Posts Tagged ‘economy’

May and Trump are in charge – but voters’ wallets still rule

23/01/2017, 07:15:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Trump’s inauguration. May’s speech. We are told that Trump is a protectionist and May is for free trade. But they both reject the social market that characterises the EU, making it a golden shower of a week for internationalist social democrats.

The market comes via trade within the EU, while the social is injected by having this occur above a floor on workers’ and consumers’ rights, as well as protections for the environment and other public goods. “We would be free,” threatened the prime minister, “to change the basis of Britain’s economic model.” The social dimension of the EU model would not endure any transformation into Dubai-on-Thames. Nor, according to a former head official at the Treasury, would the NHS.

It is also the market, not the social, that attracts Trump – perhaps better described as a mercantilist than a protectionist – to a trade deal with the UK. He wants a wall on the Mexican border but he doesn’t want, in contrast to a pure protectionist, to wholly encase America behind trade walls. He does, though, seem to view trade as a zero-sum game, not a win-win exchange. And he eyes a win for America in a negotiation with a UK to be stripped of EU social regulations and looking for friends after politically detaching ourselves from our European partners.

Trump perpetuates the myth that America has ever put itself anywhere other than first. Pumping, in today’s money, around $120bn into Europe via the Marshall Plan, for example, wasn’t just about compassion for a continent on its knees after World War II. It was about minimising the risk of American blood being spilt on European soil, opening up European markets for American goods, and creating a European bulwark between the Soviet Union and the Atlantic.

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How to fight hard Brexit: Step 1 – Understand why Remain lost. Spoiler: It’s not what Westminster thinks

28/12/2016, 11:04:18 AM

In a series of three pieces, Atul Hatwal sets out how hard Brexit can be fought in the coming years. Today he looks at why Remain lost and the implications for the battle to shape Brexit

Why did Remain lose? Since the referendum Brexiteers have been assiduous in asserting their narrative: immigration trumped the economy, emotion won over facts and these are the new rules of the political game.

The Brexiteer version of history is now the accepted consensus at Westminster, virtually unchallenged by pro-Europeans, often meekly accepted.

The state of the pro-EU camp feels very familiar, certainly to a Labour member. All very mid-1992 when following a fourth electoral defeat, the best that many senior leaders of the party had to offer by way of strategy was “one more heave.”

It wasn’t good enough then, it isn’t now.

The starting point for pro-Europeans is to ask the right question.

Not just why Leave won but why a Remain campaign built around familiar economic beats failed when the same backing track had proved so persuasive at the general election and the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

At the election and referendum, campaigns targeting concerns about the economy had convincingly defeated Scottish nationalism in 2014 and crushed Ukip’s English anti-migrant nationalism in 2015.

The conventional wisdom is that immigration was more potent as an issue in 2016.

Fortunately for those who want to prevent a hard Brexit, this is wrong.

The British Election Study (BES), which surveyed a huge panel of 30,000 voters before and after the referendum, sheds some light on what actually happened.

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It’s always the economy stupid. Time for Project Fear to turn up the volume

15/06/2016, 12:42:39 PM

by Samuel Dale

What has Remain been doing? The campaign to keep Britain in the EU has been spinning around like a Catherine Wheel in the last few days.

Some of this is down to effective campaigning from Vote Leave. After months of focusing on nonsense like sovereignty and weak economic arguments, they have started to focus on the only topic they can: immigration.

They are running advert after advert on Turkey becoming a member of the EU by 2020 and millions of Turks (or, nudge, nudge, hint, hint: Muslims) coming to the UK.  Total lies and nasty smears but effective campaigning and the only message that resonates for them.

But Remain’s initial response to this aggressive shift and a few worrying polls has been bonkers.

Instead of ramming home it’s winning economic arguments it left the floor to Gordon Brown to waffle on about global peace and influence.

And instead of simply ignoring immigration – which it absolutely must at this late stage – it has left Labour to talk about a future deal or renegotiation. Or even a Scotland-style Vow on controls.

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SNP 2014. Labour 2015. Vote Leave 2016

06/06/2016, 10:58:28 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Vote Leave are living the dream. Ed Miliband’s dream of the final weeks of the general election campaign that Labour was en route to power. The same dream which Alex Salmond had in early September 2014 as the independence referendum approached.

Dreams abruptly interrupted, for Miliband and Salmond, on election night as the exit polls were released.

About four years ago, within progressive circles, there was much chatter about a campaign concept which came to be deployed at the heart of both the SNP’s independence effort and Labour’s general election campaign: reframing.

Based in cognitive behavioural therapy, it offered a route to recast the way key issues, such as the economy, were perceived by the public.

Rather than face tough choices about public spending, Labour thought it could reframe the economic debate around fairness instead of debt, focusing discussion on the impact of cuts rather than the net fiscal position.

In the general election campaign, Labour led with this approach, highlighting the iniquities of Tory non-dom tax breaks and cuts agenda while being bombarded by Tory attacks on Labour profligacy.

At the independence referendum, the SNP tried to avoid fighting on the main macro- economic battlefield to refocus on the threat of Tory cuts to Scotland’s economy and way of life, most notably to the NHS, if Scotland remained part of the UK.

Last week, Vote Leave took a leaf out of the Labour and SNP playbook and attempted their own version of reframing.

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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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It’s unfashionable to say this but the Remain campaign is doing a bloody good job

22/05/2016, 09:50:05 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. First up, the Remain campaign.

At the start of the year, the Remain campaign had one job: to make Brexit more scary than Bremain.

It’s a job that they’ve done bloody well.

The brief for this campaign never included a requirement to persuade people of the imminent arrival of a new, fully reformed EU utopia.

Neither did it involve turning around years of frustration about the bureaucratic exigencies of the EU.

Who even thought that would be possible in a campaign of a few months?

But to read the drumbeat of criticism of the In campaign from pro-Europeans (Hugo Dixon, Natalie Nougayrède, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond and Charlie Cooper to name but a few) is to be trapped in the impossibilist dream of enthusiasts who do not understand their fellow Briton.

These are the people who measure success by the volume of cheers in the hall not the weight of votes outside.

For this category of commentator and politician, Scotland is independent, Ed Miliband is prime minister and this is what a good football manager looks like.

They frequently use that word which presaged defeat for the Scottish pro-independence camp and Labour last year: passion.

Talk is of turnout and their silver bullet, the enthusiasm gap.

Paradoxically it is the utter commitment of the enthusiasts which is their critical flaw.

It robs advocates of empathy, the keystone of any campaign.

Hobby-horse arguments, shrilly pitched dissolve into the irrelevant drone of a Euro-anorak.

In contrast, the Remain campaign has understood the two essential truths of this and any election.

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Voters want security at home, at work and for the country. Right now, Labour’s not offering it

02/03/2016, 02:18:22 PM

by Ian Moss

The course to the next election seems set, unless the Labour party decides to re-engage with the basics of being a political party. The Conservatives will have a significant majority whoever leads them and the opposition vote will splinter – to the SNP in Scotland and in the rest of the country a smattering to Labour, a rump to UKIP and loose change to a Liberal Democrat party that left power regretting it so much that it fled without a credible position to challenge from.

Historic generational support for Labour has been broken in Scotland. The Midlands is also weak for Labour, and the north will go next. Voters that would have turned out for “anything with a red rosette on” are taking a look at Labour and will decide it is time to give up their unconditional support. Instead of having a healthy core to build on, Labour is redefining its core. It risks setting a ceiling on its support through its ongoing mission to alienate voters that disagree with the narrow, ideological view of the world its leadership has championed since 1980.

The first past the post system means parties have to build a coalition before they go to the polls. The only way back to victory for Labour is working across the soft left to the centre to build an electoral block that can challenge for 35-40% of the votes.  The Conservative party attracted UKIP voters back to its own coalition with the threat of a Miliband government. Labour has its own UKIP problem which is currently more intractable unless it can re-connect with the working class, small businesses and people who work in trades in its heartlands.

The Conservative party has set its strategy for Labour under Corbyn in one slogan: a “threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security”. Slogans don’t work if they don’t go with the grain of people’s thoughts.

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Remain will win easily. Boris will be irrelevant and immigration will barely register in voters’ choice

23/02/2016, 12:47:38 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Last year, in the aftermath of the general election it looked like Westminster had learnt that the economy and leadership are central to determining the public’s voting intention at the big electoral tests.

Now we have an EU referendum looming and there’s been a bout of collective amnesia.

Yes, I know this is not a general election but the same formula of economy and leadership is relevant for largely the same reasons as last year.

Immigration is the issue that many Brexiteers think will tip the balance their way. But just as Ukip found last year, they’re misreading the polls.

There is a very familiar gap between the number who view immigration as the most important issue facing the country and those who view it as important to their household’s well-being.

At the general election, 51% thought immigration was the key issue facing Britain but only 21% believed it mattered most to their lives.

Unsurprisingly, immigration was not a major factor in the contest.

In the last poll to ask the relevant questions, by YouGov, from last September – following a summer of daily coverage of refugees travelling to Europe – the number citing immigration as the most important national issue was the highest on record at 71%. But the number who thought it most important for their family was 24% – a gap of 47%.

Think about that for a moment.

Even after a summer of non-stop reporting of fleeing refugees entering Europe, lurid stories from the Calais “jungle” and hyperbolic headlines, the proportion thinking that immigration mattered most for their lives rose by just 3% from 21% at the election to 24% at the start of September.

In comparison, in the same poll, the number saying the economy was the most important issue for their household was 40%. That’s 16% ahead of immigration.

In every single poll conducted by YouGov in the five and half years that they’ve been asking these questions, this gap has never been less than 16%.

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Labour, this is what you chose

30/09/2015, 02:22:15 PM

by Rob Marchant

The two important days of conference, the first two, have now passed. We have pinched ourselves. We have pinched ourselves again. But no, that really was John McDonnell outlining a fantasy financial plan on Monday, and Jeremy Corbyn giving the Leader’s Speech on Tuesday.

Let me just say that again. Jeremy Corbyn giving the leader’s Speech. Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party.

No matter how many times we say those words, it still beggars belief. Only four months ago, it would have been inconceivable.

How long ago that now seems. What happy, carefree days were those.

For those of us who have sat and watched dozens of leader’s speeches, mostly at times when Labour was actually running the country, it seems a strange, parallel universe. You get to know when a party is at a low ebb, just as when William Hague suffered his disastrous four years at the helm of the Tories.

But this is different: Labour’s current convulsions have not resulted in a moderate leader trying to rein in restive backbenchers on the fringes of the party. They have resulted in the election of a leader who is from those fringes. And a kitchen cabinet involving Unite and members of the hard left from outside the Labour party, which is likely to be more extreme – and certainly more brutal – than the man himself.

The Tories managed to pull themselves back, although it took most of a decade. But Labour’s case is that much worse, one wonders if they can pull it off at all.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s speech will have confirmed voters’ worst fears about Labour

29/09/2015, 03:33:36 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Expectations are now so low for Jeremy Corbyn that anything short of a full nervous breakdown at the microphone is regarded as a success.

He delivered his speech. He didn’t collapse. He didn’t promise to nationalise the top 100 companies and troops did not ring the auditorium as a prelude to the revolution.

Given the unbelievably low expectations going into this speech, it was a case of job done. Certainly within the bubble of Labour conference.

But step outside of the bubble for a moment. Step into the shoes of the general public. Look at this speech from their viewpoint. Think about what they saw.

A decent man. A passionate man. A man who should be kept as far from any position of power as is humanly possible.

Jeremy Corbyn is an uber-Miliband.

An agitated academic who rehearses his protest points with vigour but fails to describe any alternative.

Corbyn’s jumble of unhappy reflection on past foreign policy and declarations of long held positions will have seemed utterly esoteric to the practical issues facing most people in Britain today.

Problems such as Syria and Iraq were listed, but solutions? Not so much.

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