Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Todd’

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

Labour’s strategic priority must be to demonstrate how it will lead

23/02/2015, 05:52:03 PM

by Jonathan Todd

At the end of last year, I wrote on three reasons for Labour victory in 2015: brand, economy, and leadership. Let’s revisit them.

Brand

The Good Right - Tim Montgomerie’s campaign – understands the Tories’ brand problems. There has been a 7 per cent rise over the past year to 85 per cent in the proportion of people that see the Tories as being close to the rich. By having the likes of Peter Stringfellow along to a black and white ball and allowing Lord Fink to mishandle Ed Miliband’s questioning of his tax affairs, the Tory campaign appears determined to win over the remaining 15 per cent.

Reckless decisions over this parliament – the bedroom tax, scrapping the 50p income tax rate, and NHS restructuring – wouldn’t have happened if the Tories had been the Good Right throughout. To use the reported language of Miliband, they are “running out of runway” to turn around the perception before the election that they are “the party of the rich”. Given the Tory leads on economy and leadership, we might wonder what keeps them flat-lining at 30 per cent in the polls and the failure to address this perception is a prime candidate.

Economy

What could happen between now and 7 May to eradicate the Tory poll lead on the economy? It’s not hard to imagine scenarios emanating from Greece, the Middle East and Ukraine that have serious negative economic shocks. But would the Tories be blamed? Or the nurse that is held more tightly for fear of something worse?

When looking toward Labour victory, I wrote that George Osborne “overplayed his hand in the Autumn Statement, leaving bombs, unexploded since the 1930s, beneath the Tory campaign”. Have they gone off? Do you discern a widespread anxiety about what Osborne portends for the size and capacities of the state?

If such anxiety were deep enough to overhaul the Tory lead on the economy, we might have expected it to have done so by now. There is an argument – which Uncut has been preeminent in advancing – that if Labour had been clearer about how we’d go far enough on the deficit, the way in which the Tories are going too far would become more apparent and more damaging for them.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Five predictions for the election and beyond

16/02/2015, 08:26:12 AM

by Jonathan Todd

In FT Weekend, GOD – as Gus O’Donnell was known as head of the civil service 2005-2011 – reports that “by some calculations there are as many as 11 different possible outcomes” to the general election. “These include minority governments, multiparty coalitions, coalitions with side deals, variants in which some MPs do not vote on certain English issues – as well as a vanilla one-party majority”. Here are five observations on this.

1.) Whichever of David Cameron and Ed Miliband has most MPs will be PM

This might seem utterly obvious but The Economist report that as “the Scottish National Party, Greens and struggling Lib Dems (are) all prepared to support a left-leaning government … Miliband (could be in) power even if Labour wins considerably fewer seats and votes than the Tories”.

Seriously? They would make the less than universally popular Miliband PM if he has fewer MPs and votes? I’m doubtful. Equally, Cameron would not stay PM if he has fewer MPs and votes. Most MPs trumps most votes. But being behind on both MPs and votes is unsalvageable.

2.) Majority will be hard won

“We really need,” a senior Lib Dem recently told The Evening Standard, “45 MPs to go into another coalition.” More MPs than polling suggests they will return. “At some point it just becomes a matter of numbers. You have to fill Cabinet positions, junior ministerial positions, select committee chairs — things like that – while also having places for MPs sulking or who don’t want to sit in government.”

If – as Atul Hatwal predicts – they have a number of MPs in the high 30s or very low 40s, they’d fall short of this 45 MP benchmark. Meaning that, irrespective of Nick Clegg’s preferences, another coalition would be difficult for them. Lib Dem strength depends on performance in two heartlands: in the south west, where the Tories threaten, and in rural Scotland, where the SNP do. The SNP are also, of course, seeking to eat into Scottish Labour heartlands.

If the SNP successfully advance on both Labour and Lib Dems, pushing the Lib Dems below 45 MPs, it may be that the SNP is the only route to a coalition for either Labour or the Tories. Iain Anderson and David Torrance caution against concluding an agreement couldn’t be reached between the Tories and the SNP. But it wouldn’t be easy, nor would it be for Miliband if Labour does have most MPs. Nonetheless, the probability of the SNP being in government is higher than any single party forming a majority government. Some form of rapprochement with the likes of Douglas Carswell may also be considered by the Tories.

3.) Strategies for minority government are needed – which, given the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA), may endure

Lack of Lib Dem MPs and the difficulty for unionist parties in finding coalition agreement with the SNP may make minority government the only option. FTPA means that the governing party would need a two-thirds majority of MPs to call an election before May 2020. Favourable polls may make this attractive but facing such polls, the opposition would be unlikely to vote with them. A two-thirds majority may, then, be a bridge too far.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Uncut Review: New Labour’s Old Roots, edited by Patrick Diamond

10/02/2015, 08:36:13 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“This is the culmination of a long period in which the voice of moderate opinion in the Labour Party has been drowned by the clamour of an active and articulate minority”. Reading Atul Hatwal recently on Uncut on the monstering of Blairites and humouring of leftists, this feels a commentary on our times. But it comes from the Campaign for Democratic Socialism’s (CDS) 1962 manifesto.

As Patrick Diamond notes in the newly updated version of New Labour’s Old Roots, which he edits, CDS was “formed in response to the need for a more organised centre-right in the party at parliamentary and constituency level”. This paints CDS as a proto Progress. But I was intrigued to discover from Diamond’s research that CDS was backed by an elderly R. H. Tawney, irreproachable Labour royalty.

If Tawney, who did as much as anyone to have Labour dance to the equality beat, supported CDS then it cannot have been akin to the insubstantial, narrow caste that Progress is sometimes characterised as. Involved with this is the implication, which Diamond challenges, that New Labour has only shallow roots in the party.

“The key argument of the collection,” he writes, “is that New Labour is less of an historical aberration than its critics alleged; rather it is possible to trace a ‘common heritage’ between New Labour and earlier modernising traditions in the party … There was a shared commitment to ‘conscience and reform’, underpinned by the ideal of national renewal and the creation of a ‘New Britain’ which animated Labour’s victories in 1929, 1945, 1964 and 1997; as such, New Labour should be seen as, ‘part of a revisionist thread of British social democratic politics’ (Driver and Martell, 2006: 23).”

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Optimism and relationships are in Labour’s DNA

03/02/2015, 10:16:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The British economy is growing because of the hard work and ingenuity of businesses and workers. Crime remains in a long-term decline. Some public services are improving because of the efforts of public servants like those interviewed by Liz Kendall and Steve Reed in a new Progress publication.

The economy improves in spite of George Osborne, while Theresa May benefits from a trend toward falling crime that predates her time in office. Osborne’s attempted fiscal consolidation has lacked strategic direction: cutting deepest where resistance was thought weakest (local government, welfare), instead of recasting the relationship between public, private and third sectors to secure maximum combined impact. Pockets of public service innovation are, nonetheless, discernible, even if this strategic direction is lacking.

Kendall and Reed delve into these pockets: Frontline, a programme designed to attract some of the country’s highest achieving graduates into social work; Newcastle city council’s response to the government’s ‘troubled families’ programme; Oldham council, experiencing a threefold rise in residents’ satisfaction under Jim McMahon’s leadership; Participle, an organisation that designs and helps to launch projects to demonstrate what the next generation of public services should look like; and the use of personal budgets to empower people to manage their health and wellbeing in ways that best suit their particularities.

“It might be tough for those of us who love politics to face,” as Hopi Sen noted, writing for Progress about a Policy Network pamphlet published at the end of last year, “but politics is primarily a secondary function in society. Real change is being created and developed elsewhere, and politics seeks to manage, regulate, anticipate and ameliorate those changes in the interests of the people”.

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

After Charlie Hebdo, we need confident social democrats

21/01/2015, 10:34:20 AM

by Jonathan Todd

It is over 170 years since Karl Marx published On the Jewish Question, which rebutted the argument of fellow Young Hegelian Bruno Bauer that Jews could only achieve political emancipation by relinquishing their particular religious consciousness. While individuals can be spiritually and politically free in the secular state, Marx prefigured his later critiques of capitalism by arguing that economic inequality would constrain freedom in such a state.

Jews are again questioning their place in European society, as are UK Muslim leaders, outraged after Eric Pickles asked followers of Islam to “prove their identity”. Whether or not that makes a Charlie of Pickles is debatable. But the Pope seems not to be. “One cannot provoke,” he claimed last week, “one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

The ancient questions are back. About the relationship between faith and citizenship that the young Marx addressed in On the Jewish Question. But a concept – alienation – that Marx later developed also seems relevant. I’m not a Marxist but I’ve found myself thinking about alienation after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and in the kosher supermarket. Nor am I a massive fan of Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP, but since the atrocity, I’ve also been impressed by his reaction.

In my fusion of Hannan and Marx, I like to feel that I’ve done better than Jamie Bartlett’s characterisation of much of the Charlie Hebdo reaction, as, conveniently, meaning precisely whatever we were thinking already. But in a sense, I am only revisiting the point I made on Uncut after the London riots of 2011: Can we really only look deep enough into our hearts as to bleat about the same old hobby horses?

(more…)

Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon