Posts Tagged ‘European elections’

The elections weren’t an earthquake but a confirmation of what we already knew

29/05/2014, 08:00:23 AM

by Jonathan Todd

It would, obviously, be wrong to wholly attribute to Nigel Farage responsibility for Nick Clegg’s political predicament. They are largely trading in different parts of the political market and the Oakeshott disaster is a wholly home-grown crisis for the Liberal Democrats.

Instead, Clegg’s low share price derives from decisions – in particular, betraying the platform on which he stood in 2010 – taken long before his debates with Farage.

Clegg isn’t fighting for his political life because of Farage. The blood on Farage’s hands is that of Nick Griffin’s. The real UKIP earthquake didn’t happen in Westminster but beneath the BNP, revealing part of UKIP’s appeal.

As well as taking support from the BNP, half of UKIP voters in the European elections voted Tory in the last general election. It would be a potentially decisive boost to David Cameron’s hopes of remaining in Downing Street to get these voters back. Hoping that this doesn’t happen, and that Lib Dem recovery is also avoided, is perilous for Labour.

There are other factors beyond Labour’s control that help Ed Miliband toward Number 10, such as the vagaries of our constituency boundaries and Cameron’s incomplete Tory decontamination project, which means that mistrust of his party remains more pervasive than it would otherwise be. Rather than speculate as to how low a ceiling this places on Tory support, and whether it is lowest among ethnic minorities, northerners or women, Labour should be seeking to complete the decontamination project that the last general election confirmed we require.

The trouble is that this project has barely begun. Miliband launched his bid for the party leadership talking about immigration. But it’s not clear that Labour are now any more convincing on this contentious topic than when we were ejected from office. Even more damagingly, we also left office with trust corroded in us as responsible custodian’s of public money. In austere times, we seem over keen on spending other people’s money, whether that of taxpayers or private businesses, and disinclined to make savings. While Miliband has spoken more frequently about welfare than fiscal discipline, this is another big negative exposed in 2010 that we’ve failed to recover.

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The Euros are the elections that don’t matter. Except they do.

14/05/2014, 08:50:50 AM

by Rob Marchant

It’s complicated. Next week’s election will not change very much in itself. We will send members of our favourite parties off to Brussels again in greater or lesser numbers to vote on things that, we tell pollsters on a regular basis, we care little about. Everyone’s eyes will be on the greater prize of a general election, less than twelve months away.

And you can forget the polling around this election; it means very little. Rarely has there been an election with so much of the electorate avowedly committed to protest voting, often for parties they don’t even really like.

A friend of mine, traditionally to the left of me, is voting UKIP. Why? Not because he likes them. Because he’s fed up with both right and left. “Because there’s a chance, just a chance”, he says, “that something might change”.

Now, I believe him to be wrong. But his vote forms part of an anti-establishment effect, which transcends right and left and which has blossomed in recent troubled times right across the developed world. It is not just UKIP, but Respect. It is the People’s Assembly, UK Uncut and other anti-austerity groups. The Occupy crowd. The other nationalists and secessionists. The Spanish “Indignados”. The Tea Party. The list is long.

The principal common trait of all these groups is being against the political establishment and, with the possible exception of the nationalists, if ever confronted with the tedious demands of actually having to do something in office, most would surely run in horror in the opposite direction.

So, forget the Euro-election polling and results. They tell us nothing. Things will blip up for UKIP and punish the main parties, and then in all probability blip back down by the end of the year, well in time for a distinctly lukewarm performance at the general election.

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Negative campaigning works. But on the issues not the personalities

12/05/2014, 11:02:07 AM

by Pete Heskett

Labour’s task for May 2015 is complex. Clearly the party needs a powerful narrative that gives people positive reasons to vote Labour. However, history also shows that in many instances the electorate vote the incumbents out as much as the vote a new party in – Mrs Thatcher’s victory in 1979 was to a large extent a rejection of Labour, unemployment and the three-day-week, Tony Blair’s victory in 1997 was boosted by a rejection of sleaze, and John Major’s benign under-panted leadership.

If Labour’s recent party political broadcast is anything to go by then we seem to be asking the electorate to get rid of the coalition because Nick Clegg is shallow and weak and the Tories a bunch of mean toffs. Now I’m sure there are many Labour loyalists who agree with this character assessment. However, it’s communication that speaks to the prejudices of those already converted not the broad-based liberal coalition that Jonathan Todd rightly identifies as the target Labour needs to attract to form a government in 2015.

For me this raises an important strategic point for Labour’s communications team. Negative campaigning in the UK at least tends to be most effective when it makes a political point rather than when it tries to make a personal point. Or to use a gender-biased footballing analogy, Labour is now looking guilty of playing the man and not the ball.

Let’s look at some of the most effective political ads in UK history. “Labour isn’t working” was a poster that helped bring Thatcher to power. It didn’t attack Jim Callaghan as a person – wise as he was generally rightly perceived as nice guy – but it linked the Labour government with unemployment. A strategic masterstroke that hit straight at the heart of Labour’s credibility – how could a party of ‘labour’ be responsible for extending the dole queue? Mrs Thatcher rose to power with a greater proportion of working class votes than even the worst nightmares of the Labour leadership would have thought possible.

Labour working not

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From Margate to Montrose, it’s time for Labour to raise our game

29/04/2014, 08:00:52 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Tony Stockwell, the psychic medium, performs at Margate Winter Gardens on 11 September. Perhaps he’ll reveal whether Nigel Farage, rumoured to be considering standing for parliament locally, will become South Thanet’s MP. Tracey Emin, a renowned daughter of Planet Thanet, “won’t let that happen,” retorted my wife.

Emin, like Johnny Depp, is older than Farage. She is, though, a hipper figure. This didn’t stop her, like South Thanet, voting Tory in 2010. But she thinks Margaret Thatcher “should be tried for crimes against humanity”.

The north of England and Scotland might agree with her about this. This continues to frustrate Tory recovery in the north, where more people agree with the Tories than vote for them. Due to the negative perceptions that Thatcher created and which persist.

As they do in Scotland, where swathes of the population have convinced themselves that UK government can offer only Thatcherism or Thatcherism lite. Labour for Independence “consists of members, voters, supporters, former voters who felt the party left them not the other way around”. Only in an independent Scotland, they contend, can they recover their party.

The voters of South Thanet also feel they’ve lost something. “They may not be able to pinpoint what it is,” Laura Sandys, the incumbent MP, recently told The New Statesman. “But they don’t think they’re getting it back.”

Whatever Farage may promise to recover for these people, he’ll do so on the basis of an affinity with Thatcher. Jonathan Aitken, her unofficial biographer, “cannot believe that a young Margaret Thatcher leaving Oxford today would join the Conservative Party led by David Cameron. I think she’d come and get involved in UKIP.”

While, to many Scots, Cameron personifies what they see as the perpetual Thatcherism of the UK, he’s a pale shadow of the 1980s prime minister, according to her greatest admirers. Another paradox is that Farage is supposedly the keeper of Thatcher’s flame and a challenger to Labour in the north, where she remains a drag on Tory support.

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We need to be bolder in pushing back against UKIP

19/06/2013, 04:05:48 PM

by Helen Mirfin-Boukouris

As a Labour candidate currently campaigning in the OMOV process, the matter of UKIP and how we confront their performance in the polls and recent by-elections frequently comes up.  I expect all Labour candidates now wonder what magic bullet there might be to confront their current upsurge beyond simply hoping that they will burn themselves out as they grow, diverge and crumble under the weight of their own vanity and incoherence.

But that is not good enough is it?  How can I, who have been in a Labour family all my life not stand up especially now and challenge offensive politics?

On the door step campaigning, I know of people who will tell you they are voting UKIP.  They are cross and are protesting in the familiar tradition of giving established parties a poke in the eye for letting them down be it because of losing a job, losing weekly wheelie bin services, waiting longer in hospital. Watching people who look different to them taking advantage of the same services and feeling somehow that they are being taken for a ride. Nothing the parties say helps them see a better future while paying more again and again.

UKIP come along and say “enough! we shall speak for you.” And it does not really matter what the detail is that they espouse because it is working.  It is frustrating to admit too.  However, I did not spend the last twenty years in the Labour Party to let people get away with this and do nothing.

The UKIP message works because it is a personal message.  It is simple, there is blame and it is easy to remember. If you are outraged by politicians, and those seen as outsiders, getting the better of people who are losing their livelihoods and their futures, it works.

So, we need to make politics personal and show that Labour values matter, using language and facts that resonate with peoples’ daily lives.

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We need an NEC inquiry into the democracy deficit in our MEP selections

16/05/2013, 01:38:56 PM

by Anita Pollack

The protests about fine candidates being left off European selection lists are not confined to London.  Stories of injustice have surfaced from a number of regions.

After three European elections when Labour’s fate was to lose seats, the elections to the European Parliament in 2014 offer a chance of winning some seats and adding much needed new blood to the European Parliamentary Labour Party.

Consequently, it is not surprising that there have been a high number of candidates, particularly since those elected this time will be there for at least five years and maybe a decade or more.  What is unpleasant, however, is that the results appear to have been rigged.

Personally, I can only speak about London, where friends of the worthy no-longer-candidate Anne Fairweather took the protests to a new level, the front page of the Times.  But this is not a case of only one good candidate being blocked.

Carole Tongue, who was a dynamic London MEP between 1984 – 99 and a deputy Leader of Labour’s European team, and who has been working closely with unions on a number of hot European issues since then has also been cast aside without even an interview.

Ilford South constituency has passed a motion in her favour, as has, I believe, Streatham for Anne Fairweather. Clearly had these women been granted an interview their qualities would have been manifestly obvious and it would have been more difficult to keep them off the final list.  So the word had to be to block them from the start to pave the way for the favoured union candidates.

I wrote to Iain McNichol with a copy to Alan Olive expressing astonishment at Carole Tongue being barred, but no reply has been forthcoming.  As a former MEP myself of ten years and a stalwart Labour loyalist, I find this disrespectful to say the least.

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London Labour party ignored union guidance on selection processes to fix Euro-list

29/04/2013, 02:50:10 PM

Reverberations from the London Labour party’s botched selection process for its European candidates rumble on: last week critical motions were passed at Streatham, Ilford South and Brixton Hill CLPs.

The emerging focus for unhappiness is the opaque selection criteria used by the London Labour party panel in making their decision. Calls for the regional party to explain the criteria were central to the motions passed last week.

Uncut can help out the quizzical CLPs in their quest for the criteria: there wasn’t any. Don’t take our word for it, this was the response from Joy Johnson, a senior member of the selection panel, when Uncut challenged her on how the selections were made:

“Did I discuss the criteria? That is Alan Olive’s domain and the answer is that there isn’t one…”

That’s right, to be an MEP for Labour, the London party had no preference on the type of experience a candidate should have, their track record  or any political achievements. There wasn’t even a mention that being an effective campaigner might be an asset for prospective candidates in a London-wide PR election.

Strange, you might think. For most jobs there is a specific set of criteria against which candidates are scored. Otherwise, where there are several candidates – say, 98 in the case of the London Euro-list selection – how would the panel be able to make a systematic comparison and select the best qualified applicants?

There certainly are detailed criteria for the parliamentary selection process with guidance for constituency selection panels on how to apply them and administer a fair process.

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Confusion reigns over London Labour Euro-list selection as candidates dispute senior official’s story

19/04/2013, 10:59:31 AM

The fiasco over London Labour’s Euro-list selection descended into chaos  this week with candidates querying a senior official’s version of events.

On Monday, Uncut ran a piece on the grassroots revolt in London over the selection process for Labour’s European election candidates. In the article, Joy Johnson was identified as one of the key officials on the London selection panel.

She contacted Uncut to complain that her position in the process had been misrepresented. To be absolutely clear on her role in the overall selection procedure we put a question to her:

“Did you discuss the selection criteria, process or any prospective candidates with any of the other members of the panel?”

Her response was posted in the comments to the piece, “You asked did I discuss the short list the answer is NO.”

It seemed an oddly specific response. The question didn’t even mention short lists and was much broader in it’s ambit.

Subsequently, over the course of this week, Uncut has been contacted by several candidates interviewed to get onto Labour’s European short list, perplexed at Joy’s response.

Each of the candidates Uncut has spoken to has been clear: Joy Johnson did attend their short listing  meeting and took an active part in the interviews.

Speaking to Labour’s London candidates, it has emerged that the party decided its short list of European candidates at two meetings before Easter on Saturday 23rd March and Sunday 24th March. The title of the mail sent out by head office to candidates was very clear: “European Parliament selections Short Listing Interview.”

Last night, we contacted Joy Johnson with this information and her stance appears to have evolved.

“There was a meeting to decide on candidates who were to go forward for interview. I wasn’t at that meeting. I didn’t discuss the list that went forward for interviews. As for the weekend you mentioned…I was at that meetingAs part of the interview process there were discussions to get to the final list that would then go out to party members” (emphasis added)

The new position is that Joy Johnson did attend short listing meetings, she did interview candidates and then did discuss with her colleagues on the panel which candidates would be on Labour’s European short list .

Confused? Many are.

It seems that when faced with the initial question from Uncut, rather than simply give a full answer, Joy Johnson opted to parse. But she got confused between the long listing (sifting candidates before interview) and short listing (interviewing candidates to make Labour’s short list of European candidates).

For someone who was Ken Livingstone’s former director of communications, it’s an astonishing way to deal with the media.

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