Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Labour: on the verge of a historic victory, or partying like it’s 1992?

08/04/2015, 02:50:35 PM

by Rob Marchant

The short campaign has finally kicked off. Not that that usually makes much difference, and particularly not when we have all known the date of the election for the last four years. Perhaps fittingly, no party’s campaign has so far exactly knocked Britain off its feet.

In polling, Tories and Labour have been showing as neck and neck for some time, with each main party in turn delighted when a poll says it is a couple of points ahead. But within any measure of what statisticians call “standard error”, these polls tell us little.

In other words, any difference of this size – a few per cent – could just as easily be explained by the inaccuracy of polling as a predictor per se, as by a meaningful trend. In this strange, Alice-in-Wonderland world where the tossed coin seems to land on its side, we have to make our judgements using less obvious, but no less compelling, means.

Turn, for example, to that more traditional signal of electoral success, the bookies, and the story is a little different. It’s true that they are – by a rather small margin – predicting a Labour minority government as the most likely outcome from a number of difficult-to-predict outcomes, but now look at the party with most seats. It’s the Tories, odds on, by a mile. The next PM? Cameron, odds on, by a mile.

Now, on the back of the TV debates, Labour has had a welcome uptick in Miliband’s personal approval rating, it’s true. But this really needs to be seen in context: it is rather the difference between the cataclysmic (-46% a month ago) and the merely bad (-29%, against Cameron’s -2%).

And there has also been a positive story for Labour in the English marginals, according to Lord Ashcroft’s polling. But the story in Scotland is the opposite: even if it might not end up quite as badly as the Daily Mail might gleefully be predicting, it will certainly be bad.

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David Cameron has made a massive mistake but Labour’s picked the wrong line of attack

24/03/2015, 08:50:59 AM

by Atul Hatwal

If the Conservatives win the next election, David Cameron has turned himself into a bystander in his next government.

By pre-announcing his resignation he’s dissolved his future authority with backbenchers, who will be more interested in winning the favour of the next leader, and shifted the media lens onto his potential successors. The question of when he will resign – because he surely won’t last a full term – will dog him each day and ultimately he will struggle for relevance. He’s condemned himself to a living political death.

In the wake of such an extraordinary unforced error, Labour’s chosen line of attack is that Cameron is taking the electorate for granted by assuming he will win the next election. It fits with Labour’s broader critique of him and in that sense is logical, but it’s also wrong.

Two of David Cameron’s greatest political assets are his double digit lead over Ed Miliband as the public’s preference for PM and the extent to which he personally outpolls his party.

David Cameron’s telegraphed resignation is the very antithesis of leadership; it’s the epitome of weakness and raises the likelihood that any one of a gaggle of unappealing Tories could be prime minister in the next Parliament. Suddenly, there might be some hope for Labour.

Instead of talking about arrogance, Labour should be recasting the leadership choice at this election as one between Ed Miliband and the dangerous unknown.

There are two aspects to this.

First, the message should be hammered home that David Cameron is about to quit on the British people in the next Parliament.

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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.

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It’s still all about leadership

28/01/2015, 11:29:47 AM

by Rob Marchant

For the last few years, Labour Uncut has been repeating pretty much the same message: the Tories will mainly fight this election on two things: leadership and the economy.

They haven’t disappointed. So far, they seem to have been talking about little else.

Thing is, at this point the argument over the economy is a difficult one. To the politically-attuned, the Tories may just be perceived – even among their own supporters – as having called their last Budget badly and overdone austerity. But among ordinary folk, the reality is that Labour is still not trusted on the economy and that this would tend to trump unease with the Tories.

The logic is not exactly complex: “Labour will borrow more” is the Tory attack line. Labour’s strategy is to reply with the economically correct, and yet politically inept, response that we will leave the door open to borrow, but only to invest.

As if the average voter is likely to distinguish between leaving the door open and doing, or between capital and expense accounting in their feelings about the two main parties.

As if.

No, it is largely too late to try to unscramble that particular omelette. Our economic polling is what it is.

So we turn from economics to leadership. Some things here, too, we can no longer do anything about. It is too late to play the statesman-in-waiting, or gain the support of those world leaders who are both politically like-minded and credible (a category for which François Hollande would clearly struggle to qualify).

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Some gloomy general election predictions

06/01/2015, 08:55:06 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The next election is not too close to call. Neither is it a contest where the current party system is under threat nor one where voter volatility renders meaningful predictions impossible.

There are excuses wheeled out by pundits and pollsters who are frit. Here are my predictions.

The Conservatives are going to repeat their 2010 performance and secure 36% of the vote while suffering a small fall in their number of seats to the range 290 to 300.

Labour will struggle to 32%, boosting its seats by 20-25 to the high 270s or low 280s and the Lib Dems will exceed their current polling to get to 16% with seats in the high 30s or very low 40s.

Ukip will under-perform their current poll rating to achieve 7% with one seat (Douglas Carswell) while the SNP will lose to Labour in Scotland. However, they will make some progress, boosting their representation by taking 6-10 Labour seats and reducing the majorities for most of Labour’s Scottish MPs.

This is why.

As May 7th draws near, three shifts will take place in the way that the voting public go about their choice that will move the current polling.

These changes happen in every electoral cycle and are the reason that decades of forecasts of new settlements, moulds being broken and unprecedented uncertainty are usually wrong.

They relate to the nature of the decision that voters are making, the criteria they use to make it and how they judge the parties meet that criteria.

First, the way most voters perceive their choice fundamentally changes in the run up to a general election.

For the majority of the parliament, when pollsters (or indeed friends and family) ask about voting preference, the question is taken as a referendum on the government.

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Three reasons for Labour victory in 2015

31/12/2014, 08:28:22 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Tony Blair might be despondent about Labour’s prospects but all is not lost, there are three reasons for Labour victory in 2015: leadership, economy and brand.

Uncut has consistently warned about the dangers attaching to Labour’s poor polling on leadership and economy. The own goals and gaffes of Conservatives, however, open the door to these improving. Labour enjoys an advantage on brand, which is similarly assisted by Tory missteps.

If David Cameron’s party were a character on Thomas the Tank engine, the Fat Controller would be bellowing at them that they have caused confusion and delay. He’d be saying the same to Labour. Labour is not as popular or convincing as we would like. But Tory error is giving Labour the opportunity, should we seize it, to be marginally and decisively less unpopular and unconvincing.

Labour would be the least unpopular in the unpopularity contest that is this general election. Arriving in government in such circumstances would bring its own challenges. Not least as precipitous demands will be placed on whoever forms the next government by the UK’s fiscal position, underperforming economy and ageing society, as well as looming questions involved with everything from Vladimir Putin’s intentions to Nigel Farage’s staying power about our place in the world.

Someone will have a Labour plan for all of this. Charlie Falconer, perhaps. I think he leads Labour’s preparation for government work. If so, noting his chapter on delivery in the Uncut book, he should call Paul Crowe. The Hollande scenario that troubles Crowe must be averted. One way in which it might become existential for Labour is if UKIP establishes itself as the second party in much of northern England at the general election and then use the frustrations of an administration as disappointing as Hollande’s to further advance.

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Jim Murphy needs to be radical to revive Labour in Scotland

18/12/2014, 05:27:18 PM

by Daniel Charelston-Downes

Labour, according to the New Statesman, is now 20 points behind the SNP in Westminster voting intentions. This would see an almost virtual wipeout of Scottish seats for Labour and goes some way to explaining why Nicola Sturgeon was so keen to welcome the new Scottish Labour leadership with words of unity and collaboration. It seems SNP are preparing for, even expecting, coalition partnership.

Jim Murphy’s leadership has come at a crucial time for Scottish Labour. When Lamont talked of her despair at Scottish Labour being treated as a branch office, she hit close to home with all Scottish voters. London-centric politics is killing the main parties in Scotland and will take Labour down leaving the SNP the last man standing.

The moment Tony Blair’s name became sacrilegious in my household growing up was when he abandoned Clause IV. With Murphy using the language of the Clause, he is clearly trying to evoke memories of that kind of reform within the party and the wave of electoral success that brought with it. A rehashed statement of intent for Scotland is an attempt to move Labour into a ‘reformer’ platform.

However what Scottish voters liked about Salmond and continue to appreciate in Sturgeon is their lack of political machinery.

Where Murphy will struggle, and where his use of Blairite language displays a complete lack of understanding, is that he is viewed as the worst kind of career politician. He is straight out of Westminster. He has bounced from education, to the National Union of Students presidency, to think tanks and policy groups and now parliament. He has always seen Scotland through Labour eyes.

If Labour is ever to win a majority again they are going to need to gain Scotland back. The SNP are a much greater threat to the Labour party than UKIP are to anyone, they are doing a much more successful job of converting anti-Westminster sentiment into seats than any other British party.

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Revealed: Identity of Miliband advisers who helped frame report calling for shadow cabinet members to be sacked

02/12/2014, 05:56:14 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Stewart Wood, Jonathan Rutherford, Marc Stears and Peter Hain MP are just some of the Miliband loyalists whose views shaped an academic report from Aston University’s Professor John Gaffney on Ed Miliband’s leadership, which called for members of the shadow cabinet to be sacked if they do not improve their performance.

The report garnered headlines this morning because of its stark conclusions about the troubles facing Ed Miliband and the need for decisive action, but only now have the names of key contributors emerged.

Steward Wood was ennobled by Ed Miliband and plays a pivotal role in knitting together the disparate factions within the leader’s office while Marc Stears and Jonathan Rutherford, old college friends of Miliband’s, are central to shaping his ideological approach and the content of his speeches.

Peter Hain, meanwhile, led the first major party initiative under Ed Miliband, Refounding Labour, and at the height of the recent PLP wobbles over Ed Miliband’s leadership, was the loyalist voice on the Today programme urging unity behind the leader.

In one of the most striking passages, the report states that Miliband must have a team that do not, “simply mumble their support whenever party plot rumours surface.”

These words echo frequent press briefings to the effect that the shadow team is not pulling its weight and the identity of the report’s Milibandite contributors will only serve to exacerbate tensions between the shadow cabinet and the leader’s office.

Several of the report’s recommendations have been greeted with suspicion by shadow cabinet members, wary of an attempt by Ed Miliband’s office to shift responsibility for Labour’s poll woes onto them. One proposal, that shadow ministers produce a “five point crib sheet for each policy,” was greeted with particular incredulity. A shadow ministerial adviser retorted,

“If we were ever allowed to do anything, of course we’d have a bloody crib sheet.”

The report was compiled following interviews with 30 Westminster players, ranging from those close to Ed Miliband to those more sceptical about his leadership.  Its central contention is that, “Miliband fails to inspire his followers because he is not getting the narrative of leadership right.”

For an impartial academic such as Professor Gaffney to come to this conclusion, even with the full contribution of those who are seen as Ed Miliband’s praetorian guard, will be taken as a sign of the level of gloom permeating the Labour leader’s inner circle about his position within the party and prospects for the next election.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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Authenticity is the key to Labour defeating the new insurgents

17/11/2014, 11:39:24 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour is about to throw away a winnable election, according to Phil Collins’ latest fiery column, because its leader cannot fathom that he needs to convince us he will take care of our money. As a consistent Uncut theme, we cannot be accused of not being forthright in stressing this need. We are eager to avoid Labour falling short in public estimation of whether the party is capable of taking the tough decisions on public spending that closing the deficit requires.

While winning economic credibility should remain a Labour priority and I’ve written in the current Progress magazine on how this might be done, it may be that a perceived dearth of authenticity, rather than economic credibility, is the most immediate cause of a heightened risk that Labour will not form the next government. The calculus of this risk is informed by the likelihood of Labour losing votes and seats to the SNP in Scotland, UKIP in the north of England and the Greens across the UK.

These parties all lump Labour together with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and dismiss them as “all the same”. Labour is supposedly another chip off this venal and failing block. The SNP and the Greens unambiguously pitch to the left of Labour and UKIP go after traditional Labour supporters.

All Labourites are appalled by the idea that we are no better than the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and bristle at the suggestion that we have left behind working class communities and left-wing values. But the worrying reality is that the Greens, SNP and UKIP – the new insurgents – successfully trade on these terms. As well as improving opinion poll performance, the new insurgents are all thought to be attracting new members at a rate that other parties appear able only to envy.

This success would not occur if Labour were more widely taken to be an authentic version of what we self-define as: the best vehicle for the advancement of left-wing values and working class interests. Alex Massie recently compared Scottish Labour to Rangers FC. Labour claims, like those of Rangers FC, that We are the People are now not just disbelieved but mocked. UKIP are seeking to inspire a similar kulturkampf among the English working class. They peddle the notion that the party founded to represent this class no longer does, as the Greens propagate the idea that a leader who has explicitly repudiated New Labour throughout his leadership is not really left wing.

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Alpha-male Ed, where have you been?

13/11/2014, 04:12:56 PM

by Kevin Meagher

This was the speech Ed Miliband should have made in Manchester at the party conference a few weeks ago.

Actually, this was the speech Ed Miliband should have been making for the past four years.

This was the speech of a leader. He was good. Straight. Urgent. Passionate. And even authoritative too.

In fact, this was probably the best speech Ed Miliband has made.

Partly through what wasn’t in it.

There was no self-deprecating preamble or any of his weak jokes (his timing stinks).

Tellingly, there were none of his passive physical gestures either. You know, that upturned hand thing he does? (Although there were a few of those long blinks as his turns his head).

There was none of his abstract theorising. This seemed to be a speech written by a press officer rather than a policy wonk.

As for “together”, the anaemic theme of his conference speech, there was not a word.

And, blessedly, there were no more of those toe-curling tales of meeting people on Clapham Common.

This was alpha-male stuff. Black-coffee-and-three-shredded-wheat-for-breakfast-Ed.

He wisely abandoned the parlour trick of memorising his speech (which got him into so much trouble in Manchester when he forgot to mention immigration and the deficit).

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