Posts Tagged ‘goal of the month’

The shadow cabinet goal of the month competition

24/06/2011, 07:40:44 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Readers pick from Balls, Burnham, Cooper, Creagh and Jowell for June’s title

After another month of shambolic Tory U-turns but without any perceptible Labour progress, both sides find themselves pretty much where they left off in May.

Although little has fundamentally changed in the electoral race, amidst the melee, there were some pointed moments from Labour.  The five contenders for the goal of the month are, in alphabetical order, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Tessa Jowell.

1. Balls doubles down on his plan for the deficit

The main Labour story in June was about Ed Miliband’s leadership. It sucked up so much media oxygen that a fundamental shift in Labour’s approach on the economy was largely over-shadowed.

On the 16th June, Ed Balls gave a speech at the LSE where he committed Labour to a multi-billion pound tax cut by temporarily reversing the VAT rise.

It’s a bold move. And the logic is clear. Poor economic figures and anaemic growth are pointing the way potentially to a Greek tragedy.

But it is a gamble.

The polls show persistent public mistrust of Labour on the finances. Many of Balls’ colleagues in the shadow cabinet are deeply uneasy or opposed.  And the Tories now have a new £51bn spending black-hole attack-line on Labour.

If the cuts aren’t terminal and the UK economy does recover, even slowly, then the cost of the gamble in terms of public confidence in Labour’s economic competence will be high.

If the economy does sink into years of coma and the government is driven to take measures to jump-start growth, Balls will assume St.Vincent of Twickenham’s  title as politics’ economic sage.

What is not in doubt is that this is defining moment for Labour.

2. Andy Burnham teaches the Dept forEducation to count

Each month brings another gaffe from the Department for Education. In June it was slipshod accounting with serial over-payments to Academies.

Burnham’s delivery combines his usual eloquence and authenticity. But it is the substance of his point that is most striking.

Without proper accounting, the whole cuts programme is purely an academic exercise. Plans will remain just that, completely disconnected from reality.  It’s a systemic flaw in the way the department for Education operates which will generate several more urgent questions in the future.

Although Burnham is palpably frustrated with the department’s incompetence and Gove’s insouciance in not even bothering to attend proceedings, he is laying important groundwork.

Each time an urgent question lands, a little more credibility ebbs away from the Department.  In the end, a tipping point will be reached and the state of constant political meltdown which engulfed the Home Office in the last Labour government will come to Education.

It’s just a matter of time. (more…)

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Denham nicks it from Balls for goal of the month

22/05/2011, 06:50:50 PM

Denham overtakes Balls in last hour of voting to win by less than 2%

In a dramatic last gasp victory, John Denham overtook long time leader Ed Balls to win the shadow cabinet goal of the month. Denham received 36.5% of the votes cast compared to Balls on 34.6%.

Andy Burnham was third with 19.2% with John Healey on 5.8% and Douglas Alexander on 3.9%.

Since voting started on Friday, John Denham and Ed Balls were level pegging in the public vote until Balls opened up a narrow lead late on Saturday. Balls seemed set to hold on for victory only to be overhauled by John Denham in the last hour of the competition.

The closeness of the vote is in marked contrast to last month, where Ed Balls’ winning margin was over 40%.

Denham’s victory comes off the back of securing his first urgent question since the shadow cabinet was formed.

By moving quickly on the morning of 10th May and tabling the urgent question, John Denham was able to force David Willets back to the Commons to take the question. The resulting exchange meant Denham featured heavily in the night’s news bulletins and managed to pick-up May’s goal of the month.

Not bad for a morning’s work.

Over the past few months, John Denham’s performance has been something of an enigma. While clearly talented and blessed with a commanding baritone, ideal for the chamber, he has only sporadically demonstrated his ability.

In terms of work rate in the House of Commons, John Denham has barely broken a sweat. Before May, he had tabled a total of 11 written questions, asked nine oral questions and made 5 speeches at the despatch box. For the shadow secretary of state for Business, a department fraught with crisis, this is far from stellar performance.

But outside of Parliament, it’s a different story.

John Denham has issued a stream of press releases and comment on stories, securing media profile that makes him one of the most familiar shadow cabinet faces on our TV screens.

What made Denham’s goal of the month a cut above his previous work was the way it combined activity in the House of Commons with media coverage outside of parliament.

Putting down the urgent question not only held Willets to democratic account, it created a parliamentary occasion that broadcasters could use in their news packages.

This one-two of using parliament as the spring board for media coverage was a model of how to hold the government to account. If John Denham can repeat this in the coming weeks, Vince Cable will soon be back where he belongs – vying with the likes of Chris Huhne, Ken Clarke, Andrew Lansley and Michael Gove for the title of cabinet gaffer.

Your winning moment:

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Balls scores shadow cabinet goal of the month

17/04/2011, 06:24:08 PM

Shadow chancellor takes 56% of the popular vote

In a runaway victory, Ed Balls received 56% of the votes cast in the inaugural shadow cabinet goal of the month competition for his Commons annihilation of Osborne lackey, Matthew Hancock.

Douglas Alexander was in second place with 14% of the vote for his despatch box humiliation of William Hague with Jon Healey third on 12% for his story on £1bn of cuts to health budgets. Yvette Cooper and Jim Murphy were tied in fourth on 9% each for their respective nominations on police cuts and Commons urgent questions to the MoD.

The face-off went out live just before 2pm on the 24th March but with a tiny audience. Before featuring in the Uncut goal of the month competition, Balls’ exchange with Hancock had been a hit in the Westminster village.

A senior Tory public affairs operator remarked that Balls “dishing Hancock” had even generated “a lot of online buzz” in Conservative circles, where Hancock is viewed as promising but inexperienced and prone to arrogance.

For those in the country who managed to see it on the Parliamentary channel, the reaction was immediate. Posting in the comments section of the Uncut piece, Mark Allen, a constituent of Hancock’s in West Suffolk, recalled,

“Remember watching it live and had to rewind the skybox and the wife in to watch…Car crash TV for the Tories”

The impact on Hancock was revealed the day after his mauling.  In an unusual move, he was driven to comment on his website to try to have the last word on what had initially been a minor parliamentary intervention on shadow chancellor.

But it was notable that he didn’t directly deny any of Balls’ string of charges.

Victory in the goal of the month competition caps a weekend of football related success for Ed Balls. His beloved Norwich City beat Nottingham Forest to move within one point of automatic promotion from the Championship.

Its progress he will be hoping to replicate in his brief as he continues to take the fight to the Tories.

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