Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

Don’t blame Cameron. A sitting PM would be mad to agree to TV debates

06/03/2015, 07:00:28 AM

The gap between being in opposition and government is thrown into sharp relief by the debate (squabble?) around televised election debates.

Don’t blame David Cameron for not wanting to have them. No sitting prime minister in his or her right mind would willingly choose to participate. The stakes are stacked against you from the start.

Most obviously, you are defending a record while the other participants are free to attack it.

What’s more, the prep time needed to brief a prime minister is massively greater than that needed to pick at their record.

For a leader more popular than his party, having Cameron grounded in London rehearsing how he defends his record across the board is wasted time for the Tories.

Prime ministers, even those as callow as David Cameron, appreciate that being in government is a complex business.

It’s made harder by the fact that a prime ministerial brain will be stacked full of the nuance of policy issues, making instant snappy rebuttals hard to craft on the hoof.

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Is Labour prepared for a second Cameron government?

17/02/2015, 10:16:10 PM

by David Talbot

Such optimism greeted the unveiling of Labour’s grand general election strategy some two years ago. The party would target 106 key seats using techniques borrowed from Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaigns in a “realistic” strategy to install the Labour leader in Downing Street with a majority of 60, the then election supremo Tom Watson announced. Somewhat naturally, given Westminster’s seemingly never-ending penchant for expensive Americans, a thousand community organisers were to be funded simultaneously in the key seats trained by the now adrift Arnie Graf.

The general election had duly begun, we were told, and Labour was set to be a one-term opposition; a feat achieved just once in forty years. According to Watson’s detailed analysis, Labour needed a national swing of just under two per cent to be the largest party at the next election. An average swing of over five per cent would deliver Labour a Commons majority of 20 seats and over six per cent a 60-seat majority. Such was the bullishness of the assessment that all the seats announced were offensive, and such was the hyperbole attached that talk of an 80-seat majority was passed in the same breath. Labour will win, and “win well” Watson confidently asserted.

Such a shame. Three months out from the general election few in the Labour fold would publically repeat such wild talk. But at the time it was easy enough to see where the confidence had come from; the “ominshambles” Budget had handed Labour a large and sustained lead – with the party regularly breaching and holding the magical forty per cent barrier.

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Some gloomy general election predictions

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

by Atul Hatwal

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

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

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

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

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

This is why.

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Labour HQ is the place where political narratives go to die

15/10/2014, 10:03:50 AM

by Alexander Shea

Last month’s Conference represented a nadir for Ed Miliband’s Labour party. It was a graveyard of narrative, an abandonment of the political.

Labour relapsed into ‘itemised politics’, presenting a praiseworthy plan for the protection of the NHS yet failing to encompass it within a wider coherent and compelling narrative of what is fundamentally wrong with this country and how Labour proposes to put it right.

As the shock of the Heywood and Middleton by-election has shown, an electoral strategy comprised of a single-issue focus on the NHS is not going to cut the mustard. Narrow, itemised politics is not the way forward. To win in 2015, Labour needs to think big.

Establishing a clear and firm policy line on the NHS was necessary. As polls have shown it is the most important issue in the upcoming election to 34% of voters, making it the leading issue for 2015.

But it is precisely in these polling figures that the sheer lack of ambition or political message that Labour conveyed by making the NHS its marquee policy, is able to be sensed. It smacked of a 35 percent strategy: a timid desire to play it safe politically- to score on ‘open goal’ policy issues such as the NHS- in the knowledge that due to an electoral quirk, Labour will win a majority in the next Parliament if it breaks the 35 percent threshold. What better way to implement such a 35 percent strategy than by banking on an issue that 35 percent of the electorate prioritise.

Pursuing such a timid approach, however, is the height of folly. John Prescott is right. Rather than scoring an ‘open goal’ on the NHS, by pursuing itemized politics Labour has sacrificed the potential for a broader political message, and consequently scored a massive own goal.

They presented David Cameron with a gilt-edged opportunity at his party conference in Birmingham. At a time when Cameron should have been on the back foot over Brooks Newmark’s sexting and Mark Reckless’ defection to UKIP, Labour effectively presented Cameron with the opportunity to use his party conference speech as a platform from which to project a narrative of British politics, that of ‘economism’ in which the twin gods of economic growth and welfare cuts are reified at the expense of humanistic politics, the latter focusing not on objective economic data but the subjective experience of living in austerity Britain: the cost of living crisis, the bedroom tax, childcare allowance and so on.

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The Tories Don’t Understand Human Rights

08/10/2014, 10:33:42 AM

by Sam Fowles

Forced to abandon NHS bashing for the sake of the election, David Cameron needed to feed the right some red meat. He chose the European Convention on Human Rights, promising to repeal the Human Rights Act, which allows English judges to incorporate the dicta of the Strasbourg court into their rulings, and allow Parliament to ignore the European Court of Human Rights.  This is more than simply wrong; it shows a fundamental failure to understand of the role human rights play in international law and politics.

The international law of human rights is based on the premise that there is something fundamentally valuable about each individual human. In this light Cameron’s idea of a “British Bill of Rights” seems absurd. People are not inherently valuable because they are British or French or Afghan. We are valuable because we are human. For this reason that the ECHR applies to British troops fighting abroad. To suggest that people should lose value in our eyes because they are non-European is an attitude redolent of the 13th Century not the 21st.

The ECHR is itself based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It doesn’t invent “European Rights”. It allows citizens of European states direct access to universal rights. It’s worth noting that the UK would remain bound by a plethora of international human rights conventions even if it were to secede from the ECHR (as the Conservatives threaten). The government’s legal obligations wouldn’t fundamentally change; they would just get more complex.

In practice human rights law protects the vulnerable from the powerful. This is why a bill of rights decided purely by the parliamentary majority is so dangerous. Human rights act as a check on the majority. Courts should make decisions (such as giving prisoners the vote) with which most of us disagree. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be a check on the majority.

This is important because, in a democracy, the majority should be able to change. If the power of a majority is not checked then there is nothing to stop that majority taking steps to make itself permanent. Cameron is asking us to trust to powerful to set limits to their own power. For a man who supposedly venerates the Magna Carter he sounds suspiciously like Prince John.

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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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British policy is imprisoned by the past – it needs to be free to fight the threat we face

22/08/2014, 02:35:31 PM

by Pat McFadden

The Prime Minister has hardly communicated energy in the fight against Islamist extremism with his yo yoing holiday plans but it’s not his physical location that matters most – it is the lack of a strong and clear plan to fight the battle in which we are engaged.

The ISIS killing spree targeting Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims, and the brutal horrific murder of American journalist James Foley should leave us in no doubt, if there was any in the first place, that we have to face up to the threat posed by the ideology which drives these actions.

The Prime Minister terms this a generational struggle.  He is right about that.  Yet he cannot bring himself to will the means to fight it because government decision making is imprisoned by the past, in particular by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and by the Prime Minister’s immediate decision following last year’s Parliamentary vote on Syria to take the option of military intervention off the table.

Public opinion in both the UK and the US is war weary for understandable reasons. Many lives have been lost and many brave young servicemen and women have suffered life altering injuries as a result of long military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yet opting out of this battle is neither possible nor in the end desirable because we have to defend our way of life, stand up for our freedoms and combat an ideology of mass murder based on a gross perversion of faith. We don’t have a choice about whether to engage in this fight.  If we don’t go to it, it is coming to us.

In that regard, the government’s decision a couple of years ago to abolish Control Orders and give terror suspects in the UK new freedoms to move around the country and access the internet – and to put a sunset clause on the weakened regime even if the threat level posed by the person had not changed – now looks even more reckless and irresponsible than it did at the time.

The wrong analysis led to the wrong policy.  The Government came to office believing that the laws of the land posed a threat to our liberty.  But while security and liberty always have to be carefully balanced it is not the law of the land – heavily scrutinised by parliament and the judiciary – which poses a threat to our freedoms.  That threat is posed by the ideology which saw James Foley beheaded on the internet and which would inspire the people who carried out this crime to target people in this country too.

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Cameron’s reshuffle reshapes the battlefield to exploit Labour weaknesses

16/07/2014, 01:18:15 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Forget the breathless minutiae of who’s up and who’s down or biographies of the newly promoted, most analyses of the Tory reshuffle have missed the most important point: this was a reshuffle defined by Labour. Labour’s lines of attack and Labour’s vulnerabilities.

Ed Miliband was the silent witness, standing in the corner, at the back of David Cameron’s mind as the prime minister worked out his new ministerial jigsaw.

In each of the three major changes David Cameron announced – the promotion of women, the demotion of Gove and the installation of Phillip Hammond at FCO –  the same motivation is evident:  to reshape the battlefield with Labour. To make the Tories a smaller target, minimise the potential for distracting internal conflict and focus the national debate on the two areas where David Cameron is confident he has the beating of Ed Miliband: leadership and the economy.

It is debateable whether Labour’s repeated attacks on Cameron for sexism have won over many wavering voters, but they certainly had media resonance and diverted the political conversation away from the Conservatives preferred topics.

Ta Dah! David Cameron now has a defensible position on women’s representation. Labour will continue with its attacks, as was evident at PMQs today, but the traction is gone. Broadcast journalists are notably less opinionated than their newspaper comrades, but these tweets by ITV’s Chris Ship are indicative of the mood among the lobby.


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Reshuffles hardly ever make a difference. But that won’t stop the speculation

30/06/2014, 06:09:38 PM

by David Butler

David Cameron and Ed Miliband are preparing to shuffle their packs and make their final cut of this Parliament; for one, this will be the last reshuffle they preside over. Ministers and their shadows buzz around nervously awaiting the phone call that will determine the next few years of their political career. For a few, membership of the cabinet (or shadow cabinet) awaits. For others, the comfy leather of the commons backbenches is their destination. However, as much as fun discussing reshuffles can be, the act itself will be mostly irrelevant to either party’s prospects next year.

There is a media tendency to overhype the impact of reshuffles. In Miliband’s most recent shadow cabinet reshuffle was argued to be a cull of the Blairites. In fact, it was more of a replacement of Blairites associated with the Ancein Regime rather than Blairites per se. The 2012 government reshuffle was said to be a ‘rise of the right’ moment but has made little discernible effect on the overall direction of the government, aside from possibly the work done by Chris Grayling as justice secretary and Owen Paterson as environment secretary. Another discrepancy between media discussion and political reality is the perception that reshuffles are a political masterplans, executed with supreme efficiency; in fact, it is often the case that they are chaotic and messy. For example in 2012, the failure of Cameron to convince Iain Duncan Smith to move from the DWP to the MoJ caused a chaotic last minute rethink of the reshuffle and damaged relations between Number 10 and IDS.

The presence of a northern woman in the cabinet will not be the silver bullet to the issue of Tory unpopularity with urban voters and women, just as Sajid Javid’s appointment has not made the Tories more appealing to ethnic minorities. Without addressing the deeper roots of the problems – culture, policy, perception and history – that prevent the Tories from winning over said voters, such an appointment will have only the most marginal of impacts.

For Labour too, a few fresh faces, perhaps a promotion for Gloria de Piero or Dan Jarvis, won’t get over our problems of the lack of trust on the economy and Ed’s poor personal ratings. These are problems arising from strategy, communication and Ed himself. People don’t believe we will make the changes we have pledged and are sceptical that we can manage the economy and public finances well.

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