labour’s leader freelanced. He made his response up as he went along and the rest is history.

No mention of Iain Duncan Smith. Cameron off the hook. Ridicule, bafflement and defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

The episode is illustrative of the deepening dysfunction within Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle and his own increasingly uncomfortable position.

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Remain will win easily. Boris will be irrelevant and immigration will barely register in voters’ choice

23/02/2016, 12:47:38 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Last year, in the aftermath of the general election it looked like Westminster had learnt that the economy and leadership are central to determining the public’s voting intention at the big electoral tests.

Now we have an EU referendum looming and there’s been a bout of collective amnesia.

Yes, I know this is not a general election but the same formula of economy and leadership is relevant for largely the same reasons as last year.

Immigration is the issue that many Brexiteers think will tip the balance their way. But just as Ukip found last year, they’re misreading the polls.

There is a very familiar gap between the number who view immigration as the most important issue facing the country and those who view it as important to their household’s well-being.

At the general election, 51% thought immigration was the key issue facing Britain but only 21% believed it mattered most to their lives.

Unsurprisingly, immigration was not a major factor in the contest.

In the last poll to ask the relevant questions, by YouGov, from last September – following a summer of daily coverage of refugees travelling to Europe – the number citing immigration as the most important national issue was the highest on record at 71%. But the number who thought it most important for their family was 24% – a gap of 47%.

Think about that for a moment.

Even after a summer of non-stop reporting of fleeing refugees entering Europe, lurid stories from the Calais “jungle” and hyperbolic headlines, the proportion thinking that immigration mattered most for their lives rose by just 3% from 21% at the election to 24% at the start of September.

In comparison, in the same poll, the number saying the economy was the most important issue for their household was 40%. That’s 16% ahead of immigration.

In every single poll conducted by YouGov in the five and half years that they’ve been asking these questions, this gap has never been less than 16%.

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The sale of the ‘i’ tells us the Indy’s owners aren’t serious about its online future

15/02/2016, 08:00:58 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Grim news last week with the closure of the Independent. Yes, I know it’s going to be continuing online and there will be some sort of future but not one that’s recongnisable to any regular reader of the Indy.

The sale of the ‘i’ tells us all we need to know about what happens next.

The print run of the Independent was always going to end. Last year I wrote a piece predicting its likely print demise in 2016 (along with that of the Guardian, the FT and Star by 2020). The long term sales trends were and are painfully clear.

Dailies cease print 2020

However, contrary to the plan outlined by the Independent’s owners, scrapping the daily and Sunday newspaper needn’t have been the end of print for the Indy.

Keeping the “i” as a print outlet would have retained a physical presence for the brand and the lucrative print advertising revenue stream. The website could have been refocused, extending its long reads and deeper analysis along-side the inevitable clickbait and hourly reportage of whatever is trending on social media.

The combination of tabloid print with a website that had greater in-depth coverage would have been a genuinely interesting model, bringing together the strengths of both formats – print prestige, influence and revenue with mass online views and deeper pockets of analysis.

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The Tories are about to swiftboat Sadiq on terror. How he responds will determine the Mayoral result

27/01/2016, 10:16:23 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The conventional Westminster wisdom is that this is Labour’s year in London. Labour thrashed the Tories in the capital at last year’s general election by 44% to 35% and in a recent poll, Sadiq led Goldsmith by seven points.

However, the conventional wisdom is about to be tested.

In the next few weeks, the Tories are going to roll out their main attack on Sadiq Khan: terror.

Lynton Crosby is running Zac Goldsmith’s campaign and he is nothing if not politically obvious.

The Mayoralty is not a role where conventional attacks over economic issues will resonate.

The public, and Crosby, know that the Mayor cannot crash the economy so the Tory line on what Corbyn’s Labour would do to jobs, growth and taxes, will not be effective.

Neither is the Mayor going to make a profound difference to the state of London transport – no-one can wave a wand and create the extra tube lines or rail services that the capital desperately needs.

Identity and personality not policy will determine voters’ choice.

The Mayoralty is overwhelmingly a symbolic and representative role. Who sits in City Hall says something about how Londoners’ see themselves.

As the son of a migrant, from a working class family, who rose to run a high profile legal firm, Sadiq Khan’s biography is London’s story told best.

Sadiq has also moved deftly to buttress the independence of his brand by pitching himself against Jeremy Corbyn with a range of centrist, business-friendly positions.

He is doing all that’s required to pass the Mayoral threshold in an increasingly Labour city.

The Tories need a game-changer. Something that irrevocably redefines Sadiq in the eyes of Londoners and casts him as Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate.

Cue the impending attack over terror.

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The Beckett report reminds us of the utter uselessness of Labour’s establishment

20/01/2016, 10:25:50 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Beckett report is a woeful reminder of the paucity of insight that characterised Labour’s pre-Corbyn establishment.

Commissioned by Harriet Harman in her second stint as acting leader, with Margaret Beckett -the only MP to have served in every Labour government since Wilson’s in the 1970s – leading the drafting team, this report is steeped in the mores and perspectives of Labour’s old guard.

The resulting analysis manages to be both asinine and anodyne in equal measure

Meaningless blandishments that would be laughed at if written in a GCSE essay are proffered as pearls of wisdom. For example, on communications, this is Beckett’s recommendation,

“We need a comprehensive media strategy, which includes local, regional and national media, print, broadcasting and social media. “

Yes, really.

On Labour’s vision for the country, the report says,

“We must set out a vision for the country’s future, which shows both what we believe the country needs and what we will contribute to its achievement.”

Who would set out a vision based on what the country didn’t need and how Labour wouldn’t contribute to things getting better? Was the team writing this report ill?

Simultaneously, fundamental reasons for defeat such as Ed Miliband’s leadership are glossed over.

“Over the period 2010 – 15, what the polls did consistently show was that, when asked if ‘this man could be Prime Minister’, David Cameron was rated above Ed Miliband. Since he actually was Prime Minister, this response was perhaps less than surprising.

It is the fate of every Labour Leader of the Opposition to be the target of ferocious attack from partisan sections of our media. Tony Blair was called ‘Bambi’, and described as too young and inexperienced to be up to doing the job.”

This glib statement is tossed in without the salient qualification that Ed Miliband trailed David Cameron on preference for Prime Minister by double digits while Tony Blair led John Major by a similar margin.

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