Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

David Cameron has made a massive mistake but Labour’s picked the wrong line of attack

24/03/2015, 08:50:59 AM

by Atul Hatwal

If the Conservatives win the next election, David Cameron has turned himself into a bystander in his next government.

By pre-announcing his resignation he’s dissolved his future authority with backbenchers, who will be more interested in winning the favour of the next leader, and shifted the media lens onto his potential successors. The question of when he will resign – because he surely won’t last a full term – will dog him each day and ultimately he will struggle for relevance. He’s condemned himself to a living political death.

In the wake of such an extraordinary unforced error, Labour’s chosen line of attack is that Cameron is taking the electorate for granted by assuming he will win the next election. It fits with Labour’s broader critique of him and in that sense is logical, but it’s also wrong.

Two of David Cameron’s greatest political assets are his double digit lead over Ed Miliband as the public’s preference for PM and the extent to which he personally outpolls his party.

David Cameron’s telegraphed resignation is the very antithesis of leadership; it’s the epitome of weakness and raises the likelihood that any one of a gaggle of unappealing Tories could be prime minister in the next Parliament. Suddenly, there might be some hope for Labour.

Instead of talking about arrogance, Labour should be recasting the leadership choice at this election as one between Ed Miliband and the dangerous unknown.

There are two aspects to this.

First, the message should be hammered home that David Cameron is about to quit on the British people in the next Parliament.

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The budget was Labour’s last chance. History is clear about what happens next

19/03/2015, 12:08:19 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour desperately needed George Osborne to produce another omnishambles budget. Something to reverse the ebbing tide of Labour’s poll lead.

It didn’t happen.

Osborne may have concocted an utterly ludicrous public spending profile for the next parliament – savage, penal cuts immediately followed by lavish expenditure, which led even the Office for Budget Responsibility to describe it as a “rollercoaster” – but he managed to kill Labour’s most potent attack line: that spending would be taken back to levels last seen in the 1930s.

Now, with under two months until the general election, history is very clear about what happens next.

Labour’s poll rating will almost certainly slide. Over the past fifty years of elections, Labour has lost an average of 4% in the last two months before an election.

Given an average poll rating in March (so far) of 33%, this would take Labour back to square one on May 7th with 29% of the vote, the same as 2010.

Poll rating1

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Nigel Farage has destroyed himself and Ukip. He might yet take the whole Eurosceptic movement down too

13/03/2015, 07:00:55 AM

by Atul Hatwal

When the history of Ukip is written, yesterday, Thursday 12th of March, will go down as the day the bubble burst.

It wasn’t just the banal manner in which Nigel Farage admitted he was a racist in his interview with Trevor Phillips.

To believe in discrimination based on someone’s background, to admit to wanting to scrap anti-discrimination laws and legalise racism, would have been damaging enough.

But it was his blustering, obfuscating and dishonest reaction that made matters so much worse. Claiming he was being “wilfully misrepresented,” when the original interview was widely available and the evidence so stark, was utterly incredible.

Five points are salient for the election campaign and beyond: the impact on Ukip’s brand, the opportunity for the Tories, the reaction of the journalists, the danger for Eurosceptics and the broader lessons for politicians talking about immigration.

First, Farage has injected arsenic into Ukip’s already toxified brand.

It’s hard to imagine who will be convinced to switch their votes to Ukip as a result of his latest intervention. Maybe some of the BNP’s dwindling support will be reassured that Farage is a true racist and peel off to join the purple army.

But many who might have considered Ukip will take fright.

According to a ComRes poll a few weeks ago, 44% already thought that the party was racist. As yesterday’s events percolate into the public consciousness, the number who think Ukip racist will rise to cross 50%.

A leader embodies their party and a vote for them says something about the elector. Not many would like that to be “I am a racist.”

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Enjoy your daily paper during the campaign. It might not be there next time round

10/03/2015, 01:17:46 PM

by Atul Hatwal

This election will be the swansong of an institution which has dominated the media landscape for well over a century: the daily newspaper.

By 2020, if the trends established over the past five years continue, four out of 11 daily newspapers will likely have ceased print production.

Old certainties will crumble: the Sun will set – it will no longer have the biggest daily print circulation – and the Telegraph’s commanding lead as the most popular of the old broadsheets will almost entirely evaporate.

The papers likely to cease publication by 2020 are the Independent, the Guardian, the Financial Times and the Daily Star.

Dailies cease print 2020 v2

The Independent will probably be the first to end its print run. If the trend in print sales over the past five years continues, then it will literally run out of readers at the start of 2017.

This does not of course mean the Independent will cease to exist. It can continue online but unless the Lebedev family, or a new owner, is prepared to fund the print run of a paper that absolutely no-one buys, there will be no Independent newspaper in a couple of years.

Compared to the Independent, the Guardian seems relatively healthy. With 185,000 daily sales it still has a significant audience. However, by 2020 a combination of the high operating costs of print and declining sales will tip the balance towards the end of the physical newspaper.

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Labour’s campaign is a mess. So much wrong, so little right

27/02/2015, 09:39:29 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour has achieved something remarkable this year. In the space of eight weeks the party has managed to focus the national debate on some of its strongest issues – the NHS, equalities and tax avoidance – and yet still failed to land a blow. The average of this week’s YouGov polls is a very small Conservative lead.

The NHS should be a campaign winner, every time for Labour. But when Andy Burnham decided to use the rise in NHS spending outsourced to the private sector, as his key evidence to prove the Tories’ privatising intent, he turned political gold to base metal.

Given two-thirds of the rise in outsourcing happened under Labour, with the rate of increase actually slowing under the Tories, it doesn’t take David Axelrod to work out why Labour was on the back foot almost immediately.

Then there was Harriet Harman’s pink battlebus. There’s nothing wrong with the bus being pink and the issues raised by the women’s tour are important, but when Labour frontbenchers have been campaigning vociferously that equating the colour pink with girls is sexist then, once again, who couldn’t have predicted disastrous headlines?

Most recently there has been Ed Miliband’s offensive on tax avoidance. It’s difficult to think of territory more uncomfortable for David Cameron. Yet by broadening the Labour attack onto the principle of tax avoidance, rather than the narrow specifics of the jaw-dropping appointment of HSBC’s Stephen Green as a Minister, even when government officials knew all about HSBC’s illicit activities, Ed Miliband blew it.

Cue embarrassing questions about whether shadow ministers collected receipts for every odd job or window cleaned and the circumstances in which Ed Miliband’s mother seems to have avoided tax on the house in which he now lives.

Individually, these incidents seem like discrete gaffes but a common thread runs through each failure.

Andy Burnham, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband all walked into such eminently predictable elephant traps because their moral certitude blinded them to the politically obvious.
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Labour’s rhetorical ratchet is destroying the party’s electoral hopes

29/01/2015, 09:18:26 AM

by Atul Hatwal

When Ed Miliband became leader of the Labour party, a rhetorical ratchet was installed in the machinery of Labour politics. Since then, the only direction of travel permissible for Labour’s public statements has been to the left. The only criticism of the leadership allowed has been from the left.

Now, as the party’s poll lead dissolves, the consequences of this ratchet for Labour’s electoral chances are becoming increasingly clear. Two incidents from the past week – one on policy and one on process – exemplify the depth of the party’s problems.

First, on policy, there was Andy Burnham’s performance on Newsnight.

Labour has a perfectly defensible and reasonable policy on the use of private healthcare in the NHS: it can only be used to supplement rather than replace public provision. In practice, it means that the private sector would only be used to clear backlogs. It’s how the last Labour government operated.

But, faced with the need to demonstrate how Labour policy has progressed since 2010, the ratchet has forced Andy Burnham to the left, beyond the point of incoherence.

Because of the ratchet, a centrist dividing line on health based on Labour competence versus Tory incompetence is impossible. Instead, Labour has opted for an ideological frame of public good versus private bad with Labour promising to roll back the private.

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Some gloomy general election predictions

06/01/2015, 08:55:06 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The next election is not too close to call. Neither is it a contest where the current party system is under threat nor one where voter volatility renders meaningful predictions impossible.

There are excuses wheeled out by pundits and pollsters who are frit. Here are my predictions.

The Conservatives are going to repeat their 2010 performance and secure 36% of the vote while suffering a small fall in their number of seats to the range 290 to 300.

Labour will struggle to 32%, boosting its seats by 20-25 to the high 270s or low 280s and the Lib Dems will exceed their current polling to get to 16% with seats in the high 30s or very low 40s.

Ukip will under-perform their current poll rating to achieve 7% with one seat (Douglas Carswell) while the SNP will lose to Labour in Scotland. However, they will make some progress, boosting their representation by taking 6-10 Labour seats and reducing the majorities for most of Labour’s Scottish MPs.

This is why.

As May 7th draws near, three shifts will take place in the way that the voting public go about their choice that will move the current polling.

These changes happen in every electoral cycle and are the reason that decades of forecasts of new settlements, moulds being broken and unprecedented uncertainty are usually wrong.

They relate to the nature of the decision that voters are making, the criteria they use to make it and how they judge the parties meet that criteria.

First, the way most voters perceive their choice fundamentally changes in the run up to a general election.

For the majority of the parliament, when pollsters (or indeed friends and family) ask about voting preference, the question is taken as a referendum on the government.

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Revealed: The SNP’s terms for supporting a minority Miliband government

29/12/2014, 07:00:11 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Christmas might be a time when most of politics takes a break, but from the late night festive carousing comes word of the potential deal that Ed Miliband will be offered by the SNP, to sustain a minority Labour government in office.

Uncut has heard from SNP advisers that their MPs in Westminster could be prepared to “do whatever it takes to keep Labour in office,” if Ed Miliband accedes to one request.

No, it’s not a new date for another independence referendum. Well, not quite.

The SNP MPs would support every aspect of a Labour programme, voting with the Labour whip, even on England only issues, if Ed Miliband commits his new government to “accept the will of the Scottish people” were Scotland to demonstrate a desire for a new independence referendum.

The test of this will would come in 2016 at the Holyrood elections where the central plank of the SNP platform will be a call for another referendum.

Even though Alex Salmond said that the 2014 vote was a once in a generation opportunity, the SNP will cite the unheralded depth of new cuts and the ever more virulently anti-European position of the Conservative party, as the basis for revisiting the choice.

With PM Ed Miliband facing a choice of deep cuts or steep tax rises or big hikes in borrowing, or some combination of all three – none of which any Westminster party will have acknowledged in the election campaign – the SNP case will be that the unionists lied to the Scottish public, about the UK’s economic position, when the original independence vote was taken in 2014.

And if David Cameron loses the election, he will soon be ejected from the leadership of his party, with his replacement likely to be forced to adopt an even more Eurosceptic policy, if not an outright commitment to leave the EU. The SNP position will be that the threat of a future Conservative administration (which drew its MPs almost entirely from England) taking the UK out of the EU, despite Scotland’s desire to remain in Europe, would mean an early referendum, before the 2020 election, was essential.

If the SNP retained a majority at Holyrood in 2016 then Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond would cash-in their IOU from Ed Miliband and set a date for the new referendum.

This is not a certain route to independence for the SNP, but nationalist opinion is coalescing around it as the best one available.

It is politically impossible for Ed Miliband to simply accept a new independence referendum in return for SNP votes. That would be seen as too craven. Making a new independence vote contingent on the 2016 Scottish elections is the next best option.

And come what may, the SNP will need to have a majority government at Holyrood to re-open the independence question; under the terms of this deal, if they achieve that, then the UK government will allow them to confirm the date.

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Introducing the pander test – how to tell if a politician is pandering on immigration

16/12/2014, 02:20:42 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Most mainstream politicians are lying when they talk about immigration, if not by the sin of commission, then by omission.

They all know what would happen if immigration was to be cut precipitously: the depth of extra cuts that would be required without migrants’ net tax contribution, the collapse of the NHS that would ensue if we did not have the skills of migrant health staff, and the destruction of jobs as foreign businesses take their investment to more welcoming shores.

Yet, rarely is any of this mentioned.

When most politicians talk about immigration, they look at one side of the ledger – costs – with little regard for the benefits.

And even then, when focusing exclusively on the negative, often they will simply accept the stereotype underpinning concerns rather than articulate the reality based on the evidence.

This is what pandering looks like in today’s immigration debate: when politicians who know better and have seen the evidence, either wilfully disregard it or misrepresent it, to fit a negative narrative that they know to be false.

For example, Ed Miliband was busy pandering yesterday when launching Labour’s second election pledge.

The first part of the pledge promises a “new law to stop the exploitation which leads to wages and conditions being undercut.”

In principle, no-one could disagree, but the implication of what will be achieved is where the pandering starts.

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Labour’s wants to triangulate on the deficit but has forgotten how

11/12/2014, 02:45:44 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Today, Labour remembered the deficit. Good, it’s long over-due. The party senses an opportunity, one last chance to reduce the Tories’ double digit lead on the economy.

The theory is clear. George Osborne’s draconian spending plans are just too apocalyptic for the public. He’s opened up political space for a middle way, for Labour to triangulate and offer a deficit reduction path that does not necessitate taking a meat cleaver to the welfare state but does show a clear route back to a balanced budget.

The polls seem to back this approach. In yesterday’s ComRes poll,  52% agreed with the proposition that “it would be better to slow the rate of spending cuts even if it makes it take longer to get the country’s finances back on track” while just 25% disagreed.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are both on our screens today promising this middle way, hoping for a route back into the economic debate.

Unfortunately for Labour, and the country’s future, Miliband and Balls are going to be disappointed.

There is a strategic flaw at the heart of the party’s approach: Labour strategists have forgotten how to triangulate.

For triangulation to be effective, three conditions need to be met: there must be defined positions to the left and right on a topic which opens space in the middle, the public need to be dissatisfied with the polarised positions on offer and to trust the party or politician that is triangulating, to deliver on their centrist commitment.

It’s certainly true that George Osborne’s vision of austerity-max has shifted the Conservatives further to the right on the economy than their previous positioning. The much publicised IFS judgement that the cuts would take spending back to 1930s’ levels has resonated, with Osborne’s personal ratings taking a palpable hit – in the aftermath of the Autumn statement, YouGov found his net approval rate dropped from -8 to -11.

But the problem for Ed Miliband is that the left flank is occupied by Unite, most of the union movement and a fair proportion of the PLP, including some shadow cabinet members.

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