Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Labour has finally seen Ukip's tanks, but doesn't know how to destroy them

After years of putting its fingers in its ears and shouting ‘la-la-la-la’, the Labour party has woken up to its Ukip problem.

It turns out, to quote Nigel Farage, it is not just retired colonels who live near Salisbury Plain that back Ukip.
The recent European election saw the party win votes in traditional Labour areas, including Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales.

Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford, the academics who know more about Ukip’s support than even the party’s high command, have produced a list of the most Ukip-friendly constituencies in the country.
Of the top 20, 17 are Labour-held seats.

So Labour knows it has to fight back – but how?
Playing the man not the ball isn’t going to work. As wonderful as it was to hear Shadow Cabinet Minister Michael Dugher label Farage a “phoney bullshit artist” in an interview with me in May, that kind of attack plays into Ukip’s ‘The Westminster elite are scared of us’ strategy.

At numerous fringe meetings on how to tackle Ukip at the Labour conference last week, activists pleaded for a message from the leadership to deliver on the doorstep to dissuade voters defecting to Ukip.
The party only now seems to be coming up with one. The “More Tory than the Tories” line, complete with the photo of Farage drinking from a Thatcher mug, will play well in northern seats.

But for those in the south, especially in costal, “end of the line” constituencies, it is the immigration issue which needs to be tackled.

Labour candidate in Thurrock, Polly Billington, told a fringe meeting at the party conference as much last week. The Tories won the seat by just 92 votes in 2010, and in “normal” circumstances it should be an easy win for Labour next year.
But privately, Labour are worried the party won’t be able to overturn the 0.2 per cent majority.

That is because the seat is being worked incredibly hard by Ukip’s Tim Aker, a 29-year-old local man, who is playing up the party’s message on immigration and his personal connection to the seat.
And Labour's immigration message - like the Tories - doesn't stand up to scrutiny: "We will reduce immigration, except we can't as we don't control our borders and can't actually stop millions of Europeans coming here so oops!"

So Labour find themselves in the same position as the Tories. Trying to control something without committing to doing the one thing which would give them control - rejecting the EU's freedom of movement law.

At Ukip’s conference in Doncaster last week, Farage told delegates the party was “putting its tanks on Labour’s lawn.”
Labour have finally looked out of the window, but are struggling to find the right weapons to blow up the tanks.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

WATCH "CALAMITY LAMMY" IN ACTION: Labour's London Mayor hopeful David Lammy's nightmare Mastermind appearance

"Calamity Lammy", as he is affectionately known
IF you think Henry VIII was succeeded by his father Henry VII, Marie Antoinette was a Nobel Prize winning physicist and the Godfather was a television series, you must be Labour’s London Mayor hopeful David Lammy. 

The Tottenham MP, who today announced he wanted to be Labour’s candidate in the election to replace Boris Johnson as London Mayor, made a disastrous appearance on Celebrity Mastermind in 2008 when he was Higher Education Minister.

The cringe-worthy appearance is just one in a long line of gaffes which earned him the nickname “Calamity Lammy” among fellow members of the previous Labour Government.

Last year Mr Lammy was forced to apologise after accusing a BBC tweet about the new Pope of containing a “silly innuendo about race”.

The news organisation speculated whether the colour of smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel chimney would be white or black – a signal as to whether a new Pope had been elected.

The BBC News World twitter feed, posted: “LIVE VIDEO: Chimney of Sistine Chapel as conclave votes for #Pope - will smoke be black or white?"

Mr Lammy replied: "This tweet from the BBC is crass and unnecessary. Do we really need silly innuendo about the race of the next Pope?"

He later apologised, tweeted: "Note to self: do not tweet from the Chamber with only one eye on what you're reading. Sorry folks, my mistake."

In 2005, it was reported that Mr Lammy claimed "all woman hunt supporters look alike because they are inbred" at a Fabian Society fringe meeting at the Labour Conference.

While serving as a minister, Mr Lammy apologised to Parliament for misleading MPs when in 2006 as Libraries Ministers he downplayed the extent of declining library stocks.

He was accused of using dodgy figures in 2008, when as Higher Education Minister he told Parliament 3.1million employees were covered by a pledge to train staff in English workplaces. The correct figure was 2.3million.

And while at the Despatch Box in the Commons as junior minister at the Department of Constitutional Affairs in 2004, one of his own MPs rounded on him for his poor performance.

During a debate on the Mental Capacity Bill, Mr Lammy interrupted the Conservative Iain Duncan Smith as he warned about euthanasia.

Labour MP Gerald Kaufman got to his feet and said: "If that's the calibre of the minister's interventions he would do better to remain seated."

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Boris Johnson needs to learn from the lessons of Michael Heseltine if he wants to be PM

IT has not been much of a holiday for David Cameron. On Tuesday, Baroness Warsi resigned from his Cabinet, and yesterday his old friend – or should that be foe? – announced he was coming back to national politics.

Boris Johnson said he announced his intention to stand in the next election in order to stop the speculation over his future.

But the questions will now shift from whether he wants to become an MP to whether he wants to be Prime Minister.

The answer to the second question is the same as the answer to the first – yes.

But Boris is no fool. He knows taking on Cameron is a risky strategy, and he will also be aware what happened the last time a charismatic, blonde politician knifed a Tory leader.

Michael Heseltine never got to wear the crown, despite wielding the dagger over Margaret Thatcher.

Boris knows this. Boris knows in order to get into Number 10 he needs to be as far away from a coup as possible.

If the electorate doesn’t depose Dave in May, he will hope George Osborne or Theresa May will move first and cause the “ball to come loose from the back of the scrum”.

Boris will play nice up until the election, so for now, David Cameron can relax and enjoy his holiday.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Living Wage? Not if you want to work for Harriet Harman

Ed Miliband managed to get his favourite catchphrase into his ‘I’m weird – get over it!’ speech today – “cost-of-living crisis”.

One of Labour’s ways to tackle this is to roll out the Living Wage to workers – starting by only awarding Whitehall contracts to those who pay their staff the amount.

He has even threatened that those who pay less could be “named and shamed”.

Miliband is obviously keen for Government and politicians to lead by example.

Alas, it seems the message might not have reached his Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman.

She is currently recruiting for a Trainee Caseworker for her South London constituency of Camberwell and Peckham.

The post promises a wage of £17,000 per year.

If the employee does a standard 7.5 hour day, that works out at just £8.72 per hour.

According to the Living Wage Foundation, the London living wage should be £8.80.

Harriet Harman – named and shamed.

If you fancy the job – apply here

UPDATE: Having spoken to Harriet Harman's office, apparently the successful applicant for this "full-time role" will only have to work 35 hours a week - thus making the salary £9.34 an hour. Let's hope Ms Harman ensures the worker claims back time in lieu for the "occasional evening work" detailed in the job advert.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cameron trumps Miliband in first PMQs after his reshuffle

GLOWERING eyes were focused on David Cameron today during Prime Minister’s Questions – and not only from the Opposition benches.

Positioned at the entrance to the Commons chamber, seemingly unable to bring themselves to sit on the Government’s backbenches, were former Cabinet members Owen Paterson, Dominic Grieve and – still licking his wounds from 2011 - Liam Fox.

The trio watched, arms crossed, faces fixed with stern gazes, as the Prime Minister stood just a few metres away, talking up his new band of merry men and women.

He found time to praise Dominic Grieve – who, it seemed, did such a good job as Attorney General he had to go.

Perhaps that’s why Iain Duncan Smith – who stood alongside the discarded ‘pale, male and stales’ out of solidarity – remains in post.

Michael Gove, the headline axing from the reshuffle, sat in his new place at the end of the Government’s frontbench, staring straight ahead throughout.

Even when Cameron listed the former Education Secretary’s achievements, Gove showed no emotion, and noticeably avoided looking at the Prime Minister.

Perhaps he had realised in that moment, that he was no longer one of the big boys.

Being forced to sit so close to the Lib Dems may have made him feel like he was being moved out as others moved in. 

Perhaps if he had looked at the Prime Minister, a David Brent style tearful plea of “Don’t make me redundant…please” would have escaped his lips.

As it was, Cameron was on top form. Sure, the ambush of Ed Miliband with a quotation from his deputy Harriet Harman on raising taxes for the squeezed middle was – to put generously – taking the words slightly out of context.

But it didn’t matter. The roar of the Tory benches as Harman and Miliband produced opposite reactions to the claim showed victory was Cameron’s.

The Conservatives will leave for the summer recess feeling buoyed, with some media-friendly new faces at the top and a strengthening of Eurosceptism in the Cabinet - heard much from Ukip recently, anyone?

Labour MPs were subdued throughout PMQs. They had heard it all before – #costoflivingcrisis vs #longtermeconomicplan.

Cameron joked to Miliband that his party want to reshuffle him out of the leadership position.

After today’s showing, Miliband may have to spend more of the summer than he planned trying to stop his colleagues reaching for Labour's pack of political cards.

Friday, 20 June 2014

I'm white, working class...does Yasmin Alibhai-Brown loathe me?

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown debates with Rod Liddle (CHANNEL 4)

The entirely understandable, and indeed correct, anger over Michael Fabricant's "I-would-end-up-punching-her-in-the-throat" tweet has overshadowed something equally as important, and to me, offensive: the actual debate itself between Rod Liddle and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on Channel 4 News which provoked the stupid comment.

Before I get into this, let me say I am no fan of Rod Liddle. I find him to be at best clumsy with his language, and at worst downright nasty and offensive.

Last week, when the free copy of The Sun dropped through my letter box, I read his column about how great it was to be British. But for some reason it started with a perverse attack on Belgium and how terrible it would be to be born there. It's all very well going for the ha-ha-isn't-England-great-everywhere-else-is-rubbish line but for me it was in poor taste, unnecessary, and offensive.

And here is why.

I don't think it's right or fair to dismiss a whole group of people with shared, often negative, characteristics. I don't think it's right or fair to tar a whole section of society with the traits of a minority within that group.

Doesn't matter to me if that group is Belgian, Muslim, Christian, Black, White, Male, Female etc.

But last night Yasmin Alibhai-Brown did just night. She admitted she has "loathing" for the working class, based on negative and distressing experiences at the hands of some members of that section of society.

Here is the transcript:

Rod Liddle: "At least she is absolutely clear about her loathing for the working class as she says...

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown:[Interrupts] "...And you. I'm clearly honest, I loathe you."

It's not admitting to her loathing of Rod Liddle that offends me, it's the fact she didn't deny she has "loathing" for the working class.

She hasn't met me. I come from a working class background. Does she loathe me?

Have I threatened her? Have I assaulted her? Have I carried out any of the terrible things that have happened to her? Were there done in my name, or with my blessing or knowledge?


Where is the indignation about that comment, to go alongside the anger at Michael Fabricant?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Blair is not the only one with Iraq amnesia - the Lib Dems were NOT anti-invasion, just anti-that-kind-of-invasion

IT is one of the great myths of recent political history – that the Liberal Democrats were opposed to Britain joining with US forces to invade Iraq in 2003.

It is quite simply not true. In the run up to the 2003 invasion, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy addressed the infamous anti-war rally in Hyde Park on February 15.

He told the million-odd people who had marched through central London (including this author as a 17-year-old student) he had “yet to be persuaded as to the case for war against Iraq”.

He also told the Stop the War coalition-led protest he was “not personally a pacifist”.

These statements show Mr Kennedy was open to the idea of military action in Iraq, and he set out four criteria for Lib Dem acquiescence in the invasion:

Charles Kennedy addresses the Stop the War rally in 2003 (Ben Sutherland/Flickr)

1. The United Nations has the moral authority and the political mandate here.

2. United Nations decisions have to be based on adequate information - which means full compliance with the weapons inspectors.

3. The British House of Commons must have the right to vote on any actions taken.

4. All other options must be exhausted before there is any recourse to force.”

He added: “Without a second UN resolution, there is no way that the Liberal Democrats could or should support war.”

So there it is: Charles Kennedy setting out the circumstances in which he and the Lib Dems would be in favour of a military invasion of Iraq.

Get the second UN resolution and we back you.

That is not: “We are opposed to any invasion of Iraq”.

It may seem like a small difference – after all, Blair and Bush did not get the second resolution, and the rest is very recent, and very bloody, history.

But there is a world of difference from being the ‘anti-war party’, to the ‘anti-war-in-certain-conditions-party.’

Remember, the Lib Dems were not opposed to sending soldiers into Iraq. They were just opposed to doing it without a second resolution.

But Lib Dems still like to paint themselves as leading the crusade against the war back in 2003.

Also remember, the Lib Dems supported Britain’s military invention in Kosovo, Afghanistan and most recently Libya.

So when Nick Clegg accuses Tony Blair of attempting to “airbrush” his role in creating the current situation in Iraq, keep in mind the Lib Dems are not adverse to indulging in a spot of “airbrushing” when they claim they were anti-war.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Are knives out for Ukip press officer who "f*cked up Croydon" and is now trying to taking credit for party gains?

Ukip is now a 'proper political party' thanks to its successes in the Euro and local elections.

And to prove it, there is already a spat brewing in the party's machine.

Press office Alexandra Phillips has irked many Ukip activists with a rather self-congratulatory Facebook update.

Someone very close to the top said to me "It hasn't gone down well with the people who were victims of press stories or pounded the streets doing the canvassing!! She spent the last week in bed being *ill*, fucked up Croydon...and didn’t leaflet once."

Welcome to the jungle.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Scotland's divorce from the UK is inevitable, and Labour will lose the House

An independent Scotland is inevitable, if the latest opinion poll is to be believed.

But it won’t be the vote in September which sees Scotland cut itself adrift from the rest of the UK.

Alex Salmond won't be saluting victory in September
The Yes campaign is gaining support, hitting 40 per cent according to a Panelbase poll published on Thursday.

That puts support for an independent Scotland at a six month high.

But it is still incredibly unlikely the Yes campaign will be triumphant in September’s referendum, as those wanting to keep the union still account for 45 per cent of voters.

The Yes vote are targeting the 15 per cent of ‘don’t knows’, but that group tend to eventually split the same way as those who have already decided.

So the Yes campaigners will lose the battle in September, but they are on their way to winning the war.

The fact that support is increasing for the separatists is worrying when you consider the backdrop.

Since the turn of the year, SNP leader Alex Salmond’s version of independence has been ripped apart.

Currency union? – No, says Westminster.

EU membership? ¬- “Extremely difficult, if not impossible”, says European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso

No threat to jobs? – BP, Shell, BAE and Standard Life have all expressed serious concerns about Scotland going alone.

Yet, support for an independent Scotland has GROWN since all of these interventions; some might argue because of them as accusations of ‘bullying’ gain credence.

That means that between 40-45 per cent of Scots have made their mind up based not on economic and political factors, but for other reasons.

Wanting their own country; tired of being dictated to by Westminster; sick of suggestions Scotland ‘lives off’ England.

So how long can Scotland stay in its marriage to the UK when up to 45 per cent want a divorce – seemingly no matter what?

And this is something which Westminster needs to consider.

More importantly, it is something Labour needs to be incredibly worried about.

Harold Wilson after the 1964 General Election
Since 1945, the fortunes of the Conservatives and Labour north of Hadrian’s Wall have gone in opposite directions.

Between 1945 and 1955, there was no huge bias either way in how Scots voted in Westminster elections.
In 1945, Scotland returned 27 Tory MPs and 37 Labour.

In 1951, both parties secured 35 Scotland MPs and in 1955 the Tories actually won two more seats than Labour – 36 as opposed to 34.

It began to change in 1959, where Harold Macmillan’s Conservative Party won 31 Scottish seats, as opposed to Hugh Gaitskill’s Labour which won 38.

Since then, the Tories have been on a downward trajectory north of the border, culminating with them not winning a single Scottish seat in the 1997 General Election.

While Tory support has virtually disappeared in Scotland, Labour’s fortunes have gone in the other direction.
In Blair’s first election victory Labour won 56 out of a possible 72 seats.

I looked back at every general election result since 1945, and when you take away the Scottish seats from the results it is clear that Labour would have spent less time in Government, the Conservatives would have won more elections and the Liberal Democrats would not have found themselves in coalition today.

Analysing the figures shows Harold Wilson would have lost the 1964 and February 1974 General Elections to the Conservatives.

Clement Attlee would have been forced to try and rule with a minority Government in 1950 (he would have been 17 seats short of a majority).

The second election of 1974 would have also returned a minority Labour government – with Wilson having seven seats fewer than the rest of the House combined.

And the most recent General Election in 2010 would have returned a Conservative government with a majority of 19.

It makes you wonder why David Cameron is so determined to keep the union together.

If I was a Labour supporter, I would be incredibly worried.

Scotland will become independent – maybe not in this generation but almost certainly in the next, and Labour will lose a key pillar of electoral support.