Posts Tagged ‘European election’

Europe has seen gains for the radical right, yes, but not for the simplistic reasons we think

28/05/2014, 09:10:32 AM

by Rob Marchant

“Earthquake”, screamed the headlines of even reputable news outlets on Monday. Witnessing them, it seems as if a large chunk of the Europe’s 400-odd million voters had got up one morning, and said to themselves in unison, “instead of supporting the mainstream parties I’ve voted for all my life, you know what, I now really like all the policies of the radical right. What the hell.”

Indeed, it makes scant sense, if you choose to look at it as part of the normal ebb and flow of left-right politics. Yes, we haven’t had quite enough of austerity yet, so let’s move a bit further to the right, shall we? I don’t think that harsh medicine is really tough enough. Said no-one at all.

No, to understand it all, we must dig a little deeper. There was a rather good cartoon doing the rounds yesterday which explained the phenomenon in Europe’s three largest states: Hollande and Cameron were shown being eaten whole by large dogs, called “Front National” and “UKIP”. Angela Merkel was shown with a little dog called “NPD” (the German far right), snapping ineffectually at her ankles.

The comparison is accurate: for different reasons, governments in France and Britain have been beset by effective attacks from their right flanks, while Germany has not. The picture is, in fact, much more mixed than the headlines might suggest.

Hollande has been, sadly for us on the left, a pretty much unmitigated disaster as president. Almost as soon as they elected him, the French public regretted it. He promised things he was patently unable to deliver, and now the electorate are punishing him by voting Front National.

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The real lesson from the Euro-campaign is that taking on Ukip works

27/05/2014, 12:11:10 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Take a step back. From the Farage-mania, the pre-written headlines about Ukip surges and growing hysteria that is enveloping the main parties. Take a step back and look at the evidence. Of what actually happened during the European election campaign.

Ukip started this contest with a floor for their support of 23%. This was the total vote for anti-EU, populist parties of the fringe right at the last European election in 2009– 17% for Ukip and 6% for the BNP. Given the collapse of the BNP, Ukip were the sole heir for this populist right constituency.

By the end of April this year, Ukip’s momentum had carried them from their base of 23% to 31% according to YouGov. The highest they had ever registered in a European election poll with that pollster.

Up to this point, the direction of travel for Ukip’s poll European election rating had only been one way – up. There genuinely did seem to be a major electoral breakthrough in prospect.

But then something happened. The trend-line changed direction.

Euro elex pic

Ukip’s poll slide began when Farage’s comments about Romanians were first called out as racism. There was a lot of controversy at the time and a debate raged on the progressive side of the argument as to whether Ukip’s campaign should have been branded racist.

Setting aside the slightly ludicrous contention that racism should be allowed to simply pass without comment, the debate over whether confronting Ukip’s racism was electorally the right strategy can now be conclusively resolved.

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Is the Labour leader’s office spinning for Nigel Farage?

21/05/2014, 09:19:01 AM

A strange story in the Guardian this morning: “Labour and Conservative attacks on Ukip backfire,” booms the headline. Mention is made in the first line of Labour and Conservative polling that shows “attacks claiming  Nigel Farage is a racist have backfired.”  The piece is neatly set up. But then something strange happens.

Where normally there would be evidence, some figures from the aforementioned polling, maybe some quotes from a focus group, there is nothing. Just a lacuna at the heart of the story. The only hard numbers referenced in the piece are from the published polls, which tell quite a different story. One where Ukip’s ratings have clearly slid backwards over the past fortnight.

So how to explain such a story? Certainly, the way its written would seem to treat Joseph Pulitzer’s three rules of journalism – accuracy, accuracy, accuracy – as merely the vaguest of guidelines.

But there’s a clue. A big fat fingerprint. It’s a quote from the ubiquitous “source,” which pops up in the third paragraph: “Calling people names does not work. It confirms the old politics.”

Given the story refers to private Labour and Conservative polling, it’s clear the quote is from someone in one of the two main parties.

And in the absence of any actual evidence to stand up the assertion in the headline, the person giving the quote would need to carry some political heft. No major news outlet could run such a big story, without any facts, on the word of a normal MP or adviser. This would have to come from the top.

Which prompts the obvious question, cui bono: Number 10 or Ed Miliband’s office? In whose interest is a piece saying that attacking Nigel Farage as a racist doesn’t work? And who would frame it as confirming, “the old politics.”

The culprit becomes clearer.

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As Labour’s poll ratings dive, finally, the scales begin to fall from the Milibelievers’ eyes

13/05/2014, 07:00:30 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The biggest surprise is the surprise. Shock and consternation were in plentiful evidence across Labour’s twitter base yesterday at the news that the party was lagging the Tories in two polls.

But this was not some bolt from the blue.

Over the past months Labour’s lead has been slipping steadily. Yesterday was the first polling evidence of the logical denouement of a long established trend. Labour will almost certainly bob back into the lead in future polls, but with every passing month, the party’s electoral waterline will dip ever lower.

Some will point to the shambolic European election campaign as a cause of the drop in ratings. But, poor as the campaign has been, its impact has surely just been to accelerate the inevitable.

The problems underlying Labour’s predicament remain the same as they were this time last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

Labour has still not satisfactorily answered the two questions asked by the electorate at the 2010 election: Can we trust you with the economy? And is your leader a prime minister?

At the last election, in both cases, the answer was a narrow but clear no. According to ICM’s polling just before election day, David Cameron and George Osborne held a 1% lead on the economy over Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. And on preference for prime minister, YouGov registered a 6% lead for David Cameron over Gordon Brown.

The chart below shows Labour’s performance on these two indicators since the start of 2013.

David Cameron and George Osborne now lead Ed Miliband and Ed Balls by 18% on the economy while David Cameron bests Ed Miliband on preference for PM by 14%.

At no point in the past four years has Labour narrowed the gap on either the economy or leadership to the level it achieved on the eve of the election in May 2010. An election where Labour polled a miserable 29%.

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When did the Labour party give up on fighting racism?

06/05/2014, 09:03:14 AM

by Atul Hatwal

There was a time when Labour was the party that stood for equality. For people in a minority community, those of a different colour or heritage, Labour was the party that would fight for them.

No more.

The basic principle of confronting racism, once an irreducible element of Labour’s core, has been greyed into a guideline.

During the past few weeks Labour politicians have been complicit in allowing Ukip to redefine what is acceptable in our national debate.

When Nigel Farage used an interview in the Guardian to brand Romanians as having a “culture of criminality,” and said that British people were right to be worried if Romanian families moved in on their street, there was barely a murmur from Labour.

The party’s silence has helped validate an extraordinary shift: it’s now politically legitimate to say Britons should be scared of foreigners moving in next door.

Politics has just regressed 40 years.

Back then, as now, fear of the foreigner was a defining aspect of political debate. Rather than eastern Europeans, the targets in the 1970s were Asian and Afro-Caribbean immigrants, but the sentiment was exactly the same.

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UKIP are nothing but useful idiots for capitalism’s ugliest forces

01/05/2014, 01:15:21 PM

by Jon Bounds

It’s easy to laugh at the racists and fruitcakes that make up the UK Independence Party roster of election candidates and councillors. Like clichéd children they do say the funniest things. But like kids they don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. UKIP exists for no other reason than to pull the country’s political discourse dangerously to the right and that’s so worrying because voters, members and even candidates and MEPs don’t realise.

UKIP members can’t be striving to take power to carry out their manifesto, because there is no coherent UKIP policy on anything to get behind. Poster boy Nigel Farage doesn’t know, care, or agree with the manifesto. He dismissed the plans with a comment about how he’d, “never read that. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.” And that’s seemingly okay in a media environment that berates Labour for not having detailed spending plans years in advance.

Treasurer Stuart Wheeler has given the party £514, 957 since 2001 and he doesn’t know what their policies are either. Interviewed at a lunch for Eddie Mair’s PM he blustered, called for more wine, and had very little idea what was going on.

“We’ll launch it [the manifesto] after the European elections,” Farage says. After the election. And you thought only the Lib Dems could make up policy so much on the fly.

Essentially though, it doesn’t matter what UKIP’s policies are —they have an almost zero chance of getting into any sort of power, which is one thing for which we might have to thank the failure of the electoral reform referendum to bring in PR. That means that can say absolutely anything: from “repainting all trains in traditional colours” to “sending the buggers back” if it will keep them in the media’s eye. There’s been more coverage of Farage not standing in a by-election than then has been of the Green Party’s whole European election campaign—making simple ideas like not condemning us all to climate chaos seem more ‘out there’ than a flat 30% tax rate.

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British politics is in a panic over UKIP. It deserves to be

28/04/2014, 09:53:49 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The sound of flapping emanating from SW1 is the panicky reaction to yesterday’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times which has UKIP set to win next month’s European elections, leading the pack on 31 per cent.

But that noise is also the sound of Westminster’s chickens coming home to roost.

The threat from UKIP seems to mystify many, but probably gets clearer the further away you are from the bubble. As identity becomes more important in our politics, voters seek out those who look and sound like them and stand for the things they feel are important.

As both the Tories and Labour have coalesced around a new centre-ground consensus in recent years, leaving millions of their traditional supporters behind in the process, space has been opened up on both the right and left flanks of politics, with UKIP successfully fusing together elements of the traditionalist Tory Middle England and the disgruntled working-class.

There is nothing startling about UKIP’s advance, indeed it might have come a decade ago but for the fact the BNP exercised first option on becoming Britain’s reactionary, anti- politics movement of choice.

Of course, the BNP could never shake off its associations with neo-fascism and skin-headed thuggery. UKIP has no such baggage, despite the fact that some of its local election candidates are currently being exposed as crackpots.

For a new party with a skeleton structure, it’s hardly surprising they’ve picked up a few misfits along the way, even those with repulsive views like William Henwood, a council candidate in Enfield who urged Lenny Henry to “go and live in a black country.”

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When it comes to Britain’s EU membership, it really is the economy, stupid

04/04/2014, 08:50:40 AM

by Callum Anderson

In less than a couple of months, UK voters will go to the polls to elect their representatives in Brussels. In the event of a strong UKIP performance, it is likely to put yet more emphasis on the potential referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

And that’s in addition to the exposure the issue has received as a result of the debates between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.

As I have already argued, it is my strong belief that the UK needs to play at the heart of a reformed EU and resist the temptation to ‘pull up the draw bridge’.  As was teed up by the Budget a couple of weeks ago, the economy is the issue that concerns the vast majority of voters: jobs, real terms wages and taxes will be the particular battlegrounds. Like it or not, Britain’s ability to build a strong and resilient economy lies in its ability to form and maintain relationships with other nations. None of this is more evident than the relationship with the EU.

Now, I know Nigel Farage and his fellow Eurosceptics can sometimes be a little short on facts, but let me shed some light.

Let me start off with trade.

Business for New Europe recently found that the growth in free trade within the EU has generated as much as 6 per cent for every British household, equivalent to £3,500 every year. A not too insignificant figure. This is clearly because UK businesses have access to the richest and biggest single market in the world. And it’s not just that. The UK benefits from the EU conducting free trade deals on its behalf, and undoubtedly obtaining deals on better terms than if it negotiated alone.

For instance, the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement has benefitted UK businesses to the tune of £500 million a year. The Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) has also found that a EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could boost UK national income by up to £10 billion a year, with our automotive industry benefiting most, thus creating the manufacturing jobs that Britain has needed for a generation.

So, what effect does this have on jobs?

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