Posts Tagged ‘Atul Hatwal’

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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Labour is 16% behind on the economy. So why are so few in the party talking about how to close the gap?

05/12/2014, 06:22:59 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Sixteen percent. According to the latest YouGov poll, this is the lead that David Cameron and George Osborne hold over Ed Miliband and Ed Balls on who the public trust to best manage the economy.

This is after George Osborne has missed every single deficit target, has had to admit the worst of the cuts are yet to come, has downgraded future growth forecasts and has done his best to trash the Conservative’s brand for sound finance by promising £7bn of unfunded tax cuts.

In politics at the moment, the Tories can do anything on the economy, bodge any target, make any ludicrous promise and still Labour will lag far behind.

Why?

This should be the question animating debate within the Labour party. No opposition has won an election while trailing on the economy and leadership. In the past few weeks there has been plentiful if inconclusive discussion over Ed Miliband’s leadership deficit, but comparative silence on the party’s economy deficit.

In place of discussion, there are just tropes about the Tories. Words that have demonstrably failed to have any impact on the public over the past few years.

Understanding the causes for this silence shines a light on the divisions that blight Labour and that will have to be bridged if it is to regain power.

There are broadly four groups within Labour today: what used to be called the Blairite, New Labour right, the traditional right clustered around Ed Balls, the soft left which is Ed Miliband’s core constituency and the hard left which is organised around Unite.

On economics, there is a good deal of unanimity between Blairites and traditional right. Both back a fiscally centrist position, with clear action on the deficit and honesty on the level of cuts that will be required.

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Revealed: Identity of Miliband advisers who helped frame report calling for shadow cabinet members to be sacked

02/12/2014, 05:56:14 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Stewart Wood, Jonathan Rutherford, Marc Stears and Peter Hain MP are just some of the Miliband loyalists whose views shaped an academic report from Aston University’s Professor John Gaffney on Ed Miliband’s leadership, which called for members of the shadow cabinet to be sacked if they do not improve their performance.

The report garnered headlines this morning because of its stark conclusions about the troubles facing Ed Miliband and the need for decisive action, but only now have the names of key contributors emerged.

Steward Wood was ennobled by Ed Miliband and plays a pivotal role in knitting together the disparate factions within the leader’s office while Marc Stears and Jonathan Rutherford, old college friends of Miliband’s, are central to shaping his ideological approach and the content of his speeches.

Peter Hain, meanwhile, led the first major party initiative under Ed Miliband, Refounding Labour, and at the height of the recent PLP wobbles over Ed Miliband’s leadership, was the loyalist voice on the Today programme urging unity behind the leader.

In one of the most striking passages, the report states that Miliband must have a team that do not, “simply mumble their support whenever party plot rumours surface.”

These words echo frequent press briefings to the effect that the shadow team is not pulling its weight and the identity of the report’s Milibandite contributors will only serve to exacerbate tensions between the shadow cabinet and the leader’s office.

Several of the report’s recommendations have been greeted with suspicion by shadow cabinet members, wary of an attempt by Ed Miliband’s office to shift responsibility for Labour’s poll woes onto them. One proposal, that shadow ministers produce a “five point crib sheet for each policy,” was greeted with particular incredulity. A shadow ministerial adviser retorted,

“If we were ever allowed to do anything, of course we’d have a bloody crib sheet.”

The report was compiled following interviews with 30 Westminster players, ranging from those close to Ed Miliband to those more sceptical about his leadership.  Its central contention is that, “Miliband fails to inspire his followers because he is not getting the narrative of leadership right.”

For an impartial academic such as Professor Gaffney to come to this conclusion, even with the full contribution of those who are seen as Ed Miliband’s praetorian guard, will be taken as a sign of the level of gloom permeating the Labour leader’s inner circle about his position within the party and prospects for the next election.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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David Cameron still doesn’t get it on immigration

28/11/2014, 05:26:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There he goes again. David Cameron’s attempts to relaunch his policy on immigration are becoming ever more regular. Doubtless he’ll be back in January for another go because this speech will soon be forgotten and trouble from his backbenchers will drag him back to the podium.

Although the PM’s tone was better than recent efforts, and certainly better than the pre-briefings to the media, it repeated the strategic mistakes of every past peroration.

The fundamental question defining the current immigration debate is about numbers, specifically how can numbers be cut?

Yet again, Cameron accepted this as the problem to be tackled and yet again he failed to announce anything that would directly impact it.

Rather than demonstrate how he could control immigration from the EU, Cameron talked about benefits and the incentives to migrate to the UK.

According to research from the LSE, barely 1% of EU migrants fit the term “benefit tourists” and even if the latest fixation with removing in-work benefits from migrants were to be somehow legally implemented, it would only have a nugatory impact on numbers.

If migrants looked at the detail of benefits, and even average wages, they wouldn’t head to the UK, they would go to other EU countries.

For example, in Denmark the average wage is 20% higher than in the UK and the welfare system is considerably more generous. Yet net migration to Denmark is almost twenty times lower than to Britain.

Migrants come to this country for more than just the narrow economism of the pounds and pence in their pay packet; they come because of a wider sense of Britain as a place of opportunity. Where they will have a chance to work hard, get on and be accepted, where their hopes can be fulfilled.

Britain’s economic recovery has served to underpin and reinforce this view. Nothing David Cameron said in his speech will make any difference to this broader image of hope that Britain offers to migrants.

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Ed Miliband lost more than a by-election last night

21/11/2014, 02:49:59 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour didn’t just lose a by-election last night, the centre-piece of Ed Miliband’s recovery strategy collapsed.

Rochester and Strood was meant to be a firebreak; the barrier that prevented the flames of a vanishing poll lead and growing internal Labour dissent from enveloping Ed Miliband.

Last week was the Labour leader’s big fight-back speech, this week was meant to be about the Tory by-election defeat to Ukip and next week should have been David Cameron’s Götterdämmerung with new defections to Ukip and the emergence of a letter in the press, signed by dozens of Tory backbenchers, calling for a change in leader.

This was the optimistic scenario mapped out by Ed Miliband’s advisers. Three weeks that would shift the topic of political conversation from Labour turmoil to Tory troubles.

As the Tories tore themselves apart, Labour jitters would subside, the poll lead would return and the path to a narrow victory would, once again, open up.

At least that was the hope. It was always a desperate strategy, entirely reliant on the actions of others: Ukip voters, truculent Tory backbenchers and journalists happy to move onto a new target.

Partially as a result of Emily Thornberry’s master-class in social media self-harm, but largely because the Ukip victory was so much narrower than expected, David Cameron is not facing the backbench meltdown forecast a few weeks ago.

There might be another defection, but the chances of a signed letter becoming public and a leadership challenge have all but disappeared.

Now there is nothing left to reset the political dynamic and Labour is left with a mess because of the type of by-election campaign necessitated by Ed Miliband’s leadership woes.

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What Ed Miliband should have said to Myleene Klass

18/11/2014, 12:14:03 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Myleene Klass is a lucky woman. She went on ITV’s Agenda last night, talked nonsense about taxation and should have been ridiculed.

Comparing taxing a glass of water to higher tax rates for properties worth over £2m is idiotic. But because Myleene was up against a hesitant and tentative Ed Miliband, she has emerged this morning in the press as an anti-tax Boudicca.

In his exchange with Myleene, Ed Miliband failed on two counts: first, to challenge the notion that taxing more expensive properties at a higher rate was somehow arbitrary and second, to highlight the crushing inequity of the current council tax system.

Taxing property is not some on-the-hoof fancy dreamt up by the Labour party. From the Window tax of 1707 onwards, it’s been central to how government raises money as long as the United Kingdom has existed.

The methods might not have been perfect, but as a principle, the progressive taxation of property is anything but arbitrary.

And the reason a mansion tax is being discussed is that the current system of council tax is grotesquely unfair: people with the lowest value properties pay proportionately much, much more than those with more expensive homes.

In Kensington and Chelsea, someone at the upper rate of the lowest council tax band, with a property value of £40,000 pays 17 times more than a householder with a £2m property, as a proportion of their property value.

Even at the start of the highest council tax band, with properties at £320,000, the owner will proportionately pay five times more than someone with a £2m property.

The scale of inequality rises as the value of properties increase.

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The two big myths about Labour’s leadership crisis

07/11/2014, 12:45:18 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s all beginning to feel very 2009. A weakened leader, panicking backbenchers and a febrile media have combined to generate the biggest Labour leadership crisis since the fag end of Gordon Brown’s ailing premiership.

Now, as then, the loyalist response is to perpetuate some easy “myths.” Though that’s the polite term. Here are the two biggest whoppers:

1. This is all the media’s fault

This was the line peddled on morning news shows and has been widespread across Labour’s Twittervist base.

But, as several journalists have pointed out, from the Guardian’s Rafael Behr to the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman, the reason this is being written up as a crisis is that Labour MPs have been privately complaining about Ed Miliband’s leadership to the journalists for months. In some cases, years.

MPs that have been on air in the last 24 hours, mouthing supportive platitudes, are among some of the most well-known serial lobby complainers.

The reality is that putative leadership campaigns have been organising for months. Leadership contenders have been positioning themselves, ready for the expected Labour defeat. Those rumours of an accommodation between Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham on a joint leadership ticket, or some commitment on second preference votes, have been circulating for over a year.

Anyone saying that this is purely a confection by the media, or froth, is being economical with the actualité.

Here’s a test: how many shadow cabinet members have made a specific point of going on air to defend the leader? Not as part of a pre-planned photo-opp where they have no choice but to field questions on the leader, but have sought out the media, even when they had no press events planned, to stand up for Ed Miliband?

By my count, the answer is a big fat zero.

On the Today programme this morning, the best that the loyalists could field was Peter Hain. Not only an ex-cabinet minister, but someone who is standing down at the next election. This tells us all we need to know about the esteem in which the shadow cabinet and shadow ministerial ranks hold their leader.

2. Ed can turn this around, he just needs time

In the last parliament, when a crisis approached the point of no return, Gordon Brown would meet backbenchers and play the listening card.

He’d talk about how he understood their concerns about his leadership, how he valued their opinion and how he would take on board their suggestions. He’d thank them “for all that they did” and commit to being a better Gordon.

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Ed Miliband’s position on immigration is incoherent and will hand Labour votes to Ukip

29/10/2014, 02:26:39 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Is Ed Miliband a Ukip sleeper agent?

At PMQs today, the Labour leader parroted Ukip’s lines on immigration at David Cameron: broken pledges to cut numbers, a system out of control, the need to be tougher; it was a miracle Miliband didn’t rehash talk of being swamped.

All the while, the Labour leader seemed blissfully unaware of the staggering, juddering, dissonant incoherence at the heart of the case he was bellowing, across the despatch box, at the prime minister.

Here are some basic facts: out of total net annual migration of 243,000 into the UK, 131,000 came from the European Union. That’s a significant chunk and represents a rise of almost 40% in the past year.

Europeans can come to the UK because freedom of movement across the EU’s member states is a central pillar of the union.

If Ed Miliband is going to make cutting immigration a centre-piece of Labour’s electoral offer, he will need to cut EU migration and that means either a change to freedom of movement or accept that Brexit is inevitable.

We can discount the former, because here’s what the new President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, had to say on the matter last week,

“We have a treaty. Freedom of movement since the Fifties is the basic principle of the European way of co-operating. These rules will not be changed.”

So presumably, Ed Miliband is about to announce that Labour is prepared to leave the EU?

Er, not so much. Here’s what the Labour leader had to say on British membership of the EU in March this year. (more…)

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If Labour were credible on the deficit, Cameron’s speech would have been a disaster

02/10/2014, 11:53:39 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Lucky David Cameron.

Lucky, because the global economic upturn has dealt him a kind hand on the economy, just as the crash dealt Labour a dud.

Lucky, because the lack of serious alternatives within the parliamentary Conservative party has assured his tenure as leader, no matter how jittery or demented his backbenchers have become (imagine how different the situation would have been had there been a Heseltine or Portillo lurking in the Commons’ corridors instead of Adam Afriye.)

And, most of all, lucky because David Cameron faces Ed Miliband’s Labour party.

A party so denuded of economic credibility that the Tories can increase the deficit by £75bn, miss all of their fiscal targets, and still maintain a double digit poll lead over Labour, on who is most trusted to manage the economy.

It’s why David Cameron could make the speech he did yesterday. A speech offering an unfunded £7bn+ tax cut just 48 hours after George Osborne talked up the need for an extra £25bn in cuts.

We have passed through the looking glass and entered a world of Wonderland economics: where tax cuts are all self-funding and public spending cuts have no consequence.

If Labour had done what it needed to four years ago; demonstrated that it understood the public’s anxieties over spending with the last Labour government, and moved to win back public trust, then David Cameron would now be in serious trouble.

The public would be listening as Labour spokespeople point out the political hypocrisy and economic insanity at the heart of David Cameron’s speech.

Years of Tory message discipline on the need for fiscal rectitude would be lying in ruins. Mistrust of the Tories on public spending would be taking off in the polls.

But none of that is happening.

Instead, as far as the public is concerned, Labour remains on mute. Whatever the party says on the economy is tuned out because of the deeply held belief that however bad the Tories are – and there’s lots of evidence that the public have little faith or confidence in Cameron and Osborne’s economic judgement – Labour will be worse.

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