Posts Tagged ‘Omnishambles’

Is Labour prepared for a second Cameron government?

17/02/2015, 10:16:10 PM

by David Talbot

Such optimism greeted the unveiling of Labour’s grand general election strategy some two years ago. The party would target 106 key seats using techniques borrowed from Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaigns in a “realistic” strategy to install the Labour leader in Downing Street with a majority of 60, the then election supremo Tom Watson announced. Somewhat naturally, given Westminster’s seemingly never-ending penchant for expensive Americans, a thousand community organisers were to be funded simultaneously in the key seats trained by the now adrift Arnie Graf.

The general election had duly begun, we were told, and Labour was set to be a one-term opposition; a feat achieved just once in forty years. According to Watson’s detailed analysis, Labour needed a national swing of just under two per cent to be the largest party at the next election. An average swing of over five per cent would deliver Labour a Commons majority of 20 seats and over six per cent a 60-seat majority. Such was the bullishness of the assessment that all the seats announced were offensive, and such was the hyperbole attached that talk of an 80-seat majority was passed in the same breath. Labour will win, and “win well” Watson confidently asserted.

Such a shame. Three months out from the general election few in the Labour fold would publically repeat such wild talk. But at the time it was easy enough to see where the confidence had come from; the “ominshambles” Budget had handed Labour a large and sustained lead – with the party regularly breaching and holding the magical forty per cent barrier.


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Labour’s 2013 report card: relying on the kindness of strangers is not enough

08/01/2014, 07:00:18 AM

by Rob Marchant

Recently there seems to have been an odd acceptance by some right-wing commentators that Britain is to “sleepwalk to a Labour win”, as the Telegraph’s Matthew D’Ancona put it. It may be a genuine belief, rather than a way of giving Cameron a sly wake-up call. But if only that outcome were so sure from Labour’s current position.

On the contrary, when we look back on the third year of the Miliband project, we might struggle to see it as the success-filled year of the winning team.

For a start, any midterm year which an opposition ends with both a party and a leader less popular than at its start – as pollster Anthony Wells has observed – can hardly be declared an unqualified success.

This was a year in which a party going on to win a general election needed to be increasing its lead in both those categories, or at least holding them firm. If the near-halving of Labour’s poll lead had been down to some kind of surge for the Tories, it could have been acceptable. But the fact that both Labour and their leader are polling worse is discouraging news.

Pollster Deborah Mattinson’s noting that no party has ever gone on to win a majority from here is important, if not conclusive. And the answer is not, self-evidently, to simply lower our expectations and carry on as before, hoping to grasp at a deal with the Lib Dems, should such a thing one day be on the table.

When you are in a hole, stop digging, seems more appropriate. Or, put more simply, you do not tend to go down in the polls because the public thinks you are doing the right thing.

A second point would be the Syria vote: although Miliband managed to klutz it up fairly comprehensively, it is also fair to say that Cameron foolishly underestimated the lack of support in his own party. As a result, neither is cutting much of a figure of world statesman, as the bodies pile up in Syria at a higher rate than ever. “We stopped the rush to war” has a rather hollow ring to it, now it looks like the flimsiness of Western resolve means the murderer of thousands of children will stay in power after all.


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The omnishambles is back

26/10/2013, 03:20:32 PM

by Michael Dugher

Across a wide-ranging front, just a cursory glance through this weekend’s newspapers suggest that so many of the government’s policies look to be in real trouble. The omnishambles is back.  This time it’s coupled with a planned modernisation which is being rolled back at a pace. It has been clear for a long time that Cameron is hopelessly out of touch. But his government looks increasingly like it is out of answers to the big challenges facing Britain.  On so many of the policies which were meant to define David Cameron’s government, the wheels have come off.

Let’s start with education. We already know that there is a crisis of a lack of school places in many parts of the country and that class sizes above 30 are making a big comeback.  But David Cameron’s centrepiece reform was the introduction of free schools, yet in the last two weeks we have had two deeply concerning examples of the danger they pose if increased freedoms are not complemented by checks and balances as Labour proposes.

The Islamic al Medinah free school in Derby was described by a scathing Ofsted report as not being “adequately monitored or supported” and for having inexperienced teachers who had not been provided with proper training.  It was branded “in chaos” and “dysfunctional”, with pupils being segregated and given the same work regardless of ability.  On Friday we had reports that Michael Gove’s department sat for months on a report alleging financial irregularities worth more than £80,000 at flagship Kings Academy in Bradford.


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Whip’s Notebook: Cameron is now more focused on party management than running the country

03/07/2012, 07:15:38 AM

by Jon Ashworth

Two weeks ago PMQs served as a reminder of what could have been for a generation of Tory MPs. With Cameron and Clegg both away it fell to William Hague, foreign secretary and also first secretary of state to bat for the government. And what a joy he was to watch. Of course I don’t agree with his answers, but his delivery was assured, witty, measured and a total contrast to the increasingly irritable, bad tempered, stroppy performance we’re now used to from the prime minister.

So far the conventional wisdom on PMQs has been that Cameron is a class act on whom its difficult to land a glove. But despite Cameron’s relative strengths compared to others on the Tory benches, its strikes me as increasingly obvious that the conventional wisdom on PMQs is wrong.

In contrast to Cameron, Ed Miliband focuses on fundamentals at PMQs whether that’s the economy, the squeeze in living standards or the crisis in confidence in the political system exemplified by a prime minister on the run who refuses to report a cabinet minister to the independent advisor on the ministerial code.

Just in the last week, Cameron dithered on whether to hold an inquiry on the Libor scandal before proposing his inadequate, sticking plaster solution of a joint parliamentary committee in response to sustained pressure from Ed Miliband.

By focusing on these big issues, people are again starting to take a look at Labour though I don’t think anyone in the parliamentary Labour party is in any doubt about how much further we need to travel. However the performance of the government is starting reinforce doubts about the Tories and the competence of David Cameron.

The economic policy of the government isn’t working with growth downgraded and borrowing up. Living standards are dropping and youth unemployment stubbornly high. It’s hurting but not working.


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Is Labour’s poll lead actually 3% not 10%?

06/06/2012, 07:00:07 AM

by Atul Hatwal

So what is the real Labour lead? Sure, we’ve all seen the polls, and they tell a consistent tale across different pollsters. Looking at YouGov, the latest results from the weekend have Labour 10 points up over the Tories, 42% to 32%.

It’s a commanding lead but for those who remember the 1980s and 1990s, there remain nagging doubts.

At the end of 1980 Labour was registering week after week of double digit leads, peaking at 24% for Gallup in mid-December. But we all know what happened in the 1983 election.

Almost a decade later, it was déjà vu.

In 1990, Labour was once again posting massive poll leads. Between the end of February and end of April, Labour averaged a 22% lead across nearly 20 different polls. Impressive. Except, once again, we all know the result of the 1992 election.

The purpose of this trip down a rather painful stretch of memory lane isn’t to be a Cassandra. The future is not written and any form of poll lead is better than a deficit.

But caution is needed. Taking these leads at face value can breed complacency and for Labour, the experience of the past thirty years is clear: as the actual general election draws near, the poll leads have regularly evaporated.

Since those heady days of Dave and Nick in the rose garden, there has been a fundamental shift in how the public regards the government; and David Cameron in particular. The question is how would this translate in the polling booth? Would voters turn away from the Tories, and more pertinently, would they choose Labour?

The problem with attempting this judgement has been the absence of polling data that can be compared to an actual election, outside of the general election.

While there is a regular cycle of local council elections punctuated with by-elections, the pollsters rarely poll these specific areas, and even on those rare occasions when they do, only after the campaign is underway. So it’s almost impossible to compare like with like.

But regional elections offer a new opportunity. London has been polled by YouGov regularly since 2010 and recently voted.


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Both competence and purpose are needed to lead for Britain

08/05/2012, 07:00:43 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Politics as usual is under pressure. The old moves aren’t working.

We say they are “out of touch”. They say we are an “unaffordable risk”. The attacks of both Labour and the Tories claim that the other cannot lead for the whole nation due to possession by sectional interests; be that the mateocracy, bankers, or News International; the trade unions, the public sector, or welfare claimants.

Rebuttals evade charges of sectionalism. Attacks claim national leadership. At the same time, what we are, as a state and people, is fundamentally questioned by Alex Salmond and the Eurozone crisis.

And then, increasing support for smaller parties, from our first Green MP in Brighton to Respect’s revival in Bradford, create a myriad of further challenges to the national leadership sought by David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

To a significant extent, all of this can be thought, in Marxist parlance, the superstructure to the economic base: an economic crisis, which has impaired UK growth more than the 1930s depression, has both created an existential crisis for the Euro and with it the EU, as well as opportunities for smaller parties.

As much as economic perceptions will do more to determine how votes are cast at the general election than anything else, it would be a mistake to think that everything in our politics can be explained in these terms.

While economic management is the primary competence issue, competency is a means to an end.


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More than anything else, this government lacks purpose

27/04/2012, 08:00:56 AM

by Pat McFadden

Last week I wrote that competence or the lack of it had become a key problem for the government.  A number of issues were responsible, beginning with the unnecessary government provoked petrol crisis and running up to the farcical inability of the home office to add up the number of days in three months when trying to deport Abu Qatada.  All of this means that politics is being looked at through a different lens compared with a couple of months ago.

This different context in which the government is no longer getting the benefit of the doubt lies behind the recent shift away from the Conservatives and towards Labour in recent opinion polls.

But this week, something even more serious than government competence came into question.  It is the government’s purpose.  If the coalition had one purpose it was supposed to be “sorting out” the economy through fiscal austerity.  There isn’t a debate or question time that goes by in the House of Commons without some reference to this from government ministers.  It’s the glue that holds the Tories and Liberals together – all that stuff about “sorting out Labour’s mess” and “working together in the national interest.”

Except it isn’t working.  The economy is back in recession.  All those Cameron and Osborne quotes about the economy being out of the danger zone look hopelessly, as the phrase of our times puts it, out of touch.


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