Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

The purge of hard left candidates will be shocking to many in the party but it shows Starmer’s operation understands the reality of modern politics

30/05/2024, 12:16:09 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The first rule of politics is to learn to count.  Reports of the last minute purge of four hard left candidates suggest that Keir Starmer’s team have fully taken on board Lyndon Johnson’s most important lesson.

Many in the party will be shocked and uncomfortable at the developments. Few would think that Labour splits dominating news coverage, to the exclusion of the central message on the economy, is desirable. But there is a logic to what is being done, beyond spite or pure factionalism. It is a rationale that recognises the limitations of party whipping in an age of social media and one that makes Lyndon Johnson’s rule all the more important.

Boris Johnson won the 2019 election with a majority of 77 but he faced multiple rebellions and was ultimately brought down because his whips could not maintain discipline across the parliamentary party. Clearly he played a leading role in his own demise but twenty or thirty years ago, there’s a reasonable chance he could have survived. What has changed since the 1990s and early 2000s is the size of the bubble in which politics is conducted and the pace at which the news cycle turns.

In a pre-online, pre-social media age, politics was the preserve of the individuals within the physical environs of Westminster, largely the MPs and the lobby journalists. It was a small world, one in which personal relationships, a trading of favours and the odd grabbing of lapels could maintain party discipline. News was slow, there were a limited number of broadcast channels, and the daily papers took twenty-four hours to publish.

But now, it is different.

The bubble has grown and extends from Westminster into the online world of commentators and activists. The news cycle has accelerated beyond all recognition. In the 1990s, when an event occurred, the next day’s reporting would normally be factual on the event and comment pieces would tend to follow 48 to 72 hours later. Today when a newsworthy event occurs, the factual turn of the cycle is complete within minutes and multiple rotations of comment and reaction begin within the hour.

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Rishi Sunak’s National Service plan validates Labour’s attacks on the Tories as dangerous headbangers that will wreck Britain

27/05/2024, 07:19:24 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Rishi Sunak’s National Service plan is a trans-dimensional political disaster. Much has been written about it in terms of its questionable rationale and woeful impracticality. Fewer words have been expended about the wider message it sends to the electorate which is where its real legacy will be felt.

Voters don’t process policy proposals, in so far as they cut through to their daily lives, as a discrete set of evaluations, they use them as an indicator in judging the whole. What does policy this say about the people who want my vote?

When political parties strike out into territory outside the mainstream there is risk. Sometimes it’s worth it, when the Westminster consensus is out of kilter with the public (or at least enough of the public), Brexit for example. But for every Brexit there are dozens of disastrous policies that backfired on their authors. The manifestos of Jeremy Corbyn, Michael Foot, William Hague and Michael Howard are replete with them.

Its pretty clear which category the National Service plan falls into. It sends two clear messages to voters.

First, the Conservatives’ priority is evidently not the economy or the cost of living, its forcing young people do community service. Not only is this odd, its quite extreme to focus so much effort and attention on an issue that does not register as a pressing challenge for any demographic, not least when so many are facing rocketing rents and mortgages.

Second, the Conservatives cannot do the basics without it going wrong. The policy was launched but Ministers were sent out on the airwaves to sell it without relevant detail on how it would work – are kids going to get criminal records? Are parents going to be fined? Answers there were none – while some senior Conservatives like Steve Baker have actively condemned it.

For those voters who have noticed it, they will now have a sense that Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have different values and priorities and aren’t terribly competent. So when Labour raise the spectre of a Conservative government taking a scythe to the economy, pensions and all that’s good in the world, they will be that bit more inclined to believe them.

Oh, look, here’s an example.

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Revealed: Labour high command planning for TWO elections – 2024 and 2026 – with ‘the longest and most expensive ever rolling general election campaign’

06/10/2023, 01:27:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour high command has begun planning for a single general election campaign that does not end with the next general election but continues through to the election after that. The rationale is that while Labour will likely win the next election, the majority will be sufficiently narrow to make a quick-fire return to the polls almost inevitable.

Speaking to multiple sources, Uncut understands that expectations across the shadow cabinet are for a majority between 10 and 40 with a clear understanding that even a majority of 40 would likely be unworkable to deliver the scale of change needed by the country.

Labour won 202 seats in 2019 and to achieve a majority of 40 at the next election would mean winning an extra 158 seats, significantly more than the boost of 146 seats that Tony Blair secured in 1997.

Even if the upper end of expectations was somehow reached with a majority of 40, a rebellion of just 20 Labour MPs could derail government plans. Currently the hard left Socialist Campaign Group has 35 MPs with a swathe of other backbench Labour MPs, most of whom are likely to be in the next parliament, disgruntled with the leadership and already identified as likely serial rebels.

The experience of the Lib Dems in the 2010 coalition which resulted in their near total wipeout at the 2015 election combined with the nature of seats that they are currently targeting – Blue Wall, long term Tory bastions where voters have a historic hostility to Labour – means that the prospect of anything other than a slightly augmented confidence and supply agreement with Ed Davey’s party is remote.

A vulnerable majority would not only place huge constraints on policy but the longer the parliament ran the more Keir Starmer’s authority would be eroded as the political debate increasingly focused on Westminster psychodrama rather than the government’s agenda. The fate of past PMs with narrow majorities such as Theresa May, John Major, Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson, looms large in the thinking of key figures around the Labour leader. (more…)

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What does a Labour government do when there’s no money to spend? Constitutional and regulatory reform. It’s not perfect but the only answer that’s available

18/09/2023, 10:42:33 PM

by Atul Hatwal

What does a Labour government do when there’s no money to spend? That was the exam question for the draft policy document from the National Policy Forum (NPF), circulated last week. On first appraisal, it’s answer isn’t terribly clear, the NPF document is a hotch potch. The many hands of a committee are evident and reflected in the disparate media reports with a spray of different toplines, from spending discipline to changes on worker’s rights to removal of the commitment to allow EU nationals to vote at general elections.

But step back, look at it overall and a nascent direction of travel is present. One that’s familiar for those with memories stretching back to the 1990s.

Beyond the big economic pronouncements which are primarily about what Labour will not do – no rise in income tax, capital gains tax or new wealth or mansion taxes – the highest profile policies fall into two categories: discrete pledge card initiatives with specific benefits and funding identified and constitutional and regulatory reform.

The pledge card initiatives have been well-trailed, with funding raised from policies such as closing the loopholes in the windfall tax and ending non-dom tax status to pay for improvements like more NHS staff and breakfast clubs for schools. But it’s the second category, about which less has been written, that is more interesting.

When looking back at the 1997-2001 Labour government, what’s remembered is constitutional and regulatory reform. Yes, there were pledge card initiatives, like the New Deal for the young unemployed to move 250,000 under-25s off benefits and into work by using money from a windfall levy on the privatised utilities (I can still recite that in my sleep), but few talk about them today.

In the lists of achievements of the last Labour government, the highlights from the 1997-2001 administration usually include the minimum wage, devolution and independence for the Bank of England. None of these constitutional and regulatory changes needed substantive new funding from the Treasury but each has had a significant impact on life in Britain.

The National Policy Forum document includes some of these types of policies such as Lords reform, votes at 16 and a new body to enforce workplace rights. But what is lacking is an overarching narrative that explains why this kind of reform is important to renew Britain, how it means Labour can govern differently to the Tories without lavish funding, a clear focus to give the media topline that is currently missing.

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The big winner in last week’s reshuffle was Labour’s old right, not Tony Blair

10/09/2023, 10:57:09 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Most media reports of last week’s Labour reshuffle described a scene of Blairite triumph: the old master’s grip on the party was being reasserted, his policies and personnel were to the fore, Keir Starmer his willing proxy. It’s an easy story to write, one with familiar beats, but a story that is quite wrong.

It is a symptom of the simplified, bipolar frame through which Labour’s internal politics is viewed: Corbynite left or Blairite right, where all developments are reduced to a zero-sum game of one side winning and the other losing.

What this approach misses is the divide among party centrists between Blairites and the old Labour right, dating back to the early 1990s. There’s certainly much commonality between the two groups across large swathes of policy and on the importance of fighting the hard left, but as that latter threat recedes and the choices of government heave into view, the differences from thirty years ago will become more evident. Last week’s reshuffle marked the clearest possible ascendancy of the old Labour right rather than a move to full throttle Blairism.

Blairites are revolutionaries. Many of the original generation, including Tony Blair, started their political lives on the radical left and moved to the centre; what they retained on their political journey was their restless dissatisfaction with the status quo; social democratic incrementalism wasn’t enough, Britain needed fundamental reform. The focus of this reforming zeal was typically old Labour sacred cows–Labour’s internal structures, the party’s relationship with the unions and public service reform.

The old right is the embodiment of incrementalism. A bit more redistribution, increased public spending and support to bolster the position of unions. This isn’t a faction temperamentally suited to radical upheaval, least of all when it comes to the ceremonies of Labour’s traditions which are intertwined with the union movement and wreathed in emotion and sentimentality.

Think of the contrast between John Smith and Tony Blair.

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Johnson’s promotion of nutters like Peter Bone tells us his plan: He wants to retake the Tory leadership after the next election

09/07/2022, 10:54:16 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Boris Johnson looks like he’s staying. Not as prime minister, nothing can prevent his imminent ejection from Number 10. But he’s going to stay as an MP and is planning for a comeback as Tory leader after the next election. How do we know? His final government reshuffle tells us.

Johnson has promoted a raft of lifelong backbenchers – the mad, the bad and dangerous to know. Peter Bone to Deputy Leader of the House, Andrea Jenkyns into the education team, Richard Drax to the Attorney General’s department, there are several more.

One interpretation has been that this was Boris Johnson rewarding his supporters with a taste of ministerial office before his leadership is over. There’s likely an element of this but Boris Johnson is not a man whose life story is one of loyalty and commitment to looking after his colleagues. If he does anything, for anyone, it’s because he wants something.

In this case, that thing is to create what he has historically lacked – a core of Johnsonites in the parliamentary party. People whose exclusive loyalty is to him. He’ll have seen the cultish commitment of so many in the Republican party to Trump and coveted it.

The drawn out fall of Boris Johnson has progressively turned most of the parliamentary Conservative party against him but there is one group that stands apart. Individuals who continued to defend Johnson to the end, who never called on him to go and were privately telling him to fight on. It’s not a group defined by ideology or geography or even past allegiances, but for whatever reason, however they arrived at their destination, they have been radicalised into becoming fervent backers of Boris Johnson.

The opportunity to forge this group into his personal guard is the opportunity that the soon to be ex-Prime minister is seizing. Ministerial office bestowed by Johnson, complete with severance packages when they’re inevitably sacked by the new leadership, is the glue to bind them together, after the fall.

Johnson said he planned to stay as an MP after leaving Number 10. Most people assumed this was a lie and that he’d be off around the world earning as much money as humanly possible. The reshuffle suggests otherwise. Picture the scene: an embattled Conservative party either squeaks to a narrow victory at the next election or slumps to a defeat. Either way, whoever wins the current leadership election will face huge difficulty.

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Revealed: New polling shows most swing voters believe their household finances will be better under a Labour government than the Tories

02/10/2021, 09:18:28 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The full analysis of these polling figures is in a new book “Labour’s Reset: The Path Back to Power” released this week. Click here to download it. The book looks at the barriers for voters in picking Labour, what the party can do in opposition to tackle these issues and the type of policy platform that would attract switchers to Labour at the election

Exclusive polling conducted for Labour Uncut by Yonder (the new name for Populus) has revealed that a majority of swing voters believe their household finances will be worse under a Conservative government compared to a Labour government.

Traditionally, the Conservatives have won the electoral war of the wallet with voters tending to believe their personal finances will be better off under the Tories than Labour, even when Labour is in the ascendant.

However, this latest polling shows that there’s an 11% majority, 46% to 35% among prospective Labour switchers that disagreed with the statement “I think my household will be better off under the Conservatives than Labour”

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Revealed: New poll shows 1 in 4 non-Labour voters considering backing Starmer but they want a decisive break from the Corbyn era – 60% say expel Corbyn if he doesn’t apologise over anti-Semitism

19/09/2021, 09:24:00 PM

by Atul Hatwal

New research conducted for Labour Uncut by pollster Yonder (the new name for Populus) reveals that just over 1 in 4 non-Labour voters (26%) would consider voting Labour at the next election. But Jeremy Corbyn is still a huge negative with 66% of this group worried about the continued influence of Corbynites in Labour and 60% saying his expulsion from Labour, if he doesn’t apologise over anti-Semitism, would make them more likely to vote Labour.

The polling, conducted by Yonder between the 13th and 14th September with 2,010 respondents, revealed that 1 in 7 Conservative voters (14%), over half of Lib Dems (53%) and 1 in 4 SNP (26%) are considering voting Labour. Based on Labour’s current standing in the polls, attracting even half of those thinking about backing Keir Starmer and Labour would send the party into government with a vote share in the mid-forties.

However, Labour’s potential voters want a clear break from the Corbyn era.  A series of statements articulating potential reasons for not voting Labour, drawn from previous research, were put to this group and despite a clear appetite for policies such as higher spending on public services and a higher minimum wage, Jeremy Corbyn and his legacy remain toxic.

A net +39% agreed with the statement “I didn’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister and worry that people like him are still too influential in Labour”

Next week, at Labour conference Jeremy Corbyn will once again be in the spotlight and much of the debate about Labour will be defined through the prism of the former leader.

He’s currently suspended from the parliamentary party for saying that the extent of anti-Semitism in the party was “dramatically over-stated” following the publication of the EHRC report into Labour and anti-Semitism, but he had already been readmitted to the party at the point the report was published and so, as a party member not a Labour MP, will be speaking at various Labour conference fringe events. He’ll have a political and media retinue trailing along after him, distracting from the main conference, in the manner that Boris Johnson used to at Conservative conference in the early to mid-2010s.

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What if Labour was level pegging with the Tories in the polls? Adjust for the vaccine bounce and its all a lot closer than today’s headlines

19/05/2021, 10:33:16 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It sounds absurd, how can Labour be level pegging with the Tories? The government has just smashed Labour at the May elections and regularly registers double digit leads in opinion polls. All true but we are also emerging from the long dark tunnel of the pandemic and if we look at the bounce in polling that governments have received in the past, as the country exits’ crises, there are reasonable grounds to believe Labour’s underlying position is a lot stronger than the current polls.

Rewind to the financial crash of 2008; in the year preceding the crisis the Labour government’s polling was abysmal – for the three months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in mid-September 2008, the average Tory lead was 19.5%.

By December, as the various global bailouts and interventions appeared to be working with the prospect of normality, or at least stability, beckoning, the average deficit for the Labour government through the month was 4.6%, an improvement of almost 15% on their pre-crash performance. In terms of a parallel, the country is in a similar phase at the moment – optimism and relief that whatever the government has done is having an impact with Britain on a path out of the darkness.

As we know, Labour’s poll improvement at the end of 2008 was not sustained, in the first six months of 2009, the average Tory poll lead was 14.2%, a rise of 9.6% on the position in December.

When trying to quantify the vaccine bounce, this is the key figure. This increase in opposition polling, a rise in the Tory lead over the government of 9.6% quantifies the shift in public opinion from the optimism of seeing the back of the crisis, from focusing so heavily on what the government is doing, to returning to everyday life.

Applied to today, depending on your pollster of choice, a 9.6% boost for the opposition would see Labour either narrowly ahead or narrowly behind the government. This probably better represents the underlying state of play than a snapshot of polls in a phase when the crisis bounce is at its highest for the government.

Not convinced?

Let’s wind the clock further back, almost 40 years to the Falklands war. From a contemporary perspective, a faraway dispute with Argentina over some small rocks in the South Atlantic might not seem comparable to the financial crash or the pandemic, but in the context of the time, it was a huge, all-consuming crisis which cut to the core of Britain’s identity and Mrs.Thatcher’s leadership.

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Labour centrists can be optimistic. The hard left is going to turn Keir Starmer into a Blairite

30/07/2020, 10:38:55 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Keir Starmer is not a Blairite. His closest political ally is Ed Miliband and like the younger Miliband, his politics are those of the soft left.  But if the hard left continue to oppose his leadership in their current manner, they’re going to change him. The result will be the mirror image of what they seek; rather than bind him to the 2019 manifesto or constrain him to a more left-wing position, they’re going to Blairform him.

The response of the Corbynites to Labour’s apology to the whistle-blowers over anti-Semitism has been typical. Look no further than J Corbyn himself, who called the decision “political” not ” legal” and has opened himself up to being sued by John Ware from Panorama.

But it’s not just on anti-Semitism that they react in this way, it’s everything. Here’s Matt Zarb Cousin, following the release of the parliamentary Intelligence committee’s Russia report,

Ahead of the impending Unite leadership election, in the contest to be the candidate for the United Left – Unite’s hard left faction which has dominated the leadership in the past decade – Keir Starmer was used as a wedge issue, an enemy to take on as a demonstration of left wing bona fides. Howard Beckett had this tweet pinned to the top of is Twitter timeline.

A politician’s ideological heading at the start of their career is often quite different by the end.  The process of politics, their experience on the journey, changes them. When looking for portents of the future for a new soft left leader who is picking up the pieces following a shattering defeat, compare and contrast the Neil Kinnock of 1983 with that of 1992.

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