Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

The obituaries are premature. Cameron’s not finished yet

16/08/2012, 02:44:12 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Received opinion, that fluttering butterfly, often dazzles and deceives.

Two bits of conventional wisdom are doing the rounds at the moment; both are hopelessly wrong. The first is a feeling that this government will fall before 2015. The second is a prediction of David Cameron’s early demise.

First the government. A poll in the Guardian the other day shows only 16 per cent of voters expect the coalition to last until May 2015 – just half the 33 per cent who had said the same thing to pollsters ICM two weeks before.

With coalition rows about House of Lords reform and parliamentary boundary changes dominating the airwaves before the summer recess it’s hardly surprising that onlookers question its longevity.

But soundings off from within the government are just that, exuberant rows. No terminal schism is in the offing. There is nowhere for either partner to go. This remains the immutable truth of British politics. Any early collapse of the government would precipitate a general election where both parties would suffer.

The Lib Dems flirt with electoral annihilation and struggle these days to sustain a clear lead over UKIP. They are in no shape to go to the country and need to play for time. What is more, most of the politically painful aspects of the coalition’s programme are now in the past. For Nick Clegg’s troops, things can only get better.

The second fallacy is that David Cameron might not see out his term of office, shaded out by the golden lustre of his Eton contemporary Boris Johnson or knifed by his right wing critics who see his hybrid government as insufficiently Conservative.

A YouGov poll from last weekend shows Labour’s lead at 12 per cent. But when party labels were replaced by party leaders’ names the gap shrunk to six per cent. As John Rentoul at the Independent notes, the most interesting thing about the poll “was how much of an asset David Cameron still is to his party”.

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Lions were led by donkeys in Labour’s London mayoral election campaign

05/05/2012, 06:30:21 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The phrase was memorably used by Alan Clark to describe the shambolic command of British infantry in the First World War. In the wake of Ken Livingstone’s defeat, ‘lions led by donkeys’, captures the essence of what happened to Labour in London’s mayoral election.

Thousands of Labour activists ordered over the top in the cause of a flawed figurehead, as part of a doomed campaign that the top brass had privately written-off several months ago.

In the carnage of a London loss, where Labour’s candidate under-performed his party’s Assembly vote by 43,480 votes or 5% on first preferences, it can be hard to disentangle the reasons for defeat.

But three distinct reasons stand out: the suicidal candidate selection process, Ed Miliband’s judgement and, of course, the candidate himself.

At the root of Labour’s London problem was a ludicrous decision on the timetable for candidate selection

In the aftermath of the general election defeat in May 2010, while the party reeled, the NEC decided that this was the best time to pick a mayoral candidate – 24 months before the election.

Gordon Brown’s resignation forced the timetable for a leadership election. Running the mayoral selection in parallel was entirely voluntary.

It meant potential candidates from the front bench such as Alan Johnson were unprepared. The selection process was railroaded through just days after the general election, before many MPs could collect their thoughts after a bruising election contest, let alone raise the funds to fight.

It didn’t have to be this way. In 2000 the Labour selection wasn’t concluded till three months before the election, while Boris Johnson only got the nod just seven months before the 2008 election, and that didn’t seem to do him any harm.

But when the NEC made their decision, sanctioned by acting leader Harriet Harman’s team, they knew all of this.

It was part of the charade of democracy Labour frequently conducts on its candidate selections. This was a stitch-up, pure and simple to help Ken Livingstone – the candidate who had been running since he lost the mayoralty in 2008.

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Livingstone’s scripted tears

13/04/2012, 08:00:54 AM

by Atul Hatwal

16/04/12 10.30 Update: Fair’s fair: it looks like the party press officer who told the Guardian that the PEB used actors, was wrong. We know that some weren’t and the Guardian piece was at least partially incorrect.

So the record needs to be set straight for this article. It looks likely that the people featured in the PEB weren’t professional actors, they were supporters. It is certainly the case that no-one has contradicted the Livingstone team’s contention that they were supporters.

But whether these were actors or carefully selected supporters, the central point of the piece remains the same: to cry in response to a video montage of your own supporters, reading your script , about how much they want you to be mayor, that you have already seen, is more Pyongyang than London.

13/04/12 10:51 Update: Well, there’s been quite the flap following this piece. The Livingstone campaign are resolutely denying that any of the people in the PEB are actors. This is the relevant section from the Guardian on which the article is based:

On Wednesday Ken Livingstone revealed his emotional side, sniffling at a launch of his new party political broadcast. “The people you saw on the screen represent hundreds of thousands of Londoners who desperately want a mayor who is going to make their life easier in this city,” Ken said, as Ed Miliband patted him on the back. For sure, the broadcast is slicker than anything his team has previously produced; it features a boxer, a groundsman, one posh woman and an extremely cute baby. But who exactly are they? The Labour party confessed yesterday that the Londoners are all actors – but actors who support Ken. Of the crying, it said: “It was very genuine. It really was.”

Clearly there has been some form of breakdown in communication between the Livingstone campaign and the Labour party press office. The issue at the heart of this article is authenticity. The key question is: were  the people in the PEB were scripted?

If their words were drafted by the campaign team then it is disingenuous to claim these are the authentic responses of ordinary Londoners that prompted a heartfelt reaction from Livingstone. If their words were their own, then patently that is more powerful.

At the moment it looks like team Ken are saying that people were scripted. We will update as we receive more information.

***

Another week, another new depth plumbed in the mayoral campaign.

In yesterday’s Guardian diary, there was a little snippet about Labour’s latest party election broadcast (PEB).

For those who haven’t seen it, the PEB is very effective. Engaging and well-paced, above all it shows rather than tells. It features Londoners speaking about their issues, directly into camera, edited tightly together. The climax at the end where they each ask Ken to win for them carries some real emotional weight.

I’m no fan of Labour’s candidate but even I was impressed.

Until, that is, I read the Guardian diary. This told me that the plaintive and persuasive Londoners were in fact all actors. Not a boxer, a mother, a groundsman or a businessman. Just actors, hired to do a job.  “Labour supporting actors” is how the party press office described them, as if this somehow helped.

This mini-revelation robs the PEB of its authenticity. It remains a very good piece of political communication, but watching the broadcast again, knowing that these folk were shipped in from London’s version of central casting, drains the emotion out of the piece.

Oh well. “Disappointing” was my take. And then I thought, “hang on.”

Most people will have seen this photo of Ken Livingstone, overcome by emotion, crying at the screening of his election broadcast.

At the time the explanation given to reporters was that Ken was moved by the genuine words of Londoners and the responsibility he felt to win the election for them.

Stirring stuff. Shame it was rubbish.

The actual situation in the room was this: Livingstone was crying after watching a series of actors that had been carefully selected by his team, read out lines that his writers had penned, in a style directed by his staff. He knew that these were not typical Londoners. He knew that this was his script.

But still the tears flowed.

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London deserves a better mayoral campaign

05/04/2012, 07:55:31 AM

by Peter Watt

Does anyone outside the heady world of politics actually care about the London mayoral election?

Setting aside the train wreck of last night’s debate on Newsnight, the mayoralty is one of the highest profile positions in British politics and carries the biggest personal mandate for any politician in Europe, bar the French presidency. It should matter.

The reason I ask is that my 18 year old daughter (18 last week) received her poll card recently.  I overheard her chatting to a friend about the fact that she could now vote which she was pleased about.  But then she said that she wasn’t actually sure if she should bother voting at all.  So I decided that I would tackle this appalling apathy head on and explain the importance of voting and the particular merits of voting in the London mayoral election.

But I decided, I had better marshal my thoughts first – you know what tricky buggers teenagers can be if you’re not prepared.  Anyway, I worked up what I hoped would be a concise set of arguments that set out the importance of democracy and of voting.  People have died for the right to vote; having your say; preserving freedoms and so on.  It wasn’t exactly Mandelaesque but it wasn’t bad.   But then I began thinking about the reasons to specifically vote in the London mayoral election and I struggled.

This has to be one of the least inspiring election campaigns that I have ever witnessed.  It seems to boil down to: vote for Ken because he isn’t Boris or vote for Boris because he isn’t Ken.  Unless you want to vote for some bloke called Brian whose most endearing feature seems to be that he isn’t called Boris or Ken.  I mean beyond that, what else is there?

According to Ken’s website, he is going to give all Londoners a “Fare Deal” by cutting transport costs.  Well that’s good.  But is that it?  According to Boris’s website the main reason to vote for him is to re-elect him.  Not even a fare cut from Boris then.  But to be fair, if the opportunity to re-elect Boris is not enough to excite you then if you click through to the main site then you learn that by voting for Boris you can cut waste, create an Olympic legacy and…to be honest I got bored.  It’s not really the stuff of political legend is it?

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How Boris calling Ken a “f***ing liar” will play out

03/04/2012, 04:56:10 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Politics is an uptight profession. Displays of genuine emotion by our leaders chills the blood of advisers and apparatchiks. Control is lost, the roulette wheel is spinning and anything can happen next.

Even if there isn’t a total meltdown, loss of composure alone is a sign of political weakness and opens up a line of attack on temperament and suitability for office.

Reports of this morning’s nose-to-nose confrontation between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson will have initially sent the Tories into a tailspin. Labour tweeters duly piled on  immediately following the exchange to push the line that Livingstone had touched a raw nerve in Johnson, who was seriously rattled.

But emotion isn’t always bad. Sometimes, when a politician shows genuine feeling, it reflects authenticity rather than weakness.

Think Hilary Clinton’s teary performance at the diner in New Hampshire in the 2008 race for the Democratic nomination . The immediate assumption in the press pack following her appearance was that she had cracked under the pressure. She was weak.

The voters disagreed. For the electorate, she had just become human and following her victory in New Hampshire the race was prolonged for months.

Or John Prescott in the 2001 general election campaign. When that mulleted moron threw an egg at him, Prescott’s reaction was natural and understandable, he punched him.

I can clearly remember the unbridled panic that gripped the Labour side in the minutes and hours after the punch, as well as the glee among Tory campaigners at this turn of events. At bare minimum, the Tories felt this demonstrated JP’s unsuitability for office.

Wrong again. For the voters, John Prescott was behaving like a normal person – the type that polls constantly say people want to see more of in politics.

As with Prescott, the key to the denouement for this morning’s fracas will be the substance – was  Boris Johnson in the right?

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Ken Livingstone’s crumbling Labour flank

23/03/2012, 08:52:50 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Earlier this week YouGov released their latest London mayoral poll. While Boris Johnson’s 49%-41% lead on first preferences was widely reported, some of the most striking results were lost in the news vortex of the budget.

Chief among these is the scale of Ken Livingstone’s problem with Labour supporters: 31% say they will not vote for him in the mayoral election.

Just weeks before the election, almost 1 in 3 Labour supporters are refusing to back the party’s candidate for mayor.

In comparison, Boris Johnson’s core support is firmer. 86% of Conservative backers say they will vote for him with 14% either supporting other candidates or undecided.

The impact of this differential in party supporters’ commitment to their candidate is critical for the mayoral race: it translates into an 8% boost in Boris Johnson’s overall total.

And 8% is, coincidentally, the size of Johnson’s latest lead over Livingstone.

The bad news for Labour is that this problem has been building all year. The graph below shows how Ken Livingstone has progressively bled support from Labour backers while Johnson has consolidated his vote amongst Conservatives.

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Budget preview: The polling that explains why George Osborne is cutting the 50p rate of tax

21/03/2012, 08:10:41 AM

by Atul Hatwal

When George Osborne steps up to the despatch box later he will publicly launch his campaign to be leader of the Conservative party.

David Cameron can breathe easy though. It will not be a throwback to the TB-GBs. Osborne’s real target will likely be shuffling about his city hall office, watching the TV coverage, thinking that he could do it all so much better.

Until now, Boris Johnson has been the darling of the Tory faithful. He shone at last year’s party conference, has repeatedly tweaked the prime minister’s nose on issues like cuts to policing and has been the king over the water to true blue believers who see too much yellow in the government.

In contrast, his rival to succeed David Cameron, has been conducting his campaign in stealth mode. But away from the bright lights of media scrutiny, in the corridors of Westminster, George Osborne has been very active.

If any evidence were needed, just speak to any first term Tory MP: Osborne has been almost indecent in courting the new intake into the parliamentary party.

The chancellor has deployed the full range blandishments: from hand written notes in the pigeon hole to invitations to select dinners, each and every member of the class of 2010 has had unbelievable amounts of personal attention lavished on them.

Team Osborne is confident that two years into government, they have the parliamentary vote locked up. For all of Boris’s grandstanding and media profile, few in the parliamentary party view him as a serious alternative to either David Cameron or George Osborne.

Recently, at a private dinner, one member of the 2010-ers went so far as to suggest that Osborne might even defeat Cameron in a vote amongst his contemporaries.

But that still leaves the blue rinse legions swooning for their blonde mop-topped heir apparent.

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A postcard from the Tory conference

07/10/2011, 01:00:58 PM

by Dave Roberts

I have been attending Tory conferences for the past 10 years (in a professional capacity you understand) and have to make the shameful admission that I generally have a pretty good time. The thing about the Tory conference, is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything apart from a jolly get together where activists can spend a few days talking politics, catching up with friends and listening to their favourite MPs and leaders make barn storming speeches.

Yet this year I found the whole affair a little lack lustre. There were the normal fringe meetings where the Tory right could sound off about the EU, fishing rights, immigration, the general demise of traditional standards and the moral decline of our youth. But there was a general lack of zip in the proceedings in the main hall, bars and fringe.

Boris Johnson gave a speech that rambled along, but gave the activists something to smile about and their love affair with him continues. George Osborne gave a dull speech that hardly stirred the audience out of their torpor until he attacked workers rights. Theresa May did manage to get the audience’s attention with her now infamous tale about the rights of cats. But poor old Andrew Lansley spoke to a half empty hall on what is supposed to be the Tories great love and great reform, the NHS. (more…)

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Not today

09/08/2011, 10:00:04 AM

by Dan Hodges

Not today. Please, just not today. Laurie Penny, I think you are a beautiful and gifted writer. But don’t tell me violence cannot be mindless. Or that it is all about catharsis. Not today.

Sunny Hundal, your real and passionate desire to break politics free from its straight jacket of committees and speeches and selection meetings does you credit. But please, don’t circulate any more time lapse photography of people’s homes burning and tell me it’s “brilliant” or that it’s “art’. Not today.

Owen Jones, the working class need a voice, and you are an articulate spokesman. But please, no more hand wringing about the dangers of an “authoritarian backlash” against those who tried to loot and burn our city to the ground. Not today.

Ken Livingstone, you were once a great and radical figure. But no one needs to hear your cheap politicking about your statesmanlike dash from the Olympic awards ceremony. Or your back of the envelope theories about how 14 and 15 year old rioters trashed JD sports because they are not able to provide for their wives and children. Not today.

Boris Johnson, I’d actually liked to have heard something from you. But instead I had to put up with your spokesman Kit Milhouse explaining why it was fit and proper for the Mayor of the world’s greatest capital city to watch from afar as his charge exploded in an orgy of destruction. We’ll no doubt hear the same excuses trotted out often this election year. If we must. But not today.

Theresa May, I understand being the only senior member of the government, (Nick Clegg hardly counts in these circumstances), is tough. But I don’t want to hear any more rubbish about “policing with consent” when that consent has been brutally withdrawn by a small but violent minority. And I’d park the protestations that cutting thousands of police officers won’t have had any operational impact. For today.

David Cameron, I don’t actually blame you for taking a much needed break in Tuscany. And it was nice you made friends with your waitress. But as you sit savouring the taste of your Tuscan Dream please, do one thing for me. For all of us. Don’t tell us we’re all in this together. We are, of course. But we don’t need to hear it from you. Not today.

There is lot we do need to hear.  And lots that needs to be said. About the dislocation of inner-city youth. About the link between crime and poverty. About race and resentment. About lack of employment and educational opportunities. The widening gap between the rich and poor. The politics and the sociology and the criminology. All deserve, indeed require, an airing.

We must debate, and examine, and interrogate. We must argue and enquire and report. We must ask ourselves what sort of society we really want to be, and take a deep look within our own communities, and souls.

We must do all of these things. Just not today.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.

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Wednesday News Review

27/07/2011, 06:33:33 AM

Murdoch received classified defence briefings

The extraordinary access that Cabinet ministers granted Rupert Murdoch and his children was revealed for the first time yesterday, with more than two dozen private meetings between the family and senior members of the Government in the 15 months since David Cameron entered Downing Street. In total, Cabinet ministers have had private meetings with Murdoch executives more than 60 times and, if social events such as receptions at party conferences are included, the figure is at least 107. On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given confidential defence briefings on Afghanistan and Britain’s strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. A further briefing was held with Ms Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and the Sunday Times editor John Witherow. – the Independent

Boy George has his head in the sand

Deluded Chancellor George Osborne yesterday hailed nine months of economic stagnation as “positive news” for Britain. Yet the Chancellor insisted: “The positive news is that the British economy is continuing to grow and is creating jobs. And it is positive news too at a time of real international instability that we are a safe haven in the storm.” A series of lame excuses – including the Japanese tsunami, the Royal Wedding and April’s hot weather – were also trotted out to justify the lacklustre economic performance. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls branded Mr Osborne “breathtakingly complacent” and accused him of being “in total denial”. Mr Balls, who challenged the Chancellor to a televised debate, added: “Families, pensioners and businesses can feel that tax rises and spending cuts which go too far and too fast are hurting, but it’s clear that they aren’t working.” New figures showed Gross Domestic Product, a measure of the nation’s wealth, rose by 0.2% in the past three months. That is just half of what the Government’s independent economic watchdog had predicted. – Daily Mirror

Today’s figures of 0.2 per cent GDP growth show the UK’s climb out of recession to be uncertain and sluggish. It seems the Home Office could not have timed worse the release of a damning newreport from the home affairs committee on the consequences of the changes to student visas. It’s official: these changes are set to cost the economy £3.4 billion; a disconcerting revelation for the embattled George Osborne who also has to monitor the euro-crisis and the fiscal turmoil in Greece. The over-arching message from today’s report is that the government needs to seriously consider the growing challenges of the UK’s economy and the impact of restricting foreign students on income generated by research and innovation in higher education – issues which it thinks have not yet been properly considered. The UK’s economy is bolstered by the funding stream of overseas students, an industry “worth up to £40 billion” and provides a direct contribution of “up to £12.5 billion” annually to revenue. There is no denying the government faces some considerable challenges in reforming the current immigration system and trying to balance an economy in freefall. – Left Foot Forward

Even Boris wants a growth plan

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, has called for a “manifesto for growth” to generate jobs and keep the economy moving as figures revealed that the UK economy had grown by only 0.2% in the past three months. Johnson said measures to “stimulate consumption” were also needed, along with more investment to create jobs and drive the economy forward. The Conservative mayor reiterated his support for scrapping the 50p rate of tax and as the “right direction” to get faster economic recovery. The comments came as Johnson hosted a London radio show for an hour in place of the usual presenter, Nick Ferrari. Certainly you should look at national insurance, you should look at ways of stimulating consumption, confidence in the market, and certainly I think the 50p tax rate as a signal that London is open for business, that London is a great international competitive capital.” But he said the “critical thing” was to set out “a manifesto or charter for growth.” – the Guardian

Answers at last

The Information Commissioner ruled that they were in the public interest, amid claims by some victims’ families that the former Conservative prime minister tried to protect the police’s reputation. In a decision notice, Christopher Graham said: “Support for disclosure of information relating to the Hillsborough disaster was expressed by the previous government and has been reconfirmed by the current government, and the commissioner also believes that the specific content of the information in question would add to public knowledge and understanding about the reaction of various parties to that event, including the government of the day, in the early aftermath.” Ninety-six Liverpool fans died in the crush at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield on April 15 1989 during an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. An inquiry led by Lord Taylor of Gosforth concluded that the main reason for overcrowding was the failure of police control. – Daily Telegraph

The government has been ordered to publish documents revealing the discussions held by Margaret Thatcher about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died in a crush at the stadium in Sheffield. Ruling that release of the documents was in the public interest, the information commissioner said it was right to publish the record of a Cabinet meeting on 20 April 1989 in which the then prime minister and her ministers spoke of the disaster, which took place five days earlier. The judgment by Christopher Graham relates to a freedom of informationrequest by the BBC more than two years ago, which was refused by the Cabinet Office. He rejected the office’s argument that the disclosure would impact negatively on the freedom with which ministers can engage in “free and frank discussions”, and on the convention of collective responsibility. – the Guardian

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