Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

According to Westminster groupthink, Andy Burnham is favourite for leader. Yet again, it’s wrong

18/05/2015, 06:32:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The Westminster groupthink, which recently had Ed Miliband walking into Downing street, has a new favourite: Andy Burnham.

Labour MPs talking among themselves and to journalists, journalists talking to each other in Westminster bars and on the conveyor belt of rolling news comment slots, then bouncing off MPs and vocal activists on Twitter – this is the echo chamber that got the result of the general election so badly wrong and has now reconvened to similar effect for the Labour leadership race.

Andy Burnham certainly has support in the PLP, almost half by some accounts, and an active briefing operation shaping journalists’ perceptions. If the leadership election was to be decided among MPs, journalists and Twittervists, he justifiably would be a runaway favourite.

But party members are also involved. Over 220,000 of them. And they do not even vaguely resemble any of the participants in the Westminster groupthink bubble.

Instead, Labour’s members are like the general public.

According to internal party estimates, over 95% do not attend a single party meeting in a year, deliver a leaflet or knock a door. They are not consumed with the minutiae of politics or deeply tribal.

They’ve just made a choice to join Labour, as many people join clubs and societies without any sense that this membership defines their life.

Under Labour’s new leadership election rules, it’s one member one vote. With a membership that reflects the public, the same priorities which so recently decided the general election will similarly shape this race.

Economic competence and the preference for prime minister will be the key criteria against which contenders are to be judged and on both counts Andy Burnham’s candidature is critically flawed.

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Chuka the unready

15/05/2015, 01:49:34 PM

by Atul Hatwal

In politics, you’re either on the way up or headed down. Chuka, unfortunately, is headed down.

After the shock at his withdrawal and the sympathy at what politicians have to put up with in terms of intrusion, one view will linger: he has suspect judgement.

And that will blight him for the rest of his career.

If there is a scandal about to break, of sufficient scale to force him out of the running, the question will be why he ran at all?

If there is no scandal, then in a way, it will be worse. To have jumped in, and then out, within days hardly suggests decisive leadership.

Chuka has a point about the difference between expecting and experiencing greater scrutiny, but the job he was running for was not some minor office, ultimately it was to be the prime minister of Britain. It’s right that there should be scrutiny and lots of it.

Chuka’s team are briefing that he might seek the leadership again one day, but this is fanciful. Despite his many skills and his ability as a communicator, questions over his judgement will hang silently unanswered, over all that he does from now on.

Many things are forgivable in politics. Bad judgement is not one of them.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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The Labour party is responsible for this defeat. It’s our fault. Nobody else’s

10/05/2015, 10:57:47 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour lost the election for the same reason that parties always lose elections – mistrust on the economy and leadership.

Defeat turned to utter disaster though following a grossly inept campaign.

As parliament was dissolved at the end of March, for the start of the short campaign, it was clear that Labour was going to lose. Just as it was clear at the start of the year and has been so for a number of years.

For the entirety of the past five years, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls trailed David Cameron and George Osborne in terms of who the public trusted to best manage the economy. At the start of April the deficit was 25%.

Econ lead

And for the entirety of the past five years, Ed Miliband also trailed David Cameron on the public’s preference for prime minister. In April, the average deficit was 15%.

PM lead

Two numbers. 25% and 15%. These are the reasons that Labour was going to lose to the Tories, no matter what type of campaign the party ran.

These are also the reasons that Labour was always going to lose to the SNP in Scotland.

The SNP pitch was only possible because Labour was evidently weak and Nicola Sturgeon could portray her party as the best route to stopping the Tories.

If Labour had been comfortably ahead in England and held the confidence of Scottish voters on the economy and leadership, this would not have been possible.

In the cacophony of polls, statistics and data journalism, this is the signal. All else is noise.

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If Labour has a path to power tomorrow, it must only take it if a stable majority is possible

07/05/2015, 12:59:56 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The worst day in government is better than the best in opposition, or so the aphorism goes.

It’s true.

As Aussie cricketers (who know a thing or two about winning) say, you’ve got to back yourself otherwise what’s the point in playing the game?

But if Labour does find itself in a position to shape the next government, it needs to do so in the right way.

It needs to be clear-eyed about its priorities.

First and foremost, should be stopping the Tories implementing their plans.

If David Cameron remains prime minister and delivers on even one tenth of his barmy promises for spending cuts and unfunded tax cuts he will undo much of the generational improvement to public services achieved by the last Labour government.

Second, should be to form a stable, enduring government.

There is a difference between the two priorities and the first takes precedence over the second.

Nothing would be a greater guarantor of years of opposition than a brief, calamitous interlude in government. A short-lived, fractious Labour administration that falls would ultimately deliver a full-blooded Conservative government with all of the damage that entails.

If Labour has a path to government tomorrow, Ed Miliband needs to test whether he can construct an enduring government. If not, he’ll need to make a difficult choice.

In a scenario where the parliamentary arithmetic means Labour could form a government, the first call Ed Miliband makes should be to the leader of the Lib Dems, even if that’s Nick Clegg. It means setting aside partisan rancour in favour of forging a stable coalition.

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Nationalist thugs in Scotland will boost Scottish Labour’s vote

04/05/2015, 04:38:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Today, Jim Murphy showed why he is a strong leader. Unlike either David Cameron or Ed Miliband, he took his campaign to the streets to meet ordinary voters. It was the type of bold, smart politics that this election has lacked.

It was bold because rather than hiding away behind a lectern, at a ticketed event, protected by a ring of security, Jim Murphy had the courage to stand up and make his case at Glasgow’s St Enoch Square.

He knew that nationalist thugs would be there to shout him down. They always are. That they would try to deny his right to free speech and disrupt a peaceful political gathering.

But still he did it. Because democracy matters and speaking to voters, real people not the adoring activists bussed in for most political rallies, is the lifeblood of politics.

The intimidation and abuse that Jim Murphy experienced were a vivid demonstration of the dark side of Scottish nationalism.

And this is why it was smart, as well as brave, politics.

Media reports of this type of confrontation are more persuasive than any speech by a Scottish Labour politician on the dangers of an unchecked nationalist Raj in Scotland.

Not just for wavering Labour voters, but Tories and Lib Dems too, it shows how freedom of speech, the right to express a pro-union argument or even just a non-nationalist case, is under threat.

To resist the SNP surge, Labour needs the support of Tory and Lib Dem voters. In most Scottish seats, the Tories and Lib Dems don’t stand a chance. The choice is simple: Labour or the SNP. The pictures on today’s news make a powerful case for these voters to lend their votes to Labour to turn back the nationalist tide.

In the final days of this campaign, if Scottish Labour can clearly define itself as the pro-union party, the party that speaks for the 55% who rejected independence in the referendum last year, it can hang on to a swathe of Scottish seats that pollsters have written off.

Seats that the party desperately needs if Ed Miliband is to have any hope of making it into Downing street.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Revealed: Ed’s night-time dash to casa Brand driven by postal ballot panic

02/05/2015, 06:28:36 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Uncut has learned the real reason for Ed Miliband’s sudden night-time visit to Russell Brand’s Shoreditch home: panic caused by the early tallies of postal ballots being fed back to party HQ, from marginals around the country.

Labour is behind and urgently needs to reach out to new voter groups. Russell Brand was a means to that end.

Postal voting started in mid-April. Over 5 million are expected to cast their ballot in this way and over the last week, local teams from all parties have attended postal vote opening sessions in each constituency.

Although the parties are legally not allowed to tally votes at these events, they all do and the constituency teams then dutifully pass their field intelligence back to HQ.

These are not opinion polls results or canvass returns but actual votes, hundreds of thousands of votes, from across Britain. Numbers have been flowing from each marginal to party strategists to give the most accurate picture of the current state of play.

Labour insiders familiar with the latest figures have told Uncut that the picture for Labour in marginal seats, where it is fighting the Tories, is almost uniformly grim.

Seats that canvass returns had suggested were strong prospects for gains are much more finely balanced and those that were close are swinging heavily to the Tories.

The tartan scare is working with the fear of McLabour shifting large numbers of wavering Lib Dems and Ukippers into the Tory column.

National opinion polls and Lord Ashcroft’s last swathe of constituency polling have seemed to indicate a shift towards the Tories recently, but Labour insiders say the effect on the ground in marginals is much bigger than picked up in polls so far.

Labour has already squeezed the Greens as much as possible for votes, and is coming up short. Despite a superior get-out-the-vote operation primed and ready for next Thursday, Labour cannot bridge the gap by organisation alone.

With just a few days to go until the election, Labour desperately needs new voters.

This is why Ed Miliband suddenly changed his plans and went to Russell Brand’s home to be interviewed.

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The Tories’ tartan scare was made in America by Jim Messina

25/04/2015, 09:34:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The Tories’ tartan scare is the defining political gambit of this campaign.

Labour advisers see Lynton Crosby’s handiwork. But Crosby is not the only big name consultant, calling the shots in their campaign.

Sitting along-side Crosby, at the top table is Jim Messina, the man who masterminded President Obama’s re-election and will run Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President.

Crosby is a convenient lightning rod for Labour discontent but Messina has had a critical role in framing their strategy.

Unlike the absent David Axelrod, Labour’s own big US name hire, Messina has been a constant presence in the Tory campaign, in person and on the phone.

On Thursday he was in Conservative HQ finalising plans for the fortnight to polling day and giving the Tory campaign team a pep talk on the floor of the war room.

A sign of his status is that he operates outside of the strict media rules that govern all other consultants and advisers. Lynton Crosby’s code of omerta does not apply to Jim Messina who tweets freely about his activities.

The previous week he had been in London, reviewing the Tories’ field intelligence and focus group research on the effectiveness of the tartan scare message on their target voter groups – Ukip supporters and centrist and right-leaning Lib Dems. He even hit the phones to see the effectiveness of the messaging for himself.

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Labour’s kidding itself about this campaign. The Tories are winning the strategic battles

22/04/2015, 07:00:10 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour chiefs are happy with progress in the campaign so far. Most activists are upbeat. Even PLP pessimists have been given to moments of optimism.

But for all the pleasant mood music – from the poll averages which suggest Ed Miliband is within touching distance of victory to the parliamentary number-crunching which seems to offer manifold routes into Number 10 – Labour’s campaign strategists have misread their three biggest strategic challenges: how to deal with the Tories’ SNP scare, which voters to target with the ground operation and what retail offer to make.

Over the next fortnight, the impact of these mistakes will become clearer.

Most immediately, Labour has utterly failed to understand the Tories’ intent with their scaremongering over SNP support for a Labour government.

The view of Labour staffers has been that the Tories are principally trying to frighten Ukip voters back into the Tory fold. But that for every vote the Tories get back on their right flank the more they accentuate their negatives as the nasty party with wavering voters.

The Labour analysis is correct about appealing to kippers but wrong about the impact on swing voters, specifically English swing voters.

Labour’s more frantic recent statements, denouncing the Tory attacks as “smears” – a sure sign that a political party is becoming panicked and does not have a line to take – suggest that the impact of what’s happening has started to dawn on party strategists.

The Tories’ objective is to fuse the SNP and Labour in English voters’ minds.

This vision of McLabour as an unabashed, economically left-wing party that will prioritize Scotland’s interests over England not only scares ex-Tory Ukip voters into switching back, it resonates with right leaning and centrist Lib Dems not to mention the quarter of 2010 Labour voters who have since abandoned the party.

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This election needs a soapbox or an Irn Bru crate

18/04/2015, 11:47:04 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Paralysing fear has infected every aspect of the parties’ campaigns.

Strategists fear the voters, so they stage tightly controlled events, away from the truculent public. Junior staffers fear any slight mishap that might make the news, so even the most minor decision is dictated by a safety first doctrine.

And Ed Miliband and David Cameron fear everything and anything, otherwise they would not accept the counsel of caution from their advisers which shackles all that they do.

The result is an arid campaign, a dismal parade of media moments contrived for broadcasters that lack the incident and passion to galvanise anybody but the already committed.

A news vacuum is developing. The manifesto launches commanded attention earlier in the week, but now what?

The front pages are already drifting away from the election. Soon, as is always the way in politics, this lacuna will be filled with the grumbles of worried candidates and plotting leadership contenders, taking aim at their leaders.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For the party bosses running the party campaigns, there is an alternative.

1992, which has already provided much of the template for this contest, also offers a lesson in how to fill that vacuum without the need to scramble out new half-baked policy announcements dreamt up the night before or to escalate the ferocity of personal attacks to shock a path into the news.

Imagine if one or more of the party leaders took a leaf out of John Major’s book and didn’t just do managed Q&As with pre-vetted, politically emasculated supporters, but actually went out to meet the British public on the high street, in the shopping centre and at the market.

If they went to where the public are, rather than hiding in a hall ringed with security, put down a soapbox, stood on it and spoke to real voters.

Jim Murphy is Scottish leader in no small part because of his one man campaign across Scotland in the independence referendum, speaking to the Scottish public from atop his Irn Bru crate.

There were baying nationalist mobs, protesters, eggs, but also, fabulous pictures for print and broadcast, personal guts and raw emotion.

The plaudits from journalists or every persuasion – right, left, nationalist and unionist – after the clip below was shared were extraordinary. It’s hard not admire Jim Murphy’s passion, resilience and commitment.

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The smaller parties should be careful what they wish for. It always ends badly for the kingmaker

16/04/2015, 09:57:12 AM

by Atul Hatwal

We are approaching peak minnow for the campaign. Yesterday the Lib Dems and Ukip launched their manifestos and this evening there is the five-way debate featuring the smaller parties minus Nick Clegg but inexplicably with Ed Miliband guest starring at the front of the coconut shy as the designated representative of Westminster’s failed big party duopoly.

But as much fun as the SNP, the Greens, Plaid and Ukip will have beating up on Ed Miliband the smaller parties should be careful what they wish for.

They might be eyeing eventual roles as kingmakers or junior partners in government, but history has a harsh lesson: it always ends badly.

In peacetime, every time there has been a coalition, confidence and supply agreement or any type of deal for support in the last 100 years, it has been electoral poison for the minor party.

On three occasions there have been coalitions in the last century and one period of less formal support to sustain a government.

All involved the Liberals, with the SNP and Plaid Cymru also becoming mired in the mess of the 1970s Callaghan government.

The results speak for themselves.

Minor party fall

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