Posts Tagged ‘Coalition’

“290 seats and Ed stays”

27/06/2014, 03:32:37 PM

Much rumour and speculation in recent days on the aftermath of a potential Labour defeat next year. The Guardian splashed last Saturday with an anonymous frontbencher demanding Ed Miliband’s resignation if Labour loses the next election. The Mail followed up earlier this week with “friends” of the Labour leader talking up his chances of “doing a Kinnock” and fighting on in the event of a loss.

To party members these types of stories often seem to erupt into the news without warning.  But in reality they represent the cresting waves above currents that are surging below the surface.

Uncut has now spoken to four parliamentary sources that have highlighted a specific operation by team Miliband to reset expectations in the PLP. Rather than an outright victory, or even being the largest party, this endeavour is focused on setting a new benchmark: the minimum number of seats Ed Miliband needs to stay on as leader.

The magic number currently being touted is 290, a gain of 32 on Labour’s current voting strength.

290 seats for Labour would almost certainly mean the Tories were the largest party with the Lib Dems in the high 20s to low 30s. Labour would be facing another five years in opposition.

The leadership operation has involved senior parliamentarians, political advisers and friendly journalists, all giving a similar narrative on why Ed should stay. Common phrases include, “two term journey,” “changing the terms of the debate,” and “Labour needs to stay unified.”

In the event of Labour securing 290 seats, the leader’s pitch would offer the prospect of a return to office if Labour could stay unified under Miliband and make another 30 or so gains at the next election. He would have a track record on making this type of progress and the fear of a divisive leadership election would be used to discourage rival candidates supporters declaring publicly.

This is the context for the recent press stories. They haven’t just happened randomly. They are the reaction to a concerted lobbying campaign by the leader’s team that prepares the ground for defeat and the internal battle to come. Expect more over the coming weeks and months.

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Clegg’s committee for broken promises

04/03/2014, 03:40:05 PM

by Michael Dugher

Today’s YouGov poll shows the Lib Dems on just eight per cent.  The poll also gives Labour a nine per cent lead on 41, with the Tories on 32.   This follows the recent Wythenshawe by-election where the Lib Dems received less than five per cent of the vote and lost their deposit for the eighth time in ten by-elections since 2010.

It was in this context that Nick Clegg had the audacity to announce that he is setting up a “negotiating committee” to prepare the Lib Dems for five more years in government.   The press release was issued from planet Clegg or from whatever parallel universe the Lib Dems currently inhabit.  

The Lib Dems will certainly not be running on their record, which is one of utter failure.  Working people are on average £1,600 worse off since Nick Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister.  Yet while families up and down the country face a cost-of-living crisis created by the Lib Dems and their Tory mates, Nick Clegg has decided that his priority should be keeping himself in power.

With their painfully transparent strategy of “differentiation”, Clegg and his party like to pose as a restraining influence on David Cameron, but the truth is that the Lib Dems have nailed their colours firmly to the Tory mast.   They have propped up this Tory government and given up any pretence of believing in progressive policies in return for a few seats at the cabinet table, the keys to the ministerial cars and a parliamentary group that has more knighted male MPs than women. 


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Can Ed and Nigel do a coalition deal?

28/02/2014, 01:52:39 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Did I hear that right? Nigel Farage is offering to form a coalition with Labour after the next general election. He referred to it as “doing a deal with the devil” to be sure, but I’m still ringing out my lug ‘ole in disbelief.

But hold on a minute. Think about it. UKIP only have two policies, both of which Labour half supports already. The first is a referendum on the EU (which might seem a no-brainer if May’s European elections are a bit icky) and a reduction in immigration (which, again, Labour can live with).

Beyond that, well, there’s not much else. There’s a great big purple haze where there should be ideas. As a political party, UKIP are the equivalent of an empty pint glass.

Whisper it, but they’re absolutely ideal coalition partners. I know, there would be the occasional bit of eye-rolling in Cabinet at some of their loopy suggestions, but they’re not really interested in policy.

And for that matter, they’re not much good at politics either. I know the Tories are quaking at the prospect of what they’ll do to them next May, but take the recent Wythenshawe by-election. Nigel Farage said it was “as dirty as they come” because some people on a poor Manchester council estate had a go at them and Labour got in early with the postal vote sign-ups while Farage’s troops were still trying to find somewhere to park their Range Rovers.


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16 government policies the Lib Dems didn’t stop

19/09/2013, 10:06:57 AM

by Michael Dugher

Nick Clegg looked awfully pleased with himself yesterday.  I think he very much enjoys being deputy prime minister.  His message to the party faithful yesterday was “I’ll be in government with anyone”, which roughly translates as “I don’t believe in anything”.  And though Clegg had a carefully choreographed pop at the Tories yesterday, the truth is the Lib Dems vote with the Tories day after day.

Despite the huge cost of living crisis engulfing most families, with people on average nearly £1,500 worse off a year under this Government, Clegg told the Lib Dems yesterday that they should “feel proud that country’s fortunes are turning”.  He also listed 16 policies that he had apparently blocked the Tories from introducing.

Well, just for the record Nick, here’s 16 things the Lib Dems didn’t block:

1.      A tax cut for millionaires – cutting the 50p top rate of tax, giving 13,000 millionaires a handout worth on average £100,000 each.

2.      Trebling tuition fees. Nick Clegg promised to vote against any rise in tuition fees. He didn’t.

3.      Increasing VAT to 20 per cent. The Lib Dems warned before the election of a “TORY VAT BOMBSHELL”.  Then he helped them introduce it.

4.      An economic policy that choked off the recovery – which is now the slowest for 100 years.  Vince Cable warned before the election that “the danger of drastic cuts in public spending right now is that it would make the recession worse and it would make the deficit worse” – but he signed up to them.

5.      A £3 billion top-down NHS reorganisation, while queues grow in A&E and over 5,000 nurses are cut.

6.      Cutting 15,000 police officers – even though the Lib Dem manifesto promised an extra 3,000 police officers.


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The conventional wisdom is wrong: David Cameron and Nick Clegg are now bound even more tightly together

07/08/2012, 09:00:17 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Another pained press conference from Nick Clegg, another central plank of the Lib Dem’s beloved constitutional reform agenda disappears for a generation.

So farewell then Lords reform, we’ll see you in twenty-five years when all of the politicians who have witnessed first-hand the Lib Dem’s failure on the Lords and electoral reform, have passed from this parliamentary coil.

But, all this was known the moment 91 Tory backbenchers decided to use the Lords as an excuse to attack their leader. The votes weren’t there. The real news from Clegg’s study in sanctimonious defeat yesterday was confirmation of the tit for tat blocking of the Tories’ boundary review.

According to Lib Dem sources, Clegg attempted to mount a damage containment exercise when the extent of the Tory rebellion became obvious, sounding out MPs about the prospect of not vetoing the new boundaries.

As frustrated as Clegg was by the Tories, he privately accepted the position in which David Cameron has found himself. It’s a position Clegg empathises with and experiences himself with his own backbenches.

But the Lib Dem leader had to accept political reality. For all the fanciful recent talk of Vince Cable as a future leader of the party, the message went back to the Lib Dem leadership that there really might be regime change if Clegg did not strike back at the Tories.

The immediate reaction to this spat among much of the commentariat is to conclude that the coalition is headed for the rocks.

Certainly the massed off-the-record ranks of Tory backbenchers have done their bit to promote this notion with blood curdling talk of revenge on Clegg for the boundary betrayal.

But the reality is that the leaders of the Tories and Lib Dems are now bound even more tightly together. Assuming the projections of Tory advantage from the boundary review are correct, then David Cameron will need his Lib Dem coalition partners all the more if he is to stay in office after the next election.


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Labour needs to wake up to the threat of Nick and Dave’s very civil partnership

14/03/2012, 12:00:50 PM

by Kevin Meagher

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” remarked Bert Lance, the former Carter-era official. His homespun phrase, much emulated since he coined it in 1977, is intended to ward off the siren demand for change for change’s sake.

That very same advice now rings in the ears of Liberal Democrat ministers as they ponder what state their party will be in at the next general election. Don’t change what doesn’t need to be changed.

Frankly, as most Lib Dems must realise, it would be easier to sell the Sun in Liverpool than hold many of their marginal seats. How can their ministers hope to stay in the style to which they are undoubtedly now accustomed riding a dying horse into the 2015 election?

Let’s fast forward three years. David Cameron will surely – and reasonably – hope to win a big working majority at the next election; this is his obvious Plan A. But continuing with the coalition will be his close-run Plan B. His worst of all worlds would be to win with a small Tory majority. The last thing he wants is to be reliant on his party’s backbenches or, even worse, his rank and file, as John Major was following his general election victory twenty years ago.

For the Lib Dems – trailing in single digits in most polls – their very salvation lies in preserving the status quo. Their worst of all worlds is to see a return to binary politics with Labour and the Tories carving up British politics once again. That appears a distinct possibility with the Lib Dems now seriously looking over their shoulder as UKIP threatens to usurp them for the third party slot.

They should seek payback for holding their collective noses and backing Cameron over issues like tuition fees, austerity and NHS reform in the shape of a semi-formal electoral pact. Their candidates go into the next election with their nominal Tory opponents defending a joint record, so why not a joint ticket as well?


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Mould appearing in the rose garden

08/03/2012, 08:00:54 AM

by Peter Watt

When the Tory Lib-Dem Coalition was formed, I remember the then hopeful Labour voices saying that it wouldn’t or couldn’t last. That the internal contradictions would bring it down. But David and Nick were cleverer than that. They agreed a shared programme for government, rules for managing disagreement and a divvying up of jobs.  And not only that, but they also passed the Parliament act 2010, that for all intents and purposes bound them together until the formal start of the next general election, 2015. And the truth was that Labour didn’t have a clue what to do about it or what to say to attack it.

Labour said that it was a Tory lead government propped up by hypocritical Fib Dems. They taunted the government for its disagreements and obvious internal tensions. But the public weren’t bothered by all that. On the contrary, they looked at the “rows” and instead saw two parties coming together in the national interest trying to cooperate. Because the glue that bound the government together was the deficit. The public understood that they didn’t both agree on everything, but despite that they were prepared to put that aside to help dig the country out of a hole; a financial hole that Labour had dug. And that was pretty much how the story has run since the love in the rose garden.

Of course there have been difficulties: the AV referendum, student finance and almost every word uttered by Vince Cable have all put tension on the partner’s relationship. And Nick Clegg must be pretty miffed that he seems to have taken more than his share of the personal popularity pain, while David Cameron remains, well, prime ministerial. But dealing with the deficit and a sense of sink or swim together has kept the show on the road.

Because the deficit and its reduction is a very necessary policy objective, it is not a political cause. In other words, it is not a story that tells of the sort of country that you want to deliver. And perversely this has been useful up until now as the two parties would almost certainly not have been able to agree on what the story would be. And anyway the public have not been worried about any lack of a visionary story. On the contrary, they have just wanted to be reassured that their government was doing all that it could to avoid Britain becoming Greece. Deficit reduction may not have been a compelling story, but who needs a story when you’re worried that the banks will run out of money?

But just recently there have been signs, just signs, of a growing tension at the heart of government. And at its heart, this increase in tension between the partners is caused by this lack of a shared vision. Because deficit fatigue is kicking in for the public. It doesn’t mean that they don’t care about it anymore because they do. It’s just that it has been said so often that it has almost become meaningless.

Saying that you are in favour of reducing the deficit is like saying that you are in favour of motherhood. Who isn’t? Oh there are arguments about how fast and all that.  But no one is seriously saying that we shouldn’t reduce the deficit.  So instead people are focusing on the quality of their lives, the price of goods and the security of their jobs. And the political strategists know that they quickly need to start telling a story that addresses these fears and hopes about the future.

And so that is forcing the arguments out into the open about what sort of country that the coalition wants to see. How big and how active should the state be? Who should pay what and how much into the national coffers? What is the best way to create growth? What is the relationship between the public and private sectors? And inevitably the cracks have begun to open as we have seen this week in the run up the budget. Arguments about a mansion tax, the 50p tax rate and the break-up of RBS.

The tensions inherent in the coalition are there for all to see as outriders from both parties take to the airwaves to promote one view or the other. And more and more often we are seeing MPs from one coalition party condemning the other party. Presumably this will only get worse as we enter the latter half of the parliament. The cooperative strength of the early days of the coalition could quickly become a weakness caused by splits and indecision. There does still seem to be a strong relationship between the big four in the Cabinet (Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Alexander). And it does seem more likely than not that the Coalition will soldier on. But it also looks like it is quickly going to become an uncomfortable partnership.

So Labour has an opportunity to begin to tell its own story as the tensions within the coalition slowly simmer.  But only if it is able to begin to tell its own credible story about the sort of country that they want to see. And only if they remember that people’s deficit fatigue does not mean that Labour have won the argument and that in fact people still blame Labour for causing it.*

*Even if Labour thinks that that is unfair.

Peter Watt was general secretary of the Labour party.

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The government’s complacency about rising crime will hurt them in the end

22/10/2011, 04:00:55 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

The government must have been grateful for the news of Gaddafi’s death this week, not just for the symbolic ‘closure’ of the Libya campaign, but also for distracting the media pack from a troubling set of quarterly crime figures, and from their own clumsy response to them.

When the previous set of quarterly figures came out, ministers tried to spin them as a ‘vindication of their reforms’, despite those reforms having hardly started – and despite the figures themselves being mixed at best. This time, ministers are trying to spin the figures as mixed, when in fact the bad news clearly outweighs the good.

The figures cover the year ending in June – so not including the riots – and show overall recorded crime down, though there were rises in recorded instances of serious sexual crimes, in some categories of theft, and in knife crime (though provisional figures for knife homicides are stable, at just over 200 per year). But – as the UK Statistics Authority impressed on the Conservatives before the election, and as they have now accepted – a far better guide to crime trends is provided by the British Crime Survey, which has used the same methodology for thirty years. The latest BCS results, published at the same time, estimate a 10% rise in burglary, a 7% rise in household acquisitive crime, a 7% rise in theft from the person, a 3% rise in robbery, and a 3% rise in violent crime. They also estimate an overall rise in crime of 2%, with the proviso that this overall rise, along with the apparent rises in several of the individual categories, is ‘not statistically significant’ – the phrase which a Downing Street spokesperson rather unfortunately seized on in trying to play down the figures.

It remains true, as I wrote after the last quarter’s results, that it is too early to be sure about the nature of the trend. This might be a blip, of the kind we saw in 2008-09 when the recession began, and when Conservatives and Liberal Democrats reacted to a much smaller increase in burglary by predicting a ‘recession crime wave’ – which actually turned out to be a rise of 1%, followed by a resumption of the falling trend. Or it might be a sign that the long downward trend since 1995 is flattening out, to be replaced by annual fluctuations. Or, the bad scenario, this might be the start of a belated surge in crime associated with the state of the economy, of the kind we saw in the early 1990s. (more…)

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They may be an idiotic rabble: but they’re still family – sort of

24/09/2011, 09:00:26 AM

by Kevin Meagher

THE late Roy Jenkins, grand-daddy of “the radical centre” must be turning in his grave. That’s assuming, of course, that the late and never knowingly under-lunched apostle of Lib-Labbery has room to manoeuvre.

His abiding belief was that the schism between socialists and liberals at the start of the twentieth century needlessly gifted decades of political hegemony to the Conservatives. As a former chancellor, his maths were spot-on. The Tories governed for seven decades out of ten. The forces of the centre-left were divided and impotent for two-thirds of the last century.

There are grand theories about why this happened. But here is an altogether simpler explanation. If you turned on your television this week you would have seen them in all their glory. The loons, crackpots and pedants of the Liberal Democrat party. How on earth could we ever work with these people? (more…)

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The undead Nick Clegg starts to stir…

23/09/2011, 12:00:41 PM

by Dan Hodges

Ed Miliband has a nightmare. Forget the sleep apnoea;  this is what really keeps him awake at night.

He is walking along the corridor of a dark, abandoned castle. He turns a corner into an imposing room. Like the rest of the castle, the room has been ransacked by  angry villagers determined to wreak revenge for the evil that once dwelt amongst them. All that is left is a large black table. Upon the table sits a coffin, lid open.

Ed inches closer, torch flickering. He peers in. Inside there is a pale figure, eyes closed, dressed in a dark morning suit. It wears a gold tie.

Ed is initially gripped by fear. But as the moments pass the fear recedes; replaced by a strange feeling of empathy. Then sympathy.

Poor Nick Clegg. What he did was wrong. So very, very wrong. But he has paid the price. The price exacted from all politicians when their public turns upon them. Now, at last, he has found peace…

“Hello, Ed. I’ve been waiting for you”.

Dear God, he’s alive! He’s sitting up! He’s…

“You’ll find it’s not so bad in there. You have time to stop and think. To come to understand where it all went wrong”.

Ed turns, tries to run. But his feet are like clay. Clegg is out of the coffin now advancing towards him, cape spread wide. He can see razor-sharp teeth glinting in the moonlight; a cold, piercing stare reaching out from dark, empty eyes.

And somewhere in the distance he hears a laugh. A cruel laugh. He knows that laugh. It is David Cameron’s. Then there is silence.


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