Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Todd’

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?”

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The economic questions behind and beyond the election

10/04/2015, 04:46:25 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Ed Conway characterises this as “fast becoming the election that economics forgot”. If non-economic factors are determining votes, we might note the uptick in Ed Miliband’s ratings, showing improvement against the variable that I’ve argued Labour should focus on: leadership.

It is a big Tory theme to ask, “do you want this oddity as prime minister?” If the people say, as they seem to, “actually, he’s not that bad”, then this a Tory problem. Nonetheless, Miliband’s ratings have been poor enough for long enough that they risk the electorate buying the stories that the incumbents peddle. Even when reality is inconsistent with rhetoric.

This rhetoric has claimed that Labour caused the global financial crisis (when Mervyn King, the ex Governor of the Bank of England, says otherwise), that Labour spent too much at crucial junctures (when the Tories then backed this spending), and that Labour failed to properly regulate the banks (when the Tories wanted less regulation).

As galling as it may be, though, too much time may have passed for public opinion to substantially shift on these debates. But there remain questions about where the economy is now and where it is going.

The rhetoric was of “the march of the makers” and renewal of competitiveness. The reality is that the balance of payments and productivity are both unprecedentedly awful, evidencing a troubling lack of competitiveness, which may explain two-thirds of economists recently surveyed reporting concerns about the government’s economic management.

The political vogue of economic metrics waxes and wanes. We were more agitated by the balance of payments in the 1960s. Unemployment became a bigger issue in the 1970s. Thatcherism made the money supply “the thing” in the 1980s.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The view from Birmingham: Tory doctors, Lib Dem machines, Labour hopes

06/04/2015, 12:51:20 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I voted for Gerry Steinberg in the City of Durham in 2001, Keith Hill in Streatham in 2005, and stood in Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2010. I’ll vote on 7 May for Gisela Stuart to retain the Birmingham Edgbaston seat that she’s held since 1997. Then David Hill, a veteran of Labour communications, reacted to this Labour gain by repeatedly saying “fucking unbelievable” at the Labour celebration party at the Royal Festival Hall.

Dr Luke Evans, Stuart’s Tory opponent, is pictured with a stethoscope on his literature. The word Conservative is an afterthought. It bemoans the record of NHS Wales that is Labour controlled, while being silent on Stuart. No attempt to critique her record or change how we should think of her is made.

A “re-elect Gisela Stuart” poster looks out from our kitchen window. Our next door neighbour has one up too. Labour appears to be winning this street. But the constituency has not been blanketed as Tim Farron posters covered Westmorland and Lonsdale during 2010. These declared, “the local choice v the London banker”, which summed up the Liberal Democrat framing of the election as a contest between Farron and Gareth McKeever, a former banker and the Tory candidate.

In contrast to the Liberal Democrats in Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2010, communications from both the Conservatives and Labour in Edgbaston have made minimal attempts to frame the election. And as Evans downplays his Conservative status, Stuart also stands somewhat removed from her party, as her letter heading describes her as, “your independent thinking Labour candidate”.

Reflecting on his comprehensive defeat to Farron, McKeever has written, “the main reason we lost was the sheer size and scope of the local Lib Dem machine and extremely popular local MP”. Edgbaston has no such machine. To the extent that any Lib Dem activists are local, they have relocated to Birmingham Yardley and Solihull, where John Hemming and Lorely Burt seek to hold the only Lib Dem seats in the West Midlands.

Solihull recently hosted Nick Clegg watching a hedgehog walk in circles, a Lib Dem attempt to hold back what the local paper describes as “Boris mania” following a constituency visit by London’s Mayor. It is not just in the south west of England that the Conservatives are seeking to make gains at the expense of their coalition partners. That’s also their aim to the south east of Birmingham.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Revealed: Osborne’s next Budget

01/04/2015, 08:47:09 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Of course, we strain every Labour sinew to have the next Budget delivered by Ed Balls. Even if the worst happens and the next government is Conservative led, it may be that George Osborne finds himself serving away from the Treasury.

But Osborne’s 2010 “emergency” Budget framed this parliament. Amid a leadership election, Labour struggled to respond. He’ll spy a way to repeat this trick. On different terms, however.

The 2010 vintage made spending this parliament’s key axis. Labour had spent too much. Osborne would curb it. You can’t trust Labour on spending but you can trust Osborne.

This spending card showed its age in 2014’s Autumn Statement. Again playing it big, Osborne crash landed in the 1930s. He predictably backed out of this rickets afflicted cul-de-sac in the Budget. Neither the Autumn Statement’s spending profile for the next parliament nor that which followed his Budget readjustment are truly credible.

It’s a charade engineered to push Labour into positions that allow him to bemoan Labour’s supposedly reckless profligacy. If Osborne does deliver another Budget, he would be expected to reveal the brutal details that he has lead us to expect.

Will he close the police? Or the army? Or is local government an outdated sticking plaster?

Much as Labour sees Osborne as an ideologue – and he probably does have somewhat more deeply held convictions than David Cameron, a particularly light wearer of his beliefs – he is sensible enough to know that the cuts that he has set himself up for in unprotected departments risk policy chaos and political ruin. To the extent that he has ever had a Long Term Economic Plan (LTEP), it has only existed as rhetoric of spending responsibility. The policy substance has regularly shifted, not least away from the 1930s between the Autumn Statement and the Budget.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Tories want to park the bus. But the wheels are falling off

30/03/2015, 09:00:30 AM

by Jonathan Todd

This was the week that the supposed Long Term Economic Plan (LTEP) gave way to short term miscalculation. The question is whether it will have a resonance deep enough to reach beyond the narrow cadre of the politically obsessed and long enough to be felt on 7 May.

It was a good week for Labour. And there are precious few weeks left before the election. The Tory plan was to stuff them full of LTEP. Park a bus of LTEP on the playing field of the election and close off all Labour routes to goal. Lynton Crosby as José Mourinho. But the wheels have looked like they are falling off the Tory bus.

“You had one job,” Crosby must ruefully lament. Instead of LTEP, Cameron needlessly diminished himself by triggering speculation about the Tory leadership and increased agitation among the runners and riders to focus on positioning in this race. It’s akin to John Terry tossing aside mid-match the armband that denotes the Chelsea captain.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Budget 2015: The quiet moments matter

19/03/2015, 02:27:16 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Budgets are supposed to be big moments. The kind that determine general elections. But maybe they are decided by millions upon millions of quieter moments. When payslips are inspected, profits turned, and housing wealth accumulated.

In these quieter moments judgments are made on the economy’s performance. In turn, these bear upon general election votes. It is a eighteen months since Uncut spotted a gradual rise in the proportion of the electorate reporting the economy as doing well and a steady decline in Labour’s poll lead. We ran a regression to assess the relationship between these data series and postulated that the Tories would overtake Labour when a quarter of the electorate came to the view that the economy is doing well.

In May last year, when YouGov’s tracker on economic sentiment first started to bump up against a quarter of the electorate being of this belief, we noted that Tory poll leads had started to emerge. These leads were faltering and slow to confirm themselves. Like the upward trajectory in the proportion of the electorate positive about the economy.

24 per cent of the electorate thought the economy was doing well last May and Labour held an average of a 3 point poll lead, as the table below illustrates. Occasional Tory leads then existed but the average favoured Labour. The Tories weren’t consistently ahead but nor was economic sentiment resoundingly over a quarter. At 30 per cent, economic sentiment now comfortably clears the quarter threshold, and Labour’s poll lead is less impressive than last May.

If we simply compare the data in May 2014 and March 2015, they seem to confirm the original Uncut hypothesis: the more the economy improves, the narrower Labour’s lead. The pattern of these series between these two months, however, rewards inspection.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Uncut review: Labour’s Spring rally was a tale of two Britains

16/03/2015, 10:42:33 AM

by Jonathan Todd

On Saturday, I met a friend for coffee and took my son swimming. Normal life, that simple, that complicated. Labour’s Spring Rally came in-between. This made the coffee and swim seem Damascus living: normal life accompanied by artillery’s distant thud.

There is not one nation but two Britain’s. The Britain of my coffee and swim. The Britain of the rally. Here the artillery is loud. War has been waged against the country by the government . “Britain can’t afford another five years of Tory government,” Shaun Dooley, the actor and one of Ed Miliband’s warm-up acts, implored.

“If we go on at this rate, the nation must be ruined,” Adam Smith was told by a student following a reversal for British troops in the American revolution. “There’s a great deal of ruin in a nation,” retorted Smith. It would take more than a prime minister as second rate as David Cameron to ruin us.

In rally Britain, however, all is at stake. We might be ruined. Or milk and honey might flow. A country where the next generation can do better than the last. Where the NHS has time to care. And working families have higher living standards.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The northern road to prime minister Miliband

09/03/2015, 01:09:09 PM

by Jonathan Todd

You wait an eternity for a female Cumbrian MP and then two seem set to come along at once. Lee Sherriff, Labour’s candidate in Carlisle, is regularly applauded in speeches by shadow ministers. Sue Hayman has more recently been selected by Labour to fight Workington, a seat the party has invariably held throughout its history.

Polling by Lord Ashcroft suggests that Sherriff is set to turn around the 853 majority of Conservative MP John Stevenson. Iain Dale also calls the seat narrowly for Labour. Assuming Labour suffer no Cumbrian losses, this would give Labour at least four of the six Cumbrian seats.

Labour faces tougher fights in Westmorland and Lonsdale, where Tim Farron defends a majority of over 12,000 for the Liberal Democrats, and Penrith and the Border, a Conservative citadel, granting Rory Stewart a majority of over 11,000. These seats have never been red and cover much of the Lake District National Park, which draws visitors from across the globe. The more Labour inclined seats have their charms but are less well travelled.

Stevenson is Carlisle’s first Conservative MP since Ronald Lewis won the seat back for Labour in 1964, the year Harold Wilson first became Prime Minister. In 1983, an unhappier general election year for Labour, the party’s commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament allowed Cecil Franks, the Conservative candidate in Barrow and Furness, where the building of nuclear submarines has long been a major source of employment, to ask at every opportunity: “If Labour gets elected, what will the lads do on Monday?”

John Hutton defeated Franks for Labour in 1992, meaning that four of the six Cumbrian MPs again were Labour, but it took another five years for the government to become so too. If Sherriff were to win Carlisle, it might herald another period in which four of the six Cumbrian MPs are Labour but the government is not. Equally, Carlisle is the kind of seat to give Ed Miliband hope.

As average weekly earnings in Carlisle lag the average for Great Britain by around £120, it is a place where Labour’s cost of living focus is likely to have had resonance and decisions taken by the Tory-led government are unlikely to always have been well received. With diligent local campaigning, it should be possible to transfer this grievance with the government into support for Labour. A recent profile in the New Statesman indicates that Sherriff is providing such campaigning with aplomb.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Uncut Review: Blue Labour, Forging a New Politics, edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst

02/03/2015, 10:43:34 AM

by Jonathan Todd

This book is reviewed in advance of the launch event at 7pm tonight in Portcullis House

Blue Labour was a useful vehicle for Ed Miliband. He wanted to move on from New Labour. Blue Labour helped him to do so without backing into too many left-wing cul-de-sacs. But Maurice Glasman, the original Blue Labour guru, grew frustrated with Miliband, having probably already alienated the party leader with his predilection for colourful comment.

Reflecting on this in Blue Labour, Forging a New Politics, a new book edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst, Glasman laments that “in a rationalist, tin-eared and ungenerous Westminster village” he has fallen “into trouble” as a result of a fondness for “paradox, something that sounds wrong but is right”. While the book contains chapters from Labour’s Policy Review Co-ordinator (Jon Cruddas), as well as potentially the next Labour London mayor (David Lammy) and next deputy leader (Tom Watson), it is uncertain whether Blue Labour can again be the Westminster village force that it appeared when Miliband was elected leader.

Appropriately for a public philosophy propagated by Miliband, it is ceded within academia. Four book contributors are current holders of academic positions, while the University of Kent’s website indicates that Pabst’s “research focuses on contemporary post-liberal politics”. It’s not so long ago that I was commenting on drafts of a Demos Quarterly essay by David Goodhart, who also appears in this Blue Labour collection, on post-liberalism, never having previously encountered post-liberalism as a term. Now post-liberalism is subject to academic research, while Blue Labour, Pabst claims, “emerged as part of a wider ‘post-liberal’ turn in British politics in the wake of the 2008 economic crash and the 2011 London riots”.

The financial crisis, of course, wrought deleterious consequences. Through its analysis of the interactions between globalisation and financial liberalisation, Martin Wolf’s latest book provides a powerful account of how this happened. Wolf was caustic at an IPPR seminar last autumn on what he perceives as Labour’s failure to provide policy solutions big enough to meet the challenges that he poses.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon