Posts Tagged ‘Dominic Cummings’

Team Brexit’s political misjudgements have turned a campaign drama into an existential crisis for their cause

26/05/2016, 07:00:53 PM

In a three part series Atul Hatwal looks at the state of the two EU referendum campaigns and the likely winners and losers from the vote. For his second post, he reviews the performance of the Brexiteers.

Few would describe the Labour party as a model of electoral success in recent years.

But the two-headed Brexit team of Leave.EU and Vote Leave have contrived to ape Labour’s biggest mistakes over the past six years, combining the worst of Corbyn and Miliband to create a Frankenstein campaign that frequently defies belief.

The Faragists of Leave.EU are the Corbynistas of this campaign.

For Farage its immigration, for Corbyn its austerity, either way their mode of monomania is the same.

Britain’s electoral experience and current polling suggests that the economy matters most to voters.

But the Faragists don’t care about evidence.

Their faith-based approach to argument ignores the niceties of engaging with swing voters’ priorities in favour of shouting the same thing about their pet issue, EU migrants, over and over again, more and more loudly.

The stock response to set-backs or public rejection is to retreat into a nether-sphere of conspiracy theories about media bias, skewed polls and conniving, establishment lizard overlords.

The louder the Faragist tendency shouts, the more the anti-EU cause is seen by mainstream voters as a fringe concern propagated by advocates nearer David Icke than David Cameron on the credibility spectrum.

About the only thing that can be said in defence of the Faragists and Corbynistas, is that their position is at least constant.

In contrast, the Vote Leave campaign, who were meant to be the Brexit adults in the room, seem to have taken Ed Miliband as their model.

Like Miliband, they understood that banging on endlessly about what animates activists is not a route to victory.

They saw the importance of swing voters.

But like Miliband, they haven’t been able to bring themselves to act on voters’ concerns.

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If coalitions are to work, they need to be time-limited

17/06/2014, 05:04:39 PM

by Kevin Meagher

The fallout from Dominic Cummings’ salvo against David Cameron and the coalition government received a less histrionic response from former Cameron special adviser Sean Worth this morning.

Writing in Public Affairs News, the adviser turned lobbyist wrote that:

“Future coalitions will be formed by parties demanding explicit control of distinct areas of policy, rather than simply sharing power. The principal powers, notably tax and spend, and defence decisions, must be shared, but governing leaders will carve out defining areas of political territory on which to build the personal crusades needed to push radical reforms that really get them noticed.”

The current model of zipping ministerial appointments in departments between Conservatives and Lib Dem and vice versa, has seen the creation of internal departmental hand breaks. Think Gove and Sarah Teather, or Vince Cable and Michael Fallon. (Of course, one place it has worked all too well is the Treasury between George Osborne and Danny Alexander – but that underlines a different problem, certainly for the Lib Dems).

Reform-minded ministers like Michael Gove are frustrated by the need to co-operate and seek consensus. For politicians (and advisers like Cummings) who are sure of themselves and are keen to make their mark – or who simply want to please their party and implement the manifesto they stood on – the current coalition experience is clearly a massive anti-climax.

But creating party fiefs across Whitehall – Worth’s alternative suggestion – is a recipe for disaster. How do you deal with cross-cutting issues in this model? Take the recent spat between Gove and Theresa May on tacking extremism. How much more loaded will rows like that become when they are not just between different departments, but different departments controlled by different parties?

If inconclusive election results are to become the norm, then our political system needs a clearer way of responding. Coalitions may indeed be here to stay, but rather than staggering on for five years, descending into bickering and drift in the process, it would be better to limit their lifespan to 12-18 months instead.

This focuses the attentions and energies of both parties. It creates an incentive to co-operate on areas of agreement and on issues that require immediate attention in the national interest. Larger changes should be put before the electorate at the subsequent election.

This sort of arrangement would show that sensible co-operation between parties in the national interest is indeed possible, but it also challenges voters to accept that our model of government works best when a single party has a mandate to govern.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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Tory splits offer Labour an opportunity

16/06/2014, 12:57:56 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The Tories now have a great deal of confidence after Newark, wrote the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman on 6 June. The rebelliousness of their backbenches, especially the 2010 intake, has been one of the features of this parliament. Newark marked the first time in a quarter of a century that they retained a seat in a by-election in government, which followed the local and European elections that indicated they are well placed for 2015 if they can recover those who defected from them to UKIP. The smell of success and bigger success to come, sharpened backbench Tory focus.

As soon as discipline returned to the Tory backbenches, however, it spectacularly deserted their frontbench. The mutually assured damage of public airing of policy differences between Michael Gove and Theresa May makes events inexplicable, not least as they cast a shaft of light on a political terrain that must undermine the Tory general election cause: the world beyond David Cameron. No party wants to face election with a diminished leader and Cameron is now likely to face the question that dogged Tony Blair throughout the 2005 general election: “If elected, will you serve a full term?”

A decade ago, the “buy Blair, get Brown” deal was deemed acceptable – without great enthusiasm but sufficiently palatable to return Labour to a third term in government. While George Osborne harbours hopes of becoming party leader and prime minister in the next parliament, it’s doubtful that he wishes to fight the general election on a similarly joint ticket. The antics of one of his supposed backers, Michael Gove, makes this more likely, however.

Gove has a habit of getting into unnecessary arguments. He first entered my consciousness as a panellist at a debate on the Iraq war in 2003 in Shoreditch Town Hall, organised by the Foreign Policy Centre. My only memory is of him berating an audience member for what he saw as a faulty interpretation of the Glorious Revolution. I also recall Allegra Stratton – now Newsnight’s political editor, then one of the organisers of debate – skipping about the place. I don’t know whether this reveals anything substantive about her character but the cantankerous first impression that Gove left me with does appear telling.

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