Posts Tagged ‘IPPR’

How Labour is losing the battle for media relevance

26/06/2014, 07:00:08 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Last week Ed Miliband, gave a major policy speech at the IPPR. One of the biggest of his leadership. The Labour party mounted a significant press operation around it: there was the mandatory trail to the Guardian the previous night, lots of morning chatter on Twitter among Milibelievers about what a big deal this all was with shadow ministers deployed to comment immediately following the speech.

But within two hours of Ed Miliband finishing his Q&A, the story was elsewhere. Rather than discuss the deeper policy or electoral ramifications of the intervention, the media’s attention was captivated by something else entirely: owls.

The Labour party’s twitter account was hacked with this tweet going out.

Owl Tweet

The rest is history. An analysis completed for Uncut by Twitter analytics experts, of tweets by the Westminster media (lobby, press gallery, columnists, political reporters and bloggers) illustrates the extent to which this one rogue tweet overshadowed the big Miliband speech.

From the point Ed Miliband stopped talking, to the end of the day, there were over double the number of media tweets about owls compared to Ed Miliband’s IPPR speech.

Owls vs Ed

By the early evening, loyalist MPs were having to use the owls meme to crowbar Ed Miliband’s speech back into the Westminster conversation.


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We’ve been here before on welfare reform. Now the backlash is coming, will Labour hold the line?

19/06/2014, 01:07:25 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The much quoted definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Today, the Labour party is testing this proposition.

For the third time in seven months, Labour is attempting to re-position itself on welfare. For the third time in seven months the pre-briefing before a welfare reform speech has been about “toughness,” how Labour will cut benefits for young people and respond to public concerns on welfare spending.

We’ve been here before.

As a taster for what’s likely to come, this is what happened the first time Labour went down this road, back in November last year. James Kirkup at the Telegraph wrote a story on potential Labour cuts to benefits for under 25s if they were not in training or ‘intensively’ looking for work, based on an IPPR report and a briefing from the party. 

The backlash from the party forced an immediate denial, with Rachel Reeves tweeting “This is not and will not be our policy” “it’s not our plan” and “it is totally not my position!” Cue much relief,

These weren’t the reactions of random activists, Matthew Pennycook is the PPC in Nick Raynsford’s seat and will be an MP in 2015, Gemma Tummelty works for Ed Miliband and Mark Ferguson edits Labour List.

Take two. In January this year, Tom Newton Dunn at the Sun wrote a similar story about removing benefits for the young unemployed, which was, once again, based on another IPPR report and a briefing from the party. Cue a repeated denial from Rachel Reeves and more relief,      (more…)

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The work programme: improving, but for who?

27/06/2013, 04:28:28 PM

by Bill Davies

The latest figures from the work programme show it is doing, on aggregate, better than it was. Now the programme has been running for 22 months, we are in a better position to consider whether it is achieving its main objective, to reduce unemployment and increase employment amongst all eligible claimant groups.

It is doing better than last time, particularly when you look at newer cohorts to the programme, but little better than the programme it replaced. At this stage of the flexible new deal, 13 week job outcomes as a percentage of eligible starts were 18%, and 26 week outcomes were 12%. The coalition’s work programme, introduced to dismantle the ‘fundamentally flawed’ Flexible New Deal, is at this stage achieving outcomes of 13%. Better than last time, but not brilliant. The statistical release of the department for work & pensions shows that 22 out of the 40 contracts have not met their targets for moving the largest group of job seekers allowance claimants (over 25 year olds) off benefits and into work. The target for this group was 27.5% of starters to move into work, but at this stage, the target has been narrowly missed, at 27.3%.

The most staggering figure is that employment & support allowance, the group for people moving from incapacity benefits gradually back into the labour market had a target of 16.5% of starts to job outcomes, but the actual outcome rate was 5.3%, only a third of the target.

Is the work programme assisting those regions that have the most difficult labour markets? On the basis of current performance, it is still largely reflecting them.


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It doesn’t have to be this way on housing

22/06/2012, 12:36:15 PM

by Andy Hull

England is a rich country that is failing to properly house its people.

The root of the problem is that demand for housing massively outstrips supply: we are now building around 100,000 new homes a year – the lowest level for a century – when we need to be building at least twice that number. If we continue at this rate, by 2025 unmet housing demand will be greater than the housing capacity of Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle combined.

As a result, home ownership has become an unaffordable aspiration for too many, with house prices having tripled in a decade, while wages were left to stagnate. Unless first-time buyers have access to the ‘bank of mum and dad’, raising the deposit required to buy a home is now a real barrier, compounding inter-generational inequality. Meanwhile, social housing – a scarce resource rationed on the basis solely of need – is being residualised to the point that it houses only the poorest and most vulnerable. So, the ‘squeezed middle’, including a young ‘generation rent’, is being funnelled into a poorly regulated private rented sector that remains a tenure of resort rather than choice.


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The fall in unemployment is based on p/t working & self-employment

16/05/2012, 12:55:19 PM

by Tony Dolphin

The news that unemployment fell by 45,000 in the first three months of this year, compared to the last three months of 2011, is very welcome. It suggests the current recession in the UK – if it is not revised away when the next set of GDP data are released – is likely to be a very mild one. The drop in youth unemployment – by 18,000 in the latest three months – is further good news.

But there is reason to be cautious.

The labour market is not improving because firms are recruiting more full-time employees. It is improving because more people are taking part-time work, reluctantly, and because more people are setting themselves up in self-employment, possibly also reluctantly.

The 105,000 increase in employment in the latest quarter was more than accounted for by part-time workers. The number in full-time employment fell by 13,000. We know many of these part-time workers are unhappy because the Office for National Statistics asks part-time workers if they would prefer to be working full-time and 1,418,000 said ‘yes’ in the latest three months – the highest number since comparable records began in 1992.

Looking at the numbers differently, 90,000 of the 105,000 increase in employment in the last quarter is due to an increase in self-employment. Unfortunately, the ONS does not ask the self-employed if they would rather be working as an employee – but it is a fair bet that some of the recent increase reflects people who would rather not be self-employed but cannot find a company to employ them.

These are not new trends. The following table shows the change in employment over the last four years (i.e. comparing the first quarter of 2008, just before the recession, with the first quarter of 2012).

The big picture over this period is that total employment in the UK has fallen by just under 300,000. But the number of full-time employees is down by 800,000, while the number of part-time employees and the number of part-time self-employed people are both up by about 250,000. There has also been an increase over this period of over 700,000 in the number of people working part-time who say they are doing so because they want a full-time job.

The continuing legacy of the recession, therefore, is a labour market characterised by companies that are reluctant to take on more full-time employees and workers who are reluctantly working part-time – either for companies or for themselves.

Tony Dolphin is Chief Economist at IPPR

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If you’re not rich, you’re not coming in

11/10/2011, 04:11:28 PM

by Matt Cavanagh

For a man whose avowed aim is to reduce the salience of immigration as a political issue, David Cameron spends a lot of time talking about it. Yesterday’s speech was light on new policy, so we must assume the point was to send a message: that despite growing public scepticism – a recent YouGov poll found 78% of people thinking it “unlikely Cameron will deliver his immigration promises” – he remains personally committed to doing so. The strategic judgment must be, that while he is unlikely to hit his chosen target of reducing net migration levels to “tens of thousands” by 2015, his policies will have made enough of a dent that voters will feel that, in contrast to the other two parties, at least the Conservatives tried. For now, the coalition has settled into a pattern, where it suits both parties to pretend that it is the Liberal Democrats that have prevented greater progress, rather than the deeper structural problems with their approach – though this is unlikely to fool voters for long, and there are signs that the commentariat have rumbled it too.

Turning to the detail of the speech, there were some good things; some misleading claims and unanswered questions; and a reminder of two big underlying problems.

The good things included a careful, incremental approach to the complex issue of forced marriage (though it will be interesting to see how the planned consultation differs from previous ones on the same subject); and a greater emphasis on British history and culture in the “Life in the UK” citizenship test which Labour introduced in 2005. Another proposal, to stop people bringing in more than one spouse or partner in quick succession, is an example of a policy which in an ideal world would seem unnecessary and invasive, but in the real world is sadly necessary. Finally, there was the resonant line that “immigration can hurt the low paid and the low skilled, while the better off reap many of the benefits”. This contains enough truth to hurt, and is a line which Labour really only has itself to blame for allowing the Conservatives to own.

But alongside these good things, there were plenty of misleading claims. The first was on overall numbers, where Cameron said that; “There are early signs in the most recent figures that the reforms this government has brought in are beginning to reduce the overall figure.”

Well, it is true – as I noted in my analysis of the most recent immigration statistics for Labour Uncut – that “the latest quarterly figures to June 2011 [show] a slight fall in people coming from outside the EU for work, down 2.7% compared to the year ending April 2011”. Most of this is from the closure of the Tier 1 General route, designed for highly skilled migrants who are not tied to a particular job, but qualify on their individual merits (on which more below). But this is less than 1% of total immigration. Cameron would be better advised to wait until next year, by when the changes to the student visa system, however ill-advised in other respects, might have made a more serious impression on overall numbers.

The second misleading claim concerned the skill-level of migrants coming under the previous system. In his determination to present that system as a “complete failure”, Cameron said that:

“One study showed that about a third of those sampled only found low skilled roles working as shop assistants, in takeaways, and as security guards. When this government came into office, we ignored the rhetoric, looked hard at the reality and simply closed down the whole of the Tier 1 General route.”

At best, this is a highly selective use of the available evidence. The independent Migration Advisory Committee, a Labour innovation which the new government has sensibly retained and praised, said in its comprehensive report in November 2010, that in the Tier 1 General route – the route which Cameron is talking about here – over 90% were working in highly-skilled work (see para 3.68, p.88).

Turning to the unanswered questions, the first concerns the detail of the proposal that people wishing to sponsor a foreign national to come here as a spouse or partner should be required to put up a financial “bond”. This idea has been around for years: it was in Labour’s 2005 manifesto, but was shelved in 2008. One of the problems was that it is tricky to set the bond at the right level. If you set it too low, it looks like a gimmick. But if you set it at a level that would credibly offset the costs to the public purse of a migrant who does end up being a “significant burden on the taxpayer”, that would mean a bond of tens of thousands of pounds. Requiring that upfront raises very significant issues of fairness (on which more below). (more…)

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The world has changed: but we’re still partying like it’s 1995

22/09/2011, 11:14:07 AM

by Peter Watt

Since the general election it is fair to say that the Labour party, probably the left generally, has been struggling with exactly what it is there for. In simple terms, what is it that the Labour party wants to do that the government doesn’t?

The problem has been that there has been a divide in Labour’s ranks over the handling of the economic situation, the cuts, the Blair and the Brown legacy. So when it comes to key questions we struggle for coherent answers. Would we have needed to cut? Should we tax more or less? Should we defend public sector jobs? What about the role of the private sector in delivering the public services? Is there a “progressive majority”? On so many issues there is a divide on the left.

The government, in contrast, seems to lack none of this uncertainty. It makes mistakes, but at its heart it is playing a pretty mainstream tune. Mainstream in the literal sense that its overall message resonates with, well, the mainstream of voters. It’s a message of economic prudence, balancing the books, prioritising spending decision and localising decision making. It celebrates family and tradition but looks to the future. It is comfortable with enterprise and would prefer lower rates of tax.

Those “right wing extremists” have become the mainstream and the Labour party is becalmed on the fringe, apparently struggling to find answers to the problems of the day. The government is a security blanket in a scary world. And that is before we know the full extent of the Eurozone crisis. (more…)

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Seven (deadly) tests for Ed Miliband

22/11/2010, 04:30:49 PM

by Nick Pearce

Returning from paternity leave, Ed Miliband has set out his stall on how Labour will rethink its policies under his leadership. Most leaders of the opposition establish policy reviews of one kind or another, to wipe the policy slate clean. David Cameron set up a number of policy review groups that produced little but headaches for him, in contrast to his wider brand repositioning, which was largely successful. In his first two years in the job, he established a clear character for his leadership of the Conservative party: liberal, green and centrist. In those early days, the direction of travel was much more important than the detail.

Referring to Cameron’s scene-setting Arctic jaunt, Mr Miliband has said he ‘won’t do huskies’. So what will be the character of the Labour party under his leadership? What will be the core components of its political identity? To help work this out, here are seven character tests for the Labour leadership.

1. Will Labour be a liberal party?

As the shadow of 9/11 has receded, British politics has become more liberal. Barring a catastrophe, it will remain that way. Parties are also more liberal in opposition than when they exercise the levers of power for themselves, and in this Labour will be no different. Younger cohorts of voters are more tolerant and diverse than older ones and so the underlying trend is towards a more liberal polity.

Ed Balls’ weekend comments confirm the liberal direction of travel set out by Ed Miliband when he became leader. The challenge for Labour is to reconcile this liberalism with currents of small ‘c’ conservatism among the electorate, which is now both increasingly liberal and more conservative in unpredictable ways. In particular, it will want to respond to the public’s desire for swift and tough action to be taken against incivility and antisocial behaviour, which spans the social classes but is particularly acute in Labour-held seats. No political party can safely allow itself to be seen as indifferent or unresponsive on low-level crime and antisocial behaviour. (more…)

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