Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

Three Labour reflections on Tory conference

08/10/2015, 03:27:12 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s always an odd experience attending Tory conference (I was there to speak for the Migration Matters Trust at a fringe), particularly this year. As a Labour member it felt almost like Her Majesty’s Opposition had ceased to exist as a practical concern for the Tories.

Here are three reflections on how and why.

1.The protests have utterly toxified Labour’s relationship with the media

It’s not nice being spat at. Or being called scum. Nor seeing women being called whores and threatened with rape.

That’s the experience virtually everybody attending Tory conference had at the start of the week.

The people shouting and spitting weren’t necessarily Labour party members or supporters but the ideological comity between Labour’s leadership and the more extreme protesters is clear.

Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell is on the record as backing “insurrection” and “direct action” and there were plenty of Labour members and even parliamentary staffers on Twitter, eager to Corbsplain the abuse.

For the journalists, whose words and pictures will frame public views of the party, Tory conference indelibly connected the dots between Labour’s leadership and the nutters.

Beyond the horrendous nature of the experience for the journalists, it set a prism, one of extremism, through which most will now perceive – even sub-consciously – Labour politics.

It would be a miracle if this then didn’t shape their reporting.

2.The Tory leadership succession will dominate UK politics for the next few years (more…)

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Of course #Piggate is nonsense, but it exposes weaknesses in Cameron’s Tory party

22/09/2015, 10:27:09 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Like most people, I didn’t think I would find myself writing about whether or not a young David Cameron inserted his penis into the severed head of a pig in order to join one of those ghastly upper-crust Oxbridge dinin’n’cavortin’ clubs, but, here we are, having a good giggle at his expense.

But behind the head shaking wonderment at how the other half lives lie some interesting revelations about how Cameron deals with people and how he copes in a crisis.

  1. The first is that a Conservative peer and former political editor of the Conservative-supporting Sunday Times (Isabel Oakeshott) are responsible for bringing the grisly revelation to light. Lord Ashcroft, for it is he, is quite open about his “beef” with Cameron for not apparently honouring a promise of a government job after 2010. So is this his elaborate revenge? If so, it doesn’t say much for Cameron’s people management skills that he cannot handle his dealings with the biggest single donor to his party over the last 15 years and, perhaps, that he cannot honour a deal.

    But what of the source for the story? Ashcroft/Oakeshott insist it was a Conservative MP (and assumed contemporary of Cameron) who repeated the tale to them, on several occasions. Cui bono? And why the alacrity in sticking the knife into their own leader?

  1. Then there’s the handling of the revelation itself. Downing Street initially poured cold water on the story, haughtily refusing to “dignify” the allegation with a response. This avoids the follow-up headline: ‘Cam rejects claim he put his penis in a pig’s mouth,’ but it’s also a classic ‘non-denial denial’. It urges us to move along without actually rubbishing the veracity of the tale.

    Indeed, it’s interesting there has been no retinue of Conservative MPs hitting the airwaves to denounce it. (It comes to something when Toby Young is the ‘go to guy’ to offer Downing Street’s off-the-books counter-spin). Perhaps Tory MPs calculate that being on the right side of Michael Ashcroft is better for their long-term prospects than helping out a Prime Minister who will be gone in the next four years?


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Labour can be a movement again under Jeremy Corbyn

18/08/2015, 10:50:40 PM

by Jon Bounds

Despite derision from all corners of the media, and anger from the only corner of the Labour party that the media listens to, Jeremy Corbyn has been attracting crowds most politicians and even most pop stars can only dream about.

We live in a small town in Oxfordshire — Cameron country — where Labour are a distant third in all elections, and the Conservative social club is a signposted landmark and a social hub. My wife Libby is never one to shy away from a political discussion, despite being the daughter of a sometime Liberal Democrat councillor. At least once she has stopped to engage those having a fag outside ‘the Con club’ as it’s known and asked them their opinions on matters of the day.

Most of the time it happens with more respect and decorum than PMQs, even though, leaving aside the Chancellor, participants in these impromptu street exchanges are likely to be more intoxicated.

But do you know what? These proud Tories haven’t got a clue what is going on: they have no inkling that there has even been a Health and Social Care Act, let alone what  its impacts are. But these are the people, working class in the true economic sense and ‘aspirational’ — if that means that they are happy to work hard, desire have nice things and want look after their families and friends — and most of all they are the people that we have been told that the Labour party needs to win over in 2020.


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On welfare, Cameron has a point – but we have to hold him to it

25/06/2015, 10:48:01 PM

by David Ward

Napoleon once told Le Comte de Molé the value of being both a fox and a lion, “the whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be one or the other”. For Labour on the prime minister’s speech on welfare and “opportunity” on 22 June, the tempting response will be to roar at injustice as Andy Burnham indicated he would do in the recent Newsnight debate. But there are reasons to be wary of that approach.

We saw in the last parliament how effective Tory attacks on perceived injustices on those who work to provide a living for others can be. No matter how much howling is heard from the left about Benefits Street or reductions in the benefit cap it all falls straight into Osborne’s electoral trap.

Instead we can take a far more interesting approach. To say Cameron has a point on welfare and hold him to account for it.

The prime minister suggests there is a problem with government “topping up low pay…We need to move from a low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare society.” And of course, he’s right. It’s what Ed Miliband used to call predistribution. For some reason it didn’t catch on.


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The battle for Britain’s place in the world starts now

22/06/2015, 10:47:41 PM

by Callum Anderson

The election has passed, the Labour (and Liberal Democrat) leadership contests are in full swing and the Queen has made her speech at the State Opening of Parliament.

And as has been well documented over the last month, amongst the Bills announced was the EU Referendum Bill – a commitment to giving the British people a vote on the UK’s EU membership by the end of 2017.

It was passed with an overwhelming majority of 544-53 last week.

Of course, in many ways, this is no surprise.

The tide has largely turned within the Labour camp on the concept of a referendum: the three frontrunners in the leadership contest having reversed Ed Miliband’s opposition to an EU referendum, acknowledging the inevitability that the British people wanted to have their say on whether Britain continues its membership in the EU.

A myriad of polls have shown either a decent poll for the retaining membership: YouGov poll revealing ‘record support’ among Britons for staying in the EU, while a British Future survey recently found, up to 46.8 per cent of Britons would vote to stay in the EU, as opposed to the 40.3 per cent on the contrary.

But, of course, one of the many things the 2015 General Election taught us was that we must not slavishly and unquestioningly believe opinion polls and so, therefore, we pro-Europeans must reject any notion of complacency towards the task that now stands before us.


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Andy Burnham’s wrong. Not only must Labour take part in the cross-party pro-EU campaign, it has to lead it

12/06/2015, 06:43:36 PM

by Dan Cooke

The first real public test for Labour’s new leader is likely to be fighting a battle they didn’t want to fight at all, at a time and in circumstances dictated by their main opponent, and within the straight-jacket that they must support the basic position of that opponent.

This conundrum is, of course, the EU referendum, to be called by David Cameron to endorse his renegotiation based on principles he has still not fully revealed.

Cameron’s ideal scenario for this campaign is obvious: to achieve a settlement that will redeem the EU for all but its most zealous detractors and credit him as the PM who settled Britain’s relationship with Europe.

And his game plan for referendum victory is equally obvious: to assert that a good deal for Britain has been secured, regardless of what his renegotiation actually does, or does not, achieve.

Apart from campaigning to leave as a result of admitted negotiating failure (inconceivable), or declaring that the relationship was fine all along and serious renegotiation was actually unnecessary (even more inconceivable), there is no other option. The Conservative “Yes” campaign could just as well start printing their posters right now.

For Labour the approach to the campaign is far less straightforward.

For a party that declared until recently that there was no need for a referendum, it would be illogical to link support for a “Yes” vote to the outcome of this renegotiation. Labour cannot go along with the inevitable Cameron spin that he has fixed a fundamentally broken relationship.  Labour is committed to “Yes” regardless and must make a case for the EU that goes above and beyond the expected Tory tinkering.

Indeed, alongside this commitment to staying in the EU, Labour will naturally reserve the right to call Cameron out if his renegotiation does not match up to the hype, and make hay from the divisions within the Tory tribe that are already starting and only likely to become more chronic as the negotiation progresses.


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Nationalist thugs in Scotland will boost Scottish Labour’s vote

04/05/2015, 04:38:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Today, Jim Murphy showed why he is a strong leader. Unlike either David Cameron or Ed Miliband, he took his campaign to the streets to meet ordinary voters. It was the type of bold, smart politics that this election has lacked.

It was bold because rather than hiding away behind a lectern, at a ticketed event, protected by a ring of security, Jim Murphy had the courage to stand up and make his case at Glasgow’s St Enoch Square.

He knew that nationalist thugs would be there to shout him down. They always are. That they would try to deny his right to free speech and disrupt a peaceful political gathering.

But still he did it. Because democracy matters and speaking to voters, real people not the adoring activists bussed in for most political rallies, is the lifeblood of politics.

The intimidation and abuse that Jim Murphy experienced were a vivid demonstration of the dark side of Scottish nationalism.

And this is why it was smart, as well as brave, politics.

Media reports of this type of confrontation are more persuasive than any speech by a Scottish Labour politician on the dangers of an unchecked nationalist Raj in Scotland.

Not just for wavering Labour voters, but Tories and Lib Dems too, it shows how freedom of speech, the right to express a pro-union argument or even just a non-nationalist case, is under threat.

To resist the SNP surge, Labour needs the support of Tory and Lib Dem voters. In most Scottish seats, the Tories and Lib Dems don’t stand a chance. The choice is simple: Labour or the SNP. The pictures on today’s news make a powerful case for these voters to lend their votes to Labour to turn back the nationalist tide.

In the final days of this campaign, if Scottish Labour can clearly define itself as the pro-union party, the party that speaks for the 55% who rejected independence in the referendum last year, it can hang on to a swathe of Scottish seats that pollsters have written off.

Seats that the party desperately needs if Ed Miliband is to have any hope of making it into Downing street.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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The Tories’ tartan scare was made in America by Jim Messina

25/04/2015, 09:34:58 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The Tories’ tartan scare is the defining political gambit of this campaign.

Labour advisers see Lynton Crosby’s handiwork. But Crosby is not the only big name consultant, calling the shots in their campaign.

Sitting along-side Crosby, at the top table is Jim Messina, the man who masterminded President Obama’s re-election and will run Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President.

Crosby is a convenient lightning rod for Labour discontent but Messina has had a critical role in framing their strategy.

Unlike the absent David Axelrod, Labour’s own big US name hire, Messina has been a constant presence in the Tory campaign, in person and on the phone.

On Thursday he was in Conservative HQ finalising plans for the fortnight to polling day and giving the Tory campaign team a pep talk on the floor of the war room.

A sign of his status is that he operates outside of the strict media rules that govern all other consultants and advisers. Lynton Crosby’s code of omerta does not apply to Jim Messina who tweets freely about his activities.

The previous week he had been in London, reviewing the Tories’ field intelligence and focus group research on the effectiveness of the tartan scare message on their target voter groups – Ukip supporters and centrist and right-leaning Lib Dems. He even hit the phones to see the effectiveness of the messaging for himself.


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Reaching out to centrist voters now is good tactics. Strategy it ain’t

23/04/2015, 11:45:50 AM

by Rob Marchant

Happily, Labour has had a very good fortnight. Since my last column, Miliband’s personal ratings have jumped up and the Tory campaign has blundered from unforced error to unforced error. Bookies and polls now put him as neck and neck with Cameron as next PM, not lagging way behind as before.

The final piece of this recovery in both results and performance, last weekend, was a quite unexpected outreach programme from Labour to the centre ground, of which more later.

After the last election, the new prime minister, formerly known for his husky-cuddling and his “greenest government ever” shtick suddenly remembered his back benchers and became, for the most part, a much more traditional kind of Tory.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in his Europe policy, where he essentially caved in to the more rabid Eurosceptic elements in his own party, in the hope of stemming the flow of voters and defecting MPs to UKIP. If, as some are predicting, UKIP ends up the election having lost Thanet South and with merely a couple of MPs, he will surely look back on this decision to pander to their agenda as one of the utmost folly.

That game is not only dangerous for Britain, it is poor internal politics for Cameron: after all, his (almost universally pro-EU) big business backers can hardly be delighted at the prospect of an EU referendum. But in any event, it is not hard to paint the Tories as having lurched into a right-wing caricature of themselves.

On the other hand Miliband, for the majority of his tenure as leader, has often given the impression of being more mindful of his party at large than of the electorate outside, with the result that Labour’s policy agenda has mostly languished in its comfort zone on the soft left. There was one brief flicker of hope that Labour would once again embrace a broad church, around the time of Miliband’s 2013 “One Nation” conference speech: but in policy terms One Nation turned out, for the most part, to be a slogan, and little more.

Politics is a lot like the game of squash: those who dominate the centre of the court tend to dominate the game.


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Cameron beware: Benefit claimants lose money when they don’t turn up to an interview

16/04/2015, 05:42:54 PM

As the only national political leader taking part in tonight’s “challengers’ debate,” is it a mistake for Ed Miliband to put himself on a par with the nationalists and minnows of British politics?

We’ll soon find out, but assuming he does well enough (in a format that usually favours his softer public style) it will bolster an already confident Labour campaign and throw the spotlight on the absent Prime Minister’s reluctance to defend his own record.

Indeed, Miliband has a neat line on David Cameron’s failure to turn up: “I think if you are applying for the job of Prime Minister, the very least the British people expect is for you to turn up to the interview.”

Such bad form, especially when Employment Minister Esther McVeigh has been very clear on this point: “…jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work. We are ending the something for nothing culture,” she has previously opined.

For the first offence of failing to turn up to an interview, an unemployed benefit claimant faces losing four week’s Job Seekers’ Allowance.

Cameron should beware, the penalties increase with every no-show.

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