Saturday 18 may 2013
In the recent Queen's speech there was a lot of speculation about what was to be included and what was to be left out. There was a greater focus on the areas of immigration and welfare, however
there were some notable exceptions. Little mention was given not only to the subjects of gay marriage and foreign aid but there was also no talk of the rebranding of cigarette packages and a
minimum price for alcohol. The government have been keen to state that they are still in the consultation process and no overall decision has been made but to many this seems another U-turn and
another decision the Conservative Party and the coalition party has got wrong.
This Queen's Speech was very much designed to work as a counter strike against UKIP. The tone that Cameron and the party were trying to strike over immigration and other topics showed they had
become increasingly worried about UKIP and Nigel Farage. Nigel Farage is undoubtedly a charismatic leader and has played on his image as being one of the people. A man who likes the simple
pleasures of life like having a pint and enjoying a cigarette. Again this has been used as something that differentiates him from Cameron and other political leaders. I think it is noticeable
since the rise of Farage and UKIP there has been far less focus on these issues. The leadership have sought not to alienate their base and have run scared on this issue.
To be fair I may be giving a bit too much credit to Farage and his ordinary man appeal. One of the other questions that I think must be asked and needs to be answered is the role of Crosby in
this process. Crosby in some of his previous roles has worked as a lobbyist (very successfully) for some major tobacco companies. The government and the party leadership have to make ot clear
what role he has played in their decision making and whether or not he has leaned upon them. I do hope this is not the case but it is clear to see the co-incidence that a short time after he
joins the Conservative ranks this issues is suddenly dropped.
Let me make it clear I am not against people having a drink. I too enjoy a drink and as long as people drink responsible and don't cause a lot of trouble, I don't see the problems. I do think the
minimum alcohol price would reduce the levels of binge drinking which can only be positive and will reduce the negative effects that alcohol has upon society. I have stated before that I am
disappointed that this coalition government has dropped this policy, but the policy that has angered me even more greatly is the u-turn on the rebranding of cigarette packaging. The research
continues to show that if cigarette packages have no branding on them then less people will be encouraged to smoke.
I thought we were now in an age where people accepted that smoking was bad for people's health and that we should be doing everything we can to limit the amount of people smoking. The rebranding
of cigarette packaging seemed to achieve this aim, but for some reason in their wisdom the government have decided not to follow through on this policy. This sends out totally the wrong message
and signal. Any government of whatever political leaning should be doing all they can to stop more and more people smoking. I would have thought that was an aim for all political parties. Let's
make it clear smoking is not cool and shouldn't be encouraged and any leading figure should be stating this and not trying to underplay the effects of smoking.
On certain issues I think the government has a duty to act regardless of the political consequences. If the rumours are to be believed the only reasons why these measures have been dropped is
because Cameron feared that he could not take his party with him and did not want to rely on the Labour Party. However when we are talking about public health and a policy that could have a
significant effect on this a government has a duty to act. The government would not be stopping people smoking, all they would be doing is trying to limit the affect of smoking. Cameron and the
government instead of opting for a policy that could help many has run scared from his party. This is systematic of a leadership and a government that lacks backbone and follows rather than
Posted in: Politics
Saturday 18 may 2013
As I write this piece I would like to stress that the points I make are simply to underline the fact that Cameron's attempts to modernise the Conservative Party have failed and not whether this
is a good thing or bad thing. David Cameron became leader of his party in 2005. This was after the Conservatives had lost their third consecutive election and were considered unelectable by many.
Cameron along with his top advisors knew that he had to change the image of the Conservative Party and modernise the party, much in the way that Tony Blair had done with the Labour Party. (one of
the reasons why Cameron considered himself the 'heir to Blair')
The first few years of Cameron's reign as leader saw some big changes within the party. The party begun to focus more on a compassionate agenda and there was a focus on green issues. He also took
on some of the more traditional conservative values attacking grammar schools and speaking of his belief in gay marriage. He put forward the idea of a more compassionate conservatism. This did
continue initially when he first came into government with the concept of the 'Big Society'. However recently we have seen that when times have got hard the focus has not been on the
remodernisation of the party but on the bread and butter issues of Conservative voters.
The appointment of Lyndon Crosby and the departure of Steve Hilton has signalled a change in the way the Conservatives have sought to operate. There has been a greater focus on 'dog whistle
politics' rather than the more liberal modernising approach of Steve Hilton. The recent Queen's speech has underlined this with greater focus placed on the ideas of immigration, welfare reform
and law and order. In the Queen's Speech notbaly there was also no mention of the ideas of gay marriage and foreign aid, two things which are highly unpopular with many in the Conservative ranks.
The focus of this Queen's Speech shows the Conservative Party and Cameron has now moved back to their traditional ground and has given up on the modernisation project.
When you look at what Cameron has tried to do with his party, the comparisons with Blair have to be made. When Tony Blair took over as leader of the Labour Party he too took over an unelectable
party that had moved from the centre ground. Blair knew he needed to change the party and he successfully brought the party to the middle ground and won them three elections. He was not always
the most popular leader within Labour ranks, but he did manage to change the Labour Party and the abolition of Clause IV was one of the most symbolic moments of his leadership. This move showed
that the Labour Party had changed and was a sign to the voters that they were now an electable party. A lot of what Cameron has tried to do has been in tribute to Blair and he too has sought his
own Clause IV moment to show the Conservative Party have changed.
When Blair did abolish Clause IV he did gain full support from the whole party but took enough of the party with him that no real damage was done to his leadership. I believe Cameron's attempt at
a Clause IV moment was over gay marriage. This is an idea that was not popular with many in the Conservative Party (and for the record is something that I do not support). He continued to talk
about this in opposition and wanted this as a sign that the Conservative Party's image as the nasty party had gone. However when he brought this idea before the Commons he lost half of his party.
To be fair this was a free vote and was not a direct criticism of Cameron, but it did show that on this particular issue Cameron has failed to modernise the party.
Less focus has now been placed on this issue and also on the issue of foreign aid. In recent times we have seen the government focus more on traditional issues and the recent speeches on welfare,
Europe and immigration show the party has moved to the right and has given up on the modernisation project. I think the Conservative Party and leadership has been spooked by the rise of UKIP and
have done what parties tend to do when they are struggling and that is return to their traditional policies. We saw Brown do this when he was at his lowest ebb and also saw previous Tory leaders
(Hague, Howard) do this. The Tories have become fearful of the rise of UKIP and have felt they have needed to move to the right. This has signalled the end of the modernisation project.
We now have the same Conservative Party as we have always had. It is a party that can't stop banging on about Europe, is focused on immigration and welfare and has become a lot less vocal on some
of their more liberal policies (green issues, gay marriage, foreign aid). Cameron has not managed to change the party in the way that Blair succeeded in doing with Labour and now the Tory Party
is in the same position that it always has been. Whether or not a more traditional Conservative Party has a chance of winning is anyone's guess but let's face it the rebranding of the
Conservative Party is over.
Posted in: Politics
Monday 6 may 2013
On Thursday Labour made 291 gains in the local elections. Given the state of the economy and the fact that they are in opposition these gains were to be expected. However I do not believe these
gains necessarily show that Labour is on course to form the next government and that actually they should be doing a lot better. With about 2 years until the next government I believe that Labour
should be performing a lot better in the polls and should be doing a lot better in these elections. I think Ed Miliband and Labour still have a long way to go yet.
I am a fan of Ed Miliband. I believe he is a very talented politician and given the chance he could be a very good Prime Minister. He still has a long way to go and still has a lot of learning to
do but I believe he can be a great leader. However at the moment he is struggling to make an impression in the polls, the ratings on him are still very negative and he does not compare favourably
with David Cameron. I think these ratins if they do not start to improve soon will cause those at the top of the Labour Party a lot of headaches and questions may have to be asked about whether
the public ever believe that Miliband can be a Prime Minister. To make it more simple, do the public see him as a Kinnock or a Blair.
The economic plans of this government have failed. All of the major tasks they have set themselves they have failed and yet they still enjoy a lead over Labour on this issue. Voters do have long
memories about the economy, but given the state the economy is in and the slow recovery and cuts that have been made you would have thought Labour would have made more of an impact. Labour still
do not have a convincing economic argument. This was shown in the disastrous interview Ed Miliband gave to Radio 4. Any politician can have a bad interview (ask Boris!) but what this interview
highlights is that Labour still have little idea about the economy. I am not asking for a detailed budget just simply an idea of where the economy would go under Labour. Until they have a plan
like this they are never going to be seen as a party of government.
As seen by the recent success of UKIP there is an apathy towards the political mainstream at the moment. Many voters feel let down by all of the major parties and have decided to cast their vote
elsewhere. Ed Miliband's plea to re do politics and his one nation rhetoric has yet to really hit home with voters. This shows that many who are unhappy with the current coalition government (and
there are many) are not finding solace with the Labour Party but are actually choosing to vote elsewhere. These are the voters that Miliband needs to reach out to and that Labour need to regain.
At this time in a parliamentary term you would expect Labour to be the main beneficiary of any protest votes, but there seems to be little evidence of this.
Historically an opposition party needs to be further ahead than the Labour Party are. When Blair was in opposition before winning in 1997 he was a long way ahead of the Conservatives, something
Miliband cannot claim to be. The poll lead Miliband and Labour have over the Tories and Cameron is quite weak. I believe as their economic strategy becomes further analysed the Labour Party's
lead will fall away. There is no evidence that this lead is nothing more than a soft lead. Labour should be given everything that is going on at least 15 points ahead in the polls, they are not
and I think this could be costly.
I still believe that Labour will probably be the biggest party in terms of seats at the next election, just because of how our system works but I believe it is becoming more and more unlikely
that they will win a majority. They have failed to capitalise on the weaknesses and mistakes of this coalition government and should be a long way ahead. They have no clear economic policy and
until they do they will continue to be a laughing stock. Miliband and Labour still have a long way to go and behind the scenes the Tories must be delighted at how poorly Labour is performing.
Posted in: Politics
Friday 3 may 2013
Yesterday we had a number of local elections as well as a Parliamentary by-election in South Shields. As the results have begun to trickle in, it seems like the real winners of these elections
are UKIP. They have continued their previous momentum with a good performance in the South Shields by-election and picking up a number of council seats. This has led to growing media attention
and focus on the party, with many claiming these results show a new dawn has come in British politics and that UKIP are here to stay. Although these results were very good for UKIP I am going to
argue that these results are not actually that sensational and that they still have a long way to go before they fully establish themselves on the political scene.
Whenever there are local elections in a midterm I believe we often try to draw too much out of them and read into them patterns which do not really exist. I think that has been the case here
again. Quite often in these midterms governing parties will perform badly only to recover and win the next General Election. You would expect the governing parties to perform badly and this has
been the case again. These results follow the patterns that you would expect at this stage of the parliamentary cycle. There is a level of political apathy which exists in the country and that of
course will add to the appeal of UKIP. Again this is quite common in the midterms and though it may be slightly larger this time, again it is not particularly rare. To some extent all votes in
politics are protest votes. They are normally a protest vote against one party or a leader, here the only thing that is different is it seems to be a protest against the political mainstream and
almost seems like a warning to them to wake up.
These results do seem to have led to a change of approach from the major political parties towards UKIP. Last weekend there were many personal attacks on UKIP notably from Ken Clarke. This I
think has actually helped UKIP rather than hindered them. I think the political parties have been guilty of not taking the threat from UKIP seriously enough. As a political party they deserve
respect and that is something they have not been given. You could sense as the results came in this was not a mistake that the parties were going to make in. They all wanted to highlight their
new found respect for UKIP and were keen to stress that they were listening to the concerns and worries of the public. The political mainstream have been slow to pick up on the political mood in
the country at the moment and hopefully this will serve as a reminder.
I am not a supporter of UKIP but I want to stress that I can see their appeal and that these results were good results. Many people will feel let down by the political elite and will want to
protest at the broken promises and failures of consecutive governments. UKIP provide a genuine option for their anger and I think that is why they are attracting voters from all political
parties. They are a vote for people who feel that they have been let down by the political elite. Their policies on immigration and Europe are very popular with many voters and it would be
foolish to think they do not appeal to many. I don't think any of their other policies actually add up, but that is not why people are voting for. We would be foolish to ignore the concerns of
voters and the worries over immigration and Europe. Cameron seem to think he had these areas all locked up, but he clearly needs to do some more thinking on these issues alongside the other main
leaders as they seek to recoup the voters who have deserted them for UKIP.
I do believe they still have a long way off from becoming a major political party. If you look away from the headlines and actually look at the facts, you will see that UKIP still do not have a
sitting MP in Parliament and actually still have a very low level of councillors. Yes they have performed well in recent times and have some momentum but in reality they still have very little
power and influence. I believe many of the voters who voted for UKIP will probably return back to David Cameron and the Tories when they are presented with a choice between Miliband and Cameron
in what could be a tight election. Until UKIP perform well in a General Election and start to influence more power in Westminster I don't think they should be considered a serious threat. Yes
they are a party with an appeal and some momentum, but let's not overdo it they have a long way to go and I think under greater scrutiny their policies will fall apart and their vote share will
fall. If UKIP repeats this share of the vote at the next General or wins a by-election then they should be taken seriously, until then we should respect them and pay attention to them but should
not make this out to be a new revolution. It is not!
Posted in: Politics
Monday 29 april 2013
This weekend we saw a number of high profile attacks on UKIP. Ken Clarke branded UKIP politicians as clowns and stated that no-one really knows what the party stands for. This came after some of
the left leaning newspapers on Sunday in this country published information about some of the views of councillors standing for UKIP in the upcoming local elections. These series of attacks show
for the first time maybe that UKIP is being taken seriously as a political party and that no longer are politicians and the media as a whole willing to give them the easy ride that they
previously have had. This of course is the weekend before potentially crucial local elections take place, something that would not have been lost on those attacking UKIP.
UKIP is a party that campaigns mainly on two issues and they are immigration and Europe. Currently there is a lot of apathy towards much of the political mainstream and UKIP have exploited this.
They are seen as an attractive proposition to many who believe they have been let down by politicians and are now looking for someone different. However their main campaign issues and their
position on the Right of the political spectrum means they may attract people and candidates with unsavoury views. Previously these candidates and their comments may have gone unnoticed but now
there is a lot more focus on UKIP and what they say and therefore some of their less positive elements have come to the fore.
UKIP have complained this week about a smear campaign from the Conservatives. This may well have an element of truth but to be honest it is to be expected. The sort of attacks that have been
imposed on UKIP this weekend are a regular part of politics. As UKIP has become a bigger threat to the political mainstream they have also opened themselves up to attack. UKIP should expect that
as they become a bigger political force more attention and emphasis will be placed on them. As they become a bigger and potentially more powerful threat they are likely to gain more attention
from the political mainstream and are likely to face greater attacks from these parties. I actually think these attacks should be taken as a back handed compliment as they are now considered a
big enough threat to be worthy of attack.
I have no problem with the greater attention and focus that is being placed on UKIP. I think if they want to consider themselves a part of the political environment they should expect greater
scrutiny on their policies and the party as a whole. This is something that happens with all other political parties and I do not see why UKIP should be any different. I think it is about time a
bit more focus is placed on their ideas and what they believe. If you analyse a lot of UKIP's policies as a couple did on Question Time on Thursday night they tend to unravel. As a political
party they are fair game to attacks from other political parties and the media. As they come more into the spotlight they should expect more of this and we will learn a lot more about them and
whether they can stand up to the attacks.
I believe that UKIP will do well in the upcoming local elections. They have established themselves on the political scene and their widespread appeal has been shown in their recent by-election
performances. I think they will win a few council seats in the traditional safe Tory shires where their policies have a level of attraction. This will be another step forward for the party as
they seek to establish themselves further on the political scene. I do not believe that UKIP will maintain their current level of performance going into the next General Election and though they
are polling high at the moment, when the next election comes I think a lot of support will go back to the Tories. You would expect UKIP to perform well in the mid-terms, I still believe the true
test will be whether or not UKIP are still a force come the next election.
Posted in: Politics