Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Todd’

If Ed Miliband wants to make a come back, he needs to go away first

06/07/2015, 12:30:19 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Somehow Iain Duncan Smith retains a frontline political role. Tony Blair doesn’t. But, even after the Iraq war, Blair looked set to defeat Duncan Smith so comprehensively that serious, sober people wondered whether we’d see another Tory government. Then Michael Howard steadied their ship and was returned not to government but with honours at the 2005 general election.

As a widely respected figure, who’d just fulfilled his brief by performing better than Duncan Smith was expected to, Howard was well-placed to stay on as leader during the extended leadership election, which, ultimately, resulted in the youthful but arguably more electable David Cameron, not the older but arguably less electable David Davis, emerging victorious.

Uncut will leave it to readers to decide whether the Labour leadership now contains candidates comparable to Cameron and Davis then. But the idea – as proposed by James Forsyth in the Spectator – that Ed Miliband might now be performing a Howard function for Labour, staying on for long enough that the most electable successor wins out, is a false analogy.

The more accurate analogy to Forsyth’s argument is if Duncan Smith had stayed on as Tory leader, leading them to a calamitous defeat, and remained as Tory leader throughout an extended leadership contest. The logic of this is implausible at each step.

Tories junk leaders doomed to defeat, including one as revered as Margaret Thatcher, which is a lesson, having failed to strike two under-performing leaders, Gordon Brown and Miliband, Labour might learn at the third opportunity. Neither party, though, could stomach a long leadership election under a leader who has just led their party to humbling defeat.

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Finding grace in America and Europe

29/06/2015, 05:44:24 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“We as a country,” said President Obama in his first statement on the Charleston shootings, “will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” He spoke with a forlorn resignation that was odd coming from the world’s supposedly most powerful person and realistic, given “the politics in this town foreclose a lot of (gun control) avenues right now”.

In the past week, however, Washington DC has not been the cradle of disappointment that it has for Obama. Through rare bipartisanship, he’s taken a big step towards completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade deal intended to cover 40 percent of the world economy and an important plank of Obama’s legacy planning. Obamacare and gay marriage, issues upon which the Supreme Court has this week backed him, also feature in this legacy.

Obama’s America, though, is also a place where, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, black men in their 20s without a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated than employed. It will take, of course, much more than TPP to change this. Only in relation to prison services does black America have better access to public services than white America.

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Yvette Cooper should teach the world to code

15/06/2015, 07:40:07 PM

by Jonathan Todd

James Forsyth recently branded the last Labour leadership election – the one that dragged through a summer, as this one will; the one that allowed the Tories to determine the terms of trade for a parliament, as this one may – “dull, dull, dull“. I don’t recall it being a laugh either. More importantly, it wasn’t a political success. It took an age and strengthened the Tories.

If that was a dreary, drawn-out failure, what is this? Farce springs to mind after the scramble to place Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot, but ultimately he will be irrelevant.

When seconded to the short lived Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), the resignation of James Purnell from the government, while I was on holiday, precipitated the absorption of DIUS into Peter Mandelson’s Department of Business – a reward for keeping the Gordon Brown show on the road – and the DIUS Secretary of State, John Denham, was shuffled across to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Detached from supportive ministers, it became easier for sceptical officials to conclude my secondment. Nonetheless, something – disappointing in ending my secondment, yet educational in opening my eyes to Whitehall – happened.

On Wednesday, when I’ll be in the air somewhere between Birmingham and New Jersey, as the first televised hustings of the leadership election occur, I hope my absence again coincides with something politically significant. Anything. Because we have a leadership election consumed by the narcissism of small differences between the main candidates who are failing to convince their parliamentary colleagues (Uncut has endured several moans about the calibre of the race) and their party, while leaving the wider public even colder. Dull, dull, duller.

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Why on earth is Labour convening a “truth and reconciliation” commission?

01/06/2015, 10:07:17 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Do we really need the commission that Margaret Beckett is to lead to look “in a forensic way” at the reasons for Labour’s electoral defeat?

Harriet Harman seems to think that a “truth and reconciliation” commission is needed. She used that phrase in her quote in the Observer story and in her media appearances yesterday.

But what don’t we know already?

For years, polling told us that our leader, Ed Miliband, was behind on best prime minister and our party on economics. No party has ever formed a government behind on both these indicators. We were miles behind.

The leadership contenders are not waiting for Beckett’s findings to distance themselves from Miliband. The haste with which they retreat from positions that they recently defended risks inelegance. But it is required and encouraging.

To get out of a hole, you have to stop digging. And the Miliband years dug some massive holes. The collapse of Scottish Labour, the alienation from Labour in the north, and Labour’s failure to win over the south. We are, as Tristram Hunt put it in his lucid Demos speech, “fighting on three fronts. But micro-targeting policy solutions for each will not work”.

1945, 1964, 1997. Labour owned futures that all parts of the UK bought into. At times prior to each of these victories, it seemed Labour would never win again. But we did. And we can again. By re-crafting for our times, the elements that have always characterised Labour victory: unity and optimism grounded on credible economics.

Miliband might have thought that he was deploying these elements. But his spring rally, for example, was a curious cocktail of divisive pessimism and hubristic piety. It was divisive in identifying parts of Britain that deserved cheers and condemned others to boos. Not even those cheered, however, were thought capable of achieving anything under the Tory yoke, which made it bleakly and surreally pessimistic. All would be mended, though, if we only voted Labour. This coated complex problems with hubristic simplicity, taking the electorate for fools, while feigning high principle.

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Big tent Labour is underpinned by liberal Labour

14/05/2015, 09:34:32 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The Miliband years were rich in intellectual touchstones, including Blue Labour’s social conservatism and economic statism. As much as improving Labour’s polling on economics and leadership is the absolute precondition of Labour government, Miliband is right that ideas matter.

Just saying aspiration is not an alternative idea to animate the post-Miliband era. There are some terms, like aspiration, with New Labour associations: effective communication, solid economic policy. These are not ideas as much as truisms of political success.

Labour must urgently re-imbibe these truisms. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition of the strongest possible Labour recovery. Sufficiency entails a deeper reassessment of Labour’s ideas. Jeremy Cliffe, one time Chuka Umunna intern and now a writer at The Economist, and Jamie Reed, MP for England’s most remotely accessible constituency from Westminster, which I born and raised in, are making relevant interventions.

Reed is threatening to run for the leadership unless a Blue Labour tinged theme is absorbed by contenders. “The next Labour leader,” argues Reed, “needs to listen to the marginalised, peripheral communities of our country as the United Kingdom ‘balkanises’ in front of us”.

On Thursday at Policy Network, Cliffe, according to the invitation email, “will argue that though UKIP’s rise might suggest otherwise, the electorate is becoming more urban, more educated, more ethnically diverse and (through travel, work and immigration) more used to contact with the outside world”. Winning majorities for Labour, he argues, will be best sought by building “‘cosmopolitan coalitions’ of support”.

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Answers to the questions of general election week 2015

09/05/2015, 12:28:51 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I asked five questions about this week at its start. Now we are at its end, we have our answers. And few of them are pretty. But amidst the rubble of Labour’s defeat, shards of opportunity protrude.

Will a “Sheffield rally moment” happen?

There was an eve of poll rally in Leeds but it generated few headlines. Rather than the Sheffield rally of 1992, we had humbling moments akin to Michael Portillo’s defeat in 1997. Douglas Alexander, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy were all symbolic and significant defeats for Labour. As were Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and Simon Hughes for the Liberal Democrats.

The churn in big names was high. The Parliamentary Labour Party has been shorn of major intellects and players. The Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Party even more so. Much changed eras dawn in both parties.

Can the Tories make it to 290 MPs?

The Tories cleared that threshold by a massive 41 seats. We erroneously thought that the Tories might fall short and that we’d be in for weeks of haggling over the government’s composition.

The 4 per cent swing to the Tories in the key seat of Nuneaton at about 2.30am brought the nightmare scenario of the BBC exit poll a decisive step closer to reality. The Tories did not just beat Labour in seats, like Nuneaton, that they were defending against us.

They prevented Labour PPCs from becoming or returning as MPs in a number of seats that had been held by Labour: Julie Hilling (Bolton West); Andy Sawford (Corby); Chris Williamson (Derby North); Martin Caton (Gower); Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood); Alison Seabeck (Plymouth Moor View); Rowenna Davis (Southampton Itchen); David Wright (Telford); and Chris Ruane (Vale of Clywd).

Conservative Amanda Solloway was so stunned to win Derby North that she hadn’t prepared a speech. “It was a bit of a surprise,” conceded Johnny Mercer, the new MP for Plymouth Moor View. Lucy Allan, who overturned David Wright’s majority, had been, “told Telford was totally unwinnable”.

“They couldn’t use NationBuilder,” Davis recently said of her Conservative opponents in Southampton Itchen. “They haven’t got the people to co-ordinate. And in an election where people don’t trust the media but do trust their neighbours, that’s a problem.” Somehow, however, the Conservatives did communicate more successfully than Labour in that seat.

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Five questions for general election week 2015

04/05/2015, 03:13:28 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I can barely remember before we were looking beyond 7 May 2015 and soon this fateful date will be pasted. Five questions for this precipice:

Will a “Sheffield rally moment” happen?

George Osborne quickly jumped on #EdStone to declare it a “Sheffield rally moment”. It wasn’t. But Osborne seizes on any chance to blur Ed Miliband with Neil Kinnock, now, sadly, cast in stone as the embodiment of unfitness to govern. It is not just Miliband, however, at risk of “Sheffield rally moment”. David Cameron, shouting “up the hammers” as he fights for his career/country, has dropped clangers.

It is extra time in the cup final. The teams are exhausted. A piece of magic could break the deadlock. Or a horrible mistake. Which now seems much more likely than magic.

Can the Tories make it to 290 MPs?

290 Tory MPs is held out by experts – for example, Professor Tim Bale speaking at the RSA recently – as a golden number. Meet this threshold and routes to Conservative-led government remain open, fall short and they rapidly close.

While projected as the party with most seats and votes, they are falling short of this threshold on Peter Kellner’s last election projection. But these figures just about allow the Conservatives to combine with the Liberal Democrats and the DUP to build an effective Commons majority. Falling short of 290, however, particularly if this is accompanied by an absence of Liberal Democrat support, would make Conservative life very hard.

Can Labour build bridges with the Lib Dems?

If Oliver Coppard succeeds in his energetic campaign to remove Nick Clegg from Sheffield Hallam, a discombobulated Liberal Democrat Party will return to Westminster. The Conservatives could not be confident of the support of such a party. Even if Clegg wins, though, peeling the Liberal Democrats away from the Conservatives should remain a Labour goal.

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How Miliband seals the deal

27/04/2015, 11:07:34 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“The Labour leader’s main problem,” wrote Deborah Orr last November, “is that the dialogue he’s attempting to have with the nation is just too negative”. At the Labour spring rally, I worried that this weakness persisted. But tell that to the hen parties of Chester. Or the Milifans. Or even Peter Mandelson.

There is a positivity about Miliband, which the public have not previously known. But the Labour Party has. When, for example, in summer 2010, he drew the biggest crowd to a Labour meeting in Carlisle since the days of Harold Wilson.

If proving that we could be trusted again with other people’s money was the key lesson that you felt Labour ought to take from the last general election, then Miliband’s brother, David, may have then been a more attractive leadership candidate. While David was stronger on this front, he had other limitations. He appeared colder than Ed. The “Ed speaks human” placards may have never wholly convinced but Ed was a warm, even inspirational figure, at least to those holding the placards, during the leadership election.

This Miliband has been submerged for four and a half years and only reappeared in the past fortnight, perversely assisted by a Tory campaign that lowered expectations about him. They told the country that Miliband is useless, he’s shown otherwise. They told the country that the economy is improving, for many what they see around them suggests not. They should have shown us their core strengths of leadership and economy, instead of telling a sceptical public to be grateful.

In turning derision to cheers, Miliband resembles Tim Sherwood, manager of Aston Villa, supposedly David Cameron’s team, while – and, as a Liverpool fan, it grieves me to say – Cameron has something of the Brendan Rodgers about him, at least insofar as, as was demonstrated in defeat by Villa in the FA Cup semi-final, a capacity to squander advantages, possibly induced by nervousness or over-thinking.

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The entwined challenges that the SNP and UKIP may pose PM Miliband

21/04/2015, 10:59:14 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Scotland is diminished inside the UK, argues Alex Salmond. The UK is diminished inside the EU, says Nigel Farage. Scotland did not vote for David Cameron, insists Salmond. The UK didn’t vote for Jean-Claude Juncker, maintains Farage. It would be “nae bother” for Scotland to break up the UK, asserts Salmond. It would be “no problem” for the UK to leave the UK, claims Farage.

Salmond briefly seemed a broken man after the defeat of Yes last September. Having promised to resign the leadership of UKIP if he doesn’t win South Thanet, defeat for Farage on 7 May would also leave him broken. But Salmond has been reborn, as support for Yes has wholly transferred to the SNP. Farage might be reborn too.

Salmond’s rebirth has been enabled by glacial shifts in Scottish opinion that now appear to have unstoppable momentum but which built up over a long period, going undetected by those focused on Westminster. No Scottish seats in the UK parliament changed hands in 2010. The SNP gained two seats at the 2005 general election and lost one at the 2001 general election. The churn over the same period in elections to the Scottish Parliament, however, was much more dramatic. The SNP gained 20 additional seats in 2007, 23 in 2011.

If we look only at the lack of 2010 seat change in Scotland, the SNP’s rise appears inexplicable. If we look instead at recent elections to the Scottish parliament, it seems less so. Perhaps for reasons wrapped up with the referendum, decisive numbers of Scots are now prepared to entrust the SNP with their support in the UK Parliament, as well as in the Scottish Parliament. The decision factor for voters may have migrated from “who is best to lead the UK?” to “who will get the best deal for Scotland?”

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This curious Tory campaign is coming to us from another country

13/04/2015, 09:06:27 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Famously, the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. In that country, they have naked women on Page 3 of The Sun. That publication peddles lies about football fans crushed on the terraces of Hillsborough. And claims to be able to determine the outcome of general elections.

That which largely went unquestioned in 1992 would not do so in 2015. The Sun has changed to survive in a changed country. In such a country, it may not necessarily follow that treatment for Ed Miliband akin to that which Neil Kinnock endured in 1992 will contribute to the same electoral outcome.

The fears about Kinnock that the Conservatives and their supporters in the media were then able to arouse chimed with underlying public perceptions. It may be that attacks like those of Michael Fallon on Miliband will again tap into deep seated fears about Labour.

Equally, reflecting on Miliband’s improving personal ratings, Damian Lyons Lowe, founder and chief executive of Survation, concluded, “people like the happy warrior”. If Fallon were mainlining fears in the same way that the Tories did during the 1992 campaign, we might expect Miliband’s ratings to be going in the other direction.

The Tory brand is also not as robust as it was in 1992. This weakness – the persistence of the “nasty party” perception – is one of the reasons that I have anticipated Labour victory this year. When brands have limited purchase, their capacity to impact how other brands are perceived is also undermined.

If you go round slinging dead cats on tables, people will think, “these are the kind of people who sling dead cats on tables”. Boris Johnson – whom David Aaronovitch recently described as being “like a man who breaks wind in a lift and everyone wonders what smells so good” – could sling a dozen dead cats on the table. And we’d all laugh. Then ask him to do it again.

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